Monday 29 December 2008

Home where your trouser is ??

I write this blog during Christmas weekend, when the roast chicken (not Turkey??) along with a tad heavy red wine sauce and accompaniments has been a treat! But the leftovers for the next day were a bit too much.

On the dark, crisp and cold Boxing Day morning while when looking over a frozen small canal, I see in the darkness someone riding bicycle in freezing temperature! To me that sums up the Netherlands, a country of very down to earth and simple people and canals.

In general people in Holland are physically heavy (not fat) with normal height for both sexes being above 6 feet. I think it comes from riding bicycle and race to get most sunshine in a densely populated country ;). All said the people are friendly and most tolerant in the world. As you might know this is the country of bicycles every household has one or more. Even today I am amazed by the fact that children as young as 9-10 years ride a bicycle on a wet, windy, cold freezing day so do the older population in their 70s. Parents would not drop their children to school in their BMWs but instead they would accompany them on their bikes!

The Dutch language is like its people it sounds very heavy and even harsh. I remember during my early days here, I overheard, what can be called an intense, conversation between two men. It looked like they will exchange punches soon. But later it turned out to be conversation over someone who was gravely ill. As harsh it may sound, but the language is rich with uitdrukkings or sayings, punctuations and once you know it then you know it is a beautiful language.

Historically the Netherlands has been in trade, importing goods/slaves from Eastern Asia, India, Africa to even South America. Present day New York was owned by the Dutch and had name New Amsterdam which was eventually exchanged with Britain with a small country called Surinam in South America. Hence the names in New York suburbs are similar to the cities in Netherlands Brooklyn (Breukelen), Harlem etc. Does it show that the Dutch were stupid? I think no, because then New Amsterdam had nothing to offer where as Surinam has Aluminum, Bauxites and then very important commodity, the slaves. I think it was a very good business decision.

VOC or East India Company existed at the time of British East India Company. VOC made numerous voyages towards India Indonesia and once in 1672 when docked in Surat, an artist on the ship made a portrait of Shivaji Maharaj while he was on Mission Surat. For all maharashtrians this is the only known picture of Shivaji. Just to put it in perspective, it is the same picture that you would see history text books. This picture is published in a book called Oude en Nieuwe Oost Indien by Francois Valentijne. This book was first published in early 18th century (1702 or something). I had a fortune to see the print and even read one of the later editions. I even had a plan to trace details of the ship, the captain and the crew members and figure out who made the portrait. But it has been shamefully futile :(

The geography of the Netherlands is nothing spectacular, it has a descent looking countryside but within about 10 minutes it really gets boring. Vast flat lands with rural houses, occasional church, grazing cattle and frequent appearance of centuries old wind mills along with the not so elegant new ones is what defines the countryside for this low lying country. Of course I cannot under estimate the sheer beauty and skills involved in growing tulips and other varieties of flowers.

Keukenhof is something we visit year on year and the charm of its beauty will never fade away.

The society is as any other. There is a class of people who live in huge houses and drive in big expensive cars and then there is a middle class who buys a row house or sometimes even semi detached or detached house. Drives reasonably descent car and pays taxes. Then there is lower class which lives in subsidized housing drives relatively old cars and makes both ends meet. But generally everyone in Holland rides a bicycle. You can buy a bicycle from 3000 Euros to absolutely nothing! 3000 Euro bike would be a very good bike where as in Amsterdam you could buy a bike for 30 Euros from a junkie who nothing but breaks a lock of a parked bicycle and gets it to you.

This is what we can call a tolerant and forward thinking society in real sense where prostitution, soft drugs and homosexuality is accepted. And Noooo, not every other Dutch person is gay and every third person is a junkie and every 5th person is a prostitute! If you go to red light district the most visitors are foreigners from other European countries and of course from Japan! It is quite funny to see Japanese people listening to the guide and then nearly reaching to take a picture of a women in the window! Guide stops him and so does his not very impressed wife. Coffee shop is a regular site in the Netherlands and they sell no coffee but cannabis and other soft drugs! Once an acquaintance went to Amsterdam for gay parade with his parents! Are you out of your mind??? I said. Then I remembered a dialogue from a bollywood film Dostana ‘Love is blind but not so blind that one cannot differentiate between man and a woman!’
Some less known facts about the Netherlands is that it is the first country to legalize lottery around 700 years ago. Also arguably the only country with odd currency denominations, Dutch used 2.5 guilders coin, 25 and 250 guilders bill. I have never seen 2.5 Indian rupees or French Francs or US dollars ever. As a foreigner living in the Netherlands one can participate in local elections and vote! Utter nonsense! The health system here is as strange as other things the patient would not go to the doctor unless he has suffered for good few days and doctor won’t prescribe a medicine if patient is too early! 80% Dutch women prefer to deliver baby at home!!!

Of all what I find depressing is the food and dressing habits in this country. As this country is known to be simple and practical the food is so boring that it can actually kill a foreigner of boredom. The typical breakfast is brown bread, ham and cheese along with glass of milk. This can be easily repeated for lunch. This is the only country where I see grown men drink multiple glasses of milk during the day every day. The dinner is little more colorful! The dinner would normally consist of cooked vegetables, boiled or roasted potato’s and piece of cooked meat.

During winter you can eat Ertewen soup (green pea’s soup) with smoked sausage, this is a typical Dutch dish for winter along with mashed wild cabbage, potato and butter. Also eating row fish called harring along with spoonful of onions is a customary. A typical Dutch family will go to South of France or Spain and will make sure that they have enough stock of Dutch cheese and potato’s! Other not so typical Dutchies would dismiss this idea outright.

This has been my home for best part of last 10 years and thus I have so many things I can still share with you but I don’t want to kill readers of boredom so I will sign off. Do I feel that this is my home I can say yes! Home where my soul is not where my trouser is! India is my other home where my heart is!
Thank you for stopping by!

Monday 8 December 2008

Change we need : Governance and National Security

Dear reader this article is only in context of Governance and National Security. Thus the contents are subjective.
Aftermath of the terror attacks of last month have given away enough loopholes in security and intelleigence angencies' work practises. Heads of Shivraj Patil, R.R.Patil and Vilasrao Deshmukh have rolled. Many have admitted ignorance and lapses in security procedures.
I think union home minister resigned for wrong reasons. The man never looked intelligent and proved it everytime he opened his mouth (or sometimes not!).
His interview on devils advocate was broadcasted a few days before the attack. He could not clearly say that road link between J&K and rest of India will never be closed!
The astonishment was in the fact that he actually allowed to close this road? If we have a troubled region where people are trying to earn a honest living by selling their produce
and we dont want to open the road! He should have been fired there and then. Vilasrao Deshmukh was just there waiting to be fired. R.R.Patil is a humble man working for common Indians! But do we need a humble man in the post of home minister of state? I remember once H.D.Devegouda said that he is a humble farmer!
Well we dont need humble farmers and common men ruling the country or state. We need visionaries who have seen the world, who are not just nice and pleasent looking but also has shrewedness of anticipating and making the change!
All these leaders have resigned! But were they trained in any specific way to tackle intelligence information? or some military training! Noooo! They are leaders who, in theory, represent the country.
Main job is of our intelligence agencies, our defence forces. These are professionals and they did not do their job correctly and we are firing politicians! Why dont I see resignations and court marshals for the security forces! Why we get only appologies from them. Why do we need a police constable with a 303 rifle who is defending the nation against terrorism! While it was the duty of defence forces! This can be avoided by having a appropriate National Security measures and foreign policies.
National security:
1. The politicians during peace times really need to think about what went wrong! Get some professional training on managing crisis.
2. For J&K and North East India we really need to make use of moderne telecom technology in order to make more remote survailance. House to house search will only bring more oppression of innocent people
for a handfull of terrorists.
3. For the sea/air strikes we hope they will learn the lessons now and be better prepared.
4. Policeman needs to be more than a common man. It is evident that they stored a bomb in the store room for railways without checking the baggage? They need to be more professional. But it is not a police man's fault. They dont get training of what is expected of them, then they cannot perform as they should.
5. we need to make sure that Pakistan is growing along with us. For that matter Nepal,Bangladesh and Sri Lanka should also be prosporous. The poverty and lack of future brings people to take it to the extremeties. They are again making an attempt to democracy but it is not going to work if they don't get support form their neighbours. This is something I think Israel has lacked while dealing with Palestine and to an extent with Lebanon.
6. Last but not least, I think we should build a wall over the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. I know it is a huge distance to cover and also hilly terrain of Himalayas. But I tend to think that this will generate a lot of work for Indians which in turn will also boost the economy. Also looking at the wall built by Israel on west bank, there has been to NO terror attack on Israel from that side. Gaza on the other hand still posses threat but it is not as great. For India, it will stop infilteration of terrorists and also save lives of Indian soldiers and costs.

This does not mean that we can eliminate terrorism on India but surely she will be better off !

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday 4 December 2008

Change we need!

I start to write my blog after the horrific terror attack on Mumbai. This ordeal endured by innocent people will influence the article, which, I may add, have been part blogs of multiple millions of bloggers across the globe.

When the attacks happened, I was having dinner with my colleagues and came home at about 10:30 PM Netherlands time. Upon arrival, my wife told me about the attacks and I was glued to the television what was going to be a dreadful night of horror scene of mass murder.

India and Indians have been subjected to terror attacks and they themselves and the world has forgotten about these attacks. Only people who have not forgotten are terrorists.
This attack was different in more ways than one.
1. This was first attack of its kind (suburban hostage situation) in the history of terrorism.
a. Attacks on school in Beslan, Russia (September 2004) and the theater in Moscow (Oct 2002) were also suburban terrorisms but they wanted something in return and they did not want to kill people by spraying bullets.
b. Israel has been subjected to numerous terror attacks which I can safely assume are greater in number than all terror attacks occurred in other countries together.
Many high profile Indians and foreigners died in this attack which has not been the case until now. All prior attacks were on poor localities, markets and suburban trains.
c. 10s of Europeans, Japanese, American and British people are killed in these attacks. This has triggered more widespread condemnation across the globe, which goes beyond mere words and now US, UK and Israel want to take part in the investigation.

What would be the motive of these attacks, everyone seems to think to spread terror in the country which I tend to agree.

But now I think that this attack was planned by none other than the master terrorist Bin Laden, well the reasons I think are
1. Pakistan army brass wants to move forces from Afghan border to Indian border
a. This will put pressure on American & British forces in Afghanistan
b. Al Qaida can strengthen its forces and fight American and British in Northwest frontier province.
c. Osama does not need to move his home time to time and Dr Zawahiri can look after him in more stable situation. All this is based on an assumption that Osama bin Laden is alive.

2. Al Qaida has planned an attack of 9/11 and precisely one week before Ahmed Shah Masood was killed. He was giving a tough fight to Taliban and in the event of American attack on Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Masood would have been a big headache for Taliban.
Geneal Dostan and Dr Abdullah Abdullah were influential people, but, I believe, only in the shadow on Ahmed Shah Masood.
This shows high level of planning with risk identification and mitigation.

Until now I have talked about all old news and how the things happened and why? There is no basis but just a conspiracy theory.

Next article I would write about what we can do to avoid such terror attacks. You all are welcome to peep into mind of a nobody.

Be cool, Be brave !


Rahul Nene