Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Face book Manifesto..

“Proletarians of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!” thus wrote Karl Marx in one of the world's most influential political manuscripts - “The Communist Manifesto”. It took 100’s of years and dozens of editions of the book to popularize these words among the people across the world.

Precisely 162 years later, a 26-year-old woman worried about the state of her country wrote on her Wall: "People, I am going to Tahrir Square". This writing on the wall, unlike the scores of writings that you see on the walls elsewhere, didn’t go unnoticed. There were hundreds of thousands of people who followed her to the streets of Egypt, shaking the roots of the thirty year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. This demonstrated the power of one of internets recent innovations, the Facebook. The ‘wall’ where she wrote these revolutionary lines was the virtual wall of Facebook.

Facebook, which started as a college website seven years ago, grew to become one of the biggest establishments in the world of internet. With over a 600 million active users following, it is next only to Christ who has a following of 2100 million worldwide. It won’t be long before it overtakes Christianity to become the world’s biggest ‘religion’, and remember it won’t need any popes, bishops or pastors to do so. It is often said that three Jews – Christ, Marx & Einstein has influenced the thoughts of the world and any individual that you come across in life would be a follower of one of the three. It may be coincidental, but Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook, also happen to be a Jew.

The fact that Facebook competed with internet giant Google’s Orkut to gain the first slot in Social networking speak tons about the acceptability of Facebook. Even in India & Brazil, where Orkut remained at the number one position for quiet some time, Facebook has taken over. Though people often point fingers at facebook for wasting time of youngsters, recent incidents has revealed that there are more things to do using facebook than just being in touch with your childhood buddy or keeping a track of your ex-girlfriend.

When Zuckerberg was declared the Time’s Person of the year, edging out Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, there was a public outcry against the decision. People went on to say that Facebook has robed more people of their privacy than what Julian Assange has done. An accusation which was always being raised against Facebook – that it’s a major threat to our privacy. May be the accusation is true, may be it is not but the fact is that your presence or absence in facebook won’t give you the privilege of privacy. The recent events that unravel before us stand testimony for that. When the phone records of India’s most respectful business tycoon can be tapped at will by sleuths, when names of depositors in Swiss banks is available with media houses, when classified official communications of governments are published in websites, how can we even dream of privacy?

A Slight modification of the famous lines of John F Kennedy would be apt in this regard - "Ask not, what Facebook can do to you. Ask what, you can do with Facebook”. The fall of Hosni Mubarak is just a curtain raiser. There are hundreds of Mubaraks’ who are waiting to fall. It’s just an initiative from one of us that matters. Gone are the days when enterprising journalists go around media houses trying to publish their news item. You are free to put your views on facebook and if your view has content, it goes without saying that it will be circulated among the pool of 600 million users.

Facebook can be used as a medium for social revolution. If you come across any corruption or malpractice, take a snap or shoot a video in your mobile and publish it. Let no corrupt person or practice go unnoticed. Expose them; bring them to trial in the court of the people. This is what you can do and this is what you should do, other wise……

One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.

On that day
the simple men will come.

Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they’ll ask:

“What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
and life
burned out of them?”

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.

Your own misery
will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.

Mission Kashmir: A travelogue

To have a feel of winter in Kashmir is entirely a different experience especially for the ones who are seeing snow for the first ti me. We got an itinerary planned for 4 days stay at Srinagar. It was last week of February and as we stepped out of the flight, the freezing cold breeze gave a first hand feel of the spine chilling experience, which we were going to face during the sojourn. We had stock of enough winter clothes piled up in our baggage so as to counter the alien climatic conditions. The temperature outside was around 5 degree C .
On the first day we visited the Mughal gardens, Shalimar Bagh and Nishant Bagh. These gardens were built by the Mughal emperor Jahangir for his queen Nur Jahan in the year 1619. The Baghs are considered to be the epitome of Mughal horti culture. Shalimar Bagh has a terraced architecture and an axial canal which runs from the top to the lowest point.
The garden is linked to the Dal Lake through this canal. The best ti me to pay a visit to this garden is during the autumn or spring. It is during this time the garden is at its picturesque best due to the colour change in the leaves of the famed Chinar trees. On the way to the garden, our guide pointed to us the Char Chinar, which is an island in the Dal Lake. It is called so because of the four beauti ful chinar trees on the island. As it was winter, those trees didn’t bear any leaves.
Next day we moved on to visit Pahelgam, the ‘Valley of Shepherds’. It is about 95km towards west of Srinagar. Pahelgam is the entry point to the famous Holy Cave of Amernath. Enroute Pahelgam one can see Asia’s biggest Saffron fields. The roads leading to Pahelgam provide a very common sight of local shopkeepers selling pure Saffron (kesar) culti vated from their fields.
One of the shopkeepers there greeted us with Kesar-tea as a welcome drink. We purchased dry fruits and Saff ron from one of those shops. After having our bodies rejuvenated with kesar ka tea, we resumed our journey to reach the base of the mountain. The very first sight of snow all around us made us spell bound. As soon as we parked our car, the “gode waalas” came with the horses to take us atop. We had to bargain to fix the deal and started out on the horses after playing in the snow. We started our hike and it began snowing and it continued through out the climb. The horses took the much treaded muddy path on the snow clad mountains amidst the Pine and the Cedar trees. Snow fall which continued didn’t allow us to take snaps owing to poor visibility and the fear of snow wetting the lens. Two men who followed us with the horses stopped the ride in front of a valley for which I fall short of words to explain its breath taking views. Except for the presence of Santa and stars, the valley with its snow capped Pine trees made us feel like we reached some foreign nation to celebrate Christmas. Then we moved to the meadows of Baisaran. They call it the ‘Mini Switzerland’. It is a wonderful place to play with snow. We decided to descent after an hour of playing in the snow and making a snow-man, as our limbs started to become numb. Descending the hill felt more dangerous, as the path was covered with heavy snow and some places were slippery. To our big relief, the horses knew the way well enough to avoid such places. It took us about an hour to reach the base and we ran into the car and put on the heater.
Next day we proceeded to Gulmarg, which literally means the Meadow of Flowers. This hill resort is located in the Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir and it is about 55km southwest of the city of Srinagar. Originally called Gaurimarg by shepherds, this place was discovered by Sultan Yusuf Shah in the 16th century who was inspired by its grassy s l o p e s covered with wild flowers. But in winter it is hard to find any greenery once you r e a c h the top. Gulmarg is also famous for its premier ski resort of the country. We hired long boots and woolen jackets from Tanmarg which is the base of Gulmarg (Gulmarg is about 13km away from Tanmarg). As the road was wrapped with snow, we had to take metal chain for winding on the rear wheel to provide extra grip on the road. Our Scorpio took a single chain, but found it difficult to climb up the slippery road. We finally stopped the vehicle and walked for about a kilometer to reach the top. We took four sledges and decided to move to the place of Skiing. We had to bargain heavily to get the sledges for a fair deal and which I still feel was more! The snow clad peaks and the lovely landscapes have provided background for several Bollywood movies. We asked our guide to take us to the Govt. Ski shop. Though he refused initially, he succumbed to our pressure finally. The govt. shop offer Ski pads at the rate of Rs.300/- for the full day. We took one guy as a trainer as it is a bit difficult to put on the Ski shoes. Beginners route are available for the amateurs, which are less steep and safe. The ski area had a good crowd of Indian and foreign nationals. We did skiing for an hour and decided to start back as it was snowing heavily. We went back on the sledges and reached our car. On the way back to hotel we decided to taste the Kashmiri special non-veg dish, “the Waswaan “ which are meat balls made of mutt on. We went to Hotel Mughal Durbar and ordered the dish where we came to know that it is a general name and there are so many varieties available in Waswaan. We enjoyed the Rista- Waswaan with Kashmiri Pulav.
On day three, we moved our luggage to the house boat where we had planned to stay. House boats in the Dal Lake are stationary unlike the house boats in the back waters of Kerala. Small boat called “Shikara” is used as a main mode of transport and tourism in the Dal Lake. In the 17th century, the Mughal emperor Jahangir rightly said while living in a house boat in the mesmerizing Dal Lake, “If there is ever a heaven on earth, it is here!”.We proceeded for a Shikara ride aft er keeping the luggage in the boat. Vendors with variety stuff s row along with our Shikara to sell Kashmiri dry fruits, pearls, saff ron, jewelry etc. Moreover the view of Gulmarg, Sri Sankaracharya temple, Akbar Fort and other snow capped peaks from the Dal Lake is awesome. Aft er an hour’s ride in the Dal Lake we took a stroll in the Lal Chowk to do shopping. Shops in Lal Chowk display wide variety of Kashmiri items like carpets, woolen dress and dry fruits. Later in the evening we moved back to our house boat. Stay in Kashmir is incomplete without a house boat stay. Boats provide fi ve star accommodati on with beautiful, decorati ve interiors furnished extravagantly giving a plush feeling. And the most attractive feature of the house boat is its heater system which is basically a fire pot with wood burning inside. Pipes carry the smoke outside so as to avoid suffocation. A warm stay after two nights of the cold winter was a real welcome. Dinner was arranged in the house boat.
After a wonderful stay in the house boat, we kissed good bye to Kashmir valley with lots of beauti ful thoughts and memories.