August 17, 2009

Step this way, Mr Khan, you may be a terrorist

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Alas, we have to face the truth - having a surname like Khan can get you in some sticky situations in the US of A, the self-declared beholder of human rights the world over. When will they learn? You can't stereotype terrorists by their name or appearance. It's common sense, if it's a real terrorist you are dealing with, he will not travel under his real name...he could be Ronald McDonald for all you know! Secondly, what makes you (yes, you paranoid airport officials!) think that he'll be wearing a salwar kameez and a scraggly beard so you can point out, 'hey! that's a terrorist!' Seriously, US needs some strict lessons in orderly conduct here. And we all know Shah Rukh Khan's case is not the first time this has happened. Dr Abdul Kalam had to face similar humiliation recently, and God knows how many countless others are made to go through this just because their surname denotes them as Muslim or they look 'suspicious'?

That's the American side of the story, but we need to seriously think about the Indian government's reaction too: there is none. I don't know whether Indians politicians suffer from a chronic inferiority complex or colonial mindset but they have the feeblest of reactions or none at all. I don't mean the government should have made a noise about SRK, but at least about Dr Kalam? Why don't we make some strong statements to show that our dignity matters? Why didn't we frisk Hillary Clinton when she was on a visit? Oops sorry! We were busy falling at her feet!

Even in the case of attacks against Indians in Australia, which is a deadly serious matter, what exactly has the Indian government done to offer security to its citizens? Nothing, except made some feeble requests to the Australian government, which is in snobbish denial of everything. What we needed here were some strong measures to ensure that our kids are safe in foreign lands. We have seen how USA protects and aids its citizens no matter where they are. If we want to be seen anywhere on the global map as a country with its own standing, we have to learn to speak out.

August 14, 2009

Three Cups of Tea: The triumph of one man's vision of peace

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It's hard to believe that a person like Greg Mortensen exists today. What he has achieved by setting up hundreds of schools in war-torn and poor regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan is no mean feat. And that too, with just the determination and will to power him though. The book, Three Cups of Tea, is authored by Mortensen and David Oliver Relin and narrates how Mortensen went from being a mountaineer to a promoter of peace and goodwill.

Mortensen's story is an extraordinary one, not because of the extraordinary dreams he had but because he's actually achieved them. Staying with the people in the most isolated mountains of Pakistan, Mortensen realises how important a good education is to them. He promises the people of Korphe to build a school for them and after years of struggling and encountering all sorts of hardship, he succeeds in keeping his promise. He does this while not having a full-time job and sleeping in his car.

As you progress through the book, you realise that it is only Mortensen's compassion and his determination to do good that keeps him going. Otherwise, for a man who has no funds and is an American, it is almost impossible to win the cooperation and hearts of people in the innermost regions of Pakistan where even the government has not been able to do much.

After years of struggling and striving, Mortensen succeeds in setting up the Central Asia Institute (CAI) which exists today and has become a full-fledged organisation promoting peace through education. Mortensen's logic is that terrorism is bred when uneducated children are brainwashed by conniving fascists. A modern education is the only way to avoid this and CAI concentrates on education above all the other things it does to help the downtrodden and needy.

No book review can do justice to this book which must be read in its entirety to comprehend the full power of Mortensen's work.

Read Three Cups of Tea for sure, but also do what you can to support CAI and its noble initiatives.

Greg Mortenson's home page

Three Cups of Tea

Central Asia Institute