Jan 27, 2008

Republic day musings at Bhopal

bhopale saniaIt was a long day for both the friends. Tired and exhausted, they slumped in the vacant chairs in the famous Bhopal restaurant, not very far from the Lal Parade Ground. “Sit,” said one to the other. “The last year has been really tough for both of us. Constant insults, prolonged court cases even in matters of such great national interest, I am really serious about migrating from this country.”
“Yah", chirped the other "You are right. If we migrate from this country will have nothing to be proud of. Only the other day, this fellow Narayana Murthy, he did not allow me to be sung when our president visited his office. Can you believe that?”
“Ah, and it is even worse for me! After this woman pointing her feets towards me, I’ve been cut with a knife. Some chaps at a function made a cake with my design, and Sachin Tendulkar, he came and cut me up.”
"This is terrible! After fifty nine years, still we have to tolerate all this nonsense. What is the use of waiting for courts to deliver justice? They can't even get simple cases solved. I am telling you I would have really left this country for good. It is only the love of this one man out of the 1.5 billion people. This is the man who makes me stay"
Both friends, the national anthem and the national flag, looked on adoringly as a group of young Bhopalis and their leader waited patiently for the local media people to arrive before they could start collecting the flags lying everywhere and destroy them in private with full dignity according to the Flag Code of India, 2002. It is not everyone who wants to be patriotic for nothing

Jan 20, 2008

Logic of Life In Bhopal

Daughter of Hamidullah Khan, Abida Sultan the heir apparent, was married to Nawab Sawar Ali Khan of Kurwai. The marriage did not work out, and Abida Sultan started living in Bhopal with her father. She gave birth to a boy, Shehryar Mohammad Khan, who became the bone of contention between Abida Sultan and Sawar Ali Khan when Sawar Ali Khan complained to the English Viceroy, Lord Willingdon that he was being denied his legal rights to custody. Abida Sultan, the true inheritor of the traditional courage of Bhopal begums, says in her biography "Memoirs Of A Rebel Princess" that on 22 March 1935 around 10 p.m. she drove down the dirt roads from Bhopal to Kurwai. When she arrived at the Kurwai Palace at about 1 a.m. Sawar Ali Khan had already retired to bed. When Abida Sultan entered the bedroom
"There I saw a reclining figure, curled under a quilt who then sat up, bolt upright 'What are you doing here at this hour?' he said, alarmed. 'I Princess Abida Sultan - Bhopalehave come alone to inform you, once and for all, that I will never part my son. I would rather die. I am giving you a very sporting chance to kill me and say that I was responsible for it. 'I replied, my heart pounding. Taking out my revolver, I threw it in Dadabhai's lap and said, 'The weapon is my mine and loaded - use it and shoot me or else I will shoot you. 'Dadabhai visibly squirmed: 'But I am his father. I have a right to my son', he stated. The reply sent my heart pounding and we then had a physical confrontation in which he came off second best, eventually hiding under his quilt and holding his pillows to protect himself. He began pleading 'Go, please, go from here. I am not making any more claims on my son - just leave me and go away'."
Some seventy years down the line more and more Muslim women in Bhopal are taking the initiative to end marriages, contrary to the general impression that they are at the receiving end in most divorce cases. As per a report of the 285 divorce cases last year, 200 had women opting for khula (where the wife takes the lead in annulling the marriage), statistics at the city Qazi’s office, which maintains marriage records under the Shariat, showed. The approval of the office is mandatory for executing divorces. The Qazis, community leaders, women activists and psychologists have argued that such a ‘progressive’ trend did not augur well for society. According to them 'Divorce is a necessary evil, more evil than necessary' and, therefore, needs to be discouraged rather than encouraged. The reasons attributed vary from the new trend to changing social mores and the Nawabi era in Bhopal during which women ruled for more than 120 years, and even to soap operas on television.
Slate has published two excerpts from Tim Harford's new book, The Logic of Life, which is premised on the notion that if we want to understand our world - or how to change it - we must first understand the rational choices that shape it. In the piece titled "Divorce Is Good for Women", Harford observes not about Bhopal but the world:
"the divorce revolution was driven by a more fundamental economic force: the breakdown of the traditional division of labor identified by Adam Smith. At the beginning of the 20th century, housework took many hours, and only the poorest and most desperate married women had jobs. As the decades rolled past, technological change made housework less time-consuming. It became easy—and quite common—for older women to enter the workforce after their children were grown and housework was easily manageable.
About women getting more career options in the booming economy of India
"Did women really need career options before they could get divorced? In all but the most desperately unhappy marriages, they did. Contrary to the popular bar-room grumbles of divorced men, alimony alone doesn't logic of lifetake women very far financially. Fewer than half of single divorced mothers get any child support at all, and for those who do, child support is just a few thousand dollars a year, typically about one-fifth of the mother's total income. If a woman, especially a mother, was determined to get a divorce, she almost always needed to find a job. More and more women realized that they had the ability to do exactly that.
That started a second reinforcing loop—some people regard it as a vicious circle. Because divorce was conceivable, women preserved career options. But because women had career options, divorce became conceivable. It became less and less likely that a woman would become trapped in a miserable marriage out of pure economic necessity.
The serious entry of married women into the workforce has meant that they spend a little less time baking cookies, and perhaps also that their husbands spend a little more time with the children. It has empowered them to leave marriages that are not working, making them happier and safer from abuse. It has truly been a revolution, and the price of that revolution is more divorce and less marriage. That price is very real—but it is almost certainly a price worth paying."
Many historians have pondered about the four generations of women rulers (Qudsia, Sikander, Shahjehan, Sultan Jahan) of Bhopal, wondering what has happened to the traditional males? To answer the more basic question of this traditional division of labor between women and men, Tim Harford says:
"Elizabeth is a more productive worker than James but also a more effective parent. James is a bad worker but a worse dad, and so Elizabeth takes the rational decision to stay home baking cookies and looking after the kids, while James tries to scrape together a living as a real estate agent. The logic of comparative advantage highlighted something that most men—except economists—have found it hard to get their heads around: there is no reason to believe that men were breadwinners because they were any good at it. They might simply have been breadwinners because getting them to help around the house would have been even worse."
The Bhopal male rulers proved to be bad workers, bad parents and worse rulers. The takeover of women rulers was only the most logical thing to do.

Jan 14, 2008

Bhopal Airport and Indore Airport

As India increases her economic growth the population is taking to the air in travel and more and more are flying. Commercial Aviation traffic has increased ten fold in the last few years. India will need to set up the latest in air traffic control to handle the crowded skies. Additionally India’s private aircraft markets are increasing too along with a brand new general aviation manufacturing sector. India is the second most vibrant aviation market after China. bhopale airportThe reason is the strong growth anticipated in the domestic Indian traffic, which they estimate to be 12.7 per cent per annum by 2014. The main drivers of traffic growth are economic upswing, concentration of population, wealth and industries leading to higher propensity to travel and increasing liberalization. And add to this there are penetrations of low-cost carriers which are offering exceptionally low airfare that can be compared with railway AC fares. India is the only country where the number of air travelers a year equals the number of rail passengers in a day. The potential is huge. So low-cost carries are not ready to waste their time and are very much into business. Many of India’s smaller airports are dirt strips and needs to be upgraded. There are 100 civil airports in India and twelve are international airports. Meanwhile India’s airline passenger traffic is expected to exceed 50 million in less than five years and that is at the current growth rates. One industry insider stated in a major Indian newspaper; ''We won't be able to handle all passenger traffic in coming years as is being envisaged now.” One consulting firm determined that it would take over 20 billion in capital investment to bring the airports into normal safety compliance of other countries in the next decade, some think much more as things progress.
Two bigger cities of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are Indore and Bhopal, the distance between the two is 186 kms. Both the cities are vying with each other to attract the available financial resources to expand their basic airport structures. There are flights which are operating from Mumbai and Delhi to Indore, which then proceed to Bhopal. On many occasions the flights are terminated at Indore due to lack of Bhopal passengers and the Bhopal passengers are provided with taxies from Indore airport to Bhopal, much to the chagrin of Bhopalis. The political hotheads are even heard considering reversing the flight landing sequence (from Mumbai-Indore-Bhopal to Mumbai-Bhopal-Indore)to avoid this humiliation of Bhopalis. The Bhopal airport  has a runway of 6500 feet which will be upgraded to 9000 feet. Known as the Raja Bhoj Airport, the Bhopal airport has one terminal building, three Airlines, eight flights and parking space for five aircrafts (being upgraded). On the other hand the Indore Airport, known as Devi Ahilyabai Airport , is an international airport with a runway of 7500 feet which is being upgraded to 9500 feet within one year. The Indore airport has one terminal building; another terminal building is being constructed. There are five airlines, sixteen regular flights, air cargo and parking space for five aircrafts. Flights for gulf countries are being started in June 2008. All this for two cities 186 kms apart, while the biggest airport out there measures 780 km². If only somebody had planned a big International airport somewhere in between the two cities and connected it to Bhopal and Indore with sixteen lane expressways and/or metro rails. The project would have given a boost to the logistics hub project of Madhya Pradesh. coming to think of it, how will the local politicians ask for votes if the airport goes away from Bhopal and Indore, and the farmers of the town in between loose their land? Nobody risks a Nandigram and no point in indulging in wishful thinking.
Would you like to listen to Lata Mangeshkar from Indore sing beautifully for Madan Mohan "Khud Dil Se Dil Ki Baat Kahi, Aur Ro Liye" in the film Aadalat?


Jan 1, 2008

Happy New Year 2008

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but youre older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought Id something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
And when I come home cold and tired
Its good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells.

- Time. Pink Floyd

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain, a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, was declared tax-free in Madhya Pradesh by chief minister Shivraj ...