Friday, February 22, 2008
Bangkok Impressions- A Ringside View
Syed Ali Mujtaba
As I was at the Anna International airport in Chennai checking in my luggage for the flight to Bangkok, I spotted some one right behind me talking to an American tourist guiding him about Bangkok. He turned out to be a professor of philosophy and frequents Thailand to lecturing on Buddhism. His general guideline was to learn few words like Swadeekrap for greeting and Kop Kun Kan for thank you. All my flight I tried to digest these words but never came to its perfection till I was actually using them.
I had no trouble from the airport to reach my hotel at Sukmevit, Soi 11, as my fare was metered correctly. No haggling, no cheating. This was something very unusual to me as in India taxi drivers are notorious to fleece the tourists.
I stayed about ten days in Bangkok and had a good overview of the city. Life is fast phased. There is lot of fun an excitement for every one here. People are friendly and the development reflects on their gait. Their character seem to me was based on honesty and self integrity.
Comparing to India’s size, Thailand is much smaller but their infrastructure looks way ahead of India any of the Indian metropolis. It can be easily compared with any of the western city. The roads are a treat for driving with orderly lane system and full of flyovers. I could see the development work going on at very many places in the city. The work was on progress for BTS sky train line that would be connecting the main city with the airport. I think in a years time would be completed. Bangkok is a shinning example of infrastructure development. I think the policy makers from South Asia must visit here to see what development really means.
Tourism is the main source of income of Thailand. They have added color and much fun fare to it. The presentations of Thai dance -drama are a treat to watch. There are lots of bars, pubs, massage centers every where in Bangkok. The city is a shopper’s paradise. There are very big molls like Siam paragon, MBK, Pentium plaza and Dixi. Goods are cheap especially on the road sides. All brands of watches from Omega to anyone one can get on the road side. However, one may be excited at buying something for the price bargained, but if this work for more than couple of hours, it could be a worth bargain!
All in all Thailand particularly Bangkok offers the return for your money from the tourists’ angle. There are eating places, the road side food sellers, fruit shops all must reminds of India. There is life on the roadside much after the regular shops get closed. There are evening bazaar, followed by the night bazaar and the morning bazaar. Life does not stop in Bangkok. There is little crime on the street and every one seems to be safe if not secured in this city.
The most disturbing part about Bangkok is its traffic.Even traveling from one place to another is a great problem in terms of time and speed. However even then every one observes the discipline on the roads there. Despite bumper to bumper traffic, there is perfect orderliness. The noise pollution is kept to minimum. The sky train, the surface and the underground train has decongested the road to some extent. Then there are waterways inside the city where boats ferry people from one place to another. I had an opportunity to ride one such from Pertunam to Boobay. The boats are mechanized and travel at quite a high speed.
"TUK TUK," the auto rickshaw of Bangkok is something one should not miss to experience. The tuk tuk drivers are a character in themselves, very friendly and very talkative. However, tuk tuk are not cheap as one may assume, some time it could be more expensive than the taxi fare. The other mode of transport is the motorcyclists which takes people from one place to another on the pillion. This reminded me of Goa, where such motorcyclist are called Pilots. The great part of these motorcyclist is their dare devil act. Within no time they can take to reach their destination and no marks for guessing how?
Coming from Bodh Gaya, the place where Sidhart became Buddha, it was delight to see the celebration of Buddhism in Thailand. There are lot many Buddhist temples in Bangkok. One can find the statue of Buddha in every nook and corner of the city. The people generally fold their hand once they see the Buddha statue. I could see Buddhist monks moving on the street. One of them was seated on the back of a truck with large sized statue of Buddha and begging for alms. I was amazed to hear the shloka; Budhham, Saranam Gachami being played on the sound system at the magnificent Ancient city campus in Bangkok. I chanted this sloka all along my sight seeing trip since it was very haunting for me. The ancient city showcases Thailand in its original form.
On thing that struck me most was that people here worship elephants. I saw elephant statues at many places. Near the Ancient city there was huge elephant statue with two faces making a huge impression on the passerby. I saw a Ganesha statue in gold and people praying it. I also saw some one taking elephant on the street and people giving alms to him. It reminded me of India where cows are worshiped in the similar way.
Thailand’s economy thrives on tourism and tourists from all over the world come to Bangkok for different reasons. One of the greatest attractions for them is sex. It’s a paradise for those looking for sex. It won’t be in correct to call Bangkok the sex city of the world. One can find street girls in many places in Bangkok. There are umpteen numbers of bars and bar girls calling you for drinks and ready to give you company. The Patpong area is famous for its bars, discos, neon lights, girls and sex shows. There are two sides one for the gays where men seek men; the other for the strip tease shows. This place remains over crowded all through the night and one can witness the celebration of sex in its highest form here.
Suan Lum Night Bazaar is another great place where I enjoyed eating Thai food. A large number of food stalls are lined up on both sides of the open air sitting arrangement. The sheer size of the place, its lightning arrangemt, the live music going on, the waiter and waitresses moving around creates a great atmosphere.
"Pataya," is another fun city of Thailand. A beach town that is less than three hrs of bus ride from Bangkok. It’s much quitter place as compared to Bangkok but there are lots of attractions here. The tourists throng here for relaxing. There are water sports like speed boating motor cycling in the sea. Every one loves swimming at the Pataya beach. The walker’s road is main place in Pataya. There are many attractions here besides shopping. Then the coral-island is a huge attraction in Pataya.
One thing that makes Southeast Asia is so different from South Asia is the involvement of woman folks in the day today life outside their homes. They are dominant force on the city's landscape. They outnumber men in the buses, trains and every other place one can imagine. I saw this in Seoul, Hanoi and Singapore. My idea was reinforced in Bangkok as well. This aspect is some thing peculiar to the Southeast Asian countries and key to their development.
Thailand has been seeing a lot of development. The reason this is the country thrives on tourism. Over the years they have developed their country keeping in mind to attract the tourists. However, my general impression is there was a mismatch between the infrastructural development and the human development. The people seem to be not all that affluent compared to the country that showed signs of opulence. I was told that there is stark poverty in the countryside of Thailand. All such people make a beeline to Bangkok to earn their living. There is some ugly fall out of the tourist’s economy on Bangkok as well. This stark reality one can see below the surface and has to delve deep into it.
On the whole Bangkok is one of the most exciting places in the world. No words can describe it; one has to be there to experience it!
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He was in Bangkok to attend a media conference and was there from 20 to 30 January 2008.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Syed Ali Mujtaba
During the World War II days British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used to begin his speech on the radio saying – Ladies and Gentleman lend me your ears … The same call is needed for some disturbing news that has come out from the different parts of the country very recently.
Life imprisonment to Dr L. Prakash for the cyber crime, arrest of Dr Amit Kumar, the kingpin of the multi-crore kidney scam and the highly provocative statements against north Indians by Maharastra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackery.
All the above news items have pricked the consciousness of an average Indian and they call for wider audience for discussion and debate on these issues.
L Prakash a Chennai based doctor was sentenced to life by a fast-track court for making porn videos for websites. This was the first cyber crime case registered under the Information Technology Act that came into force in 2001.
The orthopaedician who was arrested on December 14, 2001 sought sexual favors from his women patients and videographed the moments of intimacy. He then sent such CDs labeled as ‘surgical procedures’ to his brother Pradeep Lakshmanan based in the
The sex doctor’s activities came to limelight after a young lad Ganesh from
The judge while awarding life term to Prakash observed that, considering the gravity of his offences it would be appropriate to grant him maximum sentence because the crime committed by him were not of ordinary nature.
Prakash case is just a tip of the iceberg in the pornographic content that’s being generated from
The final point about this is that the conviction of an individual is not enough to handle such organized crime. Such crimes have inter-state and international ramifications. What efforts are being made to tackle them deserves consideration. Letting them go unchecked would be an assault on
The other news that shocked
Amit Kumar, a 43-year-old Ayurvedic doctor along with his associates use to illegally use to procure kidneys from poor people through force or money and then transplanted them to rich patients who could pay exorbitant charges for them. Amit’s rich patient’s list had people from
This news came to limelight when Interpol issued red corner alert following the death of three Turkish nationals, believed to be victim of wrong kidney transplantation at Amit’s Gurgaon based clinic. The police raided his clandestine operation theatre and unearthed the racket. Amit who had fled to
So far about a dozen other people have been arrested in this 'Doctor Horror’s case. There are six doctors who are still at large. The gang is believed to have conducted about 500 illegal kidney transplants in the past one decade.
The kidney story is again nothing new and media has been reporting this from time to time. Recently, there was a big kidney ring that was busted in Chennai. Similar story was heard from
Every one is aware that kidney transplantation has assumed the proportion of trade in
This organized crime needs to be tackled through strict vigil by the law enforcing agencies. However, going by their track record its not possible many security officials are known to be on the pay rolls of many such clandestine operators.
The other shocking news is the open hate mongering by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray against the north Indians living in Mumbai.
Raj Thackeray called the people from UP and
Raj Thackery made up his case saying, if the Prime Minister can rake up the issue of ban on turbans for the Sikhs in France when the French President came to India, if the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi could take up the issue of problems of Tamils in Malaysia with the Malaysian government, why can’t he take up the issue of self-respect of the Maharashtrians.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is the break away faction of Shiv Sena in Mumbai. The Shiv Sena’s rise in 60s and 70’s owes to its anti- Tamil campaign in Mumbai. Then it went on to engulf the north Indians as well. Their ire then was directed to anti-Muslim campaign that led to bloody riots.
Shiv Sena faced a crisis whether the nephew or the son would hold the party’s reign after its chief relinquishes power. The issue was finally settled when the nephew Raj Thackrey broke away to from his own outfit Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Having done so, he is desperate to elicit support from the youth for his new party. He like his predecessor has embarked on the tried and test formula of casting ‘we against ‘they.’
Raj Thackrey highly provocative statements were heard by the entire country, yet no one dared to challenge his audacity. The cadres provide the muscle and democracy that often gets sacrificed when it’s pitted against the mobocracy. That’s
Well Hitler has shown to the world how to play down the gallery. There are quite a few leaders in
Where does all these news items taking
The fundamental problem lies with the character of the individuals and that is reflected on the national character. Unfortunately, we have ceased to produce noble people like, Gandhi, Tagore, Vinoba, Amte any more. That’s the reason scoundrels like Prakash, Amit and Raj are calling the shots in the country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Nationalism in an Age of Globalization- An Indian Experience
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Contrary to nationalism, the idea of Globalization is still searching its place in
In order to give the Indian perspective of ‘nationalism in the age of globalization, a few themes are picked up here for discussion. The general hypothesis is; how do nationalism and globalization cohabit in
However, that does not mean that the idea of nationalism has subsided in
Special Economic Zone Issue
Foreign Direct Investment is part of global economic agenda and for this the host country is required to create Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to attract foreign companies to conduct their operations. SEZs are a useful device for fast industrialization, provided they are carefully planned and executed. Unfortunately it’s being exploited for the purpose of land grabs and to make unearned profits. Nandigram, a coastal area in
Farmers’ suicide issue
While the positive impact of the economic liberalization is being felt on the big cities, it’s having adverse impact on the rural
Indo-US civil nuclear deal
Indo-US civil nuclear deal is another great story of nationalism in
Whereas those who support the nuclear deal argue that it has nothing to do with energy or strategic convergence with the
This debate though remains inconclusive has brought open two key points. One the realignment of
Non proliferation issues
Issues such as non- proliferation treaties particularly the signing of the NPT and the CTBT has produced much nationalist sparks in
There seems to be lack of clarity on the potential clash between national interests and global interest particularly with regard to the climatic issues. The global concerns over C02 and climate changes do not have many takers in
In the globalised age the interaction between the Indian Diaspora and the 'homeland' is another great story. The national and state governments' are courting the Non Resident Indians by organizing ‘Parvasi week’ and facilitating them with dual citizenship and other concessions for doing business and making investments. The move has paid well and the
The debate between nationalism and globalization has not ended in
Globalization and the nation state are realities that need to be reconciled with each other. Without a reasonable internal capacity which includes economic political and social strength, no country should attempt to globalize. To attempt to insulate from globalization and go it alone would be a disaster. Equally to do it without having acquired enough internal capacity would also mean surrendering to external forces. UN and all the international organizations like WTO IBRD IMF should be made to serve the entire international community, and not the rich and powerful as is the present system. There is a failure among many G77 countries as they play into the hands of the rich nations. However, the onus does not completely rest on the external globalizing forces alone. Good governance requires that infernal progress is made adequate for external liberalization. Indian government and the civil society have to find ways how to deal with the globalization.
In sum, the conflict between Nationalism and globalization emerge only if domestic capacity to be a full partner is lacking. In such cases, joining the globalized family erodes the nation-states identity and this leads to impoverishment and consequent chauvinism. The Indian experience suggests that, despite shocking waves of nationalism, the trend of globalization continues, though there are still hard battles to be fought.
The paper “Nationalism in the age of Globalization-An Indian Experience” is for presentation at the Seminar “Changing Dynamics in the Asia Pacific: Power Politics, Economic Might, Media Challenges,” January 21-23, 2008;
Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He has taken his PhD from
Friday, February 1, 2008
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Well journalists work on deadlines. Every day they have few hours to file a story and got to put the day and date and time when they do churn out a report. So more than anyone else it’s the journalists who are conscious about the date, day and time. However, sometimes they do loose direction of it when they are in a holiday. This happened to me in Bangkok on Januay 30, 2008. My schedule departure was on Jan 31 but I assumed Jan 30 as Jan 31st. I checked out of my hotel at 3 am for the Surnbhumi airport to catch the plane for Chennai. Since I no more needed any more the local money (Bhatt) I had exhausted them before I left for the airport.
As I entered the impressive structure of the airport and searched for my airlines counter a nightmare awaited me. The lady on the counter seeing my ticket smiled at me and said; Sir you are one day before, today is Jan 30 and not 31st. Please come tomorrow. I was panicked; I had no money to return to Bangkok. If I had gone there, I may have nothing to travel back again. I was contemplating to stay for next 26 hrs on the airport. Then I saw some people queuing up at the counter and was talking Bhojpuri, the language of my native state Bihar. Having lived all my life outside my state I could hardly speak that language but I can understand it very well.
I tried to imitate few words and engaged one person to explain my problem. These guys have been living in Bangkok from a long time and can speak fluent local Thai language. One gave me his mobile phone and asked me to contact my friends in Bangkok. He offered me money and told me I can return him in India. I refused, and told him I got ATM card but so far have not used it in Bangkok. However, using the mobile phone, I contacted Riyaz, whom I earlier met at the media conference that I had gone to attend in Bangkok. Riaz is from Calcutta and works at the US embassy in Bangkok. He had come to meet me in the hotel last Sunday and had treated me with lunch at his house. His wife who works as a teacher picked up the phone I tried to tell her my situation. Riaz came online and asked me not to worry and take a taxi and come to him. That was big relief. I approached my Bhojpuri mate and told him to help me reach Riaz. He took me to ATM and typed my PIN number and asked for Bhatt 1000. The machine obliged the request.
Then my Bhojpuri friend translated Riaz’s address in Thai language and asked his Thai driver to take me out of the airport and put me in a taxi and explain to the taxi driver Riaz’s address. So I got into a taxi and headed back. The driver, whose name was V, stopped in between and called Riaz to confirm his address. Riaz has a Nepali maid Reena who speaks very good Thai explained to the driver the address. So that’s how I reached his house. Reena gave V Bhat 300 and I tipped him extra 20. Riaz had a room for me where I slept till midday. The maid gave me lunch and asked me to watch TV. By four members of the family started returning back; first Riazs child came from school then his wife and in the end him We chatted and had supper together. My host gave me a alarm clock and made me sleep early. I was up at 3 am again and back on taxi for second journey to home. This time it was short, less expensive and above all hassle free. So that’s how what happens when you do not go to work. I resume my work from February 1, 2008.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He has just returned from Bangkok after attending a media conference. He can be contacted at email@example.com