Month: November 2014

Beaujolais Nouveau

Sixty three years ago, France inverted the quality criterion of vintage wine by allowing Beujolais to be sold fresh and un-matured before  December 15th of the harvest year. The humble drink, released from its rustic confines near Lyons, unexpectedly found itself elevated to an international institution. Cash flow increased and small wine growers became millionaires.

This year the third Thursday of November falls on the 21st, when Beaujolais Nouveau may be opened with its ritual fanfare and riotous parties. Affluent Japanese in swimming pools, British and American students in grunge, Brazilian and Indonesian millionaires in their mansions and oil-rich Arabs on their yachts will be raising glasses and pontificating on the residual flavor of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau.

While some will be nibbling at elegant finger food, others will content themselves with crisps and peanuts. Some will be sick, others invigorated. Some drunken promises will be kept, others broken.

Such has become the power of this wine extracted from the simple Gamay grape. It used to be savored with pieds et paquets — trotters and stuffed tripe — at the market fairs north of Lyon in the Beaujolais region. In 1951, the wine produced in ten villages was allowed to be sold before December 15th under the label Beaujolais Nouveau. Later, 30 other villages were extended this privilege under the label Beaujolais-Village Nouveau.

No other wine in the world can be sold under any of these labels. And in France, no wine other than primeur can be sold before December 15th of the harvest year. Considering the annual consumption of Beaujolais Nouveau, one may rightly wonder where such a large quantity is harvested and by whom!

But harvested it is, by hand,

and consumed it is, with gusto.–qDMOHf4_JGFQ22y_W6oqEOOWjncWWKPwwPRw

Actually, this vin primeur trend now includes fifty-five other French Protected Designations of Origin that may be savored starting from late November. They have less tannin and thus more fruity residual flavor that allows connoisseurs to wax eloquent and expose their cultured selves. They also allow plain and simple folk the pleasure of enjoying a chilled, naturally fruity wine with their favourite home-made canapés.

My favourite primeurs are Côtes du Rhone, Ardêche and Gaillac.

Do try these primeurs with a mild chicken korma accompanied by fluffy white basmati rice — oh yes, and don’t forget the handful of crudités on the side!

A votre santé et bon appétit mes amis!

India: The First Soft Power

The Durga Vahini women’s movement limited to two districts of India is part of that nation’s latest three-hundred year old Hindu revival. The Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s quest to make a documentary on this movement finally ended in success. Writing for the BBC, she raises questions but expresses no alarm at this movement, based on pride and history — The World Before Her  and

The more one studies India’s history, the more it eludes one’s grasp, retreating constantly into the mists of time in a tantalizing dance. This mother lode of all that is Indo-European can stake its claim on the basis of holding the archives. Other components of and claimants to Indo-European roots only have oral history on their side, but India has the Vedas – sacred documents dated from between 1800BC to 3000BC, or even earlier.

The total time span allotted to Indian history is so wide that were a subject called The Rise and Fall of Indian Civilization be introduced in academia, it would fall flat on its face. Indian civilization demands the plural, despite its continuing integral core. It expanded and receded several times, the components cohabiting comfortably with each other’s characteristics.

 One of the most remarkable features of this civilization is its influence which stretched from Macedonia to the limits of East Asia without any evidence of hard power projection. India can bask in its status as a pioneer of Soft Power.

That finesse did not stop other civilizations from penetrating India’s refined screen to raid, loot and settle as minority rulers over much of its territory.

The last ones to do so failed to integrate, were unable to settle and had to leave sixty seven years ago, leaving behind a free press and the cherished structure of parliamentary democracy.

The sheer force and prestige of Nehru’s personality dragged India through its period of socialism, but since its heyday there has been a turnaround. The most positive result of that is the continuing economic growth and progressing health and literacy rates despite the population increase since 1947.

Famine, rife under the Mughals and the British, has disappeared.

India is coming back into its own.

On the flip side, some Indians, basking in their new-found independence, seem to be taking the occasion to show that they are not softies. That they aren’t is an opinion buoyed by the reputation of the Indian Army for efficiency, not to speak of its millennia-old battle record. Militant groups and movements appear to be challenging world-wide extremist obediences in a race for each to prove that they’re the toughest on the block.

The Durga Vahini just might end up being one such movement, the female equivalent of the Bajrang Dal and part of the Vishva Hindu Parishad. The stated purpose is to involve more women in a Hindu revival through physical, mental and knowledge development in order to involve them in social services.

Considering India’s population of 1.252 billion, there are only about 8000 women involved in Durga Vahini. The movement is more local than national and, in general, most Indian Hindus have no hang-ups about settling scores with remnants of erstwhile minority rulers. Shouldn’t have any, in principle. Not after the last Hindu revival.

In the 18th century, the Marathas, by becoming the pre-eminent power in India effectively eclipsed the effete Mughals of that time, engendering a Hindu revitalization that continues to grow in most desirably impressive directions. HElO7ENOkptBPbArAgYSCXv85vsuTaeZ7VjOWiApEmFFNRzw

It is confidently hoped that this balance will be maintained in a world where perceptions and soft power have superseded the old hard power, as obsolete as a nuclear weapon!

The world’s soft power pioneer is no doubt aware of this.

Many others are!

Eight Ebola Lessons

There is a step-by-step solution to fighting the disease. 

We are blessed with being Ebola-free. Now that we better understand its epidemiology and the repertoire of medical and health interventions required to curb its spread, it will take some doing to keep it that way.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is working tirelessly and doing the best he can, but he must be supported and pressed to do a great deal more to ramp up our state of Ebola readiness.

What lessons have we learnt from the Ebola crisis so far?

… Read more by Wilmot James, City Press, South Africa :


Asian and White school results in the United Kingdom

On November 12, Nihal, my favourite BBC Asian Network DJ got more of my attention than usual. I learned that children of Indian immigrants in the UK obtain the highest GCSE scores. That started me thinking, and for a change it didn’t hurt – well, maybe just a little.

The two-nation theory is believed to have, among other things, led Muslims to demand their severance from the rest of India by creating Pakistan. Mission accomplished, the theory often carries more weight in its political rather than historical context.

However much Muslims of Pakistan may be tempted to graft their historical cultural roots on their belief system and end up in a Middle-Eastern state of Semitic mental limbo, the lure of the Indo European macro culture is as irresistible as it is undeniable. More so when they realize that the response from the Middle East is disproportionate to the initiative.

So the distinction between the contemporary application of the two-nation theory and the reality of the historical Indo-Euroean roots is a yo-yo comet leaving a zig-zag trace.

And there things stood until Nihal unwittingly landed on this comet to set my head spinning.

So I spent some time in space and here’s what I found from reputable sources such as, among others, the BBC’s Education Correspondent and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

The progress rate of British Pakistani children might outstrip that of their white and British Indian peers, but a lead of thirteen points is not a lead of three plus one equals four as Einstein would have made it and ended up with another atomic split.

Poor results are also explainable by permanent exclusion. The rate of British Pakistanis at 0.05% also exceeds the almost 0% of British Indians although it lags honorably behind the nearly 01% of White British — funny, I wanted to write British White, but it kind of ended up reminding me of the latest upgrade in a teeth whitener.

Which means, the children of Indian and Pakistani parents are more British since they are British first and not second even if some of their parents  are accused of cheering the Indian and Pakistani cricket teams in the UK. And over mounds of artery clogging samosas and pakoras fried in ghee followed by moti choor luddoos and kaju katli they still argue about the one versus two-nation theory.;;

Thanks to DJ Nihal, that argument can be laid to rest, substituted by the relative merits of butter chicken and palak paneer savouries.;;



No possibility of a cease fire violation — not in the UK — or one may hope!

How the British are still Rewarding Punjab — in the UK!

My friend and course-mate Colonel Qaiser Rashid sent me one of Ayaz Amir’s recent articles.

Mr Ayaz Amir, is an excellent writer whose sense of outraged justice over the treatment of Pakistan’s Christian minority has received my gratitude in writing. His nifty penmanship alone makes him worth reading while his ideas are food for thought.

How The British Rewarded Punjab is just such an idea, published in The News on November 14, which did feed my thoughts on the remembrance of Punjabi World War I Victoria Cross recipients during the commemoration ceremonies of that War. My thoughts were well fed, though perhaps in a direction not forseen by Ayaz Amir Sahib. Unless he wished to inspire debate on an open subject.

“The soldiers in question, who were undoubtedly heroes, were fighting not for India but for the greater glory of the British Empire.”

The fine article then goes on to cite historical reasons for downplaying the achievements of these hereditary warriors.

Now that is a pity.

These soldiers were neither fighting for India nor for the British Empire. They were Rajputs, Jats, Pashtuns, Dogras, Maharathas, Garhwalis, Gurkhas — Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Christians — you name it! Every fighting brand nurtured in the sub-continent for the duration of its history was eager to prove its mettle in pursuit of its ancestral tradition.

Closer to home are the two Victoria Cross recipients from Pothohar, both proud Rajputs, an assertion which implicitly acknowledges their Hindu Kshatriya roots, and the dharmic justification for The Way of the Warrior. When their ancestors became Muslim, they saw no conflict of interest in continuing this tradition within the framework of their chosen belief system.

And that is what led around 350 million soldiers to fight in both World Wars.

Plus the rewards.

Agricultural land in the Punjab opened up by the canal irrigation system neither belonged to the Joneses nor the Khanses, Singhses or the Mallses. Accordingly, the gora generously allotted land in recognition of services rendered at the peril of their lives to warriors considered superior to their own (not a bad promotional point …!).

On this issue at least, Indians and Pakistanis don’t fight each other!

Led by Urdu, Hindi and Marathi speakers, the urban, educated class bitterly criticizes Punjabis for not coming to the aid of the Urdu and Maharashtri speaking leadership of the 1857 War of Independence. Debauched or inept leaders had been propelled to the forefront of events by rebel Sepoys who even called Bahadur Shah Zafar “Ohé Budhae” when he hesitated to accept the honour being bestowed upon him.

I really don’t know since I wasn’t there but a gora called William Dalrymple told me that one!

The Punjabi disdain for the 1857 War of Independence (the odd chieftain apart) has its own justification.

Firstly, the leadership was as poor as the excellent illustration in Satyajit Ray’s movie, The Chess Players. The Punjabis could see no reason to shed their blood in order to restore decadence.

Secondly, from 1758-1761 the Maharathas attacked and plundered the Punjab, demanding their one-fourth share — chauth — from its farmers.

Whatever level of literacy Punjabis might have has never adversely affected their memories!

Thirdly, during the Sikh Wars of 1845-1849, nearly two thirds of the Order of Battle on the British side consisted of Uttar Pradesh soldiers known to the Punjabis as poorbiyas. They are remembered for eating leftovers of the British to kick their Punjabi brethrens’ bootyas.

A decade later, their squeals for help from a people whom they were convinced had dysfunctional memories fell on deaf ears, just as the Punjabi Sirdars’ badrak roars of help were ignored by their Maharatha and UP brethren.

Their belief system notwithstanding, South Asian warriors have fought through the ages for whoever offered them decent employment, good leadership and a chance to practice their dharma.

They fought for Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian employers.

They fought within the sub-continent and outside of it.

Husseini Brahmins are Mohyal Brahmins, like Sanjay Dutt, who are supposed to have been the guardians of the bait-ul-mal treasury at the Battle of Karbala — October 10, 680 — that involved Hazrats Hassan and Hussein!

And at the end of the day, the real reward is being reaped by around five million South Asian immigrants in Britain — 1.5 immigrant per active warrior in both World Wars. Now that’s what I call a reward!

These warriors were neither traitors, nor stupid little brown men exploited by a colonial power for a fistful of rupees and hot dal roti. They maintained the finest manly traditions of Indo-European culture and improved their family fortunes at sword-point and at the peril of their lives.

Let us honourably remember them as they and their highly educated descendants would prefer and not as a platform for political determinism.

Stunning Portraits Of The World’s Remotest Tribes Before They Pass Away

Living in a concrete box with hot water pouring from the tap, a refrigerator cooling our food and wi-fi connecting us to the rest of the world, we can barely imagine a day in a life of, say, Tsaatan people. They move 5 to 10 times per year, building huts when the temperature is -40 and herding reindeer for transportation, clothing and food. “Before They Pass Away,” a long-term project by photographer Jimmy Nelson, gives us the unique opportunity to discover more than 30 secluded and slowly vanishing tribes from all over the world.

Spending 2 weeks in each tribe, Jimmy became acquainted with their time-honoured traditions, joined their rituals and captured it all in a very appealing way. His detailed photographs showcase unique jewellery, hairstyles and clothing, not to forget the surroundings and cultural elements most important to each tribe, like horses for Gauchos. According to Nelson, his mission was to assure that the world never forgets how things used to be: “Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.”

All of his snapshots now lie in a massive book and will be extended by a film (you can see a short introduction video below). So embark on a journey to the most remote corners and meet the witnesses of a disappearing world. Would you give up your smartphone, internet and TV to live free like them?

Source: Book:

Kazakh, Mongolia

Himba, Namibia

Huli, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Asaro, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Kalam, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Goroka, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Chukchi, Russia

Maori, New Zealand

Gauchos, Argentina

Tsaatan, Mongolia

Samburu, Kenya

Rabari, India

Mursi, Ethiopia

Ladakhi, India

Vanuatu, Vanuatu Islands

Drokpa, India

Dassanech, Ethiopia

Karo, Ethiopia

Banna, Ethiopia

Dani, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

Maasai, Tanzania

Nenets, Russia

First Indian Warrior to receive the Victoria Cross in France, World War I

Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest military award for conspicuous battlefield gallantry.November 23, 1914, Battle of Festubert, France.Undeterred by bullets and grenades ripping the night sky, twice wounded in the head and once in the arm, the Indian army Naik (Corporal) steadily moved forward with tactical perfection as part of the first trench raid of World War II. As written in Philip Mason’s authoritative A Matter of Honour, the blood drenched Naik single-handedly bayoneted five Germans and survived to become the first Indian warrior to receive the Victoria Cross on French soil.

The Germans died for their fatherland in a cold, hostile land at the hands of a diminutive fighter from a faraway land.The Hindu Kshatriya hereditary warrior followed the dharma of his caste.

He was from the northeast Indian region of Garwhal, whose clans are as renowned for their battlefield ferocity as for being law-abiding.

Naik Darwan Singh Negi of the 1st Battalion of 39th Garhwal Rifles served with honor and conspicuous gallantry..
While receiving the Victoria Cross on December 5, 1914, he was asked if he wished for something.
He asked for a school in his district, Chamoli.
The request was granted.
Negi served until 1924, obtaining the rank of Subedar (Warrant Officer), when he took premature retirement, devoting his time to uplift his underdeveloped district in a backward region. He helped war widows, opened a school in his village and got the authorities to provide road and rail links to his village.
On 24 June 1950, he died peacefully of natural causes, in Kafarteer Village, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Lest We Forget

It is worth remembering today that 3.5 million Indo-Pakistani soldiers fought for Western democracy, gaining 38 Victoria and George crosses.

That’s one warrior’s life paying the fare for approximately two South Asian immigrants enjoying democracy in the UK!

The Victoria Cross is the British Army’s highest decoration for conspicuous battlefield gallantry. Its first South Asian recipient was Sepoy Khudadad Khan – Belgium, World War I.

Subadar Khudadad Khan (1888–1971), VC, 10th Baluch Regiment

Subadar Khudadad Khan (1888–1971), VC, 10th Baluch Regiment

by Henry Charles Bevan-Petman

Khudadad Khan was the first Indian soldier to win the Victoria Cross after eligibility for the award was extended to Indian officers and men of the Indian Army in 1911. In common with half of the men in his regiment, the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis, Khudadad Khan was a Pathan from north-west India (now Pakistan).

As part of 7th Indian (Ferozepore) Brigade, the 129th Baluchis arrived in France from Egypt during September 1914. While serving in the regiment’s machine-gun detachment on 31 October 1914, ‘at Hollebecke, Belgium, the British officer in charge of the detachment having been wounded, and the other gun put out of action by a shell, Sepoy Khudadad, though himself wounded, remained working his gun until all the other five men of the gun detachment had been killed’ (‘The London Gazette’, 7 December 1914). Khudadad was decorated with the award by George V in January 1915.

Who killed Bin Laden ?

May 2, 2011, 01H00 PKT 15H30 EST — Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Version 1.

The two trained and experienced US Special Forces DEVGRU commandos, better known as SEAL Team 6, crept up the stairs in the glow from their Night Vision goggles. Reconnaissance had been perfect, and it was known that not one of the four men had night vision goggles.

A head peeped around a doorway.

The point man blocked his respiration and squeezed the trigger of his suppressed H&K 416 assault rifle.

Two others pumped in several more rounds into the body.

Version 2.

The point man missed.

The number two dove and rolled, came up facing Bin Laden pushing a woman in front of him, and put rounds into the target.

In both versions, Ben Laden apparently died without a fight or a whisper.

During his lifetime he overawed the world and hurled defiance at the most powerful superpower in history. The Superpower’s commandos mythicized by Hollywood and on Television had to be provided with an address and adequate transport before they could live upto the legends spun around them.

 So it was a three-part operation: hunt and locate, transport successfully and then execute the Presidential Executive Order.

Without the success of the first two parts of the operation, the final part would have remained a theoretical exercise buoyed by hope. The CIA found the address and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment ensured stealthy arrival above the target.

Then the commandos did their job.

Professionals under contract, they flit silently in the shadows of strategic mechanisms, their lives depending on silence and invisibility. And they put their lives on the line with faith that their superiors and the nation they serve and protect will look after them.

A priori, a fair bargain but one which the current public squabble of who killed Mr. Bin Laden has brought under scrutiny.

In a contractual relationship, however, if one of the parties feels that the other has breached the legal or moral contract, it may seek redress of grievances by chosen, legal means. America’s silent warriors who feel they have been let down by their superiors have recourse to justice through the legal system.

By going public, the current spat between two former DEVGRU operators has reduced their latest known accomplishment to tabloid feed.

Since two wrongs don’t make a right, and revealing who killed Bin Laden breaches national security, challenging that claim in public reduces legend to farce.

A lose-lose situation for all concerned parties.

Before America’s vaunted Seals become an international laughing stock, the US government should take strong and immediate measures to ensure that compensation for their warriors’ services is institutional, immediate, publicized and well beyond mere semantics. At the same time, a special in-camera court needs to be constituted to hear and redress grievances of Special Forces operators.

Another Presidential Executive Order in addition to the one that sent these men to retrieve their nation’s prestige could satisfactorily solve the matter, were the Administration to find it as expedient as the one that launched Operation Neptune Spear.