Saturday, March 31, 2012

Next Stop Cochin....

My first visit back to "Goads own Kun-dree" since 1981....31 years ago I went to Changanacherry to celebrate my grandfather KT Thomas 90th birthday......We immigrated in 83 and he died in 1987 and there was no real contact or need to go back to Kerala after that....Kottayam / Changanacherry is supposed to be about an hr from Cochin but I dont think we will be making least not this time.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Madras Nalla Madras

the song from the 60s Tamil hit reverberating in my head with Nagesh in an open car singing about good old good to be back in Chennai...the original "tharavad" of the Thomas clan (at least in the post Kerala phase). Jyothi came to the airport to pick us up...Kavi missing in action....Back in the glory days Dr Philip Thomas with full police escort would have met us at the plane and we would have taken a goverment "mantri vandi" to the City in style, with red lights flashing etc I come back to Madras like any other "commoner" and to add insult to injury stay in a times have changed.

Mount Road and the rest of Madras is a bloody mess. All traffic is one way due to the Metro Rail project. Its horrendous....anyway we take a really nice airport Taxi (Toyota Innova) into the city....Imiss the landmarks...the Metro Rail towers are blocking everything so nothing is familiar except the noise and the traffic.

Kavi and Arjan meet us at the Mariott as we check in....its the former Srilekha hotel but of course its been razed to the ground and we sink blissfully into our little air-conditioned oasis of America in the middle of Mount Road....feels good to be back in the US (just kidding :)

Misaligned priorities

While staying at the ITC Maurya I tried to get my name changed on the reservation (they had made it in Ajitas name)...took me four tries...along the way I realized that they do not have a "single" view of the customer they have for the main lobby check in and one for Sheraton towers check in. Go figure. Annoying!

Indian hospitality

is world class....for the first time in my many visits back to the US I am staying almost exclusively in hotels....and I love it. We were at the ITC Maurya in Delhi and at the Mariott in Madras. The service is amazing. People are so friendly. All the staff know my name, Diyas name etc. They come over to play with her. Hold her while we are eating. It feels like staying with family.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lok Sabha visit

My aunt Lily Thomas and advocate at the Supreme Court of India (her law offices are virtually in the shadow of the SC building) got me a pass to the Lok Sabha. They were in session but in a very vitriolic mood. I felt sad being in the building because had things worked out differently for my brother Philip he might have been a Rajya Sabha MP by now. The fickle finger of fate intervened and that opportunity was lost due to his untimely death.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Delhi Airport

landing at the new Indira Gandhi Intl Airport - it is very impressive. It looks and feels like a decent European airport. Not in Changi or DXBs class but certainly will give Heathrow, Frankfurt Main or Schipol competition in terms of function and feel.

Friday, March 23, 2012

US to AMS to DEL

17 hrs of flying time and 5 hrs of waiting time in Schipol with a 2 1/2 year old for the first time in my life. Gives one a new appreciation for ones parents. It is both terrifying at times (when she loses it) and gratifying when some mundane distraction you dreamed up keeps her occupied for 45 mins (like sipping from a straw)...She was generally good with about 2 to 3 really challenging hours when she was cranky and (seemingly) claustrophobic.

The KLM attendants are useless and a bit racist. They treat Indians very badly. One lady from the UK travelling alone with two kids was in tears. Baby had a 103 fever and threw up on her. Not a single KLM employee helped her. I noticed her predicament and went over to help. Later one of the male pursers came over and helped her clean up.....the women of KLM couldnt give a shit.

Off to India after almost 5 years...

So on Thu afternoon we caught a plane from MSP and headed off to the homeland via AMS. It is Diya's first trip to India and I am excited to be taking her altho she is just two and a half and doesnt have a clue. My excitement is tinged with trepidation of being stuck with her in an aluminium tube for the next 21 hrs or so.

The trip started off inauspiciously. At check-in they tell us that Diya and Ajita are in Row 60 on the KLM flight from AMS to DEL and I am in Row 30. We are a lil pissed (more worried) since we had called Delta / KLM at least three times to make sure that no such thing happens...Oh adn Delta cannot communicate with KLMs seat reservation much for the partner airline nonsense they keep talking about

10 minutes later it got worse :)....Something in my hand baggage...perhaps the combination of liquids, AC adapators, chargers, flip flops whatever etc triggered the suspicion of the "einsteins" in the DHS. They proceeded to pore through my luggage like they were searching for Atlantis....Every single item was taken out and scanned, some items were chemically tested. They were particularly interested in my talcum powder that I had packed for Diya subjecting it to several chemical tests and looking at it like an 18 yr old looks at a stripper during his first visit to a strip joint....A large and sweaty 300 lb fat man with large hands and a voice that sounded like when a mob informer goes public and speaks through a voice "garbler" on TV then did a body check including inner thigh patdown...After 45 mins of DHS "security kabuki", they let me go and I was cleared for take off...Even the security officers knew this was idiotic but due process is due process - no exceptions

We boarded the plane and after a lull of about five minutes my daughter informed us that she didnt want to sit in her seat. Perhaps it felt claustrophobic...I dont know. She felt better in the aisle but would start bawling the minute we brought her in....after much soothing talk and distractions toys, games, coloring books etc we got her to sit with us.....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The humiliation of Barack Obama

Barack Obama gets on the Netanyahu Express and vetos the Palestinian vote on self determination. A sad day for those who believe in the ideal of our American founding.

We once stood for something...something great, noble and just...that shining city on the Hill....But no longer....Our policies seem more and more to be dictated through the political calculus of a Presidential election.

Imagine if LBJ had decided to hold off on civil rights legislation to maintain the Democrat (Dixiecrat) hold over the South. Obama by vetoing the Palestinian attempt at self determination has just done the equivalent. His reasons are obvious. Clearly he is worried about the election and the potential demagoguery from the Right about him siding with his "Muslim" bretheren over our loyal (not) Israel ally.

And clearly Florida 2012 must have been considered in his calculus. But neither matters.

Obama blinked and his blinking will embolden those who hate him anyway.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The greatest pre Battle speech in the history of warfare

Henry V, before the Battle of Agincourt. The St. Crispins day speech from the play Henry V, by William it any wonder that 400 years later the Bard continues to delight....such absolute mastery of the language, such glorious poetry.

(Henry is reputed to have given a speech before the battle but it was not so glorious....he reminded the English Army that the French would spare the nobility and hold them for ransom if they lost but would not extend the same privillege to the common man, so he urged them to fight for their lives)

This is Kenneth Brannagh in the role of King Hal...

Youth and Technology in the Middle East

The combination of youth (60% of the Middle East are under 30) and technology are what I think is truly driving this wind of change in the area. While there are elements of sectarianism like the protests in Bahrain, I also believe that this is largely a secular fueled movement. Will it continue to be secular - Im not sure but one can hope. What gives me hope that this is the real thing is that there is no anti Americanism being seen in the streets...

The power structure in the region cannot combat with the ubiquitousness of information and social media (remember the time when the dictator just had to take the radio station in order to control the insurgency, the P2P nature of social media is fundamentally anti dictator...), the youth know how to handle the technology in innovative ways, the old farts and the mullahs dont...what the Old guard still has is military might and money...overcoming that (like what happened in Egypt) is the key to this bug catching on...

(next Stop...Sub Saharan Africa that has the same youth demographics and a cold war style government structure of strong men)

Amazing how change can be fostered in the middle east without a full scale invasion under false pretenses and $1 trillion in expenditure to the US tax payer