Sunday, 23 December 2012

India Cowed Down By Italy?

So India has released Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre so that they can celebrate Christmas with their families in their home in Italy.  

Girone and Latorre, two Italian marines, are accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen close to the coasts in Kerala.

The two marines chartered a plane on Saturday to fly back to Italy.  

Has India been bullied by Italy? Or is there some other reason?  

According to Hindustan Times (December 21, 2013), ‘The Kerala High Court gave the verdict as the Centre took a lenient view on the issue that was threatening to sour ties with Italy.’

The court has said the marines have to return to India by January 10, 2013 so that the trial against them can proceed. The court has also asked Italian consul to deposit Rs six crore as surety.

What if the marines do not return? Italy has always wanted the marines to be tired in an international court and not in India. What if Italy now says that India’s judicial process is too slow or the conditions in Indian prisons are very bad and hence it is not sending the two marines to India? Rs six crore is a very small amount for a developed country like Italy to forego for its two citizens.

Now, supposing two Indian soldiers had shot dead, say two Americans or two Chinese or two Germans. Would the US, China or Germany have freed the accused Indians so that they could have celebrated Diwali or Holi with their families in India?

Why have the two Italians been treated in a special way? There are millions of Indians in jails, undergoing trials. Why not free all of them so that they can reunite with their families for festivals?

The Italian marines had shot dead the Indian fishermen on February 15, 2012. Then, the Centre has taken a strong stand against Italy and that was surprising. The reason soon became clear – by-elections were due in Kerala in a couple of constituencies.

I would not have been shocked if I had read that an Indian Air Force plane was taking the marines to their country.

So, the Kerala High Court gave the verdict as the Centre took a lenient view on the issue that was threatening to sour ties with Italy. Do we have very strong ties with Italy as far as our economy, military or education is concerned?

We Indians have a strong bond with Italy regarding only one thing. No, you got me wrong. I meant the Italian food – pizza and pasta, they have become very popular in India.

Hindustan Times on Friday also carried a picture of the two Italian marines.

Rather than soldiers, they look more like Hollywood actors – muscular chests and flat bellies, altogether lean. And going by their body language, they do not seem to be repentant even a bit. Their chins were up and chests puffed out.
_ _ _  _  _

Rahul Gandhi, whenever he visits a place, tries to strike a chord with the people there. When he comes to Uttar Pradesh, he says, ‘UP is my ancestral home. My great grandfather, my grandfather, grandmother, my father represented the state in Parliament.....’

When he goes of Orissa, he says, ‘Orissa is special for me. This is the state where Indira ji gave her last speech.....’

On his visit to Kashmir some time back, he had said, ‘I can understand your problems because I am also a Kashmiri up to a great extent......’

Last night I had a dream in which I saw Rahul having a conversation with Girone and Latorre in private. He was telling them, ‘I can understand your plight. After all, I also have Italian blood in my veins……..’ 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

When Stomach Rumbled In The Sky

A piece of advice for foreign minister Salman Khursheed – he should not take offence if a foreign traveller or tourist to India makes an unsavoury comment about our country.

Khursheed should not be like his predecessor S.M. Krishna who used to get offended if any foreigner made a critical comment, even if in lighter vein, about India.

Exactly a year back, BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson in a travel show named Top Gear had travelled to a slum in India in a car that had a toilet seat in the boot.

Clarkson had said in the programme that toilet in cars in India were a necessity as westerners here often suffered from diarrhoea due to hot and spicy Indian food.

Krishna was peeved with Clarkson and his comment. He had asked the Indian high commissioner in London to talk to the producers of Top Gear.

But two modern day Ibn Batutas recently discovered that Indian food do upset stomachs, at wrong time and place.

Perdu Ornab and Perdu Mark, brothers and natives of New Caledonia, a small island in south-west Pacific Ocean are at present hopscotching the world in a small two-seater plane.

They are flying from east to west and reached Kolkata from Dhaka a month back.

After spending a couple of days in Kolkata, the Perdus took off from Kolkata in the noon of November 7 for New Delhi. The distance between Kolkata and New Delhi is 1500 km. The weather conditions were fine and flying smooth.

When the plane was gliding over the great plains of Uttar Pradesh, Perdu Mark felt a slight rumbling in his stomach.

He did not give a second thought to the rumbling and concentrated on navigating the plane.

But he soon realised that the rumbling was increasing. He was alarmed. He felt needed to use a toilet urgently. But then a two-seater plane has nothing expect two seats in the cockpit.

Perdu Mark’s condition aggravated. He felt he was losing control over his bowels. His clutched his swelling stomach in agony. He realised stomach would burst its seams if he did not go to a toilet within few minutes. He groaned as he checked the meters of the plane which showed that he was flying at a speed of 200 km per hour, at a height of 20,000 feet.

Perdu Orsab contacted air traffic control office (ATC) in Kolkata and apprised it about his brother’s pathetic condition.

The ATC asked for their location. The Perdus checked the meters and the map and found that they were nearing Kanpur (my home).

The ATC gave the two travellers a useless piece of information. The ATC official said, ‘You can land in Kanpur. But the aerodrome in Kanpur is managed and controlled by the Indian Air Force. You have to take permission from foreign and defence ministries of India for landing there. But sensing your position, we think that’s not possible for you now.’

Perdu Mark rubbed his belly, hoping to get some relief while his brother barked at the ATC official, ‘Thanks for your suggestion. So what do we do now?’

‘Try Amausi airport in Lucknow. You can make an unscheduled landing at a civil airport in case of a medical emergency,’ said the ATC official.

Without wasting any time in thanking ATC, Kolkata, Perdu Orsab contacted the ATC, Lucknow and told them that he wanted to make an emergency landing due to an emergency medical condition.   

Indians believe in ‘Atithhi Devo Bhava.’ A foreigner is most welcome; an ailing foreigner is all the more welcome. ATC, Lucknow gave the Perdus a green signal. Perdu Orsab’s last message to ATC, Lucknow was: ‘Please keep the toilets unoccupied and their doors open.’

The plane had not even come to a halt when Perdu Mark jumped out and sprinted.

I came to know about the plight of the Perdus from a Bangla newspaper. The report in the newspaper was rightly headlined ‘akash-e veg’ (pressure in the air). I can’t read Bangla and my father had read the report to me.

The Perdus have most probably left India. I don’t know if they will again visit our country. My sympathies are with them.

Nowadays, whenever I see a plane or helicopter hovering directly over me, I move indoors. You can’t be sure.

Bengalis are argumentative by nature. The officials at ATC, Kolkata are still debating what food led to Perdo Mark’s ‘medical condition.’ One is saying the Perdus took off after eating jhaal moori; another is saying they had egg-roll.