April 2009


           

1) The security gets in place.This chopper circled over the track virtually the whole time.

 

           

2) The spectators (mostly the royal family and their guests) appear on the balcony of the VIP tower.

 

3) The grid girls ( Gulf Air airhostesses) are in place.Mind you she is standing there in 45+ temperatures.

4) There is frantic activity in the team ‘pits’.

  

5) The crowd awaits the action.

6) The roll out begins.

 

7) The equipment gets in place.

8) The cars get in place.I over zoomed so this picture is not very clear.The yellow car is Alonso’s and the red one behind it is Massa’s unmistakable Ferrari.

9) Then all leave and it’s just the race drivers and their mean machines. Incredibly there is complete silence in these few moments before the deafening roar of all the cars revving up at once blasts the ears (inspite of the ear plugs). A test spin is taken and then the final positions are taken on the grid.

10) Jarno Truli takes the coveted pole position. He finished 3rd in this race.
 

11) Jenson Button ,who came in the winner of this race.
12) As the race starts we watch a few laps and then decide to take a quick tour of the circuit and come back for the last 20 laps. Entertainers were still going great guns.

13) Some Hindi here!!
 

14) The local cops were doing good PR by parking these two cars for the public to come and see,sit in and talk to the cops.A big hit with the kids.

15) And then it was all over.We watched many exciting overtakes by the drivers,especially at the corners (all this on a big screen) and then the chequered flag was up and Jenson Button had the third win of the season in his pocket. This picture of the three winning cars parked under the winner’s podium was taken by my daughter who had been volunteering as a ‘runner’ in this building for all the three days.

16) She was in a better position to take this shot of the Ferrari and Force India cars (and all the others).They all line up under the winner’s podium after the race. Take a look at the tyres.Not many laps ago these were brand new tyres.

 

17) The drivers get out of their cars.This is Sebastien Bourdais of Scuderia Toro Rosso team.

18) Jenson Button beams the winner’s smile as H.R.H, Deputy King of Bahrain, Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa looks on.

19) Celebration time

20) The cars are rolled back towards the garages.Onwards to the next Grand Prix…

P.S.: A perk of  her volunteering for three days of the race as a ‘runner'(they are theones who run between garages and team offices getting results and other paper work signed)  was that she got a shot at getting the autographs of the drivers.She hit the jackpot as at one go (on Day Two) she managed to get her ‘runner’s bib’ signed by Hamilton and Massa.Alonso signed her cap for her. She was wearing the bib at the time so Hamilton had to hold her shoulder while signing.Well,needless to say that this shoulder is going to be ‘sacred’ for a long time to come.

 

 

 

Like the last 5 years, this time too, the Formula One fever gripped Bahrain.Without a doubt it is the biggest event on Bahrain’s calendar.I attended the last two days (the first one when the pole position is decided and the GP 2 race takes place and then on the day of the grand finale.)

All of you who follow the event would already know that Jenson Button won the race and Sebastien Vettel and Jarno Truli took the other two positions.So, I will spare you the details of the race and just post a photo blog from around the circuit to give an idea of the atmosphere that prevails.Here goes.

                          (1) I went up to the top floor and got this view of the entrance side of the circuit.

 

(2) The way to the corporate boxes from where ‘your’s truly’ watched the race.

(3) On entering the box I realised that I really had the pole position as far as views were concerned.I snapped a zillion pictures in no time.You are looking at the garages of the team.From here the cars come straight on to the starting grid. 

 

 

(4) The team’s technical staff works frantically to get everything into top gear.

(5) The cars are tested  for brakes and other things by the drivers.They speed up and brake repeatedly making enough noise to cause global deafness. Then the techies get to work again to fine tune the cars.This was on the day the pole position is decided.

(6) Some came well prepared to take on the unbelievable noise levels…..

(7) Others made do the old fashioned way!
 

(8) Care was taken to ensure the nutritional side of the race did not get neglected,

(9) The glamour quotient was well maintained . 

(10) Regional flavor was in full force too.

(10) Youngsters made a full picnic out of the day by lounging around in 40+ temperatures.
The track temperature was recorded at a whopping 51 degrees.

(11) The entertainers kept everyone’s spirits up even as the mercury climbed upwards.

(12) The team merchandise sold like hot cakes. This year too there was nothing from Force India team.

(13) I think this blog must already be testing your patience so take a cue from this guy and take a break.See you tomorrow with the real race action from the track.

Disclaimer: There is no old horse in this story.And there aren’t any tricks involved either. I chose the title simply because it was the ‘catchiest’ phrase I could think of!

 

This particular saga has its genesis in my total and 24×7 embrace of the magical world of the web.I started as a hesitant computer user way back in 1998 and for years remained a mere net surfer and email sender. Chatting with friends and family on yahoo messenger remained my ‘peak, computer related’ achievement. I was happy with what I had achieved and appreciated the world of internet because thanks to it I could now google just about anything and satiate my nearly insatiable appetite for new information.
Then in 2005 and explosion of sorts happened when I stopped working and was looking for things to do during my free time. I discovered the share market and online trading and that one choice led me to an ever increasing portfolio of computer-skills. Soon after, I discovered blogging and there has been no looking back since.I had so many hours of pure joy because of that small laptop nestled in my lap that I could no longer understand how people lived without the net and why so many made no effort to discover this whole new virtual world that is out there.

Scouting around for potential converts, to the world of web, I zeroed on my mom-in- law (MIL).Every visit she made to Bahrain was peppered with my haranguing her to take a shot at the computer. Each attempt to lure her into the ‘dotcom duniya’ was met with a nervous laugh from her and I could not make any headway. Later on, I roped in my daughter to convince her granny but no amount of wonderous tales about the net could lure the ‘old horse’.

Then we (mom and daughter) decided to lay a trap for MIL by magically drawing out any and every recipe that MIL has ever desired. There was some success. Being a committed foodie who lives in the world of food 24×7 (if she is not cooking food then she is buying food, reading about food, discussing food) this seemed the most obvious bait to use………..

 

 

 

We challenged her to think of the vaguest dish she could think of and we would google the recipe and have it ready for her in seconds. The fish nibbled at the bait and for a few days she sat with us and made us google stuff. She, how ever, refused to touch the PC, switch it on or press any key. A few days later she totally stumped us with a query. She wanted to know if I could get out as many recipes out of my laptop as I had been getting from the bigger desktop !!! I understood then how alien the world of the internet was to the thought processes of a generation that had grown up and reached senior citizen status without ever using a computer. My spirits flagged and so did her interest and our first attempts at hooking a convert died a premature death.

 Years passed with us cajoling her and she resisting the lure of the magic box.She stuck to reading and the idiot box as her sources of ‘time pass’.

Then this year I happened to meet a dear blogger friend. This blogger, a charming lady much younger than my MIL, happens to have beautiful white hair.I am so glad that she has not succumbed to the lures of  the hair dye bottle!! When we met at a dinner party we chatted almost exclusively to each other.I monopolised every minute of her time and during that conversation I mentioned to her how unresponsive MIL was to the idea of learning some degree of computer usage. She very sweetly (bless her) offered to talk to MIL if and when she were to meet her.

As it so hapened we were to meet for dinner again soon and my blogger friend got a chance to sell the ‘computer spiel’ to MIL. I have no idea what she said as I was busy serving food  to the dinner guests! The evening ended with my MIL chatting animatedly with ‘the computer savy lady with white hair.’

The blogger friend was right. The white hair broke the ‘age barrier’. MIL probably felt a ‘peer bond’ with her because the very next day she ventured towards the desk on which  I had placed a laptop many weeks ago. 

It had sat there for weeks…..its slick and compact, grey body unable to get more than a passing glance from MIL. This morning though she went to the desk and tentatively lifted the lid. Then she looked at me with a glance that seemed to say,”come on,what are you waiting for? Let us get started.”

What has followed since has been nothing short of a miracle. In 20 odd days that she had left of her trip she has gone from learning to switch on the laptop to surfing the net, sending emails (with attachments, mind you), cutting, pasting and saving the stuff she likes during her web surfs and even having her own blog

. It has been nothing short of miraculous considering that she is from a generation when a ‘mouse’ was still a rodent, a ‘cursor’ was someone who cursed others, ‘attachments’ were the bonds that you formed with your loved ones and ‘windows’ were those things in the wall that you surreptiously opened to spy on your neighbours.

With almost a stubborn determination she has tackled this, hitherto mysterious, world of the internet  and has achieved remarkable success. Fearing that she would forget the steps she took copious notes in a diary. Passwords, tips, email IDs and site addresses, all were dutifully copied in it. When I was not around she quickly leafed through the pages and sorted out the problem on hand.
Sensing a new convert on my hands, I also upped the ante and became almost Hitler like in my approach. I would daily set small ‘tests’ for her. If one day she had to send an email with a photo attachment all by herself, the next day she would have to google search a particular topic, find relevant information, copy and send it to me as an email. She grumbled about my militant approach to anyone who would listen and tried to sneak off to watch her weepy, soapy, Hindi serials at the first opportunity. But I was not letting go. She complained of tired eyes and stiff hands. I painted tempting pictures of unlimited access to the world of hobbies, medical ‘gyaan’ and gossipy news. Thus we carried on, arguing back and forth, till the day she started her own blog and made a short post. I maybe wrong but we might just be the first DIL- MIL blogging duo

I told the other DIL( dotter-in -law) how I had finally managed to divert MIL from thinking (24×7) about cooking and discussing food by giving her a whole new world to explore.But before she and I could celebrate our possible freedom from being harangued about food all the time MIL threw a googly at us by carpet bombing us with new recipes, information on world cuisines and all sort of food related mumbo jumbo……….via email.

The next time I took her out shopping she quickly noted the spellings of some Lebanese food ingredient in the grocery section and on reaching home googled ‘mughrabia’ to find out what it is used for, how it is cooked and a recipe to follow.

 No one in the family is safe anymore. No longer is she the diminutive, old lady who nodded to any high sounding fundas people threw at her. To my BIL ( bro in law) who had  once questioned the wisdom of eating tomatoes went an email containing detailed information about the nutritional benefits of same. To his wife went a missive detailing the benefits of eating the humble ‘baingan'(eggplant).I was sent many recipes for making tomato ketchup in an effort to get me to use the huge amounts of tomatoes coming from my vegetable patch……..the grandchildren were luckier though……the football fanatic got a ‘cut and paste’ picture of Rooney and the other one a picture of flowers. MIL’s friends got links to sites related to their respective hobbies.

I am afraid I might have unleashed a monster ‘ tech granny’ on to the unsuspecting world and all will now have to run for cover!! 

 

 

                 There is my student with her diary and all.

 

It is time to hit the road again……….in this case the King’s Highway.Now I know that Jordan is a monarchy but this particular road has nothing to do with the present day King or his predecessors from the Hashemite dynasty. We used this road from the time we were heading for Mount Nebo till Petra. This highway is the world’s oldest continuously used communication route (as per the tourism brochure that I have)! Abraham, a common patriarch of Jews, Christians and the Muslims who passed through northern,central and southern Jordan would certainly have used this route on hs journey from Mesopotamia to Canaan.

   In the Bible ,The King’s Highway is first mentioned by name in Genesis 20:17, when Moses led the Exodus through southern Jordan.He asked the King of Edom if his people could “go along the King’s Highway” during their journey to Canaan but his request was denied.Infact there is another earlier mention of this ancient road in Genesis 14;5-8 in relation to the four kings from the north who attacked Soddom and Gomorrah and took Lot’s(Abraham’s nephew) wife hostage (but were chased away by Abraham). Today this road is a smooth, tarred road but travelling it one can still imagine in the mind how it must have been in the times of Abraham and Moses.

1) A lone black mountain in a land of brown makes for a spectacular sight.

2) The sight of water in such dry and brown landscape feels almost like a mirage.

3) The sign for Petra comes into sight.

 

 

4) But before we head that way Abid takes a short detour to show us another Crusader Castle.It is not as popular on the tourist trail as Kerak but is no less magnificient a sight. This is the 12th century Shobak Castle
 

 

 

We arrive at our hotel to find that here too there is a slice of history.There is a spring here where Moses is said to have struck a rock to get water for his people.This is a slightly contested piece of history as that spring is supposed to be in Sinai. The way I look at it, Moses led his people through such harsh terrain for such a long time that he must havehad to perform the miracle many times during the journey.This must be one of those  many springs known as Ain Musa in Arabic.

 

While one member of the family tried taking a sip of the blessed spring……. 

I preferred to have the “blessed chai” .The local tea stall wala routinely fills his kettle from here!! 
Musa wali chai 
The spring flows out of this little room and goes past the local shops and homes. I love this shot.Where else will you get to see waters of an ancient spring, associated with Moses, right next to Cola and Fanta  and mineral water bottles?  

This is it for now folks but tomorrow is going to be a very long day at the Nebatean city of Petra.See you there.

 

If Mount Nebo was a spiritual place, a place of pilgrimage from antiquity, Kerak Castle and its surrounding areas take us to the ‘battle zone’. These were important areas in the Crusader route since Jerusalem is not that far from here. The Crusades in simplistic terms are defined as the action by Christians (travelling from far away Europe) to liberate the Holy Lands (specifically Jerusalem) from the Muslims who controlled it at that point in time. The Arabs/Muslims also identify defense of their lands and their faith as the motives behind these conflicts.

In real terms the Crusades were more complex but the above can still serve as a broad framework for the conflicts that took place from about  1095A.D to 1272 A.D.The Christian cities fell to Muslims one after the other and that brought to an end the Christian rule in the Levant. The Catholics have their version of the Crusades and why they were carried out and the Arabs and Muslims another. The truth as usual, I suspect, lies somewhere between these two perspectives. It is obvious though that the reasons were a mix of social,political and religious agendas and land grab a key theme of these bloody and brutal wars fought such a long time ago.

The castle looms large over the landscape and Kerak town nestles almost within its folds. Even to this day Kerak is a largely Christian town and its inhabitants trace their roots to early Byzantine empires. We get to dine first in a resturant which actually is in the castle.You finish your meal and exit the restuarant and are on to the castle territory. There it is:the restuarnt at the top and the castle with guns and all !

When you get to the castle you have the same panoramic view that the Crusaders beheld when they were here(ofcourse they were probably on the look out for Saladin and his forces and not admiring the view).
 

 Kerak castle was the place from where the Crusaders were able to repulse the sieges by Saladin and his forces in 1183 and 1184 before finally capitulating in the siege of 1189. This castle will not win any prizes for beauty but it is an awesome example of the miltary architecture of the Crusaders.It survived many ‘owners’ but was extensively damaged/destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt in 1840. Have a look at the pictures below to get an idea of its scale and detailed planning that helped it withstand so many sieges.

The, long hallways, the bakery with smoke blackened ceiling, The catapult stone, the grinding stones (chakki), the kitchen sink, and the kitchen make one feel that time has stood still inside the castle and that its old inhabitants have just left in the middle of everyday routines.

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(6)

 

 

Some more views of the castle and we were( reluctantly) ready to take the King’s Highway again to move onwards towards our next destination, the Rose city of Petra.

 

 

Signing off for now. Join me again on the King’s Highway.

That fact that the riots in Gujarat  happened  is undeniable and this is a fact that India has to live with on its conscience just as it has to live with the fact of the burning of the train at Godhra, the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, the demolition of Babri masjid in Ayodhya, the killing of Sikhs in Delhi  and many many other incidents of communal nature that have occured on its soil.

The Gujarat riots were horrific enough but more damaging than the riots are the myths and exaggerations that were spun around it.Some so called social activists (like Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed) have now been exposed for the vested mileage that they tried to gain out of what was essentially a human tragedy.

Thanks to the very ‘secular’ and ‘unbiased’ nature of our media,especially the television channels, reports such as these are buried under more ‘relevant’stories of the majority community trying to brutalise the minorities.It is this one way reporting and reportings with agenda that is increasingly making the majority community angry and strident in its responses to the ‘secular’ brigade.

Teesta and her husband Javed are supposedly running an organisation that fights communalism!! If this is how they combat communalism then even God can’t save India.The only ray of hope in all this is our judiciary that has not only exposed this farce by Teesta but also ticked off those who tried to give Narendra Modi’s administration a clean chit and a new image by using the exposure of the NGOs that fabricated some stories about the riots.Now only if our politicians and the media could address issues in such a manner without giving everything a communal slant.

I post below a story from Times of India:

   NGOs, Teesta spiced up Gujarat riot incidents: SIT

14 Apr 2009, 1213 hrs IST, Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN
       
 
 
NEW DELHI: The Special Investigation Team responsible for the arrests of those accused in Gujarat riots has severely censured NGOs and social
 

activist Teesta Setalvad who campaigned for the riot victims.

In a significant development, the SIT led by former CBI director R K Raghavan told the Supreme Court on Monday that the celebrated rights activist cooked up macabre tales of wanton killings.

Many incidents of killings and violence were cooked up, false charges were levelled against then police chief P C Pandey and false witnesses were tutored to give evidence about imaginary incidents, the SIT said in a report submitted before a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam.

The SIT said it had been alleged in the Gulbarg Society case that Pandey, instead of taking measures to protect people facing the wrath of rioteers, was helping the mob. The truth was that he was helping with hospitalisation of riot victims and making arrangements for police bandobast, Gujarat counsel, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, said quoting from the SIT report.

Rohtagi also said that 22 witnesses, who had submitted identical affidavits before various courts relating to riot incidents, were questioned by the SIT which found that they had been tutored and handed over the affidavits by Setalvad and that they had not actually witnessed the riot incidents.

The SIT also found no truth in the following incidents widely publicised by the NGOs:

* A pregnant Muslim woman Kausar Banu was gangraped by a mob, who then gouged out the foetus with sharp weapons

* Dumping of dead bodies into a well by rioteers at Naroda Patiya

* Police botching up investigation into the killing of British nationals, who were on a visit to Gujarat and unfortunately got caught in the riots

Rohtagi said: “On a reading of the report, it is clear that horrendous allegations made by the NGOs were false. Stereotyped affidavits were supplied by a social activist and the allegations made in them were found untrue.”

Obviously happy with the fresh findings of the SIT which was responsible for the recent arrests of former Gujarat minister Maya Kodanani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel, Rohtagi tried to spruce up the image of the Modi administration, which was castigated in the Best Bakery case by the apex court as “modern day Neros”. He was swiftly told by the Bench that but for the SIT, many more accused, who are freshly added, would not have been brought to book.

The Bench said there was no room for allegations and counter-allegations at this late stage. “In riot cases, the more the delay, there is likelihood of falsity creeping in. So, there should be a designated court to fast track the trials. Riot cases should be given priority because feelings run high having a cascading effect,” it said and asked for suggestions from the Gujarat government, Centre, NGOs and amicus curiae Harish Salve, who said the time had come for the apex court to lift the stay on trials into several post-Godhra riot cases.

While additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam agreed with the court that public prosecutors should be selected in consultation with Raghavan, counsel Indira Jaising said there should be a complete regime for protection of witnesses as the same government, which was accused of engineering the riots, was in power now.

Salve said that he would consult Raghavan and let the court know about a witness protection system for post-Godhra riot cases. The court asked the parties to submit their suggestions within a week.

dhananjay.mahapatra@timesgroup.com

 

Leaving the spiritual ambience of Mount Nebo we head towards the small town of Madaba some ten minutes away. This small town and its surrounding areas are repeatedly mentioned in Old Testament as Medeba.It features in the narratives related to Moses and the exodus,David’s war against the Moabites,Isiah’s oracle against the Moab and the rebellion of the King of Moab (Mesha) against Israel.Phew, endless history here!

We stop first at a workshop showcasing the art of mosaic making.Most of the artists/craftspersons here are disbaled (hard of hearing or mute). The large shop attached to the workshop is a virtual treasure trove.

We are spellbound by the exquisite detailing,especially in the portraits.The stone used is all from around Jordan and the shades in the mosaic work are exactly the same as those in the ancient mosaics (like the one I showed in the earlier post). I have so many pictures from around the place that it is hard to choose just one(but if I don’t you will still be getting Postcards from Jordan till the end of the year!) But the one below is my favorite for its sheer chutzpah and I have to share it . A modern use for a very ancient art.

We reluctantly leave the place empty handed( expensive stuff) and head towards the Orthodox Church of St. George in Madaba that houses the most famous ancient mosaic.This little church is mesmerising in its explosion of colors,its artworks and the devotion of those praying inside.The mosaic here is actually a map of the Christian Holy Lands from the 6th century A.D

The 6th century A.D Mosaic map of Christian Holy Lands

 

Soon its time to leave the church and head for the famous Crusader castle of Kerak. We simply do not have enough time to go see the Madaba Archeological park that houses some of the finest pieces of early Christian art,especially mosaics. 

As we wind our way towards the famous castle (shooting of the film ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’ was done around here) we pass Biblical pastoral scenes again. Sheep grazing on this hills, bedouin tent camps along the hillsides…..scenes straight out of the past. We come then to the spectacular Wadi Mujib (Valley Mujib) and spend a good 15 minutes soaking in the sheer rugged beauty of these hills,the valley and the dam below.


 
It is hard to tear ourselves away from the scene but we have some more distance to go before we arrive at the Crusader castle. I juggle between using my binoculars and taking pictures. There is just so much to take in.Ancient ruins from Roman (or even earlier) eras come into view quite often as we pass through small villages. Finally our car curves around a bend and there in its full glory is Kerak Catle.It is a huge one and the present day town is nestled within it.You see the castle walls punctuated by new houses and then the old walls continue.The people live within the ramparts of the castle just as they do in Jaisalmer fort,I believe.

I was planning to write about Kerak Castle in this post itself but I think it is too interesting a place and I have too many spectacular photos for me to share here.So, the next postcard shall come your way from Kerak Castle.Brush up on  the Crusader-Muslim conflicts in the meantime.

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