Saturday, August 27, 2005

Thank you bsnl.

My flight is delayed by 30 min, but thanks to bsnl I have free wi-fi access in chennai international airport. What I looked for and could not find in ORD and DXB, I find in MAA.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On The Trail Of Tipu Sultan

Tipu's sword. British Museum, London. Notice the tiger emblem.
Tipu Sultan's legacy has turned up in all of the places I've visited this summer. Tipu was the son of Haider Ali --- a common soldier in the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad who worked his way up to become king of his own kingdom. Tipu, from his capital in Srirangapatanam (near Mysore), put up a fierce resistance to the Brits until his death in battle in 1799.

View from Fort McHenry, Baltimore of the harbor and cannons.

The first place I visited, and the one with the most tenuous connection to Tipu (which I first learned of here), is Fort McHenry, Baltimore. With the help of Congreve Rockets, the British tried to capture the city of Baltimore (and this fort) from the Americans in the war of 1812. William Congreve invented the rocket (a picture of which is displayed in the fort), when he was fighting on the British side against Tipu in south india, by reverse-engineering and improving on the rockets that Tipu used against them. Above is a view of Baltimore harbor from the walls of the fort.

View from Vellore Fort of the town and hill-top fort in the distance.
The Brits, with the help of the Nizam's army, defeated (and killed) Tipu in 1799. They kept many of his things, and imprisoned his family in Vellore Fort (a stone's throw away from where I was born and brought up). Here's a picture of the inscription in the fort and, above, a view from it's walls.

At the top of this post is a picture of his sword that I saw displayed in the British museum in London when I visited recently. It's a little blurry but you can make out the emblem of the tiger (Tipu's personal symbol).

Tipu's connections to Hyderabad are strong. His father used to be in the Nizam's army. His brother-in-law might even have been married to a woman from the Nizam's court/entourage --- if the (persian) women of the court didn't look down on him as being of lowly south-indian "peasant stock". (I suspect, like many things in India, this had much to do with skin colour). Tipu tried to convince the Nizam to align with the French and not the Brits, but they didn't listen. Infact they did the opposite and aligned with the Brits in defeating him and, proving Tipu's suspicions right, cheated the Hyderabadis of their conquests. Rather than dividing Tipu's captured territory between them, they gave it away back to the more pliable Wadyars [who were the rulers of Mysore before Tipu came along]. These and other tales of British treachery can be found in William Dalrymple's White Mughals [which I'm back to reading at the moment]. I spent several days in Hyderabad, but was too busy attending, and helping run, a wedding to be able to take relevant photographs.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Who Would Jesus Assassinate ?

Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler writes :
Pat Robertson suggested this past Monday that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, be assassinated by operatives of the United States government! Though his comments are newsworthy because of his following in the 700 Club and his political stature and role in the political religious right, his comments however are out of synch with everything that has been handed down to us from the teachings of Jesus Christ. What I am suggesting here is that Pat Robertson and individuals of his ilk are not practicing or preaching Christ but have become adherents of a political movement in this nation that attempts to use Christianity towards their own narrow political ends. I believe that there is a role for Christianity in the events of the world, but the teachings of Christ leads us to love one another, strain and stretch to understand each other, and dare to know each other enough that we come to an understanding of one another and from that create a world that is not built on might and winning but on understanding and unity. Clearly the comments of Robertson defy the framework we find in the gospels of Jesus Christ.
The rest of his article is here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The people you meet

My seat-mate from LHR to DXB was a British accountant travelling to Baghdad to work on auditing the Iraqi government. How do you get from London to your office in Baghdad you ask ? One way : take a regular airline to Dubai. Go to the cargo terminal (!) to board another plane to Baghdad. Why the cargo terminal ? Apparently because letting too many people know that there are flights from Dubai to Baghdad might attract their (f)ire. But once you get to Baghdad the hard part has only begun; because you've got to take the notoriously dangerous airport road to the city. So you catch the once-daily 3AM, heavily-armed, military convoy from the airport to the city. Along the way you might see rockets, or if you're lucky --- harmless flares, directed at you.

I also had this broad-ranging conversation with this guy travelling from the U.S. to Islamabad. We talked about the tech industry, the stock market, the british education system (A-levels, GCSE and how there seems to be grade inflation these days) and, while he was reminiscing about his senior-year undergraduate project in his college in pakistan --- about Haar Wavelets. Who knew that Haar wavelets would be fodder for a conversation with a stranger in an airport.