Friday, August 31, 2012

The ‘Kasab Factor’ and our Media’s skullduggery

( Here I write about two important issues which though not directly connected are somehow interlinked. Do have the patience to read through. )

So, the Supreme Court of India has on expected lines upheld the long awaited death sentence on the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab. Does that make me happy? Not really. Unless I am assured by our beloved Govt. that he is to be hanged tomorrow itself which is extremely unlikely. The fact that a terrorist, who was caught red-handed mercilessly slaughtering hundreds of innocent victims in full- view of more than a hundred eye-witnesses, CCTV cameras and the local police- who already have given their statements, has managed to stay alive for close to four years now after the incident speaks volumes of our Govt.’s impotency. The whole world knows it, everyone agrees that a butcher of this caliber should be hanged till death, but what does our Govt. do? Hire him a lawyer and make sure he gets a decent trail. This despite him openly admitting to his barbaric act.  Honestly, how low can they get. People have been screaming hoarse to get this murderer to the gallows but to no avail. The ‘stringent punishment’ that our bechara Prime Minister had promised has fallen flat yet again like most of his other endless promises. I am not even going anywhere near the other endless fallacies of our Govt. as they would require a lot more amount of text added with the frustration I would get while typing them.

You should be rotting in your grave..!! 

The point is, the Govt. has failed miserably in the one serious chance they had to show the people that it means business. In such an open and shut case like Kasab’s they could have easily packed him off to hell at the earliest; it wouldn’t have made any difference to the damage that he and his ilk caused to our country but at least it would have sent a message across that we shall not kneel down and won’t take any more of these heinous acts casually. But that is exactly what our Govt. has done. Why the hesitancy then in serving out a prompt punishment to this terrorist? Again I let my readers guess the reason which I am sure is quite similar to mine. By the time Kasab really is hanged he would have been declared a martyr and a hero in his country including some on our soil who helped him and his folks get their business done. Our beloved neighbour would be laughing their heads off at our impotency and churning out hundreds of more Kasabs with vindictive pleasure while our higher authorities would keep giving those phony speeches and continue with their pseudo- secular image. The delay in giving this ‘justice’ is nothing else but a huge slash in the wounds of the families of the victims. It is an insult to those many lives lost. As a society we should raise our voices on these issues a little more than taking out candle –light vigils which is nothing but a completely bogus and pseudo-intellectual way of showing how thoughtful and sensitive one is. For now I just hope that little filthy rat is packed off to hell as soon as possible, for the longer he stays alive the more of our economy he keeps eating. May that scum never rest in peace!!

The Media Crooks

Now on to some musings over the other beloved pillar of our country; the Media, especially the TV media.  Before I delve deeper into the subject I would like you all to read carefully the content I have posted below. The Supreme Court while in upholding the sentence of Ajmal Kasab has also made some interesting observations on the media’s role during the 26/11 attack.  Trust me when I say it, you will not hear or read about these points in our main stream media. There will not be any debates whatsoever by the Barkhas and the Sagrikas on this issue. Neither will the newspapers (most of them) carry out front page headlines and write editorials on this. They have already completely ignored these observations by the apex body of our country for obvious reasons and continue with their biased reportage on their selective favourite issues. But I implore all my readers, especially those who are Indians, to read each word of this very carefully and understand the larger issue behind this.

The following are some of the extracts from the SC observations on the Role of the Media, (published without any change).  For people who might want to have a look at the original SC document, click here. 

403. Apart from the transcripts, we can take judicial notice of the fact that the terrorists attacks at all the places, in the goriest details, were shown live on the Indian TV from beginning to end almost non-stop. All the channels were competing with each other in showing the latest developments on a minute to minute basis, including the positions and the movements of the security forces engaged in flushing out the terrorists. The reckless coverage of the terrorist attack by the channels thus gave rise to a situation where on the one hand the terrorists were completely hidden from the security forces and they had no means to know their exact position or even the kind of firearms and explosives they possessed and on the other hand the positions of the security forces, their weapons and all their operational movements were being watched by the collaborators across the border on TV screens and being communicated to the terrorists.

404. In these appeals, it is not possible to find out whether the security forces actually suffered any casualty or injuries on account of the way their operations were being displayed on the TV screen. But it is beyond doubt that the way their operations were freely shown made the task of the security forces not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky.

405. Any attempt to justify the conduct of the TV channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be totally wrong and unacceptable in such a situation. The freedom of expression, like all other freedoms under Article 19, is subject to reasonable restrictions. An action tending to violate another person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy can never be justified by taking the plea of freedom of speech and expression.

406. The shots and visuals that were shown live by the TV channels could have also been shown after all the terrorists were neutralized and the security operations were over. But, in that case the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels. It must, therefore, be held that by covering live the terrorists attack on Mumbai in the way it was done, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause. On the contrary they were acting in their own commercial interests putting the national security in jeopardy.

407. It is in such extreme cases that the credibility of an institution is tested. The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within.


It is quite evident then that the terrorists alone aren’t our enemy.

Shouldn't the media guys be trending out a public apology in response to these observations, as they so often have ‘demanded’ from many public figures? But of course they won’t. Such is the case our blatantly hypocrite main stream media.

I am willing to bet that most of you are not surprised after reading this. But the point I want to stress on is the level of standards that our media has fallen to. The 26/11 was not just a one-off case. Our media, the fourth pillar of a democracy, is openly flouting all norms of decency and is hell – bent on its selective and biased reportage. Spewing venom on people and parties it doesn’t like and making the average citizen forcibly believe their point of view is the norm in most of the TV media shows these days. It is no hidden fact that more than a couple of them are open mouthpieces of the Govt. The Padmashree that some ‘renowned media personalities’ have been bestowed with is nothing but a pat on their backs for their loyal ‘services’ to the Govt.

The unfortunate fact is that most of the common folks follow these TV news programmes and take in whatever they are being fed to be the truth. They cannot see how they are being misled by the cunning ignorance of some facts, the hiding of details, favouring of one party’s spokesperson over the other in debate shows and other such slyness. Most people today follow the ‘sheep theory’, where they will follow whatever the masses believe without caring to delve deeper into the facts and the root cause. They will openly jump to conclusions as and when the media declares it.  The tale of many personalities like Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is a case in point where most people without knowing the true facts just declared him a ‘mass murderer’; as because that is what the media would maniacally make them believe for it serves their high-ended purposes. The reportage on him has been so scathingly biased by some sections of the media that it is purely filthy and nasty. Someday soon I shall write more on this subject.

This skullduggery by our media is what makes me despise them. The fact that they are beyond any control whatsoever and refuse to do a ‘check-in’ or self-regulation on themselves is highly despicable. The main stream media today in cahoots with a fair number of pseudo- intellectuals, who can be found in plenty in our country, keep on with their biased, hypocritical and selective reporting and we continue to take it in. Be it the ‘Aman ki Aaasha’ with our neigbours, or biased targeting and at the same time mollycoddling of some political leaders, even film stars and cricketers is something that if you sit and ponder honestly over would perhaps make you see reason. There are so many questions today that I would like to ask them. Whatever happened to the Afzal Guru case- the terrorist involved in the parliament attacks of 2001? Why is his case being completely forgotten and not discussed on by you?  Why was there such a prejudiced reporting of the Assam riots case recently? Why does the ‘prince’ Rahul Gandhi find such a huge amount of favour with you people without any credentials whatsoever? Why are people like Baba Ramdev scathingly put-down by you folks? Why does the colour saffron invoke so much hatred in you people? These are questions to which we shall never find any true answers; but deep down inside they know it and thankfully as I realize today many of my fellow countrymen too.

So with an impotent Govt. and a vile media system should we completely lose faith with our country? No. Without being over preachy I can safely say that the answer to a better future of our country solely lies within each of us. If we truly want to, we can make a difference. (And by that I do not mean candle-light vigils). I will try and do my bit. I cannot change the system, but I can and will do what I am capable of as a countryman. I will keep trying to do what I am best at; write my thoughts on issues such as these and let as many people aware about them as possible. Even if 10 out of you agree with me and think about it deeply, it would have been a job well done. For now I have decided to completely boycott the TV media. I do not watch it at all. The newspapers, howsoever genuine few remain, I read selectively. The internet is where I am these days. Thankfully this is where some ‘true’; unbiased and genuine reporting is taking place. I can’t ask you to follow my route but I will definitely ask you to think for at least a minute on this issue.  I believe the more we keep listening to these retards the more we become like them. There is a famous quote which goes like this - “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  This stands completely true of the psychology used by our lovely media folks.

For people who do want to follow my lead I would be more than willing to share with you some of the best and refreshing blogs and websites that are around today. Just drop me a mail.

Lastly, I have repeated this time and again and I will do so again. The best way we can make our society and country better is through sound knowledge. The more ‘proper’ knowledge we have of the things around us, the better off we will be and would not fall prey to those wanting to mislead us. It is not that hard really, just takes a little effort on your part.

I end this by again using a famous line from the Harry Potter series- Dark and difficult times lie ahead. The time has come for all of us to make a choice between what is right and what is easy.

Ponder on this while I think of my next story. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ek tha... ‘So called star’..!!

Once upon a time when I was very young, there used to be a ‘mastaan’ who used to reside in my locality.  He wore floral shirts, tied a bandanna on his forehead and paraded along as the king of the town. He had a swagger about him; he would drink and abuse people and was even known to have committed murders. But he still had a loyal gang of cronies who worshiped him, thus enhancing his arrogance further. They would all say he is a gentle-hearted man; ‘you should see beyond his tough exterior’ they would proclaim. He would organize a few Pujas in our locality then, making some worship him further. But they ignored the fact that he would abuse and fight his way for snatching all the ‘chanda’ he could collect from innocent citizens. None mattered to him; many took to him as their idol and tried to emulate him and his antics.  But as is the way of nature, things changed. The last that I heard of him was that his body was found near a gutter; he had drunk himself to death. Neither his family nor any of his ‘ worshipers’ were there beside him. They got wiser...!! Sanity prevailed..!!    

Now why have I bothered to recite this even from my past? I shall not elaborate on it. I consider my readers to be fairly intelligent and let them decipher its meaning by themselves.

So Ek tha Tiger has garnered crores of rupees at the box office. How nice. Right, so has Indian cinema got a reason to celebrate for a fantastic film to have hit our lives? Err... Well I had the pleasure of watching this movie at a theatre and all I can say is I am glad I don’t have claws instead of nails else I would have shredded myself to death out of sheer frustration. Ladies and gentleman Salman Khan has arrived again, with absolutely nothing new to offer and has given his ‘followers’ reasons to rejoice yet again. But it has given me, finally a reason to write something about this arrogant scumbag who parades across as a star.

Now I will not waste my time here comparing Salman with SRK. Nope. That, I have always believed is a laughable and digressive argument and utter humiliation for SRK to be even compared to this fellow. (I am not an SRK fan, but have grown to be fond of him and even respect him for his contribution to our cinema). Let me just focus only on Salman and his so called stardom.

Salman has been extraordinarily famous since ‘Wanted’ hit our screens. But he generally has a particular type of ‘worshippers’ or ‘fans’ who just love ‘Bhai’ in action.

Ask most of them some intelligible question, like for example what has Salman’s biggest contribution been to our cinema? They would just shrug their shoulders, wave their greasy hair and grunt, “Whatever...Bhai rocks...!”

Okay and what part of Salman’s ‘acting’ do you like the best?

Blank stare. Then, “Bhai is awesome...!”

Right...Umm...Would you like to see Salman play some other ‘meaningful’ characters like Mohan Bhargav?
Blank stare. Grunt. Wave of greasy hair, “Mohan who??

Well that’s SRK’s character from Swades. Never mind..Oh wait... SRK can’t be brought into a conversation concerning Salman Bhai. Hmm...Okay how about him playing a part in a relatively lesser known film like Dasvidaniya?

“Das what?”... Confused look. Scratches his head and turns away, shouting. “Bhai is zindabaad!!”

Is this my generalized opinion? Of course it is. It’s my blog you see. Anyways, coming back to stardom. I would like you all to close your eyes for a minute and feel who according to you a real movie star is. Without taking any names, I presume it should be someone who is intelligent and has a worldwide appeal and not just fans who reside in shanties, someone who has a pleasing public demeanor and someone who is an ideal role model for youngsters. Not to forget the fact that he/she should have made their contribution to take their respective country’s cinema on a global platform by doing meaningful films. In short someone whom all and sundry respect. Isn’t that right? Now think again for a minute about Salman Bhai.  He carries that fake arrogant swagger, that irritatingly arrogant smile and deliberate fake behavior in TV interviews. Not to forget that horribly fake accent he carries which he believes comes from the US but sounds more from the slums of Dharavi. On the point of intelligence; I recently read his interview where he spoke about business economics of the film industry. Well let’s just say watching Salman speaking about economics is quite similar to imagining Rakhi Sawant playing Sita in the Ramayana.

But all this doesn’t matter to his fans of course. Bhai has a heart of gold you see. Its strange how even some industry folks keep ranting about this ‘heart of gold’ rubbish. ‘The man with the tough exterior and a soft as a baby interior’. Chooo chwweeet... Bullshit..!!

People conveniently forget that this 'golden – hearted' person killed half a dozen people in their sleep while driving full speed and being heavily drunk. So many families were ripped apart that night. But none shall speak about it. He is roaming scot-free, enjoying his success, despite being a murderer.

He is the very ‘golden-hearted’ person who killed a few animals just for the fun of it. It is a legal crime in our country. But of course, he is Bhai yaar.

This golden- hearted person was also found heavily drunk beating down the door of a respected woman and shouting abuses at her in the middle of the night. Not to mention the fact that he has also been seen beating a few media persons in broad daylight. But come on yaar, he is Bhai after all you see.

Imagine for a minute if say a Ranbir Kapoor today was found doing these very things. The media and the people would have completely devoured him alive. He would have been branded a criminal and anti-social. Inhuman.  

Inhuman...Does that ring a bell?? The thing is Salman has very cleverly hidden all his atrocities behind the mask of his group 'Being Human' and now parades across as a social activist. But he is not fooling everyone thankfully. For many I know he will remain a low-life. 

Oh wait a minute. Salman the ‘golden-heart’ Khan also celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi every year. Awww... Such a nice guy know? But hang on, how does the media cover every detail of his antics?  How do they get this privilege? Hmm...  I thought ‘pujas’ are extremely close private family affairs. Did I mention that SRK has a mandir inside his home too? Or the fact that he celebrates Diwali with his kids with equal aplomb as he enjoys Eid. The cameras of the media aren’t there to cover all this. They shouldn’t be. It’s a private family affair and not be showcased to the world. In doing this SRK isn’t doing any favours to humanity, but the one who uses this to shine his ‘golden-hearted’ image is pure derogatory. Does that ring a bell in some thick skulls?

And coming to his movies and the success. I have a theory on that too. Think about all his recent success, they all follow a similar pattern. That same old arrogant swagger, same done to death emotions and failed attempts at 'acting', slow-mo action scenes where he beats up a 100 goons and delivers cheap no-meaning one-liners. His ‘fans’ love that. I would like to see him ‘try’ some well-meaning films playing a serious character or even for that matter a romantic film. Things will change then.

Just think for a moment. Will you be saying this to your children years down the line, “Beta please watch these films- Bodyguard and Ready. These were the biggest hits of our cinema at one time.” Rest assured, you would have to spend a considerable amount of your time in old-age homes if you take this course of action. Point is, after 20 years in the industry, name a few films of Bhai which you can proudly showcase to the world and let them have a glimpse of our cinema’s rich standards. In fact every time his film hits the theatres, it’s a step backward for our cinema; all in the name of ‘masala’ entertainment.  It takes our cinema from class to crass.

But like I said things will soon change in anyacse.

Oh yes they will. His fans will scoff at this. Four centuries in a row you see- they will proclaim. Yes, there might be a fifth and a sixth too. But things will change and he will fall. The public will get bored of him. This is a particular ‘wave’ that will and I repeat will die down. That arrogance will go and so will that swagger. Oh yes, things will change you will all see. To quote from cricket, “Form is temporary, and class is permanent.” Seeing that this so-called star hasn't got an iota of class whatsoever I do see a very bright future for our cinema which won’t have to bear with the garbage that he dishes out at us.

Laugh all you want Salman fans, but that day will come. And then I will re-post this and mock you with all my heart. A word of caution to all Salman fans who might be reading this. DO NOT comment on this post. For all the articles I write I always invite criticism. But this is different.  I don’t need your views. I will delete them the moment I see any negative comment or the ones that don’t agree with me. I don’t care about you. This is purely for the pleasure of pouring in all my hatred towards your low-life Bhai. In all the posts I have written in my blog, this is the one that I had the most fun writing. This is purely for me and people who agree with me. We will have the time of our lives ridiculing him further. I don’t know if I will ever feel this pleasure again. Just for once I have kicked out the journalist in me. Am I being too prejudiced against Salman? Of course I am. And I am loving every bit of it. People like him are a threat to the well-being of our society for many reasons and I will do whatever I can to vent out my ire against this person.

For now though, I will just keep ignoring him with all my might. And wait for that beautiful day when this ‘so-called’ star falls. 

And sanity waits..!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Ghost and the Darkness- The Legend of the Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo

(This obviously isn't my story, but my work on an episode from history that really fascinates me. Had to do a tremendous amount of research to bring it all down to this. Hope you all like it. Read it, you will surely find it interesting.) 

"On reaching the spot where the body had been devoured, a dreadful spectacle presented itself. The ground all round was covered with blood and morsels of flesh and bones, but the unfortunate jemadar's head had been left intact, save for the holes made by the lion's tusks on seizing him, and lay a short distance away from the other remains, the eyes staring wide open with a startled, horrified look in them.”    -   J.H. Patterson, "The Man-eaters of Tsavo", 1907

Artist John Banovich's version of the Man-Eaters of Tsavo

The beginning of the tale

The above snippet features in the famous chilling account of Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, (an Anglo-Irish soldier) who wrote about his experiences in the book whilst his stay in the African continent in the late 1890s.  The story of the Man-Eaters of Tsavo is laced with some of the most adventure inducing events that can be - terror, thrills, drama and mystery. It is a fascinating chapter from history that not everyone is aware of. But two lions over a hundred years back had managed to create ripples in the British Empire at its peak and the story, over the years, is now intriguing researchers and scientists from the world over.

The story bears its roots in the small African region of Tsavo (incidentally, the word Tsavo in the African language means ‘place of slaughter’). In the year of 1898, the British had commenced the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in Kenya. It was supposed to connect the Uganda region to Kenya through rail which the Empire was interested in to further strengthen its colonial territories. Furthermore, the project was intended to link Mombasa, Kenya to Lake Victoria in Uganda in order to create a trade route for raw materials and British goods into Uganda. Apart from some African locals, the workers involved in building it were primarily Sikhs and Hindus from Britain’s India colony. Since the designer’s plan was to build the bridge over the river, the workers had to stay put beside the waterway in small tents which was near the African bush. However, even the best designers wouldn't have foreseen what was to happen next. They had no inkling that at that time monsters roamed the African night.

The coming of the ‘Ghost’ and the ‘Darkness’

The front cover of Patterson's book

Sheer panic gripped the work camp as one by one, slowly, workers began to disappear, dragged screaming into the darkness of the night by some unknown predator only to be found the next morning torn to shreds. As was later found out, the killers stalking the unfortunate workers were, in fact, two large adult mane- less African male lions (not known to be brothers). In a desperate bid to save themselves the workers built massive fires around their campsite to scare the ‘monsters’ lurking in the night. They even built thorn fences around the entire encampment to stall the predators. But apparently, nothing could stop the ‘monsters’, who continued their killing spree. The size, cunning, and ferocity of these lions was so remarkable that the natives feared that they weren’t lions but were, in fact, demons or reincarnations of ancient kings who had been reborn to fight off the British invaders. The lions were thus nicknamed by the natives as ‘The Ghost’ and ‘The Darkness’.

From March to December of 1898 these lions terrorized, attacked and ate more than a hundred people from the region. (Patterson put the official figure as 135, but recently some scientists have claimed these figures to be ‘inflated’ and placed the actual number as 35). Whatsoever the figures might have been, there is no denying the terror that these lions created in those nine months.

The mystery behind the man-eaters

Their trait of being mane-less is not uncommon as lions from the Tsavo region are known to bear similar characteristics. However, there are several other theories and mysteries that surround these legendary man-eaters. By Patterson’s own account the lions were unnaturally large, measuring close to 10 feet. Furthermore, the man-eating behaviour of the lions was greatly discussed. Lions are known to attack humans from time to time, but generally when they are found to be alone and not when they are congregated in large numbers. This bit of behaviour of the man-eaters has puzzled researchers. It has also been said that the lions eventually became so fearless that they wouldn’t even drag their victims into the bush, but would start devouring them just a few yards away from the tents. Another theory claims that sometimes the lions killed just for the sake of killing, and not for eating. Patterson in his book also mentions having found the lair of the lions which was a cave near the Tsavo river bank where he found several human skulls kept by the lions almost as their ‘prized trophies’. Meanwhile, as the killings continued, the workers decided to flee for their lives and the project was coming to a screeching halt.

The killing of the lions

Back in Britain leaders were getting restless and the project was being touted as a massive failure and a colossal waste of money. At the House of Lords the Prime Minister at that time, Lord Salisbury, lamented on the way the project was going downhill: "The whole of the works were put a stop to for three weeks because a party of man-eating lions appeared in the locality and conceived a most unfortunate taste for our porters. At last, the laborers entirely declined to go on unless they were guarded by an iron entrenchment. Of course, it is difficult to work a railway under these conditions, and until we found an enthusiastic sportsman to get rid of these lions, our enterprise was seriously hindered"

Eventually, the Chief Engineer in charge of the railway project John Henry Patterson (who was also a skilled hunter) decided to take matters into his own hands. He deduced that the only way to stop this ‘reign of terror’ was to kill the lions. The account of his hunt was penned by him in details in his book. As Patterson claims, he realized in the process of hunting the beasts that he too was being stalked and was very nearly killed too. In true monster movie fashion, the lions refused to go down easily. Finally, though Patterson managed to track and kill the lions. The first of the man-eaters was killed in the December of 1898 where Patterson shot him in the hind legs. However, it returned at night to stalk him even as Patterson tried to hunt it himself. He had to fire several rounds at the brute to bring it down. The second man-eater, who was killed three weeks later, didn’t go down easily either. It took ten shots to kill the second lion. In Patterson’s own words:
The second man-eater

" a short while, I heard the lion begin to creep stealthily towards me. I could barely make out his form as he crouched among the whitish undergrowth; but I saw enough for my purpose, and before he could come any nearer, I took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot was at once followed by a most terrific roar, and then I could hear him leaping about in all directions. I was no longer able to see him, however, as his first bound had taken him into the thick bush; but to make assurance doubly sure, I kept blazing away in the direction in which I heard him plunging about. At length came a series of mighty groans, gradually subsiding into deep sighs, and finally ceasing altogether; and I felt convinced that one of the "devils" who had so long harried us would trouble us no more."  - J.H. Patterson, “The Man-eaters of Tsavo", 1907.

The aftermath of the man-eaters’ death

The wave of euphoria that followed the demise of the man-eaters culminated Patterson to heroic status. He went on to become the game warden in Kenya and the book he wrote about his time in the African bush came out in 1907 and went on to become a classic.

A few years later, in 1924, Patterson visited the Chicago Field Museum to share his experiences with the Man –Eaters of Tsavo to the audience. The enthusiastic response he received there prompted him to offer the remains of the two lion skins (which had adorned the floors of Patterson’s home for 25 years before this) to the museum for a price of $5000.

The lions in The Chicago Field Museum
It is largely thanks to the skills of taxidermist Julius Friesser that the bodies of the lions have been preserved efficiently for display for such a long time in the Chicago Field Museum. The resulting pair of lions on display are somewhat smaller than the size mentioned by Patterson in his book, but that may be due to various reasons. Patterson might have exaggerated or maybe mismeasured the length of the lions or there might have been some trimming of their skins by the museum staff. The lions are kept near their skulls which were also preserved by Patterson. Incidentally, Kenyan authorities have shown interests in building a whole museum dedicated to the two lions where they hope that ‘The Ghost’ and ‘The Darkness’ could return to their original home.

Poster of the movie
Movies on the legend

The legend of the Tsavo lions has enthralled people everywhere and it was only about time before the thrilling tale was re-told via the cinematic medium given the ingredients the story had. The first movie to be made on the episode was a 3D picture (incidentally America’s first 3D movie) titled Bwana Devil (1952) starring Robert Stack, Nigel Bruce, and Barbara Britton. The film was inspired by the Tsavo man-eaters and cannot be called an exact retelling of the incident. The other film made on the subject is The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) starring Val Kilmer as John Patterson and Michael Douglas as a fictional master hunter. This movie is, in fact, the only one yet that has stayed true to the story and attempted to tell the real tale albeit some cinematic liberties. 

The Unanswered Myths

The story of the Tsavo lions had remained unexamined for nearly a hundred years until Field Museum scientists began to dig deeper into the myths. They deduced by thorough research that the number of deaths couldn’t possibly have been 135 as Patterson states but somewhere close to 35. In 2000, researcher Tom Gnoske discovered that the railroad office in London had records of only 28 deaths of foreign workers. The rest, he has been mentioned as saying, might have been locals but it could not have been anywhere close to what Patterson claims and that he believes is ‘part of the myth’.

The other more intriguing aspect of the episode that remains unanswered till date is to why the lions turned such savage man-eaters. There are a few theories to support this. The most common one is prey depletion due to a Rinderpest epidemic among cattle and wildlife that hit Kenya in the 1890s. Some have also claimed the workers who were mainly Hindus might have been indirectly responsible for this as the Hindu practice of cremating their dead left partially burned bodies for the lions to consume. There is also a theory stating that because slave caravans often crossed the river at the location, the lions may have been quite used to human bodies being disposed of in the river. All this might have given the lions a taste of the human flesh.

The preponderate explanation, however, which is based on the examination of the lions' remains, claims that one of the lions had severely damaged tooth which kept it from eating its  normal prey and thus made it hunt for prey which was easy to catch and eat- humans; provided in plenty albeit unknowingly by the British Empire. However, most consider this theory pretty inconclusive as it fails to answer as to why did the other lion turn man-eater. 

These are questions to which we would perhaps never get any answers. 

It is precisely for these myths and the aura surrounding the Tsavo Lions that their legend remains etched in history

Sunday, August 5, 2012

This one's for Friendship

“A warmth was spreading through Harry that had nothing to do with the sunlight; a tight obstruction in his chest seemed to be dissolving. He knew that Ron and Hermione were more shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still there on either side of him, speaking bracing words of comfort, not shrinking from him as though he were contaminated or dangerous, was worth more than he could ever tell them.”   - From Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

So today happens to be Friendship day; that fantastic day where we celebrate and cry out from our rooftops about how we love our friends. Is that the reason I write this post today? No.  It just happens to be a happy coincidence that I somehow wanted to pour out my thoughts on friendship, which I realize even more today for certain reasons and found this the best way to let it all out.

Now am not much of a philosophical writer and neither is this post concerning long sermons on what exactly friendship is. As I have always mentioned, you go through various phases in your life and learn from them. I too am going through one of those phases and have felt and realized the importance of friends and the effect they have in my life more than ever before.

The dearest friend I have always tells me, “Dosti dunia ki sabse hasin chiz hoti hai.” That is probably the purest thing you all will ever hear but to actually feel it, realize it and inculcate in yourselves is what makes the world of a difference to our lives. I have always valued friendship and believed in investing in it with all my heart. Funnily enough my friends have been very kind to me and have sometimes put me in a pedestal I feel embarrassed to be in. Today, at this juncture, when I look back at my whole 26 years of existence, I see a massive montage of memories with friends who made all the difference in my life.  Starting from the first best friend I made when I had still not crossed double figures to this day where I am luckily surrounded by the most beautiful and loving friends one can have, making my life sweet, cute, simple and normal in varied ways. I want to thank each and every one of you all. We actually never truly realize the real meaning friends hold in our lives. All of them, in some ways or the other have had effects on me that made me the person I am today.

It is impossible of course to mention all the friends that I have made and the precious moments I have shared with them. But I still am grateful to all of you from the bottom of my heart. Many of you probably will never read this, but I still go ahead. I start with my first best friend whom I met in the early days of my schooling and who was a very cool and laid back kind of person. He used to live near my house and we used to study in the same school. It was cool being with him; strolling around on bandh days, playing holi and sharing sweets on Dilwali. We bonded pretty strongly and I never thought we would ever separate, but as we grew up things changed. He made new friends and so did I. But in spite that we used to respect each other a lot even when we wouldn’t talk; I could sense that in the way we would smile across at each other from the milling corridors of our school.  I know that wherever he is, he will always remember and respect me for the beautiful period we shared. Then of course there are so many other friends from school, whom you fought with, played with, laughed with and lived with. A selected few have stuck with me all along, right from the time we shared our lunch boxes in the 3rd standard till the date when I was struck by tragedy and needed someone to hug and let it all out. It didn’t matter that we were from different castes; that was something we rarely discuss. That, in fact is the beauty of our friendship as we enjoy visiting pandals together on Durga Puja and share hugs and sevai on Eid. All we know is to enjoy our friendship, and try and be there for each other. I thank that particular friend of mine for coming in my life and showing me this beautiful colour of friendship. There of course are many more, with some I never discuss emotional stuff and just be cool and forget some issues plaguing me. Right from the school time, where we would discuss movies, argue on whose favourite actor is better, share lady issues, exchange music and many more. I cherish all of those moments and hope that we remain friends for life. I can of course keep writing on all my school friends, but then again it is seemingly impossible to mention all of them and the impact they have had. So to each and every one of you, here goes a massive thank you for coming into my life, because I can't express this to you all directly.

I would like to briefly discuss friendship with the opposite sex here. This is something that is probably the most confused of all friendships that can ever be, but we hardly realize the importance of it and generally waste it away with disconcerted emotions. I have been lucky enough to have the most precious of female friends in my life, some of whom are already married, but the impact they have had in my life is immense. There are certain emotions and feelings that you can only discuss with the opposite sex. I believe that true friendship with the opposite sex is essential, as it makes you respectful towards them, makes you understand their varied emotions and most importantly celebrate life’s greatest treasure in its purest form. The day we all understand this, we would have learnt a great lesson in life.

Lastly, there are those very rare few who go beyond friendship and attach with you in a peculiar kind of a way which alters your life course and make you realize emotions you never had, makes you understand the true meaning of love. Yes, love is something we ponder a lot over but hardly understand the definition it holds in our lives.  I consider myself lucky that I have some special persons like those at this point in my life, people from whom I have learnt a lot, who have motivated and inspired me without even realizing it and are standing by me through and through. Surely, I must have done something good in life.

The lines from Harry Potter which I have mentioned at the beginning of this post probably signify a lot on what friendship is all about. In fact, Harry Potter (the books), to me is probably the best example of true friendship that can ever be. People who can see through its magical world would know that Ron and Hermione and their friendship for Harry is the real hero from the Potter books. They chose to stick to Harry at all times, evading all of their fears and dangers and making things easier for him in ways he could never imagine. That is what friendship is all about isn’t it? Going beyond your apprehensions, your egos and just being there for your friend when they need you the most.

In the end that is the most important thing which you will take with yourself in life; the bonds of friendship you make. When I look back at my existence in my concluding days I hope I would have created a canvas of friendship so huge that it would sustain me to breathe my last in peace. I again thank all of my friends without whom I would really be nothing.

There really is no life without friends, I realize this today more than ever. As there are times when you are scared, depressed, worried, and everything seems dark, but out of nowhere comes a hand on your shoulders and says “Don’t worry”. You realize then that the knot in your chest is slowly dissolving and your soul feels relaxed and cathartic like never before. That is the moment you can say it out aloud, “I am not worried...I have you.”