Sunday, July 30, 2006

Protect Goa’s pangolins

by Nandkumar Kamat


WHEN the ‘Goa News’ cable TV channel on Monday beamed the image of a Pangolin (manis crassicaudata) rescued at Colva by an animal activist Julio Quadros, I was instantly alerted. The forest department should reward him suitably for rescuing the animal which otherwise could have been chased, hunted, killed or sold as a pet by the trappers. These animals cannot be paraded as circus animals or be kept in captivity because they are included in IUCN red list of threatened species.

The IUCN Red List is set upon precise criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. The aim of the Red List is to convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction.

India is a member of IUCN and it is the duty of every member country to protect all the threatened species in the red list. Violations are viewed very seriously by experts, non-governmental organisations and countries failing to protect and conserve their threatened species can get blacklisted and may invite international sanctions. Immediately, I contacted the state chief wildlife warden Achalendra Reddy. He informed me that the pangolin has been taken into custody and would be then released in the wild where it can feed on its normal diet of ants and termites. I urged him to create awareness among the people and the media about this important and rare mammalian species of Goa.

Pangolins are cute toothless mammals. Taxonomically they belong to phylum chordata, class mammalia, order pholidata, family manidae, genus manis which comprises eight species (Indian, Chinese, Malayan, Pangwan, Giant, Cape, Tree and long tailed) found in South east Asia and Africa. The physical appearance of pangolins is marked by large, hardened, plate-like scales, which are actually mats of hair. The hair is clumped together in such a way that makes them look like scales. The animal walks with difficulty due to its long front claws. Its large tail is advantageous in balancing. Although terrestrial the pangolins can climb the trees in search of ant nests. The pangolins have huge salivary glands which lubricate their large tongues. After breaking the ant nests or the termite hills with its powerful front claws the pangolin removes the ants or termites with its very large, sticky tongue. Ants and termites are totally defenseless before such a predator.

Locally pangolins are known as “tiryo’’ or “khavlae majar”. The origin of the word pangolin is traced from the Malayan ‘pengguling’ which means ‘curling”. Pangolins curl themselves like the “armadillos’ into tight balls and look funny when they do so. This may entertain people but it is stressful for this animal if it is forced to perform the feat repeatedly for purely human entertainment. Pangolins have powerful legs which they use for digging. Pangolins or scaly anteaters were once found in coastal areas of Goa. But people began to kill them for no reason. I am not sure whether pangolin meat was used in Goa but the Chinese slaughter pangolins for medicinal purpose. The Chinese believe scales of pangolin purportedly reduce swelling, promote blood circulation and help breast-feeding women produce milk. These beliefs have no basis in modern medicine.

I had received a report a few years ago that a private party had kept a pangolin in captivity at Calangute and then it died. There are many reports of pangolin sightings from coastal belt of Goa. This points to a certain habitat preference. Perhaps the pangolins prefer the coastal sand dune habitat. They are burrowing mammals. The pangolin found at Colva indicates that there may be a small breeding population in that place. In that case the forest department needs to explore the location in detail with the help of the local village panchayat and verify this fact.

Pangolin females are smaller than the males. They produce at least one but maximum three offsprings. It is difficult to predict the number of surviving pangolins in Goa. But the Colva specimen shows that this species is not yet extinct. Rampant violations of coastal regulation zone, illegal sand mining, destruction of the sand dunes and fragmentation of fragile coastal habitats has already made survival difficult for wild plants and animals.

Pangolins are important members of the ecosystem. They keep the population of ants and termites in check. Certain species of nest building arboreal ants are dangerous for the trees and the humans. The pangolins spot the nests, climb the trees and destroy these nests. Termites are known as ferocious and persistent pests which attack the timber and damage the houses. Pangolins keep a check on their population by reducing their numbers. Nature has provided a system of checks and balances. Very little is known about the specific diet preference or feeding behaviour of local pangolins.

Perhaps the Colva pangolin may not survive in Bondla wilderness unless it can use the termites found in abundance in the mounds. Pangolins are shy and harmless animals. They have a right to exist and survive.

The future of wildlife in Goa outside the forests and the wildlife sanctuaries appears bleak. The capture of a panther which strayed at Miramar has already shown the pressure which the wildlife is facing. There are also shocking reports that another protected species of mammals, the marine dolphins are caught, cut and sold in the Vasco fish market. The forest department needs to warn owners of mechanised fishing vessels about the implications of capturing dolphins. People should also refuse to buy the meat of dolphins. The forest department has to issue a set of guidelines or ethics for all those animal lovers or activists who capture/rescue wild animals. There are stringent and elaborate rules in the western countries on such aspects. Wild animals do not exist for human entertainment. It was ethically wrong to parade the hungry, stressed and scared pangolin in front of crowds. Better sense is likely to prevail as Goans get more educated and enlightened and aim to build a truly compassionate society.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Prom 1: 14 July

If the First Night of the Proms is anything to go by, this Proms season promises to be a very satisfying one indeed.
The Marriage of Figaro overture was crisp, & I felt had the right balance of humour and precision.
Barbara Frittoli had fluidity and lyricism in her rendition of the Mozart arias. Jiri Belohlavek rose to the fore with his interpretation of Smetana's Ma Vlast-Vltava. The BBC Symphony Orchestra has a new spring in their step, as Charles Hazlewood aptly put it, under his baton.
I was not familiar with Dvorak's Te Deum. The BBC Interactive service filled me in, and I learnt a lot about this piece through the service.
The piece de resistance for me was the Shostakovich 5. I love this piece, & I think both conductor & orchestra gave an insightful performance of the work.
All in all, a ground-thumping start to the Proms. Well done!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Konkani Christians


The Catholic community in Canara region is a sterling example of brave defense of Catholic faith and agile acculturation of Christianity in Indian soil.

Often called the Konkani Christians because of the language they use, the original community migrated from Goa during 1500-1763. Varied political, economic and cultural reasons led to the migration.

The Portuguese colonizers in Goa imposed excessive taxes on the native Christians. The taxes were so huge that in 1642 some native Goans sent a memorandum to Lisbon.

The Portuguese, in their efforts to keep Christian purity, insisted the converts should avoid anything that is Hindu. The Portuguese rulers also insisted the natives should adopt foreign food habits and dress. They also gave European names to the natives. But Konkani Christians wanted to preserve their language, culture and manners.

The "Edict of Goa Inquisition" could have also led to the migration. The edict wanted to remove all traces of paganism in the native Christians' birth, death, festivals and dress. It instilled fear and insecurity among the native Christians.

Some historians say better prospects for the agrarian community and greater political stability in the Canara region contributed to the migration.

As they settled happily, Konkani Catholics learnt Kannada and Tulu, the local dialects in Canara region. However, they fostered their love for their mother tongue Konkani. By 1763, they were organized into several communities of parishes and built up their own business.

The captivity

A historical event of great significance happened when South Canara came under the rule of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan between 1761-1799.

Soon after the treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tipu Sultan issued orders to all stations in Kerala to seize the Christians, confiscate their estates and deport them to Seringapatnam.

The Konkani Christians of South Canara were caught in the crossfire of Anglo-Mysore relations and many of them suffered what the Konkani Christians call "the historical experience of Captivity" under Tipu Sultan.

Tipu committed several excess on the Christians and subjected them to inhuman misery, including death and torture.

The fourth Anglo-Mysore war led to the liberation of Christians from captivity after 15 years. The British took over South Canara after the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799.

Some 15,000 of the exiled Konkani Christians survived. British General Wellesley helped some 10,000 of them return to Canara and allowed them to resettle on their land. He also restored their land holdings.

The present Konkani Catholics in Canara are the descendents of those survivors.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Einstein's theory of infidelity
By Arifa Akbar
Published: 11 July 2006
Albert Einstein has been revealed as a charismatic flirt and philanderer who liked to describe his extramarital affairs to his second wife and stepdaughter.

A series of 1,300 letters written by the physicist were published for the first time yesterday. They are part of a batch of 3,500 bequeathed to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The letters, translated from German, portray Einstein as a heartbreaker who in one letter tells his long-suffering wife, Elsa, how some women shower him with "unwanted" affection. In another he asks his stepdaughter, Margot, to discreetly deliver a love note to his Russian lover.

He was reputed to have been a charmer who bewitched Marilyn Monroe, and had 10 lovers outside of two marriages. These letters, kept by Margot, and released two decades after her death on 8 July 1986 on her instruction, illuminate how Einstein spent little time at home, instead lecturing in Europe and the US, but wrote about his amorous adventures to his family.

Previously released letters have revealed how miserable he was in his first marriage to Mileva Maric, whom he divorced in 1919, to marry his cousin, Elsa.

In the letters, the professor describes six women whom he romanced and spent time sailing, reading, and attending concerts with, while being married to Elsa. Some of the women identified by Einstein include Estella, Ethel, Toni, and his famous "Russian spy lover", Margarita, while others are referred to simply by their initials, such as M and L.

In one letter to Margot, Einstein asks his stepdaughter to pass on "a little letter" to Margarita "to avoid providing curious eyes with tidbits".

In another from Oxford, dated 1931, he writes about the ardent nature of some of his lovers who pursued him relentlessly, showering him with gifts, including Ethel Michanowski, a 30-year-old Berlin socialite who was involved with Einstein in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and chased him to England.

Michanowski is mentioned in three of the newly unsealed letters including one in which he writes: "It is true that M followed me [to England] and her chasing after me is getting out of control. But firstly I could hardly avoid it, and secondly, when I see her again, I will tell her that she should vanish immediately. Out of all the dames, I am in fact attached only to Mrs L, who is absolutely harmless and decent."

In one correspondence to Elsa, he insensitively writes about Mrs M, who accompanied him on his trip abroad. "Mrs M definitely acted according to the best Christian-Jewish ethics: 1) one should do what one enjoys and what won't harm anyone else; and 2) one should refrain from doing things one does not take delight in and which annoy another person. Because of 1) she came with me, and because of 2) she didn't tell you a word. Isn't that irreproachable?" he writes.

Hanoch Gutfreund, chairman of the Albert Einstein Worldwide Exhibition, said while Einstein's marriage to Elsa was best described as a "marriage of convenience," he nevertheless wrote to her almost every day with descriptions of lecturing in Europe and his efforts to give up smoking, as well as detail of his mistresses. In 1921, he wrote a postcard to her about the nature of scientific discovery, saying: "Soon I'll be fed up with the [theory of] relativity Elsa. Even such a thing fades away when one is too involved with it."

Einstein's harsh treatment of his first wife, Mileva, has been documented in biographies since his death, and he has been portrayed as an indifferent father.

But Professor Gutfreund said the latest collection showed Einstein to have been warmer to his first family than previously thought, and letters written by his two sons from his first marriage showed "they understood he loved them".

The letters dated from 1912 until 1955, when Einstein died at the age of 76 - nearly two decades after Elsa's death - also reveal how he lost much of his Nobel Prize money from 1921 in the Great Depression. Under the terms of his divorce from Mileva, the entire sum was supposed to have been deposited into a Swiss bank account, from which Mileva was to draw for her and the couple's two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard, but the new correspondence shows he invested most of it in America, where much of it was lost after the Wall Street crash of 1929.

Albert Einstein has been revealed as a charismatic flirt and philanderer who liked to describe his extramarital affairs to his second wife and stepdaughter.

A series of 1,300 letters written by the physicist were published for the first time yesterday. They are part of a batch of 3,500 bequeathed to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The letters, translated from German, portray Einstein as a heartbreaker who in one letter tells his long-suffering wife, Elsa, how some women shower him with "unwanted" affection. In another he asks his stepdaughter, Margot, to discreetly deliver a love note to his Russian lover.

He was reputed to have been a charmer who bewitched Marilyn Monroe, and had 10 lovers outside of two marriages. These letters, kept by Margot, and released two decades after her death on 8 July 1986 on her instruction, illuminate how Einstein spent little time at home, instead lecturing in Europe and the US, but wrote about his amorous adventures to his family.

Previously released letters have revealed how miserable he was in his first marriage to Mileva Maric, whom he divorced in 1919, to marry his cousin, Elsa.

In the letters, the professor describes six women whom he romanced and spent time sailing, reading, and attending concerts with, while being married to Elsa. Some of the women identified by Einstein include Estella, Ethel, Toni, and his famous "Russian spy lover", Margarita, while others are referred to simply by their initials, such as M and L.

In one letter to Margot, Einstein asks his stepdaughter to pass on "a little letter" to Margarita "to avoid providing curious eyes with tidbits".

In another from Oxford, dated 1931, he writes about the ardent nature of some of his lovers who pursued him relentlessly, showering him with gifts, including Ethel Michanowski, a 30-year-old Berlin socialite who was involved with Einstein in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and chased him to England.

Michanowski is mentioned in three of the newly unsealed letters including one in which he writes: "It is true that M followed me [to England] and her chasing after me is getting out of control. But firstly I could hardly avoid it, and secondly, when I see her again, I will tell her that she should vanish immediately. Out of all the dames, I am in fact attached only to Mrs L, who is absolutely harmless and decent."
In one correspondence to Elsa, he insensitively writes about Mrs M, who accompanied him on his trip abroad. "Mrs M definitely acted according to the best Christian-Jewish ethics: 1) one should do what one enjoys and what won't harm anyone else; and 2) one should refrain from doing things one does not take delight in and which annoy another person. Because of 1) she came with me, and because of 2) she didn't tell you a word. Isn't that irreproachable?" he writes.

Hanoch Gutfreund, chairman of the Albert Einstein Worldwide Exhibition, said while Einstein's marriage to Elsa was best described as a "marriage of convenience," he nevertheless wrote to her almost every day with descriptions of lecturing in Europe and his efforts to give up smoking, as well as detail of his mistresses. In 1921, he wrote a postcard to her about the nature of scientific discovery, saying: "Soon I'll be fed up with the [theory of] relativity Elsa. Even such a thing fades away when one is too involved with it."

Einstein's harsh treatment of his first wife, Mileva, has been documented in biographies since his death, and he has been portrayed as an indifferent father.

But Professor Gutfreund said the latest collection showed Einstein to have been warmer to his first family than previously thought, and letters written by his two sons from his first marriage showed "they understood he loved them".

The letters dated from 1912 until 1955, when Einstein died at the age of 76 - nearly two decades after Elsa's death - also reveal how he lost much of his Nobel Prize money from 1921 in the Great Depression. Under the terms of his divorce from Mileva, the entire sum was supposed to have been deposited into a Swiss bank account, from which Mileva was to draw for her and the couple's two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard, but the new correspondence shows he invested most of it in America, where much of it was lost after the Wall Street crash of 1929.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Massacre in Mumbai: Ten minutes, eight bombs, 163 rail passengers killed
By Justin Huggler in Delhi
Published: 12 July 2006
At least 163 people were killed yesterday in a series of co-ordinated bomb blasts on Mumbai's suburban train network. Six of the eight bombs went off inside packed commuter trains in the middle of rush hour, injuring more than 300 people, many of them severely.

Witnesses spoke of seeing severed limbs and body parts littering the tracks. Other passengers rushed to help the wounded, wrapping them in whatever scraps of cloth they could find, fashioning makeshift stretchers, and carrying them out of the wreckage. At one hospital where the wounded were treated, a witness said the floors were covered in blood.

"I saw more than 35 bodies, some without legs," one survivor, Dhiraj Bajpee, said. "I even saw severed halves of bodies." A shopkeeper who was near by when one bomb went off said the blast was so powerful he thought the train had been hit by lightning.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but immediate suspicions were turned on Islamic militant groups operating in Kashmir, particularly Lashkar-e Toiba. Suspicions also pointed towards " D Company", a highly politicised criminal mafia that used to be based in Mumbai.

The attacks brought Mumbai to a standstill. Yesterday evening, in an extremely rare move, the police closed the entire rail network down. They had, in effect, shut down the city.

Mumbai's phone network was completely jammed as people tried to call their loved ones to make sure they were safe. Survivors asked the Indian television news channels to broadcast their names to let their families know they were alive. Heavy monsoon downpours were slowing the rescue efforts last night.

The first explosion came just before 6.30pm local time (2pm BST) at the peak of the rush hour, in a train near the busy Khar Road station. Seven more bombs went off in the 10 minutes that followed at locations all over Mumbai, from downtown to the furthest suburbs, including two at Borivili, said a senior Indian government official.

"I urge the people to remain calm, not to believe rumours and carry on their activity normally," the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said, describing the attacks as a "shocking and cowardly attempt to spread a feeling of hatred".

Police said they had received intelligence that an attack was imminent but that they had no information as to where or when.

There will be immediate fears of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over the attacks, especially with many initial suspicions pointing towards militant Islamic groups that operate in Kashmir but are based in Pakistan.

Islamabad was quick to condemn the bombs, saying: "Pakistan strongly condemns the series of bomb blasts on commuter trains. This despicable act of terrorism has resulted in the loss of a large number of precious lives."

The bombings are the latest in a recent series of attacks in India. In October last year, 61 people were killed in three co-ordinated bombings at shopping markets in Delhi, on the last shopping day before the biggest Hindu festival of the year. And in March, 20 people were killed when a bomb went off at a temple in Hinduism's holiest city, Varanasi. Police say they believe both attacks were the work of Lashkar-e Toiba.

An attack on Mumbai has considerable symbolic value, since it is India's financial capital, and the powerhouse of the country's transformation into the world's second-fastest growing economy.

But most of yesterday's bombings did not target the wealthy city centre but trains carrying commuters home to the vast suburbs where most of the city's 17 million or so people live.

It is not the first time Mumbai has been targeted: in 1993, in what many analysts believe was the prototype for al-Qa'ida's tactic of co-ordinated attacks across a city, 13 bombs went off in different locations in Mumbai, including the stock exchange, killing at least 250 people. In 2003, 52 people were killed in twin bombings, one at the Gateway to India, Mumbai's main tourist attraction.

There are many groups which could have been responsible for yesterday's atrocity. India is the target for one of the widest range of militant groups in the world, from Maoist guerrillas to tribal separatists. But most do not have the capability to mount such an attack.

There were unconfirmed reports that Indian intelligence was focusing on Lashkar-e Toiba as the prime suspect for the attacks. Lashkar's main cause is to "liberate" Kashmir from Indian rule.It used to have close links to Pakistan's ISI intelligence but Islamabad says links have been severed.

There were also reports that Indian intelligence was investigating the possible involvement of the "D Company" mafia group, which is believed to have been behind the bombings in 1993. Run by the multimillionaire Dawood Ibrahim, the group was entirely non-political until 1993. But in the wake of the religious violence that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in 1992, Mr Ibrahim, a Muslim, is believed to have decided to get involved.

At least 163 people were killed yesterday in a series of co-ordinated bomb blasts on Mumbai's suburban train network. Six of the eight bombs went off inside packed commuter trains in the middle of rush hour, injuring more than 300 people, many of them severely.

Witnesses spoke of seeing severed limbs and body parts littering the tracks. Other passengers rushed to help the wounded, wrapping them in whatever scraps of cloth they could find, fashioning makeshift stretchers, and carrying them out of the wreckage. At one hospital where the wounded were treated, a witness said the floors were covered in blood.

"I saw more than 35 bodies, some without legs," one survivor, Dhiraj Bajpee, said. "I even saw severed halves of bodies." A shopkeeper who was near by when one bomb went off said the blast was so powerful he thought the train had been hit by lightning.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but immediate suspicions were turned on Islamic militant groups operating in Kashmir, particularly Lashkar-e Toiba. Suspicions also pointed towards " D Company", a highly politicised criminal mafia that used to be based in Mumbai.

The attacks brought Mumbai to a standstill. Yesterday evening, in an extremely rare move, the police closed the entire rail network down. They had, in effect, shut down the city.

Mumbai's phone network was completely jammed as people tried to call their loved ones to make sure they were safe. Survivors asked the Indian television news channels to broadcast their names to let their families know they were alive. Heavy monsoon downpours were slowing the rescue efforts last night.

The first explosion came just before 6.30pm local time (2pm BST) at the peak of the rush hour, in a train near the busy Khar Road station. Seven more bombs went off in the 10 minutes that followed at locations all over Mumbai, from downtown to the furthest suburbs, including two at Borivili, said a senior Indian government official.

"I urge the people to remain calm, not to believe rumours and carry on their activity normally," the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said, describing the attacks as a "shocking and cowardly attempt to spread a feeling of hatred".

Police said they had received intelligence that an attack was imminent but that they had no information as to where or when.

There will be immediate fears of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over the attacks, especially with many initial suspicions pointing towards militant Islamic groups that operate in Kashmir but are based in Pakistan.
Islamabad was quick to condemn the bombs, saying: "Pakistan strongly condemns the series of bomb blasts on commuter trains. This despicable act of terrorism has resulted in the loss of a large number of precious lives."

The bombings are the latest in a recent series of attacks in India. In October last year, 61 people were killed in three co-ordinated bombings at shopping markets in Delhi, on the last shopping day before the biggest Hindu festival of the year. And in March, 20 people were killed when a bomb went off at a temple in Hinduism's holiest city, Varanasi. Police say they believe both attacks were the work of Lashkar-e Toiba.

An attack on Mumbai has considerable symbolic value, since it is India's financial capital, and the powerhouse of the country's transformation into the world's second-fastest growing economy.

But most of yesterday's bombings did not target the wealthy city centre but trains carrying commuters home to the vast suburbs where most of the city's 17 million or so people live.

It is not the first time Mumbai has been targeted: in 1993, in what many analysts believe was the prototype for al-Qa'ida's tactic of co-ordinated attacks across a city, 13 bombs went off in different locations in Mumbai, including the stock exchange, killing at least 250 people. In 2003, 52 people were killed in twin bombings, one at the Gateway to India, Mumbai's main tourist attraction.

There are many groups which could have been responsible for yesterday's atrocity. India is the target for one of the widest range of militant groups in the world, from Maoist guerrillas to tribal separatists. But most do not have the capability to mount such an attack.

There were unconfirmed reports that Indian intelligence was focusing on Lashkar-e Toiba as the prime suspect for the attacks. Lashkar's main cause is to "liberate" Kashmir from Indian rule.It used to have close links to Pakistan's ISI intelligence but Islamabad says links have been severed.

There were also reports that Indian intelligence was investigating the possible involvement of the "D Company" mafia group, which is believed to have been behind the bombings in 1993. Run by the multimillionaire Dawood Ibrahim, the group was entirely non-political until 1993. But in the wake of the religious violence that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in 1992, Mr Ibrahim, a Muslim, is believed to have decided to get involved.

Mumbai bombings 'We saw people with severed limbs'
By Justin Huggler
Published: 12 July 2006
Survivors of the Mumbai train bombings yesterday spoke of watching helplessly as passengers hurled themselves from the still fast-moving train in blind panic after the first explosion, only to dash their brains out on the track below, so great was the horror of what had happened on board.

When the first bomb went off at about 6.30pm local time, the carriage would have been packed. It was rush hour on the busiest urban rail network in the world, and the city was being lashed by monsoon rains. At busy times, people don't just squeeze into a Mumbai train. They hang out of doors, clinging on with one hand.

They would have been the first casualties, blown off the train by the force of the blast. But it would have been worse inside, where the passengers cram in so tight that you sometimes have to stand with one foot on top of the other. Inside that crush a bomb went off ­ a bomb powerful enough to tear the roof off the train. When the television cameras got to the site of the explosion, the train windows were covered in blood.

In the 10 minutes that followed, seven more bombs went off, from downtown Mumbai to the furthest suburbs. One went off in a passenger underpass at one of the busiest stations. "We heard a loud blast in one of the train compartments. When we rushed there and looked, we saw people with severed limbs and grievous injuries," a witness said. "There were no police or railway people to help."

Television pictures showed bodies lying by the tracks in the rain, while survivors lay nearby, groping for their mobile phones. Police emerged from the wreckage carrying gruesome bundles wrapped in bloodstained rags that can only have been severed body parts.

People rushed from all over Mumbai to help the injured. "There were so many, I couldn't really count," Sunny Jain told the BBC. "There are not enough ambulances and many people are making their own way to the station. They are coming in taxis and by foot."

As so many times before in a crisis, in the bombings of 1993 and 2003, it was the ordinary citizens of Mumbai who rushed to help. It was they who carried the wounded to ambulances.

But then this was an attack on the heart and soul of Mumbai. The trains are the lifeline of the city, carrying six million passengers a day. So gridlocked is the traffic that a journey which takes two hours by road takes 15 minutes by train, and everybody, from the richest Bollywood producer to the poorest slum-dwellers, takes the train at some time.

Survivors of the Mumbai train bombings yesterday spoke of watching helplessly as passengers hurled themselves from the still fast-moving train in blind panic after the first explosion, only to dash their brains out on the track below, so great was the horror of what had happened on board.

When the first bomb went off at about 6.30pm local time, the carriage would have been packed. It was rush hour on the busiest urban rail network in the world, and the city was being lashed by monsoon rains. At busy times, people don't just squeeze into a Mumbai train. They hang out of doors, clinging on with one hand.

They would have been the first casualties, blown off the train by the force of the blast. But it would have been worse inside, where the passengers cram in so tight that you sometimes have to stand with one foot on top of the other. Inside that crush a bomb went off ­ a bomb powerful enough to tear the roof off the train. When the television cameras got to the site of the explosion, the train windows were covered in blood.

In the 10 minutes that followed, seven more bombs went off, from downtown Mumbai to the furthest suburbs. One went off in a passenger underpass at one of the busiest stations. "We heard a loud blast in one of the train compartments. When we rushed there and looked, we saw people with severed limbs and grievous injuries," a witness said. "There were no police or railway people to help."
Television pictures showed bodies lying by the tracks in the rain, while survivors lay nearby, groping for their mobile phones. Police emerged from the wreckage carrying gruesome bundles wrapped in bloodstained rags that can only have been severed body parts.

People rushed from all over Mumbai to help the injured. "There were so many, I couldn't really count," Sunny Jain told the BBC. "There are not enough ambulances and many people are making their own way to the station. They are coming in taxis and by foot."

As so many times before in a crisis, in the bombings of 1993 and 2003, it was the ordinary citizens of Mumbai who rushed to help. It was they who carried the wounded to ambulances.

But then this was an attack on the heart and soul of Mumbai. The trains are the lifeline of the city, carrying six million passengers a day. So gridlocked is the traffic that a journey which takes two hours by road takes 15 minutes by train, and everybody, from the richest Bollywood producer to the poorest slum-dwellers, takes the train at some time.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wuthering Heights--Kate Bush

Out on the wiley, windy moors
We'd roll and fall in green
You had a temper, like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me?
When I needed to possess you
I hated you, I loved you too

Bad dreams in the night
They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights.

(Chorus):
Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy come home
I'm so cold, let me in-a-your window


Oh it gets dark, it gets lonely
On the other side from you
I pine a lot, I find the lot
Falls through without you
I'm coming back love, cruel Heathcliff
My only one dream, my only master

Too long I roam in the night
I'm coming back to his side to put it right
I'm coming home to wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights

(Chorus)

Oh let me have it, let me grab your soul away
Oh let me have it, let me grab your soul away
You know it's me, Cathy

(Chorus)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Photo of Mozart's Widow Discovered in Germany
By Matthew Westphal07 Jul 2006
An old daguerreotype image of Constanze Weber Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's widow, has been found in the municipal archives of the Bavarian town of Altötting.
The websites of BBC News, the German magazine Der Spiegel and the television network France 2 (among other outlets) report the discovery today. The surviving print is not the original daguerreotype but a copy dating from the second half of the 19th century.
The photo was taken in Altötting in 1840 when the 78-year-old Constanze was visiting her friend, the composer Max Keller. She can be seen in front at the far left, sitting next to Keller. It is evidently the only photo ever taken of her.
The image is one of the oldest surviving examples of photography in Germany. The daguerrotype was perfected and patented in France in 1839.
Mozart died in 1791 at the age of 36; Constanze was 29 at the time. She later married a Danish diplomat and lived until 1842.

An 1840 daguerreotype showing Mozart's widow Constanze at front left.
http://www.playbillarts.com/news/article/4874.html

Friday, July 07, 2006

Maharaja's son is disowned after coming out as gay

By Justin Huggler in Delhi
Published: 07 July 2006
The crown prince of one of India's grandest royal families has been stripped of his inheritance and disowned by his parents - for coming out as gay.
Manvendra Sinh Gohil, the only son of the Maharaja of Rajpipla, found that he had been disinherited when he read it in Indian newspapers, where his parents had taken out advertisements to make the announcement.
"Manvendra is not in the control of his mother and involved in activities unacceptable to society," says one of the adverts, written by his mother. "Hence he ceases to have any rights as a son over the family property ... henceforth, no one must refer to my name as mother of Mavendra."
The treatment of Mr Gohil by his family has brought into stark relief attitudes towards homosexuality in modern India, where any form of sex between two people of the same gender is still illegal.
"I knew they would never accept me for who I truly am," Mr Gohil told reporters, "but I also knew I could no longer live a lie. I wanted to come out because I had gotten involved with activism and I felt it was no longer right to live in the closet. I came out as gay because I wanted people to openly discuss homsexuality since it's a hidden affair with a lot of stigma attached."
As heir to the 800-year-old throne of Rajpipla, Mr Gohil stood to inherit considerable family estates, as well as the prestige the title of maharaja still carries in republican India. But he has said he will not fight his disinheritance in the courts.
"They were afraid to even use the word gay," he told the Indian Express. "But I accept whatever my family has decided. I will abide by their decision in this matter and will not stake a claim to the property."
The reaction of Mr Gohil's family is not an isolated case. Last year, two women in their twenties who tried to live together as lovers were arrested and forcibly handed over to their parents. In January, four men were arrested in Lucknow on charges of running a "gay racket", because they frequented a gay internet chatroom.
Mr Gohil says he first began to realise he was homosexual when he was 10 years old but, for years, kept it secret and led a quiet life. In 1991, he was forced into an unhappy arranged marriage with a princess from another of India's royal families but they divorced when he admitted to her he was gay.
"Four years ago I had a nervous breakdown and through that I spoke to my psychotherapist who helped me," Mr Gohil said. "I told my parents I was gay but initially it was difficult for them to accept it. They tried to convert me to heterosexuality. The doctors told them that was not possible. And I guess they could not deal with the stigma."
The crown prince of one of India's grandest royal families has been stripped of his inheritance and disowned by his parents - for coming out as gay.
Manvendra Sinh Gohil, the only son of the Maharaja of Rajpipla, found that he had been disinherited when he read it in Indian newspapers, where his parents had taken out advertisements to make the announcement.
"Manvendra is not in the control of his mother and involved in activities unacceptable to society," says one of the adverts, written by his mother. "Hence he ceases to have any rights as a son over the family property ... henceforth, no one must refer to my name as mother of Mavendra."
The treatment of Mr Gohil by his family has brought into stark relief attitudes towards homosexuality in modern India, where any form of sex between two people of the same gender is still illegal.
"I knew they would never accept me for who I truly am," Mr Gohil told reporters, "but I also knew I could no longer live a lie. I wanted to come out because I had gotten involved with activism and I felt it was no longer right to live in the closet. I came out as gay because I wanted people to openly discuss homsexuality since it's a hidden affair with a lot of stigma attached."
As heir to the 800-year-old throne of Rajpipla, Mr Gohil stood to inherit considerable family estates, as well as the prestige the title of maharaja still carries in republican India. But he has said he will not fight his disinheritance in the courts.
"They were afraid to even use the word gay," he told the Indian Express. "But I accept whatever my family has decided. I will abide by their decision in this matter and will not stake a claim to the property."
The reaction of Mr Gohil's family is not an isolated case. Last year, two women in their twenties who tried to live together as lovers were arrested and forcibly handed over to their parents. In January, four men were arrested in Lucknow on charges of running a "gay racket", because they frequented a gay internet chatroom.
Mr Gohil says he first began to realise he was homosexual when he was 10 years old but, for years, kept it secret and led a quiet life. In 1991, he was forced into an unhappy arranged marriage with a princess from another of India's royal families but they divorced when he admitted to her he was gay.
"Four years ago I had a nervous breakdown and through that I spoke to my psychotherapist who helped me," Mr Gohil said. "I told my parents I was gay but initially it was difficult for them to accept it. They tried to convert me to heterosexuality. The doctors told them that was not possible. And I guess they could not deal with the stigma."