Saturday, September 13, 2008

Terrorists becoming braver or Indian government becoming more cowardly?

India has been at the receiving end of terrorist attacks since the past two decades, thanks to our hostile neighbors China and Pakistan and various other nations which are hell bent on destabilising our nation. In July 2008 the IT capital of India and my home town, Bangalore, suffered from serial blasts across the city. Luckily the terrorists had placed only low intensity explosives which caused only two deaths.

Within a weeks time another major city in India, Ahmedabad in the western seaboard state of Gujarat was rocked with a set of serial blasts. The Ahmedabad Blasts were by far the most deadly taking a toll of 45 people and leaving over 160 people injured.

And now after couple of months our national capital New Delhi has been attacked, early this morning there were five blasts in crowded areas in the city which has left 30 killed and 90 injured.

Isn't it time the union government took strong action against the root cause of terrorism. Which of course lies in our neighboring country and in the west? Of course people say now locally bred terrorists have taken over from foreign ones and are perpetrating these attacks.

Just imagine for a moment that the blasts had happened in the US capital instead of Indian capital. What would have been the result? US government would have acted immediately and sent their full force to destroy all the terrorist hideouts, suspected terrorists would either be incarcerated or killed. Isn't it time we Indians started to take action instead of just appealing for peace. We have been talking of peace for far too long, it is time to stand up and take action, if necessary use all means.

But then which politician or policy maker or for that matter civilian is bothered about the country. 99 percent of the country's billion plus population is bothered about themselves and their family. So long as the terrorist attacks don't affect their family they live blissfully unaware of what is happening elsewhere in the country. And for politicians more terrorists means more opportunities to appease minorities, create conflicts and make more money at the expense of the exchequer. Arms purchase, upgradation of the police, army etc means lucrative contracts to be awarded to favourite dealers and businessmen. And of course the businessmen will give generous kickbacks in the form of donations to their political parties or any NGOs the unscrupulous politicians are associated with.

I wonder if India will every become a strong and no-nonsense democracy which will be respected and feared by people and nations across the world. Or will this remain a dream of millions of Indians like me....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Smaller motorcycles from Harley Davidson???

Globalisation is changing things across the world and the impact is being felt in the US also. The most favored cult brand in the US or rather I would say the world, Harley Davidson is facing the brunt of the economic downturn in the US. During the 1990s when the US economy was booming the bike manufacturer was the most favoured company of bike dealerships and stock brokers in wall street. But a decade down the line, US is spending billions of $s in fighting two wars half-way across the world and domestically people are grappling with steep increase in gas prices, home mortgage crises, rising unemployment (6.5 percent) and sky-rocketing grocery and food prices. Historically the motorcycle has been a symbol of prestige; a vehicle of pleasure and entertainment in the US and now people are so strapped for money that they are just not riding lesser and lesser as the days pass. The first to be hit in this flagging economy has been the motorcycle behemoth, Harley Davidson. The company has been experiencing sales at snails pace and is planning to cutting back production and laying off workers. Harley-Davidson stock split four times during the 1990s, but the last split was eight years ago, and shares in end-August were priced at $38.78, down considerably from a 52-week high of $55.41 reached in September of last year.

Since the US markets are pretty much saturated Harley Davidson is looking at international markets for sustainance. They are opening dealerships in South American and Asian nations in the hope of drumming up flagging sales. But in Asian countries where roads are narrower than the sidewalks in the US it is difficult to ride the elephantine Harleys. And perhaps for the first time in the history of the company, Harley Davidson is contemplating manufacturing smaller motorcycles. It would be sad to see the big-daddy of motorcycles falling from grace like this.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Oliva's Adobe near Los Angeles

During our recent visit to Los Angeles we took a day off to look around and explore the beautiful countryside. As we drove towards Channel Islands we saw brown signs directing to "Olivas Adobe". The brown sign indicated that it was a state-recognised park or historic site. We decided to take a closer look and detoured off towards the Adobe.

Fountain at the Entrance to Olivas Adobe

Entrance to Olivas Adobe

Main entrance to Olivas Adobe - Another view

Main entrance to Olivas Adobe - Close up

According to the information onsite this is the one of the earliest two-storey Adobe (I guess home or abode) in the Santa Clara river valley. This was originally built in 1837 and expanded in 1849 by Don Raimundo Olivas, a prosperous cattle rancher. This is a California registered historical landmark. There is nothing special about the home/ building except that it is built of brick, mortar and mud and not wood, foam and shingles. The Olivas apparently had 21 children and I must say I admire the woman who spent 21 years of her life giving birth to offspring. She must have been one strong woman.
Antiquated Machinery at the Olivas Adobe

The home with large front, side and back yards is completely self contained, there are classrooms, bedrooms, entertainment rooms and a large playground too. So pretty much I would guess the children were schooled at home. What I found really impressive at the Olivas Adobe is two large plants: a grape vine and a fuchsia bush. According to signboards both these plants were planted in the 19th century and have survived more than 100 years and continue to thrive.

The fuchsia was planted by the 21st child of the Olivas in 1899 and is recognised by the British Fuchsia Society as the oldest, still flowering Fuchsia plant in the world. This plant belongs to the "Schiller" variety and has flowers with white petals around magenta sepals.
Fuchsia Plant

The Grape Arbor was apparently planted in 1860s and still bears bunches of purple grapes and we did pluck and taste a couple. They were sweet and juicy. I am definitely impressed by these plants and the way they have been preserved even after a hundred years.

Entrance to a Golf Course adjacent to Olivas Adobe