Death Toll up to 7 in Riots over Water Tanker Killing in Mumbai

The driver of the water tanker, Suresh Salve succumbed to his injuries in hospital, as the death toll in the ‘water tanker riot’ rose to 7. Harish Malvade, the guard who fired the first shot killing Pradeep Amre, the 11 year old boy from the local slum, is fighting for his life even as the police waits to question him. Sources say the gun was unlicensed.

The riot apparently broke out as the people from the slum tried to stop the tanker and ask for water. The driver tried to force the tanker through the crowd, injuring some people, and riot broke out. The driver was pulled out and almost beaten to death.

Meanwhile the parents of the boy, Pradeep Amre are leading a morcha of over a 100 slum dwellers demanding an investigation into why a thirsty young school boy was shot for trying to steal a water from the tanker. The Mumbai police are trying to bring the situation under control as the riots threaten to spread to other parts of Mumbai. The water situation continues to be precarious and water tankers are being brought in to Mumbai, but are often unable to get to their destination as they are waylaid by armed gangs.

This is the 3rd day of no piped water supply in Mumbai.

There are questions demanding to know why an armed guard was traveling with the water tanker. A news bureau report has confirmed that the guard was hired by the new Water Mafia that has emerged in Mumbai. Hotels and Housing Societies in the posher areas are now dealing directly with the Water Mafia to supply them with water as the BMC distribution systems have broken down, and the State Government is trying to bring the situation under control. Promising that supply lines will be restored as water becomes available. The reservoirs are low, as the demand in the city far outstrips the supply of water.

Meanwhile, the State Government has asked schools and colleges to shut down till the situation eases. Five Star hotels have become a refuge against the water crisis, and in the city are already full. Reportedly they are charging upwards of Rs 2 lacs per night, but are not taking any bookings over two nights as they cannot assure any water supply beyond that. Hotels too apparently are dealing directly with the Water Mafia.

Airlines and trains are reportedly showing heavy loads of people leaving Mumbai, and airlines are putting up more flights. The water crises is a financial bonanza for airlines and hotels in the short term, but the chairman of one airline said in a press conference that in the long term such a crisis will drastically reduce the amount of traffic in Mumbai.

The US government yesterday issued a travel warning to it’s citizens in Mumbai, and are reportedly moving staff to their other consulates within the country till the water crisis eases out.

Citizen groups are co operating with the police and the State Government. The biggest fear is that sectarian violence will break out as local political parties step up their call for a ban of entry of people to Mumbai. The State Government has appealed for calm and said any panic will only make matters worse. They are promising to repair the pipelines that have been damaged. Reports are coming through that some of the pipelines were deliberately damaged by the water mafia to create the shortage.

In the meantime the Army has been called in to ensure that water tankers get through to Hospitals and other essential services, but there have been reports that some of that water has been diverted to the houses of ministers.

Just 3 days into the Water Crisis, and people of Mumbai are living in fear. And in thirst. NGO groups are angry, saying they have been warning of this crisis for a long time. Mr Debankar Rao of the Dekho foundation says that if the recommendations of the Infrastructure Committee had been implemented, this crisis could have been averted :

a. Better Water Management, with 30% of Water wasted in leakages etc, and stopping the nexus between the municipal corporations and the water mafia.

b. More equitable distribution of water through a steep rise in water charges beyond certain levels of consumption.

c. Creating employment and education opportunities in rural areas through implementation of the Broadband Connectivity Policy, in order to stem the pressure on population in Mumbai.

95 yr old artist defines passion creativity life and defies age

My encounter with Robert Amft, the 95 year old American artist : by Horst Vollman.

As I rang the doorbell to Robert Amft’s home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on a sunny January afternoon in 2012, I knew that I was about to meet an American icon, an artist whose versatility is unmatched in the art world. Amft, at the age of 95, still produces art to please  himself, first and foremost.

I was cautioned that Robert Amft was wheelchair-bound, with little energy to spare, not to ask too many questions and to keep my exuberance in check. Thus, I entered the room with the hesitation of one who expected to find an ailing man in whose presence words had to be spoken tentatively. His firm, even strong handshake quickly dispelled any such notion. His eyes seemed to belong to a man half his age, his voice had a firmness that belied his 95 years. When, after a while I worked up the courage to ask him personal questions I wanted to know whether his continued painting at this age was a yearning to express unfulfilled dreams. He looked at me the way an errant child is to be taken to task. “Painting is my life” he explained softly,

“sometimes in my dreams I paint and when I wake up I actually want to walk to my easel, forgetting that I need a wheel chair.” There was a pensive smile on his face when he said it. “Honestly, the fact that I still paint has nothing to do with regrets or unfulfilled dreams. Quite the contrary, most of my dreams have come true. Look at this easel. When I sit there I feel happy, no thoughts intrude. Something inside me happens that is hard to explain but let me try it anyway.” Haltingly first, then increasingly firm, he began to open up. “My life is about colors, light and compositions, about brush strokes, charcoal sketches, about a canvas I want to cover with something that only at that very moment develops. I never know in advance what it is going to be but I am always surprised again about the outcome. I don’t analyze, never did. When I paint, everything flows, I forget who I am, age and time lose all meaning. I become part of the process. I would almost push it further and say, I am the process.”

He paused and his look became nearly wistful as though my question had touched a special chord. “I once read that the painter uses the canvas as a battlefield for unresolved emotions where every brushstroke is a Freudian slip. My goodness, the art world reads too much into us. At the end of the day artists are just ordinary people with a talent to paint. When I look at a canvas I don’t see the outside world. At these moments I feel happy, yes, just simply happy. The outcome is not what matters. When I am in that state it is of no consequence to me if my work is liked or rejected.”

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And God said Let there be light .. fibre optic light

And then God said there be light ..

….fibre optic light

The world now changes at the Speed of Chaos . The changes are non-linear. The year before is not a portend of the trends in the current year. Yet we are caught in an addiction to linear analysis. Why ? Because once the trends were controlled by the very people in a position of linear power to control them. The linear structure of  control over information and ideas was also the way the world was kept linear.

It seemed till just yesterday that  power of the ‘Gatekeepers’ was supreme, whether in Government, Politics, Entertainment etc.  The Power of Linearity.

Suddenly the power has shifted to circularity where information is democratic and opinion polls are no longer the ‘gatekept’ preserve of ‘information or news controllers’. People talk and communicate amongst themselves. At unimaginable speeds. At unimaginable distances. In unimaginable quantities. Where ideas are born and die even before you can catch them. Where only ideas that truly catch the imagination of the people, the heart of the people, the fundamental needs and desires of the people come forth and turn from a slight wave in the ocean to a tsunami,

And before you are aware of it, before you can catch it, the tsunami is a revolution.

Like the Arab Spring.

We have a word for it in Hindu Mythology. Manthan. The Great Churning. Even though it referred to (some say) to the formations and continuing play of the Universe, The Milky Way, the facilitation of of sharing of massive amounts of information and ‘thought processes’ expressed on massive platforms, give rise to new galaxies of events that are completely non linear, chaotic and ….

…express the true and ultimate meaning of democracy…. a continuing democracy, fluid and completely transparent in its expression,

Scary ? Of course. Chaos to our linear minds is scary. Change and the unknown is scary.  But do we have a choice?

The battle will now be between linearity and chaos. The gatekeepers and most of us will fight for a semblance of linearity for that is how we understand the world.  While those that have nothing lose in the constructed oppression of linearity , will revel in hitting back at any linear system through the  chaos of circularity.

What will happen in the future ?

Facebook too, addicted as it is now to linearity, through old world paradigm like transactions with its 100b $ ivaluation, has shifted from circularity and chaos to linearity and gatekeeping.  So the battle is also happening within the internet world too.  But Facebook understands the only option it has is to keep expanding, or the great Manthan will swallow  its individuality and regurgitate it and throw it out in forms yet unknown to itself.  Or It will, like our Sun, expand to a point where its collapses under its own gravity,  gobbled by by another expanding Star – another tsunami idea.

The Universe is the best analogy to the Internet. If we understand that passage of time is a mere perception . History is chaotic, sudden, unpredictable and ever changing. Yet at the points of history in the old world we perceived a linearity which became our reality and even an addiction. Now Internet has made that change observable, constant, touchable and perceptible. Almost instant.  Like observing the seed turn into a flower in speeded up motion.  And the death of the same flower in seconds.

Lets forgive ourselves for sitting back for a few moments and go ‘Phew !’  But then move forward with a new sense of democratic adventure, a step in the unknown, trusting that in the chaos of the Manthan, in the colliding of galaxy’s there is purpose..

And my quest, along with others, is that in this great Manthan, the ultimate events that occur are for the good of society. That ultimately in the balance between the good and the bad, the hate and the compassion, the Asuras and the Devas, the good and compassionate will emerge.

Quite honestly ? Everything points to that. It seems that we will do better without the gatekeepers controlling our lives for their own benefit,

We speak of Darkness

We speak of darkness

as we speak of light

we speak of darkness

as if it arises

and radiates

like light,


as cold is the mere

absence of warmth

dark is the mere

absence of light

and in creating

walls of prejudice

roofs of fear

windows of hate

doors of ignorance

we breed the idea

that darkness

has a protective glow

of its own

not realizing

it is merely feeding off

the maggots of our own


Why I killed Tina (In Mr India)

Good god.  Can you imagine making a film and being responsible for the characters almost 20 years after you have made it ?

I cannot count the number of times that people have stopped me on the streets , and now asked me on twitter or on my blog “why did the little girl Tina have to die ?”

So here is the truth finally. After all these years.  I got cold feet !

There is always a thin line between farce and fantasy.  I was having so much fun shooting the characters of Mr India, with such fine actors, that I thought the film would be turning into a farce.  And films like Mr India cannot turn into a farce, they must be like a fantasy that makes you believe in what is happening, or there will be a rejection from the audience, specially from Children.  There is a sense of emotional involvement and believability that rides through the film.

I looked at Mr India and realized that somehow I had to bring the film back to the ground. Earth it, in a way, so people stay connected to the film in their hearts, and not just in their minds.  If it turned into a farce, the film would just pass by.

So I am afraid I committed the crime of killing Tina. Of course I gave the blame to Mogambo, but I was the guilty one.

And the scene where Tina is in her coffin and all the kids come and kiss her one by one and lay flowers on her body ?  Umm  … another confession to make.  Little Tina could not help laughing all the time.  It was so strange to see the beautiful little girl in a tiny coffin in the graveyard we were shooting the film in –  just burst into peals of laughter every time someone lay a flower over her.

So we decided to wait till she went to sleep. But of course she would not comply.  And with the light getting darker and the producer screaming on my back. I asked her mother what would put her to sleep.  What do you give kids to put them to sleep ?

And yes, I confess, her mother and I gave her a tiny spoonful of that.  And Tina went peacefully to sleep. And something strange happened.

Each kid coming to put a flower on on her, looking like sleeping beauty, but in tiny coffin broke down.  Not acting, but in real. Some of them started to sob.  The Sri Devi started to sob, as did other crew members. And I must admit a let e few tears roll by.  There was something about how beautiful and serene little Tina was looking in that tiny coffin that just affected us all on that day.

If Tina had woken up and seen us all crying that day, she would have just broken into peels of laughter.

a leaf

be vulnerable

so vulnerable

that the pain of

a falling leaf

reaches out, and ..

moves you to tears

be aware

be so aware

that the sound of the first flap

of  new born butterfly’s wings

fills your heart with joy

a love story

let me tell you a story

a story that never ends ..

let me tell you a story

a story that never began

let me tell you a story

that was there when God found himself

and will still be there when God

forgets who he is

let me tell you a story

a story of love

Who is this S & P that can plunge nations into darkness by changing ratings ?

Its a wonder to me that a privately owned financial organization called S & P could alter the way the world looks at economics,  and pressurize governments of ( say the Eurozone) to take steps that could destroy their social systems and radically alter the lives, security and future of millions of people.  Why would a downgrade by S & P radically alter currency values (especially the Euro).  What do they know that others do not ?  What do they know that the governments of the nations do not ?

After all in 2008 it was radically clear that no one knew. Almost everyone that understood capitalism in one way got it completely wrong. Capitalism turned tables on all known financial systems and showed that there is a time when the rules suddenly change, where the bubble suddenly burst and the flaws come bursting out.

There was a time when the World Bank policies were pushing developing nations to make decisions that in theory and paper looked great, but which from a huge social cost perspective were a disaster.  Especially large infrastructure projects that not only caused huge human displacement, social injustice and trauma, police atrocities, and environmental damage. And in a cost/benefit analysis 10 years down the line, the only benefit turned out to be was to the corporations, politicians and middle men.  Not the people.

Thankfully the World Bank does not wield that power (at least in India) or Indian financial systems would have been far more hit by the sub-prime crisis than it was in 2008. Not a deliberate path of ‘overlordship’ by the World Bank I think, but the Western Economic System was the only one that was considered valid then. It was the economic mantra taht failed. Post 2008 has been a lesson – the one which we are in danger loosing sight of again. A lesson that cultures often come into conflict with economic development models understood in , and imposed by other cultures .

Back to Europe, then.  I wanted to know who owns S &P. Is it men in pin stripe suits in darkened board room ? Like the proverbial Gnomes of Zurich ? Here’s what I discovered :

S &P is owned by a series of banks and financial institutions that stand to profit by hugely by the movement of currencies, bond markets and financial markets if they has prior knowledge of downgrades from the very company they own.  And for those that wonder if it such large multi nation manipulations can at all take place should remember the Asian currency crisis of 1978 where “market overreaction and herding caused the plunge of exchange rates, asset prices, and economic activity to be more severe than warranted by the initial weak economic conditions”.  The crisis destroyed millions of livelihoods all across Asia, and some economies have still not recovered.  From market speculation.

Is S & P completely above board ?

The good thing though is that the latest downgrade of European nation did not cause the market chaos that was expected. Speculators must have lost a lot of money. Thank God. And perhaps S & P has now ‘cried wolf’ too often and no body really cares

Or maybe, like everyone else, they just don’t know.

Life is simple says Eshla, till people complicate it

from Eshla

Why do we still see in color?

When color came to film, it was a thrilling moment.   When color came to television, it was a groundbreaking moment.   We celebrated the richness of the colors and they’ve only sharpened over the years.  Today our images are even more alive, our colors more vibrant.

Yet, while we celebrate color in the digital world, why don’t we do the same in the real world?  Why do we still stop there?  Why do we build so many differences – race, ethnicity, religion, class?  Why?

As one who’s traveled widely, criss-crossed continents several times, and even bumped up and down on the socio-economic ladder, it’s become quite apparent that people are people, no matter what color – pink, purple, green even!  It’s become apparent that our frustrations, worries, concerns, fears are so universal.  That is why great art, literature, and music sees no divide.  Because its message is of human emotion.

That is why health is so critical to all.  Disease has no patience for such differences.  It is, in that sense, most fair.

Why is it that we live in such rich, complex societies with stories that stem from different corners of the globe and yet we still hesitate to truly embrace one another?  Why?

When the rawness of humanity is so universal, why do we dwell on the superficial?

A friend sent me an article this morning that delineated our inability to truly live in our lifetimes because we are too eager to please.  We are creatures who oddly think of others before ourselves many times.  We are inclined to bend to the wishes of family and dear friends, even if they are against our deepest desires.  We gravitate towards what we are told us “right.”  But what is “right?”  Is it my “right”?  Is it your “right”?  Who came up with “right”?

And in the mad cacophony of voices in our head, we forget our own.  What if we do not see the differences?  What if we do not see color, race, ethnicity, religion, or class?  Should we because the world does as well?  Should we because our families do as well?  Should we because it is easier that way – to drive in the lane that you’re currently taking?

The questions seem endless.  And yet, the answer repeatedly seems to be the same — no.

In a conversation with another friend this evening, he shared his admiration for those who take the sayings like “follow your heart,”  “do what you love” and really do it.  He says to me, there are so few in the this world who actually do it.  Many of us hear it, admire it, delude ourselves to believe that we’re doing that, but how many of us go naked with our fears and take the challenge?  Very few, he whispered.  That’s why it’s admirable.

But, it’s also very hard.  It’s very hard to explain to others; rather it’s very tiring.  And sometimes, the daily strain of that exercise just tears us down emotionally.  And so we return to the “right” path.

For so many of us, the lives that we live are the lives that have been crafted for us.  They are not our raw desires.   They are not our original vision.  They are not our first love.

We do so to please others.  To fit into the sweeping definitions we are defined by.  Even if they sweep our lives by.

But, we live only for a few moments, only a few years on this planet, only a short lapse in the grander scheme.  Why not please ourselves?  Why not be guided by unfiltered passion?  Why not go blind, using only what we feel?  Why not be absolutely true to our deepest wishes?

Because it is difficult?

But nothing is difficult.  As I’m told repeatedly, life is simple.  People complicate it.

Elizabeth and Paul

To my 11 year old daughter, Kaveri

You left for India last night leaving me in NYC.  Really missing your  laughter.

Luckily I have friends here, with whom I will spend emotional time . Not defined as just being ‘truthful’ or honest, but going beyond that. Becoming vulnerable.  Vulnerability is the essence of a real relationship  between people.  Vulnerability is the essence of your  relationship with yourself, with God, with everything. Become so vulnerable that you become like water. Accepting of everything,  And then let go of everything in its flow.

Here’s a story for you.

There was a little girl that fell in love with two pigeons. One was a beautiful white pigeon, and the other shades of blue and green and grey. She named the white one Elizabeth and the other one Paul. Everyday she would rush back from school just as the shadows of the afternoon were getting softer and longer. Elizabeth and Paul would flutter together and sit on the sill of the bedroom the little girl shared with her younger  brother.  Not facing towards the bedroom but always towards the backyard of the house.  There they would sit in a very regal manner. Facing outward gently speaking to each other in what the little girl called ‘gooterrr- goon’.

The little girl was convinced that Elizabeth and Paul came from the kingdom of  ‘Gooterr – goon’ and had lost their way.  She would rummage through the store house of the kitchen and feed them with any seeds she could find.  Of course being an Indian household, it was full of lentils, grains and seeds of all varieties. So there was no shortage of food for them.  Every evening at 4 o’clock the little girl would start a conversation with the Elizabeth and Paul.  She would make the guttural sounds of ‘gooterr- goon’ and they would respond back. She was convinced they were trying to tell her something, and if she would learn their language, she could help them.

No amounts of arguments from her parents that the pigeons just came for the food would convince her otherwise.  The fact is that when her little brother would try to go ‘gooterr-goon’ with them , Elizabeth and Paul would just fly away.  She would show the family the hundreds of pigeons that would fly back  to their homes every evening, and ask why only Elizabeth and Paul would come to see her.   Soon the family became used to their little daughter going ‘Gooterr-goon’ every evening. A sort of ritual. And the pigeons became accepted as part of the family. They would fly away to wherever pigeons go, and come back the next day at the same time.

Till one day Elizabeth, the white pigeon, never came back. Paul would be there, looking lost and lonely. But not Elizabeth. The little girl would go out and shout at all the pigeons that would fly by and go ‘Gooterr-goon’ as loud as possible. It was then that the family realized how familiar they had got to Elizabeth and Paul’s visits.  As they watched their little girl come back with tears in her eyes because Elizabeth had not come, they would hug her and all pray that Elizabeth was fine and happy wherever she was.

Then one day Elizabeth did come back. She looked sad and weak. And when the little girl went ‘Gooterr – goon’ at her Elizabeth would not respond. To her shock the little girl realized why. Somebody had shot Elizabeth. The lead pellet from the air gun was still embedded in her throat.  Anything that Elizabeth pecked at would just come out of her throat. It was miracle she was still alive.  It was a horrific sight and the little girl panicked and thought Elizabeth was going to die, and that she had come back to the little girl asking to help.  The whole family was distraught.  They all realized how much they too had come to love the pigeons.

The little girl’s father was one of Delhi’s more famous doctors. Unable to take Elizabeth’s suffering he took her into his surgery, and cleaned her wounds. He took out the pellet that some unthinking cruel person has shot her with. To that person it was just a game, a sport. But to Paul, Elizabeth was his companion. To the little girl, her best friend. To the family now, a a precious life that needed to saved.

I still remember how my father gently cleaned the wound, and then stitched together Elizabeth’s wounds, saying words of comfort to my sister.  But because I was a ‘man’ he would look me in the eyes. The expression telling me that there was little chance for Elizabeth surviving. I remember my mother bringing Elizabeth into our prayers every night.

Elizabeth did survive. I watched in wonder as her wound healed, as the wound of a human being would. The family stood around happily on the day Elizabeth could finally eat without the seeds spilling out of her throat. She never got her ‘Gooter-goon’ quite back, but she was active again and could fly as she did before. I have never worked out how my father, a pediatrician, could operate on a pigeon and heal her, but will always remember Elizabeth for bringing such joy to our  family.

So dear kaveri. The grandfather you only remember as a much older man struggling with age, was once the most compassionate doctor I have ever seen. Your aunt, my sister, once a little girl consumed with fantasies, dreams, love and life, now coming to terms with the experiences of life.  Remember that compassion is the greatest gift of them all.