Personalities

Man’s Best Friend …

Posted on March 17, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

Man’s Best Friend has Always Helped Men, Women and Children in All types of Situations ………….. Now see them Help Out in Security at an Airport –

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/15/us/beagle-brigade-airport-sniffing-trnd/index.html

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The Venerable N Ram of The HINDU …

Posted on March 10, 2019. Filed under: Personalities, Uncategorized |

In an interview with The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani, N. Ram, chairman of The Hindu publishing group, talks about the role that secret documents play in investigating potential wrong-doing and the government pressures that accompany such journalism. 

Edited excerpts:

The attorney general says that the documents you published in The Hindu were stolen from the defence ministry, which is a punishable offence under the Official Secrets Act, and that the government wants a thorough enquiry and investigation. 

We have not stolen the documents from anyone. We have not paid for these documents and we are fully protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution – the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

We are also protected by section 8(a)(1) and 8(2) of the Right to Information Act which has overtaken the Official Secrets Act of 1923 – that’s what I have been legally advised.

This is not the first time that documents that have been leaked – Mr Prashant Bhushan himself has done that in cases like the coal block allocation case and so on. The courts have looked into it and accepted them. So they are not stolen.

But I also note from the statement by the Editors Guild of India that they are condemning his (attorney general’s) comments before the Supreme Court and the threat to go after the media and The Hindu in particular. He later clarified that they are not contemplating any investigation or prosecution against journalists and lawyers who publish this information. So if that is true and confirmed, then it’s good. We are not concerned about it because we are fully protected and we have done the right thing.

This was published in public interest. This matter was suppressed and this information was suppressed.

You can say this information wants to be free (*chuckles*) because they were on the price of fully fledged combat aircrafts, on parallel negotiations, on dissent within the Indian negotiating team, on doing away with anti-corruption clauses, the presence of commission agents, the deal or influence, or denying access to the books of the companies.

Remember that these are not demands made on the French government so much. They are made on commercial supplier like Dassault Aviation and MBDA France – the weapon-fighter supplier. So why on earth would you do away with standard anti-corruption clauses on which penalties are laid down in case of violations?

And finally, the issue of bank guarantees which was discussed in the fifth article.

But they are saying that this goes against national interest. They have gone to the extent of saying that this has actually, in a way, compromised national security. Do you think by raising this issue to this level and making headlines – even if they do not go further with it – they have done their job? Which is primarily making people aware that they are capable of doing that… that they can intimidate and threaten journalists.

Yes, that is a good point, and I think it is that point which the statement by the Editors Guild of India makes. Despite noting this clarification, they say that they condemn the comments made by the attorney general before the Supreme Court. And also made the same point about sending a message out so that there is a chilling effect on independent and especially investigative journalism. So I agree with you on that.

But on the other hand, we must contest this. People should not be afraid because there is an overarching climate of fear in the present ecosystem of media in this government, more than there was at any time in recent memory.

We have to go back to the Emergency days to see this kind and scaled oppression. I am not comparing that with this but in recent times, no attempt has been made this way to create a climate of fear.

I would also like to add that the major media organisations have brought it upon themselves – to play a propaganda role.

This reminds me of some famous lines about British journalists by Humbert Wolfe. It runs like this:

You cannot hope

to bribe or twist,

thank God! the

British journalist.

But, seeing what

the man will do

unbribed, there’s

no occasion to.

I think these lines apply very much to many sections of our mainstream media –  major media organisations, particularly television channels; many of them – not all of them but many of them which are involved full scale in propaganda role for the government on major issues.

Very briefly, my last question is about the politics around Rafale. After Pulwama and these airstrikes in Pakistan, it seemed that maybe the government was hoping that Rafale would not longer be an issue. But now their nervousness shows that the government still thinks that it is an important political issue which may decide or may impact their fate in May.

Yes, I think that after the Pulwama terror strike and the Balakot action – whatever it was – by India, by the Indian Air Force, I think the BJP thought it could take control of the narrative to some extent, which may have worked particularly in the Hindi speaking region because you have all these hyper-nationalists, jingoists, rhetorics, ‘teach them a lesson…we know what to do’ and so on. Not just macho, but jingoistic. So they think that this will affect the mood, and to some extent, it may have.

My understanding is that corruption is never the top issue in an election. Whether it was Bofors or the 2G spectrum issue, which finally turned out to be a damp squib in court. It was never the top issue. The top issues are shown in a number of public opinion polls, including the last India Today poll which was quite a serious poll. Usually, issues come around unemployment, underemployment, agrarian distress in a period of high inflation, the price rise, and so on.

Also read: Rafale Deal: The Mystery of the 3-Billion-Euro Price Hike

Corruption figures in the top three or four, I would say. If there’s a focus on major corruption issue – a scandal – it serves as a catalyst. It gives a lot of emotional power to the opposition to take it up, and that I see seems to fit the case. And I would say that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has made full use of this. His aggressive stance is being absolutely uninhibited in campaigning on these issues, bringing it out repeatedly.

I think that would surely have an impact because the Congress still matters in this country. And it’s perhaps in some phase of revival. So I think they are determined to make this an issue and independent media should also be on the job.

I appreciate the role of, particularly the digital-only and independent media organisations – The Wire, The Caravan, Scroll, and so on. I think they are doing a good job. In this case, The Hindu has taken a lead – [as] in the Bofors.

But I see this not as the work of one particular media organisation. On the one hand, there is competition, but there is also some sort of collective effort. You build on what other people have.

I think you also have to credit other organisations for information. For example, I used notes from The Wire – the sanitised notes which were shared with the parties before the Supreme Court in the petition filed by Prashant Bhushan the others. I think The Wire had the full text. Even if it was sanitised, it had some interesting information. The Caravan likewise had materials on the benchmark price.

I have also seen M.K. Venu’s articlesSiddharth Varadarjan’s editorials, and so on. I think we need to compete on one hand, but on the other hand, it’s a collaborative exercise.

I think that’s how journalism proceeds. You saw that with The New York Times and The Washington Post – at the peak of their investigative efforts, where they were talking about the Pentagon papers.

Later Watergate, WikiLeaks in which The Hindu had a role along with others. That’s the point I want to make here on those sections of the media that are still independent in the very difficult and corrupt media ecosystem. This role can be played and has to be played in the near future, including in the upcoming elections.

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Scent of Mirza Ghalib …

Posted on March 9, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

1.  ‘Ghalib, beware the hard, cold hearts of prosperous and satisfied people ………………………………………………………………………………. The hearts and lives which possess anguish and impatience (they are worthy of respect) ….. How much kindness and favours do these hearts and lives possess’

2. ‘If I envy someone at all, that is the person
Who travels alone, hungry and thirsty
In the rocky valleys of mountains
…………………………………………………………. ……………………………………………… Not on the satiated hearts of the haram (sacred territory of Mecca)
Who satisfy themselves with their Aab-e-Zamzam’ (water from Hagar’s well in Mecca) 

3.  ‘When I imagine Paradise and think that if forgiveness is in order and I am rewarded with a palace, as well as a houri, eternal abode and to spend my life with this same lucky woman, my heart is agitated at the thought; and the heart comes to the mouth………………………………………………………………………………………………. He-he that houri will grow weary, why wouldn’t the disposition worry, the same emerald palace, and the same branch of Tooba…’ (a tree of paradise)

4. ‘Seek that joy from the Heavens which was available to Jamshid
Do not desire his splendour (since it is of no worth)
If your cup has grape wine, that is the real thing
Which is admirable ………………………………… ………………………………………. but not that wine cup
Even it be made of ruby.’ 

5. ‘Listen sahib, whatever taste a person has for whichever hobby and he spends his life frankly in it, that is (to be) called pleasure.’


6. ‘If not in the whole world so be it, at least in the city where I live, no one starving or naked should be visible indeed. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Punished by God, rejected by mankind, weak, sick, a fakir, imprisoned by adversity, irrespective of myself and my matters of speech and skill, …………………………………………………………………………… one who cannot see anyone begging, while begging myself from door to door, that person is myself.’ 

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India – Pak Air Clash of Feb 27 …

Posted on March 5, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

Despite the Air Chief’s understandable Reluctance to Discuss Things, here is an Old Air Chiefs Version of the Recent Air Clash

The NYT Heading reads – After India Loses Dogfight to Pakistan, Questions Arise About Its ‘Vintage’ Military. — That is NOT Quite RIGHT as it Happened This Way ……….

First India didn’t lose the aerial engagement. … I don’t refer to the engagement as a Dog Fight because a DF is a visual manoeuvring engagement in which both combatants are trying to achieve a position of advantage vis-a-via the other in which a missiles or a cannon could be fired to achieve a kill.

The engagement referred to was a beyond-visual-range engagement in which the PAF F-16 fired his AIM 120 first as the IAF MiG 21 came in to its “kill range”.

The intrepid Wg Cdr Abhinandan must have known that he was “illuminated” by the F16 radar, yet he did not do a “last ditch” to attempt escape; knowing that in any case that would have been futile.

He must also have known when the 120 was fired and realised he was a “goner”. A lesser air warrior may have sought to save his life by ejecting before the hostile missile impacted his aircraft.

BUT, he continued, pursuing the F16 (it seems the F16 did not turn tail immediately after firing his missile just to confirm his kill on his own radar) waiting to come within the much shorter kill-firing range of his own missile – flying into the jaws of death. He successfully fired his missile to achieve the first-ever F 16 kill by a MiG 21.

By providence he survived!

The PAF first reported downing two aircraft and three pilots, for two downed aircraft. Three parachuting pilots were reported by non-PAF Pakistanis. Soon enough they realised their faux pas and amended the figures to downing of one aircraft and two pilots.

Actually there were two aircraft and three pilots: 1 MiG 21, one F 16; 1 Indian pilot and two Pakistani pilots. Unfortunately, the “frenzied” locals attacked all three. The IAF pilot and one PAF pilot fortunately survived the mob attack.

The second PAF pilot, alas, perished due to his injuries. The F16 was a twin-seater.

Not much analyses has been done on the import of the fact that a 24 aircraft strong PAF force was heading towards us.

The Indian military spokesman (a major general) at the press briefing said that it was to attack a brigade HQ and its units — to me it appeared a laughable proposition.

Two or at most four aircraft would be the normal strength. My gut feeling is that their planned targets were our air bases at Srinagar and Avantipur in the Valley. When the PAF realised that they had been up-ended, they aborted.

The entire above narrative is my analyses on the basis of media reports. There are absolutely NO INPUTS to me from IAF sources.

There is no doubt that IAF needs to replenish its deficiencies and modernise some of its ageing fleets and I reiterated this on over a dozen TV channels Live and news agencies, including recordings to BBC World (Hindi) BBC Asia(?) (English).

I am not aware if these two were aired.

Despite the “vintage” appellation given to My Fair Lady, (this was my coinage in an article “My Fair Lady – An Ode to the MiG 21″

I wrote for the Asian Age ‘The MiG 21″, circa 2003, published later in many main Russian newspapers). It has the PAF & the US highly embarrassed???!!!

This 21, called the Bison by IAF, is upgraded with an excellent AI radar and modern agile A-A missiles.

It might interest you to know that a day before the IAF attack on the JeM training camp, a Hindi channel had organised a day-long शीखर सम्मेलन at Hotel Lalit, Delhi to discuss the avenues available to India to respond the JeM attack on the CRPF convoy.

My co-panellist for the one hour session was Gen Bikram Singh (Army Chief ‘12-‘14). The Q was whether a surgical strike as was carried out by the army earlier was doable.

My take was that retributary action of sufficient attrition was essential to appease an incenced India; this was possible only through air action deep in to Pak where JeM was lodged and/or training in sufficient strength.

Then I delved on the characteristics of air power that afforded more than necessary weight to an attack with range, surprise and optics that would be most telling.

LESS than 15 hours later, the IAF STRUCK!

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Saga of the Beloved Robin Hood …

Posted on February 27, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

Stealing from the rich to give to the poor, Robin Hood and his Merry Men are a permanent part of popular culture. 

Like the roots of Sherwood Forest, the origins of the Robin Hood story extend deep into English history.

https://e.nationalgeographic.com/pub/cc?_ri_=X0Gzc2X%3DYQpglLjHJlYQGuRzbMzg4jrnRyTN3zd1qjwFSSSqYEdAU5zcqE8R9u4zfCMf197eAat6VXtpKX%3DSRACARCR&_ei_=Eq2tf9zs59idfPO1Sc_9BblLZQhJmN_rvrYWPEVHeKBI7XnrEIZqVOZGKyPN11fPWyRSGDw7cCEIimcxBzvlKDW8lIrhrd7rRXAHdZ5U_ocCtZ06n0.

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Subutai – Russian Role Model …

Posted on February 25, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

While talking of the Great Captains of War, we are always prone to limit ourselves to Alexander, Hannibal, Napoleon and the like – hardly ever mentioning the likes of Subutai or Khaled, who were far Greater.

Here is Subutai (1175 – 1248)as culled from Wikipedia, was the prime General of Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan.

When he first entered the service of Temujin, the later Cinggis Qan, the realm of that minor Mongol chieftan comprised only a few families.

In his old age, Subotei saw a mighty dominion stretching from the borders of Hungary to the Sea of Japan, from the outskirts of Novgorod to the Persian Gulf and the Yangtze River. And he had a major part in creating it.

He directed more than 20 campaigns conquering 32 nations, winning 65 pitched battles – conquering more territory than any other commander in history. Indeed when his Armies marched, it was not in miles or kilometres that distances were measured, but in degrees of latitude and longitude.

He won victory by imaginative and sophisticated strategies, routinely coordinating armies that were hundreds of kilometers apart.

He is most famed for the campaign that destroyed the armies of Hungary and Poland within two days of each other – by forces over 500 kilometers apart.

Subutai was an innovator in the art of war. His later campaigns demonstrated unprecedented levels of complexity and strategy not seen again until World War II.

In the invasions of China, Russia, and Europe, Subutai routinely coordinated armies of 100,000 men across frontages separated by 500-1,000 km and between 3 and 5 separate armies.

These maneuvers were highly synchronized despite the enormous distances. Subutai’s maneuvers were designed to mislead his foes and strike them from unexpected directions.

The Mongol invasion of the Jin in 1232 continually pulled the hitherto successful Jin forces apart despite their highly advantageous terrain, as they could not determine which Mongol armies were the feints and which were the true threats until their main army became isolated and starved.

Strongly fortified locations would be bypassed and ignored until all organized resistance had been destroyed. Sieges would be limited to critical or vulnerable locations; in other situations, the Mongols either left a blockading force, or simply ignored fortified citadels and devastated the surrounded agriculture so that the remaining people would starve if they remained within fortified walls.

Subutai faced off against elite armies of all nations from west to east and emerged triumphant in every campaign.

The horse archers of other great steppe confederacies, the elite Jurchen cavalry of China in the 1230s, the seasoned Qangli Turk cavalry of the Khwarezm, fresh from conquering their own Empire, and the heavily armored knights of Georgia, Poland, and Hungary were all powerless against Subutai’s armies.

In contrast to the common perception of steppe horse archer armies slowly weakening their foes with arrows for many hours or even days, such as at the battle of Carrhae or the battle of Manzikert, Subutai fought in a much more decisive and fluid manner where heavy firepower was used to create openings for rapid cavalry charges with deep formations.

At the battle of the Kalka River in 1223, Subutai’s 20,000 man army routed the 80,000 man Russian army by stringing it out after a 9-day retreat, and then immediately turning and delivering a decisive charge without a prolonged missile bombardment. The vanguard of the Russian army was already put in flight before the second wave even reached the battlefield and began to deploy.

Subutai was one of the first Mongol generals, who realized the value of engineers in siege warfare. Even in field battles he made use of siege engines.

In the Battle of Mohi, the Hungarian crossbowmen repelled a night bridge crossing by the Mongols, and inflicted considerable casualties on the Mongols fighting to cross the river the following day. Subutai ordered huge stonethrowers to clear the bank of Hungarian crossbowmen and opened the way for his light cavalry to cross the river without further losses.

This use of siege weapons was one the first recorded use of artillery bombardments against the enemy army to disrupt their resistance while simultaneously attacking them.

In execution, his usage functioned more akin to the creeping barrage of World War I, used to soften and disrupt enemy lines right before an attack. While the stonethrowers were clearing the path to cross the main bridge, Subutai supervised construction of another temporary bridge downriver to outflank the Hungarians.

The Hungarians, focused on the attack at the bridge and knowing that the Sajo river was too deep to ford, did not expect the Mongols to be able to create a pontoon bridge, especially at night.

Subutai’s engineering ingenuity extended to the totally unique use of smokescreens to shroud key areas of the battlefield.

At the battle of the Kalka and the battle of Liegnitz, the Mongol armies drew portions of their foes armies away from their comrades, and used smoke to obscure the enemy vision and prevent them from seeing their isolated units encircled and destroyed.

After the battle, the Jin commander Wan-Yen Heda – the only general in history who was the victor in three different battles against the Imperial Mongol army, was captured. His last wish was to meet Subutai to pay his respects to the legendary general.

“No Mongol general played a greater role than Subotei Ba’atur in establishing and maintaining the early Mongol Empire. Trusted commander and retainer of Chengez, later highly respected servant of Ogodei and Guyuk, Subotei served with distinction in every phase of Mongolian national development during the first four decades of empire.

Subutai’s armies fought unlike any force in history until the Germans and Russians in World War II, seven hundred years later. They did not operate as one distinct mass, but instead moved along 3 – 5 axes of approach, often 500–1000 km apart, and threatened numerous objectives simultaneously.

Like Napoleon, Subutai (and Genghis Khan) would disperse their forces along a wide frontage and rapidly coalesce at decisive points to defeat the enemy in detail.

However, unlike Napoleon, the Mongols retained the flexibility to dispatch armies to widely separate fronts, through inhospitable terrain during most unexpected times, often using some armies purely as means of fixing enemy attention and fomenting division in their enemies.

Their methods were aligned to crush the enemy state’s will to fight – not merely to defeat their armies.

Russia derived the most use out of a careful study of the Mongol campaigns. Their closer proximity to the steppe gave them greater interest and access to the Mongolian campaigns, first analyzed by the Russian General Mikhail Ivanin in the 19th century, which became a recommended text in the Russian military academics up until the mid 20th century.

Ivanin’s work became used in the Deep Battle doctrine developed by Soviet Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Mikhail Frunze, and G.S. Isserson. 

Deep Battle doctrine bore a heavy resemblance to Mongol strategic methods, substituting tanks, motorized troop carriers, artillery, and airplanes for Mongol horse archers, lancers, and field artillery. 


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Mirza Ghalib -150th Death Anniversary …

Posted on February 18, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

Some 190 Yrs ago, Ghalib described the people of Calcutta as living a hundred years ahead and a hundred years behind – all at once.
SM

On Ghalib's 150th Death Anniversary, a Visit to His Apartment in Kolkata

At the intersection between two unremarkable lanes, one Bengali – Ramdulal Sarkar Street, the other English – Bethune Row, is House Number 133, tall and red, its secrets, old and weary – shut, from view, by green, mask-like windows, shut to birds, sunlight and prying eyes.

As I stepped inside the door, slowly following my lover’s footsteps, the aroma of mutton greeted us unexpectedly. The magic of spices floated in air. It carried secrets of culinary pasts. I breathed in the heavy air of another time. A time one hundred ninety years ago, when Ghalib was here.

He travelled in a horse over dusty cities, for his pending pension. First Lucknow, the city that prided in speaking an Urdu different from the one in Delhi, and like all buffoons of cultural pride, mistreated Mir Taqi Mir.

Then Kashi, the place Ghalib called his Kaba-e-Hindustan, and Banaras, where his ode to the city paid tributes to courtesans with fiery hearts and tender waists.

‘The shadow of Banaras dances in the mirror of the sun’, he wrote in Chiragh-e-Dair (Temple Lamp), and blessed the city with his prayer: ‘May God almighty save Banaras, the grove of paradise, from the evil eye’ (translated by P.B. Rama Singh, On Banaras: Ghalib’s The Lamp of the Temple, 2004).

What furore Ghalib created in (then) Calcutta, over his lofty Persian. It was the February of 1828. Time in the city was spent between two trepidations. Of two swords that crossed over his head. His proud feathers ruffled by idiomatic birds of custom (or idiotic birds of idioms). His agony soothed, just a little, by Kifayat Khan, that envoy from Iran, but to no avail. The masnavi of a half-hearted apology did not endear the birds of small wings.

Nor did the whims of fate, ruling the lives of British Lords, help much. Or the Baad-e-Mukhalif (‘Opposing-Wind’), his apology served, no less, with sarcasm. His petition was gathering dust, beside the waters of the Ganga. Ironies chased his agony like rivers.

He wanted to meditate the Ganga, forever. But he returned, midway, to Delhi. Wish unrequited. His poems were loyal to his heartbeats. His melancholy was loyal to fate. His fate was loyal to his mastery in grief. And Ghalib could not escape ironies.A

The house where Ghalib lived. Credit: Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Two labourers, white towels of sweat hung softly on their shoulders, were slouched like two curious cats against a green door. They heard me, half considerate, half amused, on the building’s historic visitor. Their lives of labour had no time for history. Nor time for poetry.

But they knew the house had a dog. Why a dog? I wondered. Was the dog guarding the memory of aromas? I looked at the dark wooden stairs, flanked by iron balusters. I wondered how slowly Ghalib may have walked, up and down, balancing a hard life between penury and poetry, gulping down overflowing griefs with a bitter taste of his trusted alcohol.

“Triumphant we reached Calcutta” he wrote in a couplet, “and washed away the scar of distance with loved ones with wine” [quoted by Shaikh Muhammad Ikram in Ghalib-Nama, Bombay, 1945.]

As he left (in August 1829), Ghalib praised the city in a letter in Persian, “One should be grateful that such a city exists”.

A city where he met new adversaries amongst friends, and a peculiar people, who lived, as he said, a hundred years ahead, and a hundred years behind, all at once: the city where the future dreams the past. And the aroma returned, with a whiff of air, transporting me, a hungry dog of memory, to a time that Ghalib breathed.

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

M​a​​nash Firaq Bhattacharjee is the author of Looking for the Nation: Towards Another Idea of India, published by Speaking Tiger Books (August 2018).

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Evil Personified – Dick Cheney? …

Posted on February 17, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

“Beware the quiet man – while others speak, he watches; while others act, he plans; and when they finally rest – he strikes”

Christian Bale in Vice (the Movie) is phenomenal as Cheney. Every mannerism, every silence as well as utterance, is an uncanny copy of the original.

At times, Bale succeeds in the near impossible – making the Dark Prince human.

As soon as he took office as vice president, Cheney sought an unfettered executive – beyond Congress, beyond the courts, beyond public opinion.

His quest was further propelled, not by personal gain but by fear: the attacks of September 11, followed by an autumn of anthrax in the post and snipers picking off random people near Washington.

Men would be “renditioned” to face torture and unending detention in Guantanamo, “black sites” in Eastern Europe and Muammar Gaddafi’s and Bashar al-Assad’s prisons.

Americans would be surveilled, without limit, on their phones and on their computers. Saddam Hussein would be overthrown.

McKay’s pursuit is a sprawl across 50 years – from Cheney’s entry in 1960s Washington to his retirement in Wyoming.

To trap his quarry, the director tries every gimmick. There is a mock-Shakespearean interlude between Cheney and his wife Lynne, excellently rendered by Amy Adams, reversing the Bard: Lynne is the updated Lady Macbeth urging her husband to refuse the vice presidential opportunity.

Dick is the manipulator, grasping for power. And, throughout, a narrator gives us a Big Short – style running commentary with added background information.

You can use every gimmick in the book but when you chase your man across such a vast expanse – especially a devious and no-holds-barred man like Cheney – he will outrun you.

McKay’s terrain has huge gaps. There is nothing on Cheney’s time as secretary of defense, including his lesson from the 1991 Gulf War that he was wrong to support the halt of operations before Saddam fell. ………. Halliburton gets only a couple of passing mentions, missing the late-1990s training it gave Cheney in the quest for control of oil and gas and how to distribute them.

Then there are the caricatures. Steve Carell is fine as the political street-fighter Donald Rumsfeld – even if the performance is more Carell than Rumsfeld.

But Sam Rockwell’s George W. Bush is the broad-stroke buffoon, putting his feet on the desk, thinking about baseball, and giving a “hot damn!” when Cheney completes the sharkish manoeuvre to become vice president – and, completing the caricature, the real man in the White House.

It may be a comforting portrayal, with power given the sheen of bumbling farce, but it erases the complexity of Bush and thus the relationship at the core of the power grab.T

How do you capture the essence of power? It lies not in the sprawl, but in the moment – that moment when the pursuit of the absolute is crystallised – or alternatively when the powerful is confronted with the folly of the quest.

McKay senses this. He opens the film with the moment when, with Bush flying across a stricken US on September 11, 2001, Cheney was in the situation room as acting president.

But even as Cheney was ordering American warplanes to shoot down passenger aircraft to prevent further attacks, this was a reactive moment – soon the vice president was far from powerful as the secret service rushed him to a protective bunker.

In reality, Cheney’s real moment came days later when he and his staff, along with Rumsfeld and his, built their “unitary power” on the ruins of the World Trade Center.

It came when they decided that no law, US or international – Geneva Convention be damned – bound them; that no punishment was too extreme to be used in “enhanced interrogation”.

It came when they decided that men, whether they are guilty, innocent, or in between, could be buried in Guantanamo Bay or a CIA facility halfway around the world.

These were the men who decided that privacy no longer existed in the US. McKay never gets us to that moment.

There is another defining scene, an episode not of the political but of the personal. When Cheney’s daughter Mary discloses as a teenager that she is a lesbian, Dick embraces her as her mother Lynne tries to process the disclosure.

But when Cheney’s other daughter Liz pursues a US senate seat in Wyoming in 2013, she is confronted by Mary’s support of same-sex marriage.

The family has to decide if Liz would publicly challenge, and effectively reject, her sister. She did, in a televised interview – and, since then, Mary Cheney has left unanswered whether she ever repaired the rift with her family.

Bale portrays Cheney in anguish over the problem – with Lynne resolutely behind Liz – before ultimately he tears down the last barrier between the decency of the personal and the betrayals of power. He sells out his daughter Mary.

The moment of anguish was fleeting. Instead, McKay’s blunt hammer falls in a closing soliloquy by Cheney, again riffing off Shakespeare: “I can feel your recriminations and your judgement. And I am fine with it”.

And thus Cheney – the survivor of Washington politics, the survivor of multiple heart attacks, the survivor of an Iraq war that cut a lasting wound across America – makes his final escape.

Scott Lucas, Professor of International Politics, University of Birmingham. This article was republished by The Wire from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


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Tribute to a Fallen Servicewoman …

Posted on February 16, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

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‘Frontier Mail’ – Colonial Times Icon …

Posted on February 8, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

Getafix7 Comments – It was on this Train that the Great Sam Bahadur’s Parents were travelling to Peshwar when Mrs Manekshaw, who was in the Family Way, threw a fit when the Train arrived at Amritsar and refused to move any further on it. Thereupon her husband, a Doctor, alighted and settled down in Amritsar – and a wee later, the Great Sam Bahadur was born in 1914 and went onto receive his early education … And so it goes ….

While gathering information on the operations of the British India Army in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP, now KP), I became aware of the Frontier Mail from a picture of it arriving at Rawalpindi Station – so writes Major General Syed Ali Hamid taking us on a journey through time, on board an iconic train service from British India

When Delhi became the capital in 1912, the BB&CIR commenced an exclusive P&O Special Express from Bombay to Delhi and onwards to Peshawar, which had just two First Class Sleeping Cars – with a Restaurant Car, two Mail Cars and a Guard’s Van.

It was one of (if not) the most famous train in the British Empire and was operated by the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CIR) and the Northwestern Railways (NWR). Railway companies like the BB&CIR were joint stock companies with their head offices in London and they earned substantial profits which flowed out of India.


The Frontier Mail, which was flagged off in 1928, was much larger and carried 450 passengers and mail in six carriages from Bombay to Delhi via Baroda, and in collaboration with the NWR onwards to Peshawar, via Lahore and Rawalpindi.

The train lost some of its glamour after Rawalpindi, which was the detraining point for Kashmir. It covered the 2,335 km to Peshawar in a record time of just less than 48 hours, and at one time it claimed to be the fastest long-distance train in British India.

Its high average speed of 50 km/h was achieved by giving it priority on the track, limiting the main stops in this long journey to only seven, and above all, powerful engines.

Eleven months after its inauguration, when the train arrived 15 minutes late at Peshawar, there was a big uproar amongst Railway circles, with the driver being asked to explain the reasons for this inexcusable delay!

Traction was initially provided by the 4-4-0s or 4-4-2s which were replaced by North British H-class 4-6-0s to take the train from Bombay till Baroda.

From there, the mighty Pacific XC Class 4-6-2s – which were introduced in 1928 for express passenger trains – took over. It was one of the largest steam locomotives in India at that time and was able to sustain the climb through the Aravali Range and the Salt Range in northern Punjab.

The BB&CIR took pride in the punctuality of the Frontier Mail. Its safe and timely arrival every evening at the Church Gate station in Bombay was heralded by switching on the floodlights of the building of the headquarters of the BB&CIR, the first building to be floodlit in Bombay.

The lights could be seen from a great distance. Eleven months after its inauguration, when the train arrived 15 minutes late at Peshawar, there was a big uproar amongst Railway circles, with the driver being asked to explain the reasons for this inexcusable delay!

The author mentioned this to his father-in-law, the late Syed Ghiasuddin Ahmed, who was one of the oldest surviving members of the illustrious Indian Civil Service.

Even at the age of 92, he had an enviable memory, and in his faltering voice said:“I know why it was late on one occasion. Iskander Mirza (later President of Pakistan) was the Assistant Commissioner at Nowshera in 1931. He and Rana Talia Muhammad Khan of the Indian Police and father of Lt. Gen. Bakhtiar Rana, were having a round of drinks in the evening when they had an urge for fried fish.

The Frontier Mail was flagged down for an unscheduled stop for the few minutes that it took for the fish to be purchased from the First Class Restaurant Car.

The matter was of course reported and Iskander Mirza was awarded ‘displeasure’.”

The Frontier Mail was more than just a train. It was a conversation piece; a fast and exotic conveyance that whisked passengers through India and set them down at the North West Frontier town of Peshawar.

In 1930, The Times of London nominated it as “one of the most famous express trains within the British Empire”.

Fresh supplies of ice – since it was the first air-conditioned train in India

In 2009, the Indian Postal Service commemorated this historic train. In fact, the train was so famous that a film was named after it with Fearless Nadia, the star of Indian stunt and action films during the 1930s.

However, the film had to be renamed after BB&CIR objected to the manner in which it depicted rail travel to be unsafe. In fact during all its journeys before Independence, the train did not suffer a serious accident.

But one of the mishaps deserves mention if only for the unusual circumstances in which it was derailed. A rat died in a vacuum pipe, causing the brakes to fail and the engine ran off the rails at a short catch spur.

Following the objection by the BB&CIR, the legendary producer of the film, J.B.H. Wadia, had the following disclaimer included in its introductory titles: “Note: Miss Frontier Mail should not be confused in any way with the train “Frontier Mail” of the BB&CIR Ry.”

Though Fearless Nadia would be better known for her role in the film Hunterwali(The woman with the whip), which was released two years later, Miss Frontier Mailwas a box office hit and one of Wadia Movietone’s top earners.

Its dialogues were remembered for long by the public, one of which referred to the heroine as, “Woh ladki Toofan Mail ki tarah aayee, Punjab Mail ki tarah maar-peet karke, Frontier Mail ban kar hawa ho gayee.” (That girl! She came like the Toofan Mail, fought like the Punjab Mail and left at the speed of wind like the Frontier Mail).

Till the Bombay Central station was inaugurated in 1930, the Frontier Mail used the Churchgate Station. However, the upper class carriages went right up to the Ballard Pier Mole Station at the docks to connect up with the P&O Liners.

Its parent company advertised the Frontier Mail as:“The only train from the Punjab that has a GUARANTEED CONNECTION with the HOMEWARD P&O MAIL STEAMER…… The MAIL STEAMER will be detained up to 24 hours for this train only and for NO OTHER TRAIN FROM THE PUNJAB.”

The train also collected mail brought by the steamers like the S.S. Rawalpindi, one of the first P&O ships with a refrigerated hold.

Before air postal service was introduced, the mail carried by the train provided a critical link between the British stationed in the Punjab (and way-out stations like Razmak on the frontier), and their friends and relatives back home.

Taking 21 days by ship and another two by train, a letter from London could arrive at Peshawar within 23 days.

There was Continental and Indian cuisine for lunch and dinner and one of the favourite dishes was the Railway Mutton Curry – spicy but with a large dollop of yogurt to dampen the chilies.

Over its 20 years of service to the Jewel in the Crown (i.e. British India), the Frontier Mail carried governors and generals, civil servants and soldiers and a multitude of Indians along its route.

It is mentioned in the biography of Prithviraj Kapoor – the famous stage and film actor who is believed to have travelled by it in 1928 from his hometown of Peshawar to Bombay.

In July 1943, the young Dev Anand, who would attain fame as a leading actor, arrived at Bombay Central from Lahore by Frontier Mail, with Rs.30 in his pocket.

On the invitation of the great composer Shyam Sunder, the to-be-famous singer Muhammad Rafi boarded it at Lahore to seek his destiny in Bombay in 1944.

That same year, Subhas Chandra Bose of Indian National Army (INA) fame, travelled on it north to Peshawar, en route to Hitler’s Germany.

And finally the great Quaid, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, frequently traveled on the Frontier Mail from his hometown of Bombay to the capital city of Delhi.

In the early days of the Raj, the railway companies invested heavily in India and it is believed that the facilities available on trains in India were better than those in England!

The Imperial Indian Mail (that featured in the film A Passage to India), which ran between Bombay and Calcutta, carried only 32 passengers in royal comfort in private saloons.

The Frontier Mail wasn’t as luxurious but was a close second: with carriages for both First and Second Class. The First Class carriages were non-corridor stock for more privacy and the compartments were self-contained. Each had an attached lavatory and shower bath and was furnished with specially constructed modern berths and Queen Anne armchairs.

The interior was initially cooled by fans but in 1934, the Frontier Mail was the first train in India to have a First Class air-conditioned car.

The cooling system was basic, with blowers directing air over blocks of ice and the cold air entered the insulated cars through vents. The ice blocks were carried in sealed receptacles beneath the car floor and replenished at halts along the line.

The dining cars for the First Class passengers (one of which was named the Queen of Rajputana) were not large. But they were, nevertheless, spacious. White damask on the tables coupled with white napkins was compulsory and they were set with exquisite crockery, crystal fruit platters, silver cutlery and silver salt- and pepper-shakers.

The table settings had to be perfect, with different forks and knives for each course. The breakfast menu offered porridge, fried fish with lemon, eggs with bacon or grilled sausages with mashed potatoes, jam and marmalade, tea and coffee, and fruit.

In between meals, the restaurant car served as a lounge serving light refreshments and imported iced beer on tap. The lounge was stocked with an abundant supply of newspapers, magazines, books, stationery and playing cards.

And for the first time, the passengers could listen to a radio.

The train was jointly operated from Bombay to Peshawar by the BB&CIR and the North Western Railways (NWR).

After Independence, the Frontier Mail terminated its journey at Amritsar, which is the last city in India en route to Pakistan. Concurrently the Pakistan Western Railways inaugurated an express service from Karachi to Peshawar named the Khyber Mail.

In 1996, for political reasons the Frontier Mail was renamed as the Golden Temple Mail after the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar.

No heed was taken of the protests by many, through articles and editorials in the newspapers. But the travelling public still faithfully calls it the Frontier Mail. 

Note: The author thanks S. Shankar for permission to quote from his article The Frontier Mail, contained in Classic Trains of India. He has also quoted from Crossing Frontiers in the Frontier Mail on a blog by Sunbayanyname, and from the article Miss Frontier Mail: the film that mistook its star for a train by Rosie Thomas. — AP Singh

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