In the war against Al Qaeda, how will the US cope with rebellious local youth!

Billions of tax dollars are spent by US to wage a war against terrorist groups outside the nation. But then a young man from Long Island, New York, travels all the way to Afghanistan, receives training from Al Qaeda, then plots a terror attack over his home base, then goes on to confess… who and what should the American people fear more?

The anger and terror lies within the common people of the US. The reasons may be varied… frustration about the status quo, ignorance, prejudice, poverty, skewed perceptions, unreasonable expectations of life…

It’s odd though… people from other parts of the world have thus far believed that Americans have it all… with no reason to be frustrated, that they are all rich, beautiful and smart! The irony of it all… and now in the present downturn, we have already heard of how these pent-up emotions of frustration and anger of the unemployed can take shape!

What shall I write about… New York, or Mumbai?

Not just my fingers, but even the cells in my brain seem numbed by this wintry cold. Yes, the last time I tried to write was on January 1st but, ironically, poodwaddle seems to have stopped ticking for me since then. Could it just be writer’s block? Well… I’ll soon find out.

Today, after almost ten years I read an old column penned by the late Busybee –  It has made me a tiny bit nostalgic… about Bombay. The crossword puzzles in The Afternoon Despatch & Courier were fun – although they were ‘no-brainers’ if compared to those in the mainline daily – The Times of India, they were fun to solve while taking a ‘tea-break’ at work (but actually sipping on an iced lassi) in the comfort of the office and cool a.c.!

“Mumbai”… yes, for centuries, the hoi polloi have always referred to now-also-known-as-Maximum City as [ˈmʊm.bəi] especially when spoken by a Gujarati, Parsi, or a Maharashtrian. The “-bai” should be pronounced to neither sound like “buy” nor to rhyme with “chai“, however warm or inviting that may sound (whenever referred to by the anglicized media – especially news-readers, or by the la-di-da of 21st century India ‘Inc‘, or Bollywood‘)… puh-lease, eeks!

Busybee’s column dated May 20, 1997 was a satire on how to beat Mumbai’s heat on sultry summer days; some of his cool ideas… (#6) have Parsi Dairy Kulfi (now that’s close to my heart and what once was close to home); (#5) Drink Fanta; (#13) Open the refrigerator door and stand in front of it; (#32) Sit in the Taj lobby. Look like you’re waiting for somebody important who is staying at the hotel [Alas, that option must be ruled out since 26/11 (another “yikes”… now, more for the reference to the date – how unoriginal can the media get – because such a nomenclature speaks of their buzzing – rather than for the actual horror of the sad event)]…  some of these are bound to bring at least a hint of a smile on a true Bombayite. Read his column (again), if you like.

But like me, if you’re looking for ideas on how to stay warm – especially with the heating boiler gone kaput since the past few days here, or to save on energy bills, read on… Farzana, if you happen to read this, please pardon me.

1. Go away to Malaysia (Far-East), Argentina (South)

2. Go to India… fly Air-India

3. Do go to work… if it’s no longer at Wall Street, go to Blimpie’s or McDonalds… food joints must always have heating… even if you’re not eating, or can’t afford to

4. Drink hot tea, ginger tea, or green tea… it doesn’t have to be at a Starbucks… forget the big bucks; buy a bag of tea leaves from a desi-grocer at the Indian market, and the ginger at the Asian grocer’s around the corner

5. Eat Dates – lots of them… home-grown in California, or imported from Oman in Muscat (if you can find those)… oh, I meant not their location on the map but in stores

6. Go watch Slumdog Millionnaire at the cinema… stay warm in the heat… so what if Indians have cried out aloud and condemned Boyle for the slur with his reference to a cur for his recent Oscar-winner’s nomenclature

7. Take a ride from South Ferry to Staten Island and back… it’s free… walking around Manhattan looking for work can get rough; don’t be hard on yourself; take heart by taking a break

8. Don’t always wait for the ice to melt… get online, get chatting, and get into Facebook

9. Spring is a month away but you can Twitter… ain’t that tweet?

10. Wall Street is pummeled and indices down at 1997 levels… is the heat up, or do you still feel left out in the cold?

Yet another “forward” titled, “This is shocking”!

Here I am, sipping on my first coffee of the day, opening my mail-box and voila… the most recent email attempts to unnerve me for the rest of the day. But guess what, I’m not shocked, because I’ve received this not once, but several times from different sources. The visual of a boy with his arm under a car, about to be amputated, does not evoke the response it was supposed to generate! Ostensibly, he stole a piece of bread, and this is the punishment meted out to him… in Iran! If at all this indeed is true, and not just a stunt, as may well be the case, the brutality of such incidents seems to be very deep-rooted… going as far back as 1900-1600 B.C.E. — the Old Babylon period of the Amorite Empire.

The Amorite rulers, who were believed to have “descended from the gods”, enacted “lex talionis”, or the law of equal or direct retribution. This law empowered them to rule over people’s lives. (Note that it is administered only by the state, or by those who are “above retribution” and are thus exempted from being victims of revenge.) Many of us learned a long time ago that in the Middle-Eastern world, it is this Code of Hammurabi — “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an arm for an arm, a life for a life” — that puts the fear in people, which, in turn, prevents the common man in many of these nations from committing crimes. Punishments, in retaliation, match the nature of the infraction, or, figuratively speaking, you reap what you sow!

Is quid pro quo not too simplistic a view, I wonder, where it seems that none of the following are taken into account i.e. the context (one’s poverty), the intent (to quell one’s hunger), the reason (one may die without food), the action (stealing food), the perpetrator (a young child), the punishment (chopping off a limb), nor the exhortation (showing no mercy). In this context of theft, here’s another disturbing viewpoint.

Even so, in my mind, this does not vindicate the violence towards women; the brutality that Nicholas Kristof’s “acid column” brought to light. Unlike the case of the young boy, there is no ambiguity regarding this infliction of physical pain over women.

Although the code of the Amorites is a subject of discussion at Law Schools such as Yale and others across the nation (and the world), perhaps for my own understanding, I should borrow this book from the library. Here’s a page from it, which I saw online.

From the Code of Hammurabi, the mighty Ammorite!
From the Code of Hammurabi, the mighty Amorite!