This Thursday will mark the first anniversary of the unnerving terror attacks on the heart of Mumbai.
Here is a quick refresher of the sequence of events of that fateful evening. Ten terrorists armed to the teeth, simply wafted into the city on a rubber dinghy and scurried across South Mumbai from landmark to landmark. From the Victoria Terminus, Leopard Cafe, Cama and Albless hospitals, before finally setting up a siege at the Oberoi Trident, Nariman House and the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. They fired upon innocent civilians and left a wake of death and destruction where ever they went. The brave men and women of the Mumbai police did their best to stop them, but the force's outdated and inefficient equipment were no match for the sophisticated weapons of the terrorists. The efforts of the police men were largely futile. Although, banking on sheer bravery, courage and their trusty lathi, they did manage to catch one terrorist, Ajmal Kasab alive. The marine commandos were called in. They carried out intensive operations at the three locations simultaneously and after 72 hours fighting, the battle finally ended and once again, Mumbai emerged victorious. The price of victory was high. The city's bravest men, including ATS chief Hamant Karkare and encounter specialist, Vijay Salaskar lay dead.
The attacks were followed by the usual political hoopla and finger pointing. News channels buzzed with pointless debates, and questions went flying. Candle marches and 'human chain' formations were held all over. “We will not forget”, was the mood. One year from the incident, where are we?
The same ministers who laughed off the incident as trivial, and considered it appropriate to quote a cheap film dialogue to describe the situation has been re-elected to his ministerial post. A few jeeps, a handful of guns and a few sandbags were purchased under the pretext of 'Police Modernization '. Almost all of the squad still used the same outdated equipment. Promises from our ministers have remained exactly what they have been for more than six decades of our democracy, just promises. Empty and baseless promises.
The lone surviving terrorist Kasab has still not been convicted. The trial stretches on. To add to the irony, while our government could not care any less about the rights of our own citizen, it speaks of rights of terrorists.
Dynastic, regional and blame-game politics still supersede the safety of our citizen. Our police force still has to make do with third grade equipment. State Reserve forces have been deployed to increase security, but we have no place to house them. Boats have been purchased to patrol the waterways, but we have no fuel to run them. The candle marchers who vowed work towards improvement now are back to chasing EMIs.
So dear fellow citizen, where are we a year from the worst terror strike on our beloved city? Precisely where we were a year ago, two years ago, a decade ago:
Drowning in the dirty swamp of Indian politics. Helpless and weary.
The Night in Pictures: http://bit.ly/70cGwg
Comprehensive report: http://bit.ly/8QMnKF
Video Report: http://bit.ly/4T4L1X
Some of my cartoons and posts from then:
Ye Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan: http://bit.ly/4U9qU4
I was reading an article in the mainstream media that deliberated upon the voter turnout in the Maharashtra assembly elections. I don't like calling them newspapers because all they seem to contain are polarized and colored stories these days. More fiction, less fact and a lots of expensive advertisements, that is mainstream media for you.
Anyway, the article reported that the voter turnout in the 2009 general elections in Mumbai was a measly 41.24%. Similarly dismal sub-fifty for previous elections as well. Unhealthy for democracy, some would say, but that is not what I am driving at. This low figure got me thinking.
Consider this, the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development quotes the youth population of India to be 41.05%. Taking a ballpark estimate, the youth population of Mumbai must be along the same lines. The Rajiv Gandhi nomenclature also got me thinking, about why everything in India is named after the Gandhi family, but thats another thought for another day.
If every young person in the city simply came out to vote and exercised his Suffrage, against the backdrop of a very low voter turnout, the result of the elections would swing significantly in favor of the opinion of the youth of this city. Thanks to the low turnout, your vote actually holds a lot of weight.
So guys and girls, stop being lazy. Colleges are shut today. So are the malls and theaters. Get out of bed, pick up your driving license, PAN card, Passport, just about any government issued photo-ID. Walk into you designated polling station. Don't fret, the election commission staff are really friendly, and the queues aren't very long. Go in and choose wisely.
Its a painless process, and quite easy at that. By the way, they do not mark you with a horrid black mark on your fingers anymore. The marking ink is a cool royal violet.
Will you go vote today or do you believe its an exercise in futility?
As for me, been there done that:
If you need to look up your name in the electoral rolls, you can:
- Visit Chief Electoral Officer's website: http://bit.ly/3FELZm.
- SMS your Electoral Photo ID Card number (eg. LSH1427178) to: 09423993872/3/6/2.
- Walk into any polling booth and ask at the help-desk there.
Adrian Sutil put Force India on the front row of the starting grid at Monza by qualifying in his VJM02. Hamilton just managed to grab the pole from Sutil in the closing seconds of the third qualifying session. Teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi, who was in the car replacing Giancarlo Fisichella, qualified a respectable seventh. A small note of vindication for Force India fans; Giancarlo Fisichella, who moved to Ferrari from Force India, qualified fourteenth.
This remarkable performance goes another step towards erasing the 'backmarker' tag off Force India. It shows that the strong performance at Spa was not simply luck and that Force India has developed a highly effective car that can perform well in a wide variety of circuits and conditions. The car is well balanced, reliable and highly competitive. The team have done a tremendous job of putting together a top class car on a limited budget.
The Italian circuit, Autodromo Nazionale Monza is a wide and clear track, with long straights and minimal curves. Rich in history, heritage and atmosphere. It is home to the Ferrari Racing team. The long straights will heavily favor the KERS enabled cars, but the curves are broad and offer plenty of overtaking opportunity.
It was at Monza, that Michael Schumacher announced his retirement from Formula 1 racing at the end of the 2006 season, after winning the 2006 Italian GP.
Although a pole finish may be a long shot, a third place for Force India looks feasible. But then again, optimism never hurt anyone. Did it?
Some high octane drama and some determined and disciplined racing saw Force India clinch a podium place at Spa today. Giancarlo Fisichella finished the Belgian Grand Prix in a amazing second position.
Fisichella started strongly, having capitalizing on a mistake by Raikkonen and succeeded in building up a significant lead. Unfortunately a huge incident involving contact between multiple cars caused the opening laps to be raced under a safety car. This closed the gap between Fisichella and he was robbed of the race lead by the KERS on the Ferrari. The six second, 61 kW boost provided by system the was enough for Kimi Raikkonen to muscle the Ferrari into P1. Fisichella put up a brave fight, racing wheel to wheel for the rest of the race. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a way past Kimi. To his credit though, he breathed down Ferrari's neck all the way and did not allow them to pull away and open a gap.
The fairness in racing non-KERS enabled cars against KERS fitter cars is questionable. The huge boost provided by it is in no way offset by the added weight of the system. But unfortunately, like a lot of other things in Formula One, we just have to live with it. The playing field should be level next year though, with KERS becoming mandatory on all cars for the 2010 Formula One season.
It was really humorous to see, the team with arguably the lowest budget in formula one, go wheel to wheel with the team with arguably the highest budget. Racing for their best result yet, force India must have been under tremendous pressure. However they held their nerve and executed clean text-book pit-stops.
Adding to the high drama along the way, Renault had yet another tire failure, courtesy an early collision with Adrian Sutil. (Can't keep Force India out of the headlines today!) Ruberns Barichello provided a good illustration of car aerodynamics with thick smoke trailing out of his engine and tracing a slipstream for the last three laps. He just about made it home with his engine catching fire in the out-lap.
After 44 intense laps in one of the greatest formula one circuits, the Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps, Kimi Raikkonen classified first, closely followed by Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella and Sebastian Vettel. This is Force India's first ever podium finish. With this finish, they have finally opened their points tally, after having come so agonizingly close at Monaco last year. Teammate Sutil finished 11th.
I am delighted with this result, for it announces the arrival of Indian Motor-sport, at-least in part on the world stage. Only if it were not for the unfair KERS advantage, we could have tentatively seen a Force India victory.
At the Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. Giancarlo Fisichella pulled off something that no one believed was possible. In the ultimate “triumph of the underdog” story, he raced Force India's car, the VJM02/04 onto the qualifying pole and into the history books. Giencarlo blazed the Spa track in precisely 1:46.114 seconds grabbing the top slot on the starting grid. For a team that is yet to secure a point in Formula One, this is an achievement of incredible magnitude.
I was so thrilled and excited at this, that I sent about a gazillion text messages, tweets and Face-book updates out. A feeling of jubilation, which I am sure all my fellow Force India fans can identify with. If all goes well, Fisichella could secure Force India her maiden victory tomorrow. The race starts in about 19 hours from now.
“Hope is the dream of a soul awake.”