Monday, April 30, 2012

Dig out more on killing of Armenians: Fisk

(My report in The Gulf Today)
SHARJAH: Photographs have an unstoppable power to convince and there is a dire need to search for more documents and evidence on the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War, noted British writer and journalist Robert Fisk said on Friday night.
He was delivering a lecture entitled “Reporting the Middle East: Lies and Genocides” to commemorate the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at Pierre Keusseyan Community Hall, Sharjah.
The killings were carried out between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian people were subjected to deportation, abduction, torture, massacre and starvation.
Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians died during those years, but questions the 1.5 million toll and refuses to term the acts “genocide.”
The term “Genocide” is defined by the United Nations as a state-sponsored attempt to “destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
Talking exclusively to The Gulf Today on the sidelines of the lecture, Fisk said many photographs on what he called the “Armenian Genocide” are yet to be recovered and perused. “We need to go back to details, keep digging and investigating.”
The noted journalist, who is the Middle East correspondent for “The Independent” and has perhaps won more British and international journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent, also suggested that Armenians should honour those Turks who saved Armenian citizens during the troubled times.
“The world is changing. There are more and more Turks now talking freely about their Armenian relatives and grandparents. It will be a great step to compile a list of Ottoman Turks who saved Armenian citizens during the 1915 genocide,” he noted.
Citing the example of countries like Germany, England and Austria which confessed to their genocides, Fisk insisted that Turkey too should follow suit.
At the function, Robert Fisk signed a selection of his books that were available for sale, including the “Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.”
He outlined details  about his indepth investigation into the “killing fields.” He described how he visited various spots like Yerevan and unearthed unpublished images.
Some of the photographs were also screened for the select audience, who were mostly Armenians.
The photographs included those of frightened people, of  women and children, and even animals, walking at the beginning of their “death march.”
“Such rare photos are a perfect witness to the terrible events. The photographs’ poor quality, thanks to years that have passed by, actually adds to power. They are authentic and have a major impact,” Fisk pointed out.
On other topics, Fisk said he doubted a State of Palestine would come about, considering the “lack of will” of some prominent world leaders.
Talking about the tragic scenes that wars leave behind, Fisk cited the example of Fallujah.
“Many children of Fallujah are being born with appalling birth defects, most probably due to the phosphorus shells used by the American forces during the wars there,” he said.
Asked about being “technologically-challenged” as he describes himself, Fisk was critical of the Internet, saying it took people away from the reading habit.
“It is because of the Net that words are misspelt and are ungrammatical. I receive around 250 real letters a week and that gives me lots of satisfaction,” he told this correspondent. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Time with Fisk

I had an opportunity yesterday to interact with famous writer and journalist Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent of The Independent. He was delivering a lecture entitled “Reporting the Middle East: Lies and Genocides” to commemorate the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at Pierre Keusseyan Community Hall, Sharjah. Fisk holds more British and International Journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent. More on the subject soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Praise more, criticize less, enjoy life

It’s easy to say that we welcome “constructive” criticism, but I do not think anyone, including me, loves criticism.
Benjamin Franklin was right: “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”
In my school, teachers were stingy in praise and lavish in criticism. I was failing and repeatedly discouraged until my English teacher started praising me for quick answers. Her encouragement boosted my confidence so much that I could later handle the front page of India’s leading newspaper for years.
Some are born to complain. You must have heard the story of a sailor who was attending a party hosted by a rich family. He saw a baby drowning in the pond and rushed to rescue the child. He emerged with the baby and was happy to see people cheering him. The child’s mother came running. Dreaming of a reward, he thrust the baby in her hands smiling. “Tell me, where’s my baby’s expensive hat?” was all that the woman asked. (I think this was Churchill’s favorite story).
“You bloggers just pat each other. Nonsense,” complained my friend.
Nonsense? We motivate each other and we are stronger. You keep criticizing, brother, and make hell on earth. We are happy. If it pains you, go take a walk.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hair-raising flattery

SM was almost bald. Another friend TA was known for taking loans never to return.
TA needed money urgently.
He told SM: “Oooff.. did you dye your hair today?”
Blushing, SM answered, “I do not even have enough hair to comb.”
“Who said?  Man, don’t you know girls like semi-baldies?”
In a few minutes, TA managed to get a few hundred rupees “loan” from SM.
A week passed. We told SM that he was fooled.
A red-faced SM approached TA.
“Hey, your money is safe. But tell me, did you use shampoo today? Your hair is flying like in Rajnikant films,” TA replied.
A smiling SM returned to his seat with hands holding a comb. 
Years later, I am sure SM has not yet got back his money.
But there are people in history who hated sycophancy.
Philosopher Aristippus gained a comfortable position at the court of Dionysius, a tyrant, by constant flattery. One day, observing Diogenes preparing lentils for a meagre meal, Aristippus said: "If you would only learn to compliment Dionysius, you wouldn't have to live on lentils."
"And if you would only learn to live on lentils, you wouldn't have to flatter Dionysius," retorted Diogenes.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

‘Cash box’ Ravi

“Whenever I find the key to success, someone changes the lock,” joked my Net-crazy colleague. 
The key to success is not to have a lock, I replied, and told him about a friend.
Ravi had this habit of stealing money from his dad’s purse. His father did not know how to handle the situation until someone advised him to buy a “Gallapeti.” (Huge cash box –in Tamil).
The heavy cash box kept the money safe at home for the father. He saved more and more money in that, until one fine morning Ravi vanished with the “gallapetti” itself.
We friends nicknamed him “Gallapetti Ravi.”
Later, he became a computer programmer.
I can guess Ravi’s favourite key on the computer: “Escape.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Life of purpose

It happened a fortnight ago. That day I felt uneasy for unknown reasons. I mentioned to my senior colleague my worry whether I would be able to meet my dad during my planned visit to India in July.
That night, I had unusually kept my mobile away. When the phone bell rang early morning, I struggled to pick it up and got the deadly message from my sister: “Dad is dead.”
Time heals. We have reconciled to the fact that he is no more. He lived a king’s life until 90, thoroughly honest and never was hospitalized. His purpose of life was to live a life of purpose.
Most relatives were around. I asked them what was happening in Chennai and they narrated some incidents:
*A couple bought plastic items at an exhibition and were travelling on a bike with their baby. A bucket fell on the road. The wife dropped the child to pick it up, but the baby crawled and was crushed by a truck.
* My friend’s neighbour, a rich man, had a heart attack. My friend rushed him to hospital and informed his son who was in the US. The son’s reaction: “Is he in the ICU? Show him on the Webcam.” 
* A man begging near the beach was identified as a millionaire. “Why are you doing this?” asked a friend. “This is to shame my sons who have ignored me,” came the reply.
Life is strange indeed.