Posts Tagged ‘ Indians ’

Dig Deeper and You’ll Find the Other Oslo

By Rick Steves,Tribune Media Services

In the Norwegian capital of Oslo, a big statue of a tiger sits in front of the train station. A local once explained that Oslo is nicknamed the Tiger City because in the 19th century, when country boys visited the wild and crazy “New York City of Norway,” it made “a mark on their soul.”

I find Oslo more of a kitten than a tiger. Its mix of grand neoclassical facades, boxy 1960s-style modernism, pastoral parks and homogenous culture always have felt a bit tame for my taste. But by digging deeper, you can find more texture here, from gritty neighborhoods to troubled artists.

The city’s grand boulevard, Karl Johans Gate (street), cuts from the train station through the center of town to the Royal Palace. Lively with restaurants, parks and people, the street is lined with landmarks, including Oslo Cathedral, Parliament and Stortorvet Square, with its lively flower and produce market.

The boulevard also is the address of the Grand Cafe, once the meeting place of Oslo’s intellectual and creative elite. At the back of the cafe, a mural shows Norway’s literary and artistic clientele enjoying this fine hangout, from playwright Henrik Ibsen (who came in every day at 1 p.m.) to Edvard Munch, leaning against the window, looking drugged.

Munch is Norway’s most famous and influential painter. To see his most important work, head to the nearby National Gallery. Munch helped to pioneer a new style, expressionism, using lurid colors and bold lines to “express” inner turmoil and the angst of the modern world. His most iconic painting is The Scream, which he described as “the work of a madman.”

A few blocks down from the National Gallery is Oslo’s people-friendly harbor front, situated at the head of the 60-mile-long Oslofjord. As in many European cities, residents are reclaiming their waterfront area. In the past, you would have dodged several lanes of traffic to get to the harborfront, but now, most traffic has been diverted through tunnels under the city.

Facing the harbor, Oslo’s striking city hall is famous for hosting the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Completed in 1950 to celebrate the city’s 900th birthday, the building was an avant-garde thrill in its day. Entering here, I’m reminded that in this most highly taxed corner of Europe, city halls, rather than churches, are the dominant buildings. Though the state religion is Lutheranism, people rarely go to church. Instead, they seem to almost worship good government. The main hall actually feels like a temple.

Along the eastern harbor, the marble Opera House seems to rise like an iceberg from the sea. This is the only opera house in the world that doubles as a public plaza, with a roof designed to be walked on. Opened in 2008, this cultural venue is a huge hit. On my last visit, I joined 8,000 people on the rooftop to watch a hot English group named Antony and the Johnsons (with a lead singer who looks like a cross between Meatloaf and Marilyn Manson) perform on a stage raft anchored just offshore.

In summer, Norwegians practically live outdoors. Frogner Park not only offers a great peek at Norwegians at play but also features a fine sculpture garden showcasing a lifetime of work by Norway’s greatest sculptor, Gustav Vigeland.

From 1924 to 1943, Vigeland created a world of bronze and granite statues — around 600 nude figures in all. The centerpiece is a teeming monolith of life, with 121 figures carved out of a single block of stone rocketing skyward. Like Munch, Vigeland was troubled. Those who know his life story can read it clearly in the granite and bronze, but I ignore it all and simply see his art as observations on the bittersweet cycle of life.

As much as I love Norway, goat cheese and my blond cousins, sometimes I need to inject some color into my days. At night, I head to two trendy multiethnic zones. Grunerlokka is the Greenwich Village of Oslo. A former working-class district, this neighborhood of funky shops, old hippies and bohemian cafes is a favorite of Oslo’s artsy set. Locals come here for its convivial night scene and colorful eateries.

Oslo’s rough and tumble immigrant zone is a stretch of a street called Gronland. This is where Turks, Indians, Pakistanis and the rest of Oslo’s immigrant community congregate. Colorful green grocer carts spill onto sidewalks. Various kebabs and spicy borek cost just $2 to go. Dueling tandoori restaurants offer meals for under $10, otherwise unheard of in Oslo.

I love dining street-side here. It’s cheap — and seeing a rainbow of people and a few rough edges makes the city feel less like Wonder bread. But that’s the beauty of Oslo. Just when you think you have it figured out, it gives you a taste of something different.

Rick Steves (ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. E-mail him at rick@ricksteves.com and follow his Facebook blog.


Global Sufi Fest Attracts Thousands

As Reported by the Times of India

Soulful renderings of Sufi music by wandering minstrels from different parts of the world left the listeners spellbound here at the three-day ‘Sufi Sutra’ which ended on Sunday.

Besides Indians, Sufi singers and musicians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Syria and Tajikistan presented mystic Islam through songs, dance and poetry.

Notwithstanding the current political turmoil back home, an eight-member Egyptian Mawlawyiah troupe enthralled the audience by an audio-visual of music and circular dervish dance whirling around singers in a circle.

A Bangladeshi team, led by Anusheh Anadil, sang the household songs of the famous 18th century poet-philosopher Fakir Lalon Shah, on whom based the recent Golden Peacock winning Bengali film ‘Moner Manush’.

The ‘bauls’ and ‘fakirs’ of West Bengal’s Nadia and Murshidabad districts were huge hits by their spontaneous, simple and meaningful lyrics.

Another Bengal team led by Armaan Fakir presented the little-known ‘Bangla Qawwali’. Traditionally performed at the Dargahs, the devotional songs had ‘Dhol’ and ‘Khol’ as percussions replacing Tabla.

The first Sufi ensemble also included the ‘Warsi Brothers’ from Hyderabad, Delhi’s ‘Druv Sangari’ and team, ‘Mirs’ from Bikaner and ‘Haji Md Ahmed Khan Warsi’s team from Uttar Pradesh.

“It is a peace concert in times of violence. We want to bring a convergence of ideas about truth, harmony, self-belief and peace through music. It is a celebration of the quest for the divine through love,” organiser Amitava Bhattacharya said.

Besides musical performances, the festival included workshops and exhibitions to showcase the traditional culture, beliefs and music of the Sufi mystics.

“We had more than 10,000 people at the open-air concert, while more than 700 people, including young students, learnt about Sufism at the pre-concert workshops,” Bhattacharya said.

The event would also help the poor musicians, most of whom were from the rural areas, to earn a livelihood, he said.  The festival was organised by Banglanatak.com in collaboration.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteIt’s a sad reality that singers from a  country rich in Sufi history and traditions like Pakistan, are  unable to attend this festival due to the 60+ year friction between the two brothers India and Pakistan. They are two halves of one nation.

Cultural exchanges like these, billions in cross border trade, Bollywood and Lollywood collaborations, sports matches, etc are just some of the things the two are missing out on due to their relations. We hope one day peace can finally come to this ancient and holy land that is the subcontinent.

India Urges Pakistan to Resume Onion Exports

As Reported by The BBC

India is trying to persuade Pakistan to resume exporting onions overland to curb soaring prices. The matter has been taken up with the government of Pakistan, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said.

Pakistan banned overland exports of onions to India on Tuesday with traders saying they feared shortages at home. Last month, India abolished import taxes on onions after prices nearly tripled in a month.

“We have initiated talks and before not too long, we are hopeful we will find a solution to this, easing pressure within our country for onions,” Mr Krishna told a press conference in Delhi.

Pakistan banned exports to India through the land route via the Attari-Wagah border crossing, although the sea route is still open. Much of the trade, however, is by road and rail which are cheaper and quicker.

India’s food inflation has risen for the fifth straight week this week to 18.32% – the highest in more than a year.

The price of onions, a key food staple for Indian families used in almost all dishes, has risen dramatically over the past month.

A kilogram which usually costs 20 rupees went up to 85 rupees ($1.87; £1.20) last month. At present, it is 65 to 70 rupees a kilo.

The rise has been blamed on unusually heavy rains in the bulk-producing western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat and in southern states, as well as on hoarders and speculators.

Discontent over food inflation has been a major headache for the government.

High prices of essential commodities such as onions have previously sparked unrest and helped bring down the national government in 2004.

The Nexus of US-India-Pakistan Relations

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

As President Obama wraps up his visit to India in the next day, a couple of things are important to point out about relations between the United States and India as well as how Pakistan fits into the equation.

The balance of power between India and the US still lies with the United States, however, India is set to make more and more gains in becoming more influential as its economy grows and as the United States looks to it to counter China in Asia.

The strategic partnership between the two countries and the importance of India for the United States is going to become vital as America uses India to contain China’s influence in the region and around the world.

We do believe that President Obama is correct in stating that relations between the two countries warrant being called the defining relationship of the century as there is no other country that compliments the United States presently in the world as does India. Not only do both countries share democratic ideals and a multiethnic population, but both countries are also increasingly dependent on each other’s economies. Add to this the nuclear cooperation as well as America’s support for India to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and it becomes evident that this relationship will continue to grow over time.

President Obama has offered criticism on Pakistan already but is careful in trying to walk the tight rope act that is India-Pakistan relations. There are certainly more behind the scene steps taking place that will chide Pakistan into doing more. But in our view, the single most important thing that the US and the Obama administration can do is to help India and Pakistan come back to the table to get the peace process moving along. There is widespread agreement with the President’s assessment that a prosperous and stable Pakistan is in the best interests of India, Afghanistan and the region. In this effort, we believe there needs to be done more by all parties involved.

India’s argument has always been that the terrorist infrastructure and support for some anti-India militant groups needs to end before New Delhi will resume the peace process with Pakistan.

India should not refuse extensive trade relationships with the US due to American support of Pakistan as it does not do anything to help India. India realizes the situation both inside Pakistan and America’s dependency of the Pakistan Army’s support in flushing out the Taliban. It would go against India’s interests if it put its relationship and advancement with the United States as being dependent on American support for Pakistan and its vital assistance in the war in Afghanistan and on terror.

Peace between India and Pakistan and in the Kashmir valley is the only solution to both the conflict between the two nations as well as it is in America’s interests for both countries and the region. Furthermore, peace between the two countries will allow both Pakistan’s full focus on the Afghan border in helping American troops against the Taliban as well as the elimination of anti-India militant groups within Pakistan, many of whom are alleged to still be receiving support from elements within Pakistan’s ISI spy agency, much to India’s chagrin.

Obama Calls for India – Pakistan Peace

By Andrew Buncombe for NZ Hearald

Barack Obama has called on India and Pakistan to renew their efforts to find peace, even as he said Islamabad was not moving quickly enough to counter militants operating from inside its borders.

In comments that appeared to underscore the high-wire act of diplomacy the US president is trying to pull off while on the three-day visit to India, Mr Obama said Washington would not act as an intermediary between the two countries.

However, he told a group of students in Mumbai: “My hope is that over time, trust develops between the two countries, that dialogue begins, perhaps on less controversial issues, building up to more controversial issues. There are more Pakistanis who’ve been killed by terrorists inside Pakistan than probably anywhere else.”

The president has received criticism from some opposition parties in India after he failed to directly mention Pakistan when he arrived in India on Saturday and spoke of the 2008 attacks at the Taj Hotel and other locations in Mumbai, that left more than 160 people dead.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the so-called “composite dialogue” peace process between India and Pakistan was put on hold and while there have been a series of high-level meetings, the relationship between the two remains tense.

The president, who stayed at the seafront hotel in what aides said was a clear sign of solidarity, had talked about the militants and the terror they wrought, but was criticised by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for failing to attribute the blame to Pakistan.

Asked why he had not done so, Mr Obama reflected a reality in which the US is paying billions of dollars to Pakistan in aid as it pushes it to do more against militants responsible for cross-border strikes in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is a strategically important country, not just for America, but for the world,” he said. “India and Pakistan can prosper and live side by side. This can happen and this should be the ultimate goal. The US can be a partner but cannot impose this process. India and Pakistan have to arrive at an understanding.”

Mr Obama started his visit to India, one of four countries he is including on a tour through Asia, by announcing more than 20 deals he said were worth up to $10bn and would help support 50,000 US jobs.

He also said the US was to relax export controls over sensitive technology, a demand of India’s that will help deepen ties between the two countries. The president is to hold formal talks today with India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

On a domestic level, Mr Obama also recognised he needed to make “midcourse corrections” in the aftermath of last week’s mid-term elections if he is going to win over a frustrated and divided electorate.

Arundhati’s Statement From Srinagar: Full Text

By Arundhati Roy
October 26, 2010
Noted Indian Hindu writer Arundhati Roy Tuesday said her speeches supporting the call for azadi were what “millions” in Kashmir say every day and were “fundamentally a call for justice”. Following is the full text of the statement that she has issued.
 
“I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villags in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.  

“Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

“In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.”

Arundhati Roy is a novelist, essayist and human rights activist. She won a Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things. For more on her read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arundhati_Roy

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteArundhati Roy’s courageous plea to her country is to be lauded. Although branded a traitor by many in India and within the government, she knows that she stands for peace, justice and fairness for all humanity. She wants self determination for all Kashmiris, be they Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian.

We at Pakistanis for Peace want nothing more than peace between India and Pakistan and therefore understand that Kashmir is the one and single most important issue between the two countries. Solve it and you do not have the threat of cross border attacks, friction, animosity, perpetual war and a tense border between two neighbors of nearly 2,000 miles. If we continue to ignore it then it will eventually be the crisis that starts a 4th and possibly nuclear war between the two neighbors. A war that neither the neighborhood nor the world can afford.

Pakistan Should Celebrate Gandhi’s Life, Legacy and Contributions

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was born 141 years ago today on October 2, 1869, is a revered figure in India as well as in many countries around the world for his peaceful civil disobedience techniques that succeeded in granting India its independence from Britain. He is also credited by Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights leader, as an inspiration in using similar peaceful protests to change unjust laws against blacks and other minorities in the United States. These protests and opposition eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 being passed granting all Americans of every ethnicity equal freedoms and protection in the eyes of the law.

Gandhi’s birthday, October 2nd, is celebrated by the United Nations as International Day of Non-Violence. He is an admired figure in India where his contributions for the freedom of his countrymen is celebrated on stamps, currency, and folklore. Gandhi is also appreciated in many other countries outside the Indian subcontinent. Statues of him are found in such disparate places like New York’s Union Square, Gandhi Square in Moscow, the Johannesburg city center in South Africa, and even as far away as Waikiki Hawaii where a statue to the leader stands in Kapiolani Park in Honolulu.  

Yet in Pakistan, a country that also benefitted from Gandhi’s movement for independence, he is vilified and not thought of highly. Many in Pakistan blame Gandhi for his failing to prevent the deaths of thousands of Muslims during the religious violence the precipitated the independence of both countries. In many Pakistani books he is depicted as a villain; however few people know that he died because of his great favour for Pakistan and that he was seen by right wing Hindu groups as someone who was concerned with the appeasement of the Muslims of India.

India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had refused to give Pakistan their share of the money that was due to them after partition. But Gandhi went on a fast till death to protest against this injustice against the newly created Pakistani state and this pressure led to Nehru’s agreeing to pay the money so direly needed by the new Muslim nation.

He was assassinated by a young Hindu fanatical, Nathuram Godse, who felt that M.K. Gandhi was more of a hindrance to India than an asset. Godse, like many fanatical right wing Hindus felt that Gandhi was solely responsible for the partition of India into a country for Hindus and one country for the Muslims and he felt that he was a traitor to other Hindus.

Sadly, this man who ultimately gave his life in the cause of others is not very appreciated in Pakistan and neither are his contributions for freedom and independence from the British colonizers taught to today’s school children. In a country rife with violence, intolerance and instability, many Pakistanis can learn a great deal in the lessons of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence preached by Mahatma, the great soul. He would be the perfect anti-Taliban in today’s Pakistan, a country inflamed by animosity and hatred between all ethnic and religious groups. His ideas of tolerance and harmony with others would go a long way against the barbaric views of the Taliban, the enemies of man.

His belief that violence was not a solution towards any objective would benefit today’s Pakistani society if his message was given importance and taught at an early age. His reasoning towards peace and nonviolence lead him to once say that “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”  In today’s chaotic and violent Pakistan, there is a lot that my fellow Pakistanis can learn from this man and how he lived his life with humility, simplicity and non-violence as well as towards his service of others. More people inside Pakistan should be taught about Gandhi as he is as much responsible for Pakistan’s independence from Britain as was Jinnah, the founder of the country.

-Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

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