Khakee, The Bihar Chapter on Netflix – Serial Review

Khakee is a 7 episode docu-series based on “Bihar Diaries” by Amit Lodha, an (Indian Police Service) IPS officer who got his first assignment in Bihar during the 1990s. The docu series currently streaming on #Netflix, centers around true events that transpired during the starting phase of IPS Amit Lodha’s career, in Bihar. Written by Neeraj Pandey and directed by Bhav Dhulia, while shining a light on the criminal activities in Bihar, the series also focuses primarily on one of India’s most wanted criminals from Ashok Mahto’s gang, Pintu Mahto, referred to as Chandan Mahto.  Actors Karan Tacker as Amit Lodha and Avinash Tiwary as Chandan Mahto play an intense cat and mouse game of strategy, fear and ruthlessness and keep the audience riveted.

When Chandan Mahto was abused by one of the corrupt public leaders (a common occurrence at the time), he was filled with rage and determination. His story thus begins – कहते हैं साधु और शैतान दोनो का जन्म दो बार होता है। उस रोज चंदन महतो का दूसरा जन्म हुआ।  Chandan Mahto joined with the rival of the guy who insulted him and committed himself fully to a no-holds-bar life of crime. Soon he began gaining notoriety, after killing Rajo Singh, a sitting Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) and other killings of the rival gang. After being nabbed by the Police, Mahto arranged for a fire to break out in the prison, killed several cops on duty, and managed an escape following a planned prison breakout. 

During 1990s and prior to that, Bihar considered one of the most backward states in India, was ruled by goons, thugs, criminal gangs, corrupt public leaders and inept police officers.  Mahtos belonged to a lower caste and initially waged a war against and killed several upper caste Brahmins, but later their ruthlessness extended to anyone standing in their way. 

During Mahto gang’s reign of terror, from 1998 to 2006, under sharp shooter Chandan’s leadership, the criminal gang is believed to have claimed the lives of over 200 people, including MP, Singh, MLA, Aruna Devi, several police officers, and even a child as young as six.  Chandan was wanted in 30+ pending cases of murder and abduction, but always eluded the police. 

Lodha was a young officer, passionate about making a difference, committed to leading with integrity, brilliant and armed with engineering and IPS degrees. But there were important lessons he had to learn. Initially Lodha found it challenging to get a grip on the situation at hand and also dealt with transfers. आईपीएस अमित लोढ़ा का ट्रांसफर और ट्रांसफॉर्मेशन साथ साथ चलता रहा और दो साल उन्होंने पटना में बिताये। पटना, एक काल्पनिक, बेचेन और बेपरवाह शहर। ये शहर जितना ऐतिहासिक है उतना ही ज्यादा बदनाम है जहां अपराध, हत्या, डकैती वगेरे चीज़े रोज होती थी। ये घटनाए सत्ता पक्ष के लिए अप्रासंगिक हो सकती है, विपक्ष के लिए ये था मुद्दा। कौन सत्ता पर आये, पुलिस के लिए ये चुनौती का मामला था. और जनता के लिए? भगवान की मर्जी। Amit Lodha’s transfer and transformation moved together and he spent couple of years in Patna. Patna, a city that was mythic, restless and uncaring. This historic city was also gaining fast reputation for kidnappings, murders, robbery and other crimes. These events may be meaningless to the party in power, were an issue to be raised for the party vying for power, and for police, who came to power meant who got transfer orders and who got to be in charge. And what about people? For people, living and dying was in God’s hands.    

This was the state of affairs in Bihar when under the leadership of Lodha, the police made valiant efforts and eventual gains over the rampant criminality in the state. I have always found India’s history and its twists and turns fascinating. 

By the time India gained independence in 1947, it had been plundered, looted and ruled by foreign invaders and colonized by the British. When the British left, the country was not only divided into India and Pakistan but was thrown into utter chaos which unfolded as one of the worst human disasters in history. India was divided into castes, class, religion, multiple languages, backward traditions, norms, prejudices, archaic rituals and divided into states that literally could not communicate, because majority of the population in each of 25 states when India became of union from 562 princely states, spoke different primary languages. Some of these states were ruled by thugs and gangs who used public officials as their pawns. In the middle of such chaos, Indian leaders set out to put the country on a path of democracy, despite all indications pointing to an impossibility of attaining such a lofty ideal. And yet in such an India, a forward looking constitution pointed the way and there were people committed to making a difference, one village at a time, and gently bringing people out of prejudices, hate, discrimination and disunity, towards unity and inclusion, where country was placed above other divisions. This is a fascinating series about one such story and definitely worth a watch.

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Pepsi, Where’s my Jet? – Serial Review

There is such intense rivalry and competition between PepsiCo and Coca Cola Company that years ago when I was doing training for one of these companies, we were told multiple times via a memo, in person, and through email that we were not to bring any products of the competitor company in the facility, nor throw any such wrappers in the trash. Both companies engaged in multiple intense marketing campaigns to boost their own product lines, especially their flagship colas. The competition became so intense in 1980s and 1990s that it became known as the cola wars.

The rivalry between the companies had escalated so much that both companies made several strategic blunders, presumably in their haste to gain an upper hand over the competitor in key markets, world-wide.  In 1985, during the peak of this rivalry, as Coca-Cola was losing market share to Pepsi, it launched a new formula Coke which became known as “New Coke”. Consumer backlash against the change pressured the company to make a strategic retreat and reinstate old Coke as Coca-Cola Classic. Similarly, in 1992, Pepsi sought to crush Coke in Philippines where Coca-Cola had over 75% of market share. Pepsi launched an aggressive campaign, Pepsi Number Fever, later known as 349 incident. Due to a strategic computing error, the campaign led to riots, deaths and 22,000 people took legal action against PepsiCo. 

Pepsi, Where’s my Jet is a fascinating story of one monumental blunder. I don’t want to give spoilers here. But the incident is well known and often referred to in legal briefs and colleges as part of contract law. In brief, a young 20 year old spotted a loophole in an ad offering to redeem several million Pepsi points to win a fighter jet. This is a saga of how he found an investor, the company brought out their big gun attorneys, the young man ended up hiring an attorney by the name of Michael Avenatti. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the attorney of Story Daniels, an adult porn star and a former stripper who had an affair with Donald Trump and was then sent hush money through Michael Cohen. Her own attorney Michael Avenatti was later found to be involved in fraud and was incarcerated.

This series playfully unpacks the details of a high stakes but in the end, a victimless strategic error that could have had many serious ramifications. Media went into a frenzy over the incident with the corporation trying to use its clout to get the shows to be canceled, when possible and even the Pentagon felt a need to get involved and issue a statement on the incident. False advertising can cause many headaches for an organization and haste can mean big waste not only in lost opportunities, loss of market share and revenues but also loss of trust, lawsuits and more.

The series is currently playing on Netflix.

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The Thanksgiving Play: Review

The Thanksgiving Play Review 

The Thanksgiving Play is currently playing in the Bay Area at City Lights Theater in San Jose. Written by Lariss FastHorse, it is a satirical play centered around attempts of four stage artists played by Sarah Dove, Keenan Flagg, Caitlin Gjerdrum, and Bryan Moriarty, to create, write and produce a play. These artists are attempting to create a perfect play that honors and recognizes Native American Heritage Month and also is an expression of gratitude around Thanksgiving celebration. Directed by Roneet Aliza Rahamim, this production is supported by Producers Jonathan Karpf and Kathleen Zaretsky.

The play explores several themes where questions of what may be morally appropriate collides with historical facts, what may be age appropriate collides with whether or not to omit historical details, political correctness collides with representation of multiple perspectives, and diversity and inclusion collides with who can and cannot speak on behalf of other present or absent.

“This play’s comedy comes from the awkward and cringy actions of four well-meaning white folk who realize the dangers of trying too hard”, Roneet Aliza Rahamim. One character muses, “entire thanksgiving celebration is a fiction to celebrate victory of capitalism over communism”, while another wonders aloud, “we can see color but should we even speak for them (Native Americans)” and yet another one laments, “I am a straight white male and it’s an endless minenfield”. At one point while dividing the work into two teams they fall into the quandary of whether it would be more appropriate to divide on the basis of gender or age or race as they cannot completely avoid it.

Central to the play is the issue of historical accuracy. The national narcissism, commercialization of the celebration, and effective marketing has turned the monumental and heart-breaking historical events of theft and genocide into feel good re-casting of the holidays as a celebration of feasting, family and friends; and of gratitude. 

What better way for a nation to erase the guilt? This performance is about performance activism. A note from the Director says, even theatergoers who watch the play, by seeking to learn along with laughter, make a contribution in the fight against Narive American erasure. It’s a worthy goal to place that responsibility on the audience. However, how does the play tackle that responsibility?

The play does an incredible job in bringing forth the hot button issues that have no clear answers like what constitutes diversity, what does genuine representation and cultural authenticity look like, can we celebrate, even perform, events that pertain to cultures not present, and do we have a right to speak on behalf of those not present. However, it provides no answers, no inspirational conclusion, no thoughtful insights to ruminate over. One leaves with a feeling of unease and perhaps that is the intention.  I would have greatly enjoyed a post-play discussion.  

The play will be running in San Jose, CA until December 18, 2022 and tickets can be obtained at .

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Why #vote?

If I believed in the next life and I am given a choice of where to be born then I’d ask to be born in a country that has voting rights. The biggest blessing that I’m grateful for is that I’m not born in an era of bra burning or hair cutting in public to make a point. I am grateful that I was not born during times when women couldn’t vote here or in a place where women have to risk jail or death if they do not wish to wear a hijab. If I wish to be heard, I can vote.

My vote won’t matter
Of course your vote won’t matter. That is the whole point about democracy where no ONE whimsical person can swing the country in one direction or another (e.g. the way King Henry VIII changed the entire country from catholicism to protestantism on a dime). Democracy is a frustratingly and infuriatingly slow process where results of our actions don’t bear immediate fruits AND most frequently, individual actions will have zero consequences. In fact, that is precisely the reason that even though people have been looking for 20+ years, they still can’t find significant #VoterFraud in any entrenched, resilient democracies. Think about it. If WE lose patience in a democracy, do you believe that criminals have patience and will risk jail and will use a legitimate process for illegal gains that may or may not materialize? Wouldn’t they rather use guns or a hammer? And yet, major transformations occur when more people hope, desire, wish and act.

All this gerrymandering……….
If you vote, you can advocate. Period. There are many advocacy groups that are trying to bring legislative federal ban on partisan and/ or racial gerrymandering by both Democrats and Republicans.

Elections are rigged……
If that is the theory you subscribe to then that is the theory you subscribe to. But what is the solution that you have in mind? Take a hammer? You can break two kneecaps, but that won’t change the direction of a country. Take a gun? You may kill 20 and what will it change for you?. Hang out on Truth Social? That may only get you in a feel-good echo chamber of 200. Participate in an #insurrection? That will get you to participate with 2000 people and risk jail. But if you vote, then surely no one can rig systematically every place, every voting machine, every polling booth. Your vote will count, your voice will be heard IF there are enough of you, IF NOT TODAY then tomorrow.

What am I voting for?
You are not always voting for immediate change to impact your life. You are voting for those who came before you, who did not have a voice, existed in the shadows, not to be seen or heard. We are voting for our ancestors, many of whom risked everything so that future generations will have a shot at decent life, an opportunity to live with liberty and can pursue happiness. We are voting for those who will come after us, so that the struggles of our children will be fewer and blessings more.  

I hate politics, I am an independent, I can’t make up my mind…..
If you can’t make up your mind till the last week, sometimes till the last day of the elections then a comment on your thought process. What bolt of lightning will strike your brain before you enter the polling booth? And that is precisely the problem. You are looking for individual, unconnected points to guide you. Democracy is a system and a process. You need to think systemically and look at the pattern in the entire process of a candidate’s political career. 

We are going to lose…..
I hear so many people in opposing parties feel this sense of doom and gloom. And it’s not only pessimistic thinking, it’s also realistic. Someone is going to lose.  Athletes who participated in the Olympics also likely lost a great deal before they got to big wins. If we lose, we get up the next day, engage fully and play more hard, but also equally fair. 

Democracy mirrors life. In life, we put our best foot forward, desire, hope and when things don’t turn out as we hoped then we shed a few tears and next day get out of bed and resolve to work harder to reach our goals. So also in a democracy. Here, no one will throw us in a gulag for voting, for advocating, for legitimately engaging.

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Travel – Oahu, Hawaii

Travel: Oahu, Hawaii

This was the first trip to Hawaii for me and my fellow travelers. We decided to stick to the island of Oahu as an introduction and contrary to some opinions we got, we decided to not rent a car but stay in Waikiki city center. For us, that turned out to be a great decision.  We took several tours, many of whom arranged pickup very close to our hotel and a few that involved water activities required us to take Uber.

On the very first day after we landed, we went on the longest tour that circled the entire island and stopped at key tourist places. After pickup from the hotel, we passed through the upscale neighborhood of Kahala, we stopped at scenic Hanauma Bay lookout point overlooking amazing views of the bay below. We then stopped at Makapuu lookout and Nuuanu Pali lookout. Both offered amazing views with incredible greenery all around, turquoise waters in the distance and sky high cliffs overlooking the bay. We passed through Mokoli, known among tourists as Chinaman’s hat given the iconic hat that people wear in China when working in rice paddies. Lunch time stop at small quaint town of Haleiwa on the North Shore, offered us an opportunity to eat in a small cafe, taste the local speciality of shaved ice and do some shopping for nick nacks. At the Dole plantation stop, we expected to learn something about pineapple growing etc. and were a bit disappointed as it turned out to be more of a shopping place of all things pineapple. But we took some lovely pictures there and had the best corn on the cob from a food truck parked outside. It was the same at Macadamia nut farm as it turned out to be a shopping stop but with plenty of opportunities to try different flavors of these incredible nuts as well as coffee. We ended up buying many flavors of macadamia nuts and enjoyed some more shopping as well as sweet, fresh coconut water.

On days following, we did several water activities including a glass bottomed boat tour to see marine life, although we saw black turtles and other marine life in the ocean, rather than through the glass. The highlight of the water activities was “extreme parasailing” where we got to sail in tandem about a 1000 feet above water for 7 minutes and enjoy the view before being dunked into the water and then pulled back on the boat. I totally enjoyed it until we got to the beach —- and until we went swimming in the ocean. There is nothing in the world that can compare with swimming for hours and hours in the ocean and ride the waves, back and forth. I feel like a fish and I feel I can stay forever in the ocean.

On one free day, we went to see Bishop Museum. As we entered the museum, a fashionable 85+ year old woman at the entrance told us that if anyone can take a boring subject like taxonomy and make it interesting, it’s Bishop museum and she wasn’t wrong. Taxonomy is the science of finding, organizing, and classifying all living organisms. Hawaii has incredible biodiversity and the scientists are doing a phenomenal job. And yet only 2M+ few species are so far named and cataloged (my favorite being the fascinating tardigrades). By some estimates, there are at least 10M+ species of life on earth. Bishop museum in Oahu is fabulous, with Pacific ocean’s natural history and science sections, Planetarium and gardens. We also visited ISKON temple and enjoyed its isolated, quite space and delicious wholesome vegan lunch.

We skipped luau and instead went for a Sunset dinner and cruise with a show. I have to say that vegetarian dinner was a complete and total disappointment.  It turned out to be two tasteless large pieces of tofu and three pieces of zucchini. The drink was equally boring. As a vegetarian, I love almost all vegetables except zucchini – LOL. The manager refused to exchange our drinks for something tastier. Sunset was gorgeous and show was nice and we took many pictures. At the end, the waitress put macadamia nut ice cream on our table and almost immediately she tried to take it back saying, “oh with vegetarian meals, you will get a cookie”. I immediately grabbed a couple of bowls of ice cream and said, “absolutely not. We are not only going to have this ice cream but you will also bring each one of us an extra ice cream, regardless of what the manager says”. She smiled and left the ice cream. In a few moments, she returned with extra ice cream for all of us and earned a large tip from the happy travelers.

One day we toured USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. This is a solemn memorial marking a resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the Japanese navy that pulled USA into World War II. This led to devastating atomic bombing by the USA of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ultimate Japanese surrender and end of the war, with the loss by Hitler’s army in 1945. We need memorials to not only keep alive the memories of young lives lost but also to learn from history and avoid repeating it. We saw an informative museum and a film.

We visited historic China town and enjoyed watching the murals on the walls and bought lots of tropical fruits, including papayas, mangosteens, pears, grapes, rambutan and more. We enjoyed yummy fruits daily in our hotel room, enjoyed macadamia nut gelato almost every evening and returned with beautiful memories and tons of pictures and with plans to visit other islands, next year.

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Extraordinary Attorney woo – Serial Review

This extraordinarily insightful and brilliant drama with a heart is a must-watch Korean serial with English subtitles, that is winning audiences everywhere. The serial centers around twenty seven year old attorney Woo Young-Woo who graduated at the top of her class and lands as an attorney in a top law firm. At one point, she says, ”I am like a Narwhal lost in a pod of belugas”. She says she is unusual and peculiar and yet her life is valuable and beautiful. There are two peculiar aspects about her. One, she has an impressive photographic memory, something that is extraordinarily rare and enables the individual to have superior autobiographical memory where they can remember almost all of their life experiences in vivid detail. Attorney Woo is also diagnosed at an early age with autism spectrum disorder and she struggles in social interactions.

What brings this serial to life and makes it one of the most memorable and deeply enjoyable is masterful performance by Park Eun-Bin in the role of Woo Young-Woo. For an actor to put life into a complex character like the one she plays and bring to life their journey with opportunities, challenges, hopes and frustrations is incredibly challenging and Eun-Bin has delivered an unrivaled performance that is sure to keep the audience glued to their screens.. 

This is also a very thought-provoking series, written by Moon Ji-Won and directed by Yoo In-Shik. Incredibly well written dialogs, bring heart to a series of challenges that humans deal with ongoingly, for instance, “if you want to communicate, make an effort” and “different doesn’t mean inferior”. Or when young Woo with autism spectrum disorder wants to experience life in its entirety and tells her father, “I would like to get discouraged, I do not want you to intervene, when I am going to get discouraged”. Her concerned father once says he wants to see the young man his daughter likes, in order to ensure he can make her happy, to which Woo insightfully says, “He is nice, he can make me happy. The problem is me. Can I make him happy or make him lonely”? 

Yoo In-Shik’s direction is flawless. Big credit goes to In-Shik for creating the vision and getting the best performance from the entire cast. Kang Tae-Oh as attorney Woo’s colleague then an intrigued friend and later a caring lover, delivers equally riveting performance, at times perplexed as he navigates through the challenging world of autism and at other times just someone who feels on top of the world, in love. Kang Ki-Young in the role of Woo’s boss navigates through similar challenges, in how best to communicate when all communication happens literally and how to get the best out of an employee who is superior in every way and yet may be perceived as inferior. Yoon Kyeong-Ha and Joo Hyun-Young offer their friendship and collegiality as they struggle to keep Woo focused and not veer off on a tangent. 

A final shoutout to Hyun-Soo Cho for amazing subtitle translation from Korean to English. A person with autism often interacts with communication in a literal way and that is challenging enough to show in one language but to then translate it into another one? And indeed the serial also got into a bit of trouble initially when the literal translation of the title from Korean to English appeared as Weird Lawyer Woo Young-Woo. In the drama, Woo uses palindromes or words that can be read the same forward and backwards. But these can’t be translated literally so English palindromes like Kayak, Deed etc. are creatively inserted.  One of Woo’s friends is into telling jokes and riddles like why is the police questioning the thread, because needle sewed the thread. In place of Korean jokes and riddles, creative and funny English riddles are inserted.

This is an incredibly well made and beautiful drama with a heart. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate it a 5. It’s a not-to-miss show, currently streaming on Netflix. Review is written after Season 1.

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How Deception Technology is changing the rules of the game against cyber security attackers 

Tushar Kothari, CEO of Attivo Networks will be speaking with moderator, Naveen Bisht, at TiE Silicon Valley’s #MyStory event on September 13 at 6:30 pm where Kothari will share his inspiring journey as an entrepreneur in the game changing world of Cyber Security and Identity Threat Deception technology. 

The term “game changing” is used frequently in the sometimes over hyped, entrepreneurship world. But as attacker become more creative, fast and increasingly malicious, cyber threats can cause unprecedented levels of damage and cyber deception technology literally changes the rules of the game, gaining an upper edge on the attackers. 

Deception technology actually entices attackers to interact with false IT assets and helps security teams to detect, analyze and defend against advanced threats. These technology solutions deceive attackers with traps and decoys and lures them in with an aim to collect information about their tactics. Until now, most solutions have aimed to minimize damage after the attack. However, deception technology helps improve preventative security controls in real time. 

Kothari says, at Attivo, “we are are a company focused on detecting threats in a network with particular focus on lateral movement and privilege escalation detection and prevention. We have the industry’s best deception fabric, end to end. We can project decoys throughout the network in a very effective way and we have added focus on credential and identity protection. 

Three key pillars of Attivo technology are, to provide visibility to their customers on all credentials and identity from endpoint and active directory throughout infrastructure, help customers reduce the attack surface, by eliminating exposures, and to help protect them  if someone goes after an identity threat. Attivo claims to have the most comprehensive and effective portfolio in this area.

This will undoubtedly be a fascinating discussion. Register free of cost at the link below  and more see more information at .

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Travel: Charleston, SC

Charleston, hotbed of confederacy, first state to seek secession from the Union, is home to sweet and sour, yet rich history and well preserved architecture. Charleston was a major slave trading port and it is believed that of the estimated 400,000 captive Africans brought into North America, nearly 40% arrived at Sullivan’s Island of Charleston. Additionally, between 1680 and 1720, about 40,000 native men, women and children were sold through the port, often to West Indies and other Southern colonies. The planters felt that the Indian slaves were more likely to escape or revolt so they preferred to sell them and use the proceeds to purchase black slaves. Such is the sad history of slavery.  In 2018, the city formally apologized for its role in the American Slave trade after CNN noted that slavery “riddles the history” of Charleston”. Slaves were sold at the arriving ships or at ad hoc gatherings. As per our city tour guide, one of the parking lots we passed by was a prior slave trading post. 

Boone Hall Plantation 

Our visit to Boone Plantation, one of the oldest plantations still in operation, was illuminating. Like a great deal of architecture around Charleston, Boone Plantation is also a historic site. The most informative were the brick slave cabins located along Slave Street which date between 1790 and 1810. Each cabin displayed video presentations along with other artifacts that told the story of former inhabitants’ lives. There was also a colonial style dwelling of former slave owners.Most fascinating was a Gulaghichi presentation. Most slaves brought here were desendents of West African tribes, near Angola region. They developed their own language and customs that was referred to as Gullah culture. Islanders of Georgia were referred to as Gheechee and together they are referred to as GullahGeechee. A presentation on GullahGeechee culture with songs and drums was a highlight of this tour, where for the first time I learned where Kumbaya came from and what it meant.

Charleston Architecture

The high cost of 19th century slaves and their high rate of return resulted in concentration of wealth where about a hundred interrelated families controlled half of the wealth and the lower half of the population had no wealth at all. That means there were amazing private gardens and almost no public parks. On our city tour, we visited some gorgeous Charleston homes that would evoke for many nostalgia for the antebellum South, for Southern charm and Southern hospitality. The tours focused on gorgeous architecture and fine furniture but always, always, at the back of my mind was the reality of life of enslaved labor that made such high living possible for a few privileged people.

Ghost tours and stories

Charleston and Savannah’s ghost tours and stories combine both history and ghoulish lore. Often narrated with dramatic flair and humor, under these ghost stories lie tragedies of human beings who inhabited the region, destruction during many wars fought here, ghoulish practices of enslavement, duels and other traumas .


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Travel: Fort Sumter, South Carolina – a piece of history from the American Civil War

Built on an artificial island, in Charleston, SC, during the War of 1812, Fort Sumter is a tiny island that was meant to protect Charleston from foreign invasion, like the British. Sumter became a point of central focus during the Civil War. 

Charleston, SC was the first state to secede from the United States when the abolition of slavery seemed inevitable. Charleston became a hotbed of rebelliousness and both sides agree the the first shots that sparked the civil war were fired against the Federal Government at Federally held, Fort Sumter. The fort had been cut off from its supply line and Federal army had to surrender. More than 43,000 shells, or 7 million pounds of metal, were hurled at Sumter and although it lay in ruins, neither side had lost a single man due to this battle. 

When the victory for the confederacy seemed imminent, Confederate General Beauregard went in a boat to Fort Sumter and offered Union General Anderson generous terms to surrender that included allowing General Anderson to take all property while leaving and saluting the United States flag as it was lowered. The fort lay in ruins but it was a matter of pride for Charleston and the fort remained with the confederacy. Almost towards the end of the Civil War, after putting up a strong resistance, when Confederate states surrendered then the stalemate in Charleston Harbor came to an end in February of 1865 as Union General William Tecumseh Sherman marched into South Carolina. After the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, Robert Anderson, now a retired Major General, returned to Fort Sumter to raise again the U.S. flag he had lowered in defeat exactly four years before. Confederate sympathizers in Charleston were devastated, but on April 14 a large crowd stood to hear the ceremonies or watched from boats in the Harbor as Sumter was no longer the symbol of the Confederacy, and was now the symbol of the victorious Union. Ironically, the North’s jubilation was cut short with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln that very evening in Washington, D.C.

Our visit was an immersion in sweet, sour history of war within a nation, over what one side considered an issue of survival (albeit on the backs of slaves) and other side deemed it a moral imperative to acknowledge that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and to begin to create conditions for equality. 

After the Civil War, Fort Sumter was restored by the U.S. military and is now a National Historic Site.

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How India managed to become free and establish formidable, secular democracy under conditions of extreme complexity and challenges

Today India celebrates independence day. I want to use the occasion to recall the circumstances under which India attained this hard fought freedom. 

Before 1947, India was ruled by the British and Indian people citizens were relegated to second class status; they suffered great inequity under the British colonizers. And yet the leaders fighting for an independent India never resorted to bribery, greed or succumbed to temptations of easy money. It was the spirit of patriotism that was overflowing in every freedom fighter. All leaders like Gandhiji, Nehruji, Bose, Patelji were united and focused on the singular objective of achieving freedom for the nation.  Today we differentiate between them use them to sow seeds of divisiveness. We forget that these very same leaders stood shoulder to shoulder and achieved our independence. There must have been arguments and debates among the leaders but for the good of the nation, they resolved, compromised and in the end presented a united front. Countries like India and the USA stand out as unshakable democracies precisely because the founding fathers in these countries spoke with unity and created a phenomenal, forward looking constitution that is still providing marvelous guidance on all sorts of issues. India particularly deserves a mention because at the time when India attained independence, there was extreme poverty, low standards of education, more than 15 official languages, more than 32 official dialects, and many religions, sub-sects, diverse attire, rituals and mannerisms among people.  While India was fighting for independence from colonial rule, it wasn’t clear, towards what? Prior to colonial rule, in India, there were many states ruled by kings and queens and princes. So now should India be handed over to the progeny of the kings or will the newly birthing country have the gall and the commitment to  carve a new path towards democracy?

While the princely states were clamoring to go back to their kingdoms, then came another curveball when Jinnah who was until then involved in the freedom movement alongside India’s founding fathers, now at the dawn of independence, made a fresh demand for his own independent country, that would later become Pakistan. The complexities were becoming very apparent to the British and suddenly they were in a big hurry to depart, knowing well that if the entire country gets thrown into the chaos while they are still at the helm then it would drag them into huge disgrace. Even without this level of complexity, there are several countries in the world that have failed to establish and sustain a democracy, after the colonial powers left. It’s not just Pakistan but countries like Kenya, Peru, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia have been thrown into chaos, after the colonizers left. Many people judge and criticize that the freedom fighters did not resist the partition. But it is easy to be critical in hindsight. However, at the time, When Jinnah demanded a separate Pakistan, if it had not been approved by India’s founding fathers, then the whole plan of the British leaving the colonies could have been jeopardized. India’s peace-loving, democracy-minded leaders came together and accepted it. 

However, freedom was still not within easy reach. Yet another complexity and challenge had to be tackled. As the colonizers were leaving in a tearing hurry they did not see through to the process of partition for it to take place in a safe and systematic manner. Even on the dawn of independence, it was not clear where the boundaries of the countries would be. Some states were given the right to choose the country they would join, others were partitioned, the provinces of Assam, Bengal and Punjab were divided in half and even there the boundaries were not clearly drawn. On the morning of 14th and 15th, when people woke up from sleep, many came to know that they wished to be in one country but were in another. On account of people not knowing the boundaries of both countries prior to the partition, at the dawn of independence began the massive movement of people between India and Pakistan. As hundreds of thousands of angry, thirsty, hungry mobs of people gave up their homes and their livelihoods and began walking in both directions, at some point extreme carnage and violence began. Untold numbers of women were raped, countless homes and areas were set on fire, and countless lives were lost. Even at that time the freshly minted leaders of our brand new secular democracy, stayed united and established peace. There was not a single leader who considered taking advantage of the situation for personal goal and sought to provoke the people for personal power. The leaders stood united and cajoled, inspired, scolded, begged and fasted until the violence stopped and inspired people to remain calm and maintain peace, prudence and respect towards each other.

It is easy to fight, whether it’s for our personal freedom or for our rights or to conquer or win over someone or something, whether it’s against an individual, within a family, or for the sake of religion or even for homeland. But establishing peace is not easy because to attain peace, we have to give up something, to give in somewhere, we have to compromise and be willing to lose a little. In India, we have a joint family system where many members of an extended family live together. Some do so, unhappily and out of necessity. But there are many happy and peaceful  joint families. I have often talked with them and it is very illuminating. From the main patriarch or matriarch to children and grand-children, every member is likely to say that often they have to make sacrifices for the sake of others but they do so willingly and in return achieve deep bonding and mutual love and support.

In the middle of such chaos, without even a prior country to go back to, amidst so many challenges and under such complex circumstances, India succeeded in forming a secular democracy that has sustained to date. It is on account of India’s founding fathers who respected each other and stood united to forge a new path for the country. In doing so, sometimes they sacrificed their bodies, sometimes their family life, work life, and sometimes even their principles in favor of the larger goal of establishing secular and sustainable democracy in India and to put the country on the path of greater prosperity and progress. The Indian constitution that came into existence three years after independence also shines a light on how with unity and forethought they created such a forward looking and visionary document that to date it continues to provide guidance and road map. There is tremendous beauty in our diversity. While the current winds of divisiveness are sowing seeds of mistrust and chaos, perhaps we can remember our legacy, the sacrifices of our freedom fighters and the inspiration provided by our founding fathers to move ahead with unity in our diversity. In this day and age, young people often travel to other countries to learn about different cultures and their unique customs. In India, we have the diversity of several countries, all within our borders. Can we dare to hope that we may learn to move forward not by suppressing our diversity but by adorning it, by making it our glory, by celebrating our differences and leveraging them and making our differences, our strength. 

Jai Hind, Jai Bharat, Salam India!!


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