mcgillianaire: (Default)
For about the next four weeks, depending on the episode, five excerpts of this fine book read by the author himself, will be available to listen anywhere in the world. Each episode is a delightfully compact fourteen minutes, so there's no excuse to miss out on any of them. Apparently, it was originally broadcast in 2010, repeated in 2011 and again in 2012, but I seemed to have missed them all. I guess it doesn't help that all these broadcasts, including this one, have been on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

I've blogged one of my favourite quotes from the book. I bought it many years ago but unfortunately I never finished it. Then I lent it to an Irish lass who was just getting into the sport and had quite taken to the longer forms of the game. She kept it.
mcgillianaire: (Default)


Some time ago, I picked up this gem of a second-hand coat-pocket-sized book at my local market for the magical price of £1.25, a steal from the original RRP of £8.99 for a 2007 publication. Packed within it are 128 pages, including over 100 photographs of notable inn signs, and short insights to the stories behind them. The ideal companion to the history-loving, trivia-obsessed tipple-quenching Londoner. Can you think of anyone...?

Here are some of my favourites:

The Assembly House: (Kentish Town Road NW5)
The name refers to the fact that travellers gathered here before making their journey to the north across Hampstead Heath hoping that as a group they would avoid being attacked by highwaymen.

The Barley Mow: (Dorset Street W1)
Dates back to 1791 claiming to be the 'oldest pub in Marylebone', and it probably did serve farmers who came to the village of Marylebone from what was then countryside surrounding London. Many of its original features are intact including small snugs and a private bar. The name is more often attached to country pubs as a 'mow' is a stack and as barley is an ingredient of beer, the barley mow sign merely indicated that beer was sold in the house.

The Black Friar: (Queen Victoria Street EC4)
This pub, built in 1878, remodelled by H. Fuller Clark 1903-05, and refurbished in the early twentieth century, is a miraculous survival of art nouveau decoration. The area takes its name from the Dominican friary, which was situated here from the thirteenth century until its dissolution in 1536. The friars, founded by St Dominic in 1216, were known as the Black Friars from the colour of their robes. The trial of Catherine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII took place in the Blackfriars Hall. The whole facade and interior of the pub is ornate with friars imbibing drink or having other connections with beer. The vaulted back room was added after the First World War to provide extra seating space.

The Blind Beggar: (Whitechapel Road E1)
The Blind Beggar was Henry, son of Simon de Montfort who was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265. Henry was left for dead but escaped by assuming the guise of a beggar. The sign shows him accompanied by a nobleman's daughter who is said to have married him in the east of London. The event was recorded in a play, The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, first performed in 1659. General Booth of the Salvation Army 'opened fire' in the pub with his first sermon in 1865. The pub was also the site of the murder of George Connell by the rival gangster Ronnie Kray in March 1966. Connell greeted Kray with the words, 'Well, look who's here' before being shot through the forehead.

The Cannon: (Cannon Street EC4)
The sign shows a trooper by the sign of a cannon, which he is about to fire. Though the name is taken from the street, Cannon Street was once Candelewrithstreet, where candlewrights had their shops.

Cat & Mutton: (Broadway Market E8)
This is a splendid Victorian pub with a sign showing a cat running away on hind legs waving a leg of mutton in its right paw being chased by a furious butcher. There has been a pub on this site since at least 1680 when the building stood on the Porters' Path, a drovers' road leading to Smithfield Market. John Rocque's map of 1745 identifies it as the Leg of Mutton and it has also been known as the Shoulder of Mutton.

The Dublin Castle: (Parkway NW1)
The pub shows a castle purporting to be that in Dublin. The name dates from the time when the main railway line to the North West from Euston was being driven through Camden Town and Chalk Farm. Navvies from all parts of the British Isles dug the line, but this often led to violence between the national groups. To try to stop the fighting separate pubs were built in the Camden area. The Dublin Castle was the base of the Irish navvies, the Windsor Castle served the English, the Edinboro Castle the Scottish and the Pembroke the Welsh. As the pubs were placed far apart this strategy seems to have kept the peace.

The Flask: (Flask Walk NW3)
Dates back to 1663. The sign shows a thirsty soldier drinking from his flask. The pub was originally called the Thatched House then the Lower Flask. There was an Upper Flask, which has now been demolished. Mineral waters, which were discovered in the vicinity, were exploited for their presumed medicinal qualities and flasks of this mineral water could be bought at the pub. The present building dates from a rebuilding of 1874 intended to serve the local workers and at one time had separate bars dividing the gentry from the working class.

The Hand & Shears: (Middle Street EC3)
The pub stands on the site of a twelfth-century alehouse which served the monks and guests of St Bartholomew's Priory. The sign, which is the guild sign of the Merchant Tailors' Co., commemorates their role in the Smithfield Fair or St Bartholomew's Fair held at Michaelmas every September and one of the largest in London. The officials of the company checked the cloth to ensure that the cloth was sold with the right measure. The Lord Mayor opened the fair, first recorded in 1133, by cutting the first piece of cloth, which seems to have given rise to the tradition of cutting a piece of tape to open an event. The last Cloth Fair was held in 1855. The pub claims to have provided refreshment to those who wished to watch the prisoners leave Newgate Prison for their execution at Tyburn.

The Jerusalem Tavern: (Britton Street EC1)
This is a small building dating back to 1720, through having the sign of the head of St John on a platter, has reference to the Knights Templar who protected pilgrims on their way to and from the Holy Land. The Templars were suppressed in 1314 and their duties were taken over by the Knights Hospitallers, the Knights of the St John of Jerusalem, whose priory was close by.
mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)
Amartya Sen is arguably India's greatest living public intellectual. In 1998 he won the Nobel Prize in Economics1. His award was a matter of great pride for us Indians. But it wasn't until dad/I bought a copy of his 2005 book, The Argumentative Indian, that we became aware of just how knowledgeable Sen was about India itself, its history and its culture. We just assumed he was a dry financial-economist and another one of those foreign-based Indians, whose connection to the motherland merely consisted of his long-forgotten heritage and obvious Sanskrit-based/Hindu name. How mistaken we were. When I first read The Argumentative Indian about 7-8 years ago, I concluded that it should also be read by every other Indian, and ideally perhaps even by the world at large. Here was a text I had been looking for all along that put the IN back into India, at a time when it seemed like only Western Civilization had triumphed over all others in its rich and ancient dialectic tradition.

Ever since I first read the book my admiration for Sen has grown leaps and bounds. His essays on comparing and contrasting Gandhi and Tagore's patriotism/nationalism were my particular favourites back then. And each time I returned to Muscat, I promised to pack the book along with all my stuff, but for some reason or another I didn't manage it until my latest journey back. It is utterly fascinating how re-reading any book (like this one) with the benefit of added knowledge and experience, brings into focus passages which I probably previously glossed over, and placed into the shade others.

My only regret is not securing a ticket via the lottery to attend Sen's free lecture at the LSE last summer. Anyone who has listened to him recently will only be too aware, how difficult it has become to understand anything he says, but the sheer fact of being in his presence would've ticked-off a long-standing gap in my social CV. Indeed it appears as though I missed another free lecture of his at the LSE just a couple weeks ago. Hopefully he will be back again soon.

Below I have copied an excerpt from the Preface which I think sums up the general tone of Sen's text and provides the reader with an introductory sample of India's (largely-forgotten/ignored?) rich dialectic tradition.

1 Although not one of the Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, it is identified with them, and prizes are announced with and awarded at the same ceremony. The Prize in Economics (as it is referred to by the Nobel Foundation) was established in 1968 and endowed by Sweden's central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank, on the occasion of the bank's 300th anniversary. (Source: Wikipedia)



Preface x-xii

Even though more than 80 per cent of Indians may be Hindu, the country has a very large Muslim population (the third largest among all the countries in the world - larger than the entire British and French populations put together), and a great many followers of other faiths: Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Parsees and others.

However, even after noting the need for integration and for a multicultural perspective, it has to be accepted that these old books and narratives have had an enormous influence on Indian literature and thought. They have deeply influenced literary and philosophical writings on the one hand, and folk traditions of storytelling and critical dialectics on the other. The difficulty does not lie in the importance of the Vedas or the Ramayana, but in the understanding of their role in Indian culture. When the Muslim Pathan rulers of Bengal arranged for making good Bengali translations of the Sanskrit Mahabharata and Ramayana in the fourteenth-century (on which see Essay 3), their enthusiasm for the ancient Indian epics reflected their love of culture, rather than any conversion to Hinduism.* It would be as difficult to ignore their general importance in Indian culture (on some allegedly 'secular' ground) as it would be to insist on viewing them through the narrow prism of a particularly raw version of Hindu religiosity.

The Vedas may be full of hymns and religious invocations, but they also tell stories, speculate about the world and - true to the argumentative propensity already in view - ask difficult questions. A basic doubt concerns the very creation of the world: did someone make it, was it a spontaneous emergence, and is there a God who knows what really happened? As is discussed in Essay 1, the Rigveda goes on to express radical doubts on these issues: 'Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? ... perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not - the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows - or perhaps he does not know.' These doubts from the second millennium BCE would recur again and again in India's long argumentative history, along with a great many other questions about epistemology and ethics (as is discussed in Essay 1). They survive side by side with intense religious beliefs and deeply respectful faith and devotion.

Similarly, the adherents of Hindu politics - especially those who are given to vandalizing places of worship of other religions - may take Rama to be divine, but in much of the Ramayana, Rama is treated primarily as a hero - a great 'epic hero' - with many good qualities and some weaknesses, including a tendency to harbour suspicions about his wife Sita's faithfulness. A pundit who gets considerable space in the Ramayana, called Javali, not only does not treat Rama as God, he calls his actions 'foolish' ('especially for', as Javali puts it, 'an intelligent and wise man'). Before he is persuaded to withdraw his allegations, Javali gets time enough in the Ramayana to explain in detail that 'there is no after-world, nor any religious practice for attaining that', and that 'the injunctions about the worship of gods, sacrifice, gifts and penance have been laid down in the sastras [scriptures] by clever people, just to rule over [other] people.'** The problem with invoking the Ramayana to propogate a reductionist account of Hindu religiosity lies in the way the epic is deployed for this purpose - as a document of supernatural veracity, rather than as 'a marvellous parable' (as Rabindranath Tagore describes it) and a widely enjoyed part of India's cultural heritage.

The roots of scepticism in India go back a long way, and it would be hard to understand the history of Indian culture if scepticism were to be jettisoned. Indeed, the resilient reach of the tradition of dialectics can be felt throughout Indian history, even as conflicts and wars have led to much violence. Given the simultaneous presence of dialogic encounters and bloody battles in India's past, the tendency to concentrate only on the latter would miss something of real significance.

It is indeed important to understand the long tradition of accepted heterodoxy in India. In resisting the attempts by the Hindutva activists to capture ancient India as their home ground (and to see it as the unique cradle of Indian civilization), it is not enough to point out that India has many other sources of culture as well. It is necessary also to see how much heterodoxy there has been in Indian thoughts and beliefs from very early days. Not only did Buddhists, Jains, agnostics and atheists compete with each other and with adherents of what we now call Hinduism (a much later term) in the India of the first millennium BCE, but also the dominant religion in India was Buddhism for nearly a thousand years. The Chinese in the first millennium CE standardly referred to India as 'the Buddhist kingdom' (the far-reaching effects of the Buddhist connections between the two largest countries in the world are discussed in Essay 8). Ancient India cannot be fitted into the narrow box where the Hindutva activists want to incarcerate it.

* As is also discussed in Essay 3, the first translation of the Upanishads - the most philosophical part of the Vedic Hindu literature - that caught the attention of European intellectuals was the Persian translation produced in the seventeenth century by the Moghal prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son (and legitimate heir) of Emperor Shah Jahan and of Mumtaz Mahal (the beautiful queen on whose tomb the Taj Mahal would be built). Dara was killed by his more sectarian brother, Aurangzeb, to seize the Moghal throne.

** See Essays 1 and 3 for fuller discussion of these and other examples of ancient scepticism and dialogic combats.
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
Regular readers will know of my love for etymology. Now my favourite radio station has chosen a recently published book that describes itself as A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language, as its Book of the Week. Starting today, extracts will be read from an abridged version till Friday by one of my favourite comedians, Hugh Dennis. Pure heaven!

LINKS:
The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language [Amazon UK]
Inky Fool Blog
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
When copyrights were first created in 1709, it protected creative works for 14 years with the option to extend that by another 14 if the author was still alive. Over time the length of the copyright period was extended to: 42 years in 1842, or the life of the author plus seven years; to 50 years in 1911 and to life plus 70 years in 1996 for a "literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work", while sound recordings were protected for 50 years. That was until two days ago when the European Commission extended the copyright term on sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. Such extensions are bad for innovation. The legal safeguards were introduced to offer an incentive to create, but instead the current regime makes a mockery of that original purpose by working as an active disincentive. Indeed, a copyright period that extends beyond the life of the author is clearly not an incentive to create, it's a mechanism for publishers and record companies to boost revenues, often long after the author has died. In many cases, the publishers and record companies are merely the latest owners of the author's copyright, having invested nothing into the creative process that went into the work in the first place. Yet thanks to their deep pockets and our ridiculous copyright law regime, they're able to stifle creative innovation. For example, in America it's well known that copyright extensions have tended to happen whenever Disney is about to lose the exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse. And the way things are going it's not hard to imagine that eventually, the most powerful publishers and record companies will extend copyright periods to an indefinite limit until they last forever. It's not too late to join the fight against it!
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)

Click on picture for link to book on Amazon UK.

There are several reasons why I fell in love with the game of cricket and this book is one of them. It was probably the first dedicated book about cricket that I ever bought and I remember the occasion clearly. My dad's favourite bookshop in the UK was Dillon's on Gower Street in Central London, now a branch of Waterstones. It felt massive then and even today it's the largest academic bookstore in Europe! I used to enjoy going to Dillon's on our biennial visits to the UK while growing up in Oman. On my first-ever visit there in the summer of 1992 (when I was eight) I bought this book. I wasn't a huge fan of cricket yet but I was slowly getting into it. For better or for worse, this book hooked me for life. I spent hours poring through every one of its 256 pages, the prose about the game's history and the tables of statistics detailing every record worth knowing.

Pakistan were touring England that summer and people who followed that series will remember it well. I know we were in town when Aamir Sohail scored a double century, at Edgbaston if memory serves. And I think he scored 205, possibly not-out. But the series made headlines for all the wrong reasons, what with ball-tampering allegations against the Pakistanis and what not. That was probably the first Test series that I had ever followed. Two years earlier I had been aware of India's tour of England and even bought my first-ever plastic cricket set during a trip to Snowdonia in Wales with some family friends, who also bought a set for themselves. But I know I didn't follow that series. I have a vague memory of watching part of a Test on the same family friend's TV, then going out into the driveway with their two boys and trying to emulate the players with our new cricket sets. Don't think we broke any car windows but our dads did break the bank to catch some action at Lord's. They also went to Wimbledon and caught some Centre Court action. So much for taking their boys along!

The emphasis in this book was obviously on Test cricket and though I probably wasn't aware of who he was at the time, it should come as no surprise that it was compiled by Bill Frindall. When I tried searching for the book (just out of plain curiosity) before I started on this entry, his name just popped out of nowhere. I couldn't remember the name of the book nor who had written it, but merely by recalling the image of the book in my mind, the first name that my memory bank associated with it was the Bearded Wonder. Lo and behold, it was by Frindall. I'm sure it's still stored somewhere in our house in Oman but I wish I had it in front of me right now!

(1992 was probably the year I fell in love with the game. You can read about another memorable formative cricketing experience from the same year that I posted about in March 2005).
mcgillianaire: (Default)


I'm not Piers Morgan's biggest fan but smug little Louise Mensch MP (nee Bagshawe) should've apologised for abusing parliamentary privilege. Mixing Tory good looks with a sexy intellect, she's the ultimate femme fatale.



Ironic that I shared this video just a couple days ago...
mcgillianaire: (Default)
Have any of you read the Matthew Shardlake Series by British historian/solicitor C J Sansom set in Tudor London? A friend of mine got the middle three books for Christmas (I think) and lent me one of them. Absolutely loving it but I decided to buy the first book titled Dissolution so that I could read them in order. I haven't read a novel in years but I'm confident of breaking the rut with this lot. And hopefully it'll inspire me enough to read others too.
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)
"But not every politician is a cricket-lover. When I was Prime Minister Cabinet met on Thursday mornings, at the same time as Test matches began. In those days Cabinet debated policy and took decisions, so the meeting stretched on until lunch-time. From time to time folded messages would be brought in to me by the Duty Clerk. I would read them before passing them to Robin Butler, the Cabinet Secretary, a descendant of the great Victorian cricketer Richard Daft, and from him they would cross the table to the Chancellor, and later President of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, Ken Clarke. Grimaces or smiles would follow. These notes drove my Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, who sat on my left, to distraction. Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Chancellor ... was sterling crashing? Was there a crisis? A ministerial resignation? No: they were the Test scores: disbelievingly, Michael filched the notes from my blotter for the Heseltine Papers."
~ More Than a Game: The Story of Cricket's Early Years by John Major, page 11/12 ~

I thought I'd shared this before but either I didn't or I failed to tag it properly. Either way, it's worth a second read. For what it's worth, the ex-PM (and Ken Clarke) are probably the only Tories I don't find nauseating.
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)
"I remember how I refused a pressing invitation from Signor Mussolini to see him in the early days of March, 1936. Many of Britain's leading statesmen, who spoke harshly of the fascist Duce in later years when Italy became a belligerent, referred to him tenderly and admiringly in those days, and praised his regime and methods.

Two years later, in the summer before Munich, I was invited on behalf of the Nazi government, to visit Germany, an invitation to which was added the remark that they knew my opposition to nazism and yet they wanted me to see Germany for myself. I could go as their guest or privately, in my own name or incognito, as I desired, and I would have perfect freedom to go where I liked. Again I declined with thanks. Instead I went to Czechoslovakia, that 'far-away country' about which England's then Prime Minister knew so little.

Before Munich I met some of the members of the British Cabinet and other prominent politicians of England, and ventured to express my anti-fascist and anti-nazi views before them. I found that my views were not welcomed and I was told that there were many other considerations to be borne in mind."

~ The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru, pages 18 and 19 ~

Nehru wrote this book over a period of five months in 1944 while imprisoned in Ahmednagar Fort between 1942 and 1946, following his participation in the Quit India movement. Thousands of his fellow Indian National Congress members were jailed by the British during the War.
mcgillianaire: (Samuel Johnson)
Got any tips, ideas, solutions? I'm fed up of reading too slow. There are so many books I want to get through the next few months.
mcgillianaire: (Australia & NZ)
An Aussie author describes European fiction as "dry" and "academic in a cheap, shitey way". I don't do fiction, but those who do, is it true?
mcgillianaire: (iPhone)
Typical. A day after posting about Kindle, I discover its Apple rival: iBooks, not to be mistaken for its discontinued iBook laptop range. It released about a month ago and it appears decent. There seems to be a larger collection of free books than Kindle (thanks to the Gutenberg Project), but I'd have to verify that properly. So far I've downloaded a whole bunch of free classics including: Tolstoy's War & Peace, Kipling's Jungle Book and Bronté's Wuthering Heights. And it comes with a free copy of Winnie-the-Pooh! Will I ever buy a real book again?
mcgillianaire: (RSS Reading Icon)
Can I just say, WOW! How did I overlook it for so long?! I downloaded the iPhone app eons ago but kept putting it off. Eventually I forgot about it. Then a few weeks ago I read about how Amazon were selling more ebooks on Kindle than actual books themselves. Even that didn't motivate me to immediately look it up. But a couple days ago I was browsing through Amazon and I don't know why, but I clicked on the Kindle link. And bloody hell. I wish I'd followed my usual predatory instinct for adopting new technologies a lot earlier. Their books are CHEAP*, like cheaper than books normally cost on Amazon itself and more importantly, they're easy to read on the iPhone. And you don't have to read them on an iDevice. I never realised Amazon sold their own Kindle reading device. Check it out if you haven't already. It's rad!

* For instance, this book's hardcover RRP is £30. On Amazon it costs £18 and the paperback £15. But the Kindle eBook? Just £8!
mcgillianaire: (Statue of Liberty)
Just finished listening to a fascinating radio discussion on the subject of "Entitlement". Here's the blurb from the Beeb's Programme Page:
    "When did what we desire become what we feel we deserve? In an age when foreign holidays have become routine and over 25,000 public sector workers earn £100K a year and more, we tackle this mood of relentless entitlement with Heather Brooke, whose tireless use of the Freedom of Information Act helped to break the MPs expenses scandal; stand up Simon Evans, whose routine includes a description of his accent as exotic 'and that's because it is educated'; and Naomi Alderman whose first novel Disobedience won the Orange Award for Young Writers and who feels our sense of entitlement should be replaced by a purer feeling of gratitude."
Ever since I first heard about Heather Brooke during last year's expenses scandal, I have been extremely fascinated by her contribution to showing up the lack of transparency in British democracy. That it took an American-born journalist (of Liverpudlian parents) to shake up the system did not surprise me in the least. As she has pointed out several times in the past and in the aforementioned radio programme, kids in America are brought up (and ingrained) to believe that they are entitled or have a right to know how their taxes are spent. But in the UK as she discovered upon moving here at the age of twenty, there is a sense of deference in which the public usually accepts that those in power know what's best for us. To which the presenter of the show made a good point, that while in America the founding fathers were able to start from first principles when establishing the constitution, no such thing has happened over here. Moreover it would be fair to say that modern British democracy is largely a muddled result of piecemeal changes to a system dating back three-hundred twenty years to the Glorious Revolution! And even that was not a revolution in the sense of starting from scratch as resulted from American independence.

I'd definitely recommend listening to the half-hour programme which'll remain available on the BBC Radio Four website until 17 June - regardless of where you live. Unlike the Beeb's TV programming which is only available to those resident in these parts (except for some BBC News stuff), radio programmes are available everywhere. However if you are unable to listen to it or for whatever reason would like to download a copy of it instead, click here. People like Heather Brooke are good for society because they inject vitality into democracy. Her second and latest book hit the shelves in April and is titled, The Silent State: Secrets, Surveillance and the Myth of British Democracy. I've already ordered a copy for my summer reading. And if that's not enough, you can watch her BBC HARDtalk interview from 2 April here.
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)
Dear Friend Hitler. That's the name of an upcoming Bollywood movie directed by Rakesh Ranjan Kumar. It's set in the last days of the Third Reich. But taking Herr Kumar to task over his assertion that the Führer had a "love for India", and his producer's statement that "if we should thank anybody for Indian freedom, it should be Hitler", is London-based historian Alex von Tunzelmann. In 2007 she authored her first book, Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire. She's right, most Indians are ignorant about the Holocaust.

Meawhile, India's "censuswallahs" (or census people) have begun their task to determine if the country's population is actually 1.18 billion as estimated. The British introduced the census to the Raj in 1872 and it has been performed every decade since then without fail. This will be its biggest exercise yet. In 2001 the official population was 1,028,610,328. That means in the past decade we've probably added the equivalent of 4 Australias, 1.5 United Kingdoms, a Phillipines or 0.3 US of As. The population count involves 2.3 million "enumerators" travelling to more than 630,000 villages and over 5,000 cities. But it hasn't escaped criticism by some for its inclusion of controversial questions about caste for the first time since 1931. And there are also issues about the way in which India measures levels of poverty.

In case you missed it, the recently re-elected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa concluded a recent visit to New Delhi by signing agreements on aid, infrastructure and loans. The deals are aimed at countering the growing influence and threat posed by China in the new "Great Game" with India for primacy in the Indian Ocean. A new Indian consulate will open in the southern city of Hambantota, where Chinese contractors are constructing a vast deep water port largely financed by their government's lending arm, the Export-Import bank. The Chinese are also financing and constructing ports in Burma and Pakistan, and have proposed to build one in Bangladesh, forming a chain of the so-called "string of pearls" encircling the Indian subcontinent. Beijing is also building a major road network north of Colombo and lending £140 million to build a second international airport in the south of the island. In March, the Sri Lankan government said China was "supplying more than half of all the construction and development loans it was receiving". And then there's the roads, oil and gas pipeline being built in Burma (to the aforementioned port), the multi-billion dollar infrastructural projects in Pakistan and recent infrastructural offers to Nepal. You can understand why India is worried and rattled, but to complicate matters further, Rajapaksa's visit triggered protests by a section of India's 60 million+ Tamil population. They blame Rajapaksa for the "high levels of civilian casualties" in the final days of the civil war against the Tamil Tiger separatists last year. The Indian government is stuck between a rock and a hard place in a game China will win.

And finally for the health conscious amongst us, a new Indian government body has been "tasked with protecting the country's rich heritage of medicinal and medical philosophy". It's a response to companies, organisations and people in the West claiming to invent "new" yoga practices from ones which the Indian government contend are in fact rehashed versions of centuries old practices. The campaign has already secured major victories that have forced European companies to reverse patents on the "use of extract of melon, ginger, cumin, turmeric and onions" for a range of health products. In each case Indian government officials were "able to comb the new digital library to submit carefully translated excerpts from texts ranging from 19th century medical text books to 5th century manuals of traditional ayurvedic medicine to support their claims". Only a matter of time then before we take matters to their logical conclusion and patent the number 0.
mcgillianaire: (Old Bailey)
Barring the jarring American accents for this Agatha Cristie short story (and later play) set in London, it was a delightful courtroom drama.

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