Sava-asana at 7000 ft

Sanskrit for Hinduism (like Arabic for Islam) is dev-bhasha, the language used by denizens of heaven. Unlike Arabic though Sanskrit is a dying language here on earth. However, there is one silver lining- Sanskrit words are finding wide currency in the west as related to Yoga asanas (postures). Since the denizens of the west are very sincere (and are happy to mix earthy commercialism with spiritual advancement), they will learn all the correct words (and hopefully the proper pronunciation as well). Yay!!!

You could be forgiven for dismissing
ski yoga as the latest gimmick for people with more money than sense (and there
are certainly plenty of those here).

Holidays that combine skiing and yoga
classes are nothing new, but doing yoga on skis takes the concept a step
further. The Swiss yoga piste, also
known as the chill-out slope, was dreamed up by Sabrina Nussbaum, a local ski
instructor and yoga teacher.
She noticed that her fellow ski instructors
were taking up yoga after suffering knee and back injuries, and thought that
everyone could benefit from skiing in a more “yogic” way.

Sabrina has selected four particularly
scenic sites at which to do eight
asanas (yoga postures). The slope is a red run and the sites themselves are
off-piste, so beginners would struggle to reach them, but really the postures
can be done anywhere on the mountain. You can pick up a “Yoga on
Snow” leaflet at the surrounding ski lifts and follow the routine for

started, appropriately, with a
tadasana (mountain pose).
dropped my poles, stood up straight and closed my eyes. Sabrina told me to
relax my feet and be aware of the mountain beneath them. It may have been the
fresh air and sunshine, or the altitude, but I immediately felt relaxed and
happy. After each pose, we skied for a while, applying the principles of the
asana to the skiing…..We stopped on top of an easy run to work on prana, or life force. This involved covering my ears and concentrating on my breathing. We
skied down with our ears still covered, focusing on breathing calmly – quite
difficult when you can’t hear other skiers whizzing up behind you.


Ceasefire alert!!

I would say that congratulations are a bit premature however Nawaz Sharif must be doing something right.

Good job sir-ji (Dr Omar may want to comment on the efficacy of the triangulation exercise whereby Mian Sahib manages to put both Captain Sahib and the Honorable Mullah on the wrong foot. He must be a very shrewd operator. Also this was kind of predicted by Prof Minai here on BP. Good show all around.)

The Pakistani Taliban has announced
that the group will observe a one-month ceasefire as part of efforts to
negotiate a peace deal with the government, throwing new life into a foundering
peace process.

Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a
statement emailed to reporters on Saturday that the top leadership of the
militant group has instructed all of its units to comply with the ceasefire.

Pakistan has initiated talks with the government with sincerity and for good
purpose,” Shahid said, referring to the group by its formal name.

The leader of the government’s
negotiating team, Irfan Siddiqui, praised the ceasefire announcement while speaking
on Pakistan’s Geo Television, saying the government will review any written
document from the Taliban about it. “Today,
we are seeing a big breakthrough,” Sadiqui said.



Shia/Sunni = Catholic/Protestant

…and the (Christian) West must act as mediators in the S/S conflict. This is the message from His Excellency Aga Khan. 

SQS (sincere question set): Where are the majority of (15 million) Ismailis situated (100K in Canada)? How are they theologically different from Shias (apart from being led by Aga Khan)? They were expelled from Uganda at the same time as the Gujarati Hindu community so is this basically a bania sect like Bohras? Was Abdus Salam an Ismaili (there is confusion that he may be an Ahmadi)? How about Jinnah- was he originally Ismaili?

The spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims Thursday
compared a conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims to Ireland, urging the West
to engage both branches of Islam.

Speaking to both houses of Canada’s
parliament, the Aga Khan said tensions between the two denominations “have
increased massively in scope and intensity recently and have been further
exacerbated by external interventions.” “In Pakistan, Malaysia, Iraq, Syria,
Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan it is becoming a disaster,” he

help bring an end to the strife in these countries, the Aga Khan said “it is
important for (the West) to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices.”

“To be oblivious to this reality would
be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between
Catholics and Protestants. Or trying to resolve the civil war in Ireland
without engaging both Christian communities.”

is home to approximately 100,000 Ismaili Muslims, who found refuge in this
country after being expelled by Ugandan President Idi Amin in 1972.



Crimean War part II

It has been a long time since the last Crimean war (1850s) which was (for the main) triggered by France and Britain in order to prevent Russia from gaining power in the Mediterranean (ref. wiki). The muslim Ottoman empire was in the alliance against the orthodox christian Russian empire. There was the memorable Charge of the Light Brigade. There were the Caucasian campaigns, the Baltic and even the Pacific ones. Russia lost the war and the rights to keep a naval fleet at Sevastopol.

Since history repeats in funny ways, Russia is standing up for Syria and now will send troops to Crimea to protect Russian naval interests. The EU, USA and the sovereign state of Ukraine is in opposition. The muslim Tatars in Crimea are expected to resist the Russian transplants (Tatars were evicted from Crimea by force during the Soviet era). These are truly good times to fight another war.

Russia’s upper house of parliament on
Saturday approved a proposal by President Vladimir Putin to deploy Russian
armed forces in Ukraine’s Crimea region. The Federation Council voted
overwhelmingly to back a proposal to use “the armed forces of the Russian
Federation on the territory of Ukraine until the normalisation of the
socio-political situation in that country.” It said the decision took
effect immediately.

Ukraine accused Russia of sending thousands of extra troops to Crimea, largely
hostile to the Kiev government which emerged from the overthrow of
president Viktor Yanukovich last weekend. It placed its military in
the area on high alert.



The Taj is Indian..or is it?

Symbols are very important, often they help define a nation. The students make a convincing case that the Taj is “Pakistani,” they make an even more convincing case that studying history is important.

Yet, in a class of undergraduate students at one of Pakistan’s best
universities, precisely this question was animatedly debated during a session
on Pakistan’s history, with some students stating that the Taj was part of
Pakistan’s history, and others implying that it was ‘Pakistani’.
These students had all taken a course
in Pakistan Studies prior to starting their undergraduate degree…

Pakistani history has been a contentious topic where different sets of
narratives give differing accounts of what Pakistani history is and, hence, how
one imagines Pakistan. Given the eventual partition of British India and the
creation of Pakistan, some historians have claimed that Pakistan was ‘created’
in 712 AD when an Arab invader came to what is now part of Pakistan.

Hence, if the history of Pakistan is the history of Muslims in India, and
just as Mohammad bin Qasim can become part of a certain legacy and heritage and
can be caricatured as the ‘first Pakistani’, so too can the Taj as ‘being’
Pakistani. Pakistani history and a history of Pakistan’s people and their land,
become two conflicting narratives.

As a consequence, ‘Pakistani’ history, ignores the history of the people who
live in what was Pakistan (West and East) and what is left of it. Mohenjodaro,
Harappa, and the history of the people
of Pakistan is dominated by a north Indian (largely Hindustani) Muslim history,
and that too only of kings and their courts.

In the most ingenious and creative recent book to be published on Pakistan’s
emergence as a political idea, historian Faisal
in his Muslim Zion raises
some fascinating and sophisticated arguments which complicate any simplistic
notion of what passes as Pakistani history.

His book is a highly nuanced and multilayered understanding of the ideas
which led to the justification and creation of Pakistan, and while many of
Devji’s conceptualisations need to be contested, for our purposes his statement that Pakistan’s history lies
outside its borders, gives rise to some of the problems of imagining a history
of Pakistan described here, and allows some to claim the Taj Mahal as

Moreover, if this claim that Pakistan’s history lies ‘outside its borders’
is valid, and indeed in many critical ways this is certainly the case, it also
implies, that the country which came into being called Pakistan, in this
hegemonic notion of history, really has no history of its own. The so-called
‘freedom movement’ was fought in a foreign land, the land of the Taj Mahal, not
the land of the people who inherited a country called Pakistan where their
ancestors had lived for millennia.



Dr David

One gun-shy, low-power doctor is standing up against the high-powered National Rifle Association and may even win. Suddenly the second amendment is in danger due to alien beliefs held by people who were (till recently) aliens. First they take away the jobs from deserving natives and now they are after the guns as well.

“Dr Murthy’s record of political activism in support of radical gun
control measures raises significant concerns about his ability to
objectively examine issues pertinent to America’s 100 million firearm
owners and the likelihood that he would use the office of the Surgeon
General to further his preexisting campaign against gun ownership,” the
NRA said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell, seeking to torpedo the Indian-American’s

“Given Dr Murthy’s lengthy history of hostility
towards the right to keep and bear arms, along with his calls for the
full weight of the federal government’s health apparatus to be used to
target lawful gun ownership, there is little reason to believe that he
would not work to further a gun control agenda if confirmed as Surgeon
General. Simply put, the confirmation of Dr Murthy is a prescription for
disaster for America’s gun owners,” the letter said.
Murthy, who is
only 37, was examined closely about his stand on gun control during his
confirmation hearing. He trod carefully on the hot-button, hair-trigger,
issue in a country that has argued itself hoarse on the right to bear
arms enshrined in the Second Amendment.

Senator Paul has indicated he will use procedural maneuvers to put a
hold on Murthy’s nomination. But Democrats say they have enough votes to
overcome the block. In confirmed, Murthy will become the highest
ranking Indian-American official in the U.S administration, not to speak
of the youngest surgeon-general in 150-plus years the office has been
in existence.


Fashion nightmare

The general thumb-rule is whatever makes conservative rule makers unhappy is good for the society. Now under normal conditions I find the burqua offensive (especially when school kids in Std I are forced to wear it). However it seems the waves of modernity cant be stopped, and change when it comes from within (in small increments) is going to be much more durable and resistant to backlash. All this is ..a nice silver lining.

Muslim women in
Aligarh are increasingly using the traditional burqa as a fashion statement,
embellishing it with designer touches. Burqas inspired by English gowns or
those with Chinese collars, are doing brisk business. So are the modern abayas
from Dubai beautified by laces, pipings and pintex design.

These changes may be redefining the garment – observers say some two-piece
burqas have the chutzpah of cholis and the flirty feel of frocks – but the
makeover, expectedly, hasn’t gone down well with the city’s maulanas.
“Women are precious in Islam and the purdah was introduced to protect
them. The new style of wearing fitting burqas, and adding studs and stones to
them attracts attention and emboldens rapists,” says Mufti Shamun Qasmi,
vice president, All India Imaam Council.

Shopkeepers in the city say that demand of the garments is high, despite what
the orthodox voices may say. “Around 60% of my customers come looking for designer
burqas,” says Rehaan, a burqa-seller at the city’s Amir Nisha market.
“They are also viewed as a status symbol since many of the pieces feature
intricate zarkan embroidery. Today, many women are working and they want to
assert their empowerment through these designer abayas.”


Idolatry runs wild

Tamil society led by the Great Man used to take great pride in breaking Ganesha idols  and burning Rama portraits (to symbolize a break with Brahminical hegemony). The Dravida movement was perhaps even more focused on rooting out all Hindu traditions (superstitions) than the communists. Even a few years ago Karunanidhi was calling Hindus thieves.

Now we have this.

The Chief Minister of the state, J Jayalalitha
celebrated her 66th birthday yesterday the 24th February 2014. All over the
state, posters and hoardings of the leader were put up by her enthusiastic
admirers and party workers. One of the posters portrayed the Chief Minister as
Goddess Lakshmi. 
Khushboo landed in trouble recently when she offended a Hindu religious outfit
by wearing a saree with Lord Rama, Krishna and Hanuman printed on it. Also
actor Jai starrer ‘
Saraswathi Sabatham
‘ was in
the fire as the film portrayed God as watching a Kuthu song and being
Last year
when Rajinikanth had a quiet 63rd birthday, one poster put up by a few
overenthusiastic fans had both his fans and the superstar in trouble. The
controversial poster depicted the Superstar standing in a queue to cast his
vote and the Gods Ganesha and Vishnu
standing in the same queue, squeezed among
other people. A religious outfit was outraged by this depiction of Rajinikanth,
and promptly lodged a police complaint.

The same Ganeshas that were being destroyed earlier have now re-incarnated (resuscitated) as Rajnikanth the living God.

As an outsider it appears to me that the symbolic (and not so symbolic) expulsion of Tamil Brahmins has perversely led to the dominant Shudra communities being relaxed about superstitions, image worship and the rest. On top of this you have now Tamil hindus complaining about blasphemy. Karunanidhi is calling Modi a hard worker and a good friend. The whole thing is of course very silly but quite sinister as well.


Brown Pundits