Great Game

Still reading A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. It is fascintating how the super powers at the time were manuvering to carve up a piece of empire for themselves.

I am reading the part about revolution in Salonika by Young Turks.  How a junior officer named Enver, slipped out of Salonika and took to the hills beause he was  afraid that his membership in the secret sociey (CUP/Young Turks. CUP stands for Committee for Union and Progress) by Sultan’s authority. Then another officer followed taking troops and ammunition with him. Sultan sent a troops to catch them and troops joined the rebels. Here is the quote from the book…

“The leaders of the successful uprising at first enjoyed a good enough press in the western world so that in common parlance “Young Turks” came to mean any brash group of young people with dynamic ideads who rebel against an outmodeled leadership”

This part of very interesting because even in Marathi we have “Tarun Turk”. I never knew that there was actual history behind it.

Book also talks about interesting example of negotiations between Young Turks and Germany. Ottoman Empire  was trying hard to get Germany/Britain/France to get them to support the empire against age old threat of Russia but all these great powers were trying to isolate ottoman empire so that its pieces can be devoured by each one of them. When WW I was starting, Turks realized that they could not get german support without helping their war efforts in a substantial way, they promised them their best ship, Sultan Osman,  that they ordered british shipyard to build. There was only little problem with this arrangement, Turks already knew that British had seized Sultan Osman and had no intentions of delivering them to Turk just before the war. Churchil had realized that it would be like shooting themselves in the foot and had ordered that ship should not raise Turkish Flag. This is like the hindi movie where couple of people sell Taj Mahal to somebody else.

This book is about creation of Middle east as we know it today from what was flat desert filled with tribes and ottoman empire. It talks about the “Great Game“. This book talked about how super powers of that time drew lines on the map and created these different countries such as Iraq, Iran, Jorden etc. They are random borders created to fit the needs of the strategy those super powers had to curb each other’s powers. These random lines now jeoparadizes peace in many different ways.

In physics they teach about Stable equilibrium and unstable equilibrium. The way these countries were created, it is natural that they are in constant state of unstable equilibrium where tiniest changes in policies can results in great deal of swings. Interesting I came across another article that talked about another way to look at the same reason. Game will Continue….

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A Peace to End All Peace

I just started reading A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. I have heard lot about this book so far. I have barely read Introudction but I am totally excited about reading this book. Title is based on a quote from Field Marshall Archibald Wavell that says

“After the ‘war to end war’ they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘Peace to end Peace.’ “

I found one good post with some perspective on Procrastination blog

Spartans

Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three
To make a new Thermopylae!


                               —-Lord Byron

Gnostic Gospels Starts…

Just started reading The Gnostic Gospels today. Couple of months ago, while browsing in library, I came across The Lost Gospel and after reading that I am kind of hooked on Early Christianity books. After “The Lost Gospel”, I also read Secret of Judas. Now The Gnostic Gospels will be the third one in the series.  I am not a religious person by any measure but I love reading about religions. There few things that are interesting…

  • How we see Christianity today was very different from how it was 2000 years ago.
  • The way Gnostic gospels talk, they very much sounds like Buddhist/Zen/Hindu philosophy.
  • The way think about god is very much similar to my father talked about God.

I just started reading this so not much to write about. One interesting thing is learned is that word Gnostic comes from Greek word Gnosis which means knowledge. So now word Agnostic makes sense to me. It is also interesting that Greeks distinguish between rational knowledge (Science/Mathematics) and Intuitive knowledge. Gnosis is the term for second. Gnostic essentially believe that knowledge is what needs to be worshipped and knowledge is what will free you. Now the word Buddha in Sanskrit means “One who knows the ultimate knowledge”. Buddha in Sanskrit means Intelligence. Similar to Buddhism, Gnostics ask Christians to understand themselves. 

 I wonder if this is what it means. Now word used for ‘Gospel’ in coptic was evanglion that coptic borrowed from Greek. English word evangelism comes from the same. This was funny for me because we have a title called “Technical Evangelist”. There was this movie few years ago, My Fat Greek Wedding, which had a character who was obsessed about proving that all the words in the world are originated from Greek. It was pretty funny. anyway…. Some of these gospels say things which are as controversial today as they were 2000 years ago.

DaVinci code definitely talks about part of these gospels  where they say Mary Magdalene was loved more than all other disciples. Jesus often used to kiss her on mouth. But there are lot more fundamental things that are different about these gospels than Jesus’s love life. E.g. Gospel of Thomas (Apparently Thomas, full name Judas Thomas, who claims to be twin of Jesus. There were three judas so typically they have extra names to identify which judas. E.g. Judas Iscariot was the one who ‘betrayed’ Christ.) mentions the story about Adam and eve from the perspective of serpent where God does not Adam and eve to eat the fruit because he does not want them to get the knowledge. Cane and Able story also have interesting perspective where they ask why God did not like gift of former, if it was true god then would have do that? I remember a similar thing happened at my native place.

Gospel of Judas is written from perspective of Judas where it claims that Judas did not really betray Jesus but he did what Jesus asked him to do. Jesus says to Judas…

You will exceed all of them because you will sacrifice the man that clothes me

Anyway, this is a fascinating subject and Gnostic Text have lot of sayings attributed to Jesus which are very interesting. They sound very Zen like such as…

If you bring forward what is within you
What is within you will save you.
If you don’t bring forward what is within you
What is within you will destroy you
.”

 What does it mean exactly? Have to think more…

A Short Walk in the Hindu Crush

“A Short Walk in the Hindu Crush” is the title of the chapter in “A. A. Gill is away” where is talks about India. For some reason, though i enjoyed rest of the book so far, i was not sure how i was going to feel when Rapier wit of Gill unleashes on India. Not that I am a nationalist person. First, I am in no position to do so when I have spend last 10 years of my life in a foreign country but other than that, I don’t see how being overly zealous of geographical boundaries is any different than being zealous about religion or color. But all the rationality aside, i was still uncomfortable.

Anyway, as I had expected chapter started about poverty and its perception. Also other than in general western country, viewpoint of British is always interesting after ruling the country for 150 years. Gill captured that attitude by naming it Born Again Sahibs”. He also mentions some of issues that I have heard too such as poverty and as Gill calls it “gastric liquidity”. Some of the things he mentioned are so perfect observations. He talks about Indians being obsessive about personal hygiene but being so dirty when it comes to social hygiene. He talks about “Horn Please” being painted on very truck. Honestly, I have wondered about the same things for year. I don’t know what purpose it suppose to solve. I convinced my self, it was part of the driving culture where horn is just as important as breaks, steering, accelerator and clutch. He also talks about people telling how what great things British brought to India. I remember having similar conversations with my grandpa who worked most of his life in “British Raj”

There were this things and then there was part about Taj. First it was one of the best way I have seen Taj being described and second I felt ashamed that I have yet seen Taj. Here is what A. A. Gill had to say about Taj.

“Everyone should see the Taj once. It is an absolute, there are few absolutes in the world. It is absolutely beautiful, absolutely stunning. Set in the corner of a garden laid out in Arab fashion, but with Victorian confidence and hubris.-replanted by the Victorians line and English country garden, the Taj sits against the sky on the middle banks of a river. Its absolute symmetry, the maths of perfection, is almost painful to contemplate. It is the most complete thing ever built by man and nothing can diminish it. Not the queues, not the crowds, not the kitsch of endless reproduction and familiarity; not the sneers of Noel Coward or the epicurean India Snobs; not the clicking lines of newlyweds waiting to be photographed on Princess Diana’s bench. Nothing can touch it and nothing adds to it; not moonlight, or dawn, or dusk, that’s just weather and light. If you go to India for just one thing, if you go to just one place abroad in your life, it should be the Taj.”

WOW, Apart from being well written, I think if Taj was the girl, she would have agreed to marry Gill for this.
Then he talked about bunch of other cities. He hated New Delhi. He calls it a city without soul like other capital cities such as Canberra and Washington. Then he talks about Bombay and I must say “Bombayboy is officially a fan of Mr Gill”

“I finally found my Kipling connection in Bombay. I adore Bombay, a cross between New York and Gomorrah, the most excitable and walk-able city in the world.”

I am glad we have something in common Mr Gill. In his concluding remarks, Gill says…

“India is a poor place but only in economic terms. On any other scale you care to think of, it is rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Any fool country can have democracy and freedom of speech and a rudimentary social security system when they’ve got the cash but to achieve these things when you don’t is humbling. India is that most miraculous of all modern states, a secular, democratic theocracy. And if we measure wealth in terms of any of the things that really matter-family, spirituality, manners, inquisitiveness, inventiveness, dexterity, culture, history and food–then India would be hosting the next G7 conference and sending charity workers to California. Of all the places you will never get to because of squeamishness, trepidation, laziness and a dodgy bowel, India is by far and away your greatest loss.”

It is surprising the hear comments about India democracy because when my father and I discuss the politics in India, he voices the exact same logic as Gill does. It is amazing to see India democracy survive and flourish over last 60 years in the region it can be seen as an anomaly. My father always says many Indian people are illiterate but they are not stupid. Yes it is not perfect yet but hardly anywhere it is.

Last year one of the admiral of the Indian fleet was fired because of ignoring direct order of democratically elected government. Whatever the admiral could have been seen as an action of the man who is deeply patriotic. But when my brother and I were discussing this incidence, we both thought that as a confirmation that Indian democracy will never succumb to military dictatorship.

To be fair though, India has changed since 1999 when this article was written. I visit India once in two years and every time, I feel the change. It is different in terms of people, culture and everything else that gill mentions above. Bombay, e.g. from being a Vada pav raj, it is Becoming a Burger country. It has also changed a little bit in terms of economy. Middle class in India is much more richer than it was 10 years ago. I am not sure how many things have really changed for really poor but I see dabbawalas talking over cell phone and that definitely was not the case 10 years ago.

Furniture Rearrangement

Was busy last few days with lot of things happening at work. Today is Sunday and spend first half at work. Worked on my review as well some code samples but after that came home. Radha had cooked great lunch with “Khima” and “Fish Cutlets”. Loved it! After lunch, watched a movie called “Calendar girl” it is like Full Monty but with girls. Radha slept 15 minutes in the movie but i watched it (as usual). It was OK 🙂 I thought full monty was funnier. After the movie, spent time on net searching and reading about ancient India. Chandragupta Maurya and Alexander the Great. I have decided to spend next few months reading books on this subject. This started with me just spotting a book on Alexander the Great on KCLS shelve that apparently has been used by Oliver Stone for his movie. Started reading this book and it is fascinating to read about the best general this world has seen. Two things to remember story about Roman Emperor who said I wanted to see Kings not Corpses when he was asked if he wanted to see Ptoelemy’s sarcophagus after seeing Alexander’s in Rome. Other one happened after Persian king “Darious III” offered Alexander a truse in which he would get land till Euphrates and Parmenion (One of the generals of alexander) said “If I were Alexander, I would accept this and win the war without any more bloodshed”. “So would I” replied Alexander “If i were Parmenion”. Looking forward to read when Alexander crosses Indus (BTW is Indus same as Sindhu?) I am not sure. need to find out! Got up in the evening and then started working on rearrangement of furniture in the bed room. Now crib is closer to bed, lets see how that feels 🙂

Russian Wisdom

Instead of saving world everybody would just think about saving themselves and instead of freeing humanity everybody would just think about freeing themselves, they would do so much more for saving world and freeing humanity