“Delhi in 2022” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

It’s advisable not to breathe outside air in Delhi. I know people whose lungs and hearts were damaged due to breathing the Delhi air. If you are sick or elderly, you may not be able to survive outside the home. The urban air database released by the World Health Organization reported that Delhi has exceeded the maximum PM10 limit by almost 10-times at 198 μg/m3.

On arriving in Delhi, I immediately hopped in my assigned car and went directly to my hotel. According to many reports, Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. Delhi’s sky is always covered with a toxic, throat-burning cloud sending people to emergency rooms and prompting officials to declare public health emergencies and close schools for days.

The roads in Delhi are smooth and beautiful. However, traffic is another story, The drivers don’t follow any rules. It’s a jungle out there where survival is the name of the game. You will face oncoming traffic in one-way lanes. People jump out in front of the car out of nowhere just like deer crossing the roads in the U.S.

Delhi roads and expressways have many lanes, but lanes have no relevance. Cars are overpopulated like people are. I found people driving the wrong way on expressways. Vendors and bulls roam freely on the expressways. They can jump in front of your car from nowhere. The expressways are shared by horse buggies, auto-rickshaws, and bikes. Cars and trucks overtake each other from any direction maintaining as little as 8 inches distance from each other. It’s a thrill to ride a vehicle in Delhi. It’s not for the faint of heart. It usually takes 90 minutes to cover a distance of 15 miles.

The buildings are not visible to the eyes due to fog and pollution. Eunuchs are everywhere dressed in woman’s attire. The eunuchs knock on car doors. People roll down their windows to give them alms and take blessings from them. It’s a big business, therefore, some unemployed youth dress like eunuchs to earn money.

Delhi is quite full of wannabes. Name dropping. Imported cars. 2kg gold studded brides. Loud DJs. Competition and comparison. I visited nice resorts and restaurants for group dinners. They are lavish with rich interiors. People in Delhi have money. They don’t mind spending up to INR (Indian Rupees) 50,000 ($650 US) for a family dinner. People in Greater Delhi including Gurugram and Noida live in skyscrapers. Their units are very posh and equipped with all kinds of modern amenities including workstations. It’s common to have bathrooms and big-screen TVs in every room.

Stray dogs and the poor have nowhere to go. They roam the streets in search of work and money and sleep in empty buses or on the street. They are basically disposables. Their life has no value. India’s biggest export is manpower. The Indian cities are full to the rim with people. The cream of the crop exodus to mostly Great Britain, North America, and the Emirates where they, usually, become very successful.

“The world is not thy friend nor the world’s law: The world affords no law to make thee rich;
Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.” -Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet).

Commentary: “A Reversal of Fortune” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Commentary: “A Reversal of Fortune” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Rishi Sunak of the Conservative party was just elected the youngest prime minister of Great Britain in the last 200 years today (24 October 2022). He is the first ethnic and Hindu person to be the premier of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Sunak has a deep Indian connection. His parents were of Indian origin and his wife, Akshata Murthy is the daughter of N. R. Narayana Murthy, a founder of the Indian multi-national IT company Infosys and a multi-billionaire. Mrs. Akshata Murthy holds a 0.93% stake in Infosys, making her one of the wealthiest women in Britain.

Being born in pre-independent India, it is surreal for me to realize that a Hindu of Indian origin will now lead the Britannia. What a great contrast to the pre-independent era when dogs and Indians were not allowed to enter certain places in their own country. The Britishers plundered the riches of India for 250 years and didn’t give any recognition to 2.5 million Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War fighting for the Allies.

Winston Churchill who is considered one of the greatest Englishmen of all time had this to say about India and the Indians instead of expressing his gratitude:

“Indians are a beastly people with a beastly religion”

“Gandhi is a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir.”

Shakespeare (an English man} wrote the following lines that are fitting for folks like Winston Churchill,

” Blow, blow, thou winter wind,

Thou art not so unkind

As man’s ingratitude;”

Fortunately, there is a reversal of fate now. If you care about history, Britain ruled India through the East India Company. The East India Company, which once owned India, is now owned by an Indian entrepreneur named Sanjiv Mehta. India’s economy is now bigger than Britain’s. Here is the latest ranking:

1. United States

2. China

3. Japan

4. Germany

5. India

6. United Kingdom

Indians are now the second biggest employers of Britons, second only to the United States. The Tatas (a business conglomerate of India) have become the UK’s second-highest foreign employer now. The Tatas also own the Jaguar brand. Overall, the Indians are responsible for almost one-fifth of all British jobs saved and created by foreigners in the country. There are more Indians among the highest number of property owners in London than the English themselves, according to a recent report.

That reminds me of Gita’s quotes:

“The divine qualities lead to liberation, while the demoniac qualities are the cause for a continuing destiny of bondage.” (Bhagwat Gita Chapter 16, Verse 5).

I wish all the best to Great Britain in the future.

Current Affairs: “The Women of Iran” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

When we talk about Iran (old Persia) we must understand that they are not Arabs and they follow a branch of Islam (Sia) different than the Arabs who belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The Persians don’t speak Arabic. Their language is Persian which is a very rich language. Unlike the Arabs, the Iranians don’t belong to tribes. It may come as a surprise to many that 22.2% of Iranians identify themselves as non-religious; 8.8% identify themselves as atheists and 7.1% as spiritual. Not only that, Islamic laws for women in Iran do not reflect the cultural norms, values, and spiritual beliefs of the majority, especially women.

In ancient Persian society “women could own land and conduct business, receive equal pay, travel freely on their own, and in the case of royal women, hold their own council meetings on policy.” King Cyrus (r. c. 550-530 BCE) established the Persian paradigm of freedom of religion and expression in his empire, providing a level of autonomy to women of every class. In ancient Iran, women could travel on their own, the king’s mother, wife, and daughters had also their own entourage, and staff to attend to their needs, and were given places of honor at banquets.” (Parsa, Fariba, March 3, 2021, In the Face of Islamic Law Iranian Women Are Reappropriating Ancient Persian Culture, The Middle East Institute (MEI)).

Coming to the current perspective, a massive wave of protests has erupted all over Iran after the tragic death of an Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police on September 17, 2022, for not wearing a hijab in public properly. While in custody, she died of a head injury. Just a note that this kind of uprising by women is unheard of in the Arab world (with some exceptions in Lebanon).

In Iran, the presence of forces such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has, until now, made similar large-scale protests hard to achieve. Indeed, the regime has clung to power despite growing anti-regime sentiment and demonstrations in the last few years. Nevertheless, the current wave of protests has actually prompted a change in rhetoric on the part of Iran’s conservative leaders, including President Ebrahim Raisi who talked about the necessity of changing the way of working and giving people more opportunities for the right to protest and criticize.

This time the Iranian women’s protest is different from previous recent protests inasmuch as the current protests represent a geographically, ethnically, and economically diverse cross-section of Iranian society. Women, estimated to number more than 40 million in Iran, along with Iran’s youth population are at the forefront of the protests, which support a vast network of popular groups and political clusters inside and outside Iran. These protests also represent a turning point due to the political, economic, and social nature of the protestors’ slogans, including “Woman, Life, Freedom,” “We Don’t Want the Islamic Republic,”” I Will Kill, I Will Kill, Those Who Killed My Sister,” “Death to the Dictator,” “We are all Mahsa, We Are All in This Fight Together.”

The economic crisis, public protests, and internal conflicts within the Iranian ruling class are ominous signs for the present Islamic regime. Of course, it is not yet a given that this new wave of protest, though different, will immediately alter the political system through revolution or radical change. Although it is possible that the government of Iran may purge the protest by using punitive majors, the old spirit of the Persian women has reemerged.

Commentary: “New India” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Commentary: “New India” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

“Today’s era is not one for war,” said India’s Prime Minister Modi to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their face-to-face meeting at the Central Asian summit in Uzbekistan last week despite its dependence on cheap oil from Russia. This was unprecedented as India has traditionally been considered as inconsequential on the world stage by the superpowers. Now, both the USA and Russia want to woo India in their camps. This shows India’s emergence as a superpower on the world stage.

So far, the rise of China has been the biggest story of the 21st century. While China is marred by its stumbling property market and global fears about inflation, the emergence of India, as a potential new economic and political superpower is the new headline around the globe.

The UK has just been overtaken by India as the world’s fifth biggest economy. The nation of 1.4 billion people is on track to move into third place behind the US and China by 2030, according to economists. Move aside Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos, India’s Gautam Adani is now the second richest person in the world. India’s Adani and Mukesh Ambani conglomerates are giving everyone a run for their money.

India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 13.8% in the second quarter of this year. Now that pandemic controls are lifted and manufacturing and service sectors are booming and as India is benefitting from economic liberalization in the private sector, it’s all set to replace China as the hub of global manufacturing.

“India has the added benefit of having a large, well-educated, English-speaking middle-class, helping the country to develop world-class IT and pharmaceutical sectors. It also has strong consumer demand, which accounts for about 55% of the economy compared with less than 40% in China.” (Bloomberg, September 16, 2022).

In addition to the above, Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi’s market reforms, which have included cutting corporation tax from 35% to 25% and opening up India to more foreign investment, have helped the growth of the Indian economy tremendously.

India’s own internal demand is strong due to its consumer strength. The normalization of activities post-Covid as well as an increase in government spending, particularly in infrastructure investment, is helping the growth further. Recently consumer consumption has risen in double digits and investment is accelerating. India’s current economic growth has improved its standing on the world’s political stage. As a result, many nations are moving to forge better relationships with India.

India with its rise has definitely changed the global order. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the second half of the 21st century will be an Indian century.

Wither the Republican Party? Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

The Republican party is split between two factions. One believes in the basic ideologies of the Grand Old Party which consist of belief in smaller government, fiscal conservatism, strong national defense, individual liberties and responsibilities and tolerance, inclusiveness, and optimism. The other faction consists of those whom Hillary Clinton referred to as the deplorable. They are the far-right extremists who think that true American patriots have to resort to violence to save the country. They are the ones who led the January 6, 2021 incursion into the Capitol. President Trump is their assumed leader. The far-right extremism did not work its way to the heart of the Republican Party until the nomination and 2016 election of Trump.

Many moderate Republicans are pondering running as independents. Though Liz Cheney, hasn’t indicated that she plans to take an independent route yet if her standing among GOP voters worsens or if party leaders continue to push her aside, the pressure to leave the party and run as an independent may be her only option. According to Gallup, the share of Americans who identify as independents has surged. Fed up with the current two-party system, Americans are looking for a third option. The moderate Republicans taking the independent route may form a third party which will provide a good alternative for those who are tired of the two-party system.

The stress and strain of this conflict are very obvious inasmuch as the Republicans who once were sure to flip both the houses in the 2022 mid-term elections are now doubtful about even getting a majority in the House of Representatives has already given up hope of flipping the Senate. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, said the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell were “now at each other’s throats” was imperiling the political outlook for Republicans. “I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been,” Mr. Graham said.

There is another possibility. According to the latest report, Trump’s grip on the Republican party is weakening and he may consider splitting from the Republican party and forming a party of his own. This is a distinct possibility as a Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that 46 percent of Trump voters would leave the party in favor of a Trump-created third party. If that happens, the Republican party may be saved. That may be good riddance, after all.

“Costco Is Open Again for Free Lunch” by Musafir

Do you know that COSTCO is open for free lunch again? With more and more Americans getting vaccinated, the country is starting to look ahead to a new normal. Costco is offering freeloaders to sample free snacks that can be turned into a fabulous gourmet lunch with some skills. If you feel that you didn’t have a complete fulfilling lunch by sampling the goodies, you are not doing it right.

I usually feast on several samples of mash potatoes, humus, Oscar Myers’ bacon, salami and white fish (Michigan’s specialty), bruschetta, and an assortment of cheeses as those items meet my dietary requirements. It’s possible that all those things may not be available every day, but you can still design a gourmet treat for yourself with four or five items only. After all, you are having a free lunch. And don’t forget the desserts. I usually prefer Lindor chocolate truffles and red-velvet mini-cakes. In the worst case, you can still sample cheesecake.

Costco doesn’t set a limit on how many rounds one can make to free food stalls. You can visit the samples as many times as your stomach desires. Though Costco management gladly allows customers to eat free samples as many times as they prefer, it becomes embarrassing for a self-respecting person like me to look like a free-loader. I have a solution for that too. By this time everyone owns free facemasks. That’s my preferred way to avoid embarrassment. I use a different facemask every time I make a new round along the free sample stands. That way, the food stall attendants, probably, don’t recognize me.

Here are the best times to go to Costco for sampling free treats. Usually, Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to score the most free food. Shoppers usually fill in their carts on Saturdays and Sundays, so there is less competition for free food samples on Mondays and Tuesdays. Should you go on a weekend, the best time to go is before 10 am or 11 am before the weekend rush hits. If you are a late riser like me, the best time to go is between 1 pm and 2 pm because all consignments are in by that time giving you more options to choose from. In case you want to beat the lunch rush, my experience tells me that 3 pm or 4 pm is a good time to sample food.

Many times, I take my bachelor friends from abroad who are here on an H1B visa to Costco for match-making and obtaining a Green Card. Plenty of American-born girls frequent Costco. It provides a good place for them to have a cost-free lunch date and a road to stay in America for good. Costco doesn’t mind that. More customers generate more sales for them, anyway.

Working around all those tempting food is a good inflation beater. Don’t believe me? Try grocery shopping, if you are not a Costco freeloader. You may thank me later for this great consumer advice. Bye for now!

Obituary: “Olivia Newton-John” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Obituary: “Olivia Newton-John” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Olivia Newton-John, a singer I admired since 1974, died on August 8, 2022, after a courageous fight with cancer at the age of 73. She came to the USA in the same year as I. She was almost my age.

I first watched her on Merv Griffin’s show where she sang, “If you love me let me know, if you don’t let me go.” Apart from looking simple and shy, she had a scintillating voice. I became her fan right then. There are good singers and there are great ones. A good singer can carry a tune, and might even make it as a professional. A great singer is someone who can make feel love or hope or loss or anger that the person is conveying. Olivia Newton-John was one of them.

I don’t know much about music, but I can tell a great piece when I hear one. In the case of Olivia Newton-John, all her songs were great without any exception. And who can forget her performance in the musical “Grease.” I don’t know anyone who hasn’t watched the movie at least twice. Many folks have watched the Newton-Travolta starred magnum-opus twenty times. Newton-John plays Sandy, an innocent Australian ex-pat who moves to the same school as her summer fling Danny (played by John Travolta). Together they give thrilling performances with her ability as a musical storyteller, able to express so much simply through the sound of her voice. The film’s centerpiece was her song, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”.

Her songs, “Honestly I Love you, Have You Never Been Mellow, Don’ Stop Believin, “Magic,” “You Are the One I Want,” “Please Mr. Please,” “Xanadu,”” Let Me Be There,” will resonate in my ears as long as I live.

As the world reflects on her death, she will be remembered in many ways: she was a wife, a mother, an advocate for breast cancer charities and environmental causes, a much-loved actor, and one of the 20th century’s best-selling recording artists. Let’s hope, though, that her legacy simply as a vocalist also never vanishes from memory: Olivia Newton-John was a one-of-a-kind singer, and she shone her voice’s great light on everything she lent it to.

May be an image of 2 people and people standing


Short Essay” “Feeling Good Is Not Bad” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’

Feeling good is not bad as this enables us the freedom to feel the pleasure of emotion, spirit, and contentment in our brief and potent life. I am recovering from major surgery. This helps me in healing myself physically and mentally. Thus, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, and self-denial.

On top of a tough recovery, I was also living in an age of immense interlocking crises, from climate to pandemics to wars. It almost felt impossible that happiness and satisfaction would ever be a part of my remaining life until I met some wonderful people who showed me the light at the end of the tunnel.

I met Sharron (not the real name) who was a home-health-care nurse during the first eight weeks of my recovery. Sharron was always cheerful and asked me to think positively. She told me to enjoy the present and the future which, according to her, was going to be brighter. I asked Sharron about her personal life. She was divorced from an abusive husband and was taking care of her autistic teen-aged son all by herself. She couldn’t work a full-time job due to the condition of her child. Because she worked limited hours as a home health nurse, she just made barely enough money to take care of the household but she never pitied her circumstances and held her head high.

And here I was who went to the best hospital for my surgery and could afford home-health care, feeling eager for recovery and feeling pessimistic. Many of us, like me, are in a pattern of behaviors and practices that do not enhance our future, and it is past time to alter our entire thinking and environment. I can afford to worry about climate change, the polarization of America, the war in Ukraine, America’s foreign policy, Biden or Trump winning in 2024 again, biased news on cable channels, abortion, transgenders competing with regular girls in sports, border crisis, possible invasion of China into Taiwan and chaos in Iraq and Sri Lanka. During all that, I never thought about folks like Sharron who are less resourceful than us.

I now notice and feel with guilt authentic contentment in people who have committed deeply to their own spiritual happiness, which gives them a long view of life and a grounding of peace in what is. I have witnessed happiness that seemed both performative and authentic in communities of the Nordic nations that seem to be quite happy with their plight.

I also remembered that my life has not always been comfortable. I struggled with anxiety attacks during my youth. I didn’t have enough money to take care of myself and my wife, so I immigrated to America. I struggled for jobs here and finished my master’s while taking care of my wife and two children on a shoestring. Though I was lucky to have a job, I was always under the threat of layoff adding to my anxiety and insecurity. I survived through all that. Now that I am reaping the benefit of my golden years. I am reminded of Swamy Vivekanand’s words:

“Comfort is no test of truth. Truth is often far from being comfortable.”

I also know that many of us experience flashes of joy throughout our lives, and if we are lucky, we get brief periods of respite, vacation, or retirement. But overall, we are not content. In all, we are not satisfied with what we experience and accumulate. As a general state of affairs, we choose to suffer unnecessarily. In the end, we become what we practice. Feeling good is not bad at all.

Book Review: “Happy-Go-Lucky”

Book Review: “Happy-Go-Lucky”

Author: David Sedaris

Publisher: First published byLittle Brown and Company in 2022 (272 pages)

Happy-Go-LuckyHappy-Go-Lucky written by David Sedaris is a collection of 18 different essays. Most of these essays were already published in The New Yorker and that’s how I got the familiarity with his name. I must admit, however, that I never got to read anyone of his essays before.

Sedaris covers a variety of topics in this book; from gun safety lessons to interactions with family members, learning French, telling jokes, and dealing with his father’s passing. Some of the essays recall events that happened many years ago, while others focus on more recent pandemic times. There isn’t generally much connection between essays, and really it seems like they could be read in any order.

His anecdotal stories, reminiscing about his life and family, will simply touch the heart of every reader. He has the capacity to speak about the unspeakable, and he makes it tolerable and funny. He allows the reader to laugh at ideas that are not funny at first, the pandemic, dying, and lying, and as he explores those topics. He makes even the most difficult ideas to discuss, palatable. Even his simplest stories have secondary subtle inferences that take us deeper into ideas about the way we live and interact.

Sedaris’ writing style is a combination of conversational, matter-of-fact, and witty. He examines his relationship with Hugh, his partner of decades, with his sisters and his friends, and then with his father and mother, and the reader can’t help but be reminded of their own similar moments of joy or despair with their friends and family.

It is an enjoyable read as his essays are windows into his thoughts as he lives his life; often dealing with issues that many people will be familiar with, but likely from a different perspective than most people have. Overall, I liked the book; although I didn’t feel anything extraordinary about it. -Reviewed by Musafir