Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Hanzala: The Conscience of Palestine






I have been busy at work recently and have not been motivated when I come home to update my blog even though there were a few issues I wanted to write about. I am going to do a little “cheating” and backdate some entries in the next few days. Today’s post is about Naji al-Ali, the Palestinian artist who died on August 29th, 1987 after being shot in London a few weeks before on July 22nd.

Ali was born in Palestine in 1937 but the creation of Israel and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their ancestral homelands meant that in 1948, he was forced to leave for Ain Al-Helwa, a refugee camp in Lebanon.

It was this experience of forced exile as a young boy and growing up in a refugee camp that one witnesses in his creation of the cartoon character Hanzala. Hanzala, which means bitterness, was born homeless, in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon, and quickly became a symbol of the loss, the despair, the courage and the hope of Palestinian refugees everywhere. In all of the hundreds of images in which he is featured, Hanzala’s face is either obscured or turned away from viewers and his hands clasped behind his back. Hanzala it is said, will never show his face until he returns home to Palestine.

In an article on Hanzala, Ali wrote:

"I had friends with whom I shared my work, protests, and prison days until one day they became "tanabel" running businesses and buying stocks. I was worried about myself from turning to a "tanabal" too and being consumed. In the Gulf I gave birth to this child and offered him to the people. He is committed to the people that will cherish him. I drew him as an ugly child, with hedgehock-like hair because the hedgehock uses its hair as a weapon.

Hanzala is not a fat spoilt comfortable child, he is bare footed like the other bare feet from the refugee camps. He is an icon that protects me from wrong and disarray and despite his looks he has a pure heart with a conscience that smells like musk and unbar and for his sake I am ready to kill anyone who intends to harm him. His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection during a phase that this region is undergoing with "solutions" offered by the US and "the system". I made the shape of his hands after the October war when I smelt the scent of developments in Kissinger's briefcase.

Hanzala was born at the age of ten and will always remain ten. At that age I left my country and only when Hanzala returns to Palestine will he grow up and exceed the age of ten. The rules of nature do not apply on him. He is an exception and things will only be natural in his case when he returns to Palestine. The child is a symbolic representation of myself and the group who lives and endures the situation we are all in. I offered him to the readers and called him Hanzala as a symbol of bitterness. In the beginning I offered him as a Palestinian child and with the development of his awareness he had a patriotic and a human outlook."


In another explanation, he stated:


"This child, as you can see is neither beautiful, spoilt, nor even well-fed. He is barefoot like manychildren in refugee camps. He is actually ugly and no woman would wish to have a child like him. However, those who came to know 'Hanzala', as I discovered and later adopted him because he is affectionate, honest, outspoken, and a bum. He is an icon that stands to watch me from slipping. And his hands behind his back are a symbol of rejection of all the present negative tides in our region."


Though he was never aligned to any political party or movement, his art was inherently political and critical of not only the brutal Israeli occupation and its American patrons but also the Arab governments who had let their Palestinian brothers down. His angry, sarcastic cartoons which sometimes bordered on despair won him many enemies but Ali believed his work was part of the fight against injustice and oppression:


"I started to use drawing as a form of political expression while in Lebanese jails. I was detained by the Deuxi'me Bureau (the Lebanese intelligence service) as a result of the measures the Bureau were undertaking to contain political activities in the Palestinian camps during the sixties. I drew on the prison walls and subsequently Ghassan Kanafani, a journalist and publisher of al-Huria magazine – he was assassinated in Beirut in 1971 - saw some of those drawings and encouraged me to continue, and eventually published some of my cartoons."


"Working for al-Safir newspaper in Beirut in 1971 was the best part of my life, and the most productive. There, surrounded by the violence of many army, and finally by the Israeli invasion, I stood facing it all with my pen every day. I never felt fear, failure or despair, and I didn't surrender. I faced armies with cartoons and drawings of flowers, hope and bullets. Yes, hope is essential, always. My work in Beirut made me once again closer to the refugees in the camps, the poor, and the harassed."


"When I was younger I thought I would actually be able to help achieve all our aspirations for independence, unity, justice. Many died for those aspirations and things are only getting worse. That, certainly, can make one; despair. But more than ever, I feel a sense of duty to go on doing what I have to and can do."


Ali was assassinated at the beginning of the first Palestinian Intifada. Twenty years later, images of Hanzala continue to persist throughout Palestine, the Middle East and indeed the world and his legacy remains strong as dozens of artists throughout the region use him as an inspiration. Hanzala will one day return home and turn to face us, smiling.

The official Naji Al-Ali website can be found here, while these (1, 2, 3 and 4) are some interesting sites with articles etc.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Let Your Motto Be Resistance

African-American history and the fight of black Americans for their rights is a subject that is of great interest to me. In addition, I love photography, so it was natural that I thoroughly enjoyed an exhibit I went to see on Saturday at the International Center of Photography entitled Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits. The exhibition explores African-American history and achievements through the medium of photography and included portraits by both famous photographers such as James VanDerZee, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn and Carl Van Vechten and unknown or lesser-known known photographers.

Information about the exhibition can be seen on the ICP website.

I then spent about four hours in Bryant Park talking with a friend about topics ranging from but not limited to racism, black and white America, Barbados and the Caribbean to climate change, genetic engineering and organic food and New York. All in all, an intellectually fulfilling day!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Literacy and Healthcare: Cuba, Venezuela and the USA

Education and healthcare are considered by most countries to be a right and not a privilege. Sadly many developing countries struggle to provide even the most basic of health and education to their citizens due to the fact that they simply cannot fiscally afford to. There are also a few countries rich enough to provide both to their population but don’t view either as a right.

I read an article today which noted that one in four Americans did not read a book last year and it brought to mind another article I read recently about a unique approach to promoting literacy in Venezuela. The programme uses mules to transport books to remote communities which would not normally have access to libraries.

Health care and insurance are major political issues in the US, the world’s richest country, where so many people are unable to afford basic healthcare and one of the news items today concerned a city health department report which states that one in six New Yorkers do not have health insurance. It made me recall an article of a few weeks ago about Cuban trained US doctors.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Of Migratory Birds, Recycling Roma, Palm Oil and Disappearing Deltas

Some interesting articles I came across in the past few weeks and thought I would share:

Article one is about the destruction of ancestral land and rainforest in Western Kalimantan in order to grow palm oil plants. The growing demand for palm oil products in India, China and Europe and which Indonesia is hoping to cash in on is having a negative effect on the native Dayak Kanayan people. I had posted about Borneo, palm oil and the Penan people in a previous post.

The second article is also about environmental degradation, this time in the Indus river delta region in southern Pakistan. Keti Bandar was once a thriving river port but it is now struggling to keep from being submerged and it appears as if it will go the way of another nearby town, Kharo Chhan, which in 1946 used to be part of the mainland but is now an island about 30 minutes’ boat ride from the shore. Significant irrigation infrastructure and over extraction of water are the causes cited by experts for this sad situation- displacement of people, dwindling poultry and livestock, sea intrusion, shortage of drinking water etc.

The third article is about a rare colony of flamingos leaving Camargue, a marshy region in southern France. The birds have nested on an artificial island in the delta of the River Rhone for thirty years but a strike at the local saltworks has meant that no saltwater from the Mediterranean has been pumped into the lagoon in which the island sits. The brine shrimp in the area and its relative safety provide ideal breeding ground for the flamingo. There is however hope for the flamingos as the saltworks and employees seem to be heading to a solution which will include conservation efforts.

Climate change is being blamed for a drop in the numbers of migratory birds visiting Britain each winter and is the subject of the fourth article.

Philosophy and Recycling in Albania is about the Roma community in Albania and their efforts at recycling and reusing scrap. One of the persons mentioned in the article is a chemist whose job is to assess the toxic levels of the country’s dumps but whose real passion is translating the works of Bertrand Russell from English into Albanian.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Of Colonialism, Partition and Legacies




I have an absolute hatred of colonialism and imperialism and I don’t mince my words about this. As far as I am concerned Europe’s imperialism and colonialism were brutal, exploitative, oppressive systems and there was nothing positive about it. There are apologists including from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East who try to point to supposed benefits of European domination such as education systems, infrastructure and governmental structures. The fact is that all those places that the Europeans went to possessed their own way of living, dynamic cultures and systems of governance and the only positives from the experience were felt by Europe who enriched herself at the expense of black and brown people and on their blood, sweat and tears. Obviously there were cronies and traitors who collaborated with the oppressors for a few pieces of silver.

All of this brings me to the date August 15th when the British formally ended their physical colonisation of India and two nations were born through a disastrous partition- India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan celebrated their 60th anniversary of independence on August 14th and 15th respectively.

60 years on, India rivals China and Brazil for the status of new economic power while Pakistan grapples with political unrest and economic stagnation. The central question that remains to this day is whether partition was the correct decision. It is a difficult question to answer.

Oppressed people inevitably rise up to fight their oppressors and it was no different in India. By the end of the 19th century, nationalist movements had started to become stronger and by the beginning of the 20th century were calling for the end of the British presence. The were organised largely along the lines of religion- Hindu and Muslim- with the Congress Party representing the majority Hindu population and the Muslim League representing the minority Muslims. British divide and rule policies which worked so well throughout its empire also reaped much success for them in India and allowed for their dominance.

The 1930s and 1940s saw increased calls by the Muhammad Ali Jinnah led Muslim League for a Muslim state to accompany the exit of the British and this was not helped by the non-reconciliatory position of the Congress Party which further convinced Jinnah and his party that a separate state was the only solution. The end of World War Two and the economic realities of Britain made it clear that the practical move for the British would be to grant India independence. The Labour Party won the 1945 elections and Lord Mountbatten was dispatched to India as the last viceroy in March 1947 with an agenda to transfer power as quickly as possible. The deadline for British withdrawal was brought forward from June 1948 to August 1947 and on August 15th, the British formally ended their rule of India. The months preceding the exit had witnessed all manner of discord, rioting, communal fighting and unrest and this only served to cement the British view that they needed to leave as quickly as possible.

Many historians have argued that this hasty withdrawal was one of the major causes for what happened next- the largest ever migration of people as 10 million Hindus and Muslims made the move into India/ Pakistan. Ironically, the borders of the new states were only announced on August 17th. They had been drawn up by a British lawyer, Cyril Radcliffe, who had no knowledge of local conditions and who used outdated maps and census information. Communities and families were cut into two and estimates put the figure of people killed in the resulting slaughter and riots at one million- a tragic loss of human life.

While both countries inherited ruined economies, poverty, social and economic malaise and instability, in 1947 it was obvious that India had gained much more than Pakistan from the partition. Pakistan was a state made up of two parts separated by India- West Pakistan and East Pakistan- and this logistical nightmare for effective governance would result in East Pakistan becoming independent Bangladesh in 1971 after a brutal civil war in which India intervened on the side of East Pakistan. Pakistan only inherited 17.5% of the colonial government’s financial reserves and by the time the army was paid, there was no funding remaining for economic development. Its economy was mostly agricultural and controlled by feudal elites while 90% of the subcontinent's industry, and taxable income base remained in India, including the largest cities of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. The core of the Muslim League’s support was based in central north India- Utter Pradesh- and as such, those Muslims had to migrate westwards into Pakistan. This meant competition with local populations for access to resources and employment, a recipe for conflict.

The issue of Kashmir also erupted shortly after independence and resulted in a war between the two new states. Kashmir was a princely state with a Muslim population but ruled by a Hindu Maharaja who faced with an uprising at partition fled Kashmir and decided to cede it to India. Pakistani tribals moved into the area and clashed with Indian troops and this intensified into outright war. The war ended in 1948 and a ceasefire came into effect on Dec 31st, 1948. Kashmir was divided into two with the ceasefire line known as the Line of Control demarcating the pseudo-border. The UN Security Council called for a plebiscite in the region to enable the people there to determine their own future. While Pakistan claims that it in principle accepts a plebiscite, India has refused to agree to one. In 1989 an armed insurgency rose up against the Indian presence and it continues to this day. I visited Kashmir in 1999 for a few weeks during my four month trip to India. It is a beautiful place and it is so sad that the wonderful people there have had to live in the midst of political conflict. I am sure if they are given the chance, they would overwhelmingly choose to be an independent nation.

Jinnah’s death, ethnic and religious differences and the inability to agree on a constitution paved the way for a military coup in 1958 and since then Pakistan has mostly been ruled by the army. Indian secularists managed to gain an upper hand, a constitution was ratified and democratic elections were held in 1951, making India the world’s largest democracy. India has however not spared from ethnic and religious conflict and tensions between Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs and Hindus have often turned violent. While India’s economy continues to grow phenomenally, the disparities between rich and poor are extreme and in both India and Pakistan a large proportion of the population live in poverty.

A look at India and Pakistan today makes one wonder if all the bloodshed, suffering and billions of dollars spent on defence were worth it. On the one hand, an undivided Indian subcontinent would have been much more economically viable and definitely so for Pakistan and Bangladesh. It also is rather ironic that in 1947 far more Muslims were left in India than incorporated into the Muslim state. One wonders about the political strength of this combined Muslim body in an undivided India. While it would still be a minority bloc it would be much larger than what it is today. On the other hand, the violence met out to Muslims at different points since independence and most recently in Gujarat in 2004, the rise of Hindu fanaticism, the election of Hindu nationalists who view India solely as a Hindu country to government and events such as the destruction of the Ayodha mosque in 1992 seem to confirm the fears of the Muslim League for Muslims in a majority Hindu India.

It is a complex situation that historians will continue to grapple with and disagree about for years to come. What is most striking though is that while millions of people go hungry every day and lack access to basic health, water and education in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, billions of dollars are spent on arms and weapons.

Monday, 13 August 2007

New York City, Indian Victories, Biomechanics and Left-handedness

I’ve been lazy about writing recently even though there were a number of issues that I had thoughts about. I’ve decided to just do a “digest” today!

New York City

New York City experienced an unforgettable summer in 1977: scorching heat, a crippling July power blackout which saw widespread arson and looting and resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage, a serial killer dubbed the Son of Sam, rising crime and financial crisis.

Fast forward thirty years and there seems to be no improvement. A few inches of rain last week caused total chaos in the city, disrupting the entire transport system for hours. A few weeks ago a manhole cover blew up causing one death and traffic chaos in mid-town Manhattan up until a few days ago. Add to that the huge power outage in Queens last year and the black out that affected the entire North East corridor in 2004. In other words NYC is pretending to be a first world city when in reality it isn’t. The subway system is archaic, nasty, inefficient and expensive, the city streets are dirty and smelly and sidewalks are forever overflowing with garbage bags and stink of dog urine and faeces. The traffic is unbearable and the air polluted. Housing standards are poor unless you are rich and can afford decent accommodation. Similarly if you cannot afford insurance forget about proper health care. Now, don’t get me wrong- I generally like living in NYC because there is so much else to it beyond some of the negatives I have listed. My problem is with those Americans and New Yorkers who act as if their way of life is the only way to live, as if their city/country is the best in the world and who complain incessantly about the minutest of inconveniences they experience when travelling overseas.

Speaking of New York City, Thursday, August 9th marked 10 years since the day Abner Louima was beaten, brutalised and sexually assaulted by NYPD officers. Louima had intervened in a fight between two women and was arrested by police who were summoned. He was beaten up on the way to the police station and then further beaten up and sodomised with a plunge while there. Louima suffered massive internal injuries as a result and several of his teeth were also broken when the plunger was forced into his mouth! When he was finally taken to the hospital, the police alleged he had received them from abnormal homosexual activities- a nurse who doubted the claim raised the alarm. The police tried to cover up but protests and public outrage meant that some of the guilty persons were punished. Some were acquitted because of technicalities! Fox News and one of its right wing ideologues Sean Hannity backed the police and insisted that Louima had sustained his injuries through homosexual activity. The main perpetrator Justin Volpe confessed to sodomising Louima with the help of another officer and changed his plea to guilty during the trial. Fox News still continues to spread its right wing propaganda and lies and 10 years later, black or indeed Muslim men would be foolish to assume that their basic human rights are assured in this city!

Indian Overseas Victory

India won a rare overseas victory and their first in England since 1986 when the last test was drawn. A 1-0 margin may not seem great but to rebound and totally outplay England in the last two matches after fighting to save the Lord’s test is testament to the team unity, belief and spirit in this team that combined youth and experience. The English are as usual whinging! What makes the Indian victory even more gratifying to everyone who dislikes the English team is that it came in the face of sledging and unsportsmanlike behaviour from most of the England players.

Foot and Knee

Therapy for my knee is coming along fine and I finally got rid of the cane over the weekend. I had actually stopped using it for two days in between but had to start back because my limp came back with a vengeance! My foot is still not used to all the walking, weight bearing and work shoes and I have decided to wear semi-casual shoes/loafers and no tie to work in August as there are hardly any meetings going on. If there is a meeting I wear a suit and proper footwear. I was actually becoming worried about my painful foot and went to the podiatrist last week Tuesday. His partner was there and attended to me as he has done the other two times I was there. Basically it is just a matter of my foot getting accustomed to normal usage and until it does so I will feel discomfort. Biomechanics also play a part as some tendons are still tight from lack of use and so other tendons overcompensate and then hurt.

Lefthanders Day

Today is left-handers day- A day for left-handed people to celebrate their left-handedness and raise public awareness about being left-handed. I have no idea if I am right of left-handed. The usual indicator used by society is the hand one writes with so on that basis I would be considered right-handed. However, I can also write with my left hand but having never practised, not very well- not that my writing done with my right hand looks much better! I play all sports with my left hand/foot. There are some things I can do comfortably with both, some with only one, for example, if I am hammering I use my right but if I am chopping with a cutlass I have to use my left, I prefer to use a mouse with my left but I can also use it with my right, I dial and text on my mobile with my left but I dial on my home phone with my right, when I point at something or I react if something is dropped it’s with my left hand, I stir coffee or pots with either and I serve food from pots and bowls with either, I use the remote control in my left and I cannot imagine shifting gears with my right. I always thought that I read magazines and newspapers from back to front because of being taught Arabic and Urdu (Arabic and Urdu script like most Eastern languages go from right to left) from a young age but it seems as if most lefthanders also do this!

Left-handedness is genetic and about 10% of people worldwide are left-handed. One of my four sisters is totally left-handed and cannot do anything with her right. She has a left-handed daughter. The other three are right-handed but one of them has two children that are both left-handed. As for me, I like to think I am non-conformist- physical reaction as an extension of my thought process!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Icons- Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez and KRS-One

I went to one of Central Park’s SummerStage events last Thursday evening featuring Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka, two African-American educators, poets, authors, activists and pioneers of the 1960s Black Arts Movement. It was inspiring to hear them reading from their work and talking about the Black Arts Movement, contemporary African-American culture and other social and political issues. Although both were critical about much of what is happening both domestically in the US and externally, Sanchez came across as eternally optimistic while Baraka appeared cynical and disappointed in the direction black America has taken. I first read about Sanchez and her association with Malcolm X when I was a teenager and have always had the utmost respect for her but I tend to lean towards Baraka’s pessimism. An excellent evening ended with them signing two of their books for me.

On Friday I went to Prospect Park where Celebrate Brooklyn’s evening of conscious rap was headlined by hip hop legend KRS-One, one of the pioneers of socially and politically aware rap music. I have no time for modern hip hop and its sexist, violent message that perpetuates negative stereotypes of blacks in America and tells black Americans that the ideal life centres around guns, “bling bling”, drugs, skimpily dressed bimbos, champagne and limos, so this was refreshing. I think my Public Enemy and Gill Scott-Heron (the real grandfather of political rap) cds will be playing a lot over the next few days!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Emancipation Day

Today, August 1st, is celebrated as Emancipation Day in many parts of the Caribbean. The day that the August 1833 Slavery Abolition Act came into effect for the British Empire. While the slaves were emancipated, under the terms of the Act they were to be indentured to their owners for a further six years to help ease the transition from slavery to free labour. The Act also stipulated that all slaves under the age of six were to be freed and that the slave owners were to be compensated 20 million pounds for the loss of their “property”. The apprenticeship system under which the slaves were to be bonded to their owners until 1840 proved to be a failure and was discontinued two years earlier in 1838.

Freed from bondage, ex-slaves throughout the Caribbean would form free villages and a dynamic peasantry that existed alongside and often in conflict with the plantation system. The abolition of slavery also saw the introduction of first Chinese and then Indian indentured servants to the region by the British Government. From 1838- 1917, approximately half a million Indians were brought to the Caribbean- predominantly to British Guyana and Trinidad but also to Jamaica and some of the Windward Islands- to toil on plantations and in conditions not exactly very different from those that existed during slavery.

The history of the Caribbean is one steeped in blood, tears, sweat and oppression. It is also a history of resistance, human will and survival in the face of extreme cruelty and barbarism. The institution of slavery, abolished 173 years ago, still continues to haunt the region- the social and economic realities in many parts of the Caribbean and the ownership of economic power is still linked to slavery and colonialism; the attitudes of people, the prevalence of social and economic hierarchies based on skin colour, the fact that concepts such as “good hair” and “pretty brown skin” still prevail and that people can still adamantly state that if not for slavery and colonialism they would still be “swinging around in trees in Africa” or “suffering in Africa” are an indication that the psychological shackles on some people need to be removed. Unfortunately, too many of our people are ashamed of the past or believe, in agreement with many of the descendants of the former slave masters, that we must “move on”. Ironically these same people are the first to speak about the Holocaust or other acts of genocide! I do not advocate dwelling on the past or focussing on the wrongs of the past to such an extent that an individual or society does nothing to improve their situation. However, I do advocate that people be taught their history and that in the same way other races, cultures, nations and societies ensure that their history is never forgotten, the descendants of African slaves should ensure that their story is never marginalised or ignored. As Marcus Garvery said, ‘A people without knowledge of its past history and culture is like a tree without roots’.

I posted a lengthy entry in March for the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Britain. It encompasses most of my views on the slave trade, slavery and abolition so I will cut this post short and not repeat what I wrote before.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Lizz Wright

I saw her perform live a few years ago at the Barbados Jazz Festival- an absolutely brilliant voice! Not to mention, she is quite pretty too :)

I can’t say I have a favourite Lizz Wright song because they are all so good but here are three live performances I came across on YouTube:





Sunday, 29 July 2007

Hablas español?

Immigration is a very sensitive issue in various parts of the world and often time it becomes a political tool at election time. In the US it has been a prominent item on the agenda of politicians, the media, non-governmental organisations and the general public for quite a while. Most of the immigrants into the US are from Latin America and Hispanics now make up a larger part of the population than African-Americans. The effect of this is that Spanish is now basically the second language of the US- much to the chagrin of those who see America as an Anglo/European country.

I came across this feature on the BBC where a team is going to go across the southern USA from San Augustin, Florida to Los Angeles, California with the sole aim of speaking only Spanish throughout the journey. The team will have a daily blog, photos of the trip on Flickr and a group on Facebook and I think it will be interesting to follow their experiences.

The topic of immigration is also very popular in Barbados with many Bajans uncomfortable with the influx of Guyanese. I stumbled upon this article in the Guyana Chronicle which makes some important points about the cyclical nature of the movement of people and the large numbers of Barbadians who previously moved to Guyana in search of jobs. The critical point the article fails to mention is related to size, capacity and sustainability. Barbados is a tiny, overpopulated island with scarce limited physical resources including most importantly water and land. Guyana on the other hand is a vast under populated country with immense physical resources and can fit little Barbados on one of its rivers furthermore its land mass.

The debate over immigration inevitably degenerates into emotional diatribe and fear mongering and race become a central part of the arguments. While this must be resisted, practical realities such as scarce resources and abrupt social and cultural changes must be acknowledged and addressed in a sensible manner. A failure to tackle these concerns of the native population can provide convenient fodder for racists and right wingers and can have serious consequences.

Friday, 27 July 2007

TGIF and Freecycling

My first week back at work and already I am happy to see the weekend! I’m back in the groove and don’t feel as if I was away. I am tired though and it is going to take my foot some time to get used to walking so much, climbing subway stairs, bearing all my weight etc.

I also had my first session of physical therapy for my knee this afternoon. It is a similar routine to when I started therapy for my foot- electrical stimulation, ice pack and ultrasound- except that I am doing exercises right from the beginning instead of after a few sessions. I also have to do the exercise twice a day at home as I had to do for my foot.

One of the links on my sidebar is to freecycle.org, an excellent site that allows people to give away items instead of throwing them into the garbage, thereby reducing waste and saving landfill space. I was able to get an ankle weight from someone who had used it as part of their rehabilitation from a knee injury and so as soon as the physical therapist introduces weights into my routine I will be able to do the same at home.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

70th Anniversary of the 1937 Barbados Riots- What Future for the Island?

July 26th, 1937- today is 70 years since the Barbados riots. Compared to rebellions, riots and revolutions that have played out in various parts of the world throughout history, these riots were negligible in terms of size and scale. They however had a considerable impact on the modern history of Barbados and helped to shape the island as we know it today.

Barbados in 1937 was a country sharply divided along the lines of race, with a small white elite holding economic and political power and a majority black population largely employed in the agricultural sector and suffering from poverty, lack of opportunity, unemployment, dismal labour conditions and general social and economic malaise. The racial structure that permeated the social, economic and political landscape rigidly reinforced these conditions. The economy was dominated by sugar and land ownership policies and patterns that promoted peasant agriculture and made it impossible to address poverty. The same open economy also made it difficult to redress poverty through wages and employment-related benefits. Barbados was a country still dominated by the plantation a hundred years after the abolition of slavery.

In any situation where people are oppressed, courageous men and women speak out and agitate for change and it was no different in Barbados. Men like Clennel Wickham and Charles Duncan O’neal were followed by a Trinidadian of Barbadian parentage, Clement Payne, who stood up for the working people of Barbados and advocated labour reform and the formation of trade unions.

Payne was able to inspire the common man and such was his influence that the Barbadian authorities deported him to Trinidad on July 26th, 1937. Crowds gathered at the news of his deportation and the anger and frustration that had built up erupted into riots that lasted for four days. The immediate result of the riots was 14 dead, 47 wounded, 500 arrests and millions of dollars worth of damage. The long-term consequences were far reaching.

The British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Lord Moyne was appointed in 1938 to investigate disturbances and unrest in the British West Indies and it recommended in its 1939 report that Britain invest in development and provision of social services.

The years following the riots would witness significant social and political reform in Barbados as black Barbadians emerged to rule a country where they were a majority. Payne, who died in 1941, did not live to see his dreams realised but his bravery in rebelling against the status quo was not in vain as generations of Bajans have benefited from his actions. Payne along with O’Neal are National Heroes of Barbados, an honour many also believe should be accorded to Clennel Wickham.

70 years to the day the riots began, Barbados is at a crossroads, with a widening gap between the rich and poor, extremely high cost of living, dissatisfaction among the population over widespread sale of land to foreigners and the inability of normal Barbadians to afford land and a lack of opportunity for the youth. I often wonder what Barbados will look like in 10-15 years time and I think I have a clear picture. It saddens me. I cannot imagine what it will look like in 70 years!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

This is New York: Wasted Time Reprieve

A man with a noticeable limp and a cane gets onto a train. Not a soul offers him a seat. He stands uncomfortably and holds onto a pole with other people as the train slowly moves off. He then shuffles to the middle of the car to grasp a longer pole which allows him to be a bit steadier. The train progresses slowly along the track and across the bridge into Manhattan; his left foot is getting tired from the weight on it because he is hesitant to put too much weight onto his injured right one. He has to wait until a number of stops later to grab a seat when someone gets up to exit the train. This is New York!

I guess if I want a seat I will have to leave home at 6:30 am! On the television programme House, House makes a comment once about what people allow him to get away with because he walks with a cane. Obviously this doesn’t pertain to New York!

I left work around 7:15 pm and luckily I got a seat on the way home.

A tough day made even worse when I saw her. The lessons one must take from the past two and a half years.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

First Day Back- Déjà Vu

I returned to work and went right into the midst of everything! Barbados is co-chairing some consultations and so there I was at 11 am on my first morning listening to people talk about human rights. Files piled up in my absence and there is so much to catch up on. Luckily I have been in this job just under seven years so I just need to rev the engine once or twice and I will be right on track.

I took a cab to and from work. I had planned to take the train but I managed to find myself running a bit off schedule in the morning and by the time I was ready to leave home, it was already 7:30- the trains would be packed. In the evening I didn’t feel like waiting till after 7 for the crowds to die down a bit so I hopped into a taxi. I obviously can’ be doing this all the time so I have to make sure I leave home at 7 am tomorrow morning.

July 22nd marked 20 years to the day that Naji Al-Ali, the Palestinian artist and creator of the iconic cartoon image Handhala, was shot in London. Ali spent five weeks in a coma before he died on August 30th, 1987. I had planned to write a post on Ali and Handhala but as I mentioned yesterday, I had many ideas but kept procrastinating when it came down to the actual writing and so I will just put my thoughts down sometime between now and August 30th for a post on the anniversary of his death.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Back to Work

I did not get around to writing anything this past week. I kept having ideas for posts but I also kept procrastinating when it came to writing. One of my posts was supposed to be about the WICB, the report of the Cricket Committee and WIPA and I still hope to do it.

I went to the podiatrist today and got the all clear so I go back to work tomorrow- exactly 6 months to the date I went on leave. Six months of inactivity and lack of sun also mean I am about 15-20 pounds heavier and rather pale! I have mixed feelings about going back to work. While I am glad to be able to leave my apartment like normal, I am not enthused about my job or the UN. The Foreign Service can be a demoralising place to work and while to outsiders overseas postings seem glamorous and exciting, the reality is totally opposite.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Chondromalacia

I had my post-surgical appointment with the orthopaedist today and everything is in order. He showed me the images from inside my knee of the problem and the repair job that was done. Basically the cartilage under the patella or kneecap was damaged- the image showed it looking as if it had been shredded! Chondromalacia is the term usually used to describe damage to the cartilage under the patella and it generally affects young people who engage in physical activity. I have to do physical therapy twice a week for eight weeks which should help me regain full mobility in my knee. At the moment it is quite tight and I cannot bend or stretch it out fully. I also have some pain that varies between mild discomfort and bad and which he said would take time to go away, with some days being bad and some being good! I have had a few rough nights already and I hope that is the worse it gets. He said I could go back to work next Monday, the same day I see the podiatrist and once he gives me the all clear, I will be back to work on July 23rd.

It has been six months now that I have been home! I honestly never thought I would have been away from work for so long when the MRI results in January showed a torn tendon in my foot! I am thankful to Allah that the problems with my foot and knee were diagnosed and that unlike millions of people around the globe, including right here in the richest country in the world, I have been able to receive treatment. The next step is to work on strengthening the different tendons and muscles in and around my foot and knee while avoiding over exertion. It will probably still be a while though before I can go back to the gym and resume my training programme.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

The Plight of the Environment

Some articles on man and his assault on nature:

Biofuels - 1 and 2.

The Everglades and Drought in Florida - 1.

Borneo, Palm Oil and the Penan People - 1 and 2.

Live Earth - 1.

Scepticism about Corporate America’s “Embrace” of Environmentalism - 1.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Barbados’ First World Champion Athlete


* Photo from IAAF website

Barbados is the island of cricket, producing more cricketing greats and test players than any other country based on its size. However, when it comes to atheletics, we have never produced a world champion; the closest we have come being James Wedderburn’s bronze in the 4 x 400 metres relay as part of the British West Indies team at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Obadele Thompson’s bronze in the 100 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Ryan Brathwaite’s silver medal in the 110 metres hurdles at the 2005 World Youth Championships in Marrakech.

Well all that changed yesterday when 17- year old Shane Brathwaite won the octathlon at the Fifth IAAF World Youth Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The St. James Secondary School student who comes from Spooner’s Hill, St. Michael registered a new personal best record along the way and made his country proud. Congratulations to the young man.

The Barbados Nation and the IAAF have articles on Brathwaite's triumph.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Surgery!

The surgery went well yesterday morning. One minute I was on the operating table and the next I was in the recovery room! The lead up to the surgery was the nerve racking part. I got to the hospital around 6:15 am, checked in and waited to be summoned inside. There were quite a few people in the waiting room at that early hour, some scheduled for surgery and some accompanying them. After I was summoned to a little room, I was visited by a number of people: a physician’s attendant who asked me a number of questions about my medical history and lifestyle, a nurse who give me my hospital clothes and explained to me how I had to wear everything, another nurse who took my vitals and asked me questions about medical history, a nurses aide who shaved my knee, the orthopaedist who went over what was going to happen and what I should do after the surgery until I saw him on Monday, the anaesthesiologist who also asked me questions about my medical history and lifestyle and discussed the anaesthetic options and finally one of the nurses who was going to be in the operating room who asked me a few questions and signed some forms. Most of the others also had me sign various consent forms and in between I was asked to change into the hospital outfit. After that I was led to the operating room nearby where I climbed up onto the table, got the intravenous drip inserted and asked the anaesthesiologist how long it would take before I went to sleep; when I woke up I was in the recovery room with an oxygen mask on my face!

The anaesthetic options were either regional where I would be numb from the waist down or general where I would be asleep. While I contemplated the regional so I could view the procedure on the monitor, the anaesthesiologist said that there was only one monitor in the room I would be in and so I would not be able to see and that recovery from the spinal anaesthesia was longer than from general. We therefore decided on general.

I woke up with some pain in my knee and the nurse reluctantly gave me some morphine. I was groggy so I can’t recall if she give me more when I complained again about the pain but I do remember her saying that they didn’t want to give me too much morphine because it would make me sleepy and I was already woozy and they wanted me to be able to leave shortly! The orthopaedist came around to see me while I was still a bit dazed so I am not too clear about what he told me. Subject to correction he said something about shattered pieces of cartilage which he had to remove. When he passed back he said he would discuss it with me on Monday. Overall the service and care was excellent and very professional. After some crackers and juice and a trip to the bathroom- they have to make sure everything is functioning before release- I was able to leave with my friend who came up to meet me.

So that was my surgery. The orthopaedist prescribed some Percoset but warned me not to take any unless it was absolutely necessary since the drug is addictive and has narcotic properties. I was given me this contraption like a cooler which is filled with ice and water and via a hose circulates cold water through a cooling pad on my knee. It has to be worn for three hours, followed by a one hour rest and then worn again for three hours and so on. I have to remove the bandage on Saturday and take a shower.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Surgery Early in the Morning!

My knee arthroscopy is tomorrow. I have not really been thinking about it much and actually just wanted it to be over and done with as the pain in my knee has just been increasingly getting worse. However when the hospital called me around 5 pm today to give me the time of the surgery and the time I have to get there etc it hit me that I was going to be on an operating table in less than twenty-four hours! The procedure is scheduled at 8:30 am and I have to report to the hospital at 6:30. Thankfully the driver from work will take me. I should be ready to go home around 12:30/ 1 pm so a friend will come to the hospital around that time and will call the driver when I am released to take us back home. I have to stop thinking about it before I get too nervous! I am a bit of a loner and prefer my own company but it is at times like this that you miss your family!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Truth and Reconciliation, Sporting Victories and Cooking

I had a great weekend. As I am more mobile and can walk further distances now, I was able to go to Prospect Park to see a show on Friday night. It was a collaboration based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “REwind: A Cantata For Voice, Tape & Testimony”. The Celebrate Brooklyn website describes it perfectly:

“Cape Town composer Philip Miller's extraordinary international collaboration is based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings that led South Africa from apartheid to democracy. Opera superstar Sibongile Khumalo joins other South African soloists, a string octet, and a 100-voice chorus composed of Brooklyn's Total Praise Choir of Emanuel Baptist Church, the Williams College Choir, and a South African ex-patriot choir led by Lion King choirmaster Ron Kunene. The music blends seamlessly with samples of recorded TRC testimony and stunning projected images. "The Cantata brought together the cry of our country—our pain and fears, our hopes and especially our triumphs and joys in the way we as South Africans can best express these emotions—in music and song. It was a deeply moving, most powerful and uplifting experience." (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).”

The show was excellent and the company made it even better.

Saturday saw the West Indies beat England to win the one day series 2-1 and Venus Williams win Wimbledon. I didn’t get to watch the West Indian innings live but I saw England being bowled out and that was good enough. I watched highlights of West Indies batting later in the evening. While I prefer Serena of the two sisters, once one of them wins I am happy. When I read the nasty, negative comments (many bordering on racist and from envious people and those who can’t bear to see two black women dominating a traditionally white sport) that are made in public fora about the William’s sisters, it makes their victories even more satisfying!

Sunday I cooked dinner for some friends. The theme was Indian and the menu consisted of green pea fritters with tamarind and coriander/mint chutney as a starter and pumpkin curry, coconut chicken curry, sweet peppers stuffed with minced meat, basmati rice and raita (condiment made with cucumber, yoghurt and a few spices) for the main meal. Good food, good company, good conversation and an enjoyable evening!

Saturday, 7 July 2007

“Take a Rest”



*Photos from www.cricinfo.com

A calypso by the band Tradewinds telling the WICB to “Take a Rest” has made for popular listening in the past week around the region and after the West Indies win today to secure a 2-1 series victory in the one day internationals, it is even more apt for the Board to take the advice and leave our cricket be! Ken Gordon may be resigning but nothing will change when his replacement comes into the job. The old boys network will continue as normal and life will go on.

Blunder after blunder characterised the WICB’s approach to the tour of England and ironically one of them- the row between the parasites and Gayle- served to unify and motivate the team in the one days and helped salvage some West Indian pride. Obviously nothing can take away from the inspired performances of Chanderpaul who continued to bat on a separate level from everyone else, Edwards who bowled with pace and much better control in the past, Powell who again looked like the bowler we saw in the World Cup, Rampaul who bowled with heart and commitment and the cameos of Samuels, Bravo and Morton on different occasions. While I didn’t think that Gayle should have been awarded the captaincy based on his poor performances in recent times, I admit that he did a good job in leading the team and hopefully this bit of responsibility will also translate into his batting. Once again the attitude of the team was encouraging and it warmed my heart to see the enthusiastic fielding, chatter and celebrations when English wickets fell.

Tony Cozier wrote an article earlier this week about the drastic transformation of the team when it came to the shorter form of the game while Will Luke in a cricinfo.com article says that the West Indies deserve to celebrate.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Arthroscopy and Indigenous Sacrifices

I went to the orthopaedist on Tuesday. I saw a different one who came to the same conclusion as the first- the ongoing and worsening pain and the laxity in my knee was a cause for concern and an arthroscopy would shed some light about the cause and also allow for proper treatment. I am therefore scheduled to have the procedure done on July 11th. I am due to go back to work on the 9th but I also have to see the podiatrist the same day so he can give me the all clear. Obviously I will not be going back to work until later in July now that I am having surgery on my knee!

In February I had written a post about environmental dilemmas and I came across an article today that markedly highlights this predicament. The Madidi National Park in Bolivia is rich in biological diversity and indigenous culture. It is also rich in natural resources and is therefore being viewed as a source to drive economic development for the entire country. While the notion of the collective good and economic prosperity for all is lofty, the issue of irreversible damage to the environment and native culture is just as critical. For centuries, indigenous people have had to pay the price for the desire of other people to enrich themselves and the cycle shows no sign of stopping.

My Apartment Just Doesn’t Feel the Same

My sister and her family left early this morning at 6 am. My apartment is eerily quiet and doesn’t feel right after the past few days of activity. The two little ones are a handful but they brought lots of joy to my place for a few days and I am going to miss them.

They will now have to readjust back to life in Barbados after spending almost two years in a totally different environment in Athens, Ohio. My sister will go back to her old job teaching Sociology, my brother in law will have to look for a job and my nephew will have to go to school. He is going to have a shock because his idea of school is what his mother did in Athens! My niece is still too young to go to primary school so she may get to stay home another year if they decide not to send her to pre-school.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Of Storms, Flight Delays, Indian Cuisine and Calypso Cricket

My sister was due to come into NYC tonight from Ohio on her way back home to Barbados. Unfortunately, after repeated delays caused by bad weather their flight from Columbus was cancelled. Initially AA told them that the next available flight into NYC that would allow the whole family to fly together was July 4th but fortunately they have been placed on a Continental flight to Cleveland tomorrow evening where they will have to transfer to an AA flight bound for NYC. Delayed and furthermore cancelled flights are not fun and I can’t begin to imagine the hassle it must be with two little children. They left Athens around twelve today to drive to Columbus for what was supposed to be a 5pm flight. The most frustrating part for them must be that they were on the plane and about to leave when they were taxied back to the gate. On the positive side, at least they were able to get a flight out tomorrow and a friend of my bro-in-law in Columbus was able to meet them at the airport and take them to a hotel etc.

I cooked up some chicken curry for their dinner tonight and marinated some tandoori chicken for tomorrow, so they will now have to eat tonight’s dinner tomorrow night and the tandoori will have to stay marinated an extra day!

I like to cook and since being allowed to gradually put weight on my foot a few weeks ago, the kitchen has proven to be a place of solace. I’ve been cooking up a storm every few days and it has been a welcome break from the food I was forced to order since the end of January. I’ve made mostly Indian dishes and especially things my mom cooked and which my sisters now cook. My mom would be shocked if she saw me because there were not many Indian dishes I liked eating when I was growing up. It took going to London to study for me to begin eating a variety of Indian food and now Indian cuisine is my favourite.

Speaking of London, the West Indies brought some Caribbean flair to first of two Twenty20 Internationals to put some smiles on West Indian faces after a tough past few weeks. I am a purist; I love test cricket; one day internationals provide entertainment but are not a substitute for the real thing; Twenty20 is simply a slug fest and far from authentic cricket. However, I know that cricket is a billion dollar business and the powers that be will spare no effort to market the game and its entertainment value to those with no appreciation of all the intricacies and nuances of genuine cricket. I am therefore realistic and accept there is no point fighting it; I watch it just to see some big hitting; and big hitting it was from the word go. I could not believe my eyes when I saw Devon Smith hitting out as if his pants were on fire. Chanderpaul played some innovative shots and Marlon Samuels decided to turn up and bat. Despite a big hitting knock by the England captain, the West Indies total proved just enough and it was the English with all their Twenty20 experience who were made to look like novices by a team playing only its second Twenty20 at the international level.

What pleased me was the attitude of the West Indies players. I can’t remember the last time I saw a West Indies team being so enthusiastic. The laughing, smiling, shouting and encouragement of each other were a joy to watch and the young team actually looked as if they were enjoying themselves for the first time this tour. Have the events of the past week galvanised the team and has the Board unintentionally motivated the players? It would be wonderful if this sprit continues and I hope the team can go on to win tomorrow and do the same in the one-day internationals that follow.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Ongoing Madness

The idiocy continues in West Indies cricket. The first 20/20 game begins tomorrow but all the hype is on Gayle and the WICB!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

The Madness Continues

The farcical drama that our cricket has been reduced to continues to play itself out in front of the world. The idiots that call themselves the WICB decided to censure Chris Gayle for critical comments he made about the Board a few days ago in his tour diary. Gayle’s refusal to apologise led to the censure. The West Indies Players Association then came to Gayle’s defence, revealing that the article was vetted by the tour manager as part of normal protocol and approved. Guess who met Gayle along with Ken Gordon to discuss the issue before Gayle was censured: the tour manager Michael Findlay. What does this make the Board and Findlay look like: bloody fools!

Chris Gayle has been a failure with the bat and doesn’t even deserve a place on the team furthermore the captaincy. He needs to do his talking on the field with the bat and with a change of attitude. However, I must admit the comments he made were totally correct: the Board has no legitimate authority to demand anything of the players when it is the reason for the mess we are in. It is rather large of the Board to speak of Gayle embarrassing it; every member of the Board should resign and apologise to the West Indian people for what they have done to the one regional institution that was a success.

Read two articles on cricinfo.com here (1 and 2) and one from the UK Telegraph here on the whole fiasco.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Indian Test Cricket’s 75th Birthday

June 25th, 2007 marks seventy-five years that India has been playing test cricket, a game which is now so popular in the country it can be considered a religion. Since that day in 1932 when the Indians walked onto the field of Lords, Indian cricket has never looked back. On June 25th, 1983, fifty-one years later, they would shock the mighty West Indies team in the finals to win the World Cup. In the past seventy-five years, India has produced a host of legendary spinners and wristy stroke makers ranging from Bishen Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna, Venkataraghavan and Anil Kumble to Gundappa Viswanath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar as well as allrounders like Kapil Dev, Polly Umrigar and Vinoo Mankad and to round it off flamboyant wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer.

Here are some articles on India’s seventy-fifth test anniversary: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Cricketing Mismanagement

The thrashing of the West Indies on the field of play on the current tour of England is symptomatic of the malaise that afflicts Caribbean cricket. As if the embarrassment on the field wasn’t enough the WICB has made a series of blunders in the past two weeks that serve to highlight the way this old boys network has destroyed our cricket. I cited some articles in my post of June 14th and here are two even harsher ones, one by Tony Cozier and the other by Martin Williamson.

The ICC also demonstrated how much of an incompetent organisation it is when last week it announced the banning of the five officials who had stood in the farcical World Cup final in April from the Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa in September. Now I have no problem with disciplining those idiots who presided over the ludicrous situation on the night of April 28th, but what I do have a problem with is Malcolm Speed’s pompous statement: “It would have been easy to let sleeping dogs lie and pretend nothing happened, but the reality is that the playing control team made a serious and fundamental error that caused the final of our flagship event to end in disarray and confusion.” This is the Chief Executive of a body that along with West Indian officials mismanaged the running of the World Cup and who refused to accept that the ICC bore any responsibility for the tournament’s failure! If the umpires and match referee can be disciplined for their part in the farce, then surely Speed and the rest of the inept and corrupt should also be held accountable!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Sadness at Thierry Henry's Departure






I’m a huge Arsenal fan which may be surprising to anyone reading my blog as there is no mention of the football team in any of my posts. I made the decision to place my support on hold a little while back when Arsenal started a sponsorship partnership which I could not bring myself to accept. I may like football and Arsenal but there are some issues too close to my heart and about which I am too passionate about that I cannot compromise on. Until Arsenal ends the partnership, Real Madrid and Juventus, two other team I like (though not in the same way I am an Arsenal fan) will be the focus of my attention.

However, the news which broke today of Thierry Henry’s departure for Barcelona did sadden me- he is one of my four favourite Arsenal players, Ian Wright, Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp being the other three. Arsene Wenger’s signing of Henry and then playing him as a striker was a superb move and Arsenal (and Arsene Wenger) transformed his career just as much as he helped the team reach a new level. Ultimately the prize of European glory proved to be elusive and I think the fact that Arsenal doesn’t seem interested in buying big name players preferring instead to groom a young team is one of the main reasons for Henry’s decision to leave rather than the exit of vice-chariman David Dein as he has claimed. Cesc Fabregas stepped into Vieira’s boots when he left. Who will fill Henry’s?

Here are two interesting articles about Henry’s move to Barcelona and what it means now for Arsenal- 1 and
2.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Of Artic Wolves and Springs, Disappearing Lakes and Desalination

I am going to share some articles on the environment and nature today:

Earlier this year I had written an entry about wolves and my fascination with them. Professional explorer Jim McNeill along with a BBC crew has travelled to Ellesmere Island to film the elusive Artic Wolf. The Artic Wolf which maintains it white coat year-round lives in Greenland and the Canadian Artic. The BBC website will be featuring McNeill’s diary of his experiences and it can be seen here.

The second article is about the Magellanes region in southern Chile where a five-acre lake has mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind just a huge crater and some chunks of ice.

The third one is about the Artic spring arriving weeks earlier than a decade ago according to a team of Danish researchers. The obvious effect of this situation is the disruption of the natural eco-system and the threat to the various species that comprise it.

A number of countries have embraced or are exploring the possibility of adopting the process of turning salt water into drinking water to address water shortages. However a recent WWF report has cautioned that desalination is not the solution to global water scarcity as the technology used is energy intensive and would therefore only increase emissions and damage coastal and river habitats. The WWF’s contention certainly provides food for thought.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Arthroscopy of the Knee

While everything has largely been going well with my foot recovery process, the pain in my knee has not decreased and has worsened as I put more weight on the foot and do more exercises at therapy. It reached a stage where it was difficult to fall asleep at night and so I took a trip to the orthopaedist on Monday. He did x-rays and neither those nor the MRI from January explain why the pain is so severe. He now wants to perform an arthroscopy of my knee to enable him to diagnose and treat the problem. For those who don’t know (and I didn’t either until he told me) it’s a minimally invasive surgery that allows the surgeon to diagnose and treat problems without open knee surgery- a few small incisions are made through which an arthroscope (pen shaped instrument which has a tiny video camera and light source attached) is inserted, allowing the surgeon to view inside the joint and if necessary operate using small instruments inserted through tiny separate incisions. As arthroscopy only requires a few small incisions, there is usually no need to stay in the hospital more than a few hours after surgery, the healing and recovery process is much quicker and there is not much scarring. Most patients are able to return to work within a week and once all the post surgery recovery exercises and steps are done, full recovery is expected.

This all sounds rather straightforward but it is a surgical procedure, something which I am not exactly enthusiastic about! I was relieved that the tendons in my foot healed without surgery but now my knee has decided to be stubborn! The doctor’s office has scheduled the arthroscopy for July 11th subject to insurance approval, but I have not yet made a final decision on if to have it done- while the pain I am feeling has me leaning towards the surgery, I still have some doubts. I am scared that I may not be able to run, play cricket, swim, scuba dive, work out at the gym or do all the travelling I plan to do in the future. I have been doing research and I also plan to go back to speak to the doctor about the lingering doubts.

As if my knee’s misbehaviour isn’t enough my foot has been hurting more than the usual since yesterday evening and today I started using the cane again to take some of the weight off of it. I can definitely see myself taking a painkiller tonight to help me sleep.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

At least is wasn't 4-0!

At least West Indian fans can console themselves with the fact that it was a 3-0 and not a 4-0 whipping! From a dominant position at the start of the fourth day to fighting for a draw at the end and ultimately losing today in a match that lost a day and a half to rain! Poor captaincy and bowling enabled England to pose a lead and the continued poor batting of the top order meant that defeat was going to be the only result. Chanderpaul continued his defiance but even he couldn’t stave off the obvious.

Hopefully this series will have proven to Ganga fans that he is not a test class player and the appointment of a man as vice-captain who can’t even justify his place on the team was a ridiculous move by the selectors. Devon Smith still looks out of place, Sylvester Joseph does not convince me that he knows how to bat, Runako Morton is neither here nor there, Marlon Samuels is a waste of time and Chris Gayle needs to be dropped for his attitude and poor performances not rewarded with the one day captaincy! Ramdin has promise but he needs to work hard to improve his wicketkeeping; some proper competition for his place would force him to raise his game and be more consistent. The bowling is pathetic with the exception of Edwards but even he needs to work to improve his mediocre returns. Powell looked a different bowler from the one who played in the World Cup and he obviously is lacking in the brain department since there can be no other explanation for his playing the same nonsensical shot in both innings. Taylor has been struggling for a while and I think he needs a rest while Collyslow has gone past his sell by date. The only positives from the series were the immovable Chanderpaul, Bravo to an extent although he needs to convert his starts and stop throwing away his wicket and Darren Sammy’s debut.

Chanderpaul has received a lot of praise for his performance this series and it is richly deserved. If only the heart and fight he has demonstrated was replicated by a few more of his teammates! This is another article written about him in the UK Guardian.

So another series and another dismal performance. The solutions to the problems plaguing West Indian cricket are rather obvious but as long as they entail disturbing the status quo and restructuring the corrupt and inefficient old boys network- WICB- nothing will happen.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Of West Indian and Siberian Tigers, the Amazon and the Nile

For the first time this series, the West Indies ended a day actually ahead of England! Starting dismally on Saturday and then fighting back, the Windies almost threw it away today with some poor shots, but the ever impressive Chanderpaul, ably supported by Collymore, managed to give the score some respectability. Chanderpaul, the West Indian tiger, continued his defiance of the English bowling and has now batted for just over 13 hours without being dismissed. In the process of this innings, he also became the seventh West Indian to pass 7000 test runs, joining an illustrious group comprised of Brian Lara, Viv Richards, Garry Sobers, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd and Desmond Haynes. Poor bowling at the start of England’s innings was fortunately negated by the quick loss of three England wickets just before close of play. This is the West Indies we are speaking about however, and while they may appear to be on top, I would not be surprised if the tables are turned around by lunch tomorrow. This is after all a team which has not won an overseas test for several years and has no culture of winning.

I came across this article on the BBC website about researchers in Brazil claiming to have scientifically proven that the Amazon River is actually longer than the River Nile. The researchers claim that an expedition has found that the source of the Amazon is in the South of Peru and not in the North of that country as was previously thought.

I also read an article which reported good news for wildlife- the endangered Siberian tiger has seen a population increase with the birth of 84 cubs in captivity in China. It can be read here.

Friday, 15 June 2007

1976, Grovelling and West Indian Pride

I went to therapy today without my cane! I felt like new! I have to concentrate so I don’t limp and for the most part I walk quite normal. The stairs were a bit tricky and it will take a bit more practice before I can use them with confidence. All in all, I was quite pleased with myself! The next step will be to wear another shoe besides a sneaker but that will entail doing away with the ankle strap as it is bulky and can only be worn with the sneaker.

1976 was an eventful year: Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Chairman Mao both died that year; Pol Pot became Prime Minister of Cambodia; earthquakes in Guatemala, Honduras, China, Iran and Philippines killed and injured hundreds of thousands; the Soweto riots erupted in South Africa; the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was officially proclaimed; military coups occurred in Argentina and Uruguay; Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford to win the US Presidency; the summer and winter Olympics were held in Montreal, Canada and Innsbruck, Austria respectively; July witnessed the US Bicentennial; Trinidad and Tobago became a Republic replacing the Queen of England with an elected President as their Head of State; Air Cubana Flight 455 was blown up off the coast of Barbados shortly after take off in a CIA-linked terrorist attack by anti-Castro Cuban exiles; the Barbados Labour Party led by Tom Adams defeated the Errol Barrow led Democratic Labour Party in elections; Alex Haley’s Roots, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Autumn of the Patriarch, Alice Walker’s Meridian, Maya Angelou’s Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas, James Baldwin’s The Devil Finds Work and Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada were published.

In cricket, 1976 is remembered for the West Indian cricket team’s tour to England. As I have written before, for the Caribbean the game of cricket is much more than a sport and is intertwined in the social, economic and political landscape of these small islands. Issues of race and nationalism are intrically linked to the success of the West Indian team and there are not many people in the Caribbean who would deny the feelings of racial and national pride whenever our team wins. In May 1976, the West Indies arrived in England and in the build up to the first test, the English captain Tony Greig give an interview to the BBC in which he boldly stated that his team would make the West Indians grovel. The comments, coming from a white South African, severely offended the region and its team and only served to motivate the players. Tony Greig’s team was severely thrashed and he was subjected to huge amounts of barracking from the West Indian fans in the grounds as well as special targeting by the West Indian bowlers. By the end of the series it was Greig who was doing the grovelling- on the afternoon of the fourth day of the last test, he walked over to boundary, sunk to his knees and grovelled to the West Indian fans in the stands. BBC has a feature on the 1976 tour here and cricinfo.com also did two interesting articles which can be accessed here and here.

UPDATE:

I came across another article in the UK Guardian about the 1976 tour here.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Of Podiatric Progress, Vacation Days and Captaincy Quarrels

I had a doctor’s appointment along with therapy yesterday. I can now basically walk alone without the cane except for when I go up or down stairs so the doctor told me I could stop using the cane and also try to get accustomed to using the stairs without it. I am still not supposed to do any unnecessary walking. I still have tendonitis in parts of my foot and I am still feeling some pain and stiffness in different areas. Overall there has been much progress though. I hope when I see him in two weeks time I am given the all clear to go back to work on July 9th. Beyond that I also am looking forward to going back to the gym. I weighed myself on Monday night and I have put on fifteen pounds!

I also have to take at least fourteen days vacation each year or I will lose them and since I can’t take any time off from September to December because of the UN General Assembly I have to take the days sometime in July and August. There is no way I am losing my hard earned vacation so I guess the office will not be seeing me for two weeks in July or August!

Yesterday I spoke about the pathetic handling of the captaincy issue for the upcoming one-day series and this morning the news media reported that the WICB board as a whole had sided with the selection panel against the Executive Board and therefore Gayle will captain the side with Chanderpaul as his deputy. The Barbados Nation and cricinfo.com both carried stories which can be read here and here.

UPDATE June 15th

Tony Cozier has an article in the Weekend Nation on the captaincy situation which can be read here.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Back in Action, West Indian Resistance and West Indian Folly

I was out of commission for a few days as my laptop had to pay another visit to the office to get fixed. Apparently nothing was wrong with the wireless adapter because it functioned normally there. Now that I have it back, it is working but not consistently- annoying situation!

The West Indies surprised everyone with a great fight back after being thrashed for the first half of the third test even though in the final analysis they lost yet another overseas test. Chanderpaul continued to highlight his worth to the team while Darren Sammy who I did not think should have been on the tour made a remarkable start to his test career. Will he build on this performance or will he go the way of so many players of the past decade who showed promise and then regressed? Only time will tell. Even though Fidel Edwards’ final figures did not look impressive, his extra pace made a difference and at least we did not have to bear the sight of Pieterson charging down the pitch to one of our “fast” bowlers like he has been doing to the rest, especially Collymore.

Tony Cozier and Andrew Miller wrote two good articles on the last test and Chanderpaul respectively so have a read.

While on the field the team was fighting against England, off the field the West Indian administrators were fighting among themselves on the choice of captain for the one day series that follows the tests. The selectors chose Gayle but the WICB Executive Committee rejected that choice and instead headed by Ken Gordon advised the selection panel to appoint Darren Ganga (who was not even selected as part of the one-day team)and Dinesh Ramdin as captain and vice-captain respectively. The latest news seems to be that the selection panel has refused and so yet again the Caribbean fulfills the stereotype of a bunch of inefficient fools who can't manage the simplest of tasks. While I would hate to see Gayle captain the team, Ganga with his inability to make the one-day side and even struggling in the test team is not exactly a much better choice!

The absence of West Indian fans at cricket grounds during the Caribbean team’s tours has been noticeable in recent years. In addition, besides Alex Tudor a few years ago, there have been no black players on the England team unlike the 1980s and early 1990s. Two interesting articles about this can be read here- 1 and 2. Fellow blogger Colonise This! also writes about the issue here.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

40 Years of Further Occupation

On June 5th, 1967, Israel launched an attack on Egypt, Syria and Jordan, decimating their armies and air defences in a few hours. At the end of the so-called Six Day War, Israel had succeeded in capturing even more Arab land- the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, along with the Sinai and the Golan Heights- and had basically doubled the amount of territory it controlled. Sold initially by its officials, Western backers and media as a pre-emptive strike against an increasingly threatening Egypt and Arab world, later pronouncements and admissions by Israeli government officials along with declassified documents and information have discredited this claim and revealed that the attack was an aggressive move aimed at gaining territory.

The War led to the displacement of 400 000 Palestinians, about half of whom were already refugees from the 1948 creation of the Zionist state. These people and their descendants, numbering in the millions continue to live as refugees in various parts of the Arab world today. Forty years later, the people who remained in the West Bank and Gaza continue to live under a brutal and oppressive military occupation (and the settlement regime that accompanies it); an occupation which endures contrary to international law and despite various Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.

The Six Day War is often viewed as a watershed in the history of the region, but in reality, the real watershed occurred in1948 when the right to self-determination was denied to one people, the indigenous Palestinians, and their land was taken to create a state for another group.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

A New Cold War?

There has been talk in the past few days of the emergence of a new cold war as the US and Russia and Russia and the UK have been engaging in a war of words over missiles and spies. On the face of it, it does look like a page from the past but some deeper analysis demonstrates that it is more about post-Cold War power politics than a conflict rooted largely in ideology.

Both Russia and the US are governed by highly nationalistic administrations seeking to further what they consider to be the national interest. The US has decided that unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2001 followed by plans to build a missile defence system in Eastern Europe as part of a larger global network (for the stated aim of countering threats by “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran and non-state actors) is in its national interest; Russia has decided that the presence of such a system in its geographic sphere is a threat to its security and interests and has retaliated by testing a ballistic missile and announcing that it will target missiles at Europe. NATO has condemned the Russian threat and the French and British have also voiced concern.

All this comes at the same time as the row over the murder of a former Soviet intelligence agent in London and British demands for the extradition of another former Soviet spy who they claim is responsible.

Add to the mix the following: some Eastern European politicians are worried about a remerging Russia and view the US plan favourably even though the US has explicitly stated that the missile defence system is aimed at countering threats by “rouge states” and non-state actors and not at Russia; many of the people in Eastern Europe and particularly those who live in the areas where the system will be built are not supportive of the plan, environmental and health risks being primary concerns; many in Western Europe are unhappy with the idea of the US unilaterally going ahead to build a missile defence system in Eastern Europe and not consulting the EU; Russia has increasingly felt that it is not being accorded the respect it deserves in the international arena by other large powers and under Putin has been seeking to reassert itself; the US is caught up in its own “war on terror” and all of its actions are inevitably tied into the new realities of international security and politics; Russia possesses vast energy supplies on which Europe is dependent and the EU relationship with Russia is invariably influenced by this.

In other words, the current situation is complex and vastly different from what prevailed during the Cold War. Talk of a new Cold War is premature but the danger of arms proliferation are however very real and the only way to deal with the current impasse is for both sides to engage in dialogue and arrive at some form of a practical agreement.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

My Sister's Masters Degree, Viv Richard's 189 and Nature's Battle with Man

My sister who is doing her Masters in Ohio defended her thesis today, thereby completing the work for her degree. Graduation is next week. The doctor says I can go but I will have to restrict my walking and I will obviously have to be be given disability assistance at the airport since the walk from check-in to the gate will be too much. Naturally I am very proud of her especially as she has had to overcome some major obstacles to arrive where she is today. My sisters and I are not the boastful kind. We just do what we have to do unlike most of the people in Barbados who share our surname and who sit and boast endlessly- ironically none of them have achieved anything in their lives and are generally failures and losers. Being boastful is a bad habit, but being boastful while not having done anything with your life is just plain old stupid! All this to say that my sister will just go on back home with her husband and kids who had joined her in Ohio and return to teaching etc and the simple but fulfilling life she lives with her family. Hopefully she will have her excellent thesis (Ethnic Minority Dominance in A Small Island Developing State and the Implications for Development: The Case of Barbados) published. The Committee who evaluated it was extremely impressed by her intelligence, analytical skills and the fact that the research and conclusions go much further than what is required at the Masters Level. Unfortunately, the university only gives out two grades- pass and fail- so while the Committee wanted to bestow a distinction on her, they will be unable to do so. Ok enough of that before I begin to sound like the idiotic relatives who I have nothing to do with!

A few days ago I wrote about Saeed Anwar’s record breaking innings of 194, which still remains the highest ever one day international score. The record Anwar broke was Viv Richard’s 189 runs made in 1984 against England at Old Trafford, an innings still regarded by many people as the greatest ever one-day knock. To put the 170 ball innings (21 fours, 5 sixes) into context, the West Indies were 102 for 7 and then 166 for 9 but ended up with a score of 272 for nine and won the match by 104 runs. Michael Holding made just 12 in the final wicket partnership of 106 and only one other batsman in the team reached double figures- Eldine Baptise making 26. Unfortunately I can’t locate a video of the innings on YouTube although there are some short video compilations comprised of clips of various innings. You can find them by doing a simple search for Viv Richards.

I was reading an article yesterday that once again highlights how in the clash between mankind and nature, nature disproportionately ends up on the losing side. This time it is bison that are at man’s mercy; in Montana the authorities have announced a plan to capture and kill 400 bison, including about 100 calves, which have been roaming outside the confines of Yellowstone National Park. Public protests have led to a stay of execution but the Montana Department of Livestock has said that it still plans to go ahead with the cull. The story can be read here.

In something a little lighter, this article about cheating female cheetahs brought a smile to my face.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Feeling Loss and Further Confinement

I was out of commission for a few days- my laptop needs a new wireless adapter and so I give it to a colleague on Monday morning so that it could be fixed. Three days without internet and I felt extremely loss! No access to email, all my favourite alternative news sites, cricket news, msn, bank etc. Should I be concerned that I am so dependent on the internet?

The laptop was returned this evening, unfixed, because of unforeseen circumstances. Needless to say I will have to resend it at a later date and for now I will have to contend with an immobile laptop.

I will not comment on the record West Indian loss in the second test except to say how unfortunate it is that Sarwan has been ruled out for the remainder of the series because of injury and that Sidebottom’s performance only serves to highlight the value of playing regular competitive matches. West Indian cricketers play a few regional matches each year along with playing in their domestic competitions. The level of domestic cricket throughout the Caribbean is poor and does not serve to improve the skills of our cricketers. The short regional tournament’s standards are not much better! Sidebottom is no genius with the ball but playing regular cricket at a certain level day in and day out means that he has been able to hone his skills and professionalism. He simply translated this onto the test match arena, bowled a certain line and length and achieved success.

On another note vice-captain Ganga will likely be named captain and it should be distressing to any true West Indian fan to see a West Indian captain with a batting average of 27!

My friend Steve had a barbeque on Memorial Day so I spent most of Monday at his place in Long Island. It was refreshing to be out of my apartment even if it was just for the day! The usual highlights the past few months have been doctor/ therapist appointments and this state of affairs seems likely to continue for another few weeks.

I went to the doctor today and while there is progress- I can now wear the sneaker for most of the day and can actually walk a bit without the cane- I still have some tendonitis and cannot bear too much weight. The latest verdict is that I should keep on taking it gradually as I have been doing, slowly increasing the bearing of weight, lessening the dependence on the cane and discarding the boot- the new date for my return to work has been pushed forward by four weeks to July 9th. I don’t miss the UN or my office but I am so sick of being confined to this place that I would return to work tomorrow if I could! I had what has become the norm- cortisone shot- and the physical therapist told me that I had gotten approval for a further twelve sessions of therapy. My usual therapist is on vacation for a month and his colleague who has been working with me and who is more aggressive, succeeded in persuading the middle man company to approve more sessions. Kudos to him!