Crossing Roads with History

I am recollecting where during my journeys, I had coincidently happened to be at a place where some significant event happened.

Iraq, Dec 14th, 2003
I was in a flight from Dubai to London and the plane was going over Iraq! It was either the music I was listening or the mere thought of horrible things that might be happening on the land below, I was in a sad mood. Ghastly pictures of innocent children shot and killed by soldiers and Barkha Dutt who was reporting it from battle field on NDTV were playing back in my mind. A lady and her husband from South Hampton were snoring in the next two seats beside me. They seemed like they were in some sort of "who snores the loudest" competition. Some times they were in sync and some times out of sync as if they are conserving via snores.

I had changed the LCD screen to display the bird's eye view of the landscape, as the plane sailed over dry and hilly regions of Iraq. I could see towns that seemed like Mesopotamian ruins and roads that cut the land. A larger screen was randomly switching between CNN headlines and flightpath. And when the news headlines got updated, it said that Saddam Hussein was captured!

What a coincidence the flightpath was showing that we were in the middle of Iraq! I woke up the lady in the next seat and pointed her to the big news screen. Many others in the plane had noticed it. There a murmur. That lady then woke her husband and whispered him in a rustic British accent. He looked at the news paused for a minute and went back to snoring..

Singapore April 2nd, 2003
When I boarded a Singapore airlines plane in San Fransisco heading to Singapore, the number of passengers in the flight surprised me. The flight was almost empty! Blame it on the local cable channel news in bay area, that don't report any thing about outside world, the news about SARS outbreak in the ASEAN was new to me! So I was to transit through countries like Hong Kong and Singapore where killer disease had already taken lives.

Before landing in HongKong, flight attendants handed out surgical gloves and masks! everyone wore them and FUD was raising in the crowd of passengers. At the HongKong transit airport they were asking if people had any symptoms of fever. After spending an hour there, my hands were sweating and I was feeling suffocated in the mask.

Singapore airport had thermal image sensors that I guess ware to automatically see if anyone had a high fever. I sat in the airport, for about two hours, masked and not touching anything, thirsty and afraid to drink the water in the airport.

A crowd of transit passengers from Luftansa passed the gate I was sitting. None of them wore any mask or gloves. It seemed like they were unaware of the death lurking outside. They followed the airport assistant to their destination gate, like the children who followed the Piped Pier of Hamlin!

Racecourse Road Bangalore 1994
I don't exactly remember why I was walking on Bangalore's Racecourse Road that day. State elections in Karnataka were just over. Karnataka's electorate gives surprising mandate, and results were coming out that afternoon. The Janata Dal was split into many factions due to infighting, and no one expected that it would get majority.

The Race Course road apart from having a racecourse also had the central office of the old Janata Party. Due to many factions it was unclear who occupied that building now. That afternoon it was heavily crowded near that building. As I walked past it, I could see that the split groups were trying to raise their own flags to occupy the building, and arm wresting in the process!

Later the news was clear: Janata Dal had to unexpectedly unite again to form a majority government with Chief Minister Deve Gowda. Party leaders were holding discussions in the building at the same time I happened to pass by. Two years later Deve Gowda again unexpectedly became the Prime Minister of India only to hold the office of PM for few months.

(w.r.t incident #3 that you mentioned --) Nearly 12 years later, history partially repeats itself. The said party is made to appear divided in order to escape allegations of betraying the coalition partner and destabilizing the state administration. All the good work done by the suave S.M. Krishna for the high tech industry has already being partly undone as the coalition government allowed infrastructure to fall apart, with each politician clinging on to his seat for dear life (and power). Realistically speaking, the downward trend for the state of Karnataka might speed up, if anything. I'd love to be proven wrong though.

Posted by Bharath Ravi Kumar on January 28, 2006 at 01:56 PM PST #

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