With the world hearing India is banning the eating of beef and trying to change its people into vegetarians, my neighbor in London, a diehard meat eater, and who was planning a trip to India decided he would become a veggie. “I don’t want to be thrown into one of their jails. So am practicing to be a vegetarian before my holiday,” he said as he looked at a picture of a mango tree, “I have told my cook to cook those leaves for lunch!”

“That’s a mango tree,” I said, “You eat the fruit, not the leaves.”

“You can’t put anything of that tree into a curry?”

“Only the raw mangoes,” I said, “you eat the ripe ones raw and cook the raw ones!”

“This is very confusing,” said my English neighbour as he scratched his head and stared at the pictures of ripe mangoes on the tree. “What happens if I eat the leaves?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“What happens if I ate the raw mangoes raw and put the ripe mangoes into a curry?”

“No idea,” I said helplessly.

“What about cauliflower?”

“What about it?” I asked.

“Do I eat it cooked or uncooked?”

“You can’t eat it uncooked,” I said disgustedly.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know,” said my neighbour, now beginning to look a little worried, “What about this fruit?”

“It’s a carrot,” I said, “it’s not a fruit it’s a root, which is eaten like a vegetable!”

“A root eaten like a vegetable but not a vegetable?” asked my neighbour, “so its allowed isn’t it. I mean as a vegetarian I can eat it?”

“Sure you can,” I said patting him on the back.

“This vegetarianism business is going to be a long journey,” he said. “is it okay if I eat this vegetable?”

“It’s not a vegetable,” I said looking at the onion he was holding out to me.

“It’s a fruit?”

“No,” I said.

“Let me guess, it’s a root?”

“No,” I said, “it’s a bulb!”

“Whoa! Whoa!” shouted my neighbour throwing the onion away, “dammit I don’t want to get electrocuted chewing a bulb! I thought being a vegetarian was safe?”

“It is,” I said.

“And do you eat the bulb cooked?” 

“Raw,” I said patiently.

“I think I need expert advice before I go to India!” he said.

“I agree,” I said as I watched him go to his phone.

“Do you know a good lawyer?”

“Lawyer?” I asked.

“Yes, I don’t want to be lynched by the gestapo for eating the wrong veg food!”

“There’s no gestapo in India!” I said stiffly.

“Then what’s this?” he asked fearfully, showing me another picture.

“Ah that!” I said, “that’s the Prime Minister’s men, though they don’t wear khaki shorts anymore..!”

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They’re all over; buses, trains, cabs, and now, an all woman police station in Mumbai! Ladies Specials they’re called! Buses, on which only ladies can board, so also trains, designated cabs and a police station with only women police personal! And each time we create a new ‘special’, we men smile, look at each other with pride, and think we’ve done something special for our women!

What we’re actually doing is putting them in cages.

“We are caging you to protect you!”

“We are taking away your mobile phones to keep you pure!”

“We aren’t sending you to school, to safeguard you!”

A few years ago, my daughter became an anchor for a TV channel, a much sought after post. “Dad!” she asked, “Any words of advice?”

“Yes!” I told her, “Be a man in a man’s world!”

“A man?” she’d asked, “Why?”

“Because to compete,” I’dsaid looking into her eager eyes, “Don’t get pushed into a ladies special where you are expected to shed tears when upset, scream when angry, show vulnerability when you want something! Be tough just like the men around you and compete on an even keel!”

She did.

I hear about Love Jihad groups roaming the country, out to protect women from one faith against so called wily men of another! Do they really think their women so stupid, they would fall in love so easily? Or, are they actually unsure of themselves and insecure about keeping and holdingtheir woman’s love? So, what do they do?Put them in a Ladies Special with barbed wired windows!

Ssshhh! I hear the sound of a Ladies Special coming and see a few heads looking out at me, saying, “Stop congratulating us for being the secret behind a successful man, instead start saluting us for being successful ourselves!”

‘Stop telling us we look beautiful! Start telling us it’s our inner beauty you admire!”

“Stop praising us for our stereotype roles in your films as mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, instead celebrate us as individuals, independent of relationships!’

I look inside the Ladies Special and someone inside looks me in the eye and says, “Stop looking at me from a convenient male viewpoint. Let me be imperfect, whimsical, irresponsible, lazy, fierce, opinionated, loud, flabby, ungroomed, adventurous, unpredictable, unprepared and impractical like you Bob, are happy at being!”

There are others around me, and suddenly someone unlocks the cage and asks the ladies to come out. I hear the sound of drums, of music,and as the ladies stream outon the roads and on the platforms, men and the once caged women dance in happy abandon together, the men, respectful in their behavior and women confident in handling anything untoward.

And then together they towthe Ladies Special coach into the backyard of Indian history..!

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Residents living near Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, and other jails throughout the country are sick and tired of raised voices now creating a huge din from inside jails all over. “It’s louder than fire crackers!” exclaimed one resident, talking to a newspaper reporter, “It’s like all thosethousands of criminalsinterred inside are talking at one time!”

“Yes!” said the warden of the jail, “All this noise started after the arrest of Chidambaram’s son!”

“Why should the arrest of a former minister’s son spark of so much talking?” asked the surprised reporter.

“Remember,” said the warden wearily, “he was arrested based on the testimony of a convicted murderer, a woman who allegedly killed her own daughter, tried to kill her son, buried that same daughter after burning her, and is supposed to be a pathological liar!”

“So?” asked the reporter.

“That more or less sums up most of the hardened criminals in my jail!”

“That still doesn’t explain the noise, the sudden talking jailbirds are doing all over the country!” said the reporter.

“Can’t you see?”asked the warden, “Now these fellows in my jail suspectif they make up a good enough story, they also will get better comforts in jail, have their sentences reduced, or even be set free for sudden lack of evidence! We’ve just received a confession from the convict who did the serial murders in the suburbs last year..”

“What’s his confession?” asked the reporter excitedly.

“He says that Rahul is actually a married man, who’s left his wife and pretending he’s a bachelor!”

“That won’t work,” said the reporter, “Even our present leader’s done that!”

“But this man says, she is from Pakistan!”

“Whoa! Whoa!” said the reporter, “Can I meet this man?”

“The CBI has already taken him to Delhi for questioning!” said the warden, “Meanwhile we’ve been told to install an air-conditioner in his cell!”

“I guess there must be many such tales!” said the reporter.

“I know an opposition leader who eats beef!” shouted a convict from inside the jail, and the reporter saw police officials running hurriedly to the criminal, carrying a bowl of chocolate and cookies.

“Kejriwal’s wife is the actual ruler of Delhi!” shouted another convict.

“Manmohan Singh is not really a doctor!” shouted another.

“MamtaBannerjee wears jeans and T shirts in her home!” shouted a voice from an isolation cell.

The reporter watched as officials from the premier police force rushed to each of the convicts with the same special treat, even as other jailbirds shouted even louder to get the special favours.

The reporter wrote in his report, “Residents living near jails throughout the country are sick and tired of loud voices creating a huge din from inside jails all over, but what people of India are really scared of, is soon there will be a scarcity of chocolates and cookies in the country..!”

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*Srijata Saha Sahoo


It is really heartening to find that by now; Indian Navy has established a pragmatic position in the Indian Ocean region with too many good achievements to its credit. It is continuously in the process of modernizing and expanding its fleet as well as it is in the endeavour of evolving an initiative to create a forum for the littoral Navies of the region to exchange thoughts in the area of maritime diplomatic cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief’ (HADR). This initiative is termed MILAN-an effective platform for social, cultural and professional interactions and promoting camaraderie, maritime cooperation’s and inter-operability during humanitarian missions.

MILAN started in 1995. It is a biennial gathering on Navies of the Indian Ocean region and is held for building friendship and mutual understanding between participating Navies. Till date, eight MILANs have been held, in the years 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. The event was not conducted in 2001 and 2016, as the Indian Navy was hosting a significant international event - The International Fleet Review (IFR) at Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam in 2005 & 2015 respectively. The region was recovering from the after effects of Tsunami which hit these islands on 26 Dec 2004 and therefore the event could not be organized in the year 2005.

In the first MILAN, there were five participating nations- India, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. In MILAN 2006, four more countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Myanmar participated including eight ships from seven countries, 200 Officers, 802 sailors and 21 civilians (onboard MV Mahsuri of Malaysia). This was the largest ever congregation for MILAN. A special attraction was first ever participation from a ship from the Myanmar Navy in such an event outside their country.

This time MILAN is being held at Port Blair of Andaman and Nicobar Islands from tomorrow. The eight-day event will witness a diverse mix of professional interactions, social events and sports fixtures. This edition of MILAN will also include a multilateral exercise at sea 'MILES' from 11-13 March, being conducted for the first time, in which 20 warships are expected to participate, including frontline warships of Indian Navy from Andaman & Nicobar Command as well as the Eastern Naval Command. An International Maritime Seminar based on the theme 'In pursuit of Maritime Good Order - Need for Comprehensive Information Sharing Apparatus', will be conducted where eminent speakers will deliberate upon various issues to evolve best practices for multi-lateral cooperation towards strengthening of maritime good order in Indian Ocean region.

This 10th edition will be the largest ever, with participation of 11 warships and 38 delegates from 16 countries namely Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand and Vietnam. It will be conducted under the overall command of the Commander-in-Chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) on behalf of the Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy.

The famed International City Parade, for which the Hon'ble Raksha Mantri will be the Chief Guest, would feature marching contingents from participating countries, flag trooping by helicopters, flypast by aircrafts, sky diving by Marine Commandos, dare devil display of motorcyclists from Army, Beating Retreat Ceremony, Band performances, cultural demonstration by school children and also the Naval Continuity Drill. Also, in order to ensure greater participation of the residents of Port Blair and to provide an opportunity for interaction, these visiting foreign warships will be open for visit to school children as well as the general public to provide them an insight of the prowess of these foreign warships from the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions.

MILAN 2018 will also provide an excellent opportunity to the participating navies to come together in a spirit of collaboration and mutual understanding to nurture strong ties, especially in the light that the principal maritime interest of India is to ensure and safeguard national security.

The only difference between scams that surrounded the previous UPA government and those of the present NDA, is that all Congress scams where discovered when scamsters were within the country, while that of the BJP, after they’ve left our shores.

A guruji termed itthe Art of Leaving!

“It is a highly advanced art,” continued the guruji, “Much like the ancient Indian rope trick where the performer climbs a rope and vanishes. Now they fly into the skies and disappear.

I looked across the seas and saw Vijay Malya, Lalit Modi and now this newer Modi waving like cheerleaders at the authorities in India and put my head down in shame.“You should not feel bad!” said the guruji, “Our soil is sacred and this government has managed to keep it holy, while these criminals are polluting…”

“America!” I said.

“And England,” continued the guruji. “It’s all because of the Art of Leaving our soil is kept clean. Now all businessmen have to graduate in this course to start any business in our country!”

“What!” I exclaimed.

“I run the school,” said the guruji quietly, “and the cream of our nation’s businessmen attend it! Just look at that!” I watched with astonishment as a familiar tycoonwho had revolutionized the car industry in India was seen trying to push the monstrous front gate open. Both the guruji and I watched him struggle awhile, “Soon he will realize, it’s not muscle but grease that’s needed to open the gate!” smiled the guruji, “and that will be his first lesson, on the art of leaving!”

“Greasing gates to escape quietly!” I said thoughtfully.

“Generally, the gatekeeper!” said the guruji, “The lessons are very symbolic!”

“There’s someone fleeing with a pack of hounds behind him!” I exclaimed, “What’s he throwing?”

“Little tit bits to keep the pack of dogs at bay!” said the guruji.

“I can guess!” I said, “He’s learning to hand out bits of useless information to the press, to keep them happy, while he escapes!”

“You’re a fast learner,” said the guruji approvingly, “Can you can guess what’s happening here?” I watched as police dogs and their masters with heavy weights attached to their legs were instructed to run with it.

“Those are law enforcement, police and other government officers!” I said. “Are they learning to run with weights?”

“No!” smiled the guruji, “When they finish our course, they’d have lost their speed and will hereafter run after escapees very slowly, giving businessmenand tax evaders time to escape. Our course as you can see is also for officials!”

“Tell me!” I said, “To run a school of this magnitude must require a lot of funding?”

“We’re government aided!” said the guruji proudly, “And our success rate pleases our leaders!”

“Any awards or rewards?” I asked.

“The silence of our national leadership,” said the guruji proudly, “Is ample reward..!”

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