Archive for March, 2015

Letter From New York 02 31 15 A Day in Delhi…

March 31, 2015

It is relatively mild in Delhi today; rain last night broke the heat. In the morning I am off to Jaipur. If I can swing it, I will go to Goa for a day but so far the flight schedules aren’t accommodating. A friend surfaced there and I’d like to see him before I head back to the States on Sunday.

My friend Raja and I were supposed to go together to his wife’s shop in Delhi but he got caught up in an unexpected shoot and so I hired a car and driver and set off on my own. In the long ago and far away when I first was in Delhi, I would sometimes walk around Connaught Place and so I did again today.

It is largely filled today with international brands. Spread out in three concentric circles, it must have at least three or four McDonald’s. I passed at least three Van Heusen stores, Tommy Hilfiger, Levis, etc.

There were a couple of folks eager to direct me but I didn’t take their suggestions; instead I continued on my walk.

I also went to Diili Haat [I think that’s how it’s spelled], an open market where I got into the spirit of the bazaar and haggled over things I was bringing back as gifts and souvenirs. I also went to one of the Cottage Industries locations and vaguely remembered having been at one before and feeling like it was a bit overpriced. Wonderful rugs but I wasn’t feeling like $8,000 on a rug.

It was a good time, by myself, with Soni, my driver always at the ready. If I don’t get to Goa, I will ask for him again on Friday to take me around to places. In the morning, I am off to Jaipur with my other Delhi friend, Sanjay, and Andy, one of his friends. They have business there and while they do their business, I will sightsee.

I won’t be sightseeing in Bangladesh anytime soon. Another blogger was hacked to death there, in broad daylight, with meat cutting machetes. He was young and anti-Islamist. Three young men cut him down; two are in custody.

Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings pilot who apparently crashed his plane into the Alps, had been treated in the past for suicidal tendencies.

Denmark has agreed to join NATO’s missile defense system with at least one frigate. They agreed to do this last August. This week the Russian Ambassador to Denmark wrote an op-ed piece in a Danish newspaper warning Denmark they risk nuclear attack by Russia for doing so.

That’s the second time in a few weeks that Russia has rattled the nuclear sword.

Still rattled is the State of Indiana. Many of its Republicans simply don’t understand the firestorm that has arrived over their Religious Freedom Act. They are attempting to clarify it and stoutly claim it is not a cover for LGBT discrimination. Utah, that most religious of states, passed a Religious Freedom Act and it specifically provided protection for LGBT individuals.
More to come on this.

It will be interesting to see if there is going to be more tomorrow on the Iranian Nuclear deal. There is a self-imposed deadline of midnight tonight and it appears there are still hurdles to jump, not to mention i’s dotted and t’s crossed. It is mid-afternoon in Lausanne and they will keep talking until midnight, I’m sure. We’ll know tomorrow if the talking produced any kind of deal.

In Nigeria the election for President is coming to a close. It appears current President Jonathan Goodluck is losing. Mostly, the elections were peaceful. Hopefully, peace will be maintained as the results are announced.

Saudi Arabia continues to pound Yemen and says it will continue to do so until the rebels are finished. Iran seems to be sending some help to the rebels, who are Shia, as is Iran.

We now know that Trevor Noah is going to replace Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”

And I know that I am going to go to dinner tonight and then off to Jaipur in the morning. More to come from there…

Letter From New York 03 30 15 Safely back in Delhi…

March 30, 2015

There is one thing I have learned from my times in India. The people drive with cheerful, careless, reckless abandon. After we left the guesthouse at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, I made sure my seat belt was tightly fastened. As we started down the long road to Delhi, I realized that more often than not we were on the wrong side of the road.

Drivers seem to feel that a steady use of the horn gives them both right of way and immunity. After watching death bear down on me at 60 kilometers an hour once too often, I surrendered to the experience and closed my eyes, saying a prayer and hoping to doze.

Once I opened my eyes to see us just avoiding rear-ending the car in front of us; another time to see us squeeze between two other vehicles on a two-lane road. I closed my eyes again and thought pleasant thoughts about arriving in one piece in Delhi.

We drove past ramshackle buildings that could never have been new and past new buildings that looked old before they were finished. In air-conditioned comfort, I looked out at the faces of people, many smiling in the wonderful way Indians have. Some looked intense but most seemed content, living in the world they did. A woman in a red and blue sari passed me, intent on getting where she was going with her burden of groceries in a bag.

I drifted off again and then, before I really knew it, I was at India Habitat Center, where I will be staying the next two nights before heading down to Jaipur.

An old friend surfaced this morning, via Facebook, and I am going to see if I can get to Goa to see him. I had thought he was living in Haridwar but it turns out he has not kept his Facebook profile up to date and is now in Goa.

Tonight, I will see if I can work that out.

At this very moment, much to my frustration, I am Internet challenged. While it says I am connected, no pages load so I have no connection to the greater world.

The Times of India this morning was bursting with reports about dissension in the AAP, a relatively new party that swept elections in Delhi in the last two months. Two of the founders of the party seemed to have been banished for “seditious” activities. Made American politics seem almost tame.

In Roorkee, I met an Australian named Jo, who now works at the University of Southampton in Britain and who has been on loan to IIT Roorkee for the last six months helping them revamp their administrative policies. She goes home tomorrow and is deeply sad after having become very attached to Roorkee and India.

She, Ron Eglash and I had a spirited conversation yesterday night about the differences between British and American politics at the given moment. She was fascinated and intrigued by the sharp differences right now between Republicans and Democrats. Her feeling is that Tories and Labour in the UK have become too similar though the advance of UKIP, a newish party that wants to pull away from Europe and which is gaining a surprising degree of popularity, frightens her. Jo’s opinion is that UKIP has a racist streak up its spine.

The Iranian talks are coming down to the wire and it may well be there will be no resolution though Iran still says it is “doable.” Tomorrow is the last day of the self-imposed deadline and negotiators seem willing to talk until 11:59:59 PM of March 31st.

The Times of India, which was left at my door at the guesthouse in Roorkee, also reported on the continuing Saudi airstrikes against Yemeni rebels.

It was actually cool when I left the guesthouse and I wore a sweater for the first time since being in India.

Now that I am safely back in Delhi, I look forward to the rest of my time in India. I am hoping I can find a way to Goa to see William, who has lived here since 1969. He was 19 when he arrived and has never really left.

I have plans tomorrow to do some Delhi shopping with my friend Raja and am going to put together a list of people for whom I would like to bring home something. It’s part of the fun of traveling, finding delights for friends and relatives.

Letter From New York 03 19 15 With the speech over, back to Delhi…

March 29, 2015

It is always hard to know exactly how well it went when you give a speech, which I did today. Personally, I think it went well. No one fell asleep. There were very few yawns. It was supposed to go for sixty minutes; it went for 90+ with all the questions.

Professor Ron Eglash, who spoke before me, stayed for my speech and when we got into the car to go back to the guesthouse, he told me that I was brilliant! And he’s American, so he wasn’t using “brilliant” the way Brits do, to say that was nice. He thought I was really good and I appreciated it.

Twenty students rushed the stage to have their pictures taken with me so I felt, for a few seconds, like a rock star.

All good.

The day came grey and drizzly today and the grey has never really gone away. Post speech, I’m feeling a bit tired and am going to finish this and then try to catch a few minutes catnap. I’d really love a glass of wine but the campus is “dry” so I will have to wait for Delhi for that.

Now that the speech is done and the conference closed, I have gone back to perusing world events a bit more closely.

Angie’s List has put on hold its expansion in Indiana until it further understands the implications of that state’s Religious Freedom Act. They were about to break ground in a few days on a $40 million building project. In the meantime, the legislature is drafting a “clarification” of the law, which it plans to unveil in a few days. I am very curious to see the clarifications. I’ll still be in India when they come out but I will be looking.

It is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Christian’s Holy Week. Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the Germanwings crash in the service today.

In other Francis’ news, he keeps hinting that he thinks his Papacy will be short, ended by some great event. I hope not. He is popular among Catholics and is stressing Christian themes in a way no Pope has for decades.

In good news for heavy drinkers, it is being reported that coffee counters the bad effects of drinking on the liver. One cup of coffee turns back the dial on three drinks. I predict coffee sales will rise.

Rising slightly are hopes that a nuclear deal will be made with Iran, but only slightly. There are still major differences and it’s not clear they can be overcome. Secretary Kerry was to return to the States for an event honoring his friend and colleague, the late Ted Kennedy. Kerry has cancelled the trip to remain at the negotiations.

Netanyahu says the deal is worse than he feared.

There are no negotiations going on in Yemen. There are lots of dropping bombs. Saudi Arabia claims to have destroyed the ballistic missiles the Shiite rebels seized when they toppled the Sunni government. The Arab League is holding a summit and is presenting a pretty united front against the rebels, announcing at the same time a regional security force.

The situation underscores the tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Places like Yemen and Libya are the grounds now for proxy wars while the two powers attempt to become dominant in the Middle East.

In the confusing battleground that is Syria, the Al-Nursa Front has taken the city of Idlib. As they entered the city, they reported that Syrian troops had executed some detainees before fleeing the city. Al-Nursa is one of the groups, along with IS, vying for power in fractured Syria.

It is difficult to keep the players straight.

Singapore is saying farewell to its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. The Prime Minister of India is there along with many other world leaders. The city is said to be at a standstill. For them, it’s like saying good-bye to George Washington.

Tomorrow, I leave Roorkee to return to Delhi. The weather looks ominous and so I will be praying for a safe driver. It will be good to be back in Delhi, where creature comforts are a bit more available. Not only is the campus “dry,” it is also vegetarian. I am hankering for some chicken tikka.

Letter From New York 03 28 15 In Holy Haridwar…

March 28, 2015

When I wake up in India, everyone I know is 9.5 hours behind me, sound asleep. It’s a little odd but I have gotten used to it. Beginning the day with an Indian breakfast, I moved on to two presentations here at Cognizance that I was interested in attending. One was by Kamlesh Sharma, Director of Coca-Cola, India. He is a remarkable young spokesperson for his company, invested with more enthusiasm for company, culture and product than I have recently seen in any individual.

He was followed by Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Senior Advisor, UN Women, who was here to talk about and evangelize “HeForShe,” a gender parity campaign launched by the UN earlier this year with a speech by Emma Watson, she of “Harry Potter” fame. And, yes, there is an app for that.

Following lunch, my new best friend, Ron Eglash, of RPI in Troy, NY, just up the road from Claverack, and I went with two of our young hosts to Haridwar, one of the seven holiest places in India for Hindus, the place where the Ganges flows into India.

We traveled for an hour to get there, through the dusty plains of northern India, past the roadside shantytowns and masses of humanity, threading our way through traffic, tossing our hat at danger at every moment. We rode past massive construction projects, all of which seemed halted at some point in their development with no sign they would ever be completed.

Walking on the bridge across the Ganges, you can stand and watch people bathing in the river. People by the dozens sell empty plastic bottles of varying sizes so that the pilgrims can take home the holy water of the Ganges.

People with deformed limbs line the walks, begging. It was a scene I remember well from my other times in India. One old woman looked me in the eye and I lined her tin cup with paper rupees. She reminded me of my mother.

In some ways, it felt very much like I was part of the Raj, sliding through the crushes of humanity in an air-conditioned Toyota, passing close enough to people that our eyes met and caught, my wondering about their world, as I am sure they wondered about mine.

Whole families transported themselves on motorbikes, no one wearing helmets, children delicately balanced between parents. It appeared to me that no one in India uses seatbelts either. Ashad, one of my hosts, languidly lounged in the front seat, his seat belt unbuckled.

The students who get into any of the branches of the India Institute of Technology are the best and brightest of Indian students. Each year only 5000 are granted places. I teased Ashad that I was with two of the brightest people I had ever known.

And I was.

We returned to the guesthouse as the sun was setting, a brilliant pink orb descending in the west and I retreated to my room to write.

While I was watching the Ganges flow, it was revealed that the co-pilot of the downed Germanwings flight, Andreas Lubitz, was responsible for the crash, with the loss of all aboard. He had said that his name would be famous. What a way to get what you want.

In Indiana, Governor Pence, has signed into law a “religious freedom” bill, which allows people to refuse service to same sex couples. He is surprised and frustrated that he is getting a negative response from a lot of folks, including the N.C.A.A., based in Indianapolis. The Mayor of San Francisco has banned all publicly funded travel to the state. Gen Con, a convention for gaming enthusiasts held every year in Indianapolis is threatening to leave. is outraged and has said so.

Lots of celebrities and others, including Hillary Clinton, are piling on. The head of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has called the bill “unnecessary.” Yelp is yelping, quite loudly.

Governor Pence is perplexed. If he had thought the bill was discriminatory, he wouldn’t have signed, he said.

He hasn’t ruled out a run for the Presidency.

Amanda Knox, who along with her boyfriend, had been accused of killing her roommate in Italy, has finally been vindicated and her conviction thrown out. The case has had more turns than a ride at Disneyland.

Apparently Hillary Clinton has wiped clean the server that she used for email in her years as Secretary of State. This isn’t going away for a long, long time.

And it’s not a very long time until I am giving my speech in the morning. I am skipping tonight’s festivities, a Swedish heavy metal band, and am going to my room after dinner to further prep my remarks and say some prayers that it all goes well.

Letter From New York 03 27 15 The road to Roorkee….

March 27, 2015

It is a little after 8 at night in Roorkee, where I am to give my speech on Sunday. I arrived around 4:30 after a 4-hour road trip from Delhi. An Indian road trip is not for the faint of heart. A driver picked me up at the India International Center. Also riding with me was a young man, Dhurv Malik, who, too, was on his way to Roorkee. He manages a musical group that is making an appearance tonight.

I am sure Dhurv found my occasional intakes of breath amusing as we wound our way from Delhi to Roorkee. We seemed to spend much of the time on the wrong side of the road, facing oncoming traffic as the young man driving us worked his way around vehicles going too slowly for his taste.

The roads were not exactly smooth; there were about 50 kilometers when I thought we were going over speed bumps the whole way. It was a bit like being on the inside of a mixer.

For lunch, around 2:30, Dhurv suggested either some food from a roadside cart or McDonalds. I chose McDonalds, not wanting to test my stomach on an Indian roadside cart.

It was nicer than most McDonalds I have been to recently in the States. Very clean and the fries tasted just like home. Remarkable.

Once outside of Delhi, as soon as we entered the state of Uttar Pradesh, I knew I was back in India. Not that I didn’t know it in Delhi but here there were the roadside shantytowns of people. The dust covered the trees, making them look grimy in the afternoon sun.

Advertisements looked homemade and there were more beggars.

Surrendering myself to the universe and into the care of God, I closed my eyes, as I felt sleepy. I opened them once to see us squealing past a little boy in the middle of the highway, begging.

I said a silent prayer he would make it through the day and live to beg another day.

This was the India of pungent smells and rolls of dust scattering across the land, of people sitting on cheap plastic chairs, watching the world roll by, of men having their hair cut on the side of the road, of women in brilliant red saris, carrying babies, begging, the India that has yet to see modernization.

It was fascinating to watch it race by, my senses heightened by wondering if the young man at the wheel had the skill – and the luck – to get me safely where I was going. Dhurv was unconcerned as far as I could tell.

He made fascinating company. He works for a company in Delhi named Only Much Louder that is 51% owned by Indians and 49% owned by Hollywood types like Jerry Bruckheimer. About a month ago they were bringing Jerry Seinfeld to India for his first Asian show.

It was cancelled because the Indian government wanted approval of the script before the show. “It’s stand-up!” cried Seinfeld, and even if there were a script, he wouldn’t give it to them. He didn’t come.

Such are the tensions in the largest democracy in the world, wanting freedom but afraid of too much of it in a deeply conservative country.

I’ve just returned from a concert that closed the session for the first day of the Cognizance Conference. The first act was a Scandinavian blonde in a red dress playing a Lucite electric violin. She must be something of a celebrity in India because the house went wild for her.

Following was a dance group called “The Skeleton Dancers” and they were very interesting though a bit hard to describe, dancing in electric outfits that constantly changed colors though always looking a bit skeletal.

Since I have arrived, I seemed to have been paired with Ron, whose last name I haven’t quite caught yet. He is a Ph.D. in Ethno Mathematics. We are surrounded by a half dozen young students who see to it we are treated like rock stars. I mustn’t become too used to it.

I haven’t a clue what has been happening in the world. My phone makes calls and sends texts but it is not connected to the Internet and I haven’t perused what’s going on in the world.

There is one more appearance I seem to need to make and then I am off to bed. Tomorrow I will see what is happening in the world.

Letter From New York 03 26 15 Second Day in India, at Humayun’s Tomb

March 26, 2015

It is said that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. I must either be a mad dog or an Englishman as I was out in the noonday sun in Delhi. It was a lazy morning and I slept in later than I intended; I couldn’t seem to roust myself from sleep. After a leisurely cup of coffee and some email work, my friend, Raja, sent his driver Emmanuel for me to take me out sightseeing.

Emmanuel doesn’t have much English. An Indian native, he is a 7th Day Adventist. He did understand Qutub Minar and we drove there through the noonday traffic. Once I had purchased my ticket, I was approached by a guide who would take me through the site; the cost was 300 Rupees, about $5. I thought: why not.? His name was, I think, Parbal.

Qutub Minar is the site of Delhi’s oldest mosque. Qutub Minar is the minaret built to call the faithful to prayer. It is a magnificent edifice and a World Heritage Site. Built of red sandstone and marble, it towers to 73 meters. Its construction started in the late 12th century and was finished in the mid 14th century. The entire complex was amazing and Parbal took me through it, step by step for about 90 minutes.

There is an iron pillar in the midst of the complex. It predates the Qutub Minar and it was said that if you held your arms around it backwards, your wish would be granted. It is now fenced off. I was annoyed. I have a couple of wishes I’d like granted.

From there, I went to Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun was a 16th Century Mughal Emperor who inherited a kingdom, lost it and then got it back with help from the Persians. While not a good military strategist, he was a very good man, which earned him the title of “Perfect Man” among the Mughals.

He had several rascally brothers who kept betraying him and he kept forgiving them, several times over in the course of his lifetime. By the end of his life, he had recovered his empire and expanded it. His son was Akbar the Great.

It was the first garden tomb in India, surrounded as it is by acres of gardens, threaded through with narrow water channels and dotted here and there with fountains. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1993 and has since then undergone much restoration. It was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.

I visited it twenty years ago and attest that it is definitely in better shape than it was then.

As Emmanuel drove me through the streets of Delhi, I realized another change in the city. There are fewer homeless crowding the boulevards. Twenty years ago when you left the manicured gardens of the Oberoi Hotel, you were immediately thrust onto a boulevard crowded with rough tents and hundreds of people living there. Not so today.

Stopping for a bite to eat in a little brasserie, I watched a bit of the big Cricket match, not that I could make much sense of it. Everyone else was enraptured by the proceedings, not caring about anything else.

But while I was sleeping and touring, the world kept ticking on.

The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia rebels in Yemen and have amassed 150,000 troops to be used if they need them. The paper left at my door here at the India International Center, had a front-page report about the Yemeni President fleeing his home.

In a confusing and disturbing report, it appears one pilot was locked out of the cockpit at the time of the Germanwings crash in the Alps. The voice recorder reveals the pilot knocking on the door lightly and then pounding on it and then trying to break it down.

The military is going to charge Bowe Bergdahl with desertion, bringing, once again, into question the prisoner exchange that secured his release.

The US has now been asked by Iraq to send airstrikes in support of the effort to liberate Tikrit, where the offensive has stalled. It started doing so while I was asleep last night.

In Mosul, continuing their winning ways, IS stoned to death a couple in their 20’s for adultery and beheaded three young men because they were nephews of an opponent. Residents of Mosul are urging the Iraqi government to rescue them.

The sun is beginning to set outside the window of my room. A soft light is signaling the beginning of the end of the day. In awhile, my friend Raja will come and we will go off to dinner.

Letter From New York 03 25 15 First full day in Delhi…

March 25, 2015

It is late afternoon in Delhi and I am just back at India International Center where I am staying, after spending the afternoon with my friend Raja Choudury. We made a drive past Connaught Place where I commented that it was much better looking than I remembered it. He said yes, they had done much to clean it up over the last years. It was, twenty years ago, one of the great shopping areas of Delhi but it also looked like a rundown claptrap of a place. Now it is white and shiny again.

We went on from there to the Oberoi Hotel where we lunched at Taipan, a dim sum restaurant on the top floor with views out across Delhi, the sky tinged with the pollution for which the city is famous. It was a long and leisurely lunch; with Raja catching me up on the work he is doing, including the launching of a new web adventure,

This was the first time that Raja and I had met in person. We have known each other for years. He encountered me on LinkedIn and asked me for some help with a project that he was working on, which I was, luckily, able to provide. We have continued talking and skypeing but in all this time we haven’t met each other in person so today was a good day.

Tomorrow, all of India will come to almost to a halt. It is the day of a cricket game between India and Australia and is, according to reports, the biggest game in years. A huge number of Indians are going to call in sick. It’s the game NOT to be missed, a bit like asking people to work during the Super Bowl in the U.S.

So I should be able to get around quite easily tomorrow. I am going to delve into my tour books and determine what I would like to see. Today, I visited India Gate and drove by the President’s House and the Houses of Parliament, great, grand structures built in the last days of the Raj. Back then; I think the President’s House was the Viceroy’s Palace.

It was in the 90’s here but not yet humid so it didn’t feel so bad. In my room, I have the air conditioning running and the fan turning. The IIC, India International Center, is a private club on the nature of the Yale Club or Harvard Club in New York though very Indian in feel. The accommodations are nice if rather Spartan compared with the Oberoi but very adequate with excellent Wi-Fi.

As far as I can tell, I am the only American staying here; the rest are from all over India. In the bar, groups huddle together discussing business or art. Last night, I read and sipped Johnny Walker.

Being in India, I am very careful about the water. No ice cubes. I only drink what can be drunk neat.

This morning there was an Indian paper at my door, mostly filled with news I had read online before going of to bed.

Getting back from tour round Delhi, I went online and found the, to me, blockbuster news that Heinz and Kraft Foods are to merge, becoming Heinz Kraft, in a deal nurtured by legendary investor Warren Buffet with a Brazilian investment company.

My, oh my!

There is a new Steve Jobs biography out, “Becoming Steve Jobs” that is reputedly better than Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs.” He still comes across as monumentally conflicted but a bit more human, according to reviews.

In a case of life imitating art, Jon Hamm, Don Draper in “Mad Men,” has just exited a 30-day program for alcohol rehab. Years of playing the world’s most famous alcoholic may have found its reflection in Hamm’s own life. I wish him well. The last season of “Mad Men” starts soon.

In the category of the world is challenging: The UN last year announced that same sex married couples could receive the same benefits of married straight couples. Russia introduced a resolution to withdraw benefits from same sex married couples. 43 countries, including India, China and the UAE, supported it. It was defeated. 80 countries voted against the resolution and 37 abstained.

The day is drawing to a close as the day begins in America. I am going to work on my speech again and then go read for a while before an early night. I feel good but one more good’s night sleep would be a great thing.

Letter From New York 03 24 15 Arrived in New Delhi…

March 24, 2015

It is 5:30 here in Delhi; the sun is beginning to set, as my usual world is just getting ready to go to work. I arrived safely after a good flight and a few hours sleep on the plane but was very tired after checking in at the India International Center where I am staying for a few days. I laid down for an hour’s nap but hit the snooze alarm enough that it was two hours before I got back into the world.

It was reported that short naps could improve memory five fold. I hope that is true; I was feeling pretty foggy by the time I laid down.

While I haven’t seen much yet of Delhi, I have seen enough to know that it has changed since I was here ten years ago and is vastly different from when I was here twenty-one years ago.

When I arrived at Delhi International Airport in 1995, I realized I had stepped into a movie I had never seen before. It was wildly chaotic. It was the middle of the night and, despite that, the airport was swarming with people, all yelling and screaming. The airport buildings themselves were tired and not very clean, barren, looking like something out of a 1940’s Humphrey Bogart movie, possibly co-starring Ingrid Bergman.

Today, I arrived at an airport that looked pretty much like any other major airport in the world, being swept by moving sidewalks along the way to immigration and customs. It wasn’t this way even ten years ago.

I was genuinely amazed.

My friend Sanjay sent a driver to pick me up and bring me to my hotel and we wove through the streets of Delhi where the roads have radically improved though, while lanes are clearly marked, the drivers seem to not to notice. It takes nerves of steel to drive in Delhi. I said so to Joginder, the man who picked me up. He smiled tightly.

It was not long before the beggars started coming up to the car and asking for money, always a moment of existential crisis for me, though at this point I had no rupees to give them.   On the drive to the hotel there were fewer beggars than I remember from before when they assaulted one at every turn.

Tomorrow I will be doing some sightseeing. I would like to return to walk around Connaught Place, where I have not been for twenty years and see the changes there.

Here to talk about media as having the ability to empower individuals, the Supreme Court has announced a major court case regarding freedom of speech on the Internet. Section 66A of the Technology Act has been declared unconstitutional, claiming it infringed on free speech. It allowed authorities to make arrests based on their interpretation of social media postings.

While I was safely winging my way to Delhi, an Airbus crashed in the Alps. No one is expected to survive. It was on its way to Germany from Barcelona. I give those passengers and crew a moment of silence.

Long absent from the offensive on Tikrit in Iraq has been air support from the US led coalition. Apparently now there are at least surveillance flights happening, giving direction to troops on the ground. Air strikes may soon follow.

In Mosul, IS is dissembling the city’s cement factories and moving them deeper into their territory as the push by Iraq to take Tikrit seems on the verge of success.

Israel has been accused by some in the US of spying on the Iran Nuclear negotiations and then giving that information to US Congressmen in hopes of undermining the negotiations. Israel denies it. If true, it marks a new low in the relationship with Israel.

Now we know Israel spies on us and we spy on Israel. We spy on everyone. We hacked Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. What makes this a bit different in the eyes of some is that Israel may have shared the information with lawmakers.

What did Rodney King say after the LA Riots: can’t we all get along?

The light is fading in New Delhi and I have work to do on my speech while I have hopefully improved my memory by my nap.

Letter From New York 03 23 15 Halfway to Delhi…

March 23, 2015

Sitting in the Upper Class Lounge for Virgin Atlantic at Heathrow Airport, I am surrounded by people traveling to the far corners of the world. The man to my left, who checked in just before me, is on his way to Capetown. The woman in front of him was off to Dubai. I am heading to Delhi.

In front of me, behind a plate glass window, two men are having their hair cut. A very nice lady brought me a martini and a couple of deviled eggs for a snack.

Thank goodness for the mileage that got me here! If you are traveling all the way to Delhi from New York, it’s best to be in at least business. On the way to London, I actually got a few good hours of sleep. The seat folded out to a flat bed. I was laying there thinking about my first flight to London and remembered then, all that time ago, I was so excited I couldn’t think of sleeping.

In London, I had lunch with my friend Tim and his wife, Vidya, who came all the way out to Heathrow to collect me. We drove into London and then went to a tony part of London [Primrose?] and ate at Greenberry, a charming restaurant, having good English breakfasts, followed by a cappuccino.

In the afternoon, Tim and I stayed at their house and chatted while Vidya ran errands. He was demonstrating the BBC iPlayer for me and we watched some news. One of the Conservatives was on the BBC announcing that she was introducing measures to contain extreme Islamists. They would not be tolerated. Those who didn’t subscribe to “British” norms would be excluded from citizenship and entry.

Britain has been especially sensitive because of the four young girls who flew to Turkey, crossed to Syria and joined IS as well as the revelation that Jihadi John was a British citizen.

Tim expressed his concern about the growing anti-Muslim sentiment rising in Britain today. We discussed various examples of it in both our countries. It is a fraught time. One friend of mine in the States believes with all his heart that all Muslims are raised to hate “infidels.”

In the staggeringly complex world in which we live there are no absolutes. But the rise of extreme Islamic movements like Al Qaeda and IS are more than troubling. I have no ready answer. I don’t believe all Muslims actually hate infidels like me. I do believe some do and I would prefer not to encounter them this side of paradise.

On this side of paradise, for once the global news isn’t peppered with reports of IS atrocities. I’m sure they are occurring; they just haven’t made headlines.

One of today’s headlines is that Lee Kuan Yew, founder of Singapore, died today at 91. Early on, he predicted the rise of China. He is being mourned as a political giant. I also think he’s the one that banned chewing gum in Singapore.

Attempting to be a political giant, Ted Cruz has announced he is running for the Presidency. I believe he is the first official entrant in what is going to be a very crowded field this year. Half of America seems to be seeking the Republican nomination. If we thought it was crowded in 2012 wait until this year.

Jeb Bush is fundraising in Texas and his brother W, the former President, and Laura, his wife, are the special guests of honor at a big event in Dallas. It’s the first time the former President and his wife have publicly appeared in support of Jeb, who is big with the donors and not so big with voters. It will be interesting to watch Jeb’s progress.

The flight to Dubai has just been called. There has been an exodus from the lounge, seeming practically empty until the next wave comes. I’m told my flight will be called in about an hour, which is why I am hurrying this.

I think the flight to Delhi is about eight hours, a long time in the air. I will sleep some and then will go to my hotel in Delhi to sleep some more and work on the speech, slowly coming together in preparation for Sunday, when I speak.

Letter From New York 03 22 15 Off to India…

March 22, 2015

The ice on the Hudson is breaking up more every day. It is one of the few signs of spring as winter keeps its claws in the Northeast. It made it hard to decide what to wear today as I was leaving the cottage to go to the train, one the first of steps in the long journey to India.

My flight leaves at 10:30 tonight and arrives in London at 9:30 in the morning where friends will meet me, take me to brunch, and I’ll visit with them until it is time to get back to the airport and continue the journey to Delhi.

As Nick, who works with me on weekends, took me to the train station, he commented that I seemed hesitant to go, which I am not. I am a mixture of excitement and anxiety; mostly about the speech I will be giving one week from today at the Indian Institute of Technology at Roorkee, northeast of Delhi.

I’m still working on it, working to find the right words, shape the phrases correctly, providing the appropriate information. It is challenging. And I am enjoying it, waking this morning with something that needed to be said, getting up and happily typing it in.

This will be my fourth time in India. Each one of those visits has provided me with great memories and experiences. More will come from this time, I’m sure. It may be hard to blog from there but I will make an effort.

Last night was only the second time since mid-November that I haven’t posted a daily blog. Wanting to savor the night before the journey, I built a fire in the Franklin stove and watch the sun slowly fade in the west, looking out the living room window as the world went from sun to dusky greys and then to dark. I made myself a martini and watched a little Netflix and then turned into bed.

This morning was a scruffle of activity as I went online and paid some bills, gathered things together to take down to the city, showered, dressed, cooked a light breakfast, texted my brother and his wife to make sure they had reached Lima, Peru alright.

They had. They are there with two of the grandchildren, going to Machu Picchu.

As I rumble south, staring out at the river, I find myself sleepy, surrendering to the journey. In thirty hours I will be in Delhi, on the other side of the world.

In England, King Richard III’s hearse has begun a long journey to be reburied. His remains were found in a buried friary under a car park in 2012. The coffin in which he will be buried is made of Cornwall oak and was fashioned by one of his descendants. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. It was the last major battle of the War of The Roses. Richard lost and the Tudors came to power.

In India, 600 students were expelled after footage surfaced of parents scaling walls to hand over cheat sheets to the 10th grade exams, which determine whether the students can continue with their education. It is a scandal in India and the pictures of parents climbing up several stories are quite something.

Underscoring how important education is, an Indian bride to be walked out on her husband to be when he failed to answer correctly a simple math problem. She asked him what 15 + 6 equals. He said 17. She left.

Most Indian marriages are arranged and the bride and groom don’t spend much time together before marriage. This young lady wanted to have some assurance as to the brightness of her husband to be.

The day is bright and hopeful, if chill. By the time I return from India, I hope that spring will have vanquished this old man winter. When I arrive in the city, I have one errand to do and then will go to the apartment and close my suitcases, call a car, and head to the airport.

Bon Voyage!