Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cindy Sheehan gives up protest against the war in Iraq

Today Cindy Sheehan, the activist mom, whose son died in the war on Iraq gave up her protest against the Iraq war. With all due respect for her, I think she has done the right thing.

While I am not condoning the war in/on Iraq, there are reasons why I think it cannot be stopped now.

Why did the US start the war?

The US started the war on misleading claims that Saddam Hussein had WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction for the uninitiated), which was a crock of horse manure to start with! My take on it is that George Bush Junior wanted to finish what the Senior could not for one and the second one being Iraq having some of the largest deposits of oil – lets face it, the war was for oil and nothing else! So the war was launched and Saddam was hung. Unfortunately, and I mean it in the most sincere way, what started as a means to end Saddam’s dictatorship, ended up becoming a war on terror, with Al Qaeda joining the rebels against the American occupation in Iraq. So what should have been capture and get out became a war that neither George Bush not any of his team actually thought through!

What are the choices we have today?

George Bush orders his army to get out of Iraq, which is something that will make Messrs. Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton et al. happy, but leave Iraq in a state of conflict with no solution in sight in the near future something they did not anticipate – The Middle East is a cauldron with so many conflicts and George Bush, instead of making the world a better place to live has done exactly the opposite. He has managed to alienate the entire Middle East, parts of Europe and most people on the face of the Earth, hate him for going to war. To put things in perspective, the Americans are fine with having a dictator, who will tow the American line, no matter what - look at President Musharaff in Pakistan for example! No matter what he does and there is ample evidence to the effect that Al Qaeda is re-grouping in Pakistan – the Americans simply look the other way!

The only other choice is for Americans to stay in Iraq and ensure that all the warring parties come to the table and trash out a goal for the common good of the country. While, this is easier said than done, there is no other choice.

So the Americans are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea with no chance of redeeming all the bad will they have managed to generate against themselves and in the process made the world a worse place to live in!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Wanderlust – Bath, UK

Wanderlust drags me to Bath and I wasn’t too sure if it could match the sheer intensity and mysticism of Stonehenge.

I took the train back to Bath, the station is called Bath Spa barely 10 minutes by walk is one of the oldest and best preserved Roman Bath in the world.

This place has become a major tourist attraction and it is amazing how well the bath is preserved.

Roman baths were not just a place for cleaning oneself, but was the equivalent of today’s cafes, where people meet friends, exchange ideas and had debates.

The baths had cold and hot water pools, saunas and the equivalent of jacuzzis of the age. It had reading rooms, gymnasiums and hair cutting salons.

This place is a true marvel of engineering of the times and featured drain that work to this day, aqueducts and springs that have hot water, which were considered to be Gods work!

The Romans used Lead pipes to carry hot water to the spas and used gravity to help them do it! Any surplus water not used in the spa would flow out to the River Avon which was 400 meters away from the spa.

The baths still contain a few hypocaust pilae, which show how the heating system would have worked.

I then walked out of the Spa and walked my way through to the Pulteney Bridge. It is one of the only 4 bridges in the world which are lined by shops on both sides. It was built for William Pulteney, whose wife had inherited rural Bathswick across the river from Bath.

All in all, this was a thoroughly satisfying day and I made my way back to the hotel in Slough. I was leaving back to India in about 3 days time and I saw what I could.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


It has been a long time, but I needed a clear head to write about the place!

While I was in the UK, I was pulled inexplicably to Stonehenge – I do not know what these old ruins had for me – but I did decide to go!

There are a lot of options to choose from, rent a car and drive to Salisbury, take a train or take a tour! I did think of the tour and then decided, I would rather do this on my own!

I researched the net, booked tickets on the net from Slough to Reading, then onto Bath Spa (which was also on my agenda) and then on to Salisbury. I had booked the tickets a week in advance and got it at a steal for £22!

So off I went on a bright, warm and sunny Sunday morning after I had a hearty breakfast! Went to the station, got into the train to Reading and then changed there for a train to Bath Spa where I changed again for one to Salisbury! The train journey is scenic and while going from Bath Spa to Salisbury, one can also see the famous White Horse carved into the chalk hillside above the village of Uffington.

Anyways, I reached Salisbury in Wiltshire, which is a small quaint village. Salisbury is on the banks of the River Avon, where the main attraction is the cathedral. The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest specimens of medieval architecture. This is also one of the few cathedrals that was built in one go, with the only subsequent addition being the tall spire, which is the tallest in England.

I walked my way to the town square, a very nice 10 minute walk where you can see a variety of shops selling knick-knacks. Specialist shops mingling with the best in high street brands set in beautiful medieval timber framed buildings are the norm. I then got some grub at Subway and then walked my way back to the station, where I took the Bus tour of Salisbury and Stonehenge.

The tour conductor was very knowledgeable with a dry sense of humor; unfortunately, he had an audience of only 10 people – some Chinese folks from Seattle who moved to England, some American kids and yours truly!

We drove through the city, with the conductor giving us an overview of the city of Salisbury, The bus drives us through the city, via the Old Sarum. Old Sarum is where the original city of Salisbury was formed. The Celts built a hill fort called Sorviadum which translates to “Fortress by the Gentle River”, during the Iron Age. It was then taken over by the Romans and then the Saxons. The Norman William the Conquerer was a frequent visitor to the site after the Norman conquest. During medieval times, the Bishop built the cathedral and the town then moved to the New Sarum or the Salisbury, we now know.

We reached Stonehenge and what a visual sight it was on a glorious Sunday afternoon – Words will fail to describe it and here I am giving it a shot anyway! It is the most important prehistoric monument in Britain.

Stonehenge that exists today is the final stage that was completed 3500 years ago! The first Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising of a ditch and the Aubrey holes. Excavations have shown that the holes contain remains of human bones – though it was for some religious ceremony and this is conjecture as we do not have any proof around the same.

The stones themselves were brought from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, some of them weighing as much as 4 tons and are thought to have been moved using rollers. It is amazing to know that the stones traveled around 200 miles to reach its final destination! They were arranged in an incomplete double circles. The next stage was the arrival of the Sarsen stones, most likely from Avebury some of them weighing around 50 tons! How these stones were moved is simply too difficult to imagine considering the people of the time did not have too many instruments! These were then arranged in outer circle.

The last stage was when the blue stones were arranged in the horseshoe shape, the remains of which we can see today.

The place evokes a sense of magic, and I wonder why it was built, what was it used for, why had people across almost 1000 years expended so much energy, money to build it? The magic for me is the fact that it was built, though we don’t know why and I guess it is this mystery that keeps the magic alive!

Went back to Salisbury and then on to Bath Spa – Will be the next blog!

One place that I can check off my must-see-in-my-life list!