Friday, September 30, 2005

Vatican Flexes Muscle

On driving to work I heard on the radio that the Catholic bishops will gather in Rome this weekend to consider refusing communion to politicians who pass laws that violate church doctrine. This potentially involves Canada as Prime Minister Paul Martin is a Catholic who has just passed same sex marriage laws across Canada.

From 580 CFRA, "Canadian bishops say the issue will be raised as part of a larger discussion on the worthiness of Catholics who present themselves for the sacrament".

This is a very dangerous situation. Before I continue let me clarify my stance of homosexuality. My views are coloured by my religion. And Islam has unequivocally banned homosexual relations, just like Christianity and Judaism. Many so-called liberal Christians and Jews say their religion has no such law. Not knowing that much details of the religions I cannot clarify, but in Islam it is said the people of Lut (Lot in the Bible) were punished because they practiced same sex relations. The Qur'an chapter 26 verse 165 also spells out what God thinks of gay people.

Therefore I think gay people are wrong. But that does not mean I start burning them at stake or spraying homophobic graffiti. Allah has also said not to transgress in our actions and live peacefully with those whom we disagree on articles of faith.

"He who hurts a dhimmi (minority) hurts me, and he who hurts me hurts and annoys Allah," says a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

"O mankind, we created you from a single pair of a male and female and made you into tribes and nations that you may know one another (not that you may despise one another). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well aware of all things."
-- The Qur'an (49:13)

Not that this hasn't stopped persecution of gays in some Muslim/non-Muslim countries.

Now we come to the Vatican. From my understanding of Catholicism, communion in the church signifies a physical union with body and blood of Jesus (called Isa in Islam - peace be upon him). This service, performed repeatedly, identifies the worshipper as Catholic and deserving of God's grace in the hereafter. Denial of such a service means the person is barred from the church and cannot be guaranteed of heaven. More details here.

Now I may not agree with another mortal man telling me my spiritual eternity is doomed, but many Catholics do. And many important politicians in positions of power, such as our Catholic prime minister, also believe so.

Even though I do not agree with same sex marriage, I believe it is Canada and Canada's business only as to what we pass as laws in our country. And those laws should also be secular and not based or coloured by any religion. If the Parliament of Canada chose to pass same sex marriage, it is our business and not the Vatican's. And if you say the Vatican is only doing what is in its power to promote its church's teachings, consider this.

At one time in Canada a Protestant and Catholic could not marry (just like it is in some parts of Ireland). And any politician who tried to break this law was threatened by the Vatican much in the same way proponents of same sex marriage are being threatened today. And to those who say the Church is infallible let's not forget Galileo.

If today the Church can dictate same sex marriage, what will they dictate tomorrow. And opponents of same sex marriage have to bring scientific proof as to why it is not valid, other than saying "God does not will it." Something like linking AIDS and same sex.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Kensington Market

Toronto is the one of the most multicultural city in the world, and the best way to appreciate diversity of the city is by walking through its hodge-podge of neighbourhoods. One such place is the Kensington Market, quite near my workplace.

Kensington Market Entrance From Spadina

Its location is a contradiction in itself. Situated right next to Chinatown, which itself is located beside the fifth most prestigious university in North America (think French academics and Starbucks and latte coffee), and bordered by Little Italy, Kensington Market contains some of the best local produce and meat shops in Toronto.

Main Street Of The Market

Besides its never dull. With Ramadan coming (fasting for us Muslims), I cajoled my colleagues to going for lunch at the market. And with a nice day, it does not take much incentive. These are a sample of the stores on the main street (the names are what we call them).

  1. Jamaican patty lady store (the ladies are really Ethiopians pretending to be Jamaicans), patties for 99c.
  2. The Falafel place - a Lebanese store with greetings in Hebrew, Arabic and English printed on the door. Falafel used to be 2 bucks but is now 2.15. Guy claims it's because of gas prices.
  3. This place that looks like it sells dope. Called Roach something. Probably is above board but one of the guys said the 70s could have been a different story.
  4. A store selling Texas style meat (ribs, tongues, what not, think grill meat), for some reason called European Meats.
  5. A fish store that really is fishy. My buddy bought some red snapper today and later we came and found out the guy cheated him on the weights (we have all sort of instruments at my workplace).
  6. A cheese place (French - what else?) that sells one type of cheese called 'Stinky cheese'. It really reeks! But tastes surprisingly good however.
  7. An army surplus store where you can buy army costumes for cheap if you are in a play. Coz otherwise I don't think its too much of a good idea to go walking around on the street dressed like a Chilean dictator.
  8. Loblaws. The last one I heard was extremely unpopular with other market residents who felt it would spoil the atmosphere.

And the market is never short of weird people. There's this guy we call black Jesus. Ever seen the traditional picture of Jesus? White guy, red beard, eyes shut, blue robe, stick in hand, shepherd-like? Now change the white to black and you got it. This guy stands at one corner at noon and sings Christian hymns for pedestrians.

Then there's the DVD guy. He sets up a rack and sells pirated DVDs, always very quick to move away whenever the police comes. He really is quick, once I saw him pack and bike away in less than 2 minutes. I don't really know why he doesn't set up ware at Chinatown, just on the next block.

Today one hobo cornered him, picked up a DVD and challenged him, "What if I steal this from you, just as you steal from the movie producers?"

Then he saw us nearby and called out to us, "You buy from this man, you agents of the serpent! I should just clobber you with this-" He pointed to a can of baked beans in his hand. Ofcourse he did not know that my office guys are ALL ex-army (except me and another guy). One of them just walked up to him. No word, just walked up to him. The Baked-Bean Guy took one look and fled.

Rickshaws In The Market

I don't know why these rickshaws are here, but they are in front of a FRENCH store. Having been to India, Bangladesh and Thailand myself I can tell you that the left most one looks like it's from Calcutta, the middle one is Dhaka, and last one could be from Bangkok.

Even the rickshaw exhibit is multicultural.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


With the remnants of hurricane Rita hitting Toronto, the weekend is shaping up to be a lousy one. Rain, rain and more rain. In the middle of it today (Sunday) there was a patch of sunshine just enough for me to grill some meat on the bbq.

Last (Saturday) night had a housewarming party in Brampton. One of the first families from our UAE batch to settle here in Toronto has recently moved to Brampton, around 50 kms away, and all were invited.

The great thing about Bengali family parties is you pretty much know what's going to happen. If you know the people you will have a good time. The uncles will sit around solving the world's problems, while the Aunties talk about who knows what ('janen bhabi, onar meyta na...'). The young people do pretty much what young people all over the world do.

Discuss Desperate Housewives.

It's amazing how that show has become the show to watch. I watched a couple of episodes but did not find any reason to continue watching. Nothing ahamori, as Bengalis say. I would rather watch half an hour of Raymond. Too bad Star Trek TNG does not run anymore.

There was also some NRBs (a Newly Returned (from) Bangladesh) at the party. Having gone through that stage myself last winter this was how it worked. Within your peers you find all sort of ways to put down your time in Bangladesh (after all it's hot, dusty, crowded, polluted, ..., etc.) - never mind that you have a good (no great) time over there, with no worries and being pampered by long lost relatives and waited upon hand and foot - it's just coooool to diss Bangladesh - don't ask me why I just follow the trends not make them.

"The ONLY thing I enjoyed most was the cheap DVDs. Imagine, the whole Godfather collection, for less than 2 bucks." That was me, back in January.

Then an uncle would step in, and claim all sort of ways of what Bangladesh has that Canada does not (never mind that he has never stepped foot back home in 30 years). You of course, have to balance the line of being a bhodro chele (well mannered young man) or standing up for your beliefs.

Thankfully the hostess of the party announces an end to all that by saying, "Ashen shobai, ektu dal bhat niye jaan (Dinner is served [in more verbose terms])".

And if it's one thing amongst Bangladeshis, come dinner time, all is moot.

"Ah aunty ei kabab ta ki shundor." (This kebab looks so good)


Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Boyfriend Did It - Not

Recently I have been wondering if society here in Toronto views couples differently if they are married. With recent passing of gay marriage laws in Canada, and many predicting the institution of marriage is dead and discarded with, I think many here feel differently.

Remember Laci Peterson?

She was a wife and an expecting mother who unexpectedly went missing. Her husband and family appealed to the police and public for help. At first, no one suspected the husband, Scott Peterson. Laci's body was later found floating on the river.

Then, few months later, Scott Peterson was charged, tried and convicted for the murder of his wife.

Cut to Toronto.

Missing: Alicia Ross. Reported By: Her boyfriend of a few months, who called the police the next morning of her disappearance.

And then, Sean Hine, the boyfriend, then went through double hell.

The Toronto Sun immediately pinned the maximum suspicion on him. They published the fact that he was arrested once for drunk driving. They interviewed neighbours and friends of Ross who did not 'like' him. The Sun's journalistic standards were low to begin with, but they managed to plough even deeper. The police labelled him a 'person of interest'. He was reported by his father to be under major stress. Even the Star wasn't above to exploring their relationship's status.

Then came the clincher. Yesterday, five week's after her disappearance, Alicia Ross's next door neighbour Daniel Sylvester, turned himself in and told the police where he had dumped the body. He was charged with second degree murder.

It seems now the boyfriend had nothing to do with it at all.

What struck me was how quickly a boyfriend was placed under suspicion, yet a husband was offered the greatest sympathy. One of female friends from university, when I was telling her about the case when it first broke, had immediately placed her suspicion on the boyfriend.

"You will see he has something to do with it." She was confident.

"Why?" I had asked.

"Well.... " She didn't know, but she was sure. That attitude was very common.

I think society still views a couple differently if they are married. In my opinion, inspite of all the liberal attitudes Canadians have, a husband is still expected to be there for his wife, while a boyfriend is expected to be a sleaze. If he is not, then great. That seems to be the attitude.

It will be interesting to hear what other people think of this.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Pressing The Panic Button

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, with the sun shining early and the temperature an uncharacteristic (for September in Toronto) 28 degrees Celcius. I therefore made an effort to get up early (it is a Sunday after all) and clean the car.

After two hours of washing, waxing and applying all the cleaners in the garage to the car, it looked great. Satisfied with a job well done, I went upstairs and left the car in the sun to dry out the cleaning fluids.

As I watched the neighborhood from the balcony above, with the cat for company, I noticed the Neighborhood Pest (NP) come out. NP is an 8 year old, scrawny, short kid with coarse dark hair and eyes that scream 'I am going to do something irritating and I am a kid so you can't touch me'. Whenever I see him he is upto something ... evil. And his mother would be nearby, pretending to be keeping an eye out on him, but just plain relaxing on her porch.

Upon seeing a newly waxed and shiny car, NP's eyes lit up. Aha! And there was no one around the property to boot! Too bad he did not look up at the balcony.

NP took a few steps back from the car. Then, suddenly, with an energy burst, he ran towards the car and planted his hands splat! on the trunk. He then stepped back to watch the results. A hazy outmark of a couple of hands appeared amidst the shine.

His mother continued to watch NP with an uninterested look. And I was on the balcony, fuming. What sort of a mother was this? Does she not realize this kid will one day get beaten up in high school with this sort of behaviour? And I just fr***ing waxed the car!

NP repeated his act a few times. I decided to put a stop to this. A plan had formed in my mind. I reached for my weapon. The panic button of my keyfob.

The Keyfob with the (Red) Panic Button

Now anyone who owns a 2005 Altima will tell you how LOUD the panic button is. At the exact moment NP hit the car, I hit the button (playing all those Playstation games helped).

Oh. My. God.

The kid (no longer an NP) jumped up, and back, by about six feet. I had stopped the sound in the meanwhile. Tentatively, the kid reached out and touched the car gingerly. And I pressed again.

Oh. My. God.

The kid turned around and disappeared towards his mom.

Meanwhile I was rolling in the floor laughing at my cruelty. He would never touch MY CAR again.

After about 5 minutes, I began to feel a little guilty. NP was just a kid after all. It was his mom I should be angry at. But what could I do? I had to defend my 2 hours of labour.

I decided to go down and have a look at his handprints. I walked towards the car, and crouched down to look at some scratches near the number plate.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to me, my keyfob was still in my jeans pocket, along with some loose change. As I bent down, one of the coins must have jammed against the keyfob, and then against the panic button.

Oh. My. God.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sex In The City of ... Dhaka ?!!

Regarding my post on live-in relationships.

It seems the Daily Star of Bangladesh has let the genie out of the bottle and published an article about this 'taboo' topic. The link is here. It's a Bangladeshi newspaper website so you have to excuse the fact that some images don't load and layout maybe a bit screwed up.

One thing you will note from the article is that the guys are all about how important is sex to the relationship. I hope the Star interviewed the same guys after they 'did' it. Maybe the guys were just talking in front of their girl friends, hoping to get some. If there is one universal constant in guys, its that we all want some.

“The physical aspect of a relationship is very important," says Himel, a 23-year-old university student, "If you love someone and get physically involved with them, it's fine. It's different if you do it just because of the physical factor, however..." Himel, who has been sexually active since the age of 15, believes sex is a natural part of a romantic relationship.

And since when is a 15 year old pervert a benchmark of Bangladeshi youth. This dude probably spied his maid servant from peepholes.

Zarif, also 23, however, does not give sex as much importance. "It would be better if you can avoid taking it to the final level," he says. He does not have a problem with other people doing it, but he himself would probably not go all the way before marriage, he says. Zarif, however, does not have any reservations about his partner having any previous sexual encounters. "I would just like to know about it," he says.

Now a voyeur. Most people would prefer the don't ask don't tell policy.

Many men, though, exploit women, some honestly, others with false promises. Men more than women indulge in sex simply for pleasure and often move on, while most women usually have expectations of such an intense relationship actually going somewhere. They can say no, but sometimes they do not, whether for fear of losing their loved one or because they foster false hopes of the romance actually leading to marriage at some point.

I have seen this behaviour before. It's called 'guy' behaviour. Good to know Bangladesh university campuses teach the latest.

Then there is the 'Professor'.

But the phenomenon is still very present in our society today, says Prof Ahmed. He refers to a scale of intensity in physical relationships, which range from "petting" and "fondling" to "genital touch" and intercourse. Studies show that 100 percent of couples engage in petting, 80 percent in fondling, and about 30 percent go for sexual intercourse.

I would like more about this Professor and his studies. How do you conduct that study? Where did you get these figures of 100 percent petting? A HUNDRED percent? Alas, the Star provides no clues. And 'petting'? Mr Ahmed, you are not at the zoo. And who actually thought of the studies in the first place? Gee, what to do today, oh I know, see how many of my students are petting!

Ali, a first year university student, admits that he would not marry a girl he himself had had sex with, if that were to happen. "I wouldn't be able to trust a girl who would have sex with me before marriage," he says. "I might be bad for having done it myself, but I wouldn't marry someone who was also bad."

This is what you call a hypocrite. A do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do 'values' guy.

The Star mentions this.

Unfortunately, not all STDs are preventable by using a condom. Sometimes, only abstinence is the way to protect yourself.

This is something that those HBO movies mentioned at the beginning of the article fail to articulate.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Product Placement - Top 5

With great trepidation, and aware of the knowledge that praising an object is the best way to cause it to malfunction, I am going to make a list of purchases that I am happy with. This is not a list of 'best deals' I got, but a list of items that I have spent some money on, and those things have done exactly what I expected them to do, do it well, without any problems, and do not take much effort to maintain.

Mezba's Top 5

  1. My Sony MiniDisc (MD) MP3 player.

    I use it during my gym workouts, walks, while mowing the lawn, and generally many physically demanding situations. I used it on my old car with the adaptor. It's the best.

  2. Kodak East Share Digital Camera and accessories.

    We brown people are generally not white (hence the term brown). Fair and Lovely and other 'whitening' products make a fortune in Asia. I never understand why white people want to tan themselves silly. You want my (ahem) tanned skin? If only we could exchange skins!

    Why this diatribe? This Kodak camera takes the best pictures - especially outdoors. It beats far more expensive digital camera with German sounding brand lenses. And it even turns brown people into beige - very good for showing off later.

    You don't have to say, "Ya, that's me in front of the White House - I'm the dark spot there."

  3. Lagaan/Dil Chahta Hai DVD.

    One is an Oscar nominated movie about cricket. The other is a brilliant coming of age movie starring one of my favorite actresses (Priety Zinta). I saw it with 3 close friends during our final year of college - thus the parting and reunion of friendship portrayed in the movie had special significance for all of us.

  4. Gravel vacuum.

    I have a 65 gallon aquarium (that's the bigger one). Cleaning it (even though once a month) used to be a chore. Especially water changes, when I would have to drain 1/3rd the water. Jug in water, fill jug, pour water in bucket, repeat. 100 times. The gravel vacuum made life so much easier. Put in water, shake, stand back. And it was on sale for only 3 bucks.

  5. This t-shirt.

    I just love this one. It fits me so well. Perfect.

Why make this list. Because I want to talk about something mundane for a change. Everyday life is taken for granted so much, sometimes it's good to pause and chill out for a while.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Of Live-in relationships

Went to watch Salaam Namaste last night. What a delightful movie! And I have never seen Albion so packed! At first we thought one of the stars from the Toronto Film Festival was there, it was that crowded and chaotic. We had pre-purchased our tickets and the seating was by ticket number, so had no trouble getting in.

This movie is about a live-in relationship. This is a 'taboo' topic in India (and Bollywood) so the movie can be said to push the envelope. Often, however, such movies go to one extreme in an effort to be controversial and lose the plot. Thankfully Salaam Namaste realized its prime duty was to entertain, and that it did!

It's good that movies such as these are coming out. Even amongst Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, let alone India, it seems sex before marriage is becoming quite common, for some reason, in many circles. Does it have anything to do with women (and men) putting off marriage till later? Abstinence, good religious values, and other morals are becoming rarer. Its better we talk about it, and discuss it rationally, including why it happens, what are the benefits and pitfalls of it, and what is consistent with our values and outlook on life, rather than trying to bury our head in the sand and pretend it does not exist.

Salaam Namaste manages to hold your interest for the duration of the movie, and gives much food for thought for later. The songs are well choreographed, Melbourne looks smashing - all in all, worth the 8 bucks we paid for the ticket.

UPDATE! Oops, I forgot to mention the best line of the movie:

"When in Rome ... do the Romans!"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sharia In Canada

I went for a walk to Queen's Park (Ontario government legislature building) during lunch hour today. There was a rally there, held to protest the arrival of Sharia Law in Canada. A counter protest, defending the Sharia, was also supposed to be held, but I could not find it. I attended the rally for 10-15 minutes, heard a couple of speakers and then left. Below are my comments, observations and opinions of the whole affair.

The word Sharia refers to laws and regulations derived from the Quran (holy book of Muslims) or Sunnah (practice of God's messengers). Now why is this religion-based arbitration coming to Canada? As Christians and Jews can already refer civil and marital disputes to be settled under religious law, former Ontario Attorney General Marion Boyd recommended this be extended to Muslims as well.

Now I have a couple of issues with this. First, why restrict it to Muslims, Christians and Jews? Why not extend it to Sikhs, Jains, Wiccans, and anyone who can claim their religion has a set of laws for civil and marital issues? Second, if you oppose religious laws in a secular country, again why restrict your opposition to the Sharia? Why not also oppose religious arbitration from all religions?

There are people who think that Islamic law is ancient, out-of-date and has no place in a modern society. There are no problems with Christians and Jews because 'their' laws are modern and in synch with our society.

I beg to differ. The problems are not religious laws. The problem is with interpretation, and the judges.

It is this difference in interpreting the laws and holy books that, for example, has no problem with most Christians accepting blood transfusions or donating blood, but prevents Jehovah's Witnesses Christians from doing the same. It is this differences in interpreting the laws that enables some Catholics to spank their children as they see fit while others hold it as child abuse. Similarly, there are different interpretations of Islamic law. The same statement in the Quran can lead to two different verdicts, or fatwas.

As to problem with the judges, well, they are the ones going to do the interpreting. Most laws usually deal with punishment to the criminal and says nothing about gender, ethnicity, race, etc. A street bum holds a child and sexually assaults him. The judge jails the man. A priest sexually assaults a child. The judge secretly transfers him to another parrish. Fault of the Christian laws, or of the judge? Similarly, when a Muslim judge punishes a woman adulterer and yet lets the man go free, its the judge's fault, not the laws. The law says punish the adulterer. No gender emphasis.

Now I have some things to say to both groups (pro and against Sharia).

Anti: If you have sharia in Canada women can be stoned to death.
Oh, shut the f*** up. No one is going to do that here. Civil and marital disputes means just that. Custody of kids, splitting the house in a divorce, claiming gold given to in-laws etc. And these are almost always tilted towards women in Islamic law.
Pro: You must support Sharia for the sake of Allah.
No, for the sake of Allah, stop telling me what to do. The Imam-knows-best attitude is one reason why so-called-Sharia has not worked in so-called Muslim countries.

Anti: Canadian law for Canadian citizens.
Well, what about other religious groups that practice their laws? Why don't you campaign against ALL religious arbitration. Why is your campaign called No-SHARIA? Why the focus of Islamic law?
Pro: Muslims need Sharia.
Why? How have the Canadian laws failed us so far? What's missing? Give me a list.

Finally, I have a few comments to say to the no-sharia rally people.

Most of the people seemed to be non-Muslims. The media has made a big thing about how many Muslims, particularly women, are campaigning hard against it. I did not see that. Not even one hijabi in the crowd. Muslim Canadians are like most Canadians - politics - most of them don't care.

Two, again, why vilify Islam? All religious have laws that seems to be archaic to some people today. Why not secular law for all? I picked up their literature. I admit they DO have an item on their agenda that says "No religious arbitration and/or any principles that violate the Canadian Charter". But they never mention that in their speeches, interviews, etc. The focus is on prevention of Sharia. Seems very hypocritical to me.

In conclusion, I would be very wary of any religious laws in Canada. Most guys in charge of implementing them are too concerned with the letter of the law, rather than upholding the spirit of the law. But the way the No-Sharia group has organized their protest, they seem hypocritical, anti-Islam, anti-McGuinty and have found a convenient outlet for their racist leanings.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Psychotic Cricket?

Refer to my post about cricket being the true gentleman's sport. This might not entirely be true. There is also a psychotic, vicious element of the sport.

Let me explain.

Two days ago I was playing cricket in Ajax. Our team was bowling. One of their batsmen was hitting all our bowlers out of the park. And then it was my turn to bowl. Now I may be generously defined as a 'medium-pace' bowler, causing his eyes to light up. He began to make comments about where the hit would go.

First ball up, an unintended short ball, a bouncer. It hit the ground, reared up and hit him on the eye as he mistimed his hook shot. He was shaking his head for a couple of seconds. And I did not even feel the need to go up and ask him how he was. This was hard cricket.

Two balls later, another full toss ball. Again swing and miss, and it hit him square on the crotch. Boy, did he immediately fall to the ground. What was amazing was none of our players asked him how he was. They have all been hit around the park, and now everybody was enjoying the physical pain he was under.

Cut to scene two.

We were batting, and had just lost a wicket. Out walked our captain. One of their close fielders then started to 'sledge'.

"Aw c'mon look how nervous this guy is. He can't even place his bat to the ball. Bowl him a quickie and let him slip and get out. C'mon [bowler name here], get him."

First ball to our captain, short. He hooked. One bounce and then the ball hit the same sledging fielder on his lip. He, ofcourse, did not know where the ball went after that, and our team scored two runs. Then our captain turned to the fielder and said, "So, ball got your tongue?" Never mind that the fielder now had a swollen lip, we all lapped up the moment.

I would be interested to know if this sort of sledging and one-upmanship goes on in cricket's cousin - baseball. In international cricket, the Australians are experts in this. Walk to bat, and you can expect comments about your wife to your long lost aunt. I have heard Indians and Bangladeshis don't sledge about women, maybe due to social reasons.

But then again, after the game, everything seems fine. The guy I bowled a bouncer at - he was my former neighbor.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Those Poor Americans

Over the past week I could not tear myself away from the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina. As the scenes of devastation and damage by the hurricane gave way to the coverage of the lawlessness and chaos that began to grip New Orleans, incredible footage of refugees lining up to receive food aid, army on the streets, corpses floating and rotting to death began to enter our consciousness. And the most confounding of it all was as I struggled to remember – this was USA – these were Americans. This was not some third world country in Asia or Africa, but New Orleans, USA. To me, that was the most unbelievable fact.

I was in Asia when the tsunami struck. My cousins were in Phuket. To those who are blaming the officials for not recognizing the extent of the damage immediately, I can say that such information is hard to obtain initially. We all assumed a death toll of 200 initially for the tsunami. Then it grew to 600. Then a thousand. Two thousand. Three. Four. It just went on increasing. The damage reports started to go up too, as more and more facts became known. People affected by the tsunami had to forage for food for days before any aid got to them. There were whole communities cut off by water. Death, disease, and chaos could have been rampant, but was somehow miraculously contained. The governments were slow to get moving. That was the tsunami. And now we are seeing repeat scenes in New Orleans.

Then why do we criticize the American government for being slow to react, the officials for being incompetent to predict the extent of the damage, and the city officials for whatever else?

Because this is an American disaster.

We, the rest of the world, still hold the Americans to a higher pedestal than the rest of us. Like it or not, Americans are still considered a standard of excellence. The USA is the most powerful country in the world. It is the richest country in the world. It is the most educated, scientifically advanced country in the world.

The Americans put a man on the moon in 3 days, but the aid took 5 days to arrive. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials earn their fat salary throughout the whole year for the one day they will be needed – the day after such a national emergency. They were ill-prepared, caught with their pants down. Congress stayed up all night to pass the 87 billion dollars needed for Iraq’s army, but did not pass an aid bill for New Orleans since the last 5 days. While Texas opened up their doors to refugees, the President did not see it worthwhile to immediately cut off his vacation. When National Guard officials were needed to stop looting and anarchy in their home state, they were off doing the same in a foreign country thousands of miles away. Somewhere, planning was improper. Scientists have warned for decades about the worst case scenario in New Orleans, so no one can see they were not warned.

And who is suffering? Society is judged by how they treat their poorest, their weakest, and their most vulnerable citizens. The people left behind in New Orleans are certainly those. I hope, for their sake, the American government gets its act together.

Americans deserve - and expect - no less from their leaders.