Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Book Review: Black Friday

Black Friday
The afternoon of 12 March, 1993 is the day when time stood still in Bombay. The city of Bombay had been rocked by a series of explosions which cut through the heart of Bombay, spreading terror and destruction over a period of two hours. These blasts occurred in some of the most densely populated areas of the city. Starting from the Bombay Stock Exchange in South Bombay during lunch hours, the blasts ripped through the basement of Air India building at Nariman Point, the Regional Passport Office in Worli, Masjid Bunder, the petrol pump opposite the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Shivaji Park, Zaveri Bazaar, Plaza Cinema, Hotel Sea Rock to the Centaur Hotel in Juhu.

The fatalities included ordinary people like samosa and sandwich vendors, struggling to earn their daily living in densely populated areas outside the Stock Exchange and nearby offices. The book ‘Black Friday’ by S. Hussain Zaidi puts forward the chilling toll: 257 killed or missing, 713 injured leaving a city completely in shambles. My interest in reading ‘Black Friday’ was revived due to the recent hanging of Yakub Memon, one of the key protagonists of the serial blasts. I wanted to understand the reason behind his hanging before I could pass a judgment on him.

‘Black Friday’ is a result of meticulous research conducted over four years. Written by S. Hussain Zaidi, an authoritative voice on the Mumbai mafia and crime network provides chilling insights into the criminal minds with some of India’s most notorious names: Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon. This has been brought out through detailed interviews with some of the closest aides of the aforementioned masterminds. It reveals the true dimensions of the macabre and sinister plan which spanned several countries and had been months in the making.

The most unconventional aspect of the book is certainly the lack of a central protagonist. This makes the writer alternate between several points of views including those police officers from Mumbai Police, the accused gangsters and their pawns. Given that it is always a challenge to develop all their viewpoints, Hussain Zaidi succeeds quite well, doing justice to them, skillfully narrating their stories in a moderately paced episodic structure. Despite its strong tone, the author's voice in 'Black Friday' is subtle and takes the form of an undertone. This, in my opinion, works firmly as an advantage for the reader as they are fed with numerous interpretations and facts which unfold as the book progress, the final judgment is left to the intelligence of the readers to pass.  

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Anthropology Museum

One of the most interesting topics in social sciences has been the study of humans, past and present. Anthropology is the field which works within the field of social and biological sciences along with the humanities and physical sciences. The evolution of the human race worldwide has been an important area of research which seeks to explore the physical and cultural development, biological characteristics and social customs and beliefs of the people which concern the long-term development of the human race.

Image Courtesy: Rajendra Joshi
The Zonal Anthropological Museum, opposite the Balaji Temple at Seminary Hills in Nagpur, is run by the Anthropological Survey of India. It is an attempt to showcase human evolution, adaptation and bio-cultural diversity with special reference to the central region of India and its large number of ethnic groups and their rich cultural heritage. The museum has about 2300 specimens from tribes and other communities inhabiting Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Goa along with a gallery that depicts evolution of the human race through time and space. 

It is interesting to find some rare ethnographic specimens which belong to the tribal groups of Central India. Together, these specimens are known as the specialty of this museum. The displays at the museum also throw light on various activities such as hunting, gathering, fishing and agricultural operations. In addition to these, one can also find household articles, dress and ornaments, musical instruments, art, religion and folk arts. Interestingly, the museum also has some rare Palaeolithic tools and also some early remnants of fossil casting.

The museum, being home to a mine of information, has a permanent exhibition divided in four sections on the origin of life, the biological basis, the place of the human race in the animal kingdom and on human evolution, with significant evidences collected from the Shivalik and Narmada basins. With static 3D models, graphics and short films, it narrates how the fossils of man were found in both the Shivalik and Narmada basins in Central India. Interestingly, the Narmada Valley man is said to mark the transition of man from the Homo-erectus to the Homo-Sapiens. Modern anthropology believes that the Homo-sapiens man evolved from the Homo-erectus which was based on the anatomical changes found in the modern man.

The museum is a treasure trove for information. Despite this, it is unfortunate that the museum does not receive many footfalls. The museum is a must visit for anyone who has an interest in social sciences or evolution. Museums are an important part of the cultural landscape of a particular city. The human race has learnt to coexist with other plants and animals in the natural ecosystem. Hence, the Zonal Anthropology Museum at Nagpur provides an interesting mirror transporting us back to a time which helps in gaining an understanding of our progress. As with most museums in India, photography is sadly permitted and I did not carry a camera while visiting this museum. However, let not the camera make you feel handicapped. Visiting the museum without a camera will enable you to appreciate the display better.