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September 28, 2004 02:21 IST

Last September, I visited Pearl Harbour with a few friends, all fellows at Honolulu's Asia Pacific Centre of Security Studies.

The memorial for the momentous, surprise Japanese attack is the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen of the USS Arizona who lost their lives on December 7, 1941.

The 184 foot-long structure sits atop the mid-portion of the sunken battleship.

There is no longer a ship in service by that name. But as a special tribute to the Arizona and her lost crew, the United States flag flies from the flagpole, which is attached to the severed mainmast of the submerged warship.

As we ambled across exquisitely manicured lawns leading to the jetty, I was struck by the large number of Japanese tourists carrying flowers to pay homage to the fallen US soldiers.

At the memorial I saw emotional scenes – the Japanese were quite visibly moved as they laid wreaths for their erstwhile enemies in the 'shrine room', where the names of those killed on the Arizona are engraved on the marble wall.

Their sombre, dignified manner was a lesson for all humanity – for animosities to be truly buried, our grief must become common.

I wondered how long and tortuous a path we would need to negotiate before Pakistanis and Indians begin to honour each other's martyrs as 'ours'?

Before we were ushered on to the steamer bound for the memorial, we toured the onshore museum.  Every single piece of memorabilia has been preserved with remarkable taste. The place evokes reverence. Pieces of equipment of men who went down fighting, parts of the ships, even the last letters of sailors to their loved ones, all are there, maintained with loving care. 'Dear Mom,' began one letter...

I wondered how many similar missives written by our soldiers from Kashmir would have reached wrapped in body bags. "How touching," I whispered to my friend Sudhir. "Wish we too always celebrated each of our martyrs so."

Our Russian scholar friend Nikolai Biryukov overheard me. Without a hint of condescension, much less sarcasm, and a pointed matter-of-factness that we had come to recognise as a trait of the professor from Moscow, he asked me, sotto voce, "With a history of supreme sacrifices by soldiers as long as ours, Neeraj, if we preserved everything as a memorial, where would we find space to live!?"

Colonel Neeraj Bali
Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir

No P-turn!

My four-year-old, Anoop, has been very interested in trucks, cars, and the US interstates ever since he was a baby.

This recently branched into an interest in road traffic signs too.

Now, whenever we travel, Anoop points to the various traffic signs and demands to know what they mean. I quickly glance and tell him that they stand for 'merging traffic', 'no U-turns', 'divided highway ends', and so on.

He has now pretty much learnt what most of the signs stand for.

Well, most, but not all, it turned out.

When my brother visited us recently, he gave my son a huge road construction set as a gift, much to his glee. This set contained trucks, construction equipment, and a lot of traffic signs too!

My son promptly unpacked it and started playing with it, talking to himself.

Suddenly, to our surprise, we heard him proclaim, "No P-turns!"

We burst into laughter when we found that it was a No Parking sign!

Sandhya Srinivasan
Indianapolis, Indiana

Double trouble

During my third year of college in Pittsburgh, I was at the airport catching a flight home for the winter holidays. The line was long at the ticketing counter and I amused myself by watching the many children that were at the airport that day.

Ahead of me in the queue was a mother with her two chatty identical twins, about four years old.

They jabbered on about this and that, occasionally glancing at me. I smiled back at them warmly. Twins, after all, have that quality of being doubly cute.

After some time, one of the twins looked up at me curiously and asked, "Where are your kids?"

Their mother, who until then had not been paying them much attention, shot me a look of apology. "She's too young to have children, dear," she said, shushing her daughter. I chuckled.

The second twin looked up at me, even more curiously than the first one had. "Well, then, where's your Mommy?"

Sindya Narayanaswamy
Atlanta, Georgia

Justice, police-style!

It so happened one day that I decided to leave office a bit early, by my standards, so I was not really happy when we found our vehicle stuck in slow-moving traffic.

When the traffic at last picked up pace, I relaxed a little... until an autorickshaw, being driven like a Formula 1 car, found its way in front of our vehicle to pick up a small dent.

The auto driver promptly turned on our chauffeur and began beating him up, even though all of us had witnessed his erratic driving.

Luckily, a couple of policemen arrived on the scene.

Luckily, did I say? Not so fast. Because they ordered both vehicles to be taken to the police station.

We were really annoyed at this because it was no fault of our driver, and decided to back him to the hilt. We spoke to a senior officer at police station and explained the situation.

The senior officer appreciated our position and showed his support by planting a tight slap on the rickshaw driver's cheek for assaulting our driver.

Naturally, we were pleased. Yes, we thought, the auto driver has got his just punishment.

And then the officer told us, "Sir, you people just pay this poor autowallah for the dent."

"But it was his fault," we protested.

The officer said, "Look Sir, the autowallah has already got his punishment [the slap, which we hadn't asked to be bestowed on his cheek]. But if you insist I will seize both vehicles and then you will all have to appear in court. So it's better to close the matter here and now."

Our driver paid up. We sulked. What else could we have done?

Gaurav Johari
Bangalore, Karnataka

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

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Number of User Comments: 1

Sub: Gud one.......

Good one.... Cheers....

Posted by KK


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