Monthly Archives: March 2014

Obama’s Asia Trip April 2014 and U.S Foreign Policy

Foreign visit by the Head of the State is integral to foreign policy. Foreign policy is made always in the interest of the state. Foreign policy has no room for charity or benevolence. The interest of the state is what only constitutes foreign policy. Therefore, when a state makes its foreign policy, it considers nothing but only what shapes its interests.

Foreign visits by the head of the state or President makes huge headlines in newspapers and breaking news in news channels. It becomes all media frenzy when the President of the United States of America makes foreign visits. The media circus do not cease. The experts on foreign policies and strategic alliance do not stop speculating the foreign visits and its impact on the foreign policies. U.S President Barack Obama slated foreign visit to Asia in April 2014 has given given rise to fresh speculations.

Foreign Affairs

U.S foreign policy remains preoccupied with the Middle East. When it comes to U.S foreign policy in Asia, Obama administration has made some efforts to focus in the Asia-Pacific region. Security and economics form the core of the U.S foreign policy in Asia-Pacific region. Obama administration has tried to focus on the dynamics of engagement and enlargement.

The confirmation of President Obama’s scheduled visit to Asia in April 2014 has been seen as supporting the argument of increasing efforts of Obama administration for greater trade and strategic ties. Strengthening trade relations and security ties lie at the top of the agenda of President Obama upcoming visit in the region.

During this visit, President Obama is slated to visit Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines. There are speculations around how Washington looks at the regional dynamics and internal issues surrounding the region. There are contentious and conflicting issues that affect the countries in the East Asia region. The region is struggling with territorial disagreements, border issues, nationalism and security concerns. White House needs to decide how America is going to deal with these issues while developing its ties in the East Asia region.

Asia is one of the biggest markets in the world. Globalization has opened up huge markets in Asia. The United States of America is looking for increasing trade ties in the region. Greater trade ties is important for both U.S and Asia-Pacific countries. The greater economic ties is important to foreign policies of U.S.

The experts are also looking at the visit from the direction of China’s growing power in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s growing economic and military power in the region does impact America’s interest in the region. Some countries’ territorial disputes and historical issues with China will impact U.S ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

After 9/11 and the following U.S War on Terror, the countries all over the world have increased their military budget for internal security. The Asian countries have also increased their military expenditure with cuts on public welfare. The increasing military expenses have slowed the economy in the region.

The scheduled visit of President Obama in Asia would be analyzed with how America deals with the issues in the Asia-Pacific region which conflicts with its interests in the region. Experts have the opinion that U.S should be focusing on developing greater ties with Asia-Pacific countries to increase its stake in the region. Obama’s foreign visit to Asia in April 2014 has attracted all eyes and continues to be analyzed by media, experts, strategists and countries interested in U.S foreign policies.

“The Help” – The Movie and the American Society

Recently, to mark the Black History Month and also to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, when some of our friends decided to watch a movie based on the period of Civil Rights Movement in America, we all zeroed on watching the movie “The Help”. This movie beautifully portrays the plight of African American maids in the homes of White Americans in Mississippi. Emma Stone plays an aspiring author “Eugenia Skeeter” in the movie who decides to write a book on the miserable plight of African American maids serving White Americans.

Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in “The Help.”

The Help” is a great movie which revolves around African American women who were treated as slaves by whites. The film opens with a hard-hitting scene where an African American woman standing with weary eyes and saying “ I am a domestic-help, my mother was a domestic help and my grandmother was a house slave. “ The first scene throws light on the heart-wrenching situation of the African American women and how they were trapped in the cycle of slavery for generations. The slavery continued to persist and changed only to some other form of slavery in the next generation that is to say from house slave to domestic help.

The African American women worked in the families of white American and did their household chores. But they were not allowed to use the same toilets on the ground of the color of their skin. The scene in the movie in which the maid used the toilet of the white owner without informing her reflects the racism that was prevalent in the society at that time. She was thrown out of the house and fired from the job by her white master.

The maid played by Octavia Spencer, revenged her insult by baking a pie which carried her faeces. Pretending that she regrets, she took that pie to her former white owner and made her eat. After that she tells her, ”Eat my Shit”. This scene brought satire. But it also carried the deep run pain faced by African Americans. It reflects the victimization of the African Americans. The portrayal of the maid is integral and draws attention of the society. Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her great performance in this film.

I really appreciate Emma Stone’s character in the movie. Being a white woman during the period of Civil Rights Movement in America, she stood against segregation. She decides to write the book “The Help” to bring attention to inhuman treatment meted out to African American maids. Through her book she tried to bring a change in the society. Reform was her call.

The movie at large touches upon racism, but it also can be viewed through a gender lens. In this film, women are shown doing stereotype role which is cleaning, cooking washing, ironing and other household works. The white women were privileged to have domestic help in the form of African American women. The white women enjoyed having parties and gatherings at home. The African American women performed all the household work of white women along with taking care of their white children. Also, after returning from work, the African American women performed their own household chores along with sending their children to bed.

Viola Davis in “The Help”

On watching this movie, it is observed that though African Americans are liberated after the Civil Rights Movement but they still face discrimination. The African Americans enjoy the equal rights granted by the constitution and laws but still racism is not uprooted in America. It still persists with its ugly face in some form or the other.

The African Americans face discrimination at workplace. There are still black neighborhoods. The African Americans don’t get easy access to residences in white-dominated neighborhood. Socio-economic disparities still persist in the American society. African Americans are lagging behind in education and jobs.

The race divide has somewhat converted into class divide. The African Americans occupy the lowest ladder in socio-economic condition. They still have not been able to break that glass ceiling. Though some African Americans have reached the highest positions in Government and public life. The United States of America has its first African American President, Barack Obama but the socio-economic reality of most of the African Americans remains low.

The Joy behind Powder Day Celebration

The Powder Day (Vermont)

The Powder Day (Vermont)
The Powder Day (Vermont)

The Powder day has different significance in different parts of the world. Let’s check it out! It is often said, there’s no business like snow business. A perfect place to spend holidays is on hill station. Now this is not only for the newly married honeymoon couples but there is a lot more for the people craving for thrill and adventure. Every day is a powder day for shredders and skiers as the saying goes, “no friends on a powder day.” Just pack your bags to the mountains covered with snow, 24*7 hours, to enjoy the essence of the Powder Day Celebration. Many places celebrate Powder Day for example Vail, Vermont etc. These places cover almost all the skiing events. Two popular types of skiing are:-

a. Alpine Skiing:-

  • Extreme skiing

  • Freeriding

  • Newschool skiing

  • Freestyle skiing

b. Nordic Skiing

  • Cross-country skiing

  • Backcountry skiing

  • Biathlon

  • Disabled Nordic skiing

  • Nordic combined

The Powder Day (Spain)

Nowadays, the Powder Day Celebration involves throwing talcum powder irrespective of the gender or origin. People keep throwing powder till the other person is completely covered with it. Number of visitors come to Tolox to participate in this peculiar fiesta. According to the statistics, up to 3,000 kilograms of talcum powder is known to have thrown all over the village. According to a chronicler, there was a bitter argument and fight between a Moorish and Christian girl. They both loved same man. These girls worked at bakery and ended up throwing flour at each other.

The Powder Day (Spain)
The Powder Day (Spain)

Later on the custom evolved of young men asking their girlfriends to throw flour at them if they agreed to the marriage proposal. The girls who rejected the proposal use to lock themselves in their homes. The closed doors and windows indicated that the proposal has been rejected. Keen guys had to yet work smartly either by climbing their roof of their houses or breaking the window and then dust his beloved face with flour to prove their love. This was a way of winning the heart of a girl symbolically.

The Colored Powder Day/Holi (India)

Holi or the The Colored Powder festival is one of the major festivals of India and is the most vibrant and colorful of all the Indian fests. The joys of Powder Day Celebration knows no bound. Holi symbolizes the dawn of the spring season. It is celebrated in many parts of South Asia, covering Nepal as well. The Holi celebration start with a Holika bonfire, which is held on the night before Holi. The coming morning is free for all carnival of colors. People are involved in merry making by applying colored powder at each others face, hair, everywhere, conditions applied, errr!!!. Everyone plays and chases each other with dry powder and colored water. Some also carry water colors guns and small colorful water filled balloons.

The Colored Powder Day/Holi (India)
The Colored Powder Day/Holi (India)

People sing and dance on the regional or Bollywood songs with the local drink called, “bhaang”. Bhaang is a popular intoxicating drink. It is made up of cannabis leaves. It may have whole spices, poppy seeds, watermelon seeds and rose petals to bring variation in the recipe. Gujiya is served as any festival is incomplete without dessert. Gujiya is a sumptuous cuisine of North India especially Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. “Dhol” or drum adds to the party mood. So rock and roll on the rhythm of “dhol”!!

When Bruises Become a Mark of Pride

It's orange this time!
It’s orange this time!

Whhumm…thud…thud! Plop..plop…plop! You should have come to Italy to hear some similar and thundering sounds everywhere in air. In short, you should have attended the ‘Battaglia delle Arance’ or ‘The Battle of oranges’. Oranges?? Yes, the battle is not about how many oranges you are able to digest but how many oranges you are able to hurl at your target that too with utter precision in a much chaotic zone. You are advised to visit the country next time adorning yourself with a tough armor, you never know who might be targeting you.

The three-day long carnival makes people go crazy out of celebration. Although the festival is full of different kind of insanity, fear, violence it carries with itself a great historical significance. This battle of oranges actually symbolizes the city’s defiance against the tyranny and the tyrants. It is believed that one of the tyrant lord of the city named Raineri di Biandrate who gave himself a right to spend the night with anyone’s bride on their wedding night, was decapitated by a brave bride remembered as Violletta.  Ever since then the carnival got its existence.

The battle, of course, takes place between two teams-one on wagon and another on foot. The “foot” team here represents the commoner who rebel against the tyranny. Whereas, the  eight men on wagon represent the team of tyrants who actually throw oranges at people not less than 500 in number and are reciprocated by each one of them. Only a brave and a tough guy can get on the wagon drawn by horses.  Generally, we don’t hear people incurring major injuries in this festival oops battle, however, people do celebrate their black eye and mark of bruises as an emblem of bravery and pride.

There is also a romantic aspect to the festival, it is believed that during the 19th Century, women started hurling the oranges at the men they used to like and the men used to hurl back if they felt the same way. Thus, along with mark of pride the bruise mark becomes a token of love for the young souls.

On the day of “Fat Tuesday”, the judges give awards to the best performing team and conclude the festival with a solemn funeral. People return back to their homes with few cuts and marks over their body and make a show off all of them to every which friend of them. To give their cuts a wide recognition they have their selfies, with the cut at its center, posted on social networking sites like Facebook and WhatsApp. These people actually compare themselves with the soldiers who fight wholeheartedly for the sake of their nation. The more cuts and injuries you get, the more stars get added to your badge.

Now that you know about the festival don’t get shocked to see oranges flying in the sky instead of birds. And do walk with heavy steps on the orange-smashed roads that add to the festivity. Most importantly, do come in your old outfits and gadgets because ultimately it’s all going to get ravaged.