‘The Page’ vol.11 is up

Monthly photojournal ‘The Page’ Vol. 11 is up. This issue features Libya, Congo, India…etc.




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The bridge laid by Facebook between India and Pakistan

Just came back from a short visit in Pakistan. It had been almost two years since my previous trip.

On the second day of the assignment in a rural town, strange weather suddenly hit. It was sunny with blue skies in the morning but as soon as I reached the destination, black clouds came rolling in and heavy rain started. Then, hail! I was totally caught by surprise and got soaking wet but the good thing was, it gave me better pictures than shooting under strong sunlight with high contrast.

Anyway, since the story I worked on hasn’t published and I can’t mention it in the blog yet, I would like to talk about a thing I came across a few nights ago.

One of my Pakistani friends forwarded me a link on Facebook. The link was to a page called ‘Pakistan, what the media doesn’t show you’ The page featured an eight-minute slide show of various images of Pakistan – beautiful landscapes, cultural scenes, sports events and some political stuff. Some of the landscapes are breathtaking and I was impressed by a Pakistan that I haven’t known. But what really caught my eye was a comment written by an Indian man who lives in the U.S. Under the slideshow, he just wrote “Respect- from India” and this short comment generated over 120 responses – almost all are positive and many are from Pakistani, thanking him like “Massive respect, man. Salute”, “respect and peace from Pakistan towards Indians like u”, “Thanks on behalf of Pakistan”…etc.

If the comment wasn’t written by an Indian person, I would guess it wouldn’t have generated so much reaction from Pakistanis. This is a good example of how Pakistanis constantly suffer from negative stereotypes, especially from Indians. In fact, I have heard countless bad remarks against Pakistan from various Indians – shopkeepers to college students, no matter what their educational level and economic status. India’s general perception toward Pakistan is quite bad and many of them see the country even as an enemy. Especially because India is the one victimized by terrorist attacks by Pakistani militants in most cases, not the other way around. Although Indians’ sentiments are understandable, the majority of them have never been in Pakistan or never had any personal experience with Pakistani people. I must say that they are just biased and believing the stereotyped image of Pakistan.

Anyway, because of constant ‘image harassment’ which Pakistanis suffer, occasionally when a thoughtful Indian person makes a decent positive remark, Pakistanis excitedly appreciate it, like in this Facebook page,

This reminded me about a recent phenomena of anti-Chinese and anti-Korean movement among a few people in Japan. Recently, demonstrations against Chinese and Koreans began to be held once in awhile and some youth publicly shout nasty hate-based slogans. I wonder how much knowledge of China and Korea those people have. I bet most of them are just manipulated by politically created negative images of Chinese and Koreans.

Although there are many controversies about Facebook, in this case, it laid a bridge between people in the both countries to help mutual understanding and respect. The exchanges in the page were heartwarming to read and I was really glad to find them.

Finally, while constant threats of terrorist attacks still exist, hospitality and warmth of the Pakistanis haven’t changed since my first visit to the country in 2010. I was happy about it.










いろいろと物議の多いフェイスブックだが、今回はうまくインド・パキスタン両国の架け橋となったと思う 。コメント欄のやりとりは読んでいて心温まるものだったし、国境をもたないソーシャルメディアが、わずかながらも両国の友好に一役買った、といったところか。



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‘The Page’ vol.10 is up

Monthly photojournal ‘The Page’ vol 10 is up now. Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria…etc. were featured.





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Rich Folks Giving Back to Society

Just spent several days in Bangladesh to cover a couple of public health programs funded by Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City. His foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, provides financial support to many programs in the field of environment, education, public health, arts and government innovation throughout the world.

In Bangladesh, his foundation gave $10 million to launch a program last week to provide community daycare and locally manufactured playpens to prevent drowning. Some 12,000 children die of drowning in the country every year, which is about 32 every day, mainly due to lack of supervision and an abundance of shallow pools especially in the countryside.

The foundation distributed $452 million in 2013. Mr. Bloomberg has said that he plans to give away pretty much all of his assets, worth about $31 billion currently, in his lifetime.

Charities like this remind me of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I simply think it’s great that these wealthy people give back some of their fortunes to help society while the majority of rich folk are only concerned about themselves and their families. I know there is some criticism of these charities but, hey, there is nothing perfect in this world and on the ground, I surely can witness many families and kids are benefiting from the programs. Also, it’s significant that Bloomberg and Gates use their own money, not like some NGOs which are always ask you to donate.

By the way, during my first visit to Bangladesh, I was quite fascinated by the chaotic traffic in the capital city Dhaka. After living in super-congested Mumbai for four years, bad traffic doesn’t surprise me anymore but the situation in Dhaka was just unmanageable. It was a total hassle to move around on a tight schedule while spending hours in the car stuck on the road. A few times, I saw ambulances get stuck in traffic and I was thinking that there must be many lives lost because the patient can’t make it to the hospital in time.

Mr. Bloomberg, as your next charity project, how about something to ease the traffic congestion or train more EMT persons who can effectively save lives on the spot?










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Drifting young soul in Libya

A several days ago, I saw a modified car speeding and skidding on the road in Delhi at night. It reminded me of a scene I photographed in Libya. It was more than two years ago, while covering the anti-Qaddafi revolution. I was at a ‘drifting’ site in the eastern city of Benghazi.

White smoke rises as tires squeak on the tiled surface. Several tuned-up cars, from Daewoo to Toyota Corolla to BMW, were performing skids and spins at the plaza. ‘Drifting’ is a driving technique that makes cars skid. It’s a big show-off event and has apparently gained popularity among youth all over the world, though I never expected to see such entertainment in an Islamic country during wartime.

Benghazi was the largest anti-Qaddafi stronghold. The revolution began here and turned into a civil war. The fighting between Qaddafi’s government forces and rebels reached a tug-of-war state after the rebels gained Misrata, about 200km east of the capital Tripoli. By this time, Benghazi became relatively quiet and hundreds of mostly young men began gathering every Thursday night to see drifting.

Although security in the city was restored, fighting was still going on in the country elsewhere and the economy was suffering. The country’s unemployment rate was as high as 20 percent even before the revolution. Some young men took a gun and fought against Qaddafi’s army, but conflict in the city had passed. Many men had too much time and energy to kill. So, drifting became one of the very few forms of entertainment for them.

The burnt out barracks of Qaddafi’s army vaguely appeared in the darkness across the street from the plaza. It was only three months before that the barracks became a victorious symbol of the revolution as the government soldiers defected and people took it over. That was a very exciting time.
But that Thursday night in the plaza, loud base tones from car stereos and the hysteric squeals of brakes only echoed as if the screaming voices of hundreds of frustrated young souls.








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