Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gokurna

DSC01034

A preview!

Women in Iran

Eteraz posts the text of a speech by Lily Mazahery.

I have learned that by replacing a once progressive legal system with Shari'a doctrine, the Islamic regime has systematically oppressed, marginalized, and dehumanized one half of its own citizens. Under this draconian and nonsensical system, Iranian women have lost their inheritance rights, as well as custodial rights to their own children. They are required to secure the express approval of their husbands or male guardians to obtain passports and to travel. Under Shari'a law, a woman's testimony in court is, at best, worth half the testimony of her male counterpart.

Back...

I am back after a really, long, tiring and cold journey to the ocean. Pictures and stories will be coming soon... Suffice to say that we learnt some valuable lessons and I am glad I planned a bit for this tour.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Steve Morse Video!



Stevie goes on a solo and he plays a lot of familiar tunes!

Steve Morse



Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reactions to the much awaited verdict

Sanjay Dutt trial is over. After more than a decade of twists and turns, the verdict has been handed out. The court has found him guilty of possession of arms (an expected result) and not guilty of terrorism and conspiracy. The court still has to pass the sentence but he would get a minimum of five years in prison.

I first heard this news on the TV in my office cafeteria. Now my dislike for the television media is quite acute and I really hate their substanceless coverage. But I occasionally see it to catch up on the breaking news. And the news channel did not fail to disappoint me. One of the major things that the reporters were discussing was how much money was involved in the movies that Dutt is making currently! A complete analysis of all his movies in production and the costs of each of them! Apparently, a total of 75-80 crores has been invested that could possibly go down the drain if he is sentenced to prison.

Like all decent, third rate television news channel, the onsite reporter was asked about the reactions of the people to this verdict. According to him, people feel that Sanjay Dutt was perceieved to be a naughty little boy in 1993 who did a stupid mistake and that he has already paid for it and that he should be set free now!!! Ahem, what can I say? Can we say that Manu Sharma was a naughty little boy and who did a stupid mistake while drunk and that he should be let go?
Of course, this is not the reaction of the people but really the opinion of the reporter. In a country where justice is perverted by the rich and the powerful, there are really a few instances where somebody of that class is really convicted for a crime. And when that happens, this is what we are told. Excuses of stupid mistakes of the youth...

Dilip also wrote a post about this verdict. He points out that there were others who were never charged who had also received arms from Dawood. He does not condemn the verdict or anything. In fact, he says nothing about whether the verdict was right or wrong but he suggests that Dutt might perhaps have been made a scapegoat. Perhaps he has been made a victim of a political game but there is no doubt that he deserves punishment for his crime.

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Yesterday, there was another important verdict made. Shibu Soren has been found guilty of murder. He has resigned from the cabinet. And like all decent politicians who face imminent jail time, he got himself admitted to AIIMS! AIIMS seems to be the resort of the rich and the powerful and the guilty. No surprise there.
This marks the first time a Union minister has been convicted of a crime! Amazing...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Favourite bloggers..

When I met Shivam in Delhi recently, he asked me a question, "Who are your favourite bloggers?" He caught me offguard as I have never really categorised bloggers. The only blogger I could name for sure as a favourite was Annie.

Writing is an art and it is learnt through continuous practice. Nobody just becomes a great writer in a moment. They all toil hard at it and in the end, some of them go on to become great writers. All the great authors of the world wrote their first great novel many years after they started writing. Most bloggers are amateurs and it would be wrong of me to hold them to the standards of the James Joyces of the world. Heck, who am I say when I am myself nowhere close to their standards or to the standards set by some of the better bloggers... Nonetheless one of my main criterion for reading a blog is how well the person puts forth his/her ideas. I might still read someone's great ideas presented in bad (not filthy) language but I would wish that s/he improved on the language bit.

Blogging is slightly different from conventional writing for several reasons. It is more informal and could be quite personal. People can respond to one writes in the comments and there could very well be a flame war across blogs and comments as it happened recently with Shivam's post on Kherlanji. Also, blogging does not benefit the blogger monetarily but it could lead to a writing job as some bloggers have discovered. So, we cannot hold blogs to the conventional standards of the literature or journalism. Likewise, I would disagree with people who claim bloggers becoming as an alternative for the mainstream media mainly because of the differences I have mentioned above which are also its strengths. Which is why I do not think the print media fears the bloggers, much less respect them.

Writing well is one thing and popular writing is totally a different thing. Which is the reason why ToI gets away with lousy content. So, just because a blogger is popular does not mean he is a good writer. And most of the popular bloggers of Indian blogosphere are quite frankly bloated buffoons who do not have any idea that they are nothing but arrogant idiots. Some of them even write well but I refrain from reading their blogs because I just do not want to go "wtf" every single day. Some might say that I live in a coccoon of my own world but quite frankly, I have been there, done that and have realised that there is no point in arguing with them as they never really can see the difference. I am usually patient but have no patience with certain types of people who I know cannot be reached. My opinion goes something like this - "why bother?"

There are a lot of bloggers I read. The "Blogs I Read" section on the right side of this blog is a short list of all the bloggers I regularly read (which I need to update). But it is not a definitive list as there are a lot more on my feed reader. To say whose stuff I like best is not a question I can answer. It is even harder for me to play favourites. I like different bloggers for different reasons.

I like Annie's blog mainly because I think she is a wonderful writer, one who is very careful in what and how she writes. Abi's blog is always with a lot of links about so many stuff but mainly science and politics. Swarup's blog is full of links to articles on economics, something I am also trying to learn. Alpha and Waiterrant provide the comic relief (I am not a humourless person, you know). I read Alas and Feministe for their feminist content (though I feel that they are too regional which makes me wonder why there is no collaborative feminist Indian blog... anyone interested?). I read Shivam's blog for the news stories, links, opinions, flame wars, etc, etc. And a whole lot of other blogs for a variety of reasons.

No favourites for me. I like what I read and all those blogs that I read are my favourites. Don't ask me again!

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

My new nephew..





Yes, the pic is extremely bad. It was taken by a mobile camera. Will get a better picture tomorrow..

Updated with a better picture...


Born on: 11th November 2006
Name: Aryan (apparently, my sister has been influenced by a character in the book called Eragon)
Where: Mallya Hospital, Bangalore
What's he wearing: A very hip emerging-out-of-the-cocoon look designed by the Nurses Association of Mallya.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Brilliant

In a sci-fi world

Eleanor Arnason pontificates on the current world situation by looking at what Immanuel Walterstein had to say.

First, he argues that capitalism — for all that capitalist thinkers thunder against government interference — needs national governments. [Read on]

Now that is a very contrary position to what most of today's free marketeers would say. I think he has a point because I have always felt that same thing.
Though his understanding of chaos theory seems a little suspect, I think he has some relevant points to make.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"World's greatest democracy"


Go watch..


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Media as the judge

A couple of days ago, the CJI issued a statement that "trial by media is destructive to society". Needless to say, this comes as a response to the reporting of high profile cases like the Jessica Lall and the Mattoo ones.

The media has been playing truant for a long time. Calls itself impartial and reports with an agenda that does not include the fairness and justice in mind. The news coverage is usually sensational, which cannot be done without being biased. Being impartial and explaining the grey areas is too boring. So, they create dramatic recreations with the culprit already established, even when the courts havn't pronounced the sentence.

Do I need to say that passing judgements on issues that are still in court and where the "culprit" is someone the police have identified. The important thing to note is that the police are not the ones who decide whom to punish but for the judge to adjudicate, by looking at all the evidence gathered, whether the person on trial is guilty or not. Judge not media or "public opinion".

The Jessica Lall case is now quite famous. The culprit was aquited for lack of evidence but the case was reopened following public pressure. Now, is the person in question guilty or not? Quite frankly, all the information that I have about this case is from the media and people's statements. Can we form an opinion based on media's presentation of the case and the words of people that we read in the newspaper and television? Yes, we can but we need to realise that all these information are secondary and we are not in a position to pass a verdict on the supposed "culprit". Do I believe that the Manu Sharma is guilty of the crime? Yes, I do but that does not mean that I will protest a famous lawyer taking up his case. Because if he is guilty and there is overwhelming evidence, as the media points out, for his culpability, then the court will punish him. Of course, there are also concerns about witnesses turning hostile. That is a problem, agreed but I do not see how Ram Jethmalani is going to influence that, unless we accuse him of malpractices.

Besides, I just watched this interview of Jethmalani, which was telecast on CNN-IBN and I have to say that I am impressed with him. He really has a beef with the media and he lambasts them with such contempt that I cannot help but laugh at the poor girl who thinks she has some tough questions for him!

Watch it and laugh alongside.

The interview reveals many things.

1. Sagarika Ghose: But sir, aren’t you worried that you are going against the tide of public opinion?

The media thinks it represents the people or at least says it is. And that somehow gives them the right to be so self-righteous!

2. Sagarika Ghose: But as a criminal lawyer, don't you believe there is a lakshman rekha that even all criminal lawyers have to work under?

The press somehow believes that it can dictate where the so called "laxman rekhas" are. This is as sad as the moral policing conducted by some of our esteemed police constables!

3. Sagarika Ghose: The Press at the end of the day is only expressing the opinion of the Indian public.

The media is goddamn humble. "we are just the messengers". Sheesh! spare me the bullshit.

4. Sagarika Ghose: But what makes you so convinced about the innocence of Manu Sharma?

Ram Jethmalani: I don’t have to convince myself. I am only convinced that the man is entitled to a fair trial. He is entitled to the services of a good lawyer. Courts will decide and no Pressman, no editor or television will crew will decide.


I have nothing to add here.

5. Sagarika Ghose: But is this how you want to be known in the public eye?

ROFL. Is that veiled threat to a man who has already said "to hell with you"?

6. Sagarika Ghose: What is wrong with an activist Press—a Press that speaks for the underdog.

There is the trumpet again. Blowing it must give them long, happy moments from their stressful, activist lifestyle!

7. Sagarika Ghose: But you aren’t giving me an answer – why are you defending Manu Sharma.

Ram Jethmalani: Because he is my client. I am lawyer.


The press is really stupid, is it not? What kind of a sorry ass question is that?

8. Sagarika Ghose: So you have taken on the case because you are angry at the way the Press has been trying him by media.

Ram Jethmalani: Now that is very stupid and a big lie. I have never said it.


The press tries to put words into people's mouths. It has been doing it for a long time but Jethmalani is too old and wise for such tactics.

9. Sagarika Ghose: Where the high and mighty buy the process of justice, Press is the sounding board. It is the only recall.

Ram Jethmalani: You can give yourself all the tributes that you want. This is self-praise. By all means, adopt it, pocket it, publicise it, take credit it. But when you are doing something wrong, I will say you are doing wrong. I have the liberty in a democracy. People have the liberty to go wrong and you are going wrong.


...

10. And the final word...

Sagarika Ghose: You are the one who seems so angry at the Press.

Ram Jethmalani: It is because of what I hear from you. If you represent the real Press, then I think something is wrong.


This was one lovely interview. If you do look very carefully, you will realise the amazing way the press tries to manipulate the public opinion. declaring itself as the vassal of the public and asking stupid questions in an interview where they have already taken a side and questioning motives, etc, etc.

Hat tip: Kafila

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Exclusive

Most sporting events are telecast exclusively on a single channel. The channel pays huge amounts of money to get that right, particularly if the sport is cricket. And they recover their costs through advertisements.

But these days watching cricket on television has become a painful experience. Why? Simply because advertisements, which used to be between overs, have begun to infiltrate the action. Much like the web world, irritating banner ads are being placed at inconvenient locations that grate your senses. Plus, these days, there has been a concerted attempt to gain as much time between overs as possible so as to air more advertisements. What this means that the moment the last ball is bowled, the editors are waiting anxiously to cut the action abruptly to move to the advertisements. They also seem to wait as long as possible and put in as many ads as possible before returning to the live action and in the process, we miss a ball or two. What this has enabled the channels to do is that they are able to fit in two advertisements where just one was possible.

Amazing how the quality of viewing matches has reduced drastically in recent years, isn't it?

I have nothing wrong with companies trying to boost their profits because that is what companies ought to do. But it should not be at the cost of the consumers, should it? Also, I have a problem with this monopolistic nature of sports telecast. I mean, where is the choice to the viewers? Isn't choice and thus, competition the epitome of capitalism? How do you justify this idea of exclusivity? Of course, they make more money for the parties concerned but doesn't the viewer suffer because of all this? Why isn't monopolistic hold over the telecast of a certain sporting event illegal?

Exclusive live telecast survives on the fact that there is a guranteed viewership in spite of all the annoying flash ads. I would watch an important match, though I might get irritated and leave after a while but still in that time frame, my sense have been bombarded with an astonishing amount of ads.

I think somebody should come up with unobtrusive ads like google did (of course, the reason for their success is different) but I think it is highly unlikely if the viewers do not do anything about it. As chetan pointed out in his rail against Airtel, we do accept an astonishing amount of crap and bad customer service.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

So how does one define justice?

You invade an opponent's home, rape and kill the women and children and dump them in the neighboruhood canal. Then hold a communal meeting instructing everyone to just shut up and not say anything. Manage to get the law enforcers in your pockets (because you have the money, the power, etc).

Shivam reports on the mass murder that took place in Kherlanji a month ago.

So how do you make sure that justice isn't served?

Simple, divert the attention to something else... In this case, an explicit photograph of the girl who was brutally raped till she dies. Apparently, the photograph violates the dignity of the dead girl.

Shivam responds to the allegations and calls them petty.

Updates:

Gawker takes the case of those hypocrites. I love the way he elegantly takes them apart.

Shivam posts his report published in Tehelka.

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NRIs are still Indians!

Read this story...

Vijai B. Pandey, 60, filed a lawsuit in Hampden Superior Court last month against friends who tried to arrange a marriage between his son Pranjul K. and their niece.


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Sunday, October 22, 2006

A new initiative..

Blogbharti - Voices from the Indian blogosphere

Recently launched (as in a couple of days ago) idea of Krish and Shivam.

Have a look and keep coming :) A lot of great links promised!!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Quillpad

Well, I received a mail from Tachyon Technologies today asking me if I wanted a job. I didn't but I still checked out their site and their product - Quillpad!

This is really nice and makes typing in vernacular languages very easy! I tried out a few words in Hindi and it did manage to recognise some of them.

These were typed using this interface...

कुत्ते, मैं तुम्हारा ख़ून पी जाऊंगा!

मेरे पास मा हैं

जब तक रहेगा सामोसे में आलू, तब तक रहेगा पटना में लालू!

मैं तुम्हारे बच्चे की मा बनने वाली हूँ!

It has interfaces for other vernacular languages like kannada, tamil, telugu and malayalam too!

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Monday, October 16, 2006

The cartel and its members..

I learnt a new word today - cartellian. A collective for the libertarian bunch in the Indian blogosphere.

I read this pearl of wisdom from a member of this cartel.

I quote

I think Tejal should set an example for the rest of us in ‘depreviledging’ systems by opening access to her arsehole. Everyone from Thakurs to Dalits to whites to blacks to barnyard animals to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants should be able to enter it at will. I see no reason why everyone should be a have-not when it comes to anal sex with Tejal, especially when she herself has the ability to make everyone a have.


Besides being extremely offensive to women and ridiculing one of the most egregious crimes (violence against women) that exist today, do I even need to say what is wrong with this argument? He is comparing the argument for opening up _public_ institutes to that of access to something very private and personal to a person.

Now we all have rights over our private property and who gets access to it. Which is probably the reason why the cartel is the most insistent on privatisation... To shut off the access to the "undeserving".

Libertarianism and private property rights and privatisation. see how easily they all fit together.

But I am simplifying things, arn't I? And I do not get it, do I?

PS. Incredibly, this post went into draft mode!
I think I accidentally pressed the "save as draft" button when editing this post..

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The sodomobile!!



Methinks we need one in this country!

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Surrealist Compliments...

"Garbage bins would be seventh with ivy to hold your face under a stone."

oO

Orhan Pamuk

This year's Nobel prize for literature goes to the turkish novelist who has been in the centre of controversy earlier this year.

After reading My Name is Red and recently, Snow, I strongly believed that this man would win the prize and it was just a matter of time. In fact, I finished Snow about a week ago and have been meaning to write a review of it ever since. I thought it was a great novel!

If you havn't heard of him or havn't read his books, then please do go to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of his book. You wont be disappointed.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Is caste alive?

Answer

What did materazzi say to zidane??

"Since Foucault died, French philosophy has sucked." ??

LOL, If he really did say that.
ROFL, if this was really the reason that got Zidane so angry!

When do they get this book out in India....

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Catch up...

There are so many things to blog about and I havn't kept in touch. North Korea test a nuclear bomb. Kanshi Ram passes away. Schumacher's hopes get dashed in Japan.

But...

This I have got to blog about now..

Irom Sharmila is a marvel. The fact that she has not taken any food willingly for six years is something that continues to astound me. In Manipur, she is a legend and for all those who have come to know of her protest, she is an inspiration and a lesson in determination. But her struggle is not over.

She managed to somehow come to New Delhi, where she continues her bhookh hadtal.

You can support her or at least go meet her and maybe you would realise that there is an another side to the story. This is short notice but I hope this message reaches a lot of people --

URGENT CALL FOR ACTION

JOIN US:
Mass Demonstration against AFSPA, 1958
ITO, Delhi
Date: 11 October 2006 Time: 11:00 AM
(Bring your protest banners)

Call for action issued by various civil society groups. For more info:
email: msad_manipur@yahoo.com adissent@yahoo.co.in
Contacts: 9899925345 (Malem), 9312314339 (Rojesh), 9811352626 (Banerjit).


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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Triple Cs

Coffee, Cigarettes, and a long Chat. I met Kuffir yesterday. And we talked about a lot of things. He gave me a lot of history of the city I am in right now and some interesting anecdotes. He had a lot to say and I was content to listen... :)

I will mention just one of his observations here.
"You look older in your photograph"
He he...

We will meet again the next time I am in the city, hopefully...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

After MIT, it is UC Berkeley!

We all know about MIT's Open CourseWare, right?

Now UC Berkeley joins in making its educational material available online through google video!

This is absolutely awesome! Of course, this is great news for all the students of the world including perennial student like me :)

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gandhian ideals and relevance...

I do not really watch news channel but I happened to see CNN-IBN's special (?) debate on whether Gandhian ideals are relevant in today's world. First of all, I wondered what they were really talking about. Was there anything specific about Gandhi's life and teachings that they were talking about? Because when I think about Gandhiji, a lot of things come to my mind. His most famous teaching were his emphasis on truth and non-violence. There was also his insistence on wearing handmade, Indian clothes and minimalist lifestyle. And numerous other things, some forgotten, some deliberately hidden and some some ignored.
But of course, a news program, particularly a modern news program, is not going to delve on all the nuances of reasonings and facts, would it? Quite obviously, all this debate on Gandhiji has been triggered by Lage raho... So, I assume they are really referring to what the movie's central message was, that of truth, satyagraha and non-violence. The news program seemingly purports to find out whether Gandhiji's teachings are still alive even today and whether there are people, especially the youth, who believe in it and are ready to live according to those ideals.
But it goes about this task in the worst possible by asking the wrong question! Relevance of ideals, any ideals, could never be in question. Do you start questioning the relevance of Socrates' ideals, Archimedian critical thinking, Confucious' ideas of complex inactivity? Plus, if you really take a deep look at the history of non-violence, you might realise that these ideas have been around for a very looooooonnnnnng time. Think buddha! If Buddha's teaching were relevant to our struggle of independence after two millenia after Buddha, then can we really ask whether they are relevant after nearly 60 years of the death of the man who helped revive it and remind us of those lost ideas. So, if you think about it, it is just an incredibly stupid question.

Are Gandhian ideals still alive today? To answer that question, I would have to describe one of the most painful videos I have ever seen.

Manipur is a land of violence, that we all know. Most people seem to be under the impression that the army is fighting militants there whose aim is separation from the Union of India. What is never heard of or is ever presented to us is the manner in which the people of Manipur have been subjected to immense amounts of violence and pressure the Assam Rifles (a paramilitary force and hence, not part of the regular Indian Army) exert on them. In fact the amount of frustration and helplessness was so much that a few women stripped all their clothes and paraded naked carrying banners that screamed "Indian Army! Rape us!" and that was when the mainstream Indian media took notice of this. It did not notice the rape and murder of Manorama but it took an exceptional courageous and non-violent protest by twelve women.

Manipur is a troubled state where the army and protesting students "clash" at regular intervals. In the video, I saw one such protest. There were a bunch of students wearing bandanas with messages and carrying posters being mercilessly beaten up by men with lathis and being forcibly carried away from the entrance to the Assam Rifles HQ. What was really amazing was that students were not retaliating. They were just lying there taking blow after blow, each one made me wince at the sheer amount of vicious force put behind them. And they were not just beating them up but were pulling them out of the way. And then another amazing thing happened. As soon as one of the students was pulled away, another took his place. The beating continued and at that moment of time, I was reminded of Gandhiji's message. He said that violence is the weapon of the coward and that it takes immense courage to turn the other cheek in the face of violence. At that moment, I knew that he was dead right in that observation.

Gandhiji's message is very much alive. Wherever there have been oppressed people who have had nothing to fight with, they have always used non-violence as their means of struggle.

So, yes, his ideals are not forgotten and will never be.

My personal views about him and his methods mirror Tagore's. There is no denying his greatness and the effectiveness of his methods.

Most of the times, we see only one side of him and we either embrace him completely or denounce him totally. In the past, I have defended him vehemently, even though I have always had my reservations with his ideas and his doings.

Looking at him from just one angle is just totally wrong and even though, it is nice to see teenagers think that he is a "roackstar", I would rather have them learn more about him and appreciate why he is truly great...

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Technology that has immense potential.



I have heard of these multi point touch screen systems but I hadnt seen one in action. Watch it. It is really impressive. If it is indeed something that can be produced cheaply, then its teaching and creative potential is huge!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Students and movements

History has seen a lot of student movements all over the world. Most of them met with a bloody end. The worst being the Tiananmen Square massacre in China giving, perhaps, the best reason to throw communism out of the window. The protests in France in 1968 were perhaps the most influential which propelled protests in various countries which were ruthlessly suppressed.

Why have students been at the forefront of such movements is a question seldom asked. They are idealistic, study in an academic environment that teaches them to think for themselves, analyse and criticize the world around them, and they are passionate in their beliefs and naive enough to believe that they can change the world (and they do!). When faced with authority that tries to suppress their thoughts and control their actions, they rebel and their rebellion is much feared by their governments.

Are they right or wrong?

In their beliefs? Quite often, there are legitimate grievances behind those protests, which are not addressed by the powers that be for a variety of reasons. You cannot get a mass protest out of huge, disparate group of people (as evidenced by the French and the Chinese ones) without a reason or a collection of reasons.

In their actions? Well, that is a tricky one. Quite a few of the rebellions have been violent. Can we accept violence in any form? The violence is usually a manifestation of the frustration and sense of powerlessness and the impatience associated with youth. Violence always snuffs out a lot of lives, lives that would have contributed to the world and their countries if they had continued to live on. And that is the tragedy of it all. Violence is understandable and serves as a precursor to the socio-political change but it would have been better if it hadnt been a violent one. Of course, the repressive governments could very well get away with mass murder without getting punished like in the case of the Tiananmen square massacre.

Students with their passion and energy are the most valuable assets to a country much like oil or gold. Their energy could be used for good or bad, for constructive or destructive purposes, for social reasons or for vested reasons. And their minds are the most malleable and the leanings they inculcate usually stay with them for life. Which is why they are the most sought after by political parties. Which is why the role of the teacher is so powerful and important! Which is why they should, ideally, be left alone to explore the world on their own, with, maybe, a little guidance and mentorship.

Are they really powerless? Can they really be silenced so easily? NO.

we can still change the world without violent rebellions and bloody fights. With patience and determination, and with immense courage. Which is why I deplore messages that tend to legitimise the frustration and powerlessness that lead to violence and tragedy. Which is why I would ask my fellow youth to never lose sight of their goals and work towards it in their own ways and to work together to bring about changes in the world around them and in people they know.

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News...

New company, new city, new people, new processes...

In other words, everything new.

Except for a post. I have been meaning to write something for a long while but things got a little hectic everywhere.

btw, I am not moving out of Bangalore but am working temporarily in Hyderabad.

Monday, September 11, 2006

P Sainath on 9/11

Sainath remember not one but three 9/11s! And tells us the lessons of each and the one that he considers turned the world for the better.

One claim of the time was that it had "changed the world forever." Did it? And in what ways?

Latin America, though, is seeing a wave of anti-neo-liberal globalism protests. And a trashing of pro-U.S. regimes. Whether in Venezuela or Ecuador or Bolivia. Last year, tiny Uruguay became the first nation in the world to ban water privatisation.

"An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."

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Friday, September 08, 2006

I didn't expect this...

I am nerdier than 90% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

10% scored higher (more nerdy), and
90% scored lower (less nerdy).

What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:

Supreme Nerd. Apply for a professorship at MIT now!!!.

Ahem...

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Lage raho Munnabhai

So, I watched Munnabhai yesterday. I went there because I had liked the first movie (mainly the jokes and the characters) and I thought that they might just continue with the formula that they had created of a lovable bhai.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

The major theme about the movie is its Gandhianism. This can be considered a major attempt to re-create and instill the Gandhian simplistic philosophy in the youth. I do not know whether to call it naive or to call it exceedingly true to Gandhiji...

But one thing I had to compare it with was RDB. RDB ended with a seige in the radio station where the band of "heros" took over a broadcast and talked directly to the people, taking calls and explaining their actions. The reactionary message of RDB was something that I could not accept. The movie almost seemed to say that resorting to violent means to solve a problem would make the problem go away or would get a revolution up and running. It makes a lame attempt to justify the violence and also a more lame attempt at making the "heros" into martyrs!

In a way, LRM looks like a response to RDB's misguided message. It does invoke the memories of RDB by creating a radio show where Munnabhai solves people's problems using "Gandhigiri" aka Gandhian advice. People phone in with their problems and instead of advising them to take the easy way out, he advises them to take the harder path, the more fruitful path in the long run. And if you are faced with a corrupt official, do not shoot him but protest in a way that shames him and gets the work done without the bribe.

Truth and non-violence has always been the hallmarks of the Gandhian philosophy and the movie makes a valiant attempt at highlighting both of them. Some very interesting bits where Munnabhai tells us how to judge people by looking at the way they behave with people whom they consider beneath their social standings and talks about non-violent means to get someone to stop using their door as a spittoon.

With the radio station, there is again the direct correlation with RDB when Munna and Circuit take over the station by force near the end of the movie but "to have a private chat with Jhanvi".

Where RDB was a movie about the youth, its helplessness in the face of bureaucracy and its impatient idea of change, LRM is about wisdom that comes with age.

The humour of the movie is one of its big plus points. I thought Bomman Irani did a great job as Lucky Singh. Circuit was brilliant as usual. Munna was just bareable. I really think he should reconsider playing comic roles. The jokes were mostly clean, no sexist/sexual ones as that seems to the current idea of humour in Bollywood.

There are some really nice song sequences. Particularly the one where Munna tells Circuit about his first date was interesting because it seemed to adopt the strategies of a Hollywood musical (I am thinking primarily of Chicago). Though, the songs are not so great as RDB's were, they have a more earthy and simplistic quality that is hard to ignore.

So, would this movie's message be taken up by the youth? I highly doubt it. Mainly because the youth have gained the cynical quality that was reflected in RDB and I highly suspect such a naive idealism, as depicted by the movie, was aimed at the children rather than the adult youth. But somehow the naive idealistic preachings seems to be characteristic of Gandhi. So, in that sense, it is very true to the Gandhian vision...

But, do I think this is a really a reply to RDB. Yes, I think it is. The parallels are unmistakable and it is way too obviously scripted.

Stars? Maybe three.


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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Teacher's day....

This post is really in response to Shivam's cynical post on the hyposcrisy of teachers.

As such, I do not dispute SHivam's statements of facts. I did read about that incident about the girls being punished so some time ago and I would not have responded in such a "anti" manner if his post had been posted at some other time.

Yes, there are all varieties of teachers. Some good, some bad. We do not remember the most of them because they just came and went without even perturbing us even a little bit.

I do not remember a lot of them myself. In the ones I do remember, I do not respect a lot of them and I have mixed feelings for some. And the number of teachers I would say whom I really, really respect can be counted on one hand.

I do not respect the teacher who chastised me for winking at a girl in class 3. She made me feel guilty for no reason whatsoever. I was like what, eight? Sex did not even come into the picture then and she scolded me in front of the entire class without explaining to me why she considered it to be wrong. But otherwise, she was a teacher whom we all liked as she was nice and everything.

I do not respect the teacher who "taught" me physics in school. I used to show fallacies in his teaching in the class and he never understood that he was wrong! I did not respect him because he really did not have the knowledge to teach high school physics.

I do not respect the teacher who hit me on my knuckles because I did not know the table of 18. Why did he hit me? I never understood because I never considered knowing the tables by heart as an important thing.

I do remember the teacher in my otherwise mediocre school who tried to instill critical thinking but so obviously frustrated by the students' disinterest. I remember how she would show her frustration by scolding the kids really badly. Maybe she wasnt the best teacher around but she tried... And I wanted to be in her classes because of her efforts, albeit limited, to take teaching beyond the textbooks.

And there were those tons of teachers who considered teaching a chore and would just dictate things to us to vomit in the examinations. I remember hating to remember every word of the "essays" that we were supposed to write as answers to questions in the examinations and where we were scored according to how much we could remember.

I remember being so frustrated with the exams that I wrote the most inane and shortest answers to questions like "use this in a sentence".

The teacher I remember the most is the one who taught me that my thoughts and actions should never be subservient to others and who gave me the confidence to write what I thought and what I felt, even though it would be contrary to the opinions of the world around me.

I remember all these teachers on the 5th of september. The rest are the forgettable ones. I never do remember the rest who have had no bearings on my life and I dont care whether they existed in this universe or not.

It is not just a day where we remember just the ones we respect. It is a day where we remember all those other teachers too to realise and be grateful to those whom we do respect because we realise how rare they are and how precious they are to us. Teaching is most often a thankless job. On this day, we tell those few teachers we admire that we admire them and that in itself is the thanks that we can give them. Maybe they wont get frustrated and would continue inspiring and shaping the future minds of tomorrow.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

A rude world indeed...

We live in a really fast paced world where the idea of courtesy and humanism is getting lost in the milieu. There are too many people and too few slots/spots/salespeople/etc/etc and due to the pigeon-hole principle, only those who are speediest/first get the service they desire and others are made to wait. Due to this, people generally are always in a rush to reach someplace, lest someone else take the place.

And if they do indeed reach the spot a little late, they are unwilling to wait but try to jostle and bully because in this world of imperfection, first-come first-serve is not perfect either. They would do anything to get there, even drive their bikes on pavements and honk at pedestrians peacefully walking there.

Bangalore is one of those places in the world where the amount of people is surfeit than the amount of people that the city can withstand. So, there is a rush everywhere. Malls, stores, Foodworlds, movie halls, Big Bazaars, everywhere there is a mad rush and a situation dangerously close to a stampeded. Business is booming and because of this, salespeople are no longer concerned about making sales because there is no shortage of customers to the store and no shortage of sales (of course, these are stores in prime locations where stampedes are a daily occurance).

I went around to shop for a mobile phone because a friend of mine made an offer for my current one that I could not refuse. The first shop I went to, this was on church street, was filled with customers. I managed to get to the salesman and told him that I wanted to buy a phone and wanted to look at a particular range of cell phones. He just showed me the boxes. I asked him for the features and he gave me a manual. I wanted to look at the physical phones and browse through their features, because so often the advertisement and the box do not represent the crappy nature of the product they represent. He says that they do not have any demo phones and I ask him how are we supposed to choose then. He just shrugs and moves on to the next customer! The guy did not have the courtesy to apologise or say that they could show me some model that looks the same or even suggest some alternatives. He was just plain disinterested in selling.

Why? Because whether I bought a phone or not, he still would get someone who would buy some phone without his putting in any effort! I left the shop and found another where the person was willing to show me the phones and explain to me what features were there in different ones. I finally did buy the one that I initially had picked out to buy but now I knew that it was exactly what I needed and there was no other phone which was better suited to my requirements.

Despite there being so many shops in the area, I had to struggle to find a shop where the shopkeeper was genuinely interested in displaying his wares and selling his product. I have a feeling that a little time later, no shop would show you the mobile phone. You would be asked to choose one of the boxes with the printed features on them. That would be the death of the capitalistic philosophy but the logical conclusion of this scenario of excessive demand. The guy was probably overworked and distraught after having served so many customers and was no longer interested in serving one more.

Is this the fault of the people in the service industry alone? No. People, generally, have lost the politeness that is the hallmark of human civilization (at least, that is what I think). Because if you are going to push, shove and jostle to ensure that you are the first to reach the waterhole, you might as well live in the jungle. Which is probably tho origin of the phrase "concrete jungle".

I really hate living in the city where you have to encounter such characters everyday and still have to maintain your peace of mind. The hardest thing is the effort that goes into not becoming them as it is so easy to give into the frustration and punch the next guy who exhibits rude behaviour.

Of course, there are some places in Bangalore where you know that the people who come in are the decent folk and you feel at peace there. Pecos is one such place. I love the music too.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Muslim? Step over here please"

The recent alleged terror plot in London has thrown a whole new debate into picture. One that has already been in place but now is being talked about in a more open manner. That of racial/religious profiling at the airports to increase the security and minimize the delays for frequent flyers and the aam junta.

It is quite well known that people of Asian descent are frequently detained by airport authorities in "random" checks and are forced to undergo further and more thorough searches. So far, it was under the cloak of "randomness". Now they want to be open about it and say, hey, if you are a muslim, then you are a suspect and must prove yourselves not guilty by submitting to detention and searches. Will that really be effective??

Yes, muslims are the major source of threat for the americans and britons right now. Arguning that there are non-muslim terrorist organisation is simply wrong given the fact that it is the muslim terrorists who present threats to them. Not LTTE or Naxalites, but muslims. Mainly because of all the mess they have created in the Middle East. So, it does make sense to view muslims with a jaundiced eye for them. But will that really be successful? Will that really help them?

I personally do not think so. I think it would be too easy to hide one's religion. What if you get a passport with Jesus Christ written on it. If you are getting a fake passport, how hard would it be to get it in a non-muslim name. Maybe, Deepak Chopra? How would the airport authority find that out, unless they detect the mendacity of the passport...

Secondly, there are way too many people coming in illegally and so far, neither Britain nor the US have been able to put an end to that. So, there is nothing to stop a terrorist to get into their countries and once in there, they could very well become anybody with any name. Create an identity that is difficult to trace and you are no longer identifiable as a muslim, unless they strip them and look at their wee-wees, which would require them to be suspects in the first place.

Thirdly, according to MIT, most suicide bombers are not muslims!

So, such a move would not just be racist but would not serve its purpose and would only perpetuate a hostility that is unnecessary and stupid.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Apparently, I am a liar...

Your EQ is 153

50 or less: Thanks for answering honestly. Now get yourself a shrink, quick!
51-70: When it comes to understanding human emotions, you'd have better luck understanding Chinese.
71-90: You've got more emotional intelligence than the average frat boy. Barely.
91-110: You're average. It's easy to predict how you'll react to things. But anyone could have guessed that.
111-130: You usually have it going on emotionally, but roadblocks tend to land you on your butt.
131-150: You are remarkable when it comes to relating with others. Only the biggest losers get under your skin.
150+: Two possibilities - you've either out "Dr. Phil-ed" Dr. Phil... or you're a dirty liar.


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Obit: Bismillah Khan



Ustadji passed away today at the age of 91.

All though his life, he had been a very humble man whose energy and talent would always be remembered by all those who have heard him play, especially by those who have had the great fortune to have seen him play live.

SPIC MACAY national conventions would be empty without his shehnai and I am sure a lot of volunteers would miss him.

His spirit would always be with us. He is a Bharath Ratna, one that can never be replaced...

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Another stupid test

Your Personality Is Like Cocaine

You're dynamic, brilliant, and alluring to those who don't know you.
Hyper and full of energy, you're usually the last one to leave a party.
Sometimes your sharp mind gets the better of you... you're a bit paranoid!


Just to clarify - I am all that!

Ok, I am not... I am brilliant though.

Alright, thats not true either.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sivasamudram


sivasamudram 6
Originally uploaded by amathad.

Finally, we stopped at Sivasamudram while coming back because it was on the way and the water here is in all its glory! You behold it and it is hard not to feel a little scared of the water...

Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary


Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary - tea stall
Originally uploaded by amathad.


The first morning, we stopped at this small shop inside Brahmagiri Wildlife Santuary and we got the best tea in the entire trip here.

Also, this was a lovely place with a stream flowing gustily by.

Beach near Thallasery


beach near Thallasery
Originally uploaded by amathad.


One of the most recurrent things we saw throughout the trip were communist symbols and monuments. This was a different experience because communists are strong only in Kerala and WB. In any other state, one might have seen flags of other parties but monuments such as these would have been rare..

chembri peak


chembri peak 1
Originally uploaded by amathad.


We tried to climb this peak and it was fun!!!

Fishermen - thallasery beach


fishermen - thallasery beach
Originally uploaded by amathad.

We got to this beach near Thallasery after a kilometer long winding, narrow path. Supposed to be a drive in beach and you could travel along the beach till kannur, some 20 kilometers away!

This was mainly a fishermen's beach, it seemed, with lots of fishing boats and activity...

Football on the beach


football on the beach 2
Originally uploaded by amathad.


After several attempts I get an action pic right. The problem was more complicated by my camera which would take the pic half a second after I clicked the button. So, I had to anticipate the player's motion and it made it tricky to capture.

Kannur beach


kannur beach 1
Originally uploaded by amathad.


The beach was pretty cool, though it was hot and humid out there and we had to walk a few kilometers to the beach.

Some of the guys took a quick dip but came out with salty water in their mouths...

Kannur port


we have eachother
Originally uploaded by amathad.

I will posting some of the pictures I took during the Kerala trip. You can see more pics here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Long time..

It has been a long time
Since I saw you last
And much water has flown between here and there

It has been a long time
Since I saw you smile
And great many things have occurred in that time

It has been a long time
Since I saw your eyes
And the world has blurred to a halt

It has been a long time
Since I thought I’d seen you last
And so many people have come and gone

Now that I see you today through another’s eyes
Those lost emotions come hurtling back
With a force and ferocity of days of yore
Taking me by surprise of a thousand shocks

I now realise that it is easier said than done
To forget those times I spent with you
And to move on from there without you
To bury the past and look ahead…

I will always remember you
With a fondness that never can be expressed
With a heart full of desire
And with a mind full of regret

Oh yes, it has been a really long time.

Apurva
16th August 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Independence day!

Another year comes and with it comes another anniversery of the Independence that we fought so hard for...

Happy Independence Day to you all!!

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Just back...

Was in kerala for the past few days and I am literally dead tired. Walked a lot and clicked a LOT of pictures. Will be uploading them as soon as I am done organising them...

For a primer, check out this picture I took at St. Angelo's Fort, Kannur.



St. Angelo's Fort, Kannur


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Friday, August 11, 2006

A letter from Shirin Ebadi

From: Shirin Ebadi
Sent: Saturday, August 05, 2006 1:54 PM

There is a very important matter I would like to discuss with you. I
conduct my human rights activities through the Defender of Human Rights
Center (DHRC). I am the president of this center and we have three important responsibilities:

a. We report the violations of human rights that take place in Iran.

b. We defend political prisoners pro bono -- about 70% of the political prisoners in Iran are clients of our center and we do not charge them for our services.

c. We support the families of these prisoners both financially -- if
they require financial aid -- and spiritually.

This center is a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and has been registered there. It has also been awarded a human rights prize by the Human Rights National Commission in France. This center is very well known and credible in Iran. Two days ago the government of Iran announced that this center is illegal and provided we continue our activities, they shall arrest us. Of course me and the other members of the center do not intend to shut down the center and we shall continue our activities. However, there is a high possibility that that they will arrest us. The government's action in this regard is illegal.

Therefore, I kindly request that you broadcast this message by all mean and gather spiritual support for our center. This center has been established and working for more than four years now. I believe this decision of the government has been triggered by my memoir being published. In any case, I am happy that my memoir has been published, for the truth must be told.

Many thanks,
Shirin Ebadi

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Another web comic that makes me laugh out loud..

A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language

An instance of its fabulousness!



Ok, I am a geek..

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Lost: NASA does it again!

It seems like the original moon landing recordings are lost!!!


THE heart-stopping moments when Neil Armstrong took his first tentative steps onto another world are defining images of the 20th century: grainy, fuzzy, unforgettable.

But just 37 years after Apollo 11, it is feared the magnetic tapes that recorded the first moon walk - beamed to the world via three tracking stations, including Parkes's famous "Dish" - have gone missing at NASA's Goddard Space Centre in Maryland.


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Banning of domestic child labour

Annie has a great series of post on this topic. See the ugly under-belly of the Great Indian Middle Class.

Never again (one hopes)

Why the ban was necessary - 1

Why the ban was necessary - 2

Budhiya

Sneha

Bubli

Sohail

Sukku

The child and the minimum wage

Graphs and the ban

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"The terrorist"

Dean Jones calls Hashim Amla a terrorist and get fired!

And then he says this..

"It was a silly and completely insensitive thing to say and, obviously, it was never supposed to be heard over the air. I am truly sorry to have caused offence to anybody and the last thing I intended was to be disrespectful."


Ummm... what? So, it is ok if it was not aired but just heard by your colleagues?

I wonder how he is going to get out of this. Unlike Mel, he was not drunk* and was obviously in full control of his senses and speech. I also wonder whether he would say "the terrorist has got another wicket" whenever Murali gets one.

Dean Jones has just axed his career short. I do not think we will see this guy commenting on TV again.

* Though being drunk is no excuse for his alleged anti-semitic hate talk.

Update: Others commentators comment on Dean Jones' "gaffe"

Harsha Bhogle, a prominent broadcaster with ESPN Star Sports, pointed out that commentators have to always be on their guard. "We work in a news room or commentary box, so we have to be careful of what we say," he told The Times of India. "You have to assume that the microphone is always on. There will be some network somewhere who will be on live even when there is a break. We have directorial microphones too, so we have to be very careful. Sometimes producers do tell us that it is leaking, be careful. I have made up my mind not to swear even when not on air."

Wait a minute. The issue isn't he made the statement on air but that he made the statement. Whether he makes it in the locker room or in public does not matter because the statement was bloody bad! Harsha, what the fuck are you talking about? Arn't thou able to condemn Jones's remarks!

Then comes the explanation...

Syed Saba Karim, the former Indian wicketkeeper-turned-commentator, did not condone Jones but believed it could have been an honest mistake. "We do chat off camera and off air but I have never experienced anything like this. Nowadays with the ICC being strict with what comes on air, strong action has already taken place," he said. "Dean Jones is popular with so many cricketers, maybe it came out inadvertently. He must be given a chance to explain his stand."

oh! he made a honest mistake, did he? But what the hell is the honest mistake? Calling someone a terrorist because of their religiousness and their appearance? Bullshit!

Arun Lal, the former Indian batsman and prominent commentator, maintained that it was a bad mistake. "It's a very unfortunate incident. Just one of those things, when he has probably tried to sound witty. Knowing the gentleman I am sure he did not mean it. It was just a mistake, nothing else."

I am sure he is, now that he has lost his job for his faux paus.

I wonder how these guys can talk about how this is all a big mistake and that Dean Jones is not really a bad guy. He probably is not a nutcase but if this is his idea of a joke, I do not want to know him nor would I like to be around him...

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Monday, August 07, 2006

"A terrible thought occurs to me. There will be another 9/11."

Those are Robert Fisk's words.

Now I respect Fisk. I think he is one of the few American journalists/columnists who is worth reading but this statement makes me wonder whether he was sleeping all this while? Of course, there is going to be another 9/11. What do you expect after you bomb, kill, torture and destroy one country after another in the middle-east? Is it really that hard to see where this confrontation is headed?

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pepsi, Coke and CSE

The first time it was reported that pesticides residues were found in Coke and Pepsi samples, I figured that this was a malicious campaign against these American companies operating in India. I dismissed it offhand and it did not stop me from drinking pepsi/coke.

But it is three years later and it has happened again!! Now, I think this is more than a stunt to malign these cola companies and that there might actually be an element of truth to it.

Having said that, it is refreshing to see our courts showing some stern actions and asking pepsi/coke to reveal the contents of their drinks. Also, state governments have been authorised to take random samples for testing purposes.

Why is this a concern? MNCs have been known to be not concerned about the health risks of third world countries. Whether it is Bhopal or Choropampa, the story is the same. Some big company creates a mess and the local people face the consequences of their mistakes. Because they are MNCs, there is always no accountability and the guilty are never brought to justice.

So, is Pepsi and Coke feeding us pesticides? I would not put it past them to do so. But the important question is where do these pesticides come into picture? Is it because they fail to purify the water they pump out of the soil or because the chemicals of these pesticides are a part of the "formula"? That is for the court to find out. Whatever happens, Pepsi/Coke would have to do a major PR work to rectify this mess. The first time around this happened, their sales dropped drastically. Now, I am sure it would drop even more.

Hat tip - Shivam for the email alert to this story.

Update: A more detailed report from Down To Earth (mag of CSE). The story and the data provided clearly state that the levels of pesticides in Pepsi/Coke are still high and unacceptable.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Links

Tutorial: How to suppress racism.

The strategies can be and are applied for a lot of other issues too. So, read carefully and learn...

How to talk nasty about Blacks.

Again, the strategies mentioned here are not restricted in use.

How to be a really nice guy.

The title's self-explanatory.

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Callback - A surreal experience...

Every once in a while, you get a phone call that tests the limits of Reality as you know it. I had one such experience sunday night.

As is usual with me, my phone was in silent mode and lying somewhere under the heaps of stuff on my bed. And again, as is usual, I go to check up onmy mobile as to whether there were any calls during the time I was away from it. And yes, there was. There had been a call from an unknown number. So, being the nice guy that I am, I called back and the conversation went something like this...

RRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG...

Woman at the other end: "Hello"

Me: "Hello, I received a missed call from this number. May I know who I am speaking to?"

Woman passes the phone to someone, murmuring: ".....koi missed call..."

Man at the other end: "Hello, who are you?"

Me: *repeating my last line*

"What are you talking about a missed call? What number do you want?"

Now I did not memorise the number that I got the call from simpy because I did not expect a pop quiz on memory and recall.

"I am not sure. I got a call from the number of the phone you are holding and I am just calling back."

"What calling back? you dont even know what number you are calling!!"

I reiterate my argument again hoping that the person would understand why I dont know the number I am calling.

"First you tell me who you are and why are you calling this number?"

WTF? Now I am beginning to wonder whether there is something wrong with this old man (by this time, I have formulated a theory that the person on other end is an old muslim chacha complete with a topi and paan stained teeth).

I try again to make him understand that I am just making a courtesy call wondering why I received a call from his number.

"Tell me what number you dialled!!"

I know this serves no purpose but I check my phone and I say, "98XXXX2344?"

"What are teling me my number for? Phone rak" *CLICK*

Me: staring at the mobile and wondering whether I had just been outwitted by an old man!

I wonder what that was all about. I am guessing that the old man is paranoid of strange men calling up his daughter. That seems to be the most likely explanation but what I do not understand is why I got a call from them. Perhaps, they dialled the wrong number? Maybe, maybe.

But it is still a mystery to me as to why the old man was playing mind games with me.

You won this round. I will be better prepared next time!

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

A revealing chewing gum ad...

The other day, I had the opportunity to catch this ad on TV that left me stunned beyond words. I looked around to see if anyone saw what I saw but all I could see where faces which were blank or with a hint of a smile. All I could do was nod my head and reiterate to myself that racism is alive, kicking and vibrant in our land.

The ad was about this chewing gum that apparently whitens your teeth. It is set in a land where there are no lighting devices but men propped up on poles and on cars armed with the chewing gum. Whenever light is required, they pop one and open their mouth, and lo, there is light! What was wrong about this ad was the representation of the people who were the light-props. They were uniformly brown-skinned, suggesting a definite race/caste equation at work. Why did the director of the ad ensure that only brown-skinned people would do the part of the props? Is it because if they had used light-skinned people, it would have been incongrous? And this way, it looked "natural", ie, people would not notice anything wrong with it? (of course, some, like me, do see it as wrong)

And then, Rimi Sen says in an interview that "he can make even a black African look pretty"! Wow! Now that is just fucking amazing how she got away with that! Of course, there are some in the blogosphere who have commented on the racist nature of this comment but there has hardly been a hur and cry over it. While when Suhasini makes a statement regarding pre-marital sex, she gets slapped with a lawsuit for "sullying the name of tamil women"! Rimi Sen would probably never learn about how racist her statement was and even if she does, she wont feel pressured to issue an apology, let alone purge her racist thoughts.

One of things that I notice about the South Indian film industry is that even though the male actors are not required to be light-skinned (which is the case in Bollywood) to be considered to be heroes, the females are always expected to be goris. They would import female actresses from the north just to ensure that they be considered beautiful.

Another thing I notice is that north indians look at the heroes of the south indian films and react with disgust. Why? because they are dark-skinned, have a moustache and overact? Because they dont bare their bodies at the drop of the hat or go kkkiiiran. For a dark skinned man to make it big in Bollywood, he needs to be exceptionally talented and even so, he would not be considered for the traditional hero-roles!

When will we face the fact that racism is extremely common in India? Can things be more obvious than these two incidents? As long as representation of people is as it is in our popular media, it is going to stay. As long as there are people who deny the existence a multiple levels and layers of discrimination, it is not going to go away.

One may argue that it is not really racism that is common in India but a discrimination against dark skinned people. That there are a lot of dark brahmins. Interestingly, light-skinned dalits do not exist! I would argue that this is a discrimination based on skin colour and that it is derived from racism and manifests itself as racist behaviour when confronted with people who are undeniably of other races.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

No! you cannot have that knowledge...

In India, the bureaucracy is the subject of a lot of jokes. The incredible stonewalling nature of the government makes it a huge black box to our citizens which periodically spews out legislations and ordinances that seemingly make no sense. Why do they do that? What thought processes go into it and who takes the decision about which way to go? These are questions that are seldon answered and are rather important if we take accountability seriously.

The RTI act was a piece of legislature that was enacted to make the governance transparent. It was rather surprising that the government did indeed pass this act as it does put them in uncomfortable positions for the decisions they take.

Well, come july and we now hear that the cabinet wants to "would remove ambiguities in the bill and make provisions of the Act more effective and progressive." Whatever could these be?

Alternative Perspective has a detailed blog post on this subject. Go read it and learn why the government is scared of this act. The main purpose of the act is not to make the decision available to the public, which usually is but to make the decision process transparent, which the cabinet now seeks to obfuscate. Whyever so? Apparently because "progressive" countries like the USA, UK and Australia also do the same thing! Perhaps, the government of India is planning to invade Iraq as well!!!

Sign this online petition if you do not want this amendment to go through or you can alternatively write to the president.

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From hopelessness to hopefullness in two hours...

I would be lying if I said Last Life in the Universe did not move me. It was a film to whose main character I related to a little. A suicidal, bookish, cleanliness-freak librarian named Kenji and a lonely, pot-smoking woman living in a filthy home get together and this is the story of how they develop affection for eachother.

Kenji is a guy who is neat and clean. His house looks like a library and he works in one too. He is alone with no friends and family, and he spends too much time thinking about death. But as the film shows death comes in an instant but the waiting period is an eternity for an individual.

Kenji meets Noi when he is sitting on the railing on a bridge contemplating his death and when Noi's sister gets run over. Then Kenji gets into trouble because his overbearing "friend" gets killed in his apartment and he kills the killer. He decides to run and ends up going to Noi's house and staying there for a while.

Kenji is a shy guy who seems to have never had a girlfriend and certainly does not know how to make one either. But as time progresses and his stay in Noi's house gets prolonged, they get closer to eachother and you see a genuine relationship developing between them. The film shows, almost in real time, just how much time it takes to become intimate with another person.

There is so little which is spoken aloud in the film and so much conveyed with an mosiac of imagery. You know the background of Noi without her telling anything. And the final scene where Kenji does get caught, you see that this is not a bad ending because his fantasies center on his getting back together with Noi in the future. There is just one other film which rivals this one in terms of amount of things conveyed with little speech and that is Bergman's 'The Silence'.

The film has a poetic quality to it. The scene where Kenji transforms Noi's home is just pure magic. That is film making at its best.

I think I will watch this again next week.

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Movie Saturday..

Seen three and a half movies today. Kind of tired but I know it is going to be a long night too...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Anh Hung Tran's Cyclo

Collective Chaos is doing an Asian Wave film fest this weekend. A repeat of all the movies would be screened next week. So, if you miss any, you can see them next weekend! That is a pretty neat thing to do.

Yesterday, I watched this movie by Viatnamese director Tran that deals with the lives of poor, lower class people living in the Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of Viatnam. The central character is an 18 year old boy who drives a Cyclo (a cycle rickshaw. the word is also used to describe the person who drives the cyclo) to earn a living. His father used to be a Cyclo too until he died an untimely death on the streets and left his son nothing. You see the hopelessness in the face of the individual who is illiterate, has not means of improving his social conditions, and is harassed daily at the hands of thugs.

When one says that people can improve their conditions just by working hard, they do not realise/hide the fact that a lot of things can go wrong for those living in the lower economic classes. Also, there is a greater chance of things going wrong for them. Nobody would give them a loan, let alone a credit card. So, when there is a money emergency, they have to take a loan from the loan sharks and if they cannot repay it, they are forced into doing a lot of things that they would not have wanted to do. The cyclo in the film has his cyclo stolen, the cyclo which he was renting from a woman with a mentally retarded child and with a criminal connection. He ends up becoming the foot soldier for the crimes perpetuated by the woman's henchmen.

The film then follows the stories of other characters in the film and does it in a way that there are no heros and no villains. It is full of sad characters who are forced into crimes by others just like them. We see that it is a vicious cycle that just does not seems impossible to break. The lower class people become the criminals who act according to unknowm masters who are most definitely higher class businessmen. We see the cyclo destroying grains stored in a warehouse and torch a particular shop which seems to indicate that the job was given by some rival businessmen or opportunistic businessmen who destroy grains to keep the prices of food items artificially high.

This film is, in general, a moody one following the minds of four principal characters. It follows their thoughts, the motives for their actions and the end they all reach.

What amazed me about the movie was the director's attention to detail. The apartment of one of the principal characters is not just a room with some articles spread around here and there but a reflection of his world, his character. The director fills the frame with so many extraneous things that do not seem important to the story but give the film a flavour that is hard to miss and at the same time, extremely powerful. There is one particular scene where Cyclo gets back to his hideout after escaping the policemen. He is covered in dirt and what looks to be sewage and we are taken so close to his mouth that we see insects crawling all over his face and mouth but yet there is an expression of satisfaction, relief, and happiness on his face that contrasts with your own feelings of aversion.

It is a movie that has love, loss, sadness, poverty, crime, anxiety, death, life and how all of these seemingly contrasting things coexist together in the streets of Ho Chi Min City.

In one final shot, the camera pans across the lives of the rich of the city and we see them swimming in their pools in the distance and you realise how cut off and distant they are from the lives of these people who form the base of the city.

A powerful and impressive film. One that ought to be watched...

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