Friday, September 12, 2008

Indian Moral Code

Many self-appointed groups in India are now defending what is called Indian Moral Code. Well, we know about Legal Code and Penal Code, but what is this Moral Code?

India’s idea of democracy is interpreted as the rule of majority where majority can impose its ideas, notions, dress, language, and habits onto others. If these others do not acquiesce, then it is forced down their throats. They get things done by popular movements. They can send millions of SMS to get their favorite cricketer acquitted.

They also feel obligated to come up with a set of rules, traditions, and habits which are considered morally superior and they give it a name called Indian Moral Code. This Moral Code derives legitimacy from all sections of the society because it promises to protect Indian Culture, dignity, morality and sacred traditions. It gets legitimacy from patriotic and religious groups at the same time. The way a State imposes its Legal Code and Penal Code onto Indian citizens, these upholders of Indian Moral Code impose their morality onto everyone.

When Sexy Shriya donned a revealing dress for an evening outing, some Tamilian organizations believed it was against the sacred and honorable Tamilian traditions. When Khushboo and Sushmita Sen talked about women’s sexuality, marriage and virginity, the upholders of Indian Moral Code rose up to challenge them.

In small towns of India, this is even bigger problem. Most girls get their freedoms restricted by their own families, and where necessary the mohallah people, who are out there to defend Indian Moral Code from getting sullied. When I attended a well-known engineering institute in India in 90s, girls were restricted from mixing with boys. Some professors took up this task to punish the girls who were seen talking to boys by deliberately failing them or giving them low marks. All this they did with great concern and care for upholding Indian Moral Code which is more sacrosanct than the marks these girls received.

In many Indian towns, couples are targeted by youth, social outfits and sometimes the police force, for seen together. The fact that they held hands or were seen hugging is good enough for these people to act.

In a rare show of solidarity, which happens in India only when it comes to imposing idiotic notions, both Hindu and Christian organizations in South India cracked down on people who were seen as ‘violating the moral code’.

According to THE HINDU, there have been many such cases where some groups resorted to ‘punishing individuals’ who ‘violated the moral code’. Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal, and a Christian outfit, Social Action Committee, and some members from Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) took it upon themselves to defend the unwritten Indian Moral Code. To do this, these groups targeted young men and women who were seen together, especially if they came from different religions. THE HINDU writes [emphasis mine]:

In one case, a young woman was attacked because she went to the house of a young woman from a different community. The Bajrang Dal has claimed responsibility for seven of these incidents.

The district head of the organisation, Sudarshan Moodabidri, claimed that the outfit had “solved” over 200 cases in the last two months where Hindus were “caught” committing the “immoral” act of interacting with members of other communities.

Mr. Moodabidri said, “Sometimes it becomes necessary to use force. Fear of such action should deter such misadventures. Girls reform themselves once they are thrashed and humiliated in public, but boys are tougher to control.”

These groups even carried out a ‘joint operation’ in one case proving idiocy is the most common binding factor for all these upholders of morality.

Moral Code in colleges

These days it’s fashionable for many colleges to proudly impose a dress code on its students. There are many colleges in India who don’t allow jeans and t-shirts for girls. The code prohibits them from wearing sleeveless and tight-fitting clothes as well. They strictly enforce wearing Indian salwar kameezes. The principal of such colleges proudly wear this ideology as a badge since he knows the kind of audience he is talking to. Parents gleefully admit their kids to such schools believing they are contributing to upholding of the Great Indian Moral Code.

"We are only trying to ensure that students dress decently and modestly, in a way that befits our culture. A dress code will also pre-empt harassment of women students," says Dr. Viswanathan, Vice-Chancellor of Anna University.

LHC, Big Bang: Mega Instrument

Progress in Science and Technology went hand in hand in the last five hundred years. That’s why you often see these two words clubbed together. But they are two different things. One can develop technology without having to understand Science. For example, one can develop a wheel or a rudimentary microscope without understanding Newton’s Laws of Motion or Laws of Optics.

First came instruments (or the technology) that helped people make more scientific discoveries. Measuring time with precision using different types of clocks and allowed people to make accurate observations paving way for Laws of Motion. Invention of microscope and telescope spawned many other branches of science - Physics, biology, medicine. Bunsen Burner helped chemists. Steam Engine spawned transport and Industrial Revolution and at the same helped in framing Laws of Thermodynamics. Invention of Printing Press helped in dissemination of knowledge thereby allowing many people to embark on pursuit of Science, and as well feed onto each other to make incremental progress. Printing Press also helped in bringing other social changes – such as Reformation and French Revolution.

Scientific discoveries and theories in turn helped in making technological innovations, like radio, telephone, television, dynamo, etc. Without better instrumentation, scientific theories would not have come forth so easily. Without science, we would not have made better technology.

Today, we see one of the biggest scientific instruments built – LHC – Large Hadron Collider.

LHC is the largest machine in the word. It is the largest particle accelerator and world’s largest refrigerator. It is the fastest place on the planet where particles will travel at 99.99% the speed of light. It also creates the emptiest space in Solar System where ultra-high vacuum is created. It has the dubious record of being the hottest places in galaxy while maintaining temperatures colder than outer space. It will record temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than Sun’s core and at the same time has a extreme cool temperature of 271.3°C (1.9 K). It has the most powerful supercomputer in the world called Grid, where more than 100,000 dual layer DVDs will be recorded every year. It has the biggest and most sophisticated detectors on the planet, where 600 million proton collisions per second are recorded. It has precision instruments that measure intervals of few billionths of a second, and distances of millionths of a meter.

Quest for knowledge, to know how the Universe works, has set in motion the greatest contribution of mankind called Science. When Copernicus and Galileo asked questions about the workings of the Universe, it set in motion a revolution in human history. That curiosity to know how, what and why, has helped man discover, invent and create things unimaginable few hundred years ago. Man can now fly, go into space, go deep into oceans and earth, can now travel at speeds faster than sound, be connected with anyone on the planet in a moment, watch TV, freeze food, all because of that curiosity to know how the Universe works.

This experiment, called the ‘biggest experiment’ of humankind is another step in that direction- to unravel the workings of the Universe. We need to understand that not all instruments give the results we are looking for. That’s the whole idea of Science- we try though we fail many a times.

As we increase our understanding on the Universe works, we push ignorance into a remote corner. No longer can rudimentary telescope help us in making new discoveries. We need bigger and better instruments like Hubble Telescope to see farther into Universe. No longer can we use rudimentary cathode tube experiments to know the behavior of particles. We need bigger and better machines like LHC.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Big Bang: I have become a believer!

For many years I have been an atheist and a strong opponent of religious blind beliefs and superstitions. Sadly, I have ridiculed the power of mantras, prayers, and rituals that help humans in their daily life. I have spent hours writing many blogs denouncing Vaastu Shastra, Astrology, and other ‘sciences’ calling them (wrongly) ‘pseudo-sciences’.

All that is changed now.

I understand enough physics to appreciate the ongoing Big Bang experiment conducted by CERN using LHC. There is a clear danger for the whole Universe because of what we as Humans are doing on a small planet in some remote corner of an insignificant galaxy. After all, Humans have the power to negate the work of God all in one go by conducting this ‘biggest experiment’ of human history. These dumb scientists do not know what they are playing with. God has so carefully constructed this Universe with his own ‘two hands’ and we are all set to undo his great Creation; of course he has hands because he has made humans in the image of himself- he would look like one of us if we were to meet up with him some day. We have become an arrogant lot, trying to equate ourselves with God, trying to get a place next to him. Didn’t God punish us before when tried to reach him constructing the tower of Babel? Our God is a jealous God. He doesn’t like it when we try to reach him or surpass him. He will punish us for that.

This whole experiment is bad for us. Either we will destroy the Planet Earth and all humans within it, including our savings, our gold and jewelry, and the Mercedes car parked outside the home, OR God will punish us really bad for trying to understand him or recreate what he has created 13.5 Billion years ago. Either way, this experiment will spell doom for all of us. And these stupid scientists are to blame for that.

Fortunately, I have changed my belief systems before God decided to punish us. I am now an ardent believer of God, and I completely support all the pujas, homas, rituals, being conducted in India to protect us from impending destruction.

Thanks to so many considerate and altruistic religious Indians, who have put the safety of humankind before their ulterior motives, who have prayed for our well-being, spending money on grand rituals, I feel very safe now. I feel that the eventual destruction will be averted since these kind Indians have beseeched God and pleaded on behalf of all humans including those wily sinning scientists intent on destroying the Universe.

I have come to understand the power of astrology, the rituals and prayers, and I am entirely convinced that these prayers alone, and not the foolishness or the incompetency of the scientists, have averted a great danger posed to entire humanity and the Universe.

I have become a believer. Please pray, please conduct more rituals. I thank all those people working at MNCs for showing so much sympathy and support to these pujas. I am very happy that you were all enlightened for so long. I realize the importance of the college degrees that you earned and the science classes that you attended. I join you today. I feel happy that I am in the company of such enlightened and wise souls.

All those government officials, school going kids who have skipped work and school the other day, I completely understand why you have done what you have done. Either you feared it would be the last day of the Universe and hence decided to stay home and watch the last collection of your DVDs or you felt that it was your way of telling the God that you are very upset with this experiment that could possibly destroy Earth and hence you have imposed a bandh on yourself to protest. Either way, thank you!

This LHC experiment is no trivial thing. It is a big thing. First, it is a big thing because it involves $8 Billion. That’s a big number. Second, it is to do with another word that starts with Big called ‘Big Bang’. This experiment will try to simulate the conditions that existed during first-trillionth of a second after the creation of Universe where particles did not yet assume mass. These experiments may end up creating mini small black holes that will swallow our earth. The problem with black holes is that they are Black, and Black is synonymous with something sinister and evil.

Christians have long believed that there will be a doomsday and they have been waiting for it. This whole Big Bang thing is an anathema to them. There are many things Christians know which others don’t. First, God took only six days to create this Universe and it was done only few thousand years ago. Second, God will punish humans for supporting these stupid scientists who keep annoying God again and again with theories like Heliocentric Solar Systems, theories of Universe, etc.

Muslims know for sure that world will end one day. If it is LHC that is going to do the job, so be it.

Hindus for long have believed that the whole world is balanced on a razor-thin string in a very delicate balance where the harmony between humans and everything around them keeps the Universe stable. This experiment will cause a disturbance in that delicate Universe and upset the balance leading to a potential destruction of the Universe. This is a real danger. Ask any expert on Hinduism, he will tell you this.

Thank you, Aaj Tak, the great Indian TV Channel, for having instructed Indian viewers how some miniature black holes will suck up entire earth. And Thank you, Chhaya of Sarangpur, for committing suicide to create awareness of impending doomsday. You qualify for the Darwin Award.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Bandhs, Strikes, Protests and Holidays I

India’s romance with strikes and bandhs is quite unique. Gandhi pioneered the concept of non-cooperation. He had a principled stand on this issue. He reasoned that British Government that was ruling us at that time was not representative of Indians. They were not elected nor selected by the Indians to represent us. There were many instances which clearly indicated that rulers were a different set of people unrepresentative of India. He reasoned that Indians have a moral obligation to refuse to accept some of these laws since they are detrimental to the well-being of Indian people. There were some rules and impositions that were outright discriminatory, subjugating the Indians, affecting their dignity and moral. According to him, Indians have a conscientious obligation to contravene them.

Gandhi saw immense potential in this argument, but also knew its power and its extent. It can easily lead to anarchy if it goes out of control. Gandhi was still a believer in the system and tried his best to work within the system. He was careful enough to let people know that this non-cooperation has to be practiced with utmost restraint, within generally agreed principles that he laid out. Gandhi stuck to few key rules. He was not ready to inflict harm onto others. He was not ready to impose it onto others. His non-cooperation meant – ‘O! You ruler! You cannot touch me! You cannot make me do things your way!’ It did not mean – ‘I will harm you! I will take revenge! I will obstruct, destruct and attack you!’ He was clear that this non-cooperation is something you impose onto yourself – not onto others. You cannot force others to cooperate with you in your non-cooperation.

When Gandhi introduced this into India it was a revolutionary practice in the history of mankind. This principle was great in theory. But when put in practice, even Gandhi faced immense problems. Though his followers were trained in all the rules he clearly laid out on how to carry it forward, there were many occasions his movement went out of control. In one such case, 22 policemen were killed by the protestors in Chowri Chowra.

Whenever Gandhi saw that his followers took it beyond the scope he defined, he called off the protests and the entire movement to the utter dismay of many of his followers who were looking forward to deliverance of freedom from British. His common refrain was that Indians were just not ready for that freedom they are seeking.

We inherited many of his practices and continue to use them even after British were gone. In some way, Indians are obsessed with Gandhi. Even those who strongly detest him conveniently embrace his practices. We have rath yatras, fasts, and jail bharo programs. We have hadtals, and non-cooperating protests.

But we have diluted his practices conveniently to suit our purposes. Going to jail is not a shame, but it is a matter of pride – since Gandhi went in and out many a times. So, we see people going to jail gleaming in pride – even those who have killed an animal of endangered species, or got caught while taking bribes, or got convicted for tax evasion. They earn the respect and sympathy of fellow Indians, because they all see it as an act of great sacrifice, the way Gandhi and his followers did during British Rule.

One of the derivatives of Gandhi’s legacy is bandh. Though Indians are ruling themselves now by voting their representatives to power, we still think in colonial mindset. So while we embrace Gandhi’s practices, we completely forgot his rules. In fact, his rules died with him.

The modern definition of bandh is quite different. A bandh no longer means ‘we will stop functioning.’ It means, ‘we will also stop you from functioning!’ Gone are the days when we are not supposed to pull others to cooperate with us in our non-cooperation. These days we impose it on all and sundry causing lot of inconvenience to others assuming it is our democratic right to bandh.

Bandh is the most commonly used weapon in India to show one’s dissatisfaction with the way things are. A bandh calls for a stop on all work. The people who call for bandh feel it is their right to impose it onto others. Shops are forcefully shutdown, companies are shut, and government offices are closed, and so on. We have all kinds of bandhs- Bharat bandh, State bandh, Rail Roko, Rasta Roko, etc. Nowadays, any group can call a bandh for any reason whatsoever. Even the government in power can call bandh on itself! That’s the funniest thing I have witnessed lately. We have made a mockery of this instrument.