Monday, December 17, 2012

Link: 'All Life is One'

When I quote ‘all life is one’, I don’t say it in a philosophic way, spiritual way, the new age holistic way, the Gandhian way, or in some kind of karmic sense, or tantric sense, nor is it in a biblical way or koranic way, nor is it in post-modernistic, gaia-ic, dharmic, sanatanic, nor is it in poetic, metaphoric, satiric, or ironic way.

I say it in a scientific way. It is an ‘empirical fact’ that all life on planet earth is one. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Charminar and the Temple

When I was a young boy I used to frequently visit the ‘old city’ of Hyderabad because that’s where my grandparents used to live.  On the way we had to take road next to Charminar.  I have a vague memory of a very small temple next to Charminar.  But, now that temple has grown in size according to the latest pictures.  As we speak, old city is rioting once again after a gap of many years.  The topic of contention is the growing size of the temple next to Charminar which has now become a prominent place for Hindus.  Muslims are objecting to this. 

Here are the pictures from THE HINDU where it shows that there was no temple whatsoever sixty years ago.  A few days ago, a lady showed an old photograph from her family on a Telugu news channel which doesn’t show the temple next to Charminar.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Internal party democracy (Part I)

Though India has embraced democracy as the form of government, it is now frustrated with the current system because it has not produced the desired results, and definitely it has not made the common man feel that the government is ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. 

Over the last sixty years, India has reduced the scope and definition of democracy to such an extent that it has now become synonymous only with general elections held every five years.  Most Indians, when asked what democracy is, would now quickly respond, ‘elections’.  Elections, held every five years, have therefore become the only event when the common man of India gets to feel that he plays some role in forming the government.  He feels empowered only on that day, and that day alone.  Once that day passes, the common man is forgotten, and he doesn’t figure in the later workings of the government.  The elected leaders become the rulers, who are in turn ruled by their party bosses. 

The common malaise of Indian political system is that the elected leaders are not accountable to the common man.  They shun him.  They refuse to meet him.  They refuse to mingle with them. They refuse to consider his participation.  Many elected leaders in India do not have offices in their constituencies.  Instead they live and reside in the capital city close to the party bosses, showing their true allegiance. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Right to Offend - Poster

Right to Offend

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Facebook message on Bal Thackery

Yesterday, a 21-year old girl Shaheen Dhada, who put a message on her Face book ‘questioning the total shutdown’ of Mumbai city for Bal Thackeray’s funeral, and her friend Renu who ‘liked’ the message were arrested by the Maharashtra police.   The alleged message she posted was:

Everyday thousands of people die but still the world moves on.  Due to one political leader’s death, a natural death, everyone just goes bonkers.  They should know we are resilient by force not by choice.  When was the last time anyone showed some respect for Shahid Bhagat Singh, Azad or Sukhdeo.   Respect is earned, not given and definitely not forced… Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not respect.

The police arrested them under IPC Section 505 (2) which reads as:

Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill- will between classes
- shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Of course, a mob of Shiv Sainiks then vandalized the girl’s uncle’s orthopedic hospital. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

‘Meat eaters are bad people’

[In this article, the terms ‘meat-eaters’ and ‘non-vegetarians’ are used synonymously.  They are defined as the ones who eat mutton, chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc, at least once in a week or a month.] 

In India, there has always been long standing prejudice against meat-eaters.  The prejudice against meat-eaters emanates from India’s caste system, which is more deep rooted than any other identity, including, religion, language or region.   The dietary habits of Indians are strictly along the lines of a caste in each region.  Each caste in a region eats certain diet and it is common to everyone in that caste group in that region.  However, the same caste in a different region could have a different diet. 

For hundreds of years, people did not move out of the place they were born, and therefore the dietary habits were strictly honored along with caste system.  However, with the recent rapid urbanization of India, many people tend to live next door to complete strangers.  This trend has diluted this prejudice against meat-eaters to a great extent, but has not completely removed it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Unraveling the ultimate question of ‘Life, Universe and Everything’

In the most imaginative and fantastic works ever created by a sentient being belonging to Homo Sapiens species, living on an ordinary planet, surrounding an average star, which lies on the outer arm of a common galaxy, called The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy, we find the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. 

Rivaling the most profound statement ever made since Big Bang, in another fantastic fiction called The Bible, by an extremely interesting character called God who said ‘Let there be Light’, the Deep Thought computer created by the hyper-intelligent mice, after calculating for 7.5 million years, spells out the answer to the question of Life, Universe and Everything as a whole number ‘42’. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Telangana March Today

Telangana March is Today.  But the general feeling is palpable.  We are not living in a Democracy.  If anyone continues to believe there is democracy in Telangana then they are living in an illusion.   Seemandhra Government employs devious and dubious tactics to continue to suppress people of Telangana and its leadership with an iron hand.   On one side the Home Minister says there is permission for rallies, but the police officers are informed to disrupt any such activity, and if needed they are supposed to fire upon the people.  The police stations have been given orders to display posters such as below. 
The police are arresting thousands of activisits, including leaders and even MLAs.  All roads to Hyderabad are closed.  All railway services through the region are closed.  Nearly 50,000 armed forces are deployed to stop anyone from coming into Hyderabad.  Within Hyderabad, the city looks like a war-ridden Iraq.  Thousands of checkposts, police force harassing common people on the road.  

Got to know that city of Hyderabad is under Section 144 in perpetuity since 1969.  Whenever police wants to use brute force they can.   Imagine the kind of life we have been living in this armed rule.   When will Telangana be free?  When will we have democracy here in this region? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

India is not producing enough

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Right now, Indian economy is going through a slump, and in the last few months we have seen Indian currency taking a massive hit reducing its value against dollar by nearly 20%.  The growth projections for India's GDP have come down from earlier eight-plus percentages to six-plus percentages – some analysts have even predicted only a five-plus growth rate.  Two months ago, petrol prices were hiked by eight rupees in a single day, the highest increase in Indian history, and already another hike is now announced.   There could be an economic crisis ahead, but we are quite optimistic that this phase will be over soon and that we will go back to getting adjusted to the new and changed environment – that’s the Indian attitude towards solving all the problems – swalpa adjust maadi (adjust a little).

Some analysts attribute this sudden worsening of Indian economy to Euro crisis, while some others blame the policy-paralysis of UPA government.  Many industry heads have been clamoring for Finance Minister of India to bring reforms hoping such an action will somehow bring India back on the track.  And the UPA government has recently reacted to allow FDI into some of the sectors, which is being greeted enthusiastically by the industry body.   But the essential question remains - is the root cause for our flailing economy the lack of reforms or is there something far more fundamental that needs to be corrected?  If we take a look at Indian economy from a macro level we will notice something grossly wrong with the big picture, with the way we are headed, with the way we do things.  There is something drastically wrong with our foundations.

The truth is - most Indians are not involved in producing goods of value.  Instead, most of us are involved in trading, buying and selling stuff without actually producing anything.  Since we are not producing enough as people, we are not earning enough as a country.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Why it is easy to molest a woman in India?

In the last few months, we have seen hundreds of incidents where a woman in India was molested, teased, sexually harassed, and stripped in public, sometimes in the view of cameras and bystanders.  One woman was thrown out of a moving train, another was attacked by acid, and others were physically molested.  

One of the immediate reactions from the media is that it is a 'law and order' problem. What they mean is that we don’t give strong punishment to the offenders, that the law is vague on these offences, or that the police officers are not very keen on registering the cases or following up on the case.  

I, on the other hand, don’t think 'law and order' is the main problem.  While 'law and order' is  one of the problems, it is not the primary one.  There are few countries, like Saudi Arabia, where the law is extremely strict, so much so that a convicted thief’s hand may be cut, and yet there is rampant mistreatment and abuse of women in that country. 

Also, I tend to think that most of these offenders, in countries like India, take a high moral ground because many people tend to sympathize with the offenders.  In the recent past, many administrative officers, police officers, organization heads and elected political leaders have all blamed the woman when such harassments happened.  They blamed the woman for inviting the man to molest her by dressing provocatively. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to molest a woman in India and get away scot-free?

Since Indians are one of the most religious people on the planet, and since they belong to the ‘greatest civilization’, and since this ‘greatest civilization’ requires constant protection from nefarious influences of the West, it becomes easy to molest and sexually harass a woman in India and then walk away scot-free, provided one does it the right way.  And here are some prescribed methods:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bengal leads India into abyss

The report card is out.  Mamata Banerjee, the new love of Bengalis worldwide, is far more Left than the Left.   Mamata Banerjee is not only more Left, she is far less democratic than the communists of India.  She is autocratic, averse to criticism, and does not tolerate dissent.  It is unfortunate that Bengalis are now thrown from frying pan into fire.  But it is not just Bengalis who should be worried.  In fact, whole of India should be concerned.

What happens in Bengal could happen to India.   Bengal is the place where Great Britain installed their first capital city to create the Indian Empire.  Bengalis then led India into our own version of enlightenment, if there is one.   When most of us in the hinterland lands of India were still dwelling in forests, Bengalis were discussing Aristotle and Socrates.  The sun first shone in Bengal and then over the rest of India, literally and figuratively.  Bengalis were one of the forerunners of Indian National Movement contributing many great men and women to the cause.  During the 19th century, Bengal’s stars shone the brightest in the sky.  It produced many authors,  artists, and scientists.  Rabindranath Tagore won Asia’s first Nobel Prize. 

Segregation in India 2: Indian Muslims are not Khans or Kalams

India constantly refers to many Muslim Presidents they have had to showcase its tolerance and equal treatment of Muslims.  Nowadays many Indian Hindus repeatedly take the example of our erstwhile President, Abdul Kalam.  They say, ‘Look! We have had a Muslim as our President.  And he was selected by a Hindu Party!’ By saying this, they want to showcase India as a tolerant and magnanimous country that allows anyone to become the President of India, even a Muslim.  These Hindus also refer to the three Khans who dominate Indian Hindi Cinema – Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Amir Khan.  And they point out the cricketers like Yusuf Pathan and musician like AR Rahman.  They use these examples to say that Muslims are not discriminated in India, that they are not marginalized, that they get the same access to education and opportunity, that they are not unequal, that they are not second-class citizens. 

According to these Hindus, the Muslims are in fact ‘appeased’, they are given certain sops unnecessarily, like subsidies on Haj, and they are given special treatment unnecessarily, like special personal laws.  These people think that these ‘appeasing’ measures have a definite purpose - only to win votes.  They believe that Muslims are so naïve, so innocent that they could be beguiled by such silly sops, like Haj subsidy, to form a single vote bank.

Scrap Rajya Sabha

The recent jokes surrounding introduction of the film actress Rekha to Rajya Sabha thereby creating Silsila, an old Indian movie about a triangle love story right inside the Indian Parliament (because Jaya Bhacchan was already there), and then other debates on whether Sachin Tendulkar, the prominent cricket sportsman, should spend his time in Rajya Sabha instead of a cricket field throw open some hard questions on the relevance of Rajya Sabha. 

The debate is no longer about who should be allowed or what qualifications one needs to have to enter into Rajya Sabha.  The debate is far more fundamental.  Do we even need Rajya Sabha?

IITs: Islands of Excellence or Islands of Exclusiveness?

The recent debate on whether there should be a common entrance test for all engineering colleges in India or whether IITs should continue to maintain their own entrance test throws open various questions.  While IITs refuse to dilute their admission process maintaining that this process is the key to producing top class graduates, the government contends that too many entrance tests burden the students and therefore would like to include the class 12 scores in the admission process.

I, on the other hand, think that this debate calls for a completely new look at the admission process to all premier institutes in India, whether they are IITs, NITs, IIMs, or others.

In our attempt to create islands of excellence we have created an admission system called entrance tests.  Traditionally, in a country where people swore by their caste affiliations, where nepotism is a virtue, where entire social system was based on deep rooted discrimination, an entrance test which judged a person solely on the marks in an entrance test was greeted as a great achievement.  Because of its apparent benefits, it created a new class of society which now swears by the ‘merit’ system, a new system which measures people solely by one single attribute – marks obtained in one exam.  Now, each Indian is judged and measured by a number – called marks. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Give me ignorance, it’s my birth right

In India, we have three major types of discrimination- that of caste, that of sex and that of religion, in the order specified.  Humans are discriminatory by nature- it’s in their predisposition to align themselves with a group to treat people of other groups with contempt, derision and fear.  Waging war, committing genocide, being xenophobic can be found in nature, even with some higher order mammals.  And human society is quite capable of justifying such behavior, sometimes glamorizing war against people of other kind, teaching them to be contemptible of other religions and caste, all in the name of fighting for your own kind.  

Either it is Nazism, or slavery in United States or caste system in India, they are all based in promotion of one’s own kind at the cost of other kind.  While it is easy to find fault with human gene for group discrimination, I am not sure if our disposition towards ill treatment of women is also genetic in nature or whether it comes wholly from religion and traditions.  Whether the roots lie in our animal ancestry or in our religion and traditions, it is generally agreed that most of these discriminations get their legitimacy from the way society influences its individuals.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Segregation in India: Plight of Muslims

After winning the American Civil War for Northern States, Abraham Lincoln went about abolishing slavery in United States of America.  The Congress and Senate passed three landmark amendments attempting to change the fate of African Americans in that country.  The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, the 14th Amendment made blacks equal citizens, and 15th Amendment gave them right to vote.  In the next ten years of Reconstruction, many black leaders emerged to occupy positions in Senate and Congress.  It almost looked, for a while, that this new nation would correct the mistakes of its past and reverse the effects of slavery it imposed on black people.  However, the whites of America were not ready to give blacks an equal status in their country.  They started to dilute these amendments by creating a notion called ‘separate but equal’.  They imposed segregation in the country through a series of measures called Jim Crow laws. 

It started with disenfranchising many blacks, then creating separate schools, separate seating in travel and restaurants, thereby institutionalizing discrimination.  They created two Americas, one for the privileged which was mostly white, and the other was for the underprivileged which was mostly black.  The Jim Crow laws completely negated the three amendments passed during Lincoln’s times.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Distorted Article on Facebook about Social Democracy

There is an article circulating on Facebook about an Economics Professor and Social Democracy.  I am not even sure if the story is true, but it looks like it struck a chord with many netizens because its gets shared by so many.   This is how the story goes:

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class.  That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little…

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rushdie and Husain: Casualties of an Immature Democracy

Salman Rushdie is an Indian Muslim who was recently stopped from visiting India by those who claimed their ‘sentiments were hurt’.   Salman Rushdie was not allowed to attend the recent Jaipur Literary Festival because his book ‘Satanic Verses’ remains banned by the Government of India.  MF Husain was another Indian Muslim who was forced to leave India because another group claimed their ‘sentiments were hurt’.  Husain died in exile in Qatar pining for his home country.  An author and an artist are the casualties of an extremely immature and peevish democracy called India.   

In both the cases, the state, in the form of Indian Government, has succumbed to the mounting pressures from religious groups who claimed their sentiments were hurt by the actions of this author and the artist.  The weak state has allowed for suppression of expression of an artist and an author bowing down to the protests of ultra-sensitive groups.  As a result, the individual lost out to the power of a committed and bigoted group; and the state stood in support of the group and not the individual.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rote Learning dumbs down Indians (Part I)

The last great invention or discovery made by Indians was zero.  After a spell of modicum greatness in the remote part of history where Indians contributed to mathematics, medicine, astronomy (don’t confuse this with astrology), we had a brief awakening movement in the first half of 20th century under British Empire when Indians earnestly took up European kind of education without feeling any remorse.  During this first half of the last century when British were still around, India produced some of the brilliant minds – CV Raman, Chandrasekhar, Rabindranath Tagore, and less known but most important of all, SN Bose (not your JC Bose).   After that brief awakening moment, we began to de-europeanize our education and started to Indianize it.  There began all the problems.

Before we could understand the true meaning of modern education, we started to demodernize it.  Going back to Indian methods meant learning by rote, repeating the arcane and tongue-twisting slokas forever and forever till you got the intonation right.  But did it mean you learnt anything? Not really.  This practice of learning by rote has been instilled into our education before we could really appreciate why we need to question or apply critical mind as a part of the process. 

What we got as a result is millions of robots who could just spew out tables up to 100, kids who answered quiz questions remembering completely irrelevant data and statistics like the exact date when Mt. Everest was scaled the first time, or the exact weight of a polar bear.   This rote learning has even helped Indian kids living in United States win Spelling Bee contests. And all through our school and college life, we revered and celebrated these memory machines.  What India was producing was all memory and no CPU. 

Mayawati and Made Snana

Mayawati, Elephants and Election Commission

Recently, the Election Commission in India took up a massive exercise to drape all the elephant statues erected by Mayawati because the symbol of BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) happens to be an elephant.  The Chief Election Commission (CEC) justified this move as an appropriate step ‘to ensure the statues do not disturb the level playing field and give undue advantage to BSP’. 

While the erection of so many elephant statues by Mayawati is a silly act, draping them before elections by Election Commission makes it sillier.  Why draping these statues makes a silly exercise is very simple.  The symbol of Congress is an open palm.  Now, there are many deities in the country which show an open palm.  Would CEC give an order to drape all these deities or cover these open palms so that Congress does not get undue advantage?  Some of the political parties in India have cycles and cars as political symbol.  Would CEC give drape these vehicles?  What do we do if the symbol happens to be a tree? Would we cover every tree then? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Go back Rushdie, You are not welcome here

Dear Mr. Salman Rushdie:

You are not welcome in our country. 

Though we are the ‘greatest country’ with the ‘greatest culture’ we are an insecure lot.  Please don’t try to analyze why the greatest culture can be so insecure – you will not understand that.  In our country, most of the ‘greatest’ men and women happen to be extremely insecure.  They constantly pay their deities money and donations to keep their greatness intact.  If they do not pay obeisance to the gods or the godmen, they will lose that greatness instantly, thanks to the wrath of our unpredictable gods. 

Though we believe that our morals, dietary habits and family values are the 'greatest' on the planet, we also happen to be very peevish.  We tend to get hurt easily.  More than the people of this country, our religions, which have been in existence for hundreds of years, spreading and thriving, with more than billion followers around the world, get hurt far more easily.  Our greatest religions need constant protection from all those who criticize us, ridicule us, poke questions into our theories and mysteries. 

You don’t seem to understand the concept of ‘individual rights’ as it is interpreted in our country.  We have a right to believe in blind theories, gobbledygook stories, and mystical interpretations of the working of the nature.  We also have a right to apply these theories in our daily working, as a dam constructor or rocket scientist. And if for some reason, you seem to question them or speak against them, we have a right to threaten you, shut you up, and if needed, throw you in prison.