Monday, December 28, 2009

Nostalgic trip down memory lane

This Christmas I visited my mom’s home in the Thrissur – Palakkadu border after a gap of several years. The trip awakened so many memories and not in a way I expected too.

I had anticipated a barrage of sweet memories, which may or may not have been true, the moment I stepped foot on the ground after the long journey. However it was not to be so. First of all, I was exhausted after the long 10 hour-drive, which should have been shorter except for the mad traffic on the day before Christmas. It used to be fun when as children (me and my sister) our dad used to do the driving or when we simply had to hop off the train. The long drive made me exhausted and all I wanted to do when we reached was sleep. The food didn’t seem as good as I had remembered. And grandmother, who had made all the fuss which made me come, looked exactly the same as I had last seen her. Of course the old house with tons of wood and tiled roof had been demolished and a modern concrete terraced house had come up in its place which I whole heartedly welcomed. Instead of having to sleep in the red-oxide floor there were new beds. I happily fell into a deep slumber.

I woke up early next morning wondering what I was doing in a strange surrounding before I regained my senses. An occasional thumping sound awakened my curiosity and I went to the back door to check it out. I opened the door and stepped out into the backyard and for a moment was stunned by something that hit my face with such force. I almost lost balance before steadying myself and looked straight ahead and in that instant I knew that all the sweet memories and dreams I had in my mind were not imagined ones. For blowing through the mighty trees in front of me, shaking huge mango and tall palm trees with such arrogance, awakening the smell, music and memories of a forgotten childhood, I could feel the Palakkadan Kattu, the strong wind that blows through the Palakkadu-Thrissur borders in the mornings with such gusto you could feel the whole earth shake around you. The thumping of branches against windows and roof tops - the sound that had awakened me this morning – had been my morning alarm for all holidays when I was a regular visitor there. As children our favorite pastime in the morning was to stand against the wind to see how long we could withhold its strength.

And suddenly it felt like all my imaginations had come true at that instant. It was Christmas and its spirit had awoken inside me. The morning food with my favorite ‘Kallappam’ felt delicious. My brothers and sisters weren’t the tiresome brats they used to be but, just like me, they had grown too. The sound of cows and hens reminded me what we lost in the city. I suddenly found myself wistfully longing for the old house – with the thatinpurram and pathayam. And I felt sorry for my grandmother. She had indeed grown old and frail.

It felt so good to be back. Reminiscing now I could find no reason why I had deferred this visit for so long. Everything had changed and yet nothing had changed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ruchika Girhotra – shameful blot on indian police

A former DGP of Chandigarh, SPS Rathore, has been punished for the molestation of 11-year old Ruchika Girhotra. What is so special about this news? Hundreds of our sisters get molested in this country. And in very rare cases the offenders get punished. But the case of Ruchika Girhotra stand out in many ways.

First of all the offender here, SPS Rathore, was a high ranking police official. The victim Ruchika committed suicide after three years. Her brother was slapped many cases and beaten up by the police officials to intimidate her family. Her family was forced to shift out of town. The case dragged on for 19 years ( the incident took place in August 1990). And finally the punishment handed out was a mere fine of Rs. 1000 and 6 months imprisonment.

Ruchika Girhotra was a budding tennis player and she was molested when she went for practice by SPS Rathore who at that time was the president of the Haryana Lawn tennis association.

This incident shall remain a black spot on the Indian judiciary and law enforcement establishment forever.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar - truly epic experience

Finally…Avatar was released on December 18th all over the world. I had to wait for two days to get the ticket. But in the end I believe the wait was worthwhile after all. Mesmerising 3-D effects, breath-taking special effects, wonderful characterisation and most important of all (surprisingly) great story.

Was all the hype justified? Almost you could say. However I felt that that the 3-d effect only managed to take away the spotlight from the story. I was truly surprised by the anti-imperialistic message of the movie. Not something you expect from a Hollywood movie – certainly not a big budget one like this.

The story wasn’t one that was unique – but had an epic quality to it. It has parallels in many classic movies, especially one of my all-time favourites “Dancing with the Wolves”. But James Cameron has certainly managed to infuse new life and dimensions to a story that is so much relevant in today’s world – that of an indigenous population being forced to relocate or become refugees under the threat of force in the name of development.

The action scenes were superb. And the audience were so sympathetic to the Na'vi, the sentient humanoid indigenous inhabitants of Pandora (a fictional planet) in their fight against the (naturally) American armed forces who use lethal weapons to safeguard the interests of the Military Industry Complex trying to exploit Pandora’s reserves of a fictional mineral called ‘unobtainium’.

All in all I would give 9 out of 10 for Avatar more for the message and the story telling rather than the 3-D gizmo because this is one movie that has an epic quality about it even without the (truly superb) special effects.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Armageddon on unlucky Friday 13th

In 1998 a science fiction film, Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis was released. The movie was about a group of blue-collar deep-core drillers who are sent by NASA to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. At the time the movie attracted only Bruce Willis fans but now scientists all over the world are renting and watching this movie along with scores of other sci-fi movies to see if they can really find a way to escape doomsday – a giant asteroid hurtling towards Earth.

Even though it is not common knowledge, the truth is that the Earth is under constant bombardment. Each year, many fragments of debris hit our planet. Fortunately for us, most are so small that they burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere. Many scientists now believe that one of these hit the Earth 65 million years ago, killing the dinosaurs, along with 90% of all life on the planet. What is more, it is only a matter of time before the Earth is hit again.

In 1994, something happened which showed us how imminent the danger is. Astronomers realised that comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was heading straight for the planet Jupiter. The stunning - and violent - impact created an explosion the size of planet Earth, and it was the first time a collision between two astronomical bodies had been observed. If Jupiter had been hit, then the Earth could be next. And it seems the scientists’ worst fears were coming true.

In 2004 an asteroid was discovered and estimated to be directly on collision course with Earth. Scientists named it Apophis. Apophis's length was estimated to be 350 m (1150 ft).Upon its discovery in 2004, Apophis was briefly estimated to have a 2.7% chance of impacting the Earth in 2029. However, there will be a historically close approach to the Earth, estimated to be a 1 in 800 year event (on average, for an object of that size).

On Friday, April 13, 2029 Apophis will approach the Earth no lesser than 29,470 km (18,300 miles, or 5.6 Earth radii from the center, or 4.6 Earth-radii from the surface) over the mid-Atlantic, probably appearing to the naked eye as a moderately bright point of light moving rapidly across the sky. Depending on its mechanical nature, it could experience shape or spin-state alteration due to tidal forces caused by Earth's gravity field.

Even then another danger faced is the threat of collision with artificial satellites. However the European Space Agency has dismissed such threats. According to them (1) Apophis does not pass near the zones where most satellites are located and (2) man-made satellites and Apophis both have small cross-sectional areas. Even if a high-velocity impact occurred, at most a large satellite could change Apophis' position 7 years later (in 2036) by only 100's of km. This can have no meaningful effect on Earth impact probability estimation. At such a late date, impact with an artificial satellite would be like a bug on the windshield of Apophis.

Wait before you breathe with relief. New studies have shown that there is a possibility that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis would pass through a gravitational keyhole, a precise region in space no more than about 600 meters across, which would set up a future impact in 2036 on – guess when – again April 13th !!

The exact effects of any impact would vary based on the asteroid's composition, and the location and angle of impact. Any impact would be extremely detrimental to an area of thousands of square kilometers, but would be unlikely to have long-lasting global effects, such as the initiation of an impact winter.

An impact winter is a period of prolonged cold weather caused by the impact on the Earth of a large asteroid or comet. If such an impact occurred on land or the floor of a shallow sea, it could cause large amounts of dust or ash to be thrown into the Earth's atmosphere, blocking the Sun's light and dramatically lowering the amount of sunlight reaching the earth's surface. Impact winter is one of the mechanisms proposed for Extinction Level Events (ELE), such as the asteroid impact at Chicxulub in Mexico which supposedly led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

So how do you face this threat to humanity? Will the method in the movie of using nuclear weapons work?

The most obvious strategy to protect the Earth against an asteroid might seem to be to try to destroy it with nuclear weapons. This plan has two fundamental problems. Firstly, you would have to attach a bomb larger than any yet created, to a very powerful rocket. This might be nearly as dangerous as the asteroid you were trying to destroy.

More importantly however, a nuclear blast might not destroy a large asteroid completely, but merely split it into chunks. Instead of one large impact, you might end up with several smaller ones, which would end up doing nearly as much damage.

If we cannot destroy an approaching asteroid, then the only other tactic would be to try to nudge it forward just enough to make it miss the Earth - like stepping on the accelerator of a car to make it miss a train at a level crossing.

Some scientists think they can use the power of the Sun to nudge an asteroid away from the Earth. After all the sun is the biggest power source in the Solar System. In the same way as you can use a magnifying glass to set fire to a sheet of paper, you could focus the Sun's rays onto a point on the surface on an asteroid. The spot where the Sun's rays met would heat up, blasting particles of the asteroid into space. This would act like a rocket engine, and might be enough nudge the asteroid out of harm's way.

Hopefully our scientists will also devise something to hold these threats at bay or we could soon be following the dinosaurs.


Apophis is the Greek name of the Ancient Egyptian enemy of Ra: Apep, the Uncreator, a serpent that dwells in the eternal darkness of the Duat (underworld) and tries to swallow Ra during His nightly passage. Apep is held at bay by Set, the Ancient Egyptian god of Chaos.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Rahul Factor...much ado about nothing

Personally I find Rahul's visit to campuses in Kerala very heart-warming...and amusing too. I mean its a good thing students in Kerala got a chance to interact with a person of such stature – he is probably the future Prime Minister of India. But why did he come? He obviously didn't visit the colleges to spread messages on national integration or the ahimsa messages of that Big G. But rather to conduct the organizational election for KSU. Now that’s funny – considering such a thing hasn’t occurred for the past 16 years. Now that’s some democracy! Some big leaders chose – some ‘kutty’ leaders get chosen. Just like that. So the real reason why Rahul came spending crores of rupees was for his organization.

And for the girls who swooned on the scent of his foreign perfume – that perfume was gifted by his Latin American girlfriend. Yea the one he was spotted with during his New Year backwater fantasy trip to Kumarakom in Kerala a couple of years ago. The same girl who was later detained at the Boston Airport for illegally carrying huge sums of dollars. Never heard of this? Hail the subservient media tycoons. Again personally I have nothing against an unmarried couple living together – I am all for it. But how come our staunch conservative society (read grand old political parties) has nothing to say against the ‘immorality’ of the young Gandhi surprises me – be it about girlfriends or wasting precious tax-payers’ money. Guess that happens when your mummy happens to be the most powerful political person in the country. Sigh!

My consolation? He is 39 years old. Not that young.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Big Fearful Neighbor

A couple of years back I had attended an Air Force interview in Mysore. After a grueling session lasting 5 days they declared me (along with many others) not good enough to be an Air Force officer. Even months after that I would smirk and say “Let the next war with China come. Then these fools at the Air Force will rue not taking me when they get beaten black and blue by the Chinese.”

My self-loathing apart, these days after every war of words between India and China, I fear if my prediction will come true. If a war comes can India truly beat China? The Chinese army is definitely much superior to ours in numbers as well as technology. But even more than the might of armies – what about the nation as a whole? Ours is such a diversified land and people compared to China whose people, more or less can be defined as indigenous. They all even look so much alike. We, on the other hand, are unified only in playing the blame game.

We were defeated once. Make no mistake – there was nothing to be proud of in that war. China unilaterally declared a ceasefire after kicking our ass (not the Biblical ass, the other one - literally). So in midst of our efforts of trying to provoke the bigger, fearful neighbor everyone just ask themselves – are we ready?

Okay – maybe war maybe a long way away. And, yes, maybe I am being pessimistic. But if a war does come ultimately what will help us survive will be our unity rather than the military strength. For sooner or later we will have to resolve all our disputes, border issues and all. I am not raising a war-cry. All I am saying is we have to be prepared.

As for the rest - Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kannur Election – Meddling in State Affairs

After the controversial governor decision in the Lavalin case, another contentious decision has been made against the LDF-ruled state government in Kerala – The Central Election Commission has asked to remove the Collector of Kannur following complaints of fraud and irregularities in the voters list.

What has personally troubled me even more than the decision to remove the present collector has been that the EC suggested two names in the panel to be forwarded to them for selecting the new collector. Now while it is true that IAS officers are in effect central government officers this is unabashed meddling in the affairs of the state. The action by EC raises way too many questions - How did the Election Commission come up with these two names? What are the criteria decided by the EC for an IAS officer to be ‘honest’? Is the EC monitoring the IAS officers inn the state? What right do they have for that? Did the Central Government interfere in this matter? Or rather, did the Chief Election Commissioner, who is notoriously famous for his pro-Congress sympathies, just obey the Congress high-command – and suggest the names that were recommended by the state congress leaders?

Moreover the EC has not made clear the reasons for asking to remove the Collector. If there are irregularities in the voters list how is it the collectors fault? Do any of us go to the collector to get our names in the electoral list? Was it because he slapped a case against a Congress MP and asked to take action against a Central minister for violating the poll code?

The action taken by the CEC is dubious, to say the very least. There is no doubt that outside political influence has played a significant part in this decision.

When did the EC cease being an independent body and turn into political puppet?

Pakistan - The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

pakistan I hate to join the chorus from all over the world, especially from India, but here goes – “Pakistan is now reaping what they have sown!”

They have sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.

Pakistan has launched a full scale attack against the Taliban in South Waziristan after a spate of recent terrorist attacks shook the very foundations of the Pakistani establishment. For years Pakistan has been the hot bed for training and grooming terrorists who are then send to attack other nations, mostly India.

And now the chicken has come home to roost. When Pakistan started trying to appease the US by taking nominal action against Taliban sympathizers, the terrorists have struck back with venom. These attacks have, perhaps for the very first time, has shaken the Pakistan military’s belief that these Mujahideen were always under their indirect control. Pakistan has hundreds of training camps, many of them under the guises of Madrasas or other educational institutes. They always took care to select and train uneducated youth to send on suicide missions – promising them Heaven with their martyrdom. Pakistan governments took aid from several countries and used them to supply terrorists with sophisticated weapons.

I am not rejoicing in Pakistan’s plight. But its high time the world took notice of the double-faced game Pakistan has been playing and now they will. Hopefully Pakistan will also realize its mistake and start on a new path of redemption. Unfortunately its not as easy or simple as it sounds. The unholy alliance of religion and politics has always been Pakistan’s bane – and the powerful conservative elements within the Pakistani military and government are too well entrenched to be chased out in a whiff.

India should not turn its back on its estranged brother now. This is the time India can help the most – hopefully. Time heals everything. Perhaps one day people from India and Pakistan can be brothers again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kovalam Literary Festival 2009

anuja chauhan Yesterday (Oct 9th) I went for the final day of the Kovalam Literary Festival 2009 held at the Taj Green Cove in Kovalam. I was accompanying my journalist friend, who was doing an interview for The Hindu newspaper, as a photographer.

When we entered a question answer session with Om Puri, the famous Bollywood actor, was going on. He easily won the hearts of everyone there with his friendly tone and witty remarks. An interesting remark made by a freelance writer from the North East (I couldn’t catch her name or place) impressed him – the fact that the North East was neglected in mainstream cinema and the people from those parts were portrayed either as tribals or as terrorists. Om Puri acknowledged this fact and said he would try to influence his friends on this matter. He later came down and talked to her and introduced his wife who, as he said, too had 'chinky' eyes which he ‘loved very much’.

Next was a reading by Chandrakanta Murarsingh, a Korobok poet from Tripura. His poems showed images of violence and referred to the changes that were taking place in Tripura. As his English was bad I had a hard time following what he said. He seemed like a nice person though.

This was followed with readings by different upcoming writers – Ira Trivedi, Mathew Menacherry, Anuja Chauhan and Palaash Mehrotra. Ira Trivedi is a former Miss India contestant and so, goes without saying, is very beautiful. But I wouldn’t say the same about her writing. Or rather, about her language. It seemed pretty ordinary. She read excerpts from her novel ‘What Would You Do to Save the World’. I guess most of it is based from her experiences, bitter ones, in the world of modeling and fashion shows. She also read from a book she is working on. I found many statements very silly – especially the ones surrounding a cell – yes a cell in the body which had fallen ‘sick’. So this cell had to realize that it couldn’t exist alone and should love the other cells and only then could it survive. Or something to that effect. Maybe I didn’t get the context correctly but I couldn’t help giggling. But I was touched when she said she had spent months with a kid who had fatal pancreatic cancer and her writing was based on that experience. I hope you do justice to her Ira.

Next was Mathew Menacherry, grandson of M P Paul who was a well-known literary critic in Kerala, who read from his first novel ‘Arrack in the Afternoon’. I loved this guy. He is settled in Bombay and calls himself a salesman. He was quite frank about his drinking (same pinch here) and ‘exotic’ life. He was very funny and quite cool. And at the end he even said sorry if he had offended any sensibilities. One lady, a half-Malayalee, wanted to know if the fact that he was a Malayalee was the reason for him drinking since ‘weren’t most Malayalees chronic drinkers.’ Mathew stoutly defended our honour (the whole bunch of male – drinking –pretending to know nothing about it – malayalees) and said it wasn’t so.

Finally came the damsel Anuja Chauhan with her book ‘The Zoya Factor’. She was easily the most popular writer around there as she was very easygoing and accessible. She promptly sat with folded legs on the chair, as if she was sitting on the ground talking to children, and her book was quite amusing. I would later be proved right when I bet with my reporter friend that her book would be the most selling one below in the lobby. She works in the advertising field and was the creator behind many famous captions including ‘Oye Bubbly’and ‘Dil maange more’. She faced very few questions. I guess this was since her book wasn’t on serious issues. It was about a girl who was born on the exact moment India won the world cup in 1983 and becomes sort of a lucky charm to the present (imaginary) cricket team.

The final writer before lunch break was Palash Mehrotra with his short story collection ‘The Eunuch Park’ which had, as suggested by the title, lots of soft porn and sexuality. Just the thing you look for in literary and film festivals. I admit it does take a lot of courage to write on these topics. However what surprised me was that he denied there was anything from his experiences in the stories. The ‘serious’ audience liked his writing and as a foreigner pointed out his was the only one so far that was different from the earlier writers who all followed a writing style that could be said as ‘filmy’. The unfortunate thing was someone had muttered ‘lunch’ during his session and almost all the audience which included a lot of students walked out. There were only a handful of people left in the hall by the time he finished. That was bad management by the organizers. They shouldn’t let such things happen. I hope Palash didn’t feel that it was due to his reading!

Then lunch break was formally announced to the 20 of us who were still remaining in the hall, all who I bet were sitting in the hope of free lunch coupons, and finally my friend got her interview

I wanted to sit and hear the rest of the sessions but unfortunately my office where I had my regular job called with threats of firing me (again!) if I didn’t get there within half an hour and so I had to reluctantly leave this beautiful place with the beautiful scenery and beautiful people (beautiful inside and outside) who wrote beautifully for all us beautiful people.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thank you Mr. Tharoor – for proving I was right about you

Our dear Minister of State for External Affairs Sasi Tharoor had won the last election by a majority of around 1 lakh votes from Trivandrum - the capital of the most literate state in the country. I personally know a few friends who enthusiastically voted for him saying that he was just what the country needed. I am sure all my lady friends out there must be surely thrilled now to hear him call them “hey my little cow!”

This is what he said when in his twitter message he said that he would travel in “cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows” clearly targeting the publicity stunts of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi (the holy cows) who opted to travel in economy class and trains in an austerity drive along with the poor common man (clearly - ‘the cattle’). I had wondered if I was wrong, when some time ago before the elections, he had stopped the Indian national anthem in between to proclaim that instead of standing in attention we should place our right hands on our hearts – because that was how the ‘civilized’ Americans did it. Was I wrong when I thought this was one man who would be a blind slave to the American capitalist thought process rather than Indian culture and tradition? I guess not. And again last week when it was discovered he was residing in the 5-star Taj Hotel in New Delhi, citing some repair works going on in the Government Bungalow allotted to him – for the past three months. And the daily rent was only about Rs, 30,000 a day – excluding food and beverages.

Of course he said he paid it from his pocket– which brings us back to the accusations raised by the old evil Communists that he was a binami business partner in some companies in the country.

Really Mr. Tharoor – you almost had us fooled. You could write a second part to your best – seller “the Great Indian Novel” – “The Great Indian Politician”. What would you not do to fool us – the cattle? The poor cows and black buffaloes and, of course, all the donkeys who voted for you.

But thanks again Mr. Tharoor. I was just starting to wonder if my prejudice against you had been just the traditional skepticism of the middle class- Keralite, who opposed every new change in the system. You proved me wrong. You are what I believed you are – a pathetic fame-seeker, born literally with a silver-spoon in your mouth, and thinking you – of all the people - would do anything to alleviate the sufferings of millions of poor people in this country could only be the dream of the worst fools.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I am Neda - The New Voice of Protest


Neda means “voice” in Persian.

The young woman who was shot and killed on June 20th this year during protests in Iran also has the same name.

The death of Neda Agha Soltan, 27, was captured in a mobile camera and the video has been viewed by millions through the internet and news channels.

Ironically after her voice has been silenced forever her name has become the voice of the pre-democracy movement in Teheran. She has become an iconic figure of the new protests that began after the elections held earlier this year, which detractors allege were rigged to keep Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in power.

Ever since the Islamic revolution in 1979 democracy has been bound and gagged in Iran. It is ironic that Ayatollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader, and now his successor Ali Khamenei proclaim themselves followers of Husayn Ibn Ali the grandson of Prophet Muhammed who lived in the seventh century and is revered by the Shiites as a martyr who fought tyranny. How paradoxical that the followers of one who proclaimed “I do not see death but as happiness, and living with tyrants but as sorrow” have tuned into tyrants themselves.

The Iranian Revolution was the first of its kind in the whole world that shocked the East and West alike. It laid down the foundations of the return of fundamentalism. But the people have now fed up of the Islamic rule although they are afraid to come out in the open about it. They believe the present administration is as corrupted as the old monarchy that preceded the Revolution. Indeed the Iranian people say about the revolution in so many words –“which promised us heaven, but... created a hell on earth”.

The younger generation, of people like Neda, find it "impossible to understand what their parents were so passionate about."

Shiites mourn the death of a person on the third, seventh and fortieth days. During the Islamic Revolution the commemoration of a protestor’s death on each of the mourning days sparked further protests and clashes with police, resulting in more deaths eventually whipping up a tornado of protests that finally resulted in the overthrowing of the US favoured monarchy under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Everywhere around the world people are watching to see if this cycle will repeat itself resulting in the end of the Islamic rule in Iran.

Protesters supporting the Iranian opposition in cities around the world now use pictures of Neda and carry banners declaring: "I am Neda."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Political Parties Inc.


“We proudly present before you our candidate from the Indian National Congress, sponsored by Anil Ambani and Reliance Petroleum Group. Vote for our champion of the downtrodden masses, soldier against corruption…. “

The Central Budget presented by Pranab Mukherjee had a proposal which has not been largely noticed or debated by the mainstream media.

The proposal was to allow cent per cent tax exemption for donations made to electoral trusts. The Finance Minister claims that this is with an intention to bring transparency in election funding of political parties. This, in fact, legalizes corporate funding of political parties.

No wonder the Media ignored the issue since, just like the politicians, they too depend on corporates for their funding and survival.

Now, of course, everyone gives donations to political parties. We, individuals, do. Petty shops and traders do. Students and teachers do. Corporates do.

Wait a second. Does that last group belong to the same category as the others?

I don’t think so.

Individuals can be muscled into making contributions. But it is not the same way with corporates. When corporates give contributions they have very clear agendas in mind. We all know that politicians already take kickbacks from big companies, but this proposal will make it legal bribing.

Unsurprisingly the Communist parties were the only ones to come out against this move, obviously since no Corporates notice them or pay them any money. Most of the other parties have whole heartedly welcomed the move.

I, for one, wouldn’t want my MLA or MP obeying the orders of Coca-Cola or Wal-Mart.

Would you?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Equality Before Security


Uproar has been created in the country over the issue of our dear former President APJ Abdul Kalam being frisked by the security staff of a foreign airline company at Delhi. At first my blood boiled too thinking of the arrogance of these stupid foreigners who don’t know how to behave to Indian people, disrespecting our leaders. Our dear Kalamji did not make any fuss at all as expected, being the good man he is, and refused to involve in any controversies.

But, on second thought, is there any wrong done here?

The government has issued a circular to airline companies stating who should be exempted from security checks. The list includes the President and former presidents along with the vice-presidents, the Prime Minister and all ministers and ministers of state; governors, chief ministers and deputy chief ministers of all states and union territories; Supreme Court justices and high court chief justices; cabinet secretary and chiefs of staff of the armed forces; and all members of the Sonia Gandhi family.

The Sonia Gandhi family?

Priyanka Gandhi – I can understand. She is our future Prime Minister, no doubt. And a very beautiful lady. But her husband Robert Vadhera too? I like Priyanka very much. She is very beautiful, almost just like her grandmother. As a patriotic Indian I wouldn’t let a foreigner security guard lay one hand on her. (By the way, did I mention how beautiful she is?) But her husband? I don’t know if he should be in the list.

Anyway the fact is both India and the US are facing severe terrorist threats. The US has succeeded in preventing further attacks after 9/11. But we in India have repeatedly failed in it. We had Kandahar, then again the Parliament attack, and then again still the more terrifying Bombay attack.

Are we giving undue respect to top politicians and bureaucrats? I think the answer is YES. President or Prime minister, Judge or army commander – if the common man has to suffer something, then they have to suffer it too. Whether it be security checks or standing in queues or waiting for the traffic signal.

Yes, I understand the security threat and Z category protection and all. But it is upto the leaders of this country to realize that the laws that they make and use to rule have to apply to everyone equally, including themselves.

If it is a matter of security to the nation – then there has to be no exceptions

Gays and Lesbians Are Human Too


“When two men lie together in lust, it is over indulgence. But when two men lie together in purity, they can perform wonders.” – Aristotle

The verdict by the Delhi High Court legalizing gay marriages is late by atleast half a century. Homosexuals have a right to live as any other human beings. That their sexual orientation is not ‘straight’ doesn’t mean they are criminals or sick. Just like any other couple, gay or lesbian couples base their relation not on sex, but on love. And love is never a crime. We have to recognize that this verdict doesn’t legalize child molestation and will not lead an increase in the number of sexual predators or pedophiles.We can also sincerely hope that such verdicts will help to bring the plight of sexual minorities (transsexuals) into the limelight and help them integrate into the mainstream society.

And most importantly this verdict is a slap in the face for the so-called custodians of the ‘great Indian culture’, whose sense of pseudo-morality and hypocrisy leads them to attack anyone who doesn’t conform to their code of behavior. Any man or woman who is of legal age can decide who he/she wants to love or marry. This is a great victory

for everyone who believes in the individual freedom of human beings,

for everyone who believes that our country must not be governed by pre –colonial era laws, and

for everyone who believes in true love, that transcends gender, colour, caste or religion.

This is a great victory for our country.

Glad to See Everyone is Toeing the Line


I have read many blogposts regarding CPI(M) issues and Lavalin. And glad to see everything is as expected.

Journalists, veteran or novices, are expected to portray Vijayan (Pinarayi Vijayan ) as corrupted because that is the norm. As far as i have heard more than the reports that have come in the papers or channels, my journalism teachers including, say that he is actually innocent. But the fashion is to say that he is corrupted.

Otherwise it means that we are part of a communist conspiracy. Half the people doesn't even know the facts of the real case. But it is fashionable to say that this man is corrupted. So everyone - toe the line - tries to be fashionable by saying that Pinarayi is corrupted; but stay way from real debates because then you may not have anything true to say.

So if you are a 'true' journalist read Mathrubhumi and Manorama and believe them. For me. i will take a risk and not believe them. Even if 99% of the media people say so, i don't care. I will make my own inferences after finding out the facts. I am no one's dog. And i don't need to believe the false truths.

So all the trainee journalists who read Manorama and watch India Vision and think that is the real world, i don't argue. But just please keep your eyes (and mind) open.

Believe Me - I Am Just An Ordinary Guy


I am a guy with long hair. I have been growing it for almost 2 years now. Do you know why I started it? For absolutely no reason! One fine day I just thought I am no longer going to cut it. That’s all.

What followed has been horrible. Jesus! All the accusations I had to bear. All the torturous questions. Comments. Ridiculing. Suspicions.

Mothers of friends no longer let me into their homes. Hell! Even my own mother refuses to let me in.

People classify me according to their own likes – artist, musician, poet, budhijeevi (jada), criminal, drug addict, womanizer and what not.

People! People! I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am just an ordinary guy. An ordinary, boring guy.

Long-haired guys have been too much stereotyped and victimized. So next time you see a long-haired guy, please please, don’t admire, suspect, or turn your back on him right away.

He might just happen to be an ordinary guy like you.

Kamala Das - (An Unnecessary) Tribute


How much personas can a human being possibly have?

Madhavikutty, Kamala Das, Amy, Kamala Suarayya. Each equally hated and loved. She was the eternal seeker of love. The most famous Indian English writer. Critics couldn’t categorize her and so they hated her for it. Most of the famous writers in India grudged her fame and they secretly hated her, the very same people must now be pouring out glowing tributes to her.

She was crazy, they said. She was a bad influence on the ‘pativratha’, the traditional Indian woman. What would happen if the women whose role in society was to stay in kitchens and prepare food and raise children were to go out in the streets and write about what happened in their bedrooms? She shocked the conservatives by writing her open feelings on love - what her mind searched and how her body felt.

“Gift him all,
Gift him what makes you woman,
The scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between
The breasts.
The warm shock of menstrual blood
And all your
Endless female hungers. Oh, yes,
Getting a man to love is easy but living
Without him afterwards may have to be faced.” (‘The Looking Glass’)

All her poems were on love. Robert Lowell once said “Kamala, all your poems are one poem”. Her autobiographical ‘My Story’ (1976) whipped up a hurricane in the Indian literary scene. She destroyed the image of what an Indian woman writer should be – built up by writers like Sarojini Naidu. Dr. Ayappa Panikker described her poetry as “the true voice of feeling.”

“It is I who laugh, it is I who make love
And then feel shame, it is I, dying
With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner,
I am saint. I am the beloved and the
Betrayed. I have no joys which are not yours, no
Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.” (“Introduction”)

She would be the last person to approve of meaningless tributes. But then this is our (timid young men and women of the ‘modern’ generation) last chance to say so. We admire your decisions. We are awed and inspired by your poetry. We are boldened by your honesty. Your courage gives us strength to seek, to find, to write and, above all, to love.

With all the love in the world - Rest in peace.

Let History Judge Him


Another living legend is dead. Velupillai Prabhakaran. The name of terror that we grew up with. We were taught that he was a soldier, a brother, a leader. Then we were taught that he was a terrorist, a brute, a megalomaniac who loved to kill.

He stood up against the atrocities committed against the poorest of Tamils who had migrated to Sri Lanka to work in the plantations there. He took up arms when Tamilians were burnt alive in the streets of Colombo. He struck back when Sinhalese mobs dragged out and lynched Tamilians even from prisons. He became the beacon of hope for a people who were treated as sub –humans by the Sri Lankans.

He killed his own people who did not obey him. He rose to power by exterminating other Tamil leaders. He built one of the most ferocious organizations ever in the world -the LTTE. He was the founder of suicide attacks. Most countries even now classify LTTE as more dangerous than Al Qaeda as it is clear that Osama Bin Laden copied most of his terrorist actions from Prabhakaran. He is the only leader to have assassinated two world leaders in two different countries.

If he was a devil, was it because he had lived in hell?

Even as debates rage on who he really was and what effect his actions will have on future generations, the truth is that no one could ignore him. You had to stand for or against him.

Even as his bullet-ridden body is being identified, let us not be his judges; for only time shall tell whether his actions were right or wrong, whether he shall find his place among the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln or the likes of Hitler and Mussolini.

Let history be his judge.

Half-Full... Definitely


So the elections are over. The UPA has been voted back to power. In Kerala the UDF has scored a thumping victory over the LDF.

My opinion of the election? Perfect.

No matter what the critics or detractors say, the fact that the election process was completed without any notable glitches is an achievement in itself. The election process in India is the largest of any kind in the whole world. We are the largest democracy in the world and we have proved it to the world once again. Ignore the minor setbacks. We are still a fledgling nation just 60 years old. Compare that to the US which is 400 years old. Compare ourselves to the rest of the Third World countries – the Latin American countries, the African countries or even our neighbours like Pakistan, SriLanka, Nepal or Burma. The people who come to power here are the ones we elect to rule. Not military dictators or not puppet ministries (atleast not overtly).

Drawbacks? Definitely. 200 of our selected MP’s have criminal records. In a country where less than 2% of the population are millionaires, we have elected 200 MP’s who are crorepatis. And much more.

But still if you ask me if the glass is half-full or half-empty, I’d say it is definitely half-full.

Three cheers for democracy and our great nation!!!

From Dream to Nightmare: The American Tragedy


The shocking incident of a US based Malayalee killing five of his closest family members and then commiting suicide has sent shockwaves among Indians all over the world, especially expatriates. Where did the American Dream go wrong for this bright young engineer who has worked with software giants like Yahoo and Microsoft?

His family was the typical Indian family. Reserved, but jovial among friends. Economically secure.

This massacre has far-reaching consequences than just the personal losses of the families involved. The stereotype of the US Indian/Malayalee has been destroyed. Imagine the picture of a gun-totting malayalee. We are bright scientists, doctors accountants – submissive, docile and quiet. But not murderers, not mass killers. We weren’t, not until today. It would be easier to just pin the blame on the individual and dismiss the effect of social factors. But no longer. Everyone of us has friends or relatives living all over the world – in the US, UK, the Middle East. The indian diaspora is one of the largest in the world. We have depended on them for our survival, our economy. It is time we give them something back, give them the support they deserve. No longer see them as cows to milk. Study and analyse the problems they face.

"No man is an island, entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the continent...

Each man's death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind;

And therefore never send to know

For whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee." - (John Donne - For whom the Bell Tolls)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Amen Pope! But I think I’ll buy a condom anyway


The Pope has raised a furore by proclaiming that people should not use condoms. This is nothing new. The Vatican’s stated policy has always been against any form of birth control, since they believe that it is god who gives us children (pregnancy) so only he can decide who should get pregnant when and where.

The Pope’s comments have drawn angry reactions from health workers and governments who denounce it as irresponsible. Especially anti-AIDS workers say that it has been proved scientifically that the use of condoms help to prevent AIDS from spreading to a great extent. When the Pope, who is the Roman Catholic guy closest to a Roman Catholic god, makes a proclamation it could have far-reaching consequences.

Well at least I’m glad it was the Pope, not the head of any other religious sect like the Ayatollah Khomeini or the VHP chief, because any protest against their remarks would invite violent reactions. To tell the truth most of the Catholics I know go to church every Sunday but hardly care what is being preached. What they need to know about their faith is in the Bible and that is all that matters.

So anyway the condom companies need not panic or give away free condoms as everything will go on as before.

But seriously I think we should respect science as much as we respect religion. And I think we should not wait until Judgment Day to vote on whether what the Pope said was right. Lets say it now, with respect: “Amen Pope! But I think I’ll buy a condom anyway.”

My Dream for Posterity - On Exams


I hate examinations.

Exams always remind me of the fact that I’m not intelligent. Anyway not intelligent enough. I only have sporadic outbursts of intelligence… which are too insignificant to be counted on any scale. And that doesn’t help in exams.

Why do we even need exams?

I have a dream. [This speech is to be recorded and played on every Republic Day or Independence Day]

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out its true meaning without conducting any examinations.

I have a dream that one day on the green hills of Ponmudi the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood without being asked how much marks they scored in the exams.

I have a dream that one day the state of Kerala, a state sweltering with the heat of the sun, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice, where no exams are held.

I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the number of exams they have passed but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Palayam, little brown boys and brown girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers without having to write any exams.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when everyone, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Muslims will be able to join hands and sing, "Free at last! Free at last! No more exams! Thank God Almighty, no more exams! We are free at last!"

[Incidentally son of Martin Luther King, who gave the original “I have a dream” speech, is coming to Kerala today, the 23rd]

Present Continuous


Following is a conversation that took place between a student in our class [“C”] and our English teacher teaching tenses.

Teacher: Another e.g. for present continuous - C - are you reading a novel now?

C: Yes I am reading a novel now.

Teacher: Now? No you are not reading a novel now. You are sitting in the class now.

C: Oh! But I am reading a novel at home. So can I say I am reading a novel now?

Teacher: You cannot say you are reading a novel now but you can say you are reading a novel.

C: So I can say I’m reading a novel when I’m actually not reading a novel.

Teacher: But you are reading a novel?

C: No I’m sitting in the class now.

Teacher: No, I mean, not now, but you are reading a novel?

C: Yes I am reading a novel.

Teacher: So you can say that.

C: Say what?

Teacher: That you are reading a novel.

C: Now?

Teacher: No, not now.

C: You mean, I should not say ‘now’.

Teacher: Say what now?

C: Not say I’m reading a novel now.

Teacher: But you said you are reading a novel.

C: No…err…Yes.

Teacher: So now it’s ok?

C: ‘Now’ is ok?

Teacher: No! ‘Now’ is not ok.

C: Oh! Ok

Teacher: Let‘s go on to the next topic - the Simple Present. Any more doubts.

Hand goes up

Teacher: Yes?

C: So I can say I am reading a novel … even though I am not reading a novel … which means…

[By this time the rest of the class had entirely lost it and I happily fell asleep so I had no idea how it ended.]

Disaster at Pooja


This is a tragic story of unfathomable depths. Everyone please make sure you have a handkerchief to wipe your tears before you read on.

This is the story of how we lost a game of cricket and how the disaster changed our lives forever.

The year 2008. A bunch of guys working together at Cochin.

We registered for a cricket tournament being held at the famous Pooja Ground. 7-over matches.

None of us were professional cricketers but loved to play. So we got together a team of 11, 2 substitute players, a coach and a team manager (myself). We went and watched the other teams play and thought to ourself “This is going to be easy. We can win”. Like our captain said these guys were just striking the ball wildly and did not have the technical expertise.

We practised daily at our nearby school ground. Finally the big day arrived. Before that we had to decide on a name. Most of the other teams had silly, ordinary names like NCC or MCC[place name+Cricket Club]. We needed something grand and finally struck upon “SBL - THE BLACK AND WHITE STALLIONS”. In fact the commentator had to hand over the mike to one of us every time he had to announce the team name.

We lost the toss and had no idea it was just a sign of what was to come. They chose batting and we laughed at their foolishness. The first over was bowled by Sumodh, whose action often reminded us of a fighter plane firing missiles at the enemy. That day he chose to bowl after only a short run up. First mistake. It was only after the game did we realise that what made us afraid of his bowling was his run up and the expression on his face and that the ball itself was harmless.

The first ball went for a six. We shouted “Never mind”.

The second ball went for a six. We shouted “Never mind”.

The third ball went for a six. We knew we were in trouble.

When the guy who hit seven consecutive sixes became out, to a catch (which turned out to be the only catch we would take), we went wild with cheers.

The next guy who walked in hit 13 sixes - consecutively. Was some sort of a record at the ground, again which would only be the beginning of a lot of records.

We could only watch in anguish as balls disappeared into all corners of the stadium, some of them out of the stadium as even the organisers couldn’t keep up with the scoring. Finally when the massacre was over they had scored over 150 runs in 7 overs.

When our team walked out of the ground with drooping shoulders our coach had a brilliant idea and shouted “Great! So its a batting pitch. All the better for us”. Immediately the smiles returned and everyone’s confidence was restored.

The second innings began. Our star batsman Rocky was at the crease. We screamed for blood; “give them a taste of their own medicine” we shouted.
First ball. The cheers reached a crescendo. Rocky mightily swings his magic bat and…
He’s out.
Silence. Disbelief.
To make a long story short we didn’t hit a single six. We didn’t hit a single four. Hell We didn’t even get to hit the ball at all, I think. No we didn’t get all out. Only nine wickets fell. Pradeep top scored with 7 not out. We scored 23/9 in seven overs. Lost the game for 130 runs - the biggest margin in the tournament - the final record to break that day.

To say we ‘lost’ would be an understatement. We were a failure in batting, bowling and fielding - an utter disaster. The crowd made fun of us only at the beginning. Towards the end of the game even the rival team looked at us with pity and sympathy - which was even more unbearable.

While sleeping that night at around 2 am suddenly someone woke me up. I switched on the light and looked into the face of the captain.

“I will never play cricket again in my whole life” he said.

I sighed.
“Me too”

Day of Reckoning...WE NEED A WAR


Even while power hungry politicians are screaming for strong action against Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, social workers and the media have been cautioning against escalating the tension that could lead to war. But the fact is…we need a war!! No this is not anti-Pakistan or anti-Islam sentiment speaking, but my crystal-clear, rational mind. For heavens sake we need a war. Look around you, the corrupt politicians, the lazy bureaucrats – I tell you we need a war. If not against Pakistan, then we could fight America or bomb China or maybe even Scotland (I hear they are fierce warriors). We need a violent shake up. The strongest empires are those that were built on violence and washed with centuries of blood.

“Those who make peaceful changes impossible make bloody revolutions imperative”

Israel is bombing Palestine; in Sri Lanka the lions are fighting the tigers. What is the use of standing mutely? I mean the terrorists, from Pakistan, keep hitting us at regular intervals and all we do is express anguish, pain, protest, renounce, threaten, etc, etc. and then we get hit again. It’s not going to stop. So will a war bring peace? Maybe not. But then what difference will it make. Let everyone take up arms – let’s fight, lets spill some blood and guts. Maybe we will win and maybe we will lose. Its not about winning or losing. Its about living, and dying, with honour.

Remember “Permanent peace is never possible.”

New Year Resolutions

(07-01-2009) new year resolutions.

[Statutory Warning: i am just following a tradition and have absolutely no intention of following any of them.] So here goes:

1. Stop sleeping in office: Now that's easy. Pull out the air condition plug. no AC - hard to sleep. Last year my boss fell asleep trying to wake me up. It affects work - I mean his work.

2. Save money: Last week I opened my 6th bank account - and quickly withdrew all the money so it shows the same balance as the other five - zero.By the end of this year i'm going to have 6-digit figures in all of them.(This one has been on my list for the past 6 years)

3. Wear clean clothes: Since i'm a very, very handsome guy (naturally) a lot of people have commented on my dislike of personal hygiene. This year i'll wear only washed, ironed clothes - only branded ones (no more 3 shirts for Rs. 50).

4. Say "sorry": Learn to apologise. I mean, at present also I use the word but then i trip him down the stairs and then say sorry again. its more fun that way. (also take down their photos from the dart board).

5. Stop partying: that's the hardest one. i'm not going to any more rave, booze, beer, etc parties. I find that whenever i have a beer my bike also goes and gets drunk and it keeps falling down all the way home. I think if i quit maybe my bike will also quit.

There are plenty more to add but i guess thinking about these should keep me busy till December!!

The Third Eye


The symbol of the All-Seeing-Eye has always been part of Earth's creational mythologies and mysteries. As all of reality is a metaphor - there are many connected to the symbol of the eye.The third eye can see beyond the physical as it looks out through the chakrasystem when we meditate or look for answers from higher frequencies.

The 'third eye' can be activated to perceive higher dimensions.

'Third eye' development, imagination, and visualization are important ingredients in many methods to separate from the physical form. Intuition is also achieved through 'third eye' development. Knowledge and memory of the astral plane are not registered in full waking consciousness until the intuition becomes strong enough. Flashes of intuition come with increasing consistency as the 'third eye' as activated to a greater degree, through practice.

As the brain enters deeper states, our consciousness is less concerned with the physical state and our 'third eye' is active.

The pineal gland is occasionally associated with the sixth chakra (also called Ajna or the third eye chakra in yoga). It is believed by some to be a dormant organ that can be awakened to enable "telepathic" communication.

Welcome to the World of Blogs


Since the beginning of this century Blogs have been very popular throughout the planet. Blogging has turned out to be the easiest way to express and publish yourself. Here are some terms that are related to blogs:

* vlog - A blog comprising videos

* sketchblog - a site containing a portfolio of sketches

* photoblog - one comprising photos

* tumblelogs - Blogs with shorter posts and mixed media types

* Blogosphere - The collective community of all blogs

* blogroll - increasing popularity through affiliation

* Blogware - software specifically designed for creating and maintaining weblogs

* Moblog - combination of "mobile" and "blog". A blog featuring posts sent mainly by mobile phone, using SMS or MMS messages

* edublog - a blog written by someone with a stake in education

(these are only a few of the hundreds of blog-related terms - anyone is free to contribute some more)

The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog in April or May of 1999.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

India - My Fabulous Country

India - My Fabulous Country