Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Media bytes and media bites

Predictably, a lot of people are angry and upset and disillusioned and disgruntled at the Indian political class over the attacks in Mumbai. I'm one such in a sea of several millions. However, I'm also part of a smaller section, one that wasn't too pleased at with certain parts of the Indian electronic media's coverage and reporting of the attacks. I'm sure those who've already been outraged by it will understand fully what I'm alluding to, and those whose reactions now are "Eh, what's he talking about?" were quite obviously thrilled by the spectacle brought to them live on their tele.

The three channels that I happened to swap between were CNN-IBN, NDTV and a little bit of Times NOW, probably the three most popular English news channels, not necessarily in the order given, but you get the picture. And from the three channels, 2 journalists who chose to , how do I put this, let go of the journalistic traits ever so slightly every once in a while and became 'just another curious onlooker': Rajdeep Sardesai (CNN-IBN) and Barkha Dutt (NDTV), both former colleagues at NDTV, both held in high esteem by and large by large sections of the general English speaking public.
Note: At the time of writing this, I was told that Arnab Goswami of Times NOW had even cried on air, or had tears in his eyes and it was quite visible, but since I didn't watch too much of the coverage on his channel, I wouldn't want to comment on his reporting.

So what exactly did they do that is worth chastising them about, and was it really that bad, because if it were, wouldn't there probably have actually been a lot of hue and cry about it? These are undoubtedly some of the thoughts that would be crisscrossing the neural highways inside your head. Well, take a step back and try to recollect what exactly was done - whether it was just reporting the facts of the crisis while it was unfolding, or did they go beyond, and were theatrics and hysterics part of the reporting, along with personal emotions that were coming out to the fore? Let me clarify that I am not part of any group that is constantly against the media and out to string them up every time I feel like. I am an ordinary guy who wants fair and balanced reporting, and just calls a spade, a spade.

So let's start with Barkha Dutt, who at most times asks the right questions and I've never noticed her being partisan to any one political party. The Mumbai attacks saw her day and night, shuttling between locations of different attacks, in the quest to "break" news to the viewers. Fair enough so far. Then when survivours pour out, she's on the button with the microphone, asking "How do you feel?" [Freakin' relieved, I'd say] "Can you tell us what happened to you in there?"[ Well what do you think happened?] Maybe it's the most obvious and natural question that you'd ask, I know, and I don't have a problem with journalists if they want to talk to survivours, because most of them can directly 'inform' their loved ones that they are safe, but it's the questions asked that are, well, not the most articulate, if I have to put it mildly. There are times when she puts her comforting arm around victims, which is nice, but clearly not something that could have been even imagined if she didn't have a microphone in her hand with the camera running (which isn't in any way to imply she doesn't care). So my point is, why dramatise an already emotionally and physically draining situation? Why try to make the audience connect with the victims, when in fact we already are able to?

On the NDTV site, she has clarified certain things, but has conveniently shrugged off responsibility with her statement "...I am sure we inadvertently made a few (mistakes)- as did every department of government...". Barkha, that kind of a statement is something we associate with our politicians to be saying, not from seasoned and well respected journalists like you. You would have been better off following in the footsteps of your colleague Srinivasan Jain, who never once floundered into an emotional dramatisation of the events unfolding behind him at the Taj Mahal hotel. Even when he was interviewing guests, including Milind Deora, the south-Mumbai MP, he never once lost his cool, and always maintained the same voice control throughout the telecast, and indeed throughout the rescue operation that he was reporting on, and most importantly, stuck to the facts.

Moving over to their former colleague, and editor-in-chief of what he claims to be India's most popular English news channel, Rajdeep Sardesai is an excellent journalist when it comes to asking the tough questions. But sadly, the tough questions come out in flashes, and invariably are directed towards an increasingly (and alarmingly) popular BJP and the right wing. Where does the tough-talking journalist go when it comes to asking the Congress the tough questions is anyones guess. Visibly distraught over the attacks in Mumbai, especially over the death of DIG Hemant Karkare, Rajdeep launched into a tirade against the right wingers who until his (Karkare's) death were branding Karkare a traitor and vilifying him over the investigations into the Malegaon blasts. What was sad was that he (Rajdeep) chose to twist certain facts and cast aspersion on certain politicians (read Narendra Modi). His channel broke the news that Mr Modi had announced a Rs. 1 crore package to be given to the Maharashtra govt. to be distributed to the families of the victims of the attacks (which included the families of the security personnel killed). He, however, chose to state it as Modi announces 1 crore to the family of Hemant Karkare, and attacked Mr Modi for doing something he quite clearly didn't do.
Note: If Modi did indeed announce it to the families of the slain policemen, that wasn't the way it was reported by the media at the time, and since then to the time of writing this, there has been no clarification by the channel, although the BJP spokesperson did say the package was given to the state govt. to distribute.

Also, what we kept hearing was Rajdeep harping on the fact that the BJP was politicising terror. In my previous post, I already pointed out the fact as to why there is nothing wrong with the BJP going around asking why there was an intelligence failure, or making an election issue out of it (to summarise, it's the job of the opposition party to do, just as the Congress did during the Kargil war). What's more, there were several states that were to go in for polls in the coming week (underway currently as I write this), and given the fact that the BJP was always harping on the fact that the UPA was soft on terror, they would have even otherwise said that the govt. cannot ensure safety of the citizens, etc etc. The Mumbai attacks just came as a shot in the arm for the BJP (in terms of raising issues during elections) at the right time. So Mr. Sardesai's vitriol wasn't very professional. Also, as a journalist, why wasn't he asking the center and the state the tough questions? Why wasn't he asking about why there was such a glaring intelligence failure? Why was the focus being shifted to the opposition, rather than towards the ruling parties? What I kept hearing is that this isn't the time to ask such questions, but the time to unite and face the problem. Sounds good, but then when is a good time to ask the tough questions? 5 days after, 10 days after, 2 weeks after? Maybe we ought to come up with a time table for such things: upto x days after an attack, no asking tough questions; from x days to x + 10 days, ask tough questions; beyond x + 10 days, no more talking of topic because media has to cover other interesting topics (where x belongs to I, integers, and x > 0).

Please, for goodness sake, journos, we in the public want the facts reported to us, we do not want a dramatisation of events, for which we already have Ektaa Kapoor and her clutch of serials. We as a progressive society seek facts, not opinions; we seek information, not disinformation; we seek rational discussions, not emotional hysterics; we seek answers from our leaders and so expect you to ask them questions, not just question the role of the opposition. Where I will give you credit is the fact that we did see some restraint on your part, but it would have been better had there been unanimity and uniformity in the coverage across channels. So what if there were no "guidelines" given to you about what could be telecast and what couldn't during this crisis? Wasn't it the media itself who were up in arms against the government when they proposed guidelines to restrict telecasts? (which I too thought was bogus, because I felt the media was responsible enough to decide what should be shown and what shouldn't).

Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, said that Pakistan has everything that gives you an international migraine. Well, to paraphrase Kaveree Bamzai of India Today, 24-hour news channels give us our greatest domestic migraine. I hope they are game enough to admit it, if not publicly, then at least privately, and strive to keep things the way they ought to be.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We survived, in spite of the politicians

I'm writing this post well past midnight, when the terrorist attack in Mumbai enters its third day - more than 48 hours later, more than 160 dead bodies and more than 250 injured. Where have we gone wrong? Well, in fact, that in itself is a wrong question, because the real question is where haven't we gone wrong? The attack actually shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to us because there are so many holes in the existing apparatus (and mind you, I say holes, and not just loopholes). The Taj Mahal hotel still burns, but the scars that this latest attack will leave on the families will be permanent. I say only families because the rest of the hoi polloi will forget about all of this by the end of next week and we're all going to go back and forget about the necessities lacking by our men in uniform.

The media:
So, again, what did we see going wrong? Let's start from the coverage. We saw shots of the electronic media try to brush past hotel security and police of the Taj and/or Oberoi to find out who was firing inside. While the action on it's own can be seen as commendable, the fact that the security personnel were pleading, I say again, pleading, with them not to go closer was unheeded. Since when did the cops have to plead with someone to allow them to do their duty? We often blame our security personnel as being insensitive because of their lack, or the level of education they have received, but when educated TV journalists so nonchalantly try to brush past these men and women of the security, like it's some right they possess because they come with a microphone and a camera, it is absolutely disgusting.

Staying with the media, I was struck by the hypocrisy of certain eminent figures from the electronic media, who talked about the politicising of terror. What exactly is this 'politicising of terror'? As far as I know, and from what I've learnt in school, the role of an opposition party in a democracy is to raise uncomfortable questions of the government when it is found wanting. I understand that at the very moment of a crisis may not be appropriate, because the government would have it's hands full with dealing the situation at hand, but otherwise what's wrong? Tomorrow if the state of garbage disposal is in a bad shape, and the opposition raises a stink about it, will it be called politicising sanitation?

Rajdeep Sardesai, the editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, was understandably distraught with the events in his hometown of Mumbai., and more so with the death of ATS chief Hemant Karkare. However, every time a member of the public expressed anger on his show at the government's apathy towards a better plan to improve the security of the country, he termed it as understandable anger and empathised with them, but when politicians of the opposition, whose job it is to point flaws in the governments' actions, asked the same questions at the government, he termed it as politicising terror. Why the double-standards Mr. Sardesai? If you cannot maintain the levels of levelheadedness required to remain neutral (at least pretend to remain neutral) while doing your journalistic duties, then maybe you should have allowed your colleagues to take over, and you could have taken a break at one of the smaller caf├ęs and chilled out a little. The last thing the gullible public needed at such a time, especially in an era where most of them (the public) have outsourced their thinking to the media, were the ramblings of an obviously emotional journalist.

Let's not leave out their old adversaries, NDTV, that constantly kept giving close up face shots of the NSG commandos. Now this may not seem inappropriate to most, but ask any security expert worth his/her money, and they'd tell you that it's not desirable, especially when the face shots are taken along with the names of the commandos printed on their tunics on the right side of their chest.

Society:
Even as the NSG were engaged with the terrorists at Nariman house, where a Jewish Rabbi and his family were the targets (and sadly, they were killed even before the commandos had a chance to save them), the public outside were cluttered around like items in an untidy apartment. Just why did the public deem it necessary to be this close to the action, where a stray bullet, or shrapnel from exploding ordinances could quite easily have killed or seriously injured. What's more, the milling crowds proved to be a hindrance to the security forces, as even ambulances couldn't get through in time, and the police had to resort to a lathi-charge! Imagine that, a terrorist crisis, and the police had to resort to use the lathi against it's own people because they were a little too curious for their own good. Such things can happen only in India - and I say this with a lot of shame.


The politicos:
Blaming the political class is something we do all the time (justifiably on almost all occasions), and at this time, it would almost sound rhetorical, so I'll keep away from it (which in no way means they are innocent and don't deserve their fair-share of blame). The amount of anger and rage against the ruling political class is near boiling point, and in some cases could well have shot past the threshold limit. I am now continuing after the attacks have ended and more the 190 people are dead, and over 300 injured.

It took me a lot longer to continue after I started because at most of the times, tears had filled my eyes and I just couldn't concentrate on what to write - my mind was numb! My thoughts kept returning to the television images and I kept gravitating towards the TV set in the hope that this time when I switch it on, I would hear the news I'd been wanting to hear- all over. But it took a lot longer. I vividly remember a placard held by a citizen after the ordeal. It read:
"Mr. Politician, I'm alive in spite of you". I couldn't have said it better. Hats off to you my lad, may you live for as long as you wish.

What's more, I know everyone will ask for the resignation of the Home Minister, but I have a slightly different angle to this: the Home Minister Mr. Shivraj Patil didn't even deserve to be at that post in the first place. No, this isn't the usual rhetoric that we usually hear, the usual cynical remarks from cynics like me and others. In the assembly elections that took place in 2004, Shivraj Patil lost! That's right, Patil lost the election from his constituency of Latur, but was still made the home minister because of his seniority and closeness to Sonia Gandhi. He was later elected via the Rajya Sabha, the back-channel route often used by parties across the spectrum, if they know they've got to satisfy incompetent, slobbering, egotistical , diseased-looking bastards like Mr. Shivraj Patil who exist among their ranks. So no one in the ruling UPA can claim that it's the people who voted them in, because although their alliance may have received a majority by the people, that incompetant slob Shivraj Patil did not enjoy the peoples confidence, and hence had no place in the cabinet in the first place.

The heartburn:
My sadness was for the lives lost, my sadness was for the economic impact this would have on the city and the country indeed, but most of all, it was because the Taj Mahal hotel was targeted. This hotel is the symbol of Indian defiance against the British, an engineering structure that told the occupying British that we Indians are not just as good as you, but can be better.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the history of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, let me explain a thing or two to you.
>> Firstly, this isn't part of the Taj group of hotels, this is owned by the Tata group - yes, the same Tata group that will roll out the $2500 car called the Nano, the same Tata group that bought over Land Rover and Jaguar, headed by Mr Ratan Tata.
>> Secondly, and more importantly, the reason I said this was a symbol of defiance against the British, was because this hotel, which was built under the leadership of the late Mr. Jamshedji Tata, was built because of the racist behaviour faced by the late Mr. Tata. When he had visited the Apollo Hotel in Bombay (then run by the ruling British) to meet investors, he wasn't allowed inside because he wasn't white. So he had a bigger and grander hotel built, not just for Indians to visit, but also to cock a snook at the Poms to show them that we can build better structures than them.

And it was this very heritage structure of India that took a hit, and it was this very structures' devastation that burned many a heart, including mine. The only saving grace is that the plan to blow it up and bring it crashing like the world trade centers in New York failed, and so it can be looked like a silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud.

The real heroes:
Our cops and the commandos. The defence forces are only remembered when we want them to sacrifice their lives to save ours, and at all other times we are too busy shopping or watching movies, never once giving a thought to the fact that we are able to indulge in these very activities because of these men in uniform. Hats off to the police, the Army commandos, the NSG, and the Naval Marine Commandos (Marcos), for their selfless actions.

The rogue elephant in the room:
It's about time we stop dilly-dallying about the reasons why such young youth would indulge in such dastardly acts of violence and destruction. Its quite obvious that the amount of brain-washing that would have gone into them can only be the results of one thing - what many sane and rational thinkers would refer to as the elephant in the room, and what I refer to as the rogue elephant in the room - religion. It's about time we, not just the government, but as a people who are secular in our thoughts, beliefs and actions, take initiatives and urge those involved in proselytising, fanaticism, religious indoctrination, monotheism, etc. to put an immediate end to it, or soon, vigilante justice would be meted out to those who are even remotely connected to this, and predictably, there would be innocents who suffer as well. It's time we woke up and took stock of the situation, and we'd better do it fast. That elephant seems to be running amok and no one seems to be noticing it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Trump cards of - religions

I came across this post on the New Humanist's website, written by Christina Martin. It deals with trump cards for some of the popular religions around the world. An extremely crafty and wonderfully conceived idea, executed to perfection. May there be many more born like you Christina. Muah!

Reposted from New Humanist:























I'd marry this Christina Martin if she were available, and was willing to marry me. Why can't we have more creative people like her?


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Women, vegetarianism and diamonds

I’ve had an interesting time during the past three weeks. I’ve had conversations with two very beautiful and smart ladies about vegetarianism. Well, one’s a tomboy actually, so I don’t know if it counts, but both are intelligent, beautiful and opinionated (a dying breed). Both were born into families that were vegetarian, and as it usually happens, they towed the line and as with most ‘born vegetarians’, they started looking for reasons to back their decision to walk down the path they’d chosen. And trust me, this isn’t a veg vs non-veg issue.

The arguments always start off with “being against the perceived cruelty towards animals”. And when I point out that “I” am not the one being cruel to the animal (trust me, it’s well past dead when it reaches my plate), then the argument jumps to pointing out that if we didn’t want to eat them, they (animals) wouldn’t have to be culled in the first place. Sounds good, but then I point out that “…people require proteins…”, and before I can complete the entire explanation, they were at my throat (thankfully I had the conversations separately, on different days) with suggestions of tofu and pulses and other fancy things which are sources of protein that don’t involve the killing of animals. OK, fair enough, but if only they’d allowed me to complete my statement, they’d have heard me say “…and not everyone can have access to processed food stuff like tofu, and pulses aren’t available everywhere… so economics comes into play… so some people would do what’s easier and cheaper, like a person on the coast will catch fish, etc”. Well, it never got to that when I first discussed it, because women (almost) never allow men to complete what they want to say (now you know the reasons for ‘communication failures’). When I managed to say this to one of them, I got a reply “…but economics can’t be an excuse to kill animals”. Intelligent, beautiful, opinionated and cut-throat! Sweet. Easier said than done though, because then by the same logic, we shouldn’t kill plants either, because they too have life, and then we’re back to square one.

A few other points were raised about how could someone allow this to take place and that a compassionate person’s conscience would be pricked to know what’s done to the animals. We went back and forth over how plants too are living things and just because they don’t bleat or yelp while being cut, you can’t say that it’s OK to end its life. And to take forward the ‘pricking of the conscience’ concept, I have something that would (and should) prick the conscience of every starry eyed woman out there. Would you give up diamonds, your best friend(s)? Not because I or the millions of men out there cannot afford them or wouldn’t want to make an effort to get one for you ladies while we’re popping the question, but because of the baggage that comes attached with the diamonds. Everyone has watched the movie Blood Diamond (and if not, then go watch it), and there isn’t a lot of exaggeration in it when it comes to what is done to procure the diamonds from the mines in Africa.

The movie shows the cruelty behind the clarity, the cuts behind the cut, the carnal instincts behind the carat, and the crude and cruel use of children that brings out the colour, covering the four C’s of a diamond, not to mention all the gore behind the glitter and the sweat behind the sparkle. I told another female friend about this (another vegetarian), about how the mine owners (rebel warlords) would cut off the hand of a person who wouldn’t work for them to mine diamonds, and waited for her reaction. I could see the pupils of her eyes do crazy things, and I thought to myself “Looks like you’ve got her there!” But what followed was one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard, and I kid you not. She looks at me, all sad and with Bamby eyes and asks, “They cut off both hands is it?” @#!%?&^*. What?!?!? Does it freakin’ matter??? It’s not like having only one hand to eat, shake, and wipe your back side with are considered cool.

Which brings me to another point, namely, as part of being politically correct, a lot of people subscribe to the fable of ‘women are smarter than men’. Now in the 21st century, why do we go around comparing the sexes? Ask a guy if he thinks men and women are equal, and you’ll most likely get a sound that’s a combo of a laugh, a grunt and a guffaw. Stupid? Yes, extremely. Ask this to a woman, and you’ll most likely get to hear “Of course men and women are not equal… we (women) are better!” Stupid? Hell, yes! In this day and age, in the 21st century, does it really matter who is smarter? Because if there’s a prize that was announced, I certainly missed the announcement. And also, isn’t it the norm to compare apples with apples? And if women are really smarter than men, then why is it that they still seem fascinated by small, shiny objects, just like a mynah or a magpie?

So let me ask the question that is the obvious implication from all the banter here: would women who claim they are vegetarians because they are against cruelty towards animals stop using diamond jewellery because of the cruelty towards humans? Or for the ‘clever’ ones who are going to say “Well, I don’t use diamond jewellery”, would they put forward the same conscience-pricking argument to their mothers, relatives and friends (and this is open even for the vegetarian men)? And since we just concluded festivities for Deepavali, the festival of lights here in India, let me throw in an addendum (again, open even to the veggie men): would you stop bursting crackers because of the use of child labour and the inhuman conditions that the children are kept in to get the crackers ready each year, let alone the pollution aspect? And if economics can’t be an excuse to kill animals to feed yourself and your family, the need to look pretty doesn’t warrant the execution and torture of thousands of fellow human beings (and this isn’t even taking into account the cruelty towards animals that are used to test several cosmetics), and I don’t even know why we started bursting fire crackers during the festival of Deepavali, because it’s supposed to be the festival of lights and nowhere is it mandated that fire crackers need to be a part of this.

A nice way to evade answering the questions (for women) would be to shoot a question back at me and lecture me about why I’m not asking this question to vegetarian men, and why the topic specifically targets women. Good point, I will, but I need to find an Achilles heel of sorts for men like diamonds are to women, so until then it’s going to be only the fire crackers part and therefore only some indirect heat on them.

After talking to my two lady friends I mentioned at the start, both of who by the way, said they’d drop diamonds for something else, like amethyst or emeralds or just platinum (I don’t know if there’s any ugly baggage that comes with any of these), I was also told that it would eventually boil down to an individuals’ choice. So one may be an animal lover and not buy leather products of alligator skin boots, but if he or she likes food, then they could possibly decide to give the whole ‘cruelty to animals’ thing a skip, and the same would hold good for women who adore diamonds: they could still go gaga over the shiny stones and not think twice about all the blood left in its wake. Ditto with bursting fire crackers. So then the obvious conclusion one can draw is that it’s nothing short of hypocrisy. If morality were truly in the fray, then it would be based on principle, and principles don’t (shouldn’t) change from food to jewellery to bursting fire crackers. Does that mean morality is dead? I should hope not, but we’re certainly witnessing a steady but certain change in how we choose to manifest our morals into actions. Cherry-picking where we would want to exhibit our morality and where we choose to ignore it isn’t indicative of a moral person, and at the risk of offending even some of my friends, I’ll go ahead and say it is indicative of hypocrisy and nothing else. I won’t buy the argument that a little nuance is called for here because otherwise we will not be able to do anything without doing something ‘wrong’. Sorry, no can do, because I’m not the one peddling the moral/ethical issue here. So the next time someone you know tells you that he or she is a vegetarian because of morals and what not, and you know that they are exhibiting the same cherry-picking attitude I’ve spoken about, you can either smile at their idiocy, or just give them the finger.

*Note*: Before you start commenting, know this: I am NOT saying that vegetarianism is good or bad, and this is NOT a “veg vs non-veg” or a “which is better” thingy. No, it isn’t. If you thought it was, please read the article again. It’s obvious a veg vs non-veg article would have taken a different path. All I’m doing is comparing an action done under the banner of morality or ethics with certain other acts where the moral/ethical standards seem to have been disregarded, and have arrived at the conclusion that more often than not it is sheer hypocrisy and nothing else. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, comment away.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

On second thoughts...

... why don't I continue to blog here as well? That's it, I'm continuing here as well, although, it may be a week old after posting it at Politically Don't Care. So I hope I haven't chased the few people who visit this place .

Friday, October 31, 2008

Politically Don't Care


To all ye faithful - no, not the religious faithful, I meant all those who visit this blog of mine (faithfully or otherwise), I shall now be posting at a new venue. My friends and I have started a new site called Politically Don't Care. The main aim of the site is to say things as they are and not try to sound politically correct so that a few idiots won't feel bad. Also, it's in keeping with my principle of calling a spade a spade, and so there won't be any toning down on my part or on the part of the other writers. I write under the name fiddlesticks, but do read the articles posted there by everyone and rate them, which would egg us on (as opposed to have egg on our faces).

Hope to see ya'll there, where we'll certainly be putting the mercy back into merciless!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jet, set, and you're fired

After Jet Airways had announced that nearly 1,900 employees would be laid off due to operations affected by mounting aviation fuel prices, downturn in air traffic and the global financial crisis, it was understandable that the fired employees would be upset. But what we witnessed after they were made aware of the termination of their services is something that we've sadly gotten used to, and something that is completely uncalled for and totally hypocritical.

Working in the private sector has its fair share of advantages, but also disadvantages. The young 'professionals' (who acted anything but professional), like all young graduates in India, are fully aware of the mantra about the Indian job scene: private sector pays you very well, but your job security is at the mercy of the vagaries of the economic scene, while in the government sector, you may not get paid as well as in the private sector, but you certainly have job security. Why the youngsters chose to take leave of their senses at the time they need it the most is most baffling. Don't get me wrong, I fully sympathise with them, and also know that my sympathy won't bring them any succour. But the fact of the matter remains that these people cannot blame their employers because firstly, they were the ones who applied for a job with Jet and no one forced them to join, and second, had there been no economic crisis, would these people have quit Jet airways and other private airlines because they have a hire-and-fire policy, which surprisingly seems to have come to light inside their otherwise poorly lit heads only now? If there was anything illegal in the procedure followed, then yes, there is a legitimate case to be made, but in this case, it's just a way to reduce costs at a bad time.

Another rather odd observation during their protest was many of the employees were seen and heard shouting "Mallya, go back!". What's the deal with that? Do these people think they're being fired because there is a proposed alliance between the two (alliance, and not a merger)? The alliance is in response to the crisis, and aims to cut the use of fuel by flying aircraft from two different airlines to the same destination, which not only makes good business sense, it's also a good way to stop a national waste of fuel, on the same lines as a car pool being very effectively used in many cities. What needs to be questioned here are the motives of the employees who've gone around shouting and ranting.

Now at the risk of earning the ire of those reading this, I'll go ahead and say this: one can be certain that if there was an alliance or partnership proposed during a healthier time for the economy, one that would undoubtedly have brought in extra largess to the employees, they would have even flossed Vijay Mallya's backside with their tongues, and happily. Such hypocritical behaviour is what the employers will need to take into account if they plan to rehire those fired if the situation improves. I hope for the sake of our economy that the crisis soon ends and the employment rate picks up, which would only result in an improved GDP. But after realising that many of the fired employees approached MNS chief Raj Thakeray, I only realised one sad truth, which is that most people are willing to stoop to the very levels they loathe and condemn at most other times. Sigh! The truth really stinks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Palin (d)effect

The battle for the American precidency may be on between Obama and McCain, but the one who seems to be generating all the heat (and not necessarily the good kind) is Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, brought into the race for the sole purpose of drawing in the female vote which the Republicans seem to be keen to latch onto, especially since Hillary wasn't the nominee from the Democrats camp. Startegically, this may turn out to be a smart move, but the logic could also be a double-edged sword, one that could easily cut the Republicans as much as they intend it to hurt the Democrats.

The very idea that women would automatically vote for Palin because she's a woman, should be, quite frankly, an insult to all American women. Firstly, not all of them believe in what she believes. Next, women who supported Hillary Clinton during the primaries obviously supported her not just because she was a woman (but I'm not so naive to know that the fact that she was a woman did have a major effect), but because of the plans and policies laid out by the Senator from the Big Apple.

Sarah Palin doesn't believe in the right for a woman to choose in case of a pregnancy. Now, being against abortion itself cannot be held against anyone, but the problem with the current Alaskan governor is that she is against abortion even if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest (or both). This is truly shocking and extremely disturbing, even for a someone (me, a guy) sitting in Bangalore, so I wonder why Americans (men and women) would support her, unless one considers the obvious implication.

Palin is a creationist and like several creationists, is hell bent on having intelligent design (a euphemism for teaching creation science i.e. origin of humans as per the Bible) taught in school. Now whether the version presented in the Bible (or any 'holy' book) is true or not can be debated later (and my views are pretty clear about this one, as most of you already know), but the fact that religion now could enter the portals of a school is not only disturbing, but it's also unconstitutional, going against the very meaning of "separation of church and state", which is an integral part and the underlying principle of the secular foundation of the American nation (and constitution).

Sarah Barracuda, as she's called because of her intensity, is also someone who hasn't supported the equal pay bill, which basically calls for women to be paid the same as men for equal amount of work done (this bill, I'm given to understand was, however, passed in July of this year). This might come as an absolute shocker to most readers that the United States, the lone superpower in the world today, has a women at the doorstep of the vice presidents office, who is discriminatory towards women! The concept of equal pay for equal work may seem to be something that we attribute to common sense without any opposition, but then again, this is America we're talking about, where common sense seems to be as rare as a four leaved clover!

When it comes to foreign policy, this is where I was tickled pink by Palin's reply (when asked what foreign affairs experience does she have). The reply was to the effect that she was the governor of Alaska, and that the north-eastern part of Russia is very close to Alaska! If you're wondering "is that it?", you're right, that's it, according to Palin. This kind of logic isn't used even by our lame Indian politicians. And also, I'm guessing she calls herself a hockey mom (ice hockey) because she can see Canada from her backyard!

An article from the Associated Press (AP) dated September 13 of this year has excerpts of comments made by a few women from diverse backgrounds who support her. "We liked her based on her freshness" was one comment. Fair enough, but is that enough of a qualification to want to vote for a VP? Adolf Hitler was an excellent orator, and mesmerised Germans with his speeches about the 'German pride' and the 'German volk' during the 30s, and got to power without any real opposition from the German volk, but look where he led them!

Another comment was, "I really think she represents the true American woman." Really? American women are against abortion even in the case of rape/incest? Does that mean the rape and incest are now unofficially (or worse, officially) accepted? They're opposed to equal pay for equal work? Do American women readily (or really) buy into the bullshit that being the governor of a state that is close to Russia automatically makes her an expert in foreign affairs? Or for that matter do they agree with Palin on any of the other issues I've listed above? This looks more and more like a campaign by a female member of the Ku Klux Klan and not a member of the Republican party (I know many of you who follow American politics would ask "what's the difference again?").

For someone who famously asked "what is it that a vice president actually does?", she sure has come a long way since she had a 15 minute conversation with a 72 year old, brain dead man, after which it was announced to the world that she would be his nominee for the VP. Sarah Palin may now be positioning herself for the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 (assuming this election doesn't go their way), but one thing is for sure: the Palin effect shows a large defect in the American thought process.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When the Aussies come calling

The first test is over, the match ended in a draw, which is good for us because we were able to claw our way back from a position that should have resulted in victory for the Aussies. Zaheer Khan is the hero, and with good reason. The burly man put up a great show with the bat and ball to bring us back into the game, and we finally got to see a bit of the Aussie brashness.

Haddin ticked Zaheer off, enough for him to put up a great show. But more importantly, it's a sign of things to come. We all know the Aussies can't keep their mouth shut when they're in a spot of bother, and we know that most Indians tend to react, and at times over-react to a situation, and when it comes to insults, no one can beat the Aussies. Which is why I chose to create a list of loose British and Aussie slang that our boys in blue ought to learn to dish it out to them Aussies! And oh, before I forget, this has to be said with the typical Aussie twang or a laboured Yorkshire drawl.
  1. Oye ya bloody wanka (wanker)! You look pretty bladdered after last night; didja have a bender?
  2. Oye Matty, did ya bonk Ricky last night? Ee looks pretty 'urt mate!
  3. Hey Pup (Michael Clarke), why're ye camping it up here mate?
  4. Haddin, you wanna 'ave a chin wag eh? Sorry mate, don't do tha' sorta thing with a stinkin' dingo.
  5. Full o' beans today, aren't we fellows?
  6. Oye, wanna take a hard one in the goolies?
  7. Oye Ricky, 'ave we got a few Kangaroos loose in the top paddock today?
  8. Hey Shane, doin' a lil aerial ping pong are we?
  9. Oh boy, your bowling figures are a dogs breakfast, aren't they mate?
  10. What a bitzer ye turned out ta be!
It's ok if a lot of it didn't make sense to you, but it's worth an attempt. And mind you, no awful stuff, just the sort of merry banter that the Aussies are used to.




Secularism was lost in 1947 itself

Secular

sec·u·lar [sek-yuh-ler]
adjective
  1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests.
  2. not pertaining to or connected with religion.
Secular state: A secular state is a state or country that is officially neutral in matters of religion, neither supporting nor opposing any particular religious beliefs or practices. A secular state also treats all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and does not give preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion over other religions.

Note that the definitions clearly state that secular means no connection to religion, as opposed to the popular belief that it means all inclusive.
***
Oh how the Congress party has screwed up the meaning of the word secular, almost to a point where it seems to have been distorted on purpose. Being brought up in India, and having attended a prestigious school in Bangalore, I, like millions and millions of Indians of my generation and generations past (post independence) and present learnt and continue to learn about the Indian freedom struggle. The greatness about independent India, which elevated its status above that of the Muslim breakaway real estate called Pakistan, was its secular principles and foundations. And by secular, we were taught it meant a principle where all religions are treated equally. Maybe it's semantics, but this actually is quite misleading. For the 25 years I have existed I did not check the dictionary to see what the word secular means. Now when I did, I got a rude shock. For many, what follows may not seem important as the difference between what we were taught and what the reality is may be too subtle to fathom, but then again, I'm not writing this blog for that majority alone, but even for those for whom it may matter.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, was the one who proposed the secular model for the Indian nation, and being an atheist, he knew the true meaning of secularism, which is, that the state shall not be influenced by any religion, and that there will be a separation of church and state (in this case, separation of church, temple, mosque, gurudwara, monastry, synangogue, etc from the state). However, the rest of the congressmen did not see the merit in this, and instead of separating the state from religion, it was agreed to include all religions. That's where the seeds were sowed and we are reaping the problematic harvest now.

If the state were detached from religion, there wouldn't have been a problem when religious nutters oppose abortion because of their religion, there wouldn't have been the problem of muslim women not being given a fair share in inherited property because in Islam, women are looked down upon and don't get a fair deal. This was amply exemplified when an immature, playboy Prime Minister, Rajeev Gandhi, did not follow the Supreme Court's direction in the Shah Bano case, for fear of upsetting the Muslims, in spite of the Supreme Court ruling in her favour and putting the doctrine of fairness and equality of the sexes above the doctrine of the religion. A truly secular verdict, followed by a purely political and insensitive action by the Congress party.

Another instance where religion continues to get the beter of secularism is when it comes to the use of contraception. The Church is into overdrive with its take on the use of contraception, in spite of the large population and the rampant spread of HIV and AIDS and other STDs. The rights of homosexuals would certainly have been protected had the country been truly secular, instead of a disgusting, awful tasting mixture of all the religions and dirty Indian politics. Instead, homosexuals are treated as diseased members of society, where the exremists demand lynching and the moderates offer 'treatment'. Education won't cure an extremist, but I strongly doubt if it can even cure the moderates. Thank goodness the religious fools who raise their ugly heads every now and then haven't excelled too far ahead in science, or they would soon be opposing stem cell research as well.

Our country is more than 60 years old, and in terms of the democracies around the world, we are very young. But what is sad is that like most youngsters, we are headed down the wrong path, and seem to be developing some very bad habits. Old habits die hard they say. You bet, as can be seen in our continued acceptance and blind following of the twisted version of a beautiful concept called secularism.

When life throws a curve ball...

What does one do when faced with a predicament one doesn't want to ever be in? What does one do when everything you've wanted to do has to be either put off or scrapped because of unforeseen circumstances that demand nothing short of an overhaul of all your plans? What does one do if one realises at the last moment that "this isn't what I want to do"?

There are those who are never shot at, and manage to waltz through this giant cauldron called life unscathed, without collecting any of the grime on the way, pristine in appearance even at the very end, while at the other end you have those who seem to have been shot at even before they enter this world, and more often than not may sway and stumble like a prize fighter who's just received the final punch and who's torso swivels and jiggles like a marionette on feet that seem stuck to the ground, ultimately crashing down. And finally there are those who feel like they've been lucky not to have been shot at the very beginning and feel they can make to the final base, only to cruelly realise midway that they aren't so lucky after all. This more often than not leads to a situation where they begin to wonder where they could have possibly taken a wrong turn, and wonder about the turns that lay up ahead. But every once in a while, not always, but once in a while, there comes a moment where every thing that has happened so far seems to have been for a reason, and a purpose of sorts starts to get associated with all the events that have occurred. These are the junctions where the roads usually fork, and choosing the right one could ultimately result in a catharsis of sorts for the individual.

When life throws you a curve ball, hit it out of the park and run like mad.

(This post was written during the hours of darkness, well before the morning rays of the sun hit Bangalore, probably when I was low on sleep and low on adrenalin, but high on sugar, which explains the lack of direction in the post. However, in keeping with my policy of publishing whatever I start typing, I have gone ahead and published this post. Not to worry, I'll be a more careful in the future.)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Religulous: A must watch for all those who consider themselves rational human beings


Religulous:
-noun
A word made up by Larry Charles and Bill Maher, which is a combination of religion and ridiculous, and an unscripted, uproarious comedy directed by Larry Charles and produced and starring Bill Maher.

When the movie The da Vinci Code was released world wide, there was a big hue and cry from the Jesus camp protesting against the movie, and in India, they went a step further (just to prove their lunacy) and asked for the film to be banned, even though the author of the book had stated categorically that it was a work of fiction.

Living in the world's largest democracy, I have little or no hope of watching the movie Religulous in a cinema theatre (I say this with a lot of pain) because the religious hoodlums of the monotheistic faiths will hijack the democratic process and snatch away my right to watch a perfectly legal documentary/comedy film. This isn't to say that the nutters in the Hindu religion would have allowed the screening of any film that could result in the public developing a negative perception about the religion. That's how bad the rot has set in here, that people will not be allowed to read or watch something that can get them to think a little bit, because even if the film or book is not directly offensive, what if it leads people to question some of the long held beliefs?

Religulous is one such movie, where in spite of there being no hostility or propaganda against any religion, and it just being a film where Bill Maher goes about asking people, just asking them, why they believe some of the things they believe in. He asks them if they actually think it's real, (all the fairy tales they believe in) with the intention to only show how sometimes even educated people can behave irrationally when it comes to religion, the religious right of the monotheistic religions (I say only monotheistic because Hinduism, Sikhism, etc haven't been featured in the film) will have the common man believe that this film is out to target only their religion and it's a direct attack on their faith and so needs to be banned. In the movie, Maher makes it quite clear that he isn't saying that he's certain that there is no God, he's saying "I don't know", the three most difficult words it would seem to hear from the mouth of a believer. The aim is quite clearly to let people know that there are some things that are still not understood and making up fairy tales just won't do. And yet I won't be surprised if ministers will put bounties on the heads of Bill Maher and director Larry Charles, including the revered Hyderabad MP from the right wing Islamofascist party, the MIM, Asauddin Owaisi and his cowardly relative (nephew I think) Akbaruddin, who was last seen trying to scare Taslima Nasreen and threaten her with decapitation.

It's sad that our country has to be the country where those belonging to the middle-eastern monotheistic religions have to prove themselves to their counterparts in the rest of the world that they can more religious (meaning, more insane) when it comes to showing their faith towards their religion. After all, the Muslims had very successfully managed to convince an immature prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to ban The Satanic Verses even before the Ayatollah of Iran issued a ban and a fatwa on Salman Rushdie. It's extremely unfair that people like me who are true secularists (and usually have a good laugh at the expense of these religious nutters) have to have our rights of freedom to watch what we want taken away because the crazy people in the country would be offended. I'd agree if something wrong or a bunch of lies were being propagated against a religion, but that isn't the case here, and it's quite evident that they don't want to have any discussion on religion. It's as if the topic is off limits for discussion, let alone intellectual debate. Like hell it is, and I for one will surely get hold of a copy of the movie and try to make as many people watch it. Try to stop me!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Listen up, all ye faithful

This is being written primarily in response to a statement made by a former member of the Nazi youth, who goes around nowadays using an alias called Benedict XVI and a title called Pope. That's right, Sri Joseph Ratzinger aka The Pope, recently reiterated his stand on life, and emphasized the sanctity of life "from conceptualisation to its natural end" while speaking against abortion and euthanasia. The usual stuff against abortion and how we ought to respect life was present and the Pope then warned the faithful against legitimising euthanasia "by masking it with the veil of human compassion".

Right Papa Ratzi (or paparazzi), I catch your drift there, but I have trouble understanding one thing: if you're so interested in things reaching their 'natural end', would you be interested to know that there are millions of Christians (among millions of others of other faiths) who visit hospitals to get cured of various ailments and treated for various injuries? After all, using modern medicine to treat diseases and injuries too should constitute being 'unnatural', wouldn't it? I mean when's the last time you heard of or saw a wildebeest going to the hospital to treat a torn leg which was a result of a close encounter with a jaws of a crocodile? Now that certainly would have been unnatural, but humans going in to get treated for anything and everything is fine, ignoring the fact that hospitals are man made and hence not natural. Sorry pappy, haven't understood that one yet.

I'm sure when his predecessor Pope John Paul II was shot at by a young Palestinian, and doctors were operating on him, Ratzinger was cursing under his breath, hoping the Pope was left to reach his 'natural end' so he could then assume the title of Pope and get to wear the funny hats we see him in. What say pappy, did that bring in an extra few lines on your forehead, knowing that your shot at the top post in Christianity was scuttled because of some doctors doing something unnatural? Tch tch, that's too bad. What's more, the Pope has also given us his two cents on why certain food should be banned. I'm talking about the ban on foie gras, which came into effect in 2006 in Chicago because animal rights groups thought it was supposedly "cruel". Yes, I agree force feeding an animal is indeed cruel, but listen to what old Ratz had to say as to why it needs to be banned: "If it weren’t cruel or painful, you wouldn’t have so many countries that banned it". Jawohl, mein Fuhrer! Just in case your senility made you forget, we also have countries where women are stoned to death for not being virgins on their wedding nights, and others are stoned to death for adultery, children are beaten with paddles, all because it says so in the Old Testament and in the sharia of the koran, and yet we see no ban on this. And I'm not even counting the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's well known that in countries like Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, laws are framed in strict accordance to the sharia, and so, unless the Pope thinks that these punishments aren't cruel and brutal, I'd like him to comment on it when he can find the time in the midst of preaching that using condoms leads to AIDS! You didn't know that? The Vatican has for ages been against contraception because when Moses and Jesus and Mohammad lived, they didn't have any condoms, and back then if someone got a little frisky with a woman, voila! along came a baby. This probably explains the hatred Christians have towards Mary Magdalene.

Now, whatever I questioned above doesn't hold good only for Christians, but also for Muslims, Jews, and of late, even Hindus. Gone are the days when we could look at Hinduism as one of those cool, hip, and liberal philosophies, which didn't say a word against abortion or euthanasia or same sex marriages. Sadly, it too has been overrun by a bunch of zealots influenced by the kinds we are all too familiar with from the other monotheistic religions. How can the god these people pray to, be against giving a person a decent death? What sort of a god would it be that feels angered at the prospect of mortals giving their fellow mortals a decent end, one that even this great(?) god couldn't give? And doesn't it put an obligation on those worshipping such a god to question the motives of this so called divine and holy being?

Coming to another serious question, what gives only theologians the right to comment on life and how it ought to be lived and all the 'rules' of how to live? I don't remember there being a vote on this, so how it all come about? Did everyone else just accept it and move on? Although I'm not too keen on give this exclusive right to any one group, I think there ought to at least be a more diverse group involved in deciding what is the 'right' thing to do. We need to have those romantics of life, better known as philosophers, ans we most certainly need to have those well versed with the advances of modern science.

Why should there be a law against something based on the religious teachings of one (or a few) religion(s) that prohibits those of other religions from doing? Unlike murder, rape, or robbery, where the person getting affected is someone else, in case of euthanasia, it's only the person who wants to get eauthanised who gets affected directly. How about just having a rule that allows those who want to commit suicide (assisted or otherwise) can go ahead and do so, and those who don't want to, don't worry, there's no pressure on you. I don't know about you, but I think that sometimes, the simplest solution is the best solution. So whichever mullah or imam or priest or pandit or rabbi or granthi is out there, maybe, just maybe, you guys would want to have a rethink on this one.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

India's most destructive forces

Why am I writing this, when almost every self respecting Indian knows that the state of affairs in our political arena has almost got to the point of no return? Well, for one, the same reason why I started my blog, a window to release some steam. But more importantly, because most urban educated Indians are so used to market force economics in their daily lives, they expect almost everything to be offered as a service, and sadly, it's come to the point where even thinking seems to be going in that direction. The thorough assimilation of facts and arriving at a conclusion seems to have been 'outsourced' in some ways to the electronic and print media and people usually blindly parrot the opinions put forward by the media think tanks and other opinion makers showcased in the media (print and electronic).

Now for the destructive forces I was talking about. I had initially planned to mention only 5, but then had a good laugh at myself and realised that 5 is just way too small a number for dear India. The opinions presented here are mine, and no party or organisation is behind this, although I'm dead certain that the sentiments expressed here are the same; it's just that someone had to say it, and I did. And without further adieu, here goes:

1. Mayawathi Naina Kumari: Better known as Mayawathi, the current Chief Minister of our largest state Uttar Pradesh and the self styled dictator of the Bahujan Samaj Party is quite easily the most destructive force in the country, even beating Islamic fundamentalism because she is viewed as a means to an end for the Islamic fundamentalists, while the people she claims to represent, the dalits, view her as superwoman. Although she represents (or at least claims to) the most downtrodden people of the erstwhile Hindu society, she seems to have no problems with the fact that she is a multi-millionaire while the people who she represents never get to eat 3 square meals a day. In 2007, she declared her net assets worth Rs. 3 crore, and in 2008 it was Rs. 52 crore. And the explanation for this: the dalits she represents all contribute 5 and 10 bucks at every party meeting! And what's worse, there are people naive enough to believe that story. For a middle class Indian like me, figures in crores are all the same because I'm sure I can't even count that far in a lifetime, let alone hope to earn that much legally. She represents all the every modern, progressive Indian loathes. She has brought corruption to new heights, she spends crores on her birthday parties, yet when people die of hunger and starvation in her state, she blames it on either the center or on incompetent officials. She doesn't follow any democratic process in her party and rules with an iron fist, spying on every single party person using various party cadre, a la Soviet Union with the KGB. She demolished pubic property like stadiums and parks to build statues of her in the state. She is truly the epitome of evil and anti-progress.

And now she has her eyes set on the post of Prime Minister. If she succeeds in becoming Prime Minister, don't be fooled into believing what most timid commentators would say, which is "a downtrodden dalit rose to become Prime Minister... it's a matter of pride". No, it isn't. It will be a matter of shame for our democracy that we voted in the devil incarnate. One thing is for sure, if she becomes PM, I'm giving up my citizenship.

2. Prakash Karat, A B Bardhan and the Communists:

These guys are the primary support staff and scavengers, or like the Remora fish that stick to a shark and feed on bits of scrap after the shark finishes a meal, the shark being Mayawathi in this case. It is their assured support to her and her breed that has made her dream of the post of Prime Minister. Sure, a girl is allowed to dream, but if your dreams are the stuff of what nightmares are made of to the rest of the public, maybe, just maybe, it isn't such a nice thing after all.

The Commies have continually held the country to ransom and have been the primary cause for the lack of development and progress because of their outdated, Quixotic ideology, an ideology they stubbornly refuse to let go of, an ideology they fail to realise is alive outside of India only in some of the most brutal and repressive regimes, an ideology that opposes anything and everything related to the west. It would do our country good if these comrades are packed off to North Korea, where they can enjoy the hospitality of the Utopian communist dream.

3. Naxalism: Born out of the Sino-Soviet split in the Indian communist movement in the tiny town of Naxalbari in Bengal (hence the term Naxalwadi), the Naxalites are the greatest internal security threat the country faces after the crisis in the Punjab during the 80s. Naxalites have a de facto, parallel government running the show in states like Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and parts of Andhra Pradesh. With moral support from the CPI(M), and other political parties using them as a means to achieve their selfish goals, Naxalism has spread like a virus among the poor in rural and tribal areas. It was a tough call to put this ahead of Islamic terrorism, but since Naxalism is tackled at a state level and not the national level, and knowing full well that the states are not prepared in any way to tackle this threat, it's at number 3.

4. SIMI, Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism: Enough has been said and enough is know about Pakistani sponsored elements in India, injected into India to bleed it from within. Add to that an organisation that was founded with the intention to bring India under an Islamic rule, and extend it as part of a world wide Islamic Caliphate (of course, I'm talking about SIMI), throw in a few politicos from the Muslim community who not only support them morally, but financially also, and you've got yourself the perfect recipe for disaster. I thought long and hard about why this ought to come after Naxalism and the reasoning behind it was that the center having more resources at its disposal would be at a better position to tackle the crisis brought out by SIMI and its ilk. However, it's a close call between the Naxals and the loony mullahs.

Another point of contention would be 'Why Mayawathi above terrorism, Naxalism, etc?'. Again, means to an end. If Mayawathi comes to power, these forces will be strengthened, and they'd hitchhike on Mayawathi's success and her pandering to the 'minorities' (read Muslims), and eventually take her out as well. It all hinges on her coming to power for them to get strengthened beyond the point of no return. Hence the despotic dalit leader is perched high and above all at no. 1.

As far as SIMI goes, sure, the usual police rhetoric about them doesn't help, but the fact is that SIMI started out in 1977 as an organisation to 'liberate India' from western materialistic influences and convert it into an Islamic society. This alone should be cause enough to have them banned for good. I'm quite sure that 'changing' a secular society into an Islamic one is totally unconstitutional, and what's more, I quite like the scene now where I don't have to see women clad in black bee-keeper suits from head to toe. If the Muslim leaders want it that way, and want to head back to medieval times where they can live in caves and ride something that has actual horse power (that's right, I'm talking about a horse), then someone please tell them that the Taliban have been replaced by an elected government, or ask them to apply for a visa at the Saudi Arabian embassy. This country isn't going to become a sanctuary for Islamic nutters, and should never, ever yield to any religion, and has to remain secular for sanity to prevail.

And now finally, to the Muslim politicos in the country. Several of them, in front of the cameras would preach universal brotherhood and showcase their 'secular' credentials, but the truth of the matter is most of them are anything but secular, but Islam doesn't preach secularism (and this a fact, so don't write to me saying anything to the contrary), and most of the Muslim leaders are true Muslims, which means they are anything but secular. These men suffer from an inferiority complex where they try to attack women authors who express themselves in books, put bounties on cartoonists, have no issues with people getting forcefully converted to their religion but cry foul when the reverse is in progress, etc.

5. Pseudo secularism of the Congress: The attitude of the Congress party and some of its allies is very disturbing indeed, as they seem to be the support system that elements from the communities which usually indulge in anti-national activities bank on when in dire straits. For long, the congress has pussyfooted around when it came to acting tough on Muslims for fear of losing out on a lucrative vote bank. A simple case is that of the illegal Bangladeshi Muslims who have infiltrated into the state of Assam and have now settled in have have procured documents like ration cards and voter IDs. However ,in spite of being in power in the state, the Congress chooses to do nothing because they know that that group of illegal aliens are their most dependable vote bank during any election. What's more, it is usually this group that provides shelter and help to the anti-national elements who hop across the border and come here to blow innocents.

Even with the issue of hanging Afsal Guru in the Parliament attack case, they are dragging their feet. With no proper explanation given, they are making a mockery of the justice system., and eroding our faith in the entire system of governance. As it is our government machinery is crumbling all around us, and when the judicial system is overruled by a bunch of septuagenarians and octogenarians who won't last too much longer, citizens with young children have to take a more mature look at the policies that could potentially make our country unsafe for the children in the years to come.

6. Hindutva and the Sangh parivaar: Very many Indians, who are fed up with the slack that Muslims are cut in our country because of the value of their vote, often think that this sort of attitude needs to be balanced out by an equivalent force, and quite naturally turn towards the BJP and the Sangh. However, what they don't realise is that this is a vicious cycle, one that when viewed from the Muslims side says that they are being targeted for being a minority, and when viewed from the Hindu side says that no one religion can be given so much importance over another, especially over the majoirity community. Well, both sides are right, and both are wrong. Where the BJP and the sangh go wrong is when their leaders like Praveen Togadia make speeches where they say that secularism is bad and that secularism is not in our tradition, blah, blah, blah. Firstly, secularism is something which is at the very core of Hinduism, which sadly even the so called defenders of the Hindu faith don't seem to be aware of. Next, instead of using secularism as the tool to get more of the masses to throng toward them, they are doing the exact opposite which not surprisingly seems to have the exact opposite effect with the masses.

The activities of the Bajrang Dal in Gujarat, and more recently in Orissa, only highlights my point. Instead of taking the moral highground and showing restraint and earning public sympathy, the BJP and the Sangh have gone about it the exact same way George Bush did after 9/11, becasue after 9/11 there was tremendous sympathy toward the USA, but in going all guns blazing and attacking a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 (Iraq), the United States started to feel the wrath of those who until then chose to stay away from the conflict. Ditto with the sangh. Had they shown restraint after the killing of their leader in Orissa instead of attacking missionaries and destroying churches, it would have earned a lot more followers. Instead, by launching into brutal attacks against Christians, it has only had a detrimental effect and the usual 'stereotyping' of the BJP as anti-Christian and anti-Muslim and all that.

One can argue that it's about time someone stood up for the rights of the majority community, and you'll get no argument out of me against that. But the means that they choose to use to achieve this goal of standing up for the Hindus is what needs to question. Not every problem needs an eye-for-an-eye type solution. Change is the need of the hour, and these guys are in serious need for an image makeover. By going all out against the minorities, they are only playing into the trap that the fundamentalists have laid out to justify their attacks on India.

7. Regionalism: Actually, 'language'ism derived from regionalism. Not the usual north-south divide, but the divide over who gets to live where, and who gets first preference because of the language they speak. I'm talking about the violence resorted to by a certain Bal Thackeray (BT) and his supporters during the late 60s and 70s against the immigrants from Mangalore and other parts of south Canara who came to Mumbai (then Bombay) and made it big in the hotel industry, butt-kicking the local Marathis out of business, purely because of the quality of food and the efficienct with which the hotels were run. The sort of violence Bal Tahckeray's nephew Raj Thackeray (RT) and his goons have resorted to in the recent past against north Indians in Mumbai. Enough has been said about the folly of the argument made by RT, about how it would actually have a negative impact on the economy of the state, and how the 'outsiders' are not illegally profiting at the expense of locals (unless they actually are living in illegal settlements and making a profit by means of illegal activities). In Karnataka, we have Vatal Nagaraj with his dirty fishing hat and dark glasses branding himself as the champion of Kannadigas and the Kannada language. It's idiots like him who always give a bad name to a people, and this is especially true in the case of Kannadigas, who were otherwise thought to be very accomodating and hospitable.

How do we tackle the problem? Good question, and a simple answer to it would be to ensure that first and foremost, people coming in from other states don't get special treatment, which would only serve to strengthen the case of the locals demanding their ouster. Next, schools should make it a point to teach the students that discremenating on language is as bad as discremenatingon religion, race, caste, creed, skin colour or sex. And in case you want to blame someone, then I guess we'll have to go a long way back and blame Nehru, because it was his grand idea to divide on the basis of language. What would have been a better option? Well, instead of language, the country could have been divided into zones, like how the railways does it. North, south, east, west and central. Each zone could then be further divided into sub-zones depending on whatever compelling factors were prevalent. That way, 'micro-managing' the issues existing in every area would have also succeeded. However, since by-gones are by-gones, there's no point in crying over spilt milk now. In case I come up with more material on this topic, I'll add it later.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Parody on the miracle birth

This could be read as a prologue of sorts to the upcoming Larry Charles movie 'Religulous'. Not to offend anyone, and I say it with all sincerity, but this was a little too good to pass up.

Reposted from an article on disbelief.net.


Jesus Christ and His Magic Kingdom

Christianity began in the year 0001; coincidentally, the same year a carpenter’s wife named Mary had gotten mysteriously knocked up. Figuring that he could be worse off than taking sloppy seconds to the Creator, Joseph hung around until the birth of her baby, whom she named Jesus.


Joseph seemingly raised Jesus as his own son, mostly for the baby shower gifts that were bestowed upon the family (you should never look gift frankincense in the mouth), and tried to teach him the family trade. While Jesus never showed much of an aptitude for nailing pieces of wood together, he eventually found that he was quite good other things, like healing the sick, walking on water, and changing water into wine – all of which made for good back-up careers, and entertaining party tricks.


After hanging around at his house until he was 30 years old, Jesus struck out on his own, and his act soon gained a strong following. As his entourage grew larger, and more dependent on him to make them look cool, he decided to mix in a few lessons he picked up from his real dad. He taught them some doctrines of faith, like charity, compassion, non-violence, tolerance and love – values that the church established in his name would selectively forget about centuries later.


Jesus's big break came when he got an impressive gig baptizing John (a well-known theologian who was also up for the office of next messiah). After a big palm parade into Jerusalem featuring Jesus riding a donkey (not like in Tijuana) some jealous glory-hounds hatched a plan to gain fame by taking him down. They recruited Jesus’ right-hand man, Judas, and with a few shiny coins, convinced him to give up Jesus’ secret garden.


Once discovered, Jesus was taken and, in a cruel twist of fate, made into one of his failed carpentry projects from childhood. But Jesus had one final party trick up his sleeves – raising himself from the dead, living for 40 days and then ascending to the heavens in full view of a studio audience. It was this grand finale that cemented his place in religion’s Hall of Fame and inspired a lucrative church business, as well as a never-ending line of books, statues, velvet artwork, clothing lines, jewelry, and other gaudy souvenirs.



***

In keeping with the spirit of the movie Religulous, this article best describes what the new movie is all about. Directed by Larry Charles of Borat fame, the movie talks about the nutty things people do in the name of religion, along with the destructive as well. Watch the trailers on YouTube, or watch it below, and be sure to catch the movie when it comes out in October.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What a loser

I think this has got to be the worst moment in the 2008 Olympics, even surpassing the atrocities (if any) committed by the Chinese security agencies against any Tibetans (didn't hear anything, but doesn't mean nothing happened). I mean, how could you have the audacity to kick the ref? This isn't even football. As a student of karate, I know for a fact that students of any martial art are also taught the aspects of discipline that are so tightly coupled with the martial arts. I guess communist Cuba, or at least Angel Matos and his trainer didn't have time for that. I just wish he was arrested by the Chinese police for some charge, and thrown into prison for life - I'm hoping the governments of the two communist regimes could come to an understanding and have him drowned in the yellow sea, or worse, he could be made to eat whatever the Chinese eat, and only raw at that. I'd like to see him kick his way outta that one.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We won a couple more

We won, we won,
we got 'em on the run,
with a yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum,
Olympic glory, here we come!

2 more medals,a bronze and the other one will at least be a bronze. Sushil Kumar won a bronze for the country in wrestling after 56 years. The first person to win it, K D Jadhav, achieved the feat in the '52 Helsinki games.







At the end of the day, Vijender Kumar, the third of our pugilists who made it to the quarter-finals in their respective weight categories, made it past the quarters in to the semis, and so has assured us of at least another medal. With his Grecian looks, this guy ought to be walking the ramps, and not getting punched, although punching others in the face is quite OK :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

India's best sporting achievement

Finally, we win a medal at the Olympics, and what a medal it was! It can't get better than gold, unless it's a clutch of gold medals, but nonetheless, an individual gold medal, the first in our history...wow! This sure as hell beats the sporting glory our country achieved when we won the 1983 Prudential world cup at Lords and the inaugural T20 world cup that we won last year in South Africa. And I'm not even taking into account the hockey teams' feat of 6 consecutive Olympic golds. Also, this isn't to say that an individual triumph is better than a team victory (for one thing, they shouldn't even be compared), but it's the occasion, the magnitude and the ramifications of the victory that decide which was better. When Leander Paes was asked which was the finest victory in his career, he didn't mention any of his grand slam victories, or even his victory over Pete Sampras, but the bronze medal he won at the 96 Atlanta Olympics. And the reason was simple, according to him: at Wimbledon and elsewhere, it would read, 'Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi - Winners', but at the Olympics it said 'India - 1 medal'.

The cricket team of the past (1983) and the current crop that won the T20 world cup deserved every bit of the plaudits that they received, and you can't blame them that cricket isn't a sport in the Olympics where they could perform and try to win a medal for the country on a world stage of this size, but then again, our athletes who make it to this theater of athletic and sporting pinnacle don't get paid the way our cricketers do, and so it's only fair that they be given a slightly larger share of the plauditary pie; even our cricketers wouldn't mind it for sure.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Abort! Abort! Abort!

Once again the debate about who should have the final say about the continuation of a pregnancy has shown it's ugly face. The question faced by the Mehta couple is that if their child is indeed born with a heart defect that could eventually lead to, at best, being on a ventilator, or at worst the child losing it's life due to heart failure (maybe dying would be the better option and being on the ventilator the worse option... I don't know), then would it be worth it. If the parents know that they cannot afford the costs to keep their child on a ventilator, what's wrong in them opting for an abortion of the pregnancy and try for another child, hopefully which wouldn't have any threatening defects?

The law here is based purely on medical science, which is that a pregnancy can be terminated only before 20 weeks and not after, for two important reasons: 1) A termination after 20 weeks increases the chances of risk to the mother's life. 2) After 20 weeks, technically, the foetus starts to show signs of life i.e. if it were to be delivered before the 20th week, it would be born as a still born (meaning without life), but if it were to be be born after the 20th week, it could technically survive because it would be born 'alive', and so in the most technical sense, you would be killing something (someone) that (who) has signs of 'life'.

Agreed, in the case of the Mehta's, the pregnancy is in it's 26th week, and so there could be risk to Mrs. Mehta's life. But if that is the sole reason to deny an abortion (because the mother is at risk), then why don't we have laws that check for risks involved in other day-to-day actions: like we've been taught in school to look right and then left while crossing the roads or we could end up in an accident, but we don't have laws that mandate we do this. Why not? After all, it could lead to death if not followed carefully. Hospitals are supposed to use disposable syringes, but a person reusing a syringe is not punished for putting his or her life in danger. There are several examples that can be cited to counter the argument that the mother's life may be at risk and hence the abortion shouldn't be performed.

For the Mehta's sake, I hope their child is born without any defects and can lead a normal life. What the heck am I saying: normal? How the hell can the child live a normal life even if he or she is born without any defects? The child's entire life will be enveloped in the fact that it's parents never wanted it to be born for fear of losing it, and all this because in the 21st century, we like to watch everything in technicolour. This story has been in all the news channels and papers and I'm certain that even if the child is insulated from this fact, he or she will eventually get to know about it. What then? Who should bear the responsibility for the child's trauma? The parents? No, not at all. Since it is primarily societal pressure that is preventing the couple from doing what they feel is best for their child, the blame has to be put squarely on our society. I certainly hope to live to see the day when we stop making decisions based on societal pressures (the first one that comes to mind apart from abortion is marriage of the girl child, where everyone's opinion but the girl's is taken).

Pro-life, pro-choice, the debate isn't new, not in India, not anywhere else in the world. It's been a cause for the religious loonies to lose their marbles every now and then, and it's also been the catalyst for a lot of political strife. I for one know that I am very consistent with my views on death. I'm pro death penalty, I'm pro choice (pro abortion), I'm pro suicide, I'm pro assisted suicide (euthanasia)... in short, I'm pro death if a person wishes it for himself or herself, and in the case of abortion, if they wish it for a foetus (because it isn't born yet, and only the parents get to decide if it's a 'person' or not, and if it should be 'born' or not). At least I'm not a hypocrite, which can't be said about most of those who are on the other side.
 
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