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


sec·u·lar [sek-yuh-ler]
  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

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!
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