Monday, December 31, 2007
Yet again, the fact that the half of the Nobel Peace Prize this year went to IPCC, & not to R. K. Pachauri (Chair of IPCC) received factually accurate but perhaps selective-in-importance reporting. IPCC has since vanished from the Indian mind.
International coverage, unless it involved India in a certain way - hopefully glorious - , continued in its by-the-way manner with Sarkozy's divorce getting as much space as the French Transport strike & probably a lot more than what Sarkozy had achieved since his election.
Yet between all of this whining & complaining, what really is sometimes not noticed as often is that the Indian media has just exploded & that while sensationalism/populist coverage may be something that mars its content, all of our media can cry hoarse against the government & actually thrive on it, & that if you tried just a little, it is not at all difficult to get through to more non-partisan & objective news.
And opinions - in Usha's blog. :)
Have a great 2008.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
We stayed on Princess street at Mr. Walton's home stay. While it did appear a trifle pricey once we found out the tariff from other places, it was a still a great place to stay at. The rooms were neat & very modern in their furnishing. There was even a hint of little landscaping. However, at the center of our great stay at F Kochi was Mr. Walton himself. Mr Walton is a veritable teller of stories & experiences. He was also our de facto guide in F Kochi - charting out in minute detail where we should go, what we should see & where should we eat. He told us stories of the Negro spirits, of the occult explanations of the accidents on beach road, & a 40 minute history of Fort Kochi.
Walking south-east down Princess street, you hit more restaurants & tea shops than you could enjoy in two days time. However, in general, our experience was that the spicing of the curries was really subtle compared to what we had expected, & Mr. Walton later attributed this to the weather, the Anglo-Indian palette, & the European crowd which usually frequents these restaurants. Walking past these, you reach the Vasco house where Vasco De Gama stayed for a while, & then died. And then you hit the St. Francis church - a potuguese church built in the 16th century. Right beside the church, a football match was on with a fair sprinkling of fans glued to it & cricket, in a rare twist, was being played on the sidelines much as a surrogate sport.
You can get back to Chinese nets & walk west on the shore amidst ice-cream & the chana vendors, past the gunnery recovered from the now submerged Fort Immanuel & find a place to sit & watch the sun go down into the Arabian sea. Walking back into the town, make sure you buy some fresh catch of the day & take it along to a restaurant who will cook these for you. The restaurant we went to was Casa Linda & they did something really delicious with the lobster, the prawns & the Karimeens that we bought.
The other part of the town - Mattancherry - is where the Dutch palace, cemetery & the Jewish synagogue is. The cemetery again brings back thoughts of how we do not do a great job of preserving our history. The synagogue is a wonderful sight & continues to attract plentiful people from across the globe. The Dutch palace has some very erotic murals from Hindu mythology. The room though is not well-lit & the ASI while not doing a great job of preserving & restoration, has found wonderful ways to describe the erotica in very palatable terms. The teeming art bazaar in Mattancherry is a good place to look at some fine painting which are priced more or less by the size of the canvas. One of the shop owners said that Indians spend money on gold & land only & nobody buys art.
While in Fort Kochi, you must eat at Dal Roti. And you must walk the labyrinths of this centuries old town teeming with history, blood & folklore. You must buy some fish & have it cooked for you. And you must get rid of your watch.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The bus ride to Wieskirche was rather event less except perhaps we were the only people on that bus who were going to weiskirche. So we got a little chatty with the driver only to find out how to get back to Fussen & the like. The sky was murky, & the church stood rather non-descriptively beneath it.
Those of you who have not seen the Weiskirche will draw little from my description, devoid as it will be of nuances of rococo. But what we saw was absolutely breath-taking & we lingered on for quite a while.
Waiting for the bus back, I had to quickly go relieve myself in the basement lavatory of the market outside the church. Upon arriving back on earth, I found that absolutes sheets of torrential rain were drenching everything around, & that my wife is nowhere to be seen. I decided to wait over a cigarette, & as I was puffing away, I managed to see the headlights of a bus flickering as if something incredibly urgent depended on it. Looking closer I saw my wife gesticulating wildly at me from inside the bus - she was holding it for me - so, grudgingly as always, I stubbed out the half-smoked stick & ran towards the bus.
It was being driven by the same person who had brought us to the wieskirche. I went up to him to pay. He asked if we had paid once to get to the foothills of the castles & another time to get to weiskirche. To this, I said yes. He then refused to accept a ticket payment from us arguing that our payments had already exceeded the amount for a day-ticket. I generaly do not argue against not having to pay up, but all this niceness around did something to me & I pressed him for a payment. He simply refused each time mustering whatever English lay at his disposal.
Antara & I sat back & started looking out at the resplendent rain-washed roads, & the castles in the distance.
Friday, November 16, 2007
So there we were, trying not look anybody in the eye. I finally figured out a way to arrange the suitcases & myself in a less dramatic posture. The group sitting around us consisted of two elderly gentlemen, one young woman, & two college-age boys. One of the elderlies who had been considering our state for sometime decided to break the silence & proceeded to make conversation. Now, my general experience in the US had been that not too many strangers asked very direct specific questions, they ask general questions & you're can fill in whatever details you wanted at your own judgment. This person obviously did not believe in that kind of a thing. He first wanted to know if we were students & proceeded to ask exactly what we did if we did not study, how long had been in the US, how long was our vacation in Munich - you know, stuff which produces simple, direct, truthful answers , not unlike a visa interview. Having established our credentials, he proceeded to share some of his own. He said that they were from MD, USA & are returning from a holiday in Kiev. They had a flight home in the evening & were going to Munich meanwhile.
At this point, he asked me the question I was avoiding to ask myself. He asked how in the world Antara & I proposed to take the luggage from the station to the hotel. I produced maps & directions pointing out that it was about 100 meters from the station & we might take a taxi or one person will do all the moving, say two pieces of luggage at a time, while the other stood at the station. He listened & gave me a the kind of look a headmaster gives a pupil from whom he expected better. He simply said that they'll walk with us with our luggage to our hotel. I tried to protest, but he was not really asking me if we could do what he said, he was telling me exactly what we would do.
The short walk was over soon. I carried the heaviest suitcase, he carried the second heaviest, the young boys carried 3 lighter cases between them & Antara just carried one. They quickly departed as soon as we had checked in, having shaken my hand firmly & not even exchanging names, leaving us to feel warm & grateful on a Sunny Monday Munich morning.
*This is a series on people I've met during my travels. Most of these encounters were short, but left lasting memories.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Drew Westen has written this very interesting book called "Political Brain: The role of emotion in deciding the fate of the nation" & it has some remarkable insights into the human decision-making model. Apparently, & rather sensibly (with the advantage of hindsight), it appears that evolutionarily the rational part of the brain developed way later than emotional part & Westen theorizes based on ample experimental data that our decision-making continues to be largely an emotional activity & rationality has little part to play in it.
This is precisely why economists like Manmohan Singh may fail at popular elections & folks like Narendra Modi & Lalu Yadav continue to be champions of the political game. Well, my intention is to not bracket Modi & Yadav in the same bracket because that's how I see them as politicians, but more because they have an element of identity with the masses (at least a good majority) & connect with them at levels beyond the intellectual.
Clinton would do well to do less balancing. Because the votes she is going to get out of folks who will value her for that kind of a thing are not nearly going to be enough.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Things started off rather splendidly this morning over an Einstein brother's bagel. Spinach Florentine, for those of you who are sordid sticklers for detail. Wash that down with what seems like a gallon of coffee, & you have just the right amount of fidgety energy to take the longest route back home listening to Car Talk on NPR, as you meander your way through nameless trees turning fancy shades of red & its various hexadecimal variants on what is a spectacularly sunlit day with a light breeze blowing.
NPR, by the way, finished its Fall Campaign yesterday where they aimed at raising a million or so dollars from gullible suckers, though some of them are really rich, like me. Of course, I almost cried at their plea. I definitely sniffed audibly enough & contributed a mammoth sum of 5 dollars - striking a terrible balance between a troubled conscience & an empty pocket. Somehow, I don't think they announced my contribution on air, but I listen to NPR only when I'm in the car, & it is more than likely that I missed the announcement.
Well, it is still a beautiful Saturday. I wish you were here & we could go get some coffee. Or stroll through the rather deserted streets on this idyllic day. I'm feeling inspired today, & may do more in the way of contributing to a conversation than just staring.
Today is Mahanavami - pretty much the pinnacle of the Bengali cultural calendar which they celebrate by visiting more pooja-pandals than the assortment of Gods & Goddesses in Hinduism, in numbers for which we have no definitions. Of course, I'm talking about Calcutta. My wife, her mother, her brother & his wife, & my parents, being in Bangalore, lived it up by visiting about 4 of them & consuming sumptuous portions of "loochi-maangsho" thanking, I'm sure, the Goddess for her immense piety & supplies. Christ, as much as we all may be blessed by him - especially the socially backward castes in India - simply does not inspire the same hearty feeling of a household & hearth that Durga does with her four children & ten hands. My mum often says, without any of my own sacrilegious edge, that she cannot get us all that we want when we want because she is not ten-handed like the Goddess Durga.
Well, now all this blasphemy is in writing because I could not just tell you about it over a coffee or something.
It's all your bloody fault!
satyasyapihitam mukhamAs you may know, the motto part is just the third line. But it kind of distorts the context in which it makes more sense. This you can read here. I remember the teacher, a very humourous & knowledgeable gentleman who was absolutely against sparing the rod, put particular emphasis on "pushann" - the sustainer. He did so to underscore the importance of nurturing & nourishment in education & that this bringing out of inner talent (hiranmayena) is a rather slow process.
He went on to add that "dandaa maarke sar phodke pratibha bahar naheen aa saktee" though he hardly ever followed his own counsel.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Coming to the Virginia's high-tech corridor time & again has reduced coming here to an absolute non-event. That's not necessarily a bad thing because that invariably implies how smoothly I can now work with the system here. Of course, the wide roads help & my mammoth Mitsubishi Gallant is a trifle challenging to steer after the Maruti Zen.
It is slightly chilly early in the morning. I did not really break into a sweat after a 30-minute run at 5:30 in the morning. Well, 5:30 not so much because I'm a hard running fanatic (which I'd like to be) but more on the lines of inability to sleep having crashed at 9:30 last night.
Plenty of time on my hands, a great opportunity to read all that I haven't read. And may be, just may be, drink a wheat beer. Or two.
Monday, October 01, 2007
sarfaroshi kee tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai
dekhna hai zor kitna baju-e-quatil mein hai
karta nahin kyoon doosra koochh baatcheet
dekhta hoon main jise woh chup teree mehfil mein hai
Ei shaheed-e-mulquo-millat main tere upar nisaar
ab teree himmat ka charcha gair kee mehfil mein hai
waqt aane de bata denge tujhe ei aasmaan
hum abhee se kya bataayein kya hamare dil mein hai
kheench kar laayee hai sabko qatl hone kee ummeed
aashiquon ka jamghat aaj koocha-e-quatil mein hai
#Aamir's rendition later in the movie
yoon khada maqtal mein quatil keh raha hai baar baar
kya tamanna-e-shahadat bhee kisi ke dil mein hai
- Ramprasad Bismil
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The Project sponsor/boss: This is the person who actually has institutional power. You do not. But you need to be in his good books, prove that you're capable of handling your own team & that this frees his time up for other activities that need his attention. A good amount of confidence from your boss in you will surely influence what you mean to your team.
The power of knowledge: You're leading the team because you know more & have more experience. Make sure that this shows. Be careful so as not to discourage your team, & be extra careful not to slip into micro-managing problems that aren't supervisory. Establish your credentials & be available. Some managers detest any hands-on help, however; if you ask your team-members, they often look up to a manager who'll role up his sleeves & work with them.
The power of camaradrie: To whatever extent possible, be a friend to your team. If your team lunches together anyway, that's great. If not, do what you can to increase more social/personal interaction in your team. Remember that 'trust' is the intangible component of all delivery models. Throw a challenge to your team, & make sure you lose!
The power of humility: Often unexplored, but a manager/supervisor walking up to a team-member asking for help (& not demanding a task) is a great team-builder. This demonstrates the authority in a given matter of your team member over your own, & thus reduces his insecurity. In return, there'll be more acceptance of your say in the matters of the project.
General: If you need them to stay long hours on certain days, what will you do to make sure that they get the afternoon off when there isn't much happening? On a busy day, will you prepare the status report instead of your team member? Can you create responsibility-centers in your team so as to empower your team members? who are you growing to be you?
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
My first impression upon entering
Secondly, I was happy to find a fine non-chain coffee shop next to the hotel we stayed at. Sure, you'll find the McDonald s & the Starbucks, but why go to
The metro is rather straight forward & runs in a U sort of a loop through downtown
Well, the rainy Saturday finally came around to lunch hour & it was at Le Papillion that we found our most memorable moments of
Yes, we also took a boat ride on the
Day II was
I liked my time in
July 13th, 14th & 15th, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
There are some people who are not all wrapped up in this monosyllabic, all-encompassing, charged up message that seems to describe everything from a Tendulkar ton (hasn't happened lately) to a 9% Q1 GDP growth; these are the CPM. Nothing ever makes them happy. In fact, it is far easier to say what the CPM are against than it is to say what they are for. They are against "operationalizing" the nuclear deal with a detailed understanding of exactly what it entails, they're against the the communal BJP, & they're against pulling out of the government, as they're against joining it. After a while, it reads like something of a corollary of the famous Holmes axiom "When you've factored in all that you're against , whatever remains, however improbable, must be what you stand for".
What remains though, unfortunately, is underdevelopment. Stability, yes but no industries. Or nothing at least to reckon with.
The CPM is the last-party standing in the way of a mass-hysteria of Chak De India. They're not going away without a fight. How dare you replace all the fancy "isms", ethics & revolutionary stuff? The common man must remain so. Always.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
So what really is the bandwidth that your ISP provides for your home internet connection? Can you believe that Sify actually qualifies a 128 Kbps connection as Broadband , when the Government of India, rather lamely I must admit, defines a broadband connection to be at least 256 Kbps? Lamely beacuse, 256 Kbps is NOT broadband. Broadband is enough bandwidth to make a telephone call over the internet with no lags of any kind, enough bandwidth to view media-rich web sites as if they were all text. Internationally, anything less than 2 Mbps is not broadband.
I'm really struggling with getting a ISP to provide me good service at J P Nagar. I called Sify & they never called back. BSNL, I'm told, provide relatively hassle-free connections, but they take two-months. Reliance does provide broadband with speeds "upto" 2000 Kbps, though just about everybody I talked to advised me to avoid Reliance. And Airtel does not have service in the J P Nagar area.
And all this in Bangalore.
Monday, August 27, 2007
August 6th to August 10th, 2007
Our room in Hotel Dolomite, the culmination of my search for an affordable hotel in Munich, turned out to be a cubicle with two 2x5&1/2 beds & a Television set & a rather small but modern & well-equipped bathroom. It was mighty difficult to walk in the room without tripping over something. However, it was a very short-walk from the Hauptbahnhoff, or the Central station, & this proved to be a great help to our mobility in Germany. At 55 Euros per day, this wasn't very bad at all for the number of hours we actually spent in the room, mostly asleep.
See this website for booking.
Depending on your length of stay & the extent of travel, it is advisable to buy rail passes. There are plentiful kinds available depending on how many are traveling & for how long you intend to travel. The best place to book this, if you're in the US, is this. Make sure to check the normal ticket prices before you buy so you can be sure that buying a pass will save you money. The website for all your rail travel related information is this. A rail pass is valid for all transports on Deutsche Bahn, including U-Bahns (underground/metro/subway system within Munich), the S-Bahn (Train system for suburbs of Munich) the trams, the Inter city expresses & anything else that has the DB logo. The DB system is your best bet for traveling in Bavaria.
What to see:
The best thing to do is to pick up a lonely planet & read it. Munich has more stuff to be seen than we could manage in two days, but expect a lot of churches & palaces each one rendered in a particular style of Architecture. Baroque & Rococo appear many times in their classical as well as south German varieties. Munich should draw plentiful Architecture tourists. That apart, you should explore the narrow cobbled streets of the Altstadt & be sure to pay a visit to one of the many Beer gardens in Munich. We went to the Hofbrauhaus & guzzled down beer by the liter. Yes, by the liter. If you're a wimp, you can buy half-liter sizes for certain brews [radler, for example, which is lager beer & lemonade that comes in 0.51 liter size], but not all. Visit the Olympic museum & the BMW museum which are close to each other. Walk the Viktualienmarkt & ogle at the varied selection of cheese & meat. Go to Dachau & see what a concentration camp was like & marvel at the ruthlessness of supremely planned tyrannies, reflect again on what one man can do to another, & how trivial, perhaps, your own problems really are. The list of museums too is endless.
What to eat:
Pigs, simply. They come camouflaged as sausages usually served with sauerkraut [which is really pickled cabbage] & some kind of dressing - say, mustard. But you have no clue as to how many finger-licking different ways this rather simple arrangement is served in until you actually get there. Look up wikipedia for more details, I was too busy eating to notice the rather longish names of these dishes. But make sure you eat the Munich variety - the white sausage. And look like a local by drowning it all with a wheat beer. Roasted Pork knuckles is a Bavarian local pig-thing to eat. Its rather meaty & not quite as bony or cartilegy as it sounds. The restaurant we frequented did not even have chicken on its list, but if you're a Vegetarian, you should find plentiful things to eat at other places - none of which I actually went to. Turkish food is also big in Munich with Doner Kebabs available just about everywhere. We also wanted to try out the Baklava, but the turks had already eaten it all. There are plentiful Chinese places & we also spotted an Indian one which we walked past, rather rapidly. At the Hauptbahnhoff & throughout Germany there are many cafes to snack. I took a liking to the cappuccino & usually devoured a nice little croissant for breakfast. Antara chose apples, strangely.
With our hotel & rail passes already paid for, our daily expenses were not too terrible, especially with my increasing liking of something porcine on a platter. In a full-fledged sit-down restaurant, an entre will cost you at least 9 Euros - & the portions are good for one. A typical breakfast for two typically cost us about 10-12 Euros & a liter of beer about 4 to 6 Euros depending on what you're drinking. Both the Doner Kebabs & Chinese restaurants are cheaper than this & if you're fine with eating out of hot-dog stalls - thats even better. The bulk of the expenses for us, outside gluttony, were museum tickets. On the average, we spent about 70 - 90 Euros a day, not including hotel & the rail pass. We mostly transacted with cash, though we had no difficulty using the American Express.
Like I said, I have so much more unseen in Munich & yet it was one of my best vacations ever. Just about everybody speaks English & the information centers are incredibly helpful. Travel & site-seeing is so organized that it is almost impossible to get lost. The food, as you may have figured, is drool-worthy & the sights are jaw-dropping. There is plenty of history & there are the BMWs. It rained a bit during our stay, & that was probably the only dampener during our stay there. Go to Bavaria, if you get a chance, & bring back remembrances of a lifetime!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
However, how can you really resist a political position? :) Well, the fact is you probably cannot. The CNN & YouTube debate today was quite outstanding both in terms of the variety of topics that were talked about as well as manner in which the questions were framed. In different areas of the country, there were different reactions to who really won the day, & though, it appeared to me, the media experts took the safe position of rallying behind Clinton, the New Hampshire focus group put her in the 4th position behind Obama, Biden & such.
So beyond what I know & believe about each candidate, I really wish it is Obama who emerges a winner just to prove my own philosophy that History has a way of favouring the improbable. So much for political acumen.
Clinton is doing pretty well herself, but ever so often she answers as the fore-runner. While media experts constantly call this 'showing leadership', I think that it is a bit uncalled for.
I like Richardson & find him fairly precise as well as detail-oriented, someone who draws well from the past without necessarily coming across as blowing his horn. But then again, I might have thought differently if he was the fore-runner. Also, if ever there is a compromise in the future, 7 richardson decides to join either Obama or Clinton as the vice-Presidential candidate, i think that'd really make a winning pair.
I feel sorry for John Edwards. He has constantly tried to take on the front-runners with little success, & even in the way of stirring up controversy, he has done little resorting as he does to often-repeated rhetorical stances.
I guess we'll see.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I got into this conversation with a colleague over lunch & talked about gun control, & the state of creationism & the religious right here in the US - you know, the kind of juicy "isms" that make me salivate.
We had many commonalities in our opinions though these were borne out of different experiences;well, I should say that Joe's were experiences that involved real people & mine were accumulated from print & electronic media. What did you expect anyway?
The course of the conversation led JB & me to talk about how religious texts need to be examined in the social context of their origin. I was tactless enough to throw in how all religions really had tribal, pagan origins & assorted ramifications. This, though, isn't correct of all religions, particularly of Jainism, & Buddhism.
The two further extrapolations I had in mind coming from this thread were that pagan, tribal societies had hard, well-defined,value systems (if you're not with us, you're against us etc), & that ambivalence/intellectual honesty is really a modern thing - particularly characteristic, in the US at least, of the generation X - another topic of conversation with JB.
And then I read this.
I was wrong. Again. The rigveda, for a document that predates most known bodies of knowledge, actually is ambivalent about the creation of the universe. Yes, the Vedas talk about Gods before the "trinity" culture became mainstream Hinduism. But even so, for a book that old, if that wasn't ambivalence & intellectual honesty, then.... whatever (ambivalence etc)
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Then, one time, I had to explain this whole thing about how usually in a family with both a daughter & son, customarily the daughter gets married first. This led to many hypothetical questions about many-children-families & the associated ramifications about age differences & the like.
And then, making sense of arranged marriage was about the hardest thing to do. Admittedly, it works & has worked for a while & there are possibly good cultural reasons for it. My problem was actually more about explaining the set up process in the process of which I, perhaps injudiciously, mentioned the word "pageant"... needless to say; I could not rescue my explanations from that point onwards.
Americans think of Indian food, Indian traditions & Indian IT.
Indians, to the contrary, think of the Punjabi Tandoor, the Tamil Pongal, the Bangalore IT scene, the power corridors of Delhi, the ever-prospering Gujaratis & do not think at all of the North-Eastern states.
The whole, it appears, could not be farther, in our hearts & minds, from the parts.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
And so there is NPR. Personally, at a broad level, what I find really engaging about NPR is its complete lack of regionalism. Though American, & always covering what is happening in the US, the station does not miss out on anything of any significance on the world stage & generates ample quality discussions about even non-standard news content like science & technology. The quality of the moderators in all NPR discussions is exemplary, & the degree of its audience's engagement is usually intense.
NPR is my cup of morning tea. Sometimes, I wish my 10 minute commute to office was longer.
You can find your local NPR station here.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I reckon we can safely say that Americans love beer. Whether in college, or in a corporate get-together, beer is consumed heartily. Microbrews, however, give a whole new meaning to the rather commonplace understanding that beer is a barley based alcoholic beverage which comes bottled from faraway places.
In the Microbreweries that I've been to, beer is a seasonal drink continuously in flux. There is the ale, & there is the lager. There are the stout beers, & there are the crisp & bright yellow of the weizen beers. Microbreweries are one of the most popular places to socialize, & of the many ways to spend a great evening with friends.
So the next time you're in the
Monday, April 30, 2007
Why be a foodie? Why not eat for a better metabolism than for gustation? Why count calories & why confuse prime ribs with animal rights?
To answer such questions of immense consequence & to document our experiences through our taste buds, Antara & I have started a blog together. Of course, my own contribution to this togetherness is a photograph that features on the blog - which I'm trying to get removed. My role in this endeavour, I hope, will continue to be 'advisory' - which means no real work -; so while you're at liberty to criticize the posts & the content, you may do so with no threat of any reprisals from me.
Salivaah is then the culmination of about five seconds of thinking. To be completely honest with you, my interest in food begins primarily at the dining table & not too much earlier. However, I've been known, in my time, to do strange things to eggs. Hopefully, I'll put something up soon.
So there you are. A food blog primarily by Antara, with me hanging in there somewhere, somewhat obscurely. Just the way I like it...
Saturday, April 07, 2007
It all started on February 18th. We were driving to DC & a green light turned yellow - as they often do when you're about to miss a bus or train. While some people, sometimes labeled "normal", may experience an urge to slow down, I had the exact opposite exhortation. I sped & got to the intersection just after the light had turned red. Which was all fine for people around here are incredibly nice. However, there was one slight glitch. Or, a cop.
The officer chased me down & had me cornered, thanks to some prudence of my own - though kind of late -, before the next signal. He checked my India Driving license, & not my passport. He listened to what i had to say, including my precise narration of the
He then produced a second ticket, just as I was about to roll the window up & drive away. This one, he said, was for driving without license. Or a local license. My encore performance of State Driving law rendition seemed to have fallen on deaf ears or, at the very least, ears that do not listen very well. However, as a gesture of whatever he thought it was a gesture of, he told me that the judge will probably let me go if I did get a local license before my court hearing. Nice as ever, he did wish me a good night & a safe drive home.
Exactly how I went about procuring my local license, a story in itself, is another story. In summary, as I drove to the court today, I had my local license, my
I soon learnt that Justice was on his way & goes by the name "Buttery"! Well, if there is one name a Judge should not have, it is buttery. I mean, imagine the ordeal. Can Buttery be greased, etc? Well, there I was musing on these funny lines when he called my name - rather well, mind you -, & I was facing him trying to not laugh or some such thing.
Well, it turned out that Justice Buttery was an incredibly nice chap; he ignored my yawning, & kept me there for precisely 5 minutes. The case was over before it had begun. I was found "Not Guilty"
And what better way to celebrate than to say a boo to another yellow light on the way back. Only this time, it hadn't turned red.
Friday, March 09, 2007
I pointed out that I'm an atheist & feel uncomfortable campaigning for purely religious issues; however, I understood that his position was really against political manifestations of religious protectionisms prevalent in our country primarily as a means of electoral strategy. And some forms of these protections & allowances are outrageous & I'm against these just as I'm against reservations in jobs & graduate schools while maintaining that the scope of education should be improved so that it enables people enough so that reservations are not needed.
At the same time, the increasing clout of political Islam is certainly obvious & dangerous to the extent it stems from Wahabism, is reactionary, is exclusive & is intolerant, & this will continue to be the case as long as there is Saudi money flowing into Mecca & being dissipated to the rest of the Muslim world preaching Wahabism.
So that is my limited knowledge on the subject. I know next to nothing about Hinduism. I do not know even how to define a Hindu. I know that people have killed in the name of religion for centuries & we're the only species capable of killing or giving up our own lives for an idea.
I think that reform, neither propaganda nor protective laws, is the answer. And it has to come from within. It is at these times we can look back & appreciate why the Renaissance was an event of such colossal importance.
It is time for heroes.
Monday, February 19, 2007
A good case in point is hunting. Hunting has its roots in survival. It was important as a means of survival - both as the source of food & the ability to kill a predator. Later, this was an exercise in pleasure, a hobby or a pastime. At the time, I'm sure, nobody examined seriously the moral implications of killing another animal for fun. Later still, we discovered ecological reasons for maintaining the fauna & giving it a chance to survive & flourish - this again, was not a moral choice but more of long-term commitment to the well-being of the planet in general. Then we had laws against the wanton killing of endangered species.
Usha's post about animals for amusement is one example of seeing things hitherto unseen from a moral perspective. A circus traditionally is wonderful, it is entertaining & fills us with awe, or makes us laugh or aims to attend some such end. If dogs can be trained to sniff drugs, elephants should be able to kick a football - & the questions of morality alone had not crossed my mind. At the same time, the methods & the general condition of animals are important though I did not see monstrosity alone whenever I went to a circus.
The questions that Usha raises are legitimate, however. But my point is not about what she asks. My point is ultimately about looking at issues from a moral perspective where historically it has been absent.
I think that it is important to understand this evolution of morality & appreciate its context. The term "barbaric" is sometimes used very loosely in our histories. Imagine that tag being applied to us if the world turns completely vegetarian in the year 2050.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
But my own transition towards a public denial of a supernatural God did not need these books. When I was in my early-twenties, I used to say I was an agnostic, without so much of a clue as to what that was supposed to mean, meaning that I do not care what you believe in as long as what you believe is something you don't want my participation in. So you could be a Hindu, Muslim or Christian, but what I really wanted to know was if you could be relied on for a smoke & a tea.
At the time, 9/11 was still fresh, the London bombings had not happened, & while there was considerable history of religious riots in India, I had no concrete idea of things & why they are the way they are.
Whatever has happened between those early years of this decade till now - & that includes both domestic & international incidents, & my own ways of thinking & understanding the world - has transformed me from the nonchalant apologist I pretended to be - I was always a non-believer, really - to someone who sees religions as totally useless & religiosity as downright vile.
Nevertheless, my wonder at how people can & do walk the middle-path so convincingly remains. I also think that the middle-path is a more complex experience.
Yet, I just don't think that these are questions of complexity anymore than performance-enhancing drugs make a case for general well-being.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Besides, that question cannot be raised. Simply because there were no different groups of men. There are men who have been differentiated because of their environments. So currently there are societies that are differentiated from other societies not because of their intrinsic intelligence but that's just as important as the fact that these differences exist. While Diamond's book shows a case for how societies came to be the way they are, it certainly does not say that all societies/people are, by any means, equal in the present day world.
But somewhere along the line, I seem to feel that we live or try to live in denial of this simple fact. The egalitarian approach is merely a noble approach; it does not reflect reality. In fact, the egalitarian approach is actually in conflict with the innate human desire to categorize & classify.
Using race, ethnicity or gender to classify & categorize may just be full of biases & prejudices, & it can be ugly when it receives political or wide societal sanction - but it is terribly foolish to negate these influences altogether from all that is of any importance. Our biological identity - where we are all equal - is not our strongest sense of identity after all.
All men are created equal. Nope. All men were created equal.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
One of our pillars of identity is what we eat. In fact, what we eat can be so parochial in nature is that if you try to arrive at the idea of a nation based on food habits – as is possible in a foreign land – the whole analysis is practically useless in the way of categorization but does harbour serious possibilities as farce.
So, say for example, some tourist has been, just by chance, to an Andhra - style restaurant & has had a sumptuous thali, complete with that fiery Rasam. It is just incredibly funny to think Rasam & rice could then in her mind, oblivious to vastness & the consequent variety of our country, become some thing like an Indian dish – devoured with smacking relish across our vast country, with eulogies emanating from the deep recesses of devourer’s guttural abyss.
While I personally love a well made pongal – the kind you get in Chennai more often than you do in Bangalore, the pregnant silence that make its presence felt when I voice this opinion in a group of people who belong to the north of the Vindhyas makes me want to dive into a suitcase & pull the top tight & securely.
Bengalis are fish-eaters. That’s banana oil, you know. Give them something piscine you’ve scooped up from a sea & regardless of the content of your bookshelf, or your political point of view, they’ll brand you as loutish tykes unworthy of their society.