Monday, 18 September 2017

Random thoughts 18092017

Does it surprise you to find a whole lot of apparently educated , supposedly intelligent and professedly neutral people getting carried away by propaganda and even abetting it by using twisted logic  ? Actually there is no surprise in all this muted support by these I-am-not-a-Bhakt-but types. These people are overwhelmingly from the urban middle-class category .

They feel happy with the grandiose dreams that are being shown to them and they also believe in them . They are also more selfish and eye both the rich and poor with a lot of animosity. But since they need the rich to get the bones from the table , they behave properly and wag their tails dutifully. Occasionally they complain with a whimpering voice to draw attention. But they are very particular about the strays that howl outside. They would never like the strays to enter the beautiful house because that would mean sharing of the bones. So at the behest of their capitalist bosses they bark, growl , chase away the weak pariahs and keep them away, as far as practicable from the gravy train.

And regarding the defence of everything the government does or actually doesn't , please remember that everything has its positives depending how you perceive and argue. It doesn't need great intellectual capacity or the mind of an ideologue to establish the benefit of something gross and unnecessary. Anybody can do that. You need a good propaganda machine to spread the benefits of  even something as unnecessary as snake oil. Don't believe me ? Then please read the next paragraph and tell me .

For example - Open defecation is also good. It helps to supply manure to the soil . This manure helps the grass to grow . That grass nourishes the cows grazing on the fields. Those cows give more milk . That extra milk helps the farmer to earn extra money . That extra money is spent on buying consumer goods. Those goods are sold with applicable GST. That GST goes to the government coffers. This money is spent on repaying loans . That enables us to take new loans to build Bullet trains. ..............

Hope you get the drift. 😑😶

Friday, 15 September 2017

Random thoughts 15092017

A lot is being made of how great a deal has been made on the so called Bullet train project by getting a huge loan at a negligible rate of interest. As if the loan doesn't need to be repaid at all.  And the loan has been availed without any strings attached for the development of India with the most altruistic reasons by the Japanese. If  the loan is so cheap that you don't have to pay almost no interest at all , then why not spend it on medical and educational infrastructure throughout the country instead of a high speed train system that will benefit only a particular region .  Belies logic.

How many medical colleges , hospitals  and research institutions could be built with this money , can you guess ? And they would all pay a huge dividend in terms of health, education , job creation and small scale industries instead of helping brokers from Gujarat to visit Mumbai and have their tipple. The whole thing is a total bullshit in terms of cost effectiveness and long range planning.

It is surprising how the simple fundamentals of the development narrative is being construed as a route to embark on grandiose schemes without bothering to address the priorities. The nearest analogy that comes to mind is that of a poor or middle class person splurging on the funeral of his father by inviting the whole village for a grand meal to show off his social commitments when the roof of his house is leaking and his children not even having school uniforms to wear.

By neglecting or abdicating the  responsibilities the governments , central or state are pushing the country into a dark hole . By 2020 onwards India will be the country with the largest population. Consequently we will also become the country with the largest population of aged , infirm , malnourished and illiterate. This will continue for years if the basics are not altered. Can you hear the time bomb ticking . And with due respect to the great votaries of free market , the situation can never be reversed , even arrested by outsourcing the administration of the social sectors to the private investors. The democratically elected government is by the people  and it has to work for the people. There can be no ifs and buts, justifications , comparisons or semantics. As of now there is no roadmap or efforts to address this fact of life that stares at us.

Along with that as a nation we will be constrained to live with a weak human genetic pool both physically and intellectually. Further , the absence of research in medicine , science and technology will make us perpetually dependent on the developed nations for our needs.  We will remain forever a hostage to the multinational corporations for medicines and technology.  Do we even understand the import of the neglect.  Indians were used as indentured labour to grow sugarcane in Caribbeans, lay railroad in Africa, coolies in Southeast Asia , fight wars in Afghanistan and Mesopotamia and presently write software codes in the Silicon valley. The service industry we boast of is just an exploitative system that thrives on our inadequacies . If we are happy with that then we can live in our fool's paradise as long as the fires of hell don't roast us.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Random thoughts 14092017

The speech made by the  Indian  National Congress  party VP  at Berkeley university was neither a great piece of oratory nor an erudite exposition . It was a simple , sober and straightforward speech without frills but with political overtones and he was candid enough to admit mistakes .  That a speech  by the de-facto head of their political rival should draw the ire of the ruling party is not surprising. But the reaction and the rebuttal of the speech by multiple press conferences and the deployment of more than two dozen Union ministers along with various party functionaries for this purpose is  somewhat jarring.

This overkill has two facets to it. Firstly the BJP is not ready , as is it's wont, to  allow even a small dent to their self created facade of  achievement and development , propped up by clever propaganda . They are ready to go all out for every opposition to their goals and agenda , whatever that may be. They are ready to use heavy artillery   for a seemingly innocuous criticism . And they want to show this to everybody else in a blatant display of power and arrogance.

Secondly they are still uncertain about their footing. In the heart of their hearts , they know very well that they have done nothing . Their agenda of hype over nationalism  has faded over the ground realities of non performance and  ground realities of a sluggish economy. The other divisive tactics of polarisation over religion , however is a poison ivy with deep roots and difficult to be uprooted . But more than that what gives them the inferiority complex is that the quality of the leaders and the governance that they offer fall much short of expectations . The personality cult aided by co-option has not really helped as no sensible person can continuously digest the gap between their promises made and delivered. Further nobody other than two persons and a close coterie of outsiders have any say on anything . And that includes people in the party with a lot of administrative and political experience.

But still they continue to be confident . And this confidence actually stems from the bunch of lazy, compromised, self seeking , fragmented and a directionless opposition who lend succour to the ruling party by default . Even as so many  Union ministers came out to speak against the said speech , hardly any opposition leader supported it. Even his own party did not put up a strong defense or bothered to highlight the contents of his speech. If that is not lethargy , then what is ?

The real worry of the political leaders in opposition is the drying up of funds and the spectre of CBI cases hanging on them , rightly or wrongly for their various ommissions and commissions. Actually , it is a sad commentary on our polity that the stronger opposition leaders who have a mass following are all compromised . Moreover their old style of politics involving  money and appeasement have been busted . The other point to note is that presently all these opposition political parties barring a few do not have any ideological locus standi to speak of . Their stance is guided more by opportunistic alignments but never against capitalism. Given a chance they will further the interests of crony capitalists themselves. The lip service to socialism and democracy that they profess actually has made the rise of fascism , capitalism and communalism possible in this country.  

Politics and its dimensions may have changed . But the basics have remained the same , in spite of the changes. Grass root mobilization , people's movement, opinion building  and mass participation are the four pillars of a political entity. But for this the leaders have to hit the roads and inhale the dust. Whatever opposition that the country sees now are in the realm of spontaneous outbursts of indignation.  But such outbursts have a tendency of getting corrupted by self seeking lumpen elements and lose their credibility.  What is needed now is a crystallisation of the opposition to really put up a fight .  Because the portents are getting murky . 2019 will be a make or break year . We may wish that 2004 will repeat itself but then wishes are not horses. And the  opposition can't  take voters as Santa Claus .

Dark night

Let this darkness prevail tonight,
we will explore
its unknown mystery  together.
Nothing else to come between us
in this pitch-black night ,
not even the scruples of morality.
The only reality of this night
is the union of our bodies
to the vertex of pleasure .
This night will not last forever
and when the dawn breaks in,
the lights from the skies will peep
to bring back those silly feelings
of guilt , pangs of regret .
So forget everything, 
be with me tonight
to savour the opportunity
provided to us by this dark night.
We will celebrate
the rites of darkness in ecstasy.
It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong,
holy, unholy or sheer madness.
I love you and you love me,
and we need each other tonight
to complete the circle
of unfulfilled desire that binds us.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Lassitude

A lethargic  and humid afternoon ,
with no apparent reasons
to get busy  or even pretend
about some engagement.
I spend my time lazily
watching a cobweb
at the corners of the roof
swaying lightly with the fan .
I enjoy this illusion of stillness
that time weaves around me
like a giant spider .
Even as every moment perish
into oblivion , never to return.
Inertia takes over me
in its languorous embrace .
I take a deep breath
just to confirm that I'm alive
and everything is all right .
Then I close my eyes  to escape
from all that is right with my life
with a deep sense of abdication.

Random thoughts 11092017

You spend a lot of money for the education of your children. Sometimes a lot of money . Compared to the money spent on your own education by your parents, it may seem somewhat obscene  . But that gives you a feeling of satisfaction even if you are stretched beyond your means.You do  this to ensure a better future of your child . Because you are pragmatic  and believe that education is the best investment for the kid .

Let us stop here . If you believe that arranging the best education is a factor of your parental sentiment and your own expectations about the child , then I will accept it. Maybe it's not exactly correct to do so , but one can't argue over sentiments and feelings. But, what did you say, investment ?  Then please do a fact check like you do with all your investments. Are you investing your money wisely ? Are you sure that you are not wasting your money on an inferior product ? Do the education provided at all those places , beginning from the play-school to the coaching institutions worth their  money ?  And lastly , is your child getting to learn , appreciate and practice the value of his education or is it just an exercise to score brownie points over your neighbour .

There is no problem in doing your best to provide the best education for your child . But when it becomes an object of comparison like cars , flats, carpets or i-phones to show off your material status , it becomes a self fulfilling curse. Only, you realise it at a very late stage . And the price of your ambition or misplaced priorities is paid by the poor child . That is the tragedy .

Friday, 8 September 2017

Random thoughts 08092017

Often , I find many in my circle of friends and family ,who become very emotional and voluble on the subject of caste , particularly on caste based reservations  . Personally , I find the concept of caste to be obnoxious, abhorrent and inhuman.  But along with the same view let me also make it clear that  I do not support any form of reservation being extended till eternity to multiple generations of the same family. That creates the problem of privileges being usurped by the creamy layer within the so called backward castes  who monopolise and stop the flow of the benefits to those for whom it is intended , in the first place . But that is my personal observation and as a citizen of the country , I am expected to abide by the constitution and the laws passed by the legislature in a democratic country.

But clearly , even after seven decades , the blot of caste system has not been erased from our society , in particular from the followers of  the majority Hindu religion. From time to time, we come across different incidents , events and happenings which open our eyes to the proliferation of caste as a motif  in our social fabric .  A recent news item from Pune reveals that a lady  holding a senior level designation at the India Meteorological Department (IMD), has lodged an  FIR against another woman , who was employed as a cook by her , with charges of impersonation by suppressing her caste and marital status . Though news reports have not mentioned it, other allied charges  must also have been lodged against the accused , I am sure about it, because that is the way it is done. And mind it , all this happens  not in some rural hamlet , but in a city which is touted as high-tech and cosmopolitan .

It transpires that the requirement was for a married woman of Brahmin caste as a cook ostensibly for religious reasons and after more than a year of employment, the discovery that cook was neither a Brahmin nor married triggered the police complaint.  Now how or why the police accepted such an FIR is a bit of mystery to me as the logical corrollary should have been the immediate arrest of the complainant under the provisions of Article 15 of the Indian constitution which prohibits discrimination  on grounds of caste besides discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sex or place of birth .

I do not support the actions by the cook in falsifying her caste or marital status. But spare a thought for the reasons why she did it . It was to earn her living . When the certificates required for a job itself are such demeaning and discriminatory , where is the crime in faking them.  In a country where ministers and even army generals  have fake birth certificates and educational qualifications, she is now being hounded only because she is poor . Thank the heavens that she belongs to the same religion. Just imagine for a second , if she turned out to be a Christian or Muslim . What would have happened then ?  What would the lady do then ? How many kilos of Cowdung or how many buckets of Cowpiss  would have been required to purify ?

Some reports also refer the complainant as a Scientist . Now we can well imagine the level of science that is being pursued in the country by such noble souls. She is not alone .  We will find thousands of such "scientists"  in our country who still believe in the precedence of rituals in their religious beliefs and a strong conviction about the supremacy of their caste which they inherit by birth. As a citizen of the country these incidents shame us individually and collectively . As a person who was brought up as a Hindu , it  highlights the hollowness of the faith  which I am supposed to follow. As a literate person, it makes me wonder about the gaps in our education .

Shorn of the caste angle , the incident also provides insight to the faultlines of class conflict that exist  in the society  where the privileged can demand  and get the services of the underprivileged for a pittance. Suppose the cook was indeed  a Brahmin married lady . Then would this qualification enable  her to be treated at par with her employer socially?  If not , then what purpose does her higher- caste status serve ? And what happens to the principle of equality of all  ?  I don't have any answers to this.  I don't suppose the police inspectors bothered to consider all this ? As usual the administration represented by the police have done their job . They have sided with the socially powerful elite against a member of the less advantaged. The complainant can afford to engage lawyers to fight her case, the accused may not .

Let me very clear that even if it transpires later that the accused committed felony,  bore a bad character or any such accusations that can be made against her , the premises of discrimination done against her does not alter . She can be punished for all her acts of ommissions and commissions as provided under the law, but what about punishing a senior  government official for displaying such crass mentality and  disregard to the constitution.

And what about the Hindus ? Are they comfortable with this dominance by the upper castes to dictate on the religion or its rituals . If  anybody really thinks so, then my middle finger salute to the bigoted religious beliefs.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Excuse me please

Can we afford anymore
to sit and wait for them to understand,
those who don’t even understand
that they don’t understand.
There is a struggle that’s going on right now 
and you want me to be passive
because it’s dangerous to speak out .
You want me to sit through this rage,
you tell me to bear this pain
as it repeats again and then, again.
You want me to believe that this long list
of all these useless promises made
will come true one day.
You urge me to be patient
and give some more time
before it all folds up before my eyes,
all these values that I was taught to cherish.
Well you can say whatever you want,
but excuse me please;
I have no faith on these crooks.
They only sow the seeds of hatred
and leave us to reap
the hopeless harvest on desolate ruins .

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Rohingiya

The Rohingiya problem at the borders of Bangladesh and Myanmar  has all the portents to snowball into a serious conflagaration. Most of the Indians have no idea about the country beyond Guwahati in the east. So it will be too much to expect from people to be aware about who are Rohingiya people and what the problem really is. To most people, it is just a case of Muslims facing oppression by the Myanmarese in the Rakhine state and creating a refugee problem for Bangladesh, who are in turn thwarting the efforts by the refugees to cross over. Juxtaposed with the Syrian refugee crisis, terrorism and in the Islamic connection to strife across the world it becomes a volatile political issue in the context of an increasingly polarised Indian society. While some are busy screaming about the injustice and torment to the Muslims, some are creating a hype about the influx of Muslim refugees into India, particularly in the eastern states. Because as it looks, as of now, these refugees will surely cross borders and reach Bangladesh, which itself contributes to a large number of refugees every year to India. So it is natural and logical to expect that a sizeable number of these refugees will ultimately reach India too.

While many may be feeling something exotic about the word Rakhine and wondering how to pronounce it , please note that the state was earlier known as Arakan , just as Myanmar was known as Burma. It lies in the north western part of Myanmar and borders Chittagong district of Bangladesh which means it is very close to India’s Tripura , Mizoram and Manipur states too. Arakan may seem to be some foreign sounding place now, but actually before the 1940s it was very much a common name to many Indians, especially Bengalis. There are many old storiesand novels in Bengali  which refer to Arakan and particularly the Mog tribe of Arakan, who were portrayed, rightly or wrongly as bloodthirsty and cruel looters. In fact, the great exodus of Bengalis from Burma which took place after Burma was separated from India as a separate country in 1937 has many horror stories of the travails faced by the Bengalis who had to leave their jobs, wealth and honour in Burma at a very short notice and flee the country. All this happened within the last 80 years, not very long ago. And just for reference, the famous writer Saratchandra Chattopadhyay lived in Burma for a few years and has authored some great novels in the backdrop of Burma too. Even Rabindranath Tagore and Bibhutibhushan 

So, the reference of Arakan or Rakhine should ring a bell for many, particularly the Bengalis. The genetic diversity of the Indian subcontinent is large and very much complex. And in the Northeast, it just becomes a profusion of tribes, races, religions mingled in a pot pourri , yet bearing deep seated hostilities against one another. This is a tragedy. Very often, we find the situation turning bad because of all these deep prejudices based on anthropological reasons which can’t be explained at the surface level by a linear or logical manner. It is very difficult to take sides in any conflict if one tries to analyse the situation in depth.   

Rohingiyas are basically the ethnic community who migrated from Bengal to Arakan province of Burma when it was captured by the Muslim rulers of Bengal in the 15th century.  The language spoken by the Rohingiyas  is  derived from Bengali though it sounds entirely different. This should not come as a surprise because people from West Bengal find it difficult to follow the language spoken by those from East Bengal and particularly the dialect of Sylhet and Chittagong will sound entirely alien to someone born and brought up in Kolkata or Burdwan.  They don't use the Bengali scrip but Arabic , Urdu, Burmese and even Roman script to write their language. Before this the province was ruled by Buddhist  and Hindu rulers. Though Rohingiyas are now synonymous with Muslim religion as a community , there are still few Rohingiyas from both Hindu and Buddhist faiths. But the overwhelming majority belongs to the Sunni Muslim sect.

During the World War II , the jungles of Arakan  saw fierce fighting between the Japanese and the Allied forces. During this period the British armed the locals , particularly the Rohingiyas to stall the Japanese and the Azad Hind  Army as the Burmese were by and large aligned to Japanese . The Japanese were ruthless with the people of whichever areas they occupied and committed huge atrocities in the Arakan and other provinces . The Rohingiya Muslims wanted to be a part of East Pakistan and had even approached Jinnah for this but he was not interested to poke into Burmese territory.

Burma received its independence in 1948  and as a British legacy inherited the Rohingiya problem along with Kachin and Naga problems . The Rohingiyas , now in minority felt the heat from the Buddhist dominated Myanmarese  establishment which  refused to integrate them with citizenship. They  now appear to be unleashing a ethnic cleansing operation against the Rohingiyas. That the Rohingiyas started a struggle for a separate state, preferably Islamic,  has not helped . With the radicalisation of Islamic belief worldwide and the growth of various  terrorist organisations like ISIS etc. claiming to uphold the Islamic banner the whole problem has now assumed a totally different dimension. An outfit called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)  is presently at the forefront of bloody clashes with the Myanmar government. It was formed   by Rohingya living in Saudi Arabia . So the backers can be identified easily. The Myanmarese government labels them as Bengali insurgents , thereby implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Because Myanmar  (what Burma is now named) followed a policy of isolation and also due to our indifference to the Northeast , we along with the western world  have never paid attention to all these conflicts in that country . And all these are happening very near our borders and has the potential to create chaos. Bangladesh itself is grappling with the rise of fundamentalist and jihadi elements . The influx of Rohingiyas is seen as a threat to them demographically . So they are resisting the influx of these refugees who are facing the worst atrocities within Myanmar. It has created a tragic situation of homeless people , maybe less publicised but more miserable.

Behind all this human tragedy, religious conflict and seemingly routine fight for self determination lies a great geo political game . The poor Rohingiyas have got caught in this game .  Situated on the Bay of Bengal at the mouth of the Kaladan River, lies the port city of Sittwe, also called Akyab earlier by the British .  This port city is very old and though less known has a strong strategic relevance to the control of the Bay of Bengal.  It was  heavily damaged during World War II . The port was rebuilt, and it now handles both coastal and international trade. This port and for that matter the whole state of Rakhine plays an important part in the grandiose OBOR project envisaged by China , as it is an exit to Indian Ocean and the location of planned billion-dollar Chinese projects—a planned economic zone on Ramree Island, and the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port, which has oil and natural gas pipelines linked with Yunnan Province’s Kunming.

Therefore, the stability of Rakhine State is important for this project.  China’s concerns over the situation has made them send a special envoy for holding talks with senior Myanmarese and Bangladeshi government officials and also Mr Kofi Annan. who is the Chairman of the Arakan State Advisory Commission appointed by the UN. Meanwhile it is reported that Israel is arming the Myanmar Army with  its supply of weapons and has refused to stop the supply of arms  though the US and the European Union have already imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar.

So whatever is apparent on the surface is not what is happening under it. There is a geo-political game that is being played by different nations. And the Rohingiyas are just pawns to this. Now don't say it does not bother us . And oh yes, it is reported that Rohingiya refugees affected in previous conflicts have been  settled in Kashmir. That points out to another game . 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

So many truths

So many truths make up my life
a pile of burden to carry
with their implicit secrecy.
Shadows of all those truths
which I tried to wish away
I burnt them and then watched
the flakes of charred letters
drifting away with the smoke
scattered in the breeze before my eyes.
Still these imploring midnight knocks ,
getting up from sleep , opening the door
only to find nobody waiting  for me.
A lifetime spent , chasing myths
in the arbitrary assumption of tomorrow
even as the finality of today prevails.
Somewhere inside , they stay
even after obliterating all traces .
Rising in a tiny bubble that vindicates
the presence of a minute chink
through which I bleed incessantly
But nobody knows .

Compliments

There is no effect more disproportionate to its cause than the happiness bestowed by a small compliment. ~Robert Brault

There will be a very few persons in this world who would not feel the effect of a compliment received from another. And when the compliment relates to ones looks or body there is indeed a pleasant feeling of gratification which lifts up the mood in a harmless indulgence just stopping at the boundary of narcissism. But , while being  complimented upon is good for your self esteem , it should never be allowed to bloat your ego . And, one should be ready to discern between genuine compliment and flattery . There is a thin line but a wide gap between the import of the two .

Compliments are expressed without a hidden motive or a reason to extract benefit from the exchange or the relation between the two persons . Also there is no emotional, physical or patronising bondage between the two persons which necessitates the compliment. Because then it does not remain a compliment but becomes an encouragement or an incentive .  It is more likely to be spontaneous and therefore straight from the heart.  But flattery is directed towards the recipient with the sole object to please and create a feel good atmosphere to broach upon the next  item on agenda. Flattery is a great form of art and if practiced with refinement can be a great asset for the one who practices it . There are people who   can flatter with consummate ease and get their work done in the face of most challenging situations.  Not everybody can deliver flattering lines easily and those who do are often envied by others who don’t have the élan and grace to carry out the smooth and glib manipulations.

Rather than blaming the flatterer ,  it should be the flattered who should be held responsible for the success of the flatterer . Because most of  us knowingly fall for the ego massaging and tend to be in the company of people who flatter us because it generates positive vibes as long as there is no compulsion to do something . And this invariably holds true for successful , powerful and great people as it holds for the common man . Nobody is untouched from this , even the hermits and ascetics fall for it. It is just the degree of ego which gets covered. And when compliments  take the form of flattery and degenerates further , that becomes sycophancy.

On the opposite side of the spectrum , we find the person who provides you with  frank feedback . Here also there is the small issue of subjectivity involved . When the feedback is given out of a genuine concern for the recipient it is the best possible thing to happen . When it is given because there is an inherent contradiction between the understanding of the two persons and the feedback stems more from the non conformity of intellectual standards then it becomes an opposition . This can degenerate to hate and antipathy . The problem here is that the person who gives the feedback always believe that (s) he is right and the other side  should benefit from the advice.

I will share a small incident from my personal recollection. Recently during a gathering of some friends, someone pointed at my belly and commented that it was showing signs of increase which , indeed,  is a fact .  But I was slightly offended with this comment in front of others . This was a very temporary feeling , like a passing cloud , but nevertheless , I did not like it. Now within ten minutes, another person came up  and complimented me on looking fit and trim, loudly in front of others and making me a sort of example . I met both of them almost after the same interval of time. And as I was myself aware of my deficiencies, I could sense the flattering tone of the statement made in my praise. It intrigued me as to why the person was so lavish in his compliments all along. The mystery was cleared the next day when I received a phone call from him asking for some favour. Well that is another story and a different matter altogether. I will not dwell on it any more. 

The only thing why I narrate this experience is to show how we are conditioned to perceptions that we are prone to feel through the eyes of others. The first person was concerned as a friend and tried to warn me and the second person tried to extract advantage of our friendship. Both are my friends and I have nothing against any of them. Its only that now, I know.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Random thoughts 01092017

Somewhere deep within us ,  there is always the constant  search for an identity.  We tend to ignore it and even suppress it  but there is no denying that this quest shapes our adult personality to a great extent.  Our everyday lives and preoccupation with material pursuits make us oblivious of the fact that the life we lead or aspire to lead is a big zero sum game . The ups and downs , the achievements and travails are all pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle which fits in their appointed places at the time they are destined to.

Beyond the realms of love, hate,conflicts and faith that seems to  be the cycle of our lives, there are those senses that we don't understand and those inevitabilities that we never fully realise in our linear analysis of cause and effect. The reason why we crave for our childhood is this. Every kite needs a sky to soar high but perhaps we restrict the sky by demarcating boundaries. This way we miss out on the infiniteness of our capabilities.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Random thoughts 25082017

Though the main thrust of the discussions on the Right to Privacy is directed to AADHAR and maybe rightly so, let us not overlook the fact that  AADHAR is just a part of the whole Privacy conundrum . Any person with common sense will understand that with the hyper connectivity and smart technology today , there is no way to evade surveillance unless you take counter measures. Now normal people do not bother so much about privacy  other than very personal experiences.

Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of my son at home very privately - just three of us - and as usual had a few photos and selfies. Now, my son is less of a show-off and narcissist than me . He knew I would post this pics on facebook . Being shy or maybe some private reasons of his, he forbade me to tag him on my post. I agreed.

Imagine my surprise when on posting the photographs ,facebook automatically tagged my son to the post. I tried to un-tag him myself but not allowed . Then I experimented with other pics and found that any pic having his face is getting tagged to him.  Finally , keeping his sentiments in mind , I desisted from posting any pic of his and just posted the photos of the greeting  card and the cake.

Why I narrate this is to make my point about the difficulty in evading surveillance . Privacy now is just a personal sentiment . If someone respects it , it is OK but if they don't then you are just like an open book.

Saying this, let me add that the doubts and controversies related to privacy are being raised, expressed and echoed across the spectrum ( of thinking people) is not so much because of the inevitability of attention but more about how this surveillance affects us. In Indian context , this also assumes another dimension with the present government and its  penchant to use, rather misuse data and facts for coercion and blackmail to browbeat opposition and even mislead the supporters .

A razor is useful to shave and enhance your personality for a human being. But in the hands of a monkey it will create a terrible mess. With the regularity of monkey business going in the name of politics and governance, it is good that there is at least an opportunity for legal recourse and accountability, however remote or long winding it may be.  this itself will serve as a deterrent.

Further the overwhelming 9-0 verdict by the Supreme Court bench who passed the judgement  yesterday (24th August 2017) emphasises the unanimity on the doubts in their minds . The judgement will not stop prying and unauthorised surveillance but at least it can't be treated as a matter of routine. I may be suffering from piles but my boss will not be able to cite it as a reason for my non -performance during the P review meeting and then brag about it with his peers - how he screwed me - and derive pleasure.  There is a thing called dignity after all .

The importance of this judgement will sink gradually as lawyers analyse it threadbare . Even many developed countries do not have such clearcut directions on privacy as a fundamental right. Nobody should be under the impression that it is absolute. The right to life, livelihood and national interest will always be above it . If a fully clothed woman gets injured and to save her someone has to remove her clothes, it is neither an assault to her modesty nor against her privacy. Informing the police about a hidden terrorist does not mean infringement of his privacy .  A playboy on a private yacht can not claim that the fishermen are destroying his privacy.  There can be many such examples . That is beyond the point. What matters is that the relevance of this judgement on the issues of intolerance that we face today. Eating , dressing , marrying out of personal choice without inconveniencing the society at large falls under this purview. This judgement will bolster liberal and secular values.

But on the flipside , it will also inhibit information sharing to some extent . But for that , we have the RTI  and considering the positives , the overall impact should be of relief.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Random thoughts 19082017

#VandeMataram It is easily the most beautiful ode to the motherland . It is a nice song written in the traditional Hindu style of a prayer. The preponderance of Sanskrit words make it a bit difficult to pronounce for the present generations of confused Indians being churned out of the career building factories aka schools. Set to the tunes by A R Rahman , it became very popular as a nationalist chant  and he , along with Bharat Bala deserve credit for this.  I personally believe those who say that they won't sing this song for their religious affiliations are stupids. And those who say that this song must be sung by everybody to serve as a litmus test of  patriotism are idiots. 

But more than that I wonder how many people have ever read the lyrics of the Vande Mataram song beyond the first two words. And of those how many understand the meaning of each word and line of the song . Further, knowing how many can sing the whole song will be very  illuminating. But even if one has these doubts , I suppose it will be dangerous to express them in this atmosphere of blind and irrational hype about it. So let me save my skin first.

Those lovely ones who love to question me back may please note that I read the whole song at the age of twelve as a part of the novel Anandamath , in Bengali . And since I know Bengali well and also studied Sanskrit upto twelfth , I understood each word of it. And believe it or not, once upon a time I also memorised it fully. Now I don't remember the lines .

And please, please, please believe me when I say that both Anandamath and Vande Mataram were penned in Bengali by the Bengali writer Bankim chandra Chattopadhyay in 1882 , not by Shri Deen Dayal Upadhyay or some other great man in our so called Rashtra Bhasha to drive the British away in  1947.

Let's keep it on record . In this era of  post truth , you never know who will appropriate what and associate with whom.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Randomthoughts10082017

On one hand we hear such  slogans like Beti Bachao and Kanyashree  and get infuriated ( at least on facebook) over the rise in crime against women . On the other hand , the Central Government  defends a provision in the Indian Penal Code that grants immunity to a person from the rape charge provided the victim is his wife and aged between 15 and 17 years, saying the exception in the law was meant to protect the institution of marriage.

Got confused  ?  OK let me explain . It simply means , my dear citizens that under the laws of our country,  if a male person marries a girl aged between 15 to 17 years, he can force himself on the minor girl taken as his wife and rape charges will not be applicable on him. As a corollary, it also suggests that minor girls continue to be married off in our country and the governments, whether central or state can do very little about it.  Rather they chose the shortcut to turn a blind eye to underage marriages and want to perpetuate the marital rape of minor girls. All under the pretext of honouring legal provisions , in the best traditions of a society bound by its constitution and committed to uphold the rule of law.

On behalf of the government , the defense of this repugnant provision of law is done by a female advocate . Crowning glory, you may say. And Ms Binu Tamta, the advocate appearing for the Centre says this -"The institution of marriage must be protected. Otherwise, the children from such marriages will suffer," to the  bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta who are hearing a petition made by an NGO to strike down the Section 375(2) of the IPC, which makes an exception under the rape law by permitting a man to have sex with a girl even if she is between 15 and 17 years old provided she is his wife.

Now tell me does being born as a female makes somebody a woman ? And if women  at high places and positions continue to side with the establishment then what hope do poor and underprivileged women have . What made Ms  Binu Tamta accept this brief ? And what made her not refuse or at least record her objection to the frivolous defence of the indefensible. Was it a professional compulsion  or a bureaucratic  apathy ? Does she have a heart or does she really see any merit in her defence herself . At the end of the day does she look at the mirror before going to sleep ?

Ministry of Social Welfare, Equal rights for women, Beti bachao,  Stop atrocities on women , Law , Constitution ,  all bullshit !! 

https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170810/jsp/nation/story_166509.jsp

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Randomthoughts09082017

Very often I come across social media posts by supposedly normal and sane persons who try to castigate "intellectual" , "liberal", "secular", "socialist"  etc. Earlier , I used to get very agitated but with time, age and perhaps the constant iteration of such views has made me immune to these references ; though mostly they are done with the mischievous purpose to elicit reaction and  release personal frustration .  Now I generally treat these  posts with a slight disdain mixed with boredom and a Jesus like invocation of - Pardon their follies for they do not know what they are doing. 

I  am not aware about the exact reasons for their antipathy , but can only guess that the opposition to these  above mentioned categories of people stem from a hidden inferiority complex  and deep rooted prejudices.  While vehemently opposing or running down these values  are such people aware that the opposite of these values are "stupid", "bigot", "religious", " capitalist" respectively.  If someone wishes to bracket himself or herself in such categories of personality , then I have nothing to say further. 

But is the real reason for attacking a person and painting him as one of the above only about opposition to these values. Or is it more sinister?  Is it not a way to denigrate free thinkers and those who try to bring a different perspective to any narrative that is forced down the throat of the people on the pretext of being popular. This  of course is nothing new or unique . This happens everywhere and been happening through ages . Whenever the mediocre and regimented thought process encounter something which has the potential to disrupt or invert the whole paradigm , there is a reaction and backlash. Conformity to the popular standard of social , political or attitudinal norms is what is expected .

This blind conformity to set rules , regulations and social mores are what makes us hate people for their caste, creed, colour, religion, nationality . And once being tied to a specific position , very few can come out of it and therefore cling to the overall falsehood that defines him or her as a person. Because it is very difficult to admit mistakes , before others  and more difficult to  reconcile the self  to it. 

It haunts us to no end to find that our direction of life is opposite to the core values of humanity and we have no way to stop it because we are under the false notion that swimming against the tide may affect our present material benefits . This dichotomy makes people unhappy and they try to punish their conscience for showing them up in a poor light. The negative sentiments pour out from within and it needs a target to attack . One can't attack people who are like themselves . So they pick up the intellectuals, liberals, seculars, socialists and further modify them into anti nationals because their mind is closed within boundaries and the largest boundary which they can think of is the imagined boundary of a nation state.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Sawan ko Aane Do

#SawanKoAaneDo  I felt much amused today while listening to some people discussing about the start of Sawan and the associated sacrifice of food habits . The Indian month of Sawan  purportedly starts today or sometime this week. A lot many people do not eat meat, fish or poultry during this month as a part of some religious belief. And many also abstain from drinking alcohol.  So all around, you will hear people arranging get-togethers and  to have their fill of these soon to be banned for one month delicacies, 

Here in Mumbai , they celebrate something called Gatari  when they embark on a spree of heavy drinking with non-vegetarian food  with such a fervour that it may turn off a person who does not realise that these poor souls will abstain from the goodies of life for the next one month.  In fact after coming to Mumbai and watching people participating in this orgy like ritual of eating , I had doubts whether the word originated from - Gutter , in English . People simply down their drinks as if the world would end tomorrow and chomp on their Tandoori chicken pieces with a most prejudiced view on the whole species of chickens .

It is again a bout of  revelry after Sawan ends . People make plans to celebrate the end of Sawan almost as it starts. And for one week after Sawan , the bars are filled with thirsty tipplers relishing kebabs and fries with their drinks. Venegeance is written large over their expressions as they seem to have come back from an exile .It would appear that the restriction was not for a month but for a whole life. Such is their steadfast affinity to the religion as also to their drinks.

Frankly speaking, I am happy with Sawan and  people abstaining from non-veg food and drinks because I don't abstain from anything . The prices of fish, chicken and eggs go down during this month, even if slightly. And bars are less crowded , definitely. Wine shops announce different schemes to boost sales . Last year I noticed a - Buy three , get one free - scheme being advertised for Beer at our local wineshop and immediately took advantage of that .  Some times, I wonder why such rituals are not celebrated three or four times in a year. That would make religious people feel  holy and holier and make life less expensive for unholy people like me. So I say with a loud cry - Sawan Ko Aane Do.

P.S. Air India has decided that it's Sawan all the year round . They will not serve non-veg food , as reported in news items.

Facebook post on 10th July 2017.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The lotus of faith

The Jataka tales are a very important part of the Buddhist philosophy. They form a collection of over 500 fables and anecdotal stories which tell about the various incarnations of Buddha who was born as Siddhartha Gautama. The characters of these stories are humans as well as animals as the Buddhists believe in reincarnations as a stream of consciousness that links one life with another life. This concept known as “punarbhava” in Buddhist literature means – “becoming again”. Also rebirth is a process in cycles until one is liberated by self actualisation and extinguishes all the desires within. It may be noted that unlike the Hindu philosophy the Buddhist do not follow the premises or concept of soul or spirit.

Benares or Varanasi is considered to be the oldest city in the world under the Hindu mythology and maybe so, indeed. It is also a very important setting for many of the Jataka stories. For the Buddhist too, this city is as sacred as the Hindus and very near to Varanasi is Sarnath, where Buddha is supposed to have begun his teachings. Most of the Jataka stories are educative and informative from the angles of moral, spiritual as well as common sense. One of such stories which appealed to me is narrated as below. This one sets the precedence of duty and commitment above anything else.  

Varanasi was once ruled by the king Bramhadatt. Under his reign, peace and prosperity prevailed over the kingdom. The holy city abounded with apes and peacocks, the trumpeting of elephants and the neighing of horses. Melodious music created by instruments wafted from the homes of the singing girls, accompanying their mellifluous voices. Known as the city of seven wonders, tens of different voices mingled with each other on the streets here. 

A Bodhisatwa (future Buddha) was born in the family of the royal treasurer here. He had already passed through Koti(ten millions)s of births in his different incarnations before this and was ripe for attaining the height of consciousness(Moksha). Being born as a son to the wealthiest person of the land his childhood was most lavish and luxurious with all amenities and wealth.

In spite of his splendid upbringing, the Bodhiswat grew up as a man of great piety and extraordinary knowledge as he mastered all branches of teaching from his Gurus. He succeeded his father as the keeper of the king’s treasury. But though he exercised all his duties in the most efficient manner, he never missed out on helping others by giving out gifts and alms to anybody who approached him. There was none in the whole country who could excel him in giving alms to the poor and needy.

During the same time there also lived a holy Buddha. As a part of fulfilling the ten perfections, he had passed seven days and seven nights without eating a morsel of food. On completion of his holy trance he decided to have some food, only enough to keep him alive. Cleansing himself and wearing a Vikshu(beggar monk)’s robe , the Buddha reached the gates of the Bodhiswat’s palace, travelling through the thin air , with a begging bowl in hand, by virtue of his meditation.

Immediately on noticing the holy person in front of his door the Bodhiswat went in and brought rice and vegetables on a plate. He instructed his servant to fetch the bowl from the Buddha and fill it with food for him to eat. So the servant proceeded to fetch the bowl. But even as be advanced, and before he reached out his hand to hold the bowl, the ground beneath rocked with a terrible sound and heaved like the turbulent sea. Within moments, the earth opened itself, and ripping the ground like a huge yawning monster created a deep separating the holy Buddha. And the chasm was filled with seething flames, as if a volcano erupted.

The molten rocks spewed forth like fluid wax and rose up in clouds that even darkened the sun casting a dim shadow on everything. Seeing the fury of the hell unleashed before their eyes, the servant fled, along with his fellow menials. Only the Bodhiswat was left, standing upon one side of the abyss, and the Buddha, calmly waiting, upon the other. The abyss was not wide enough near the feet of the Buddha but rapidly widened before the feet of the Bodhiswat, and threatened to engulf him with the raging fire. This was all the handiwork of Mara, the evil demon. He wanted the Buddha to die of hunger and therefore sought to prevent any alms being given to him. Presently he too appeared in the form of a large cloud hovering to darken the place.

In a deep guttural voice that resonated like a mountain thunder Mara announced – “Go away, you foolish man. The Buddha shall not live by your alms; his hour has come and it’s my fury that you encounter between you and him.”

As the Bodhiswat looked at the Buddha across the chasm and the flames of fire; he found that the equanimity written all over the face which had not changed even a bit. Neither did he utter a word to dissuade nor give a sign of encouragement.

Putting all his concern away, the Bodhiswat cried aloud - "Mara, you shall not prevail! Your powers are not greater than my duty. O my lord Buddha, here I come. I fear none under your patronage. Come Sir; accept this food from the hands of your servant."

And with the dish of rice in his hands, the Bodhiswat strode resolutely into the roaring blaze of fire, uttering these: “Better to enter willingly into hell than neglect a duty or knowingly commit a wrong.”

The calm countenance of the Buddha now radiated with a benevolent smile. And, before the Bodhiswat could fall, there suddenly arose from the depths of the pits of the fire, a vast and beautiful lotus, like the one whose golden womb Brahma was born; it received the feet of the Bodhiswat, and bore him beyond the pit, as a spray of golden dust, sprinkled on him like a shower of stars. Then he poured into the Buddha's bowl the alms he deserved.

The darkness vanished; the abyss was nowhere and the Buddha, rising in air, passed over a bridge of rosy cloud into oblivion.

But the Bodhiswat was still standing upon the golden lotus and assured the people with his kind words of knowledge.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction from my perspective and without any prejudice or affinity towards religious feelings. I have taken some creative liberty to change the texture of the story from the version which I read, way back, first in Bengali and later in English. This is neither a literal translation nor a copy.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Random thoughts 27072017

Contrary to the popular belief many Indians have , that it was brought by the Portugese,  Christianity had its roots in India even before England and Ireland heard about  Christ. Though it is widely believed that it was introduced to Kerala within a century of Christ's death , by St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus himself; it can be confirmed that the advent of Christianity was established in India by the 6th Century A.D. Kerala always had a substantial population of Jews in its coastal areas , particularly Cochin and most probably they were the first converts to Christianity because of the language affinity.

And it may also be noted that the first mosque of India, was supposedly built in 629 (during the life of Prophet Muhammad) in Kerala.  Many won't believe this  but this is a fact and there is nothing to be surprised about it. Even before the religion of Islam was established by their Prophet Mohammad , Arab traders were in contact with India. Merchants would regularly sail to the west coast of India to trade goods such as spices, gold, and African goods. Naturally, when the Arabs began to convert to Islam, they carried their new religion to the shores of India.

So those who believe or want us to believe that both Islam and Christianity are alien to our country may please note that it is more integrated with our country and its culture than USA, England, Russia,Australia and China. Those who believe in any religion can let others  practice their own religion, in peace without doubting their nationality, intention or purpose. But it's much better not to take any religion seriously. They are all controlled and propagated by vested interests.

Also people should note that our history did not start with the establishment of or freedom from the British rule. It dates back to many centuries . Much of it may be myths but nevertheless the study of recorded points of history can dispel many misconceptions that we have in our mind.

Random thoughts 28072017

With the onset of the rainy season, I now have to drop my wife every morning to her school. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the place from our residence, out of which half the time is taken to negotiate a  stretch of about 200 meters just in front of the school.

The place is well connected; a straight wide lane connects the school to the main road. On both sides of the lane, there are multi storied buildings and housing complexes. People living there are all quite well to do and more or less belong to the upwardly mobile class. Being in Navi Mumbai, the roads and buildings are well planned, well maintained and spacious too. Everybody would like to stay here and definitely aspire to buy a flat in such a locality

BUT IT TAKES ME MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES TO CROSS THE LANE, A STRETCH OF ABOUT 200 METRES IN THE MORNING. Why ? Because on both sides of the spacious lanes, cars belonging, presumably to the owners or tenants living in those flats and building complexes are lined up on both sides of the road,. And with parents coming out to drop children to schools in their own vehicles and school buses picking and dropping children from this school and also to other schools, it is a two-way traffic and becomes dangerous considering everybody is in a hurry and kids walking and crossing the road. In spite of two cars parked on both sides of the lane, it is wide enough to accommodate and allow two more normal sized cars to pass, in opposite directions. But the moment, someone drives out from the gates of one of the housing complexes or a big school bus stops to pick or drop children, there is a clogging of the lane. Honking and cursing by irate drivers start immediately as everyone is in a hurry.

I am sure this scene is repeated during the afternoon too when the schools close for the day. And this is not a one off or a unique thing happening to me or only at that place. I am sanguine that if this can happen in a well-planned locality like Nerul in Navi Mumbai, much more and exponentially irritating clogging of roads are happening every day in the thousands of bustling towns and cities of our vast country. It is nothing new. And it will carry on like this. That's what people will say. Only I am bothered because I have a nit-picking, intolerant and negative mind. The remedy to this is having a deep breath and forget about it.

OK, so far and so good. Let me come to the crux of the issue which is prickly enough and make everybody lose the slight hint of a smile at my lunatic raving and ranting.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THIS ROAD BLOCK?  The answer is simple enough - Occupation of the common space provided by the Municipality authorities in a planned city by the residents there. Yes, that's the truth. Bitter, maybe. Why,  some of us might be doing the same thing. You can't blame people for parking their cars on the roads. Where will they park their cars then? The government must do something, the municipality must do something, the resident owners' committee must do something, the local council-member must do something. Well, in effect, everybody must do something other than the person who parks his car every day on the side of the common road, as if he owns the space by virtue of his buying or renting a flat in the adjacent housing complex.

And mind it, none of the people who do this are impoverished. They are well heeled and their families belong to the top ten percent of the population of this country by income considerations. In many of the cases, the car parked outside is the second or the older car in the household with the costlier and newer one safely parked in the parking space within the housing complex.

I recently discussed this phenomenon with a gentleman. He immediately got offended and in a very much irritated tone told me that I was not saying anything about the slums that grow up in different places by the encroachment of government land. Then he accused me of harboring an anti-elite bias and also being a habitually anti growth person. Rounding off, he marked me as a Communist - speaking like a bloody Commie - that was the exact word he used. Probably he meant it as the vilest abuse that can be made without being charged of being an abusive person.

And this is exactly the point I want to make. We, the privileged, park our cars on the roads, the common spaces provided to make our living nicer, as a matter of right and perks of being privileged. Then from the cozy confines of our aseptic and comfortable lives, we castigate the poor for the "Jhopadpatti" they create by encroaching. The average price of a car nowadays would be more than Rupees Five lacs. It will take 10 years for a person to earn that amount ( not savings ) going by the minimum wages paid in India. And needless to say, not everybody is paid the minimum wage prescribed.

The other point that can be made is that the lack of planning both at the individual , societal and governmental level. You will find that numerous housing colonies come up and people buy them without providing common spaces, for parking. I  myself have such an experience. People don't plan for their future growth while buying a flat because the main consideration is the price, not the living. And then later, after they attain a certain level of disposable income, they think of buying a vehicle. And for parking, the roads and the common spaces are naturally the choices. The real problem is of the mindset. People come and live in cities but can't discard the village from their thinking. So just like the bullock cart that is parked in front of the house in villages, they park their vehicles in front of their house in cities too, be it a public road or a common facility.

There will be many who will point to the lack of good public transport system in our cities and towns. And they may be correct, but to an extent only. It is not the only reason. If you don't agree then I request you to visit places like Cuffe Parade, Nariman point and other such places which are considered to be posh areas and see for yourself how the cars of the rich and powerful occupy the roads. Some of them may even be costlier than a small flat in a smaller city. I can well imagine what happens in the numerous towns which have come up without any plans throughout the country. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Random thoughts 26072017

The price or rather the sudden rise in the prices of Tomato is a subject of discussion both in the society and the social media. As nobody seems to be able to do anything about the price rise the people have no option but to adjust them to it. And as usual, make and circulate jokes about it. Some of these jokes are quite funny and sarcastic. But all in all, as seen from the laments of the middle class and the poorer alike, it can be assumed that the dear Tomato has proved itself to be the ubiquitous vegetable in our households after Potato, Onion and Chillies , in that order. Strangely and to the delight of many (Thank God for small mercies) the prices of Potato and Onions are quite stable and affordable. Otherwise it would be a real cause of worry for the powers to be , by heralding the long awaited revolution.  

A very interesting social angle to the whole issue is the gradual acceptance and the obligatory presence of Tomato as a must have in the vegetable basket of the Indian housewife. Tomato is no doubt a versatile vegetable which can be used as accompaniment in soups and salads. But the most common use of Tomatoes in Indian kitchen nowadays is for imparting flavour and juice to the curries. The sweet and sour taste of Tomato by itself blends perfectly with the hot and spicy style of cooking by the average Indian. Therefore it is no wonder that it has placed itself at a position of high importance both as a vegetable and a spice additive. Bengalis use it to cook their Maachher Jhol, South Indians use it a lot for Rasam, Punjabis use it for Butter Chicken and City dwellers can’t do without the Tomato Ketchup in, well almost everything.

But it was not like this even half a century back. Tomato was not such a key element of Indian cooking. I distinctly remember my relatives from village referring to Tomatoes as “Bilaati Begun” (Bilayati baingan). The concept of adding Tomato to curries or “Sabzis” was almost nonexistent earlier. Maybe it started after the 60s or 70s and caught up the fancy with more production of it by the farmers after the Green revolution and better seeds, manure and storage facilities. 

Whatever it may be, the addition of Tomato with our food and by association with our culture is recent by the standards of time and history. In fact Tomato was never a vegetable grown, cultivated or seen in the twin continents of Asia and Europe. It is a fruit of the “New World” and came with the discovery of the Americas, just like so many other things.   If you consider the fact that Columbus discovered America in 1492 then the introduction of Tomato to the Europeans itself is an event which is just about five hundred years old, historically. This means that Babur was establishing the Mughal Empire at the time when Spanish conquistadores were getting to know about this berry like fruit in the jungles of Mexico. 

The Spanish in fact, even have a festival called La Tomatina , where participants throw tomatoes and get involved in this tomato fight purely for entertainment purposes. Of course the festival started in 1945.  The English word 'tomato' derives from the word 'tomati' its name in Nahuati, the language of the Aztec people.  The English form 'tomate' first appeared in the 17th century, and was later modified to 'tomato', probably under the influence of the more familiar “potato”. Tomatoes were originally grown in Britain and the rest of Europe as ornamental climbers and were cultivated for their decorative leaves and fruit. The French, as usual were convinced that tomatoes had powerful aphrodisiac qualities and called them pommes d'amour (love apples). trust these frenchies to add the amorous angle to everything.

Soon after the tomato's arrival in Europe, it was also known as the Peruvian apple. The first cultivated tomatoes were yellow and cherry-sized, earning them the name golden apples. They were considered poisonous but appreciated for their beauty. Tomato proved itself to be adaptable to all climates and with the production of sheet glass, could be cultivated in colder climates too in greenhouses. Presently the variety of this vegetable that we find in markets is fully hybrid and genetically modified to make it available for mass production and longevity after ripening.

It may be interesting for trivia buffs to note that though Tomato is actually a fruit grown on a shrub, it is treated like a vegetable. The question whether Tomato is a fruit or a vegetable became a subject of legal wrangle and in 1883, the Supreme Court of USA passed a verdict classifying it as a vegetable.

The arrival of Tomato to India must have taken quite some time after this. Most probably it came with the Portuguese (or maybe other Europeans). But it remained somewhat exotic and belonged to the “Sahib” culture. There is not much description of this fruit or vegetable (whatever you call it) in the old Bengali novels, poems or plays. Even the old style Awadhi or Hyderabadi cuisines do not have any mention of it. In fact some chefs of traditional Indians food would scoff at the thought of having this item as the ingredient of this item. However, the fact is no Indian food preparations served in restaurants nowadays would be complete without this vegetable.

Since this fruit is not a native to our country, old texts and ayurvedic, Unani or Hekimi style of diet as prescribed by the old school also does not include it in their guidance. So it is a wonder how Tomato has become such an important part of the lives. Often we hear some group or the other deciding on what we should eat but till now none have published their edict in this regard. We have accepted and embraced Tomato in our life just as we have become accustomed to wearing trousers instead of Dhoti or Pajama. It has become another example of globalisation of taste, out of choice and convenience. And now, its absence in our vegetable basket worries us, so much, as if it has been a traditional item of living.

After reading up to this, dear reader, you must be having an urge to through tomatoes at me. But wait, that will prove a costly error at this price. 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Random thoughts 25072017

Mumbai previously known was Bombay under Portugese rule from 1534 to 1661 A.D. It was given away to the English under the Marriage treaty of 1661 when king Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of king John IV of Portugal. To keep the historical context in mind , the first battle of Panipat which heralded the Mughal rule in India was fought in 1531 . Which means that Bombay was almost never a part of the Hindosthan as ruled by the Mughals . The British occupation of Mumbai also as contemporary as  Taj Mahal which was completed in 1654.

Aurangzeb was the only Mughal ruler who realised the threat of the English .After the death of Shivaji in 1680,  the Mughal rule spread to the Konkan area too. This brought them in conflict with the English and Portugese who tried to blockade the sea routes to Arabia and beyond.  Between 1686 and 1690  the British East India Company and the Mughal empire fought a war commonly known as Child's war . Emperor Aurangzeb issued orders for the extirpation of the English, and the confiscation of their property. The English possessions were reduced to the fortified towns of Madras and Bombay.

In 1689 the strong Mughal fleet from Janjira commanded by the Sidi Yaqub and manned by Mappila (Moplas , Muslims from Kerala) and Abyssinians (Habshis) firmly blockaded Bombay. After a year of resistance, the English surrendered, and in 1690 the company sent envoys to Aurangzeb's camp to plead for a pardon. The company's envoys had to prostrate themselves before the emperor, pay a large indemnity, and promise better behavior in the future. The emperor withdrew his troops and the company subsequently re-established itself in Bombay and set up a new base in Calcutta.

In 1686, the English East India Company, which had unsuccessfully tried to obtain a firman, an imperial directive that would grant England regular trading privileges throughout the Mughal empire, initiated the so-called Child's War. This hostility against the empire ended in disaster for the English, particularly when Aurangzeb dispatched a strong fleet from Janjira commanded by the Sidi Yaqub and manned by Mappila loyal to Ali Raja Ali II and Abyssinian sailors firmly blockaded Bombay in 1689.  In 1690, the company sent envoys to Aurangzeb's camp to plead for a pardon. The company's envoys had to prostrate themselves before the emperor, pay a large indemnity, and promise better behaviour in the future.

Siraj ud daullah , Nawab of Bengal who fought the East India company in the battle of Plassey was born after four decades of this English defeat and magnanimity of Aurangzeb . In fact his maternal grandfather Alivardi Khan , whom he succeeded was born in 1671 .

Friday, 21 July 2017

Only, you never knew.

Go, scour the distant shores ,
the myriad alleyways of the world
to seek the elusive nectar
they call as happiness.
When you come back ,
you'll find it , within you .
A pearl hidden inside the shell .
Only, you never knew.
Feel it, kneeling down all alone,
on a vast green meadow,
as the rains drench you.
Smell it , as you walk under a tree
laden with its fresh blossom.
Hear it, in the silence of the hills,
punctuated by the rustle
of the leaves, nodding gently
to the soft whistling breeze.
Taste it, in the clear water
of the spouting spring ,
cupped in your palms.
Watch it , on the canvas of the sky.
as the early morning unravels
the colours of the sun
You will understand , how
it was always there, within you.
Only, you never knew.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Vertigo

In this kingdom of
the sparkling sunlight,
a terrible fear of heights 
stopped me from climbing .
So I remained rooted
somewhere near the base camp ,
even as people crossed me
and went up high and higher ,
first, beyond the sights
and then beyond the vision.
Some how I never realised
how the ground beneath me ,
which I stand was getting dug up ,
inch by inch, deep and deeper
than ever before.
Earlier I could reach
across the other side ,
crossing the old bridge .
Now often the question
that haunts me -
What happens if the bridge
that connects us breach someday
and leaves me stranded
across this deep abyss of mistrust .
The sum of my all fears are back. 
Be it the heights of  fantasy
or the depths of desolation ,
the curse of vertigo stays with me.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A whole night of love

A whole night of love
on a wet night
with the sound of rain
falling on the tin roof .
Forget everything ,
all those woes of life ,
this is the time to savour
the moments of madness.
Break free
into the prison of desire
that binds us together.
Walk on the sky
to reach the stars above.
As our world explodes,
in the ecstasy of two souls
the sudden fragrance of passion
spreads to make our tryst
a never ending journey
to its final consummation .

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Tiger and the Jackal

#Mythicaltales  The Tiger and the Jackal -  Many many years ago, there was a king named Pourik . He was a cruel and tyrant ruler and his subjects remained unhappy with him. As a retribution, he was reborn as a jackal after his death.

But he remembered everything about his past life and that made him grieve always for his wrongdoings as a tyrant. He always rued the fact that as a king, he was not worthy of good deeds that could be his salvation.

As a penance the Jackal gave up on eating flesh and started living on fruits and vegetables. He also started being truthful always in his action and speech and soon he become a very pious being.

The jackal lived in his lair near a cemetery. The other jackals who lived there were very surprised with him and they would always taunt him “Brother, you eat vegetables and fruits . That's idiotic to say , the least . With abundance of flesh here, why do you have to be a vegetarian?" , they would say.

The Jackal did not get vexed at their taunts. He replied them without rancour- “Friends, do I have to keep off the right path only because I am born a Jackal? If I can live by eating fruits and vegetables, then why do I have to eat flesh? "

A tiger was passing that way. He overheard this conversation and was pleased with the jackal. He thought- “Ah, this jackal seems to be a pious soul and a wise animal. Let me make him my Chief Minister. "

He called the Jackal” I am sure you are a very noble soul. Be my Chief Minister, O Jackal. "

The Jackal replied” O King, I am honoured by your offer. But I have a few conditions, which, you should agree before I accept the offer. You have to abide by whatever I decide for you. When I advise you, nobody else should be present there. And you can't punish me even if you are cross with me."

The Tiger said “I agree to your conditions. Now you come with me."

This way the jackal now became the Chief Minister of the tiger's kingdom. Within a very few days, the Tiger realised what a good choice of minister he has made. He too placed the Jackal at a high esteem and valued his advice with a lot of respect. The Jackal too enjoyed his new role and put in his full efforts to serve the king in a selfless manner.

But the coterie of the old courtiers who used to surround the Tiger became very insecure due to the Jackal. They were used to the good life of corruption and cheated the king. These rascals found that with the coming of the Jackal as the Chief minister, the various sources of their income was drying up . So they all joined hands and sought a way to get the Jackal banished from the court.

Everyday, the best cuts of meat were earmarked for the Tiger. Nobody else was allowed to eat those pieces. One day the mischievous servants of the Tiger stole them from the Tiger's cave and spread them near the Jackal's lair. Neither the Tiger nor the Jackal had any inkling of this because they were asleep. In due time the Tiger woke up and felt hungry; but there was no meat for him in the cave.

The Tiger roared in anger. He wanted to know who was responsible for this . His rage knew no bounds. The wicked courtiers were waiting for this chance to poison his mind. They said - “My Lord, it is the Chief Minister who has done this. You may think him to be a pious animal. But he is actually a very greedy and crafty fellow." Then they took the Tiger near the Jackal's lair where they had hid the pieces of flesh. The Tiger was out of his senses. He asked the servants to kill the Jackal.

The servants would have killed the Tiger, had it not been for the king's mother who was a very intelligent tigress. She understood the plan of the wicked courtiers and approached the Tiger saying- “My son, you know these people and how they were ruining you before the Chief Minister Jackal came here. Just recall, how many times you have wanted to gift him with valuables, but he has never had any use for them. Why should he steal your share of flesh? You inquire about this in detail. I sense some foul play. “

The tiger came to his senses, hearing the soothing words of advice from his mother. He realised his mistake and remembered the conditions he accepted before the Jackal took up his employment. Now he made a thorough enquiry and learned about the conspiracy by his servants. He punished them.

The Jackal was now held in very high esteem by his employer the king Tiger. But the intelligent Jackal could well understand that working for such a temperamental master was always risky. So he bid his time and after a few days very politely excused himself and left the service of the Tiger, wishing him all the best of luck.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Posto

#Posto not only touches but tugs at the heart too . Again a very good movie that I have watched after #Bishorjan. It proves that the creative Bengali film industry is alive and evolved with new identity of its own . Since this movie showed a sold out Sunday evening show in INOX Raghuleela Vashi, I had to drive about an hour up and down , pay toll tax of Rs 70 and forego the afternoon siesta to watch it in Bhandup , about 30 kms away from my home, on the insistence of my wife who never likes to miss a Bengali film or program in Mumbai. But it was really worth it.

The mindless copy of crass commercial copies of southern blockbusters full of colour, action , dances and unreal story-lines  may have helped the Bengali film industry in raking money but cinematically they have brought Bengali films at par with Bhojpuri films.  Away from all this flashy and garish over the top drama,  the realistic , soft , mature , emotional , focussed and issue based films that was the forte of Bengali films have come back to the mainstream due to the effort of some very competent contemporary filmmakers who have also brought in audiences to recoup the investment . That Posto has done well at the box-office is a redeeming feature.

The duo of Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee has given us some memorable movies over the last decade or so. They have consistently tried to make meaningful films with a central theme linked to our lives. The currently running movie #HindiMedium which has been hailed for its theme is said to be greatly inspired by the movie #Ramdhanu created by this duo. The recurring feature of their movies have been their soft and understated handling of emotions and a very mature sense of blending the story with the characters.

#Posto  brings forth the issue of parenting and upbringing of a child and explores the father son relationships between three generations. Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee is just awesome in his role as a grandfather to a small boy. The nuances, depth , facial expressions , dialogue delivery , physical movements  each one of them has been presented in such a masterly manner that the audience never feels that he is a character from the film. He seems to be one of our own , a father or an uncle. Speaking about or praising his acting skills will be  absurd and laughable as coming from a person like me. But let me point out that this gentleman , a great banyan tree of acting is 82 years old and reportedly suffering from some critical ailment. But would you believe that when he acts ?

Among other actors Jishu Sengupta  as the son of the old man and father of the child proves his talent and matches up to the challenge . Lily Chakraborty is a seasoned professional for her role. Paran Chatterjee delivers a fine serio comic performance . After a long time , saw a court room drama which is a substantial portion of the film. The directors have very cleverly used Sohini Sengupta, a veteran stage actress in the role of the defence lawyer against Paran Chatterjee to highlight the dramatic court room dialogues and keep the attention riveted with their stage acting skills. Argha , the young boy Posto is so lovable and inocent that he steals your heart .

But to me, the surprise package of the film is Mimi Chakraborty . She will be remembered for this role and establish her as a leading actress of the Bengali films . Perhaps when she  will look back on her career after a decade hence , this role will be a milestone and turning point for her. 

Personally I was not too much impressed with the music but one song by Nachiketa was superb and  though written and composed by Anupam, it was only Nachiketa who could have sung the song  - Keno Erokom kichhu Holo Na-  in that way. 

Cinematically,  #Posto has some flaws in its composition and presentation. Perhaps the story could have been  put in a tighter script and be made a bit more pacy. But the emotion, acting and dialogues take care of these blemishes. Without being boring or sermonising , it brings out the need of a family and family values in our lives. And like most of the movies by Shibu-Nandita , this too is also a feel good movie. With subtitles in English , this can be  a good watch for everybody who would like to have a relaxing , soft and uncomplicated movie experience.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Random thoughts 21052017

#Justsaying  While watching old Hindi (even Bengali) movies , you may notice that those Izzatdar and Rais aristocratic characters are shown to be wearing a thick loungecoat over their clothes at home. These lounge suits were called housecoats by us, lesser mortals.

Those days homes were not air-conditioned , even for rich people ; at least it doesn't seem so from the scenes. And they always smoked cigars and pipes. I wonder how they managed to wear those wraps in Indian summer. Or is it that they all lived in Shimla or Darjeeling ? The housecoats symbolised wealth and position of the person in the society. Many middle class gentlemen (I know a few) also followed this fashion at home , mostly limited to the first or second housecoat.

On the other hand , nowadays  even middle-class homes have air conditioning . But housecoats have gone flimsy and are invariably worn by lissom heroines  more as a prop to reveal their physical assets rather than their bank balance.

And aristocrats  ? That breed seems to have vanished even from silver screens. The rich and powerful are now shown wearing sportswear and shorts are the in thing as fashionable lounge dress. And we middle-class follow the fashion at home . Good for summer.

Well , the answer to these thoughts coming to my idle and blank mind would be , yes you have rightly guessed , when everything fails - blame it on global warming.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Random thoughts 20052017

#Randomthoughts I have a feeling that the next car that we will buy in our family will be an electric powered or at least hybrid. That it will be with auto transmission , I am sure.
The first to make entry will be electric bicycles or mopeds. Remember the late seventies and the early eighties . Yes that is the scene more likely to start for the next year. If you notice the adverts and sale of these two wheelers have started on a lowkey but steady pace.
The writing is on the wall . Solar powered electricity and electric powered vehicles will swamp the horizon soon . This will be the new technology that will change how we travel.
Let us be ready to embrace the change. The first thing we need to do is to plan about the charging point for the vehicle .

Friday, 19 May 2017

Random thoughts 20052017

#Justsaying Won't it be better to make Rajnikanth the President of India rather than make him the CM of Tamil nadu. That way his reputation will remain intact. Otherwise people may always point out his reluctance to join politics as long as Jayalalitha lived and infer that he was afraid of her.  Also if , as rumoured he joins or takes support from BJP and becomes the CM , it will relegate his status as the invincible.

Personally I have no problem with Rajnikanth as the President of India. He will probably be a better choice than many. And the circus that  democracy has become in India needs a brand ambassador to highlight the make believe show of it.  Rajanikanth will fit the bill perfectly.

Mind it Yenna Rascalaa .

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Random thoughts 17052017

#BitterPill  News reports speak of the plans by the Indian Railways to charge Rs 50-100 extra for allotment of lower berths and window seats. This will be hailed by a section of people as a masterstroke , true to form . But actually this is nothing but shameless baniazation , as different from commercialisation which offers a service worth its name against the charges paid for it.  The way this government is hiking the charges of all services in the name of rationalisation  you don't know where they will put their finger next to extricate their paise from .

So don't be surprised if you hear tomorrow  that they will charge the Mumbai local train users for availing the free full body massage during peak hours.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Random thoughts 14052017


#BitterPill ATM s are to ease the operations for the convenience of the people who keep deposits of their hard earned money with the bank's at rock bottom interest. They are categorized as public convenience and in the modern world they are required in a civilized society just as much as we need public toilets. The ATMs also help the public to plan their withdrawals and do away with the need to carry a large amount of cash in their pocket or hoard at their homes. Further the ATMs also manage to do away with long queues at the Bank branches for withdrawal ( and deposit) of cash and also informs the account holder a summary of the balance in the account. Therefore the ATM can not be treated any more as a value added service; rather it is now a part of the basic services provided by the banks.

So it is very surprising to find banks trying to regulate the usage of ATMs by levy of charges and deciding on ad hoc ceiling for its use by depositors. The recent developments in the banking sector gives a strong reason to believe that this is just another convenient ploy to shore up the bottom lines to hide the inefficiencies of the system and subsidise the bad management of assets and liabilities by the banks. And if this is not enough, banks have all of a sudden stepped up on their efforts to make a killing from all kinds of services they provide. The dichotomy of the situation is such that on one hand the banks are trying to take banking to the old elitist way of transacting business where all transactions have to be paid for not as a service received but as an obligation and on the other, the government is pushing hard for universal banking and digital economy. It is not clear what the actual aim of the whole exercise is , in totality.

Banks owned by the Government of India can not hide behind the brazen assertion of - all services need to be paid- like the private banks . Because they get a large amount of government funds as deposits without making any efforts for it . Further as they are owned by the GOI , their losses are accounted for by the government funds which is nothing but the tax payer's money. And the government ownership also means that it is people's ownership. So their contention about being a fully independent mercantile firm like entity is a false notion which is being used to hoodwink the public. The PSU banks are very much organs of the government and they cannot deny their commitment to the public at large. If their is any doubt about this then that should be cleared first.

And actually that is what is being attempted . There is a concerted move to bleed these banks , make them anemic and then make a great hue and cry before handing them over to private management at a throw away price. But before that it is also necessary to show people that as far as charges are concerned, there is not much difference between the public or private sector banks. It is a gradual step towards preparing the public , the corollary to which will be a massive privatization of banks. And mark my words, this has to happen before 2019. Like the ill executed demonetization, this move will also be clothed with some great objectives and named like - " New economy" , " Second Liberalization" , " Economic Freedom" etc. Of course there are plenty of spin doctors waiting in the wings along with the numerous media channels to hail such moves.

Presently our country is passing through a phase of reckless self gratification by the masses whose levels of aspiration is now sky high. The generations which have been raised post 1990 are the beneficiaries of the material gains from the liberalization of economy and digital age. They can not relate to age old theories, rhetoric, sacrifices, mindset, worldview and education of socialism and class conflict. Moreover the commercialism and commodification of everything including even ideas, values and icons have changed the way of the people's outlook and views. So the people at large may not realize, as they don't do about many other things , that the one sector that this government has screwed right and proper during its three years tenure till now is the Banking sector. And very soon we will witness many other developments. Just wait for the drama of absurd to unfold.

Random thoughts 15052017

#OBOR One Belt One Road is a grand and audacious plan of connectivity being given shape by China . This program is being personally pushed by the present President of the Chinese Republic, Xi Jinping who would like to go down the history with a stature equivalent , if not superior to Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping. On one hand the plan seeks to revitalize the traditional silk route , both on land and the seas. On the other, it wants to change the global power structure and integrate Europe and Asia as a large trading zone .

The participation of more than 65 countries in the project is proof enough that quite a number of the countries in Europe and Asia look towards the OBOR as something which could benefit them economically. Russia and Turkey are both backers of this program and countries like Bangladesh, Nepal , Myanmar and Srilanka are participating in it. Pakistan , of course is one of the primary, if not the first stakeholder of the program. But India has expressed its apprehensions about the project and have decided not to join it, as of now.

Indians have been always wary of China since 1962. And the Indian foreign policy have always been shaped by a British understanding , American guidance (except during Indira Gandhi) and Pakistan obsession. Beyond that the Indian foreign policy does not really exist, at least for the people of the country. Our troubles with China began only after the Tibet issue as before that there was no history of wars between the countries , nations and very old civilisations. In fact Tibet was the buffer which allowed the status quo of peace between the two countries. May be the Tibet issue is keeping the Kashmir issue alive . But as it seems now, as long as the present Dalai Lama remains ( May God bless him), there is very little chance of the Tibet issue and the India -China relations improving.

But we must not overlook the Chinese initiative as if implemented, it will change the whole geo political alignment . President Putin of Russia has stated his support for the initiative unequivocally as - “Everything that is being proposed fits the trend of modern development, is extremely necessary, and is in high demand. Therefore, Russia not only supports the One Belt One Road project, but will actively participate in its realization together with our Chinese partners and, of course, with all other interested countries.” He further said that the project takes into account modern trends in the global economy while also reflecting the general need for coordinating integration processes not only on the Eurasian continent, but around the world.

Before this China has demonstrated its capability to execute programs which their leaders wanted to be implemented in a planned and if required ruthless manner, be it the cultural revolution, one child norm, liberalization of economy, Olympic Games or other developmental initiatives. And they are famous for doing everything in a magnificent manner with a huge canvas. This time too , they seem to be on a solid ground to take over the leadership as the economic power from USA. What that will lead to is a matter of speculation at this moment. But India should be wary of clinging to the US apron strings. The USA has never stood behind its allies at crunch situations and always exported war overseas to benefit its own industry.

So treating OBOR with disdain, suspicion or nonchalance will be a folly for India. There is no benefit in creating enmity with a powerful country and getting encircled by its satellites. As we are still debating over the viability of Bullet train or its infrastructure , China has already launched a freight train from the city of Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province with London, all of 12000 kms covered in 18 days. That is their level of planning and execution. Not that they do everything correctly . But they get things done once they plan something.


The article attached here may not be liked by many Indians . But it is necessary to know about the Chinese viewpoint , too.
http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1046896.shtml