Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Restrict the terrorists
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Vacuous and Verbose-12
"..Why are we uncomfortable about wearing Indian clothes?
Look around you, office after office is bereft of Indian clothes. In the age of industry, connectedness and entrepreneurship Indian clothes are rarely seen because they failed, or we failed to make them, office wear, and thereby, everyday wear.
Since most of us no longer wear Indian clothes to work, since the “corporate wardrobe” for some reason does not include Indian clothes, they have become occasional wear — costumes not clothes.
Why don't we wear Indian clothes to work? Why don't Indian news anchors, for instance, wear bandhgalas instead of suits? Even in news TV, Indian clothes are costumes to be donned to festive days. Udayan Mukherjee, the face of the markets, wears dazzling bandhgalason mahurat trading but not otherwise. Rajdeep Sardesai wears the occasional kurta but is usually in his unkempt cool, about-to- run-out-of-the-newsroom light shirts and dark trousers. Prannoy Roy also dons the odd bandhgala but seems far more comfortable in his impeccable suits.
Can you think of any men in business who regularly wears Indian clothes? If you can, tell me on firstname.lastname@example.org . I can't."
The Bushmen of Jalandhar
“A few years ago, I went on a trip to northern India to see the Dalai Lama. I traveled with a lawyer, a politician, a publicist, and a translator. One of the places we visited on the way up from Delhi was called Jalandhar — it's in the Punjab region and is home to a lot of sweatshops.
While we were there, we met a bunch of kids who lived with no electricity but told us that, when they grew up, they all wanted to be computer scientists. So we whipped out our cameras and iPods — the closest things we had on hand to real computers — and showed them how technology works. We figured they would enjoy it, and thought it could be a valuable experience that would stay etched in their minds as something to aspire to as they continued their studies.
Later, I found out that one of my travel mates thought what we had done was cruel. We had seduced these poor kids with luxuries they will probably never be able to afford, and sullied their pure, technology-free lives with the temptation of electronics.
So who's right? Did we ruin these kids for life or give them hopes for a better future? Does it not matter? Is there even a right answer to this question? What do you guys think?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Vacuous and Verbose-11
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
It's a record anyway.
Vacuous and Verbose- 10
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Why do I travel?
But Jonah Lehrer of Frontal Cortex, being a writer can afford to ask the question, “Why do we travel?” and then proceed to answer the question as well
Travel is a basic human desire. But, is this collective urge to travel - to put some distance between ourselves and everything we know--still a worthwhile compulsion?
The good news, at least for those of you reading this while stuck on a tarmac eating stale pretzels, is that pleasure is not the only consolation of travel. In fact, several new science papers suggest that getting away—and it doesn't even matter where you're going--is an essential habit of effective thinking. It's not about vacation, or relaxation, or sipping daiquiris on an unspoiled tropical beach: it's about the tedious act itself, putting some miles between home and wherever you happen to spend the night.
The reason such travels are mentally useful involves a quirk of cognition, in which problems that feel "close"--and the closeness can be physical, temporal, or even emotional--get contemplated in a more concrete manner. As a result, when we think about things that are nearby, our thoughts are constricted, bound by a more limited set of associations. While this habit can be helpful--it allows us to focus on the facts at hand--it also inhibits our imagination. Consider a field of corn. When you're standing in the middle of the field, surrounded by the tall cellulose stalks and fraying husks, the air smelling faintly of fertilizer and popcorn, your mind is automatically drawn to thoughts that revolve around the primary meaning of corn, which is that it's a plant, a cereal, a staple of Midwestern farming.
But now imagine that same field of corn from a different perspective. Instead of standing on a farm, you're now in the midst of a crowded city street, dense with taxis and pedestrians. (And yet, for some peculiar reason, you're still thinking about corn.) The plant will no longer just be a plant: instead, your vast neural network will pump out all sorts of associations. You'll think about high-fructose corn syrup, obesity, and Michael Pollan; you'll contemplate ethanol and the Iowa caucus, those corn mazes for kids at state fairs and the deliciousness of succotash, made with bacon and lima beans. The noun is now a web of tangents, a loom of remote connections.
…We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.
Now, I know why I travel. It removes the cobwebs from my mind. It makes me the creative genius that I am.
Madness is well distributed.
Apparently, Kissinger had a bright idea to convince his Russian counterpart that President Richard Nixon was unstable. Nixon drank late into the night, flew into rages, went down on one knee at the Oval to listen to the voice of Jesus, Kissinger would point out. In simple words, Nixon was a madman. Who knows, Kissinger would hint to the Russians, if mad Nixon was provoked, he might press the red button and nuke Moscow. This tactic, explains Sanghvi, proved to be a very effective negotiating ploy and helped keep the Russians in check.
Sanghvi then argues that Pakistan has been using this Madman theory to perfection against the Indians for decades. Years after she quit power, Benazir admitted to Sanghvi that the militants were pushed into India by the ISI, but that she couldn’t control them. Nawaz Sharif would blame the military for the Kargil invasion. Musharraf would wash off his hands and say that it was the mujahideen factor. So, each time an ‘uncontrollable madman’ was invoked and held responsible for any misadventure.
Whereas, says Sanghvi, whenever an Indian leader talks to Pakistan, he acts like a statesman showing flexibility and a willingness to go the extra mile. There is no passing of the buck; no third party is brought into the picture.
This is where I don’t agree with Sanghvi. While we may not have used the Madman theory against Pakistan, Indian prime ministers have routinely used Pakistan as a bogey- the Madman, if you will- to create a perception of a serious threat to the nation and to divert attention from internal issues. One cannot downplay the threat, but if we let that dominate our policies and relationships with the rest of the world- as we have- we are plain mad. Madness is not a monopoly of the Pakistanis. It is well spread on both sides of the border.
As a metaphor on Indo-Pak madness, I recall this hilarious story called “Toba Tek Singh” (I found the reference in one of the essays of Salman Rushdie) by Hasan Munto. It describes the scene in a lunatic asylum near the frontier, at the time of Partition. A decision has been taken that the lunatics too must be partitioned, Indian lunatics to India, Pakistani lunatics to Pakistan. Utter confusion prevails as the exact location of the frontier is not known, nor the places of origin of insane persons. But the partition of lunatics had to be done anyway. A character called Bashan Singh who keeps muttering nonsense such as "Upar di gur gur di annexe di dhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan and Hindustan of di dar fatay mun!" reminds me quite a bit of the speeches delivered by our politicians from time to time..
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Ubiquitous, unquitting, Amitabh
Take Amitabh. He stares at you 24 x 7 and leaps out of TV channels ( as part of the regular programme content, and on commercial time as well) newspaper ads, hoardings, posters, airport screens, railway station walls, bus stop shelters and even peanut packets that are sold near traffic junctions. You simply cannot avoid his mug. Like Sinbad’s Old man, you can never be rid of him.
In the last 40 years, I am sure that he has taken on every conceivable role- cook, gardener, driver, priest, teacher, saint, barber, doctor, gangster, tailor, policeman, millionaire, billionaire, coolie, lawyer, old man, blind child, deaf transvestite, dumb woman, sick patient, ministering angel, devout Muslim, pious Hindu, true Christian, brave Sikh – you name it. And, the best part is that in each of these roles, he has managed to look like, talk like and walk like Amitabh Bachchan. His mannerisms remain the same, regardless of which role he plays.
Ha, you tell me, I ought to see the movie “Paa”, where one doesn’t get to see Amitabh at all. Such is the brilliance of his acting that you only see the cute character called Auro that he has played.
If one can’t see him in the movie, then why did they have to cast Amitabh in that role? Heh? It might have been anybody passing off as Amitabh playing the part of Auro without looking like Amitabh.
Update 13/12/09: Sudhish Kamath writes, in his review of the film "Paa".
"You cannot make a film about the child being the father of man by simply casting the father as the child, no matter how brilliant the actor is. More so if the point is to show that the child is the father of the man.
….Auro is supposed to be 12-year-old child whose aging process is accelerated. One would then expect to see a child who looks like a frail old man and NOT an old man behaving like a child. There’s a fine line between the two and this is why Amitabh Bachchan as Auro is a huge casting mistake. How poignant and credible it would have been if it were Darsheel Safary (or someone his age) made to look scarily old with no eyebrows or hair and scaly skin!
This takes us back to why Balki made this film. It wasn’t because he wanted to tell us a story about a Progeria patient. He wanted to see Big B play son to Junior Bachchan. That was it. Everything else, including the make-up stunt, was an excuse to arrive at this casting coup even if it means that Bachchan is going to look like half a Zoozoo!
Monday, December 07, 2009
Vacuous and verbose - 9
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You are very lucky. So many people live life never asking this question. Nurture it. You have this question in your heart, you are very lucky. I will tell you one thing. One who knows the answer to this question will not tell you and one who tells you does not know.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
The Madras system
The superintendence of this asylum was undertaken by Dr. Bell, who was one of the directors of the institution, one of the ministers of St. Mary's, and one of the chaplains of Fort St. George
The proposed institution was limited at first to the support of an hundred orphans: half the expense was defrayed by the Company and half by voluntary subscriptions, with the Madras government providing support in the form of land and building at Egmore.
Dr. Bell, realizing that there would be a paucity of teachers came up with the innovation that the ‘best among the students would serve as teachers for the rest”. The scheme as explained by him (source : Mutual tuition and Moral discipline, manual of instructions for conducting schools through the agency of the scholars themselves, published in 1823)
1. The entire Economy of a Madras School is conducted by a single master, or superintendent, through the agency of the scholars themselves. For this purpose,
Such, was the scheme of a Madras School, wherein the” System hinges entirely on the tuition by the scholars themselves and in which every scholar finds for himself his level, and unceasingly rises and falls in his place in the form, and in the ranks of the school, according to his relative performance.”
Dr Bell’s system (and the Lancasterian system which had almost the same elements) became quite popular in the nineteenth century throughout the British empire. Gradually, the Madras system was replaced by other systems which advocated the importance of trained teachers.