Scrolling Notification

When I get time, I listen to music, or read books. If any is left, I blog!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Facing the Music

A R Rahman who took six months and Rs 5,00,00,000 to compose a theme song for the Commonwealth Games is said to have ‘tweaked’ his original version.
Some say, he has made the song more peppy by adding instrumental music.  Some others say the song has a sharp beat now, fewer words and more music.  And the ‘enlightened’ ones say, ‘Rahman has added more layers to the song giving it a folk touch’! 
Oh Yaaro, Ye India Bula Liya’ was first composed, sung and recorded by Rahman on 11 September.  Expectations were that it would ‘outshine’ the FIFA World Cup theme song ‘Waka waka’.  But Rahman failed to impress.  Although he was reported to have initially turned down suggestions to review it, in the face of mounting criticisms, he seems to have yielded.
In this ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’ game, there was one streak of silver lining:  Suresh Kalmadi, the ‘optimist’ of late, reposing faith in Rahman!

Friday 24 September 2010

Beauty & the Brain

        The other day I was watching a beauty pageant on TV.
        It was ‘fun’ to take in those teasing attires, swaying hips, and dewy-eyed bellybuttons!  The question-answer session was even more hilarious!  Many of the contestants parodied mouthful of impressive sentences, little knowing its meaning or relevance.  Here are two examples from a pageant of the past that I remember:
       Judge: ‘Can you tell us what is your best feature?’
       Contestant:  ‘There is one that I have at home.  It’s of the majestic Rice Terraces. I believe that tourism can be uplifted by our nation by means of having a good feature.  I believe that tourism is the key to the future, second to the children of the world who are our future which is why we have to lead the way for them.  Thank you’!
       Here is another one:
       Judge: ‘What is your stand on pre-marital sex?’
       Contestant: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I am grateful to the honourable judge for asking me an intelligent question.  I do not stand, I kneel down and pray all the time. Thank you’!

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Corruption Games

Mani Shankar Iyer has a presence no one can ignore or wish away.  And he compliments it more than adequately with his classic diatribes. 
Just days before the curtains went up on yet another scam involving the Commonwealth Games Mani said, “I will be very unhappy, if the games are successful because then they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and so on”.  Mani added, “Just imagine if we would have spent the `35,000 crore in providing training to the children, we would have won medals in every international sporting event”.
How true!  Acerbic and abrasive he might sound, but look at the reports of corruption unfolding.  At the rate at which newer and fresher scams surface, I fear the common man will soon become insensitive to this, accepting corruption as a way of life! 
Don’t we need a few more Mani Shankar Iyers to shock us out of this slumber?
 - August 2010

Face Reading

When our Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao flew into Pakistan recently, among those present to receive her at the airport was Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi, a senior diplomat known for his uncanny ability to read the faces of people.
Someone close to Hashmi was once quoted as saying, “It becomes very difficult to hide one’s inner self in front of him”.  Hashmi is also said to possess a strange skill in predicting the immediate future.  According to one story, during a foreign office briefing on an upcoming visit by Zia to the UN General Assembly in 1988, Hashmi happened to remark, “He won’t come”.  When asked why, he refused to speak further.  The next day, Zia was killed in a plane crash.
Physiognomy or Face Reading was prevalent in ancient Greece, but was abandoned later as a questionable science.  Pakistanis seem to be resurrecting it and gaining an edge over India in bilateral talks.  Remember, Pervez Musharraf’s visit to India in 2001, and how his breakfast meeting with journalists was ‘stealthily’ uploaded to Pakistani channels, leaving us red in the face!  
And more recently, I wonder, if Hashmi was around to read S M Krishna’s face!
-  August 2010

Nothing Fishy

As a fish eater, I am cornered! The collision between two ships in the Arabian Sea is beginning to impact marine life all along the Mumbai coast in a big way.  Over 500 tons of fuel spilled out into the sea.  Of the several containers on board, 200 are reported to be empty and 11 are still missing.
Within days of the disaster, nearly 500 kilograms of fish samples were found to be contaminated.  BMC has promptly and rightly warned people to avoid eating fish.
Toxicologists say that contamination of this sort affects the fish in two ways.  In one, they are killed immediately, whereas in the other, death graces them gradually.  It is the second type with its residual presence of Hydrocarbons that poses the biggest health hazard.
According to experts, the spill will have an amplified impact on the lobsters, crabs, shrimps etc., and the real outcome will be known only by end of the year.
 With a sigh let me say, “I’m in the mood for fish, but I don’t want anything that tastes fishy”!
-  July 2010

Tharoor Hits A Bad Patch

I hold no brief for Shashi Tharoor.  Yet, to those who say his days are over, let me tell, “No.  Before you finish saying ‘Lalit Modi’, he will be back”!

To make that prediction, I need not be a political pundit or an astrologer.  Shashi lost his place in the ministry for no real reason.  He did not try to ‘bribe’ an entry into IPL either for himself or his friend.  As a first time junior minister, neither did he have the clout to demand an extra favour.

Days after he bowed out, two more senior politicians made their appearance in the IPL mega serial.  But the so-called ‘political compulsions of the coalition mechanism’ restricted them to mere ‘guest roles’! Thanks to this hypocritical privilege!  While it kept in chair the ‘king’ of all scandals, it wasn't applicable’ in the case of Shashi!

From day one, Shashi was seen as a strange creature in the Indian political jungle.  He looked different; talked different, and kept company with stranger creatures!  No politician, either at the state or national level seemed comfortable having him around.  I only have two questions for the Shashi baiters:

At a time when India is struggling to manage its growing global presence, should we waste a storehouse of talents in international politics and diplomacy?

And where is the state of Kerala, crying of perpetual neglect since 1956, going to find a representative of Shashi’s stature and calibre to articulate its requirements in New Delhi?  
- June 2010

Hang Down Your Heads

Even cold-blooded killings need to be categorised differently now-a-days.  Each category seeks to justify its actions and gain a legitimacy that simply does not exist.  As ‘Political Killings’ continue unabated, the latest to hit the front page is the ‘Honour Killing’. 
An ‘honour killing’ involves the murder of a member of a family or community, where the victim is perceived to have brought dishonour to the family or community.  This normally arises out of choosing to marry within the same gotra, engaging in adultery etc.  The murderers believe that the killing, which has the sanction of the community, is an honourable act!
Khap Panchayats were originally formed to settle disputes and promote brotherhood among the different communities.  However, over a period, they became a collection of self-appointed guardians of the ‘honour’ of their community.  They claim that marriages between persons belonging to the same gotra are incestuous and hence cannot be permitted.  At the same time, they adamantly oppose inter-caste marriages for fear of losing a rare booty - the caste divisions in the society!
As innocent lives continue to be sacrificed on the altar of ‘perverted’ honour, I wonder, ‘Is India really marching ahead to be numero uno in the world?’
 - June 2010

National Sins

Cardinal Sins or the Seven Deadly Sins, since time immemorial were considered objectionable attributes to sinful behaviour and unhappiness. These sins were also believed to be the real cause of separation from God.

Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321) the Italian poet, in his 'Divine Comedy' referred to them as 'offences of love for earthly goods'. He proposed three categories - Perverted Love (Pride, Envy and Wrath), Insufficient Love (Sloth), and Excessive Love (Greed, Gluttony and Lust).

Hindu scriptures, the fountainhead of universal wisdom exhort that man can attain enlightenment only when he sheds sixteen bad qualities, namely the six internal enemies (ari-shad-varga), eight forms of pride (ashta­-mada) and the twin qualities of restlessness and inertia (rajas-tamo-guna).

If you feel relieved, the survey which covered 35 countries, left India out of its purview, you sure are not alone!
 -  March 2010

Green Revolution

When Thomas Mann got the Nobel Prize in 1929 for his novel ‘Buddenbrooks’ he was just twenty-five.  A prolific writer, Mann is respected and often referred to for his symbolic and ironic insight into the aspects of time and its influence on our lives.
"Time has no divisions to mark its passage", wrote Mann in his novel ‘The Magic Mountain'. There is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year ... It is only we, the mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols".  How true!
In ‘The Beloved Returns' another novel, he wrote, "Hold fast the time! Guard it; watch over it, every hour, every minute! It slips away like a lizard ...”
Twenty years later, stressing the urgency of time, Jawaharlal Nehru said, 'Everything else can wait, but not agriculture!'
It was clarion call to young scientists.  They proved, all it takes for fantasy to turn into reality, was a matter of time, inspiration, and drive!
That was the beginning of India's great 'Green Revolution'.
  - January 2010

Tatas - A Nation Builder

'Living beyond one's means' is the fad of the day, adding a hideous dimension to the commodity 'money'.  The urge to amass it, as much as one can and as quickly as possible seems to be the only mission in life. And the logic seems to be, 'so long as the ends justify, why bother about the means?'
This is reflected in a survey on global corruption, where India ranks 84 in a list of 180 countries. Bribery in politics and business, and its disastrous impact on public trust and economic growth are the main basis for these findings.
Ironically, another survey, ranked the Tata Group as the most reputable business concern in the world.  After 140 years of existence, five generations of management, and two known instances of political sabotoge of its dream projects, the Tatas continues to be India's 'corporate flagship'.
There is much to learn and emulate from this inspiring saga.  As scams and scandals rock this nation,  Tatas lends a significant contribution to the  business of nation building. 
December 2009

Man Plays God

Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the US, and Henry Kissinger, his National Security Advisor and Secretary of State are two Americans we remember for the wrong reasons.  At the height of India's war with Pakistan in 1971, the duo ordered the Seventh Fleet into the Bay of Bengal in a crass attempt at threatening India.  The mighty armada entered the bay on December 13th.  But it stayed 'an­chored' for the next three days, meekly watching the ongo­ing war reach its logical conclusion where over 90,000 Pakistani soldiers laid down arms before the Indian Army.
Kissinger was busy dreaming up a 'new world order' at that time, aimed at expanding American hege­mony in the world.  He would assert, "Control the oil and we'll control the countries.  Control food and we'll control their population".  Obsessed with this theory, the US turned to the Gulf, putting its foot in Kuwait, and later in Iraq. Had it not been for Iran, former ally turned foe, the US would have been controlling 75% of the 'black gold' by now.
The Kissinger juggernaut never lost its momen­tum.  His 'Food for Peace' programme conceived to appropriate the global food chain, re-emerged in the form of 'Genetic Engineering'.  It is said to have created over 40 crop plants from Tomato to Potato with designer traits that no one knows how the human body would take.
Alarmingly, India is about to throw open its doors to this questionable technology.  Dr Erwin Chargaff, regarded as the father of Molecular Biology says, "I have the awful feeling that sci­ence has transgressed a barrier that should have remained inviolate.  The genetic engineering experi­ments are irreversible. You cannot recall a new form of life.  It will survive you, your children, and your children's children."

November 2009

The Slender Thread

I heard this anecdote from a doctor friend in the US. It was about a senior colleague, who had performed over 4000 heart surgeries at a phenomenal success rate of 98 %. Highly respected and sought after, he was a known atheist! 

One day my friend asked him: "Agreed, you don't believe in God. But I'm sure you've seen that beautiful statue of Mother Mary just outside the main OT”. He nodded. 

My friend continued: "On two occasions, when accompanying you to the OT, I noticed a strange thing. Was it accidental?"

"What?" the senior doctor asked. 

With a smile, my friend told: "Well… You almost tripped when you reached the statue!"

The doctor thought for a while before replying: "You know the anxious moments in the OT. I am no different. As the surgery is over and the patient is brought off the bypass, I gaze at the heart, almost willing it to start. Until it settles down to a regular rhythm, I am desperate. I see all that I built up - my success, my reputation, respect - everything hanging precariously by a slender thread. And my mind involuntarily rushes to the spot, where you say I tripped".

Faith in God to some, is like that slender thread, unseen and unfelt; but rare moments in life help them discover it!
October 2009

The Phenomena

On Solar eclipse day, most of the temples remained closed to block the ingress of negative energy. An atheist would have loved to ask, 'If God were the creator and controller of all, why should he be protected from a temporary celestial phenomenon?"
Hindu scriptures have the answer.
A temple is essentially manmade.  The divine presence here is invoked by human beings through mantras and rituals, and it manifests around the idol as an aura.  This energy is analogous to the scent in flowers, butter in milk and fire in fuel.  So ethereal is it, that gravita­tional disturbances can have a debilitative effect.  That is why Aagama saastraas ordain closure, protection, and ablution of temples during occurrences like the eclipse, appearance of comets etc.
If planetary movements could impact such sacred symbols, imagine what it could to do to mortals like us.  Science may pooh-pooh this, even as it accepts the lunar angle on tidal formations and lunacy.  A free mind would however venture far beyond this infantile vision, in search of knowledge, peace and hope.

- August 2009

A Pair of Nightmare

History has its share of nightmares.  When a case of Swine Flu was reported over a month ago in Mexico, the incident seemed too distant and diminutive to bother.  But, when the virus landed in India, it was time to sit up and take note.  The fourth pandemic of the century is regarded as deadlier than its Spanish ancestor who claimed forty million lives, 90 years ago.
What is in the offing is a series of eclipses - a rare celestial spectacle! Six of them - each one a triple 'sundae', are lined up for the next ten years.  The Solar eclipse on 22nd July will be the longest in 2000 years.  Its appearances in the last few millenniums, witnessed the great Kurukshetra war, submergence of Dwaraka, the World Wars, and the atomic bombing of Japan.
Two ominous events ... hopefully unrelated and holding no more nightmares, let us pray!
July 2009

Habits Die Hard

A recent survey revealed a decline of 14 percent in the Reading habits of adults in the West over the last twenty years.  What was shocking was the average time of four hours spent daily on surfing, gaming and watching television, as against a meagre 14 minutes on Reading!
It was almost 300 years ago that Sir William Curtis, Lord Mayor of London uttered the 3 Rs - 'reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic', which came to reflect one's ability to cope with life and the world at large.  The Print media more than competently promoted these skills, but could not measure up to the speed, access and diversity of the Electronic media. The outcome of the survey may be a pointer to this.
The power of reading in our lives is so impregnable, that reading as a meaningful activity can never fade away. 
- June 2009

Homecoming Chicken!

The chickens have come home to roost! Pakistan has become a terrorists’ playground cheered by a crippling economy and a defunct government, with an angry and confused population looking on.
Until recently, the Swat valley with its fertile orchards, alpine ridges and silent streams was a popular weekend getaway. The valley has been 'talibanised' now.
The Taliban have introduced the harshest laws of Islamic justice, including public floggings and execution.  They have wrested control of the local government.  They have seized Swat’s emerald mines worth millions of dollars a year in gemstones.  At barbershops, notices warning men not to shave their beards can be seen.  Women cannot step out their homes unless accompanied by their husbands or male blood-relatives’.  Girls are ordered to cover themselves from head to toe.  ‘Suicide schools’ are busy moulding a generation of radicals.
As the ‘terrorist bomb’ begins to tick; the world is searching for a solution.  Is there a way to stop Pakistan from breaking up? Can its fallout be contained?
May 2009

The Sticky Fudge!

Fudge was my favourite sweet for a long time.  Filled with chocolate, sugar, cream, and nuts, its taste was simply irresistible.  One day, quite unexpectedly, Fudge introduced me to an unsavoury flavour.
It happened in 2001.  There was a huge political controversy following the release of a video tape in a sting operation.  The tape showed a politician accepting cash as 'illegal gratification' purportedly to render a service of questionable nature.
Cornered, he tried desperately to wriggle out, first blaming his political rivals, and tater pleading with an innocence that would put even a child to shame, that the tape was edited, dubbed, doctored, interpolated, and ... then came the word that rudely shook me out of my sweet slumber – ‘fudged!’  For the first time I realised (after referring to the dictionary of course) that 'Fudge’ was more than a mere sweet! It meant to falsify, fabricate, manipulate or cook (as in cooking up facts and figures).
Almost ten years have passed.  Fudge does not fascinate me any more. 'But it continues to be an all time favourite with the politicians, for it helps them to disown their words and deeds!  Fudge enables them to blame it on wrong reportage and fictitious conspiracies.  When challenged with evidence, they could go on an 'excavation spree' digging digressive parallels from the history.  Finally, when everything fails, they can resort to rhetoric beyond our common sense and comprehension.
With general elections round the corner, how many more ‘fudges’ would we have to chew?
- April 2009

Terror from Across!

The bestseller, 'Is New York Burning?' tells the story of terrorists threatening to explode an atomic bomb smuggled in to the US from Pakistan.  As tensions mount, the US President receives a word of advice from the Israeli Prime Minister, "Tell them publicly that if that bomb explodes, Pakistan's Northwest Frontier areas where these acts are coming from will disappear from the face of the earth ... And if you don't have the guts, I will do it for you".
An imaginary situation; but a typically realistic response!  That is Israel - the touchstone of pre-emptive decimation of enemies, and an inspiring symbol of fortitude. 
Look at India.  We fought 4 wars over issues that still remain unresolved.  Our neighbours with the exception of one or two are hostile or unfriendly.  The long coastline and land borders are susceptible to infiltration and inflow of explosives.
26/11 was a rude reminder of these vulnerabilities.  Two months have passed. And we are still talking!
What are we hoping to achieve?  That the world at large will do us a favour by closing down the terrorist camps in Pakistan?  That they will round up our 'most wanted criminals' hiding there and hand them over to us?
Are we trying to secure the future of this nation? Or are we prolonging the sixty two years of agony?
- February 2009

Happy New Year

2008 is history.  But history reminds us of its harsh realities, instils confidence and strength in us, and prepares us for a new beginning.
And as we gird to meet the challenges ahead in the aftermath of 26/ 11, we have only one thought, one wish, one resolution…
- that we will not be terrorised, intimidated or divided by people who do not like what we stand for
- that we will show our spirit and dignity, resolve and grit that we are determined to defend our values and way of life
- that no one will ever succeed in destroying what we hold dear to our hearts:  Freedom, Peace, and Happiness.
- that we will continue to fight disease, poverty and terrorism
We dedicate with reverence and gratitude this New Year to the memories of those gallant men who sacrificed their precious lives, so that we are safe, and are here to greet each other a Happy New Year.
January 2009