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

Saturday, 15 December 2012

21-12-2012: A Cataclysmic Spasm!

If doomsday proponents are right, our date with the unknown is due on 21-12-2012! It marks the end of a 5125-year cycle in Mayan calendar and as interpreted by some, end of our planet too! We may laugh it away, but not the lurking suspicion inside! Are we trivialising it?

Look at the responses. Anticipating huge crowds of believers, the French and Turkish governments have closed down certain sacred places in their countries. The Mexican Tourism Ministry is holding 'Mundo Maya', an initiative of festivities in locations associated with the Mayan civilization. Frenzied buying of essential goods is on in some parts of China. Music Composer A R Rahman is dedicating a special album of hope and optimism on the day! Vatican has, however declared that the world is not going to end on 21-12-2012!

The scientific community too is making the right noises! NASA has debunked most of the doomsday theories. No unusual celestial happenings including planetary alignments or asteroids on collision course have been spotted by the 'Spaceguard Survey'. A severe Solar Storm shutting down satellite communications, navigation systems and power grids has however not been ruled out. Some geologists are also monitoring the world’s biggest volcano beneath the Yellowstone National Park in USA. Its eruption, considered long overdue can obliterate the Sun and plunge us into a frozen era.

To a layperson like me, the spectacle of spiritualists and scientists fighting each other to showcase their notional abilities is tragically comic! They do not possess either cosmic awareness or scientific knowledge to anticipate or avert natural disasters. A fact driven home by recurring droughts, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, nuclear accidents, epidemics, etc.

And the way we go about destroying nature, we may not even have to wait long... !

"In every death, the world comes to an end." 
-  Mason Cooley

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Schhh... We Are Looting!

Final year viva voce! After what seemed ages, I was called in. 'What is a Switched Reluctance Motor?' the examiner asked. Having never heard of such a thing, I grunted: 'Would a Squirrel Cage Induction Motor do?' His face turned red, not because 'squirrel' happened to be his nickname, but because I had the temerity to utter it in his presence!

Watch the panel discussions on TV news channels. Most of the participants are like me; some are an enigma even to me! Ask an uncomfortable question. They would first feign ignorance. Rephrase the question, and explanations would follow without rationale or logic. Probe, and they would cry hoarse at having been misquoted or quoted 'out of context'. There are times when they turn magnanimous 'willing to cooperate with any investigating agency' as if their allegiance and faith in the constitution are beyond reproach! Elsewhere, when cornered, they would lash out with veiled and sometimes open threats!

There is a pattern to this behaviour. Deflect attention from misdeeds! Spin a web of baloney and legalese. Confuse the 'mango people'. Do anything to stay on, for time is short and the opportunities lucrative!

We know it, yet remain indifferent. Are we tired of counting the millions and billions being looted? Or have we become dysfunctional and flaccid?
“We hang the petty thieves
 and appoint the great ones to public office.” 
 ~  Aesop

Monday, 29 October 2012

No Tears To Shed

Weeks before its 80th anniversary, and after months of free-falling readership and revenue, 'Newsweek' is closing down. Its move to dump the 'romance of print' and 'embrace the all-digital future' comes at a time when print publications like 'The Economist' are gaining readers.

Born within ten years of each other, 'Time' and 'Newsweek' in many ways, have remained two sides of the same coin. In India, they adorn hotel lobbies, business lounges and luxury cars, caressing many an ostensible ego, but failing to arouse any one's grey matter! 

Their approach to global issues is incomprehensible, analysis skewed and slanted, and expression arrogant. Be it the accession of Goa, border skirmishes with China, war against Pakistan, liberation of Bangladesh or the emergency, they have had neither the time nor the inclination to relate to our sensitivities.


The closure of such an enterprise does make us sit up and take note. What we see behind Newsweek's collapse is a mix of flawed editorial indulgences and plunging reader interest. Yet rejoice we must.  For every ton of unsolicited printing paper, 24 mature trees escape the axe, to render the world a better place to live! 

"Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."
~Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

You Only Live Once

At the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan is a dense and dreary forest. No one goes there alone; those who dare, seldom return. This 'Sea of forests' as Aokigahara is popular, is struggling to shed its dubious image as one of the world's most preferred death spots.

India does not have a similar place; that is hardly a matter of consolation. A study by National Crime Records Bureau reports 135,000 suicides in 2011! 370 deaths in a day! 25 percent more than the last decade!

Death makes us grieve, death by choice horrifies us. The latter raises many questions, never a satisfying answer. Over hundred thousand suicidal deaths were reported, but how many were the actual attempts? What is the status of those who survived? While most would be coping with the trauma, won't there be at least a few harbouring the 'death wish' still?

A suicide is often seen as an act of cowardice or escapism, because we lack the ability to relate to the reality of someone giving up his life. Embracing death of one's own volition is never a first option. It is just an idea flashing past in a moment of desperation. As stresses intensify, the idea grows into a plausible solution.

That life has its ups and downs is a natural phenomenon. What is not, is one's easy disposition to wild emotional swings. Stop going overboard. Recapture the purpose of living. Turn to engaging hobbies. Seek out new friends. Go on a vacation. There are several ways to realise that the joy of life is in living it. Anyone who has had a second chance would vouch for it. "Suicide", as Phil Donahue said is only "a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

I end this post with Harriet Stowe's famous words:
"When you get into a tight place and everything goes against youhang on, for that is just the place and time the tide will turn."

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Rights Reserved!


This isn't about El Dorado the legendary treasure chest or Neverland the eternal dream world, but a hangout where you can 'get and get away' with anything! There are no responsibilities here, only a steamy prospect of seductive rights: Right to rant, rattle and ravage! Right to cuts, commissions and grafts! Right to yawn and snooze, and watch porn when awake! Here, it pays to be brazen, devious and unruly!

Stepping into this hallowed portal with a solemn pledge to be faithful and loyal are the modern day carpetbaggers. What greets them is the tantalizing aroma of 'grease and gravy'. A 'cash in' on this dish seems the best way to stay afloat, and crawl back after the current term. Promises and principles can wait!

Naturally, as the self-indulgence hots up to breed scam after scam, the clamour for resignation grows. The initial reaction is: 'Why should I resign? I haven't done anything wrong'. Then comes a perplexing 'political conspiracy' theory, followed by a 'pregnant' assertion: 'I am an obedient worker. I will abide by what my party decides'! Panic stricken, the party twiddles: 'Innocent until proven guilty'! The cue is evident: 'Be patient. Public memory is short'!

The game is played to perfection, from leisurely dribbling and changing goal posts to an eventual washout. And the ball keeps rolling: 'I am ready to resign, but do I have the right to do so?'

Dwight David Eisenhower a former President of the United States hit the nail on its head when he said:
"This desk is one at which a man may die, 
but from which he will never resign!"

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

It Is A Lollapalooza!

A Vastu enabled car! Engine in the South-east, Steering in the North-east, Fuel tank in the West, Boot in the South...! Now, don't smirk, for you'd only reveal your ignorance!

Vastu sastra was once the basis of temple architecture in South India. It actualised synergy between the Ashtadik (8 directions) and the Panchabhoota (5 Elements) ensuring peace, prosperity and happiness. However, like any other traditional science, Vastu sastra too fell prey to commercial exploitation. Today, it is touted as panacea for all kinds of ills. The 'remedies on sale' include structural alterations, internal rearrangements, and charging the environment with 'Yantras'.

When there is so much well-being on offer, what is wrong in reconfiguring a traditional vehicle to achieve Vastu compatibility? If you still think it isn't feasible, here are some easy alternatives:

For example, avoid driving South first thing in the morning, to save yourself from accidents. Roll down car windows in the North-west to please the wind god. Balance the space element by clearing the clutter inside. A few camphor crystals will neutralise stagnant energy. And fortify with a charged 'Yantra' on the dashboard. Your vehicle is now holistically safe!

'Crap,' you might say, but Vastu experts, keen on newer opportunities would contend: If a global car manufacturer could embrace Vastu, why not you?

The reference is to media reports about a Japanese company using Vastu Sastra to resolve labour unrest in its manufacturing facility in India. The news took the corporate world by surprise. After watching Japan's incredible revival from a World War inflicted devastation, the global managers have been chanting: genchi genbutsu (Get your hands dirty), ringiseido (Collective decision making), Kanebo (Service to society), Takeda (Service to the nation), Kyocera (Respect for others)...

Perhaps, this mantra failed to address the new found theory that the factory was built on what was once a burial ground and the emanating negative vibrations were causing the violence. Running out of options, the management in a desperate attempt to establish peace and harmony, reportedly summoned a Vastu specialist to sanctify the environment through rituals.

When Vastu could drive into a car manufacturing plant, why do you doubt its ability to take you for a ride?
"I am a paranoiac in reverse;
I suspect people of plotting to make me happy!"
- J D Salinger

Saturday, 4 August 2012

When There Is Nothing Better To Do...

When there is nothing to do, how do you keep yourself occupied? Day dreaming, nose picking, farting, fornicating...? Or do you think of any other 'selfless deed'? Well, if you are in India, there is no dearth of ideas that can keep you 'eternally' engaged!

During school days when once a teacher failed to turn up and there was no one else to substitute, my bench mate pointed out to his dad's signature on the report card, and said: 'Why don't we make one for us too?' We began to 'design' our signatures. After a variety of curves, slants, strokes and flourishes, we lost interest. My friend then said: 'Hey, why don't we try it out in Hindi?' We had nothing else to do!

The HR Wing (South) of the Life Insurance Corporation of India too hit upon such an infantile idea recently. On the intranet appeared a circular, directing its employees to start signing in Hindi. The 'out of the blue' move was purportedly to accelerate use of Hindi in South India! The circular however had to be summarily withdrawn following protests.

The LIC for reasons incomprehensible, had overlooked a Reserve Bank of India directive on the subject.  While ruling that official documents/correspondence could be signed in any language as the signature was merely a symbol, the Master Circular RBI/2009-10/95 had stated that the signature should be in one script only to obviate chances of confusion or fraud.

Although a signature is generally expected to consist one's name (first, middle or last) or nickname, there is a legal provision permitting a personalized mark or symbol, or even thumb impression instead. The only condition is, whatever be the script, style or form, the signature must be unique.

The rules are thus clear. Common sense makes it even more clear. Still, with nothing better to do, we indulge in wild fantasies. What if we extend the 3 language formula to personal signatures? Each of us will then have a national, regional and vernacular signature! We will also merrily contribute to the spiralling chaos and confusion!

With nothing better to do, what else can we think of?

"Doing nothing is better 
than being busy doing nothing!"
-  Lao Tzu

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Picture Of Things To Come

"I sent him to your country to study. He was harmless, a great child and outstanding student who was constantly busy learning the skills needed for his future and betterment of the world. He was not out on the street to learn how to kill, steal or do other kind of evil..."

Yet, Yannick Nihangaza who turns 24 on the eve of India's 66th anniversary of independence was beaten up, so savagely as to suffer irreversible brain damage. Since 21 April night, he is in coma.

Yannick came from Burundi, a land of dancers and drummers in Africa. Like any young man, he too had dreams and desires. To fulfil them, it was India that Yannick chose, not Europe, America or Australia.  The reasons might have been several, but among them was undoubtedly his admiration for this country and its people.

A 5000 year old legacy of rich heritage and culture!  It teaches us to be kind, compassionate, generous, humane, tolerant... But to most of us these are merely ornamental! Even ITDC (Indian Tourism Development Corpn.) has as its tag line, an adage from one of the Upanishads which says: 'Atithi devo bhavaḥa' (A guest is god to us)!

Look what we have done to that god! Beat him up mercilessly and left him bleeding by the roadside. It took two letters from the victim's father, diplomatic intervention and media outcry to wake up the administration. By then, one of the accused had conveniently fled the country!

Why is this happening... senselessly, shamelessly, and repeatedly?

Is there no respect, no fear for the law? Is it that with money, muscle and political power, anyone can get away with anything including loot, rape and murder? Or is it a reflection of the moral rot that has set in? Where are we heading to? 

I dread to recollect this George Orwell quote:
"If you want a picture of the future, 
imagine a boot stamping on a human face..."

Saturday, 23 June 2012

How far is Niagara from Mullaperiyar?

June 30 1859

A crowd of over 25,000 people is assembled on both banks of the Niagara River to witness a historic event. The mood is skeptical. There is heavy fog, and the wind keeps blowing at 80 kmph. Unmindful, the legendary acrobat Charles Blondin sets off to walk on a tightrope 1200 feet long and two inches in diameter, stretched across the gorge. It takes him 23 minutes to complete the to and fro journey.

Brandishing the balancing pole, Blondin asks, 'Do you now believe I can do it?' The crowd roars, 'Yes.' He continues, 'Do you believe I can do it again?' The crowd roars louder, 'Yes.'

This time, Blondin walks the tightrope without the balancing pole. The crowd cheers. He then walks blindfolded, walks backwards, walks on stilts... The crowd turns delirious.

Blondin asks, 'Do you believe I can carry a person across the gorge on my back?' They shout, 'Yes. You can do it, Blondin. We believe you.'

Blondin says, 'Okay. I will carry one of you across the gorge? Who will be my partner?' The crowd falls silent. No one volunteers. They all believe in his abilities, but not so much as to entrust him with their lives!

Faith apart, there is another aspect to this event. The Niagara River straddles the international border between the US (New York) and Canada (Ontario). Both countries share this resource with perfect reason and responsibility. Together, they also operate a hydroelectric station to harness the power of the Niagara Falls.

The 117 year old Mullaperiyar dam is situated in Kerala, but controlled by the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu under a 999 year lease agreement signed during the British rule that qualifies it to draw the river water for irrigation. Today, the dam lies submerged in a sea of life-threatening disputes!

Look at the irony! Two countries together build and operate a power station to light up a million homes. But, two states in the same country are lighting up a fire of hatred in a million hearts!

 "A nation is the same people breathing the same air,  
drinking the same water, and living the same life."

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Contests & The Winners



Congratulations!  

Just as you find relevance 'Reading Between The Lines' at Teega, we find great pleasure in spotting winners among you, who add value to Teega!  A worthy giveaway is our humble gesture at saying:
Thank you. Come back, and keep us going please.


The Winners: 
---------------- February 2014 ----------------
Ms. Mily Alexander
---------------- August 2012 -----------------
Ms. Priyanka Kantak
http://priyankakantak.blogspot.com
---------------- June 2012 -------------------
Mr.  Sathya Narayanan 
http://rurlink.wordpress.com              



"If you don't do anything, nothing will happen."
- Bobby Jacobson

Friday, 25 May 2012

Your Search for A Good Book Ends Here

It is raining here in India - a cloudburst of books and best-sellers at bargain offers! Book lovers have never had it so good. If you want a share of it, don't sit and gaze. As Dolly Parton said: 'To catch the rainbow, you gotta get wet in the rain!'

I am talking about online shopping sites, some of which are 'push-selling' books in a big way. The discounts offered are hefty, sometimes as much as 50 percent! You can use credit cards, net banking or even opt for COD (Cash on Delivery) to pay up. The books are couriered within 4 to 5 days of your order. Experience how easy, inexpensive and convenient it is to 'shop from the comfort of your home'!
The spurt in choice however throws up a few challenges too! Which books do we buy, from where, and at what price? A search brings up hundreds of recommendations, reviews and offers. Not only daunting, but also confusing!  Hence, after several trials and errors, I devised a fool-proof method. Let me share it here. 
*
1.  Search
Buying a book is easy, but buying a good book isn't. The key is knowing about the current trends and tastes. Here are two sites to begin with:
Unarguably, the most authentic and comprehensive source. It will help you graduate from being a random to a planned reader.

Good Reads

Awesome site. You are in the company of readers, writers, reviewers, critics and book lovers. If you have been neglecting reading, GoodReads is the place where you can 'kick-start' that habit again!
*
2.  Assess
Once you catch up with the latest, the next step is to zero
in on the book that you must read. For tips on this, check out these two sites:

Enter a title or author. The site will come up with reader recommendations from its huge database.  Click on, to know more about your choice.

Here, you not only get information on any book of your choice, but also get to read its preview. A must for anyone waiting to begin his next read.
*

3.  Checkout
The last step before you purchase. Visit one of the following sites and enter the name of the book that you wish to buy. Within seconds, the sites will show up a list of online portals where the book is available, with their offer prices and mode of payment.

*
4.  Purchase
For the sake of brevity, I am limiting my recommendations to just two of the numerous online shopping sites. I have tried out and found them to be reliable and satisfactory.
Flipcart   
I don't know why I didn't try out Flipcart earlier. When it finally happened, I was pleasantly surprised.  And here they are right at the top of my recommendations.      
My favourite. Huge collection of books; attractive discounts; prompt execution. If your book is stocked out, enable the SMS/Email alert.
Great site. A welcome feature here, is the multilevel reward points that you can earn and redeem as you purchase.

*
5.  Save More
If you are happy buying used books, here is a site. Try out any title; you will get to know about the condition of the book and the discount offered. In select locations, you can also use their library facility. My favourite.

*
6.  Not Yet Over
After reading, if you want to dispose of the book, there are a few sites, where you can list your books for free, wait for a prospective buyer to turn up, and close the deal directly. The sites generally do not charge you for for this service. Search for more info.
That is it. I have shown you the way to discover, procure, and read good books. Happy reading


"You never know which book, at which time in your life might be the one
that inspires you to grow in many ways you thought was never possible."
-  Burke Hedges

Disclaimer:
The websites referred above are based on personal experience and are solely indicative of the growing online shopping opportunities in India. A missing reference does not in anyway imply a rating of a particular site's status, reputation or reliability.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Prince of Persia and The Angry Birds

Finland: the world's biggest cruise ships are built here. It is home to Wartsila, Kone and Nokia. In summer, a quarter of the country basks in sunshine for 73 consecutive days and misses it for 51 days in winter. It is the land of 'a thousand islands and a hundred thousand lakes'. From this great country, comes yet another surprise! 'Angry Birds', a video game conceived by Rovio Mobile Inc. in collaboration with NASA.

Launched on 22 March 2012, the game has already crossed one billion downloads, rewriting the success story of the harbinger of all video games: the 'Prince of Persia', which was a rage among office-goers, twenty years back. Every one, from the boss to the office assistant knew that fingers were moving 'stealthily' to help a valiant hero save a damsel in distress. Neither a 286 PC with monochrome monitor nor the 'timid' animation technique of those days mattered much.

The euphoria created by Jordan Mechner just refused to fade away. A 3D format of the game appeared ten years after its launch. In 2003, another enriched version hit the market. Walt Disney Pictures even made a film on the theme. Today, 'Prince of Persia' can be played on iPhone, iPad and the Xbox 360.

The most striking thing was the eagerness, the game aroused in the players to impress. Most of them could not go beyond the fifth or sixth level. Hence, any claim to the climax sounded mysterious. The secret soon spilled out. It was a simple cheat code that let you play in a level of your choice. With that, like the fizz that pops out of a soda bottle, the game lost all its thrill.

Let us hope 'Angry Birds' does not fly away the same way.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Let This Not Happen To You

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An evening in Pune. Looking to park my car, I slowed down. The traffic wasn't heavy, but was messy as usual. Well, what else would you expect in this 'happening' city? Three vehicles out of every four on the road are two-wheelers. If you move around on foot, better be on your guard too, for you wouldn't know when a bike would swish past menacingly.

The 'road-race' in front of me was a spectacle of tolerance-deficit! On either side, stood pedestrians, eagerly waiting to cross over. Among them, were an elderly couple, returning home from the park nearby. Hand in hand they stood, looking for a safe passage to the other side.  Several times, sensing an opportunity they would put one step forward, but pull back just in time. They were beginning to run out of patience.

Involuntarily, I walked over to them and asked, “May I help you?' The husband looked at me, hesitated, and then extended a hand. Cautioning the riders, I took them across. Throughout the ordeal, he had his right hand protectively around the wife.

Once we reached the other side, he gently squeezed my palm, and mumbled, 'Let this not happen to you, friend.'

Three years... Even today, those words haunt me. Why did he say so? Was he thinking about his children? Was he disenchanted with life? Or was it a premonition of what was in store for at least a few of us? 
"… as the evening twilight fades away,
the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day."
-  H W Longfellow

Monday, 9 April 2012

P V Narasimha Rao: Discredited, Denigrated & Discarded!


The year 1991
India is facing bankruptcy. The government rushes to the International Monetary Fund for an emergency loan of $ 2.2 billion. The IMF says: Pledge 67 tons of gold as collateral! The first of the flights carrying the precious cargo takes off from New Delhi on 21 May. India temporarily tides over the balance of payment crisis, but the government collapses. 

It is mid-term poll. In a rally in Tamil Nadu, Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The sympathy wave helps the Congress party form a minority government.  But the question is, who will head it?  The party satraps want someone pliable.  They zero in on P V Narasimha Rao.  Having retired from politics on health issues, Rao is not even a member of the Parliament.  Thrilled at the status, the party 'unanimously' elects him its leader, and has him sworn in as Prime Minister.  An ideal stop-gap arrangement till someone from the 'dynasty' takes over!

But Rao has different ideas.  He announces his arrival by breaking an age-old tradition, handing over the crucial Finance portfolio to a technocrat Dr Manmohan Singh, rather than a seasoned politician.  He also retains the Ministry of Industry.  Rao, then goes on to jettison practically every single 'vote-catching' ideology of the Congress party.  Neither Jawaharlal Nehru's socialism nor Indira Gandhi's Licence Raj has any place in his scheme of things.  The country's protected markets are thrown open to foreign investors.  Indian firms are permitted to raise capital from abroad.  The Rupee is made convertible on trade account.  Rao also deals with the tricky issue of devaluation quite deftly, in 'instalments'!  By the time he is through, the Rupee depreciates by almost 20 percent!

His detractors keenly await the upcoming parliamentary bye-election in Nandyal as an ideal 'pay back' opportunity.  But Rao upsets their apple cart again, winning the seat by over 5 lakh votes and entering the Guinness Book Of World Records for the biggest victory margin ever.

Rao's contributions are not limited to economics.  He brings about normalcy in the strife ridden states of Punjab and J&K.  Outsmarting the Arab countries, he allows Israel to open its embassy. India responds with maturity to the unification of East and West Germany, disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) as a regional power group.  Improved relations with the West makes India's entry to the UN Security Council a distinct possibility.

It is also now on record that the nuclear tests at Pokhran were actually planned by Rao.  During the swearing-in-ceremony of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as his successor in 1996, Rao is said to have slipped in a note that said: 'The bomb is ready. You can go ahead.'

He was the first from outside the 'dynasty' and the South, to serve as Prime Minister for a full term.  The only event to mar an otherwise gainful rule, was the destruction of the Babri Masjid.

The congress party lost the election that followed.  Rao resigned.  He was soon entrapped in litigations of corruption, bribery and fraud.  The intent and magnitude of the conspiracy were shocking.  What hurt him even more, was the utter disregard and disdain of his own colleagues.  After a brief illness, Rao succumbed to cardiac arrest on 23 December 2004.  The 'powers that were' overruled a cremation befitting the status of a former Prime Minister.  24 hours of wrangling, and his body was finally flown out and laid to rest in Hyderabad.  A conscious effort to bury his image and name started almost instantly. 

If today, India enjoys the status of one of the fastest growing economies in the world, witnessing substantially enhanced living standards (Drive 150 kilometers for Tea?), we have only one person to remember, appreciate and eulogise: P V Narasimha Rao.
"Greatness is not measured by what one accomplishes,
but by the opposition one overcomes to reach his goals."
- Dorothy Height

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Middle Finger In Demand!

A finger capturing our imagination for the first time, appears in the epic Ramayana.

The chariot in which king Dasaratha was chasing his enemy, began to wobble.  Kaikeyi, the queen who was with him, noticed that one of the wheels was about to come off.  Quickly, she inserted her finger in place of the missing axle-pin, avoiding a mishap.  Pleased at her presence of mind, Dasaratha promised to fulfil two of her wishes.  Years later, on the eve of the coronation of her stepson Rama, Kaikeyi reminded Dasaratha of the promise and demanded: 'Make my son Bharata, the king.  Send Rama to the forest for fourteen years'.

To date, the finger that brought 'Sooryavamsha' the oldest and biggest of the dynasties in ancient India to an earth-shaking climax, remains a mystery!

The finger that is shedding its secrecy however, is the middle one.  Our cricketers were the first to popularise it.  Other celebrities soon followed. The last to enter the 'finger-club', as repeatedly seen on the national TV channels a fortnight ago, was the son of a senior politician under investigation in a disproportionate assets case.   He 'gave the middle finger', and we took it without a murmur!

Those uninitiated in matters pertaining to the middle finger might ask, 'why all this hue and cry?'   Well, the reason is the phallic connotation it carries.  Holding up the middle finger, also known as 'flipping the bird' or 'flipping someone off' is meant to suggest, '**** off' or 'up yours'!

According to experts, there are over two dozen ways of doing it, all but two being innovative variants.  The basic way is to hold up your fist, and then extend the middle finger full stretch.  You can also show your palm with all five fingers open, and then bend the middle finger through 90 degrees.  Give it a suggestive jab and you push home the message!

If you were the target, how would you respond?  Take it lying down?  Turn your face away?   Or return the compliment?

Disclaimer:
The above is intended solely for informational purposes and not as a recommended gesture or expression in one-to-one or group interactions. Any attempt to the contrary in part or full could invite public rebuke and/or wrath, and this blogger shall not be responsible for its consequences.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Drive 150 km for Tea?

Four youngsters barely in their twenties.  One comes driving a swanky new car.  There is a clamour for a treat.   And the offer is tea at a wayside shop 150 km away!  “Drive 150 km for chai?  Awesome, dude” is the reaction.
 
Just an ad film (Click here).  Yet it conveys that India may be poor, but Indians aren't!
 
Fifty years ago, India's GDP was US$ 37 billion.  Today it is a whopping US$ 1729 billion!   The Forbes 2011 talks of 50 Indians in its list of World Billionaires.  As per Credit Suisse, there are 170,000 'rich' Indians making the country the 12th 'richest' in the world.  The 'rich' in global terms refers to those who have assets worth US$ 1.0 million or more, over and above their primary possessions and outstanding liabilities.  In the next slot are 4.5 million Indians with surplus assets of US$ 100,000!

A National Council of Applied Economic Research estimate, puts the Indian households with annual income in excess of US$ 20000 at 3.8 million.   The cash stashed abroad by Indians is said to be over US$ 500 billion!  The black money circulating within the country is in the region of US$ 300 billion!  According to a Central Statistical Office report, the per capita income at current prices stands at US$ 1240, a rise of 14.3% over the previous year!   The average salaries this year too, are expected to move up in double digits.

We are rolling in cash, so much so that manual counting of currency notes is beginning to bore us.  No wonder, a flurry of automatic counting machines has hit the local market.  White or black, cash can now be dusted and counted, and even the counterfeits identified in a matter of seconds.  All for a mere US$ 200!

Are we talking about surplus income?   No. It is the disposable income that is motivating us.  So, why should anyone feel scandalised if four youngsters decide to drive 300 km, have tea, and return?

Money does not not reflect progress, prosperity or well-being, until you start spending it.  One reason, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the economic indicator since the Second World War days, is no more seen as a true measure of the standard of a nation's prosperity.  Today, it is the HPI (Happy Planet Index) combining economic metrics with indicators of well-being (health, education, life span, satisfaction etc.) that matters.  Perhaps, why in a recent HPI survey, Costa Rica emerged right on top, and India ranked 79 positions ahead of the US!

Didn't he sound factual, when Barack Obama said: "Money may not be the only answer, but it does make a difference."
"Money is the barometer of a society's virtue."
Ayn Rand

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Gamble With Every Bite!

GE or genetic engineering is about to invade India. Waiting in the wings is a satanic seed of the popular vegetable Brinjal. Engineered to do away with the need for pesticides, it has a 'built-in' toxic gene. Consume version 2.0 of the vegetable, and you could be facing unknown health hazards.

GE is man's attempt at playing god! It involves transferring specific genes from one organism to another to enhance the traits of an existing organism or create a new 'designer' life form.

For illustration, consider two varieties of tomato plants: One has tomatoes with hard skin, but scanty juice. The other produces juicy tomatoes, but with tender skins. Transfer the gene responsible for the hard skin from the first plant to the second variety, and you have a genetically modified plant that produces juicy tomatoes with a tougher exterior. Tastes better, stays longer, and makes it easier to handle and transport!

But the problem is the process itself! When a new gene is inserted into an organism, no one knows what changes the natural genetic code existing for ages will undergo. It could interfere with the behaviour of the original genes or even produce rogue mutations. The consequent impact on human health and ecology will be too late to detect and repair.

Dr Eva Novotny sums it up well when she warns: "Genetic engineering is tampering on a monumental scale, and nature will surely exact a heavy toll for this trespass."
"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing."
— Albert Einstein

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Under A Tower, Near A Reactor!

I am searching for a place to stay. Do you find that funny? Well, you won't, when I add I am looking for a safe place to stay. I do not want a cellphone tower atop my building. I also wish to be at least 100 km away from a nuclear reactor? Life is precious, if not to the authorities, at least to me.

There are currently around 500,000 cell towers supporting the mobile phone networks in India. Those in the know say, radiation within 300 meters of such a tower raises your body temperature by 1 degree centigrade in 10 minutes. This could cause headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, dry eyes and so on. Prolonged exposure may lead to miscarriages in pregnant women, and sometimes even cancer.

At the other extreme is the nuclear reactor. Lke the proverbial iceberg, the scientific community sees only its 'tip'! Even catastrophes like the one that hit Fukushima in Japan, fail to lift the cloak off this much touted 'invincibility'.

Recently a section of the media reported, “nine people including three employees working at the Kalpakkam atomic reactor, about 70km from Chennai, died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011.” The report added, “as many as 244 employees in Kalpakkam and their dependants were detected with various types of cancer between 1999 and 2009.”

Initially, the authorities tried to play the usual game of sweeping facts under a carpet of conjectures (Click here for a typical reaction on Jaitapur). They said, “the average rate of incidence of cancer among NPCIL employees was 54.05 per lakh while the national rate was 98.5 per per lakh of population. The average death rate due to cancer among NPCIL employees was 29.05 per lakh while that of the general public was 68 per lakh of population.” Another statement added that the incidence of cancer in North Eastern India where there were no nuclear plants was higher than in the areas where there were atomic reactors.

Amazing! What are they trying to tell - that the safest hide-out from Cancer lies in the vicinity of a nuclear reactor? 

Jacques Cousteau, scientist and inventor once said:  
A common denominator in every single nuclear accident is that the specialists rush to the media saying, 'There's no danger to the public.' They do this before they themselves know what has happened because they are terrified that the public might react...
"The power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking. We thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."
- Albert Einstein