Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Thursday, June 30, 2005

A tree fell...

A few days ago I was greeted by our super^2 senior and our tutor Ms. Chaitanya. We discussed a few things and then she made a comment, referring to the neem trees that are there in our campus, which I try to reproduce:
It feels so nice to see that the seeds that we have sown have grown up into trees and so much has changed...IIIT has become greener
I remember her saying quite often, looking at our batch:

The future is bright..

- but somehow I feel awkward today. There was rain. Heavy winds blew. Blew in such a way that sometimes they threatened to carry me with them. And along with the wind, they almost uprooted this neem tree planted by B Tech 2002 pass outs on 22-4-2002 - the tree fell and does that symbolize something? I dare not muse over it. Doesn't sound to be good to think on.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

aah! Freeeeedom!!

This is second in the list of posts attributed to my "event"ful day yesterday.

My friend and I were sitting in front of the main gate, on the steps. 10 yards from where we were sitting, there was this fence, made of wire. Towards the other side of the fence, there were 2 cows (white) and 2 bulls (black). I think I've got their gender correctly, anyway that doesn't matter much to the discussion for I'll refer to them as white1, white2, black1, black2 from now on, for matters of simplicity.

Now,white1 and black1 were tied together under a thatched roof to two different poles that were supporting the roof. The black1 was happily having fodder while the white1 was, I guess ruminating.

white2, and black2 were standing outside under open skies, which were heavily clouded, sun seemed to be sneaking out of those clouds, and there was pleasant winds blowing across from the 2nd pair to the 1st pair's direction. The 2nd pair was slightly to our left,(more or less directly in front of us), while the 1st pair was under the roof towards our right.

We were carefully observing what was going on. black2 was seriously making its presence felt - loudly "ambaaa" - and seemed to be really distressed with its condition (I somehow, felt it was f). white2 and black2 were tied to one of the poles supporting the wired fence. It appeared as though white2 was trying to console black2 and calm it down.

As this was going on, I felt something touching my back and I turned around. Here was a cowhand, with his stick. And what I felt was was the stick. He asked me to make some way - the steps were narrow, and I was blocking the movement, so I moved aside. This man took his stick, went right towards white1, opened its chains and you should see the way in which it ran out towards the open spaces towards our right. My friend exclaimed - "aah! Freeedom!!"
- now there were three of us - me, my friend and his relative who was about 3 years younger than us. All of us observing what was happening towards the other side of the fence. It ran off before the cowhand could finish the job.

black1 on the other hand which was having fodder was in no hurry, it let the cowhand to carefully remove the chains, and then he had to poke it with his stick to force it out when it more or less hopped out of the place towards the direction white1 went.

Then came the turn of white2. It was calm and quiet all the way and the moment it was released, suddenly it came alive and moved out of that place as quickle as possible. All this while black2 was trying its might to move out of the chains. And for some reason, I do not know, the cowhand did not help black2's cause. It was left chained and he left the place.

Much to its dismay, black2 seemed to have found itself the unfortunate victim as it expressed its displeasure at its state. Now, black2 was furious. It wanted to use all its might to free itself of the chains. It started exerting force and started running to see if the chain might break. It then started to see if it can use its teeth, in the process it had to put its face in the wired fence, and the fence which was made of barbed wire seems to have hurt its body. But the desire to get out of the bondage seemed to have won. And it tried hopping around to see if it can get out of the place, somehow. This resulted greater trouble.

One end of the chain was tied to the head of black2 whereas the other end to the pole. In the process of trying to free itself, black2 ended up getting the chain wind up around one of its legs. Now when it started exerting force and moving forward, it almost slipped and then it realised that there was some trouble. Then it worked on how to get out of this one. It tried hopping and somehow got the leg out of the entangling which resulted earlier. It's next move was to get out of the place. So the process begins again - and the same entangling of the leg, and then getting it out kept on. But black2 continued its effort relentlessly. After about 15-20 minutes, it appeared as though its wishes were heard. The cowhand came and wished to help it.

By this time, the chain was in between the front two legs. If black2 were to move or try to run in between it might slip and fall - and hence the cowhand was trying to see, if he can avoid the entangling of the chain. Finally, with the help of my friend's relative, the cowhand could remove the chain - and black2 enjoyed its "hard-won" freedom with a joy that one must see in the way it ran out of that place. I thought in my mind - "aah! Freeeedom!!" - How true!

(It is a sheer coincidence that I end up posting this on 26th June, 2005 - exactly 30 years after Emergency was imposed on the country which resulted in the removal of civil liberties to people of India... I hopefully might end up writing on Emergency today in my next post )

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Who wants math?

Today was a highly "event"ful day and I mean it. I went to the Thread Ceremony (Upanayanam)of a close friend of mine. The venue was right beside Ganapati Sachchidananda Aashram situated on the Balanagar- Medak route. This is the first in the series of posts that I have up my sleave.

My friend has an illustrious uncle in Mr. G T Murthy, who has held various positions at different companies, has been a visiting faculty at MIT, etc. etc. He is currently VP, Crompton Greaves and is a Visiting Professor at the Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, IIT Bombay. He was one of the invitees and was present at the ceremony. I happened to have a brief talk with him.
I try to reproduce more or less what happened there.

My friend introduced me to Mr. Murthy. He asked me where I study, which Engg. , then the discussion came to the streams in our college - I told him - B Tech in CSE and B Tech in ECE.

Then came a spontaneous observation - I think there won't much of a difference, for all the ECE students would like to opt for CS courses for they are more job fetching.

I tried to tell him that there were efforts being made to avoid this.

I used to teach Communication courses to students at IIT Bombay, but of late students are not opting for them.

I tell him that we had a Professor from IISc B'lore who was a specialist in Error Correcting Codes, and the number of students who opted for the course was hardly 5. And for a course to run there should be a minimum of 15 students.

The reason that this is happening is students do not like "math" courses. They do not want to take math, and so the situation prevails. I no longer teach Communication courses.

There are not many good Maths teachers...

There aren't students who are ready to take them when they are available.

He concluded saying "Ultimately those who learn math are those who have that spark and interest.. and the best way they do it is to learn by themselves "

He had to leave then. My friend told me that one day we could go to his place and can discuss/debate and learn a lot from his discourse - I wait for that day...

Monday, June 20, 2005

A few thoughts from Anil Ambani

I found this on Pioneer. Read this keeping in mind the recent story of the split in Reliance:

Click here to read the story.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Simple, easy and fun....

Do something simple, easy and fun today

- said my prescription. And that put me to thinking. What could be simple, easy and fun at the same time?

Easiest thing to do was to ask for someone's advice.
(By the way, I remember someone telling me that giving an advice was the easiest thing to do - that way, the other person also shall be doing a easy, simple thing whether or not it's fun for them)

I asked a close friend of mine first. (may be I should be saying - chasked (asked in a chat conversation ;))) He suggested:
- watch a nice movie (me: gr8 idea! any others?) - this looked simple and easy to me but may not be fun
- sleep - actually this is top idea. simple, easy and fun(?!) :D - But may be the Doctor might feel that this is Tamasic fun(I mean, very passive and lazy choice) - wasn't very appealing.
- read Bertrand Russel - (me : a ha! ) hmmm...hmmm... actually my friend knows my interests ... but the problem is this: Bertrand Russel is going to be fun, and doing this is easy in the sense that I do not need to struggle hard to find his writings - but simple?? Not very, reading is surely easy but in my opinion Russel must be studied and not just read.
- chat with an interesting character - actually this is awesome fun - but you rarely find interesting characters to chat with. So that way it is not so easy or simple - next choice....
I ask another friend of mine-
- solve puzzles in The Hindu - Did not sound really interesting ...
- read some book - Again... depends - not very simple task....
- Clean your room - Excellent! I think this was something that was doing rounds in my brain too for quite some time now. But is it simple ?? Looking at my room - it needs quite a good deal of patience - I think it is fun definitely, so no problems with that - and because it is fun - it becomes easy too..

There were a few more suggestions - why not do some programming - yes, yes - people remind me - Programming is Fun - but then if it were simple and easy - then where is the fun???

After so many suggestions from various corners, what I do find is this way of thinking has surely been fun. It was also simple and easy, as the thought was not from my side. Had this kind of thinking been considered as doing something then I surely followed my prescription. But the point remains that - there is no evidence as to whether the action has been completed for the choices keep increasing, opinions keep coming and so on... finally I resign to the fact that cleaning my room is to be made simple and then done - as it is profitable in the long run...

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness"

Monday, June 13, 2005

Parineeta - for a Change

A few days ago my father brought a pamphlet and asked me to go through it. This was an announcement from Visaalandhra Publications (one of the most popular publishers for Telugu literature) regarding 12 volumes of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya's novels translated in Telugu, starting with "Devadas" (purposely written so - for in Bengali it must be "Divodass", for there is ample evidence of making it a good translation to Telugu), which they were coming up with. The pamphlet says that here's an inaugural offer all the volumes can be booked at 1000/- which actually cost 1300 bucks.

Now, this is all the routine stuff in such pamphlets - but what caught my eye was the introduction given by the Publishers and the role that they feel Sarat's novels can play to today's young audiences (as we are aware - more than 60% of Indian population is below 30 years) - and here's what I remember is the gist of the same:

In these days when the notions of sensitivity are being lost and the relationships between a male and a female are getting more and more materialistic and complex, these days when the respect for women is being lost and equally appalling the lack of emotional responses from women and the increasing instances of rapes and incest cases in our country - we feel that it is time for the young audiences to get to know the richness of emotions and the sensitivity of human feelings which are essential to a better understanding of relations between the sexes for a better society - and Sarat's novels each of which deals with intimate human relationships and how the interplay between different male and female characters can play a great role in doing so. Each of Sarat's novels has strong female characters which powerfully express their thoughts which have over the years surely raised the stature of women.

I fail to remember the quotes and extracts from his novels which were quoted in that pamphlet. Now why am I writing all this?

I watched this movie "Parineeta" a while ago - and I now realise that what was said made a lot of sense. It confirms what the pamphlet informs.

The film is very well made and the interplay between the characters was excellent.
A special mentions needs to be made of the lead pair - Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan - who excel in their roles, especially Vidya Balan - the portrayal of Lolita - I shall await to read the book to understand the character. I think that the adaptation of the novel has given me enough evidence of what to expect from a Sarat story.

Unfortunately, I could not watch the classic "Devadas" by ANR and Savitri till now, and the Devadas by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, despite the fact that he is a good director, the movie does not show any of the human relationships - and their interplay which is the serious drawback with his adaptation. Of course, it is another matter that Bhansali likes to portray the movie through his eyes - and he surely has given us a movie which has "rich"ness written everywhere on its face. So, in comparison with Bhansali's Devadas, this Pradeep Sarkar's movie I think has tried to do as much justice to Sarat as one could think of.

I recommend all the movie goers of impressionable ages to sure go and see this movie just to understand the depth of relations, and the sensitivity involved with them and more importantly - the portrayal of a woman - Parineeta - the married woman.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Light at the end of the tunnel

This is Version I of the post - Proof Reading to be done later.

This post exclusively deals with Leader of the Opposition - Shri L K Advani's recently concluded visit to his roots in Pakistan and his speech at the function organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs & Law - which also formed the last leg of his trip. Different reactions from different sides - Sangh Parivar is angered, Mr. Jyoti Basu slams the remarks, Congress tries to make the best use of the situation to raise the internal disarray between the long time friends - BJP and the Sangh Parivar - further it speaks on the definitions of Secularism - as though the definition that they gave is sacrosanct, Mr. Sharad Yadav comes to the rescue of Mr. Advani against the remarks of Mr. Laloo Prasad who as well tries to target creating rift between Mr. Advani and RSS/VHP - all this and more.

In the midst of the political cacophony that we find instances of the moment you open any newspaper over the trip - I wish to present a viewpoint which I find is the way in which we should understand the dynamics of the points raised by Advaniji. What were the controversial parts of his statements? (Earlier his description of Babri Masjid's demolition as "saddest" moment in his life is another thing that caused sparkles)

a) The I point which made everyone in India go ga-ga was The Founder of Pakistan Mohd. Ali Jinnah suggested to be a Secular.

b) The II point was about making a statement that the "nationhood" of Pakistan and India is an inevitable reality and an irreversible historic occurrence. (virtually dismissing the "Akhand Bharat" concept which BJP subscribes to owing to its allegiance with the RSS- but is it so? - See the following argument)

About a)
Before going any further - let me quote Quaid-e-Azam Mohd. Ali Jinnah (I added a prefix to his name - but in reality he hated anything but calling him simply - Mr. Jinnah) as quoted by Mr. Advani -

“Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and specially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in cooperation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.

I cannot overemphasise it too much. We shall begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and Muslim community,… will vanish. Indeed, if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain its freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long ago.

Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free, you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State.…You will find that in course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

Prior to this, Mr. Advani quoted Ms. Sarojini Naidu as havin pointed out that "Jinnah was once a secular" - this what has caused the trouble. Now has Mr. Advani misquoted both the leaders - Ms. Sarojini Naidu or Mr. Jinnah? Let's take a look.

At the Katas Raj temple which is said to have Historic significance as a temple which was referred to in Mahabharata - Advani was requested by the Govt. of Pakistan to lay the foundation stone to restore the temples. Surely, a positive act from an Islamic State. Added to it, we also have Mr. Advani visiting the Memorial of Quaid-e-Azam Mohd. Ali Jinnah. And in that respect - he put it in as subtle manner as possible to the people of Pakistan as well as the Government authorities there - that the Founder of their Nation was in fact a person who believed in raising a Non Theocratic - Secular Society - and this was done in a tone where he appreciated the Govt.'s move one side and at the same time reminding of their own Founder's ideas to look beyond an Islamic State which rakes up fundamentalist notions - and spoils the atmosphere. Yes, "fiza zaroor badli hui hai" - understanding Advani in the context he made these comments is possible only when we look at the whole issue without any prejudices. As Mr. Advani made those comments - there was a news channel and its corresponding newspaper which went for a poll - What is your opinion on Mr. Advani's comments on Jinnah? And approximately above 70% of the people gave a reply that it was wrong on Mr. Advani's part to comment that Jinnah was secular. Why are we prejudiced against Jinnah?

Thanks to our text books - be it State Syllabi or the CBSE syllabi, the textbooks of History never ever teach alternate viewpoints of Indian Freedom Movement. They never deal with the realities/ complexities involved with the partition. They never tell you about the role of Muslim League in the same for that might create problems and might create tensions among the different religious groups - Hindu and Muslim for the thing is not easy. So, the best thing to do is to find a villain - and make him the cause- thankfully we have Jinnah, to show. So our job of teaching people becomes easier by making Jinnah a wicked person. If Jinnah has demanded for a separate State for Muslims - what were the reasons? What were the complexities? All these questions do not have any boolean answers. There is no way to paint black or white and call - this is right and this is wrong.

But unfortunately for us Indians - we do not have politicians/leaders (whatever their background) who are "educated" and who are "intellectually competent" for their knowledge is limited and their scope of thinking is limited by various reasons. Viewing the whole issue in the multiple dimensions associated with it has been long forgotten. Our Country, despite being the largest democracy never witnessed vintage debates on issues/ issues of concern, issues that matter, issues that enlighten the nation, on ideologies that matter and .... Debate is THE thing for a positive way of understanding various viewpoints.

About b)

I am reminded of this thing which happened a few years ago. I guess it was Mr. Tahir Mirza - the Editor of The Dawn, the newspaper founded by Mr. Jinnah, who came to India - and for some reason - he said more or less this thing - "I generally hear from a lot of Indians that why can't Pakistan and India reunite and form into a united India - then I have only one thing to say - why can't it be the other way - why can't they reunite and form into a united Pakistan?" - By all counts - The Dawn is one of the most popular newspapers of Pakistan and can be considered one that reflects the mindset of Pakistani Intelligentsia. I do not wish to comment on the merits or demerits of the statement but to point out that there are differences of opinions, and at the same time this gives us a glimpse of the sensitive nature of the issue of talking about the reunification. Once tasted, it is very difficult to give up sovereignty unless there is a strong will from amongst the members who wish to give it up for something better. We find something of that kind happen in Germany where the East Germans went ahead to join West Germany resulting in the fall of Berlin Wall. The conditions were favorable for that, then. In the case of India and Pakistan - such a thing is not looking to be possible in the near future - there is terrible misunderstanding about one another. People of India do not really trust People of Pakistan and vice-versa. A general notion that Pakistanis are bad is also ingrained in the thoughts. Development of mutual trust is a must for any kind of confidence building measures to continue. In that respect, look at the visit of the Leader of the Opposition, BJP Chief - Shri Advani - talking of the sovereignty of Pakistan and talking of Partition as an unalterable thing which needs to be accpeted. The BJP chief by saying that his party is of the view that India and Pakistan and they being independent sovereign countries is a reality - he has dispelled the myth about a strong section in India which would be against the Pakistanis and hated Pakistan. He assured that the WHOLE of India is together on a better relation and this is a trust which is necessary to be built in people for getting closer to them. The closer you get, the greater is the possibility of dreaming of "AKHAND BHARAT" or a United Pakistan (I am not sure of the phrase in Urdu) - a possible reunification - which otherwise is going to remain a distant dream. In fact, in this sense, the RSS/VHP should be happy at the success of Advani's trip to Pakistan and stop their hue and cry over his reflections on Jinnah - but unfortunately they seem to have missed the whole point. Winning the confidence of the people of Pakistan is a very necessary thing to be done given the progress in the peace efforts between India and Pakistan and Mr. Advani has clearly spelt out the ways in which Pakistan can reciprocate by moving towards a Secular State as envisioned by its founder.

There are many people who leave an irreversible stamp on history. But there are few who actually create history. Qaed-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual. In his early years, leading luminary of freedom struggle Sarojini Naidu described Jinnah as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 is really a classic and a forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to follow his own religion. The State shall make no distinction between the citizens on the grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man"
- Comments in the visitors' book at Jinnah's mausoleum, on June 4

These comments by Mr. Advani, the Leader of the Opposition are written in what can be described as a careful selection of words to convey the sense that has been explained above in this post, IMHO.

This raised a huge uproar - and his only comment was - let there be debate. Yes - there is surely a light at the end of the tunnel - for - as I mentioned earlier - Debate is what shall bring out the long buried different points in History - and thereby clear us of any preconceived, baseless prejudices about any one on earth - Jinnah in this case and in that sense there is a sure need to take a relook at each person - including Veer Savarkar - let the people of India join the fray for an open debate with an open mind, and let's look at the multiple dimensions of problems/issues and that shall surely enhance our capabilities as humans to understand complex matters - and appreciate them rather than despising without adequate knowledge.

(At the time of writing this post, Mr. Advani has resigned from the post of BJP Chief and the author considers it one of the best ways of getting his party toe his line of understanding - and hopefully he has the energy left to explain the point to all - I sincerely wish that he remains the leader of the Opposition - for his resignation as the Leader of the Opposition would mean the failure of the whole effort that he could convey in Pakistan. If he remains the Leader of the Opposition - then that would mean that Pakistan can still be sure about the fact that the Indian Parliament has all its leaders who are for a betterment of relations as has been demonstrated in the past as well )

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Indian Govt.'s Gift on World No Tobacco Day

India becomes the first country to ban on-screen smoking

Govt’s Doctor plays The Cigarette Censor

Ramadoss: India becomes first country to ban smoking/cigarettes on screen; says foreign movies need blurring


Posted online: Wednesday, June 01, 2005 at 0000 hours IST

NEW DELHI, MAY 31: The next time you see smoke on celluloid, it won’t be coming from a cigarette or a chillum — no dum maro songs anymore. In a bizarre order, the Union Health Ministry has issued directives banning all smoking scenes in films as well as on television. The government has also banned showing cigarette packs, hoardings or even using any item with a cigarette brand name on it in films.

With these stringent rules, India becomes the first country to ban smoking on screen. Films that have already been shot and include shots of people smoking, will need to a run a scroll at the bottom of the screen, warning of the hazards of smoking.

‘‘We are giving them two months but no such scenes will be allowed after that,’’ said Bhavani Thayagarajan, joint secretary, Ministry of Health, announcing the new measures.

The law also applies to foreign films or old films being re-released or shown on television. Distributors and television channels will be required to blur the screen each time an actor lights up or a cigarette brand makes a guest appearance. The horizontal warning scroll also becomes mandatory.

Ministry officials said they took these steps after a recent WHO study ‘‘held Bollywood responsible for glamourising smoking’’. ‘‘Film actors have a lasting impact on the minds of children and young adults,’’ pointed out Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, Union health minister. ‘‘There are reports that more women and children are smoking these days,’’ he added.

To be effective from August 1, 2005, the order has been notified on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day today. It is part of a Health Ministry initiative to give more teeth to anti-smoking laws. For instance, smoking is officially banned in public places in the capital, but that doesn’t stop hard smokers puffing away with impunity.

Today’s order also cracks down on ‘‘surrogate advertising’’ — defined as all kind of indirect references to a tobacco brand name. ‘‘Nobody can constitute awards in the name of cigrette brands, even the cigrette brands appearing on Formula 1 cars will have to be removed,’’ said Thyagaragan.

How sportscasters showing F-1 races will tackle this is unclear. The status of promotional events such as the Red and White Bravery Awards also comes under a cloud. A high-level screening committee has been set up to look into established brand extensions — such as Wills clothing.

Following violations in terms of cigarette advertising at the point of sale, the government has banned illumination of advertising boards as well as reduced the size of the boards. ‘‘The shopkeepers can just name the particular brands. No pictoral depiction will be allowed,’’ announced the ministry.

In order to make cigarettes inaccessible to minors, the government has even prohibited the sale of cigarettes through vending machines. ‘‘In a few months,’’ said Dr Ramadoss, ‘‘there will be pictorial warning regarding the harmful effects on the cigarette packs.’’

Here are a few more stats:

India signatory to WHO’s Framework Convention on
Tobacco Control, ratified on Feb 27,’05

Srinath Reddy, WHO consultant on anti-smoking:
• India is first country to ban smoking on cinema screen
• Takes lead in banning sale of cigarettes to minors
• South Africa, Thailand are the only other developing countries with anti-smoking laws
• US opposed to a ban on smoking in films on the grounds of freedom of expression
• Japan wants to retains cigarette sale through vending machines

Earnest Request to all smokers - Quit Tobacco for a Healthier World