31 January, 2013

My wayward crowning glory !!

(Pic courtesy : cartoonstock.com via Google)

“I wish I had hair like yours” quipped someone, the other day.  “Falls in such soft waves around the shoulder, looks like you actually style it that way” remarked another.  Trust me, people – you do not want to have hair like my crowning glory.  My crowning glory has a mind of its own – literally, it does.  It is like a child – a rather unpredictable one. 
On some days it decides to behave itself – so beautifully that I cannot believe my eyes when I look at the mirror.  It falls in waves around my face, softly framing it, delighting me with its rather gleeful bounce and swing at every nod and shake of my head.  The kids at school do not know this yet but those are the days when I shake my head the most, just because I delight in the feel of silky, wavy hair and revel in the fact that it’s all mine. 
Yet again, there are days when my crowning glory is irritatingly, vexingly errant.  It’s almost as if it just decides that it’s not going to behave.  It just falls, limp and lifeless, making me look like a drowned mouse or one that is in the process of drowning.  
Yet again, there are days when my crowning glory behaves as though it is high on something, like its snorted some wrong stuff up its nostrils and is pretty much in the grip of a heady feeling.  It just blooms like a flower opening up to the sun, effectively making me look and pretty much feel like Medusa. 
All in all, there are many a times when I’ve wanted to just have straight hair.  Straight, silky smooth tresses.  There are some pretty crazy things I’ve tried, all in the name of attempting the straightening of my hair.
1.       Milk – I remember having read somewhere at some point of time in my life that spraying milk on the hair about 15-20 mins before shower helps straighten hair.  Needless to say, you’ve got to shampoo and condition your hair after spraying milk on it unless you want to spend your day smelling like milk that’s gone bad.  The site also rather helpfully mentioned that one needs to spray milk on one’s hair before a shower and not after.  Thanks for that.   Imagine walking around with your head smelling like curdled milk.  Ewwwww !!!  Well, all it did for me was made me feel like Lord Shiva sans the tiger skins and the snake and the vibhuti.  Speaking of which, it does make me want to ask a question here – has anyone ever wondered if Lord Shiva does indeed want milk poured on his head ?  The so called “milk therapy” left me feeling rather rancid for it did absolutely nothing for my crowning glory which remained as indescribably wayward as ever.

2.       Milk, Honey and Strawberry – Hmmm.  Sounds yummy, does it not ?  It was pandered as another “home remedy” for straightening hair without chemicals.  Having had the “milky way to straighten hair (described above) fail miserably on mine, I just opted to drink milk with honey and eat the strawberries instead of squashing the entire lot on my head.  Seemed like a terrible waste, truth be told.

3.       Coconut cream – screamed another helpful website.  Only fresh cream, it said.  Well, now if I had to extract fresh coconut milk, it would be only for one thing – to make payasam.  I cannot, for the life of me, imagine spending a couple of hours, all read and steamy faced, squeezing milk out of a coconut and proceeding to rub the same on my head.  I did try the canned stuff though.   Ended up looking and feeling like having a whole tin of grease rubbed on my hair and not all of it washed out.  Far from straightening my hair, it just made it drab and lifeless.  Made me want to hide my locks under a winter hat on one of those absolutely hot, summer days.

4.       Another website suggested a medley of herbs –rose geranium, chamomile, cedarwood, sandalwood, rosemary, lavender and on and on went the list.  I am still pretty much in the process of collecting all those exotic herbs mentioned on that list.  I guess by the time I do lay my hands on all those (as also those of you who intend trying this therapy), I’ll just be much too old to even need those for the said purpose.  Gah !!

5.       I once tried tying my hair up.  Yes, tying.  Real tight.  I figured if tight binding can work in keeping feet small and petite, binding should work in straightening stubbornly wavy hair too.  Guess I didn’t realize exactly how stubborn my tresses are.   Feet among the Chinese community in the olden days remained petite because of foot binding but my hair – nah !!  It still went wild all over the place – binding or no binding – made not an iota of difference.  Thank God my head does not have to wear shoes.  I mean, talking of shoes – that’s another sore point with me because I absolutely have feet like a hobbits.  Gah !! 

6.       One of my school friends, during our school days actually took a candle to her hair, tried to burn off all the curls at the bottom of her locks, in the hope that it leaves her with straight hair.  She ended up with hair that looked as though it had been chewed on by a bandicoot.  Needless to say, I wasn’t half as enamoured enough to try something as radical as that.
So here I am, even today, with a headful of unruly tresses that absolutely refuse to heed my whims and fancies.  It is as errant as ever, curling on some days beautifully and falling softly on my shoulders like a wisp or a caress while on other days it makes me look scary enough to give Medusa a run for her money.
Any more bright ideas, anyone ? 

28 January, 2013

The J.S.Verma Report - Couple of points to ponder on

(Pic courtesy : creativeyouthideas.com via Google)

At first glance, upon reading the gist of the Justice J.S.Verma report, though it did sound quite balanced overall, some bits did leave me bothered.  A couple of aspects in the report specifically stood out.
One question has consistently been on my mind ever since I read about the fifth rapist in the Nirbhaya case not being tried in an adult court of law on account of being a juvenile.  Now the Justice Verma report too has negated lowering the juvenile age from 18 to 16, as was being demanded by the public.  My question here does not really revolve around the math or a specific number.  It has more to do with the sense of responsibility or like I’ve said in one of my earlier posts, accountability.  I do admit that cases where very young children have been accused of murder or some such have room for a debate as to whether they “knew” or “were aware of” their actions in committing the crime. 
In this regard, I can’t help but recall the case where a British law court convicted two ten year olds in 1993 for having tortured and murdered three year old James Bulger.  The “murderers” were just ten years old but end of the day, what they had done had been more heinous, far more monstrous for their chronological age to get them out of trouble on the pretext of being “juveniles”.
Shouldn’t the law take more into account than just mathematical age ?  Should youngsters committing crimes not be held accountable for their actions ?  Should they not be held responsible for their actions, especially given the fact that things reach the court of law only when their actions have been serious enough. 
The fifth rapist in the Nirbhaya case was reported to have been the most brutal and he is probably the one that is going to walk free in a few months time – all on the basis of being a juvenile.  This is one loophole in the law that needs to be plugged.  
Ironically, it is the very same law that is able to do nothing about the scores of child labourers in India.  Juveniles committing crimes, no matter how heinous or savage, are given special treatment and shielded from paying the penalty for what they’ve done but the law does nothing to go those extra miles and protect children from child labour throughout the country.  Is the law not aware that this problem exists ?  Yes, it does.  It has laws, regulations in place banning child labour.  But my question is “How about the enforcement of these laws w.r.t child labour ?”  Tomorrow, if some vigilante decides that the fifth rapist should be tried in an adult court of law, that very law and the people who are dispersing it would stand up and say “but it’s against the law to prosecute a juvenile in an adult court”.    
Look at the other side of the coin – scores of children, little children, underaged are forced to work – manual labour, labour in factories.  Many of these children work in glass factories, work with chemicals and pesticides or worse still, are forced to sell their bodies on the street to the highest bidder.  Where does the law step in here ?  The law does not go any extra miles to uphold what has been put down in the books of law in these cases.  It is the very same law and legal system, though, that prevent juvenile offenders (no matter how serious the crime) from facing the brunt of the law, when that is what they fully deserve for their actions.   
Also, if the law talks of chronological age in determining whether a juvenile can be held “responsible” for the crimes committed by them, if this is just about the numbers, how would the law classify the 8 year old who has to slave through the day to bring in a paltry sum of money to feed mouths in the family ?  That 8 year old, for all practical purposes, is the “breadwinner” in that family.  Sad truth remains that there are countless such 8 year olds in the country.  If the law can take special precautions to protect juvenile offenders because they have not reached the chronological age of 18, why does the law not enforce more forcefully whatever it is that it has in place for these little ones that should be in schools, not slaving away in factories or brothels.  How about the social privileges, the communal freedoms that should be afforded to them on the basis of being underage ?  How about the little joys and pleasures of childhood ?  The law does nothing to enforce those.  So why protect juveniles who have been guilty of something as heinous as rape and murder ? 
Another bone of contention as regards the Verma Report is the bit about "mutilation" not being a part of the law in India - that's the reason why the option of a chemical castration was turned down.  But come to think of it, chemical castration does not tantamount to mutilation.  As has been said by many people and as I do myself firmly believe, rape is essentially a demented way to exercise control.  It is physical, yes, it is.  It is a physical act but the roots lie in the psyche.  It is more an exercise in domination and in showing women their place and one of the forms it takes is in the physical act of rape.  Many “old schoolers” have pointed out time and again that rape is more about the male biology and that it is their sex urge or the inability to “control the sex urge” that drives them to rape women. 
I read an article a while back which said that Jane Goodall, in 30 years of observing chimpanzees (primates that are said to be closest to humans in terms of biology) never once saw a rape among the chimpanzees. 
Rape is not a biological thing brought about by men and their sex urge.  Rape is learned.  Rape is a learned act of sexual violence which essentially stem out of the belief and ethos that prevails in paternalistic societies – that men have a right to control and dominate women, however and whichever way they choose to. 
Rape is also equally about instilling the “fear quotient” in the female population so that they are more amenable to domination.  However, this “fear quotient” is missing from the men that set out to rape women in the first place.  These men know no fear, they are not afraid because they know for a fact that in most cases, they would get away scot free.  They know that society would do a mighty fine job in raising and pointing fingers towards the women who have been assaulted in the first place.  They know that the law enforcement agencies would be among the first to point out that it was the woman’s fault, that it was the woman who was dressed provocatively, that it was the woman who was drunk and hence was inviting rape.  No one points a finger at the men, no governmental agency holds the men accountable. 

It is this lack of “fear factor” that drives them towards something as heinous as rape, with total impunity and audacity.  It is in instilling this “fear factor” that the law needs to think of punishments that would take away from these men the very thing they feel they can use to dominate and control women.  It needs to tackle their misplaced sense of potency and power.
If rape is a learned action, the law needs to be suitably amended to make sure that the “unlearning” process happens too.  In any learning or in this case, unlearning process, there has to be a motivating factor.  With rapists, this motivating factor would have to be “fear” because that is probably the only thing that would make these men think twice (probably) before laying their hands on a woman. 
Chemical castration renders people impotent and would turn rapists into objects of ridicule.   More importantly, they would have to live with this for the rest of their lives.  They deserve it and hopefully this would serve as a good example for other macho males who might have been harbouring plans or ideas on similar lines. 
End of the day, putting the age and crime factor together, if a juvenile is old enough to go through and carry out something like rape or murder or any other crime that is savage, unrestrained or brutal, they are old enough to be punished, they are old enough to pay for their deeds.  Simply put, people have to be held “accountable” for their actions, irrespective of whether they are 50 years old or 15.  Once that is established, they need to be made rather acutely aware of the fact that accountability comes with a price that has to be paid.



24 January, 2013

No ads on my blog, please !!!

(Pic courtesy : edublogs.org via Google)

I guess there are many different reasons why people blog.  I’ve been blogging for more than seven years now.  I started this blog mainly as an online diary of sorts, to record those little snippets that tend to get forgotten over a period of time, those anecdotes relating to the growing up years of both Macadamia and Pecan.  Nowadays, even though I blog less about Macadamia and Pecan, what with them growing up and wishing to see less and less of themselves on an open medium like a blog, I do blog about other things that I care about, things that I feel I need to have my voice heard over, things that I have an opinion on and would like it heard.
End of the day, my blog is personal.  It is about personal thoughts, personal opinions and the like. 
Of late, over the past many months, there have been plenty of requests from companies and ad agencies and what have you – who have expressed a desire to use my blog as a platform to place their ads or promote their businesses.  Needless to say, they have all been turned down.  My grouch is not as much with them as it is with people who try to sneak their ads and placements in.
There were so many instances in which people were leaving / people are leaving comments on my blogposts with a link to whatever it is they were / are trying to promote.   Now this really really bugs the hell out of me.  This was happening so frequently that I had to put in a word verification.  Nah.  Didn’t stop them.  There are people out there who seem to have all the time in this world to even work through word verifications on blogs to sneak their ads in.  I went a step further and turned the “comments moderation” on. 
A couple of weeks back, I deleted 450 comments.  All originating from the same person, all the comments with the same link back to God Knows Where – not that I care.  I don’t !!  Who in the name of God has time to leave 450 comments ?  I guess it was a script or some such being run but this just goes to prove my point.  There are sneaks out there – plenty of them just trying to piggyback on personal blogs in the hope of having some traffic diverted their way, through the links that they have slyly placed on personal blogs.
Deception, slyness and sneakiness have become so much a part of the psyche in society today that it seems almost natural, almost a given to just go ahead and exhibit these traits – just about anywhere one pleases or chooses to.  Call me old fashioned but these things have no place on my dictionary.  I never did subscribe to these and from where I look at things at this stage in life, it is not about to happen.  I cannot come to terms with people exhibiting sneakiness and then expecting it condoned as something that is happening all around, so it has to be OK.  No, it is not OK.
Well – if any of those people who leave these links in my blog’s comment space are around and reading this post, here is a direct message – stop trying to place your ads or promote your links or whatever it is that you do, through my blog.  If at all you do really want to use my blog as a platform  (I can’t really think of any good enough reasons why people would want to use my blog though !), scrape up a bit of self-respect and shame, write and ask nicely if I indeed want those links placed anywhere in my blog.   Please do not assume that my blog is around for you to cavort and play around with, because it simply is not. 

22 January, 2013

India - Ready for Change ??

(Picture courtesy : indianfusion.aglasem.com via Google)
India is quite literally in the spotlight, of late – a spotlight that is shining harsh and bright and bringing to the fore a lot of feelings and attitudes that were hitherto, hidden within the recesses of the mind. 
On the one hand, we have a large section of Indians, both in India and abroad, rooting and clamouring for justice and a need to change for the better, the very basic fibre of our society and of course, the legal framework.  This section of the population is demanding and insisting that our politicians accept more responsibility, stop being so mule headedly ignorant and also for them to stop diffusing their illogical, irrational and unreasoned thoughts.  This section of the population is showing its outrage in many different forms to the ridiculously absurd, imprudent statements being made by self-appointed god men, politicians and the police alike. 
On the other hand, one finds the hard core traditionalists with the “will not change, should not change” attitude being exhibited with unabashed insolence and effrontery. 
Where is the country heading with the population exhibiting such remarkably different attitudes to a problem that has essentially underscored the history and tradition in the country, from eons ago ?
Mohan Bhagwat spoke of Bharat and India.  His contention being that these were two completely different entities.  He spoke of a model traditional society in Bharat, presumed and opined that this particular model society would have no evils in it, since it was based on tradition and ancient values.  He spoke of modernisation as one of the main causes for the “troubles” that we see in the country today.  Many others too have spoken against the “westernization” of the country and the subsequent corrosion of the erstwhile morals and values in the country.
However much the traditionalists like to cling on to their hope of a caste based, ancient society as the panacea to all evils in the country today, they cannot deny the existence, the birth and the growth of a totally new class in India today – the youth, the urban middle class.  These sections of the population are fast growing and as the days go by, are demanding that they be addressed. 
This had led me to wonder if our country is indeed heading towards a serious cultural divide.  It has been on my mind for quite some time now.  It was when I started to think on these lines that I realized something that is true even today.  It has been true for ages and it still holds good today.  A traditional Bharat and a modern India are pretty much one and the same. Why ? The answer is quite simple.  There still exists a strong core of the outmoded ways that erstwhile Bharat was said to have had, in the minds of the people today in India, who claim to be ultra-modernists.
Like I had said in one of my earlier posts,  to facilitate “change” to happen and succeed in any civilization would need the people in that society to introspect, delve within their minds to see if “change” is what they want and more importantly, if they themselves are willing to change their mindsets in the process.  One would then realize along the path of introspection that it involves moving out of the comfort zones on many different aspects of life, in many different areas of life that had hitherto been taken for granted.  It is probably at this point that many would balk.
Take marriage, for instance.  Once married, among almost all the communities in India, the woman is expected to wear a mangalsutra around her neck, she is expected to wear a bindi on her forehead and in some communities, it is absolutely essential that married ladies fill their maang (hair parting) with sindoor.  A man however, needs no such adornment to tell the world that he is a married man.  A woman, however, does. 
Yet again, once widowed, a woman needs to give up these very symbols that she was needed to wear when her husband was alive.  In extreme cases, a woman is shorn bald and is expected to stay put in an ashram of sorts.  If the wife died, however, it made no difference to the men in terms of having to “give up” something. On the contrary, men were encouraged to marry again, the pitiable excuse being that someone was needed to take care of the children from the earlier marriage. 
This brings me to a very pertinent question – how many ultra modern people living in the modern India (not Bharat, mind you) insist on their daughters and daughers in law wearing these “symbols” of marriage ?  Trust me, there are many.  To take off ones Mangalsutra is, even today, in many of the families that call themselves modern, a sacrilege. 

There is nothing wrong with the Mangalsutra, per se.  But when that becomes a medium through which society subjugates women, their actions and their thoughts, when that little chain and pendant takes over a woman's identity so much so that she's lost without it, so much so that society does not recognise her without it, therein lies an issue.
How many people in “modern” India today would agree to their daughters or sons marrying someone from another caste without flinching at the thought even a little bit ? 
How many people in “modern India” would tolerate the fact that there indeed are Hindus who eat meat ?

How many people in "modern India" would be willing to let their children have just a civil wedding without the traditional ceremonies out of fear that society would label them rebels or outcasts ?
These are but simple examples which prove that there still very much exists a very traditional Bharat in the minds of people who outwardly project themselves as a part of the community which considers itself uber modern.
If there indeed have to be winds of change blowing through the country, what needs to change first is the attitude of people.  Superficiality would be among the first things that would need to be shed.  Truth be told, this is another one of those junctures at which people would turn back and choose to revert to their comfort zones.  This is the crux where people would choose not to stick their necks out.  These are the moments when people would seek security in numbers rather than be a loner that has to stand up to a wall of people who are pretty much fused to traditions, no matter how unreasonable.
This is probably why “change” proves so difficult to bring about in any society.  India is experiencing, like I said earlier in this post, a thirst for change from certain portions of the younger generation on the one hand while some other portions of that very generation remain fastened to traditional whims and fancies which have been passed on generation to generation.
This is precisely the reason why we have so many politicians still shooting their mouths off, why we still have so many self-proclaimed god men spewing utter rot.  For, they are only too acutely aware of the fact that inside many of the Indians who claim to be modern, there still exists, there still resides a hard core traditionalist.  It is that traditionalist inside their minds that still rules the roost. 
I am not saying that India (or any other country for that matter) needs to give up traditional values and sentiments to make way for change.  Tradition is what reminds us of who we are and where we come from.  But problems arise when tradition starts being used as a crutch to satisfy personal ideologies, as a prop to subjugate or keep in check a portion of the population. 
This is the very crossroads on which stands a large portion of India’s population today.  We have a large segment, a substantial slice of the population which calls itself educated and urbane – suave, polished, self-proclaimed debonairs on the outside who claim to be modern but within whom the old-school conservative, orthodox purist still calls the shots.
Yes, the country does need the winds of change to blow but these winds of change have to start off as the invisible tendrils of change on the insides of the mind before they can gather enough strength to be able to visibly sweep, transform and revolutionize change on the outside.
Like Leo Tolstoy once said
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself (or herself)."



21 January, 2013

The Armstrong Laws of Deception

(Pic courtesy : berzin.blogspot.com via Google)

Has it has been christened yet ?  Has it has been given a name ? No – It is not a baby I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the Lance Armstrong / Oprah Winfrey interview.  To me, sceptic that I am, that interview, this whole drama could be turned into, will be soon turned into a book for sure, maybe a movie even.  It probably might be – sometime in the near future.  I’m pretty sure, as we speak, there may be publishing houses lining up to snag the publishing rights to this book.  For, in the world of today, nothing sells like dirt. 
Yes. Dirt.
As far as the interview goes – the whole affair of him “confessing” in the interview with Oprah and what have you made me ask myself just one question – “What does he stand to gain from this exercise ?” .  Like I said earlier, I am a sceptic and when people like Lance Armstrong start trying really hard to shed those crocodile tears and throw an interview the public’s way – all pat and rehearsed – it leads me to wonder why he’s doing this and why now ?  Surely not out of a change of heart, surely not because a virtually non-existent conscience demanded that he submit to its whims, surely not because his inner voice called him on his private line or sneaked in an appointment with him and told him off, surely not because he suddenly “realized” that what he had been doing all these years had been completely wrong.  Yet again, I should not be using the word “wrong” here because concepts of right and wrong are extremely relative, subjective. 
I read the transcript of his interview with Oprah and it made me wonder – not about how Armstrong gathered enough of courage to rip the fa├žade off his own face but about the people who have lost out through the years because of him.  There have been many – people who have lost out on their cycling careers, people who have been forced to shut shop, people who have been forced to quit their jobs, people who have been slandered by Armstrong’s publicity company or his band of lawyers.  This whole “confessional” made me think of those other people whose lives he’s destroyed in an attempt to hold on to what I can only describe as a megalomania all these years. 
I’m sure it is not easy.  Having been put on a pedestal all his life (well, virtually) and having been an icon of sorts – a cancer survivor who came back into the world of competitive sports to win titles as gruelling as the Tour de France, he would pretty much have got used to that image himself.  It probably made it easier on him to project the image of a sportsman that was nothing other than a complete lie, a total sham. 
During the interview, Armstrong confessed to have been a bully, a flawed person but in the very same interview he blamed his testicular cancer for having pushed him into doing what he did – used dope and bullied people into submission, intimidated people into keeping quiet and browbeat those that did speak out.  It is a known fact that usually when people survive something like cancer, they are rather pointedly and emphatically aware of having survived something colossal, something that many people succumb to.  This radically alters their perspective towards life as they live the rest of theirs.  Armstrong clearly seems to be an exception.
Many newspaper reports have said that he showed little or no remorse.  I did see bits and parts of the interview (didn’t really waste my time watching it all) and yes, there he was, his face set, his eyes spewing defiance, his entire body language saying “Yes.  I did it.  So what ?”.  But then again, for people like him that are used to having their way, no matter what, even admitting this must have been extremely difficult, I presume.   Commendable, indeed !!  He even went on to say that he personally believes that he deserves to be given another chance.  If ever there was something called the height of audacity, he surpasses it all.  If ever there was something called being an egotistical maniac, he takes the cake (and in this instance, he eats it too).
My thoughts also, at this point of time, revolve around the kind of impact this must have had, must be having on youngsters worldwide who have looked upon Armstrong as an icon of strength and determination.  What sort of an example has he set the kids all over the world, not to mention his own ?  My heart goes out to his kids, more than anyone else at this point of time.  They still have to go to school, they still have to face their classmates.  Imagine having a parent whom everybody looked up to, every one of your friends idolized and now there’s nothing left but a feeling of disgrace.  The erstwhile idol image being replaced by the newfound discredited one.  The ignominy of it all is something his kids will have to live with – day in and day out.  He’s not just tarnished his reputation here, he’s put his kids on the line as well.  Fame is indeed a double edged sword and a mighty sharp one it can be.
If anything, the first half of the interview with Oprah just went on to highlight his sociopathic personality traits.  They did not, in any way, dispel that notion and bring him forth as a human being who was genuinely remorseful over his actions or his deeds.  The second half of the interview with Oprah is said to be a more emotional one.  I, for one, sincerely doubt if I’d even take the trouble of watching the second part or reading the transcript of the second part of the interview.  End of the day, I doubt if I would be able to bring myself to believe a word of what he utters for, as he himself put it the other day “he is not the most believable guy in the world right now”.

18 January, 2013

Accountability, thy name is Kachori

(Pic courtesy : drhirams.com via Google)

What is accountability ?
The Wikipedia (who else !) defines accountability thus “In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability and the expectation of account-giving.”
Sounds like serious stuff, does it not ?  Well, it happens to be serious.  It IS serious stuff.  It is a known fact that for any organization, big or small, or even for the government of a country, accountability is a necessity.  Accountability is what grounds people, it is what stops people from acting irresponsible – well, atleast that’s what accountability is meant to do.
But then again – India has its own set of rules – fragile at best and it is a given that those rules too are meant to be bent.  They are, after all, made to be flexible and long lasting, aren’t they, with loads of loopholes in them ?!  Well, yesterday, accountability in one of the state owned institutions in India lost out – of all the things – to a kachori !!!!
Oh !  I’m not trying to insult a kachori here.  That would be sacrilege.  A kachori looks little but then like the saying goes “appearances can be deceptive”.  It is a little powerhouse, spicy and tangy, packed with all the things that have a huge feel good factor and yesterday, the kachori  proved powerful enough to leave hundreds of passengers stranded at the airport in Mumbai.  I can only imagine how potent and formidable the kachori must be feeling right now.  Thank the Good Lord that kachoris and samosas do not have voting rights in the country.  But then again, they might actually prove more sensible than some of our ministers and government employees !!! 
I was left speechless yesterday when I read this newsflash.  I mean, imagine the kind of guts it must have taken for the pilot in question to countermand a direct order from her seniors and just decide to do what she wanted to to.  Yet again, had the order been outside the realms of her job duties, her responsibility or if she had a very valid reason to have done what she did yesterday, one could probably condone her actions.  But to leave hundreds of passengers stranded at an airport because she had to go pick up, of all the things, a bag of kachoris – is rather appallingly and deplorably irresponsible behaviour.  Among those hundreds stranded at the airport because she so desperately wanted her kachoris, there may have been people who would have needed to get to Delhi urgently – who knows ?  Sick family members, an interview with a job hanging in the balance, a wedding to attend, a business conference – it could have been any of these and many many more.  Yet, she chose kachoris over her job responsibility.  Why ?  Simple !  Because of the strong, convincing, clear-cut notion that she was not and will not be held accountable for her actions.  That’s a pretty persuasive argument there, is it not ? 
A lack of accountability seems to have manifested itself in just about every aspect of organizations and the very government itself, in India.  It is colloquially known as the “chalta hai” attitude.  I wrote the other day about our Prime Minister being a silent observer.  Yet again, where is the accountability ?  This total lack of answerability seems to start right at the very top and pervades and seeps through right down to the bottom.  There is absolutely no sense of liability or responsibility anywhere.  Culpability seems to have gone missing from the very moral fibre in the country. 
Let’s not even talk about the Indian government and the ministers here.  Accountability is something they shed when they take office.  It seems to be a pre requisite.  That is one of the prime needs – any person with even a bit of integrity, morals or scruples would not last anywhere on the government ladder.  Remember Mr. Ashok Khemka ?  He was in the news recently too – he’s quite literally being rolled like a football all over because the government does not know what to do with a person like him who still has some morals left in him.  The system has not been able to corrupt him as much as they would have liked to, much to their dismay.  He is said to have been transferred nine times in five years under the Om Prakash Chautala government and has been at the receiving end of death threats for having taken on the state government over suspicious land deals between none other than Robert Vadra (Sonia Gandhi’s son in law) and the DLF (Delhi Land and Finance).  What was his mistake ?  Simple as this – he held the state government and certain “important” people responsible.  He demanded “accountability”.  That, in the eyes of the Indian government today, is a sin beyond redemption.
Lack of accountability is plainly evident in the judiciary too. The very same judiciary, whose prime duty it is, to uphold and serve justice.  Remember Judge Soumitra Sen who appropriated more than thirty lakh rupees as a court appointed receiver in a lawsuit between SAIL (Steel Authority of India) and SCI (Shipping Corporation of India) over supply of fire bricks ?  He did yield and turn in the money but resigned before the impeachment motion against him could be presented in the Lok Sabha.  One might argue saying “yay !  that’s accountability”.  Hold your horses !  The same Mr. (I cannot bring myself to call him by the title Justice) Sen is still eligible and will keep getting his post retirement benefits even though he resigned ahead of impeachment proceedings against him – just because there are no provisions by way of statute or constitution in India, curbing or constraining their entitlements in such situations or under such scenarios.  Well, can’t the government do anything about this ?  Can they not bring into effect laws to the contrary ?  Yes, they can.  But, they won’t.  Because to do so would mean admitting that something called “accountability” exists !!
The problem in our country is that the buck stops nowhere.  It just keeps going on and on in an endless loop.  It is like one of those old software “If – Endif” loops gone horribly wrong.  Pretty soon, there will come a time, if things continue the way they are going, when there will be no buck at all – forget the stopping bit.  No buck, no problem !!!
Take the instance of the Indian Cricket Team.  Despite appalling performances, they still get paid the same as they would have, had they won a match or a series.  Yet the nation goes into a state of shock when the players put up pathetic, absolutely contemptible performances.  Think about it.  Why do they not go that extra mile to give it their best ?  Simply because they are never held "accountable" for their bad performances.  Captains in other countries have been known to step down if their teams put up an appallingly abysmal performance.  Look at the Indian cricket team, though.  Let alone stepping down, they do not even work on getting their act together.  Imperviousness rules supreme ! Why ?  Because yet again, there is no sense of "accountability". 
What we have, working very effectively in our country, is a Theory of Absolute Unaccountability ! 
When the higher ups and then the higher ups again are seen being corrupt, one cannot really point fingers at the peons in the government offices who have to be paid money even to get your file out.  They see their bosses being openly corrupt and this rot (there is no other term for it) goes way up – right past the Prime Minister’s Office.  The whole country is steeped in it.  Lack of accountability has led to rampant corruption and vice versa and what we have now is a terribly vicious circle.  There are but a few left who still answer to their conscience and those are the people who are asked to shut up and mind their own business.  If not, they are mere inconveniences that get shunted out of the way or worse still, killed.  Anything to get them to shut up, is the prevalent ideology  !
Are people still wondering why those six men raped the 23 year old in Delhi ?  Do people still wonder why the 11 year old in Rajasthan was raped ?  Do people still wonder why children are sold in the country ?  Do people still wonder why our police force is so incompetent, callous, indifferent and insensitive to the needs of the people they are meant to protect ?  Do people still wonder why our inept politicians are coming up with stupid, imprudent, thoughtless statements when it comes to women in society ? Well, simply because they know just as well as we do that there is absolutely no accountability involved.  Not at the lower rungs, not at the higher rungs. 
All ij indeed well, my dear folks.  All ij supremely well with our country. 
The next time something goes horribly wrong with any of our endeavours in India, if we are delayed beyond reason or things just don’t move or happen, rest assured – there still is room for accountability.  There may be, there just may be a kachori or a paratha or a samosa at the bottom of it all.  No worries, people.  Just say to yourself – All Ij Well and then point your fingers firmly and squarely at the kachoris, samosas, parathas or what have you.  They still seem to have a bit of that factor called “accountability” left in them !!

16 January, 2013

Mr. Prime Minister, where art thou ??

(Pic courtesy : indianfunnypicture.com via Google)


I am beginning to wonder, as I'm sure are many other people.  I'm beginning to wonder where the Indian Prime Minister is.

With all due respect, Mr.Singh is a person I tremendously admire and respect.  He is, without doubt, an intellectual, a very shrewd finance person, a very valuable asset to the country in terms of being an economist  who had put into effect reforms (during the P.V.Narasimha Rao government reign) to pull India out of a severe economic crisis in 1991.  He has pretty much, single handedly, been credited with decisions that he took, with reforms that brought about, quite literally, an economic regeneration in the country.  He was an economist par excellence and am sure he is, even today.
However, issues since he took office as the Prime Minister of the country in 2004, have indeed been many.
There have been the Commonwealth Games which shone the spotlight on India in a way that has been most uncomplimentary, there was the telecom spectrum scam, there has been the Coalgate affair, there has been the gang rape in Delhi which left the country in a state of furore and uproar, there has recently been the issue with the Pakistani army having crossed the LOC.  Where is our  Prime Minister ?  Where has he been through all this ?    
His dismal record, his silence over important issues that have rocked / are rocking the country cannot however, be dismissed with just a wave of the hand and a goodwill gesture in saying “he’s a soft spoken man”.   He is indeed soft spoken, affable, has never been loud or the argumentative kind.  But then again, one does not necessarily have to be loud and argumentative to get ones point across. The important thing here being getting ones point across.  As a Prime Minister of a country, the onus definitely increases, the ante does get upped.   
A doctor who says “I cannot treat you because I cannot stand the sight of blood” is not likely to last very long in the medical profession.  A teacher who says “I cannot speak in front of other people, the cat gets my tongue” is sure as hell not going to last in the teaching profession.  Same logic applies to the Prime Minister’s job as well.  A Prime Minister is not really meant to just be standing by and watching, a Prime Minister is supposed to take action when the situation so demands.  A Prime Minister is not meant for soothing the ruffled feathers of a family that has long since viewed our country as their dynasty,  a Prime Minister is not meant to be a puppet in the hands of someone else pulling the strings.   A Prime Minister takes decisions and then makes a concerted effort to make sure that those decisions are followed upon and through. 
Nothing much seems to be going right in India today.  Mr. Singh is pretty much overseeing an administration that is totally mired and steeped in corruption.  He is quite literally presiding over what seems to be the most corrupt government in Indian history (though that is quite hard to quantify since corruption has always been a mainstay in the Indian government).  Sadly enough, he isn’t doing anything about it.  There was a lot of brouhaha in 2004 when Sonia Gandhi’s UPA won the elections in 2004 and she offered the PM’s post to Dr. Singh.  Now, as the general elections loom in 2014, Rahul Gandhi is being touted as the next in line Prime Minister of India.  One sincerely has to wonder if Sonia Gandhi merely used Dr. Singh as an interim “hold the post for my son” stand by. 
Given the way things were going, I, for one wish he had stepped down after one term instead of carrying on into a second term in office.  It has done nothing to salvage his reputation, which has been on a steady decline.  In his second term, it is not just his quiet demeanour that has come in for flak.  Sadly enough, the very thing that was his strong forte seems to be biting him as the country’s growth has quite visibly slumped.  Through his terms in office, he has come across as someone rather unwilling (for reasons best known to himself) to rock the boat – in this case the very boat or boats that have made it so difficult and have damaged the nation’s ability to provide its people with a decent education policy, health care or for that matter, public safety – as recent events have proven. 
In this respect, I cannot help but recall an article that I’d read during my school days about Vijay Merchant.  When he was then asked as to why he’d chosen to retire from cricket, he had said “It is better to retire when people ask “why” instead of “why not”.  This could well apply to Dr. Singh today.  (For that matter, there are sports people today who could take that leaf out of Vijay Merchant’s book.)
Dr. Singh has indeed been a very astute economist and Finance Minister but as a Prime Minister, there isn’t a lot he can really stake a claim to.  To cut a long story short, unless Dr. Singh does something to redeem his office (which now looks totally inadequate, weak and feeble) and himself as the Prime Minister, he could probably go down in the annals of India history as one of the most ineffectual Prime Ministers that India has ever had.      


15 January, 2013

Pi's Lullaby and The Crab Mentality !


(Pic courtesy : blog.hansacequity.com via Google)

A few days back came the news that Pi’s Lullaby (lyrics by Bombay Jayashri and sung by her as well) has been nominated for an Oscar.  Right on its heels, the very next day we had the Irayimman Thampi Trust alleging that Jayashri has done nothing but translate lines from the old Malayalam lullaby Omanathinkal kidaavo. 

We Indians are mighty good at this.  The Crab Mentality, I mean.  Crab Mentality is the story of a bunch of crabs in a bucket or a pot or a crate.  They are all pretty much on the same level playing field until some crabs decide that they are going to try and escape.  They cling on to the sides, find ways and means to try and scale the walls to climb over the edge of the pot or bucket they are in, in an attempt to break free.  What do the other crabs in the pot do ?  Despite the knowledge that they too could attempt to escape captivity, the other crabs instead, try and pull down these crabs that have made an escape attempt in the first place.  They simply pull them back to the bottom of the pot/bucket. 

Precisely what we see happen many a times around us.  In my humble opinion, this is precisely what is happening to Bombay Jayashri over Pi’s lullaby too.  Also the fact that the Iriyamman Thampi Trust is doing nothing more than trying to gain some extra publicity by piggy backing on the success of Pi’s lullaby. 

Indian society, among many other societies, has always taken pride in defining modes of conduct and how people should be categorized and how within a given category people are expected to behave and perform their “given” roles.  The ancient caste system is a perfect example.  People are simply expected to adhere to the given customs and traditions, people are expected to do what society expects they should be doing.   Hardly, if any thought at all is given to personal aspirations and to the fact that moulds are meant to be broken at some time.  The Indian society has never ever taken kindly to the “set moulds” being broken.

Some people dare to – pretty much like the crabs that try to escape captivity.  They seek freedom of expression, they do not stop at what is already on their plate, their creativity, their need exceeds the “usual”, they believe in going that extra mile (or those extra five miles, for that matter), they believe in reaching for the sky, they believe in reaching for the sun in the hope that they reach, they attain that pinnacle some day.  Bottom line being simple : they try !!  For every single person that aspires to have dreams, for each person that believes in trying and giving it their best and then some, for every person that tries to break the “set mould”, there are scores of other crabs at the bottom of the basket whose only intention and only function is to pull the more enterprising ones down.

Do tunes not get “borrowed” in Bollywood ?  Oh ! Plenty !!  Why tunes – sometimes the whole storyline is copied,  at other times one movie is probably a mix of three or four other movies which had been released earlier on. 

In this case, in my opinion, this Trust does not have a case whatsoever.  Look at and compare the lyrics :

The lyrics of the Malayalam lullaby and Pi’s lullaby are right here, with credit given to the original sources. 

Omanathinkal Kidaavo 
(translation by A. H. Fox Strangways in The Music of Hindoostan via Wikipedia)

Is this sweet baby
The bright crescent's moon, or the charming flower of the lotus ?
The honey in a flower, or the lustre of the full moon ?
A pure coral gem, or the pleasant chatter of parrots ?
A dancing peacock, or a sweet singing bird ?
A bouncing young deer, or a bright shining swan ?
A treasure from God, or the pet parrot in the hands of Isvari ?
The tender leaf of the kalpa tree, or the fruit of my tree of fortune ?
A golden casket to enclose the jewel of my love ?
Nectar in my sight, or a light to dispel darkness ?
The seed of my climbing fame, or a never-fading bright pearl ?
The brilliance of the sun to dispel all the gloom of misery ?
The Vedas in a casket, or the melodious vina ?
The lovely blossom put forth by the stout branch of my tree of enjoyment ?
A cluster of pichaka buds, or sugar-candy sweet on the tongue ?
The fragrance of musk, the beat of all good ?
A breeze laden with the scent of flowers, or the essence of purest gold ?
A bowl of fresh milk, or of sweet smelling rose-water ?
The field of all virtue, or an abode of all duty ?
A cup of thirst-quenching cold water, or a sheltering shade ?
A never-failing mallika flower, or my own stored up wealth ?
The auspicious object of my gaze, or my most precious jewel ?
A steam of virtuous beauty, or an image of the youthful Krishna ?
The bright forehead mark of the goddess Lakshmi ?
Or, by the mercy of Padmanabha, is it the source of my future happiness ?
Is it, in this beautiful form, an Avatar of Krishna Himself ?

Pi’s Lullaby (English Translation)

My dear one, the jewel of my eye,
Sleep my dear precious one.

You are the peacock, the dancing peacock,
You are the koel, the singing koel,
You are the moon, light of the moon,
You are the eyelid, dreams that wait on the eyelids.

Rararo…Rararo…
Rararo…Rararo…

You are the flower, nectar of the flower
You are the fruit, sweetness of the fruit.

Rararo…Rararo…

How many similarities do you see ?

India is a country in which many different languages have thrived, do thrive and flourish.  Each state (well, almost) has its own language and there has always been a constant “my language is better than your language” attitude that has existed and persisted in India, through the ages.

Words that refer to the moon is common in many lullabies found across India.  The moon does paint a rather lovely picture of the night and I guess this is the reasoning behind drawing a parallel between the moon and the dark night.  Words like Kanne, Kanmaniye, nectar, honey, flowers etc are rather generic when it comes to lullabies simply because across any state in India, these are terms of endearment.  Simple as that !  To say that this is plagiarism is like one pharmaceutical company going after another pharmaceutical company for the use of words like Paracetamol or Acetaminophen on their tablet strips.  
Many companies use these – again because they are common and generic.

Why does the Trust not go after all the lullabies then, all over India ?  If they allege that Pi’s lullaby is nothing but a translation, there would be scores of lullabies they can claim as “theirs” or as having originated from Iriyamman Thampi’s poetic creations.

As far as Bombay Jayashri goes, she’s earned her place and respect among musicians all over India and given her talent and the passion that she has for music, it is only right that her talent be recognized worldwide.  It has finally happened for her and among the best things people can do right now is to leave her alone and let her do what she does best – compose, sing and create beautiful music that brings peace, calm and joy to peoples minds and hearts – from now on, not just in India but worldwide as well.

The crabs that dare to climb, the crabs that yearn to reach for the sky – let them climb out of the basket, let them bask in the warmth and sunshine of glory, for, they’ve earned it – every single step of the way.