August 31, 2012

Conflating the Death Punishment Debate

I am against death punishment too. But I am in favor of death punishment for gargantuan-sized criminals such as Kasab, Raja, and Kalmadi.
Let me see if I can explain that.
Death punishment for Kasab seems to be such a no-brainer that no one would really give it a second thought nor would there be any need for writing columns about it.
The usual homilies would be paid about the due process of law being followed and that would be it. That was my impression.
And in due course, India being India, Kasab’s case would go to President Pranab and then perhaps the Congress Party will try to do Muslim pandering as it habitually does and Kasab’s fate might be left hanging like that of so many others’. And on each 26/11 anniversary, we would see the usual debates on the TV channels about why Kasab is still alive and blah blah.
But no. That’s not how this has panned out. The against-death-punishment brigade has come out! Now THIS is something that I had not expected.
I am not opposed to freedom of speech. So if Mint chooses to publish a couple of articles in support of abolishing death sentence … NO MATTER WHAT … well, so be it. They’re well within their rights.
Salil Tripathi talks of the killer in Norway who didn’t get death despite single-handedly killing 77. And if you consider the tiny population of Norway (5 million), it’s in some way equivalent to one man killing 18470 people in India.
So we in India are exhorted to do as Norway does. India is the land of the omnipresent child labor and countless murders of female fetuses. Norway is the country where the government might take away your kids if you are a “bad” parent. It’s a country where majority of the people are enlightened enough not to believe in spurious, silly, and laughable concepts such as god.

August 26, 2012

Sarah Kay's poem from TED

If I should have a daughter, instead of mom, she's going to call me Point B,

because that way she knows that no matter what happens,
at least she can always find her way  to me.

And I am going to paint the Solar Systems on the backs of her hands,
so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say 'Oh, I know that like the back of my hand'

And she's going to learn that this life will hit you,
in the face,
wait for you to get back up, just so we can kick you in the stomach
but getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.

August 15, 2012

Address to the Nation by President Pranab Mukherjee

My Dear Citizens,

(I know that if you're below 18, you're doing any of the following: if you're like 2 yrs or younger, you probably are asleep, if you're six years to 10 years, you're probably playing games on the phone or the dad's laptop connected to the internet, if you're 12 to 14, you're probably busy watching or playing cricket, and if you're between 14 to 18, you're either watching porn or trying to recall and fantasize about the porn you saw a couple of days ago when you got the opportunity when no one was home. I am referring to males only of course. If you're female, how the hell do I know what you're doing anyway!)

To begin with, I want to exhort you to lose the usual habit of smallmindedness of Indians and look at the BIG picture.

The big picture is this: I'm now officially and irrevocably and for ever and ever after a member of the TRULY GREAT Bong group.

This is of course what every Bengali worth his or her hilsa and other fish dreams of: to be counted among the greats ... as an equal of Netaji Subhas Bose, Gadadhar Chattopadhyay a.k.a. Ramakrishna, Narendra Nath Datta a.k.a. Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, S. N. Bose, Meghnad Saha, Amartya Sen, Satyajit Ray, and the other greats.

And I've fulfilled that dream. Give me a round of applause, will you?

August 07, 2012

Parents Children and Being Orphans

This is not a reflection caused by any anniversary. We all eventually become adults. Just think back to when as kids we wished so badly to grow up. Once we grow up, however, we probably realize that it is not so fun being grownups after all. And we wistfully look back upon our childhood days.
And eventually the moment comes when our parents die. It’s a moment of transition in our lives. But why do we grieve when our parents die? What a stupid question, one might think. But I preferred to think about that when my father died.
I think we grieve because as long as our parents are alive, we are still kids at heart as we once were. So we become orphans when our parents are no more. I think we are all lucky to have parents – most of us anyway – who are happy to have been our parents. They have learned to live with their kids’ limitations in skills or achievements in life. We too eventually accept our parents for who they are.
So it’s a bond like no other. Immutable, everlasting, unquestioned.
It seems to me life is like walking on a rickety footbridge made of wooden planks attached to steel ropes over a valley. Imagine the valley high up in the mountains covered in mist. I think there’s such a thing somewhere in Indonesia or Malaysia – a tourist attraction if you are so brave.

A Sprint Through The History of India

India is simple to understand if you are willing to shed all the fuzzy romantic spiritual notions about it. Forget the sadhus, the yoga, etc. It's just a capitalist democracy luckily with the freedoms of expression and criticism associated with that democracy. The enduring nature of that fragile and chaotic democracy has been the most significant achievement over the past six decades.

As people rise above desperate poverty, the easy availability of images and information over TV makes people aware of their middle class existence. The youth is aspiring to more and more of the fruits of a consumerist culture. As people gain access to those products -- such as cellphones, LCD TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, ACs, cars -- they realize that oh! Owning them does not provide nirvana which is what they had hoped for. They aspire for more of the fruits of a consumer economy. The cycle of desire, satiating that desire, and then new desires cropping up, endures.

No different than any other consumerist society. Let's remember India is at around $1,500 per capita compared to $40,000 per capita for Europe and America. If America and Europe with all the resources and brain power at their disposal have not been able to convert their countries into Shangri La, my fear is that India will not be able to do so either. The export and outsourcing-driven economic growth will stall at around $6,000. It always does. It's now happening for China already. It has happened previously for South Korea and Japan. At any rate, I do not see India being home to the kind of crazily passionate hardware innovators and hard workers that the East Asian countries are.

The future will see tragedies whose toll will be counted in human lives and not merely in terms of the hundreds of millions who were inconvenienced or plunged into AC-less darkness because of a power failure in recent days. There's sadly very little recognition of the cataclysms lying ahead -- either because no one sees the approaching volcanic lava of catastrophes or because those who are smart enough to foresee it realize that the masses of India are too dumb and too resigned to their fates to do anything about it. The smart Indians mostly tend to leave India and settle abroad. Not many countries are in the ignominious state where the children of the executive head of that country are living abroad. I do not know of any of the children of Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Obama/Romney living in India. The daughter(s) of the PM of India live(s) in America

The Sheep and the Outliers

Is it okay if I feel inclined to pass judgment on the newly elected president of India? Am I allowed to call him a sycophant and a donkey -- or a sycophantic donkey?

Perhaps some will feel I am 'demeaning' the office of the President? Why is that? What is wrong with expressing my opinion openly that I fear his long history in the strum and drang of Indian politics likely means that he is probably corrupt?

He may not be as steeped in corruption as some of his illustrious peers who have long experience of being visitors to Tihar.

I sense a desire of people to attach a bit of godliness or demi-godliness to people. Why this desire?

I was asked by a college girl relation if I didn't feel a 'divine' presence or some such thing when I visited the 'holiest' temple in Odisha in Puri. What I felt was the sense of awkwardness at the odd behavior of the crazy believers who were throwing themselves at the statues of the lords ... meaning stretching their body entirely on the ground and doing similar crazy stuff.

Sex, Religion and All That

Believers! Here's a task for you all.

For males in particular. Have you taken off your pants ... and had a picture of a particularly sexy beauty on the computer screen ... say KK or PC or MM or CC or someone else to your particular liking. AP is one of my favorites. And touched your manhood to the face or mouth of the female star on the screen?

Go ahead. Do not hesitate. Do it if you have not done it before. Does it have any or some slight effect at all? It should. It really should.

Now put a photograph of a female goddesses -- of the celestial kind -- on the same computer screen and do the touching thing again.

Oral sex with human beauties and oral sex with celestial beauties or goddesses. Nicely brings together the two crazy worlds of religion and sex together.

Superstitions — Harmful and Innocent

How do you find out about the guys who had leukemia and thought that if they got to touch Sai Baba's penis or something (or vice versa) they would get cured? The problem with superstition is that it's more often than not innocent. How do you deal with the fact that the educated 30-something professionals of this country can get taken for a ride by the 'sophisticated' charlatans like Sr Sri or Deepak Chor pa? It's so annoying to find out as I did that the educated types say that they're all skeptical and don't believe in God but will do stupid stuff which contradicts that position. I've an aunt who says she got cured from her back trouble because she keeps photos of some godmen ... I don't remember ... probably the name of the charlatan is ... well ... Bhagwan! Take that for humility! How do you prove the 'harm' in visiting temples every Monday morning to touch or kiss a penis of a god? (sorry if offending anyone) I like to keep photos of gods under my feet literally in the Delhi winter. Better to have gods/godesses under the feet to keep them warm instead of touching the cold floors. Should I post photos? Will it 'hurt' the jokers ... a.k.a. Hindus?

Shooting Incident on Mars

On the same day that the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity landed on Mars after a nail-biting Entry, Descent, and Landing sequence, there are now reports of a shooting incident involving two rovers.

The mission managers in JPL, CalTech issued a terse press release which simply said: "There has been a shooting incident involving our rovers on Mars."

This has confounded the American public who did not even know that the rovers were equipped with guns in the first place.

Sources inside JPL have given some hints as to how this might have happened. The sources say the rovers are equipped with guns which they are programmed to use for 'self defense' in case of appropriate emergencies. The software inside the 'brains' of the rovers has algorithms which try to identify any Little Green Men nearby and if any creatures resembling the LGM are detected by the rovers, they are authorized to shoot at the LGM in self-defense. The rovers are allowed to take this decision autonomously without referring to mission control in Pasadena as the signal from Mars to Earth can take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes to travel. The rovers might be endangered in the time interval it takes for managers back on Earth to take a look at any SOS signals sent by the rovers and send the appropriate commands back to the rovers to respond with.

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