Sunday, 29 May 2016

Nice song from a movie I had liked

Dhani Harrison & Paul Hicks - Going To The Country (from Learning to Drive OST)

Saturday, 12 March 2016

A case against burning ManuSmriti (or any other book for that matter)



A few days ago I read the news that some students in JNU had burnt a copy (or rather a selection of 40 verses) of the text titled ManuSmriti. A student leader said - We essentially got printouts of around 40 verses from the text that we feel had extremely derogatory references against women and burnt them. Today is International Women's Day we thought this was the day when we should burn this text that contains highly derogatory remarks against women. By burning Manusmriti, we are burning discrimination.


I have not read the book in question neither do I know anyone in my social circle who has read it. According to Wikipedia it was used to formulate the Hindu law by the colonial government, so I assume it was held in high regards in those times.


After I read the news my immediate thoughts were – wait a second. Isn’t this an attack on free speech? Isn’t that what regressive groups and governments do? Try to ban books and burn libraries? How are these supposedly liberal students burning a book? I thought books were not meant to be burnt, even those who spread ideology that we oppose.


On further discussion with a friend it became clear to me that in this case it is not an attack on free speech. One might argue that burning Manusmriti is different from burning a library. There are many copies available, so it is not as if someone else will not have an access to it if someone burns their private copy.


A book is nothing but a physical form of someone’s thoughts/arguments. If we don’t like it, why read it! Why get angry reading something that we don’t like?

But let’s suppose that such a regressive book is followed by a large number of people. So it becomes important to not ignore it, but to spread awareness about the ill effects of book’s message. The best way to negate a book’s arguments is to engage in an dialog with the author. Now, Mr. Manu has been dead since hundreds of years, so that’s not possible. Next best option would be to argue with those people who hold the book in high regards.


One can also write another book, quoting problematic verses from Manusmriti and educate people about how it would be wrong if those verses were to be followed. One can give public speeches; write articles ... so on and so forth. I believe that many rational minded people have taken these routes.

Why then there is a need to burn a book?


People who follow the customs mentioned in the book, will not change their viewpoints just because someone else burned it. People who haven’t even read the book (but still follow its ideology) will not care, because they don’t even know that the book is supposed to be important!

What message does then burning of a book sends out?

I think, burning a book only tells us one thing. Those people who burnt it are angry with its content and do not know how to give a voice to that anger. They don’t want to engage in a constructive argument. 


They think burning a few pages is enough to destruct thoughts. But they don’t know that an idea is more powerful than its physical form. Even if all the copies of Manusmriti were to be burnt, it will not make any difference in today’s India. People learn their “culture” from their parents and nearby social circle, and that knowledge gets passed on without reading anything.

There is another reason why thinking people should not burn books. It is because it gives an excuse to people from opposing ideology to burn books they don’t like. It sets a bad precedent in public discourse. Any group of people can burn any book – and say that we have destroyed it because we don’t like it. It gives people an excuse to not engage in a debate or dialog and just destroy whatever they don’t like.


A book in itself is more than its message. As a historical document It also tells us about the dominant viewpoints in a particular period of time. It tells us about the usage of language in those times. It tells us more than even the authors intended. I have been raised in an environment where even touching a book (even if it’s a film magazine!) with feet is considered ill-mannered. May be it’s childish but it feels painful that people don’t have respect for books and just burn it.


In my opinion, as a form of protest it is completely outdated to burn books. From an environmental point of view I would suggest people to delete PDF copies of Manusmriti on their computer instead. They can delete it as many times as they want without creating any pollution! So how about showing your anger through a simple Linux command ? :)


rm –rfv ManuSmriti.pdf

Monday, 7 March 2016

Thoughts on frequent army references in public talk

I read this news article You enjoy freedom of expression only because army guards borders: Delhi HC to Kanhaiya Kumar and was wondering if Sunny Deol was a judge in Delhi High Court.

'You enjoy freedom of expression only because army guards borders'

Sure. That logic can be applied to any situation -

The lawyers who beat people in court premises - enjoy their freedom to beat others - because army guards borders.

Netas can freely do corruption - because army guards borders.

People can burn buses and demand reservation - because army guards borders.

See - how rediculous it sounds?

These days there seems to be a tendency among people to connect each and every event with Army and Jawans. Why is there a need to bring in army in any argument is beond me. Army does not give us freedom, the constitution does. Army plays a vital role, but my freedom does not come from army. In fact, Gandhi helped us win freedom, without an army! Even if we lived in a state where army lost wars (in which case I hope everyone who can, joins army) we would still have freedom of expression. Sure, we will then have to fight for it much *much* harder (lazily posting on facebook or writing blogposts is not enough), but we will still have it.

 People often say - don't say anything that may demoralize army personnel. Well - is there a *need* to say anything? Our newspapers are depressing enough already. I salute all jawans who read our newspapers and don't get demoralized as it is.

Monday, 30 November 2015

All Izz Well or All Izz Hell?

Recently a post by a certain Dr. Rangwala got viral on Facebook. Later she wrote it as an article for Huffington post titled "My Husband And I Are Thriving Muslim Professionals In India. We Have Only Felt Acceptance". 

First of all, it's a very well written piece. She describes how she and her IIT educated husband faced no hatred towards them for being Muslims. She questions the recent debate in the country on Intolerance, and calls it "fake". She spent first 18 years of her life in Kuwait and finds India much better in comparison.

One can argue about whether or not intolerance is increasing in the country, or whether it's only getting more "visible" these days. 

She says 
An ordinary citizen like my husband and I are not facing any such issues, then what have they (the Khans) faced? 
This is a valid question. It would be very interesting to ask our superstars what discrimination (if any) they personally felt over the years. But the underlying assumption here is that one can protest about something only when they are directly affected by it. In fact it is the duty of every citizen to to fight against any ills of the society, in their own capacity. When parliament members make statements that are hateful and incite violence, no person is directly affected by mere words. Still, they must be condemnedWhy did so many people protest on the roads in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case? They were not directly affected by it. Why then? 

My second problem with her post is the last two sentences.

How long can I expect majority of Hindus to tolerate this nuisance? It's high time that Muslims understand the value of the freedom and acceptance that we enjoy in India and if not, I pray that my Hindu fellow citizens continue to keep their patience.

It is highly patronizing towards both Hindus and Muslims in India. It gives an impression that Hindus should be praised for not "rioting" and Muslims should not complain (about any actual discrimination they might have faced) because India is better than some other regressive countries. This is unfair towards people with legitimate grievances. It is like telling a married woman that her abusive husband is good because "at least he does not hit her, like some other husbands". Note - I am not saying that all Hindus are inimical towards all Muslims (and vice a versa). In a country of the size of India, one cannot assume *any* absolute generalization about society. In India you can be discriminated against on the basis on your gender, caste, religion, food habits so on and so forth. 

Instead of comparing our country with some regressive countries and being satisfied with it, we should rather strive for what is idealBy all practical means, India may be a better choice when compared to Kuwait or other middle eastern countries; but that does not mean we are perfect. One cannot take either extremes. Dr. Rangwala's personal experience does not invalidate the hostility faced by some other sections of Muslims in India. We should be balanced in both criticism and praise of the Indian society. Shouting either All Izz Well or All Izz Hell, does not help. No matter which side of the debate you are on, once you talk in absolutes, the other side stops listening.

Does that mean positive success stories of Muslims in Indian society, do not serve any purpose? Not at all. They should certainly be written and spread around, but not be used to deny some other unfortunate incidences that happen from time to time.

For more views about what is it like to be an Indian Muslim - check out https://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-be-an-Indian-Muslim

Saturday, 6 June 2015

6-6-15

So today I was g-chatting with a friend on random things and suddenly the topic of  TWMR came up. This movie has become talk of the town and everyone seems to like it. The movie is good overall. K was superb in the Haryanvi accented "duplicate" role. I almost didn't think that was double-role in initial scenes, it was a completely different character. The duplicate role was quite symbolic in that M realizes that even though the duplicate looks like T, he still likes T for what she is, personality-wise . On another note, both M and the purana premi shouldn't have fallen for the duplicate; if you were breaking up with someone it seems to be a very bad idea to pair up with someone who would remind you of them. 

Nevertheless I wanted to grouse a bit. 

First of all, T and M never logically discuss their bones of contention face to face. They start fighting at the start of the movie and reunite at the end, just like that. Just because they realize that they "love" each. It may be a momentary feeling. What if tomorrow they go down the same path? There is drama-rama-rona-dhona in the end, it's Bollywood after-all, but I wished there was some sincere rational talk as well. 

 I still doubt if T still completely likes M, may be she's now become more tolerant of his "boringness"? Has M changed a bit though? He still seems to be the same person fundamentally. So the movie lacks a satisfying end IMO. 

Or may be they have both matured a bit unknowingly, without needing to explicitly communicate. Perhaps. 

--

Reading The God of Small Things. Good book. Like the dry/dark humorous style of writing. Kerala is described in manner that might evoke nostalgia, even though you may not have been there before! I was a bit surprised when my friend told me that it was the only book she wrote. Then googled a bit about her life story .. very interesting. And here is how the book came about.

--

For a change, instead of a song I'll leave you with a Shruti Box recording. 


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Random

I had recorded a short video while we were traveling by car in the ghats some days ago. Somehow I recorded it upside down and to my amazement, it looks much cooler that way. See for yourself! (Watch in fullscreen 1080p HD)



The sky feels as though it's a sea ..

--

Recently saw Piku. Shouldn't have made Amitabh look fat, it doesn't suit him. Good acting, esp Irrfan. Fav scenes - the one in which Irrfan Khan shouts Choop! when people around him are arguing - and the one in which the maid comes back to work at the end, what nerve she has! On a serious note, it's a breath of fresh air to watch a believable portrayal of a "normal" family. I still can't relate to Amitabh's character though, where do such ultra-crazy-liberal fathers exist?

--

this song is pure bliss and lull inducing. heard it four years ago. Vienna by Matt Costa.


Monday, 18 May 2015

A not so evil plan

Sick of reading gruesome news about acts of violence towards men, women and children everyday, I thought of a grand solution to this problem once and for all. No, it's not better laws and their strict implementation. Neither it is teaching the principles of Buddha and Gandhi to the masses, hoping that they will grow up towards non-violence. People can go astray anytime. I wanted a foolproof answer.

Steven Pinker says that human violence has surprisingly declined and
"we may be living in the most peaceable era in human existence."


But I think humans should strive towards taking this issue head-on rather than waiting passively for world-peace.

Gun rights advocates say "Guns don't kill people, people do". I agree, so let's fix the people.

Here is the plan. Study the brain activity during acts of aggression/violence towards other living beings. Identify the chemical reactions and then come up with a new medicine that would make anyone who is injected with it non-violent. Sure, situation of personal and group conflicts could occur any time, but no one ever has thoughts of physically harming another person. They could choose to communicate logically, communicate nonsensically, or choose not to communicate at all .. but no actual violence. No violence at personal level will "automatically" result in no violence at international level (no more wars with guns and drones). I think Bill Gates should fund such venture rather than anti-ageing research which I think has less of use to human race as a whole. Well, not really. Anti-ageing research is useful too, otherwise how will humans travel light-years of distances trying to reach newer planets without dying in between? But overall the problem of violence seems more critical and resulting in greater good to me.

I know, it sounds crazy. Brain is not a computer despite the similarities. The problem is not as easy as finding a bug in a piece of software and fix some lines of codes. But let's assume that through Herculean efforts, our neurologists manage to find a permanent solution to physical violence without side-effects on other brain functions. What will be the issues once that milestone is reached?

First, we need a plan to inject every human with this Medicine of Peace. Biggest hurdle will be to convince everyone to get injected. In today's times, some people don't even trust vaccines, so how can we hope they will trust this? 

What would be main challenges any such peace-plan will face?

1. Violation of personal freedom

I agree. But there is no other way to fix this problem, is there? We have to collectively understand that however well-meaning a person might be, there could be times at which slip-ups may happen resulting in violence. Hence we need to temporarily give up personal freedom, for the sake of humanity.  

Some people might argue that only known violent criminals should be administered this medicine. Kind of like "sterilization of stray dogs" if you pardon the example. But this will create problems for these persons when they get out of jail, unless they are well versed in self-defense. Other people could exploit them.

2. Rogue elements

Practically speaking it's not possible to inject every human at the same time. World population is 7.x Billion right now and we don't have a database of all the people. Even if we had a database of every country's citizens and each country manages to inject every known person with it, there will still be a number of people hiding and waiting for everyone to turn non-violent and then attacking them for their own benefits.
Another possibility is that the politicians could form a nexus and make all the citizens non-aggressive and then commit a lot of crimes, because there will be no physical retaliation.

Both the situations can really be disastrous. 

3. What about animals?

People might argue that if all the humans become non-aggressive, what if jungle/sea animals take control of the world after observing that no one is trying to harm them? Frankly, I don't think this will actually happen. Planet of the Apes will not happen because (IMO) animals don't have tendency to harm humans, as long as we don't disturb them.

4. Who will go first?

Obviously, Indian government will not allow administration of any such solution until Pakistan does it, and vice a versa. Only a stupid would want to send letters of condemnation when the enemy is busy firing guns. This diplomatic deadlock will not allow any progress towards this goal. 

--
 
How to surmount these challenges? I can't think of any solution at the moment. Perhaps any such universal plan will have to take place after the next world war when our population has reduced to a large extent (I hope this doesn't happen, but WW3 is a real possibility) and people are more prone to act sensibly and easier to convince since their number is smaller.

It is super ironic that in order to have a non-violent society, we first need to have a massive war!

Besides the above issues there is one other crucial issue. Even though the anti-aggression medicine will make everyone non-violent, what if aliens attack us tomorrow. We can't sit defenseless. Brains should still be capable to use force in self-defense.

So may be making such a medicine and giving it to everyone is not a sound plan. 

Sigh. I guess there is no quick fix to peace.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Hehuanshan

So last weekend four of us planned to go for a one day trip to Hehuanshan mountain in central Taiwan.

We left via car from Taipai at ~10 pm, rested once in the night and were in time for the sunrise at 5:30 am. It was windy and chilly there at 4°C.

Our route to sunrise spot, walked up a small hill to reach the top (red)


Pre-dawn




Turtle shaped cloud gliding across


Mystic Haveli



Lenticular clouds on the left
The atmosphere was quite refreshing hues in both sky and on land were awesome. In fact not even slight brightness correction was required in any of the photos! We stopped by at a few locations to take snaps.







just perfect


Clouds across the cliff (Watch in full-screen HD to get better feel.)

After having breakfast at a roadside place we went to see a place called Qingjing farm It looked beautiful on the net so we decided to check it out. When we reached there, a large family crowd was buying entry tickets (200 NT/person).

Entry to QuinJing farm

inside

It was scenic, and very well maintained.

Each sheep has an identification number stitched to its ears.
After entering, we went straight to a place where there was sitting arrangement for ~200 people around a "sheep castle".  A guy from New Zealand was handing the whole show and gave us the idea of life on a sheep farm. The sun had turned unbearable now and clouds had vanished. After watching the sheep show we were feeling exhausted and decided to ditch another show (which was about horses) and return after wandering a bit Everywhere I saw people were busy getting clicked getting their money's worth of FB likes perhaps, but hey, who am i to judge ..

After getting out of the farm we decided to return to Taipei but via a different route (towards Yilan) which turned out to be not so wise decision. It took us a lot of time to cover the same distance through mountainous path. Temperature dropped a few notches and at times it was too foggy to see the road.

Fog and jam
Miles of cabbage farms
The End





Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Jewish humour

So there seems to be a class of humour called 'Jewish humour'. Had a good chuckle at the following ..

A young housewife living in the town of Chełm had a very strange occurrence. One morning, after buttering a piece of bread she accidentally dropped it on the floor. To her amazement, it fell buttered side up.

As everyone knows, whenever a buttered piece of bread is dropped on the floor, it always falls buttered side down; this is like a law of physics. But on this occasion it had fallen buttered side up, and this was a great mystery which had to be solved. So all the Rabbis and elders and wise men of Chełm were summoned together and they spent three days in the synagogue fasting and praying and debating this marvelous event among themselves. After those three days they returned to the young housewife with this answer:

"Madam, the problem is that you have buttered the wrong side of the bread."

Friday, 20 February 2015

Tianmu

Had an afternoon to spend and heard a bit about Tianmu trail (~ 2.8 Km) so went there today. Weather was slightly cold and pleasant

First reached Shipai MRT and from there caught a but for Tianmu. After walking a bit from bus stop saw the Tianmu circle from where the upward journey began.




Most of the initial path is made up of stairs with tiny heights.

After about half an hour of uphill walk, the stairs disappear.



It further diverges into two trails.


Some scenes along the path ..



In the middle, a lot of birds were chirping. Recorded a bit (sorry for VGA quality).



This trail is famous for Macaque monkeys as this warning board shows. Didn't see any of them though (due to noon perhaps).


After finishing the trail in about 90+ minutes I reached a quiet residential area. No people on the roads anywhere.

Saw this interesting stone chair :)


I was looking for a bus stop nearby; walked quite a bit and found this "Floriculture Center" instead.


Some glimpses within it ..



OMG, so many petals ..

Above flower had an awesome blue tinge along the petal borders.


White fern?


I wonder what causes these trees to grow steep .

 People enjoying holiday.


The End.