अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

June 17, 2011

From Abbottabad … With?

On the other hand, the website (of a software) that is operational, there is map that shows the places (as dots) from which people have visited that website. Adding it to the site was an extension of an idea given by someone who once worked with me, who had suggested that we might add such a map to another website meant for a research workshop.

In the beginning I used to eagerly see the map (the details that you get when you click on it) to check how many people have been visiting. Since the number was not very encouraging, now I only sometimes see this map.

Today I happened to see it and noticed that now they have an extra feature which more specifically lists (apart from showing on the map) the places from which the most recent visits have originated. One day, one IP address, one dot. Same day, another IP address, another dot. And so on.

And what is that? One of the dots is from … Abbottabad. Now given the things as they are at present (in India and elsewhere), and have been for some time, that is something to make you jump out of your chair. As I nearly did.

I wonder which of the three great parties is using my software. Or is there a fourth* party? Should I swell with pride, shrink with shame or just faint from fear?

* Dotters or Dot Busters?

Or should I just say: one more and in a new place. And go back to my work. Or sleep.

I wonder and wonder. Because it’s a wonderful world.

Perhaps I should just curse someone (unknown) somewhere (unknown) in the Night of the Living Geeks.

(With apologies to the good people of Abbottabad.)

(As an afterthought.)

(There are some, aren’t there? … There must be.)

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January 12, 2011

Life without Corporate Media

Sometimes you have to give up things without which you think your life would be incomplete. That it will be hard to bear. How the hell are you going to manage without it?

This can happen with other things too, but it usually happens with things which have become so much a part of your routine that you can’t imagine life without them. You become, in a way, addicted to them. When you are somehow compelled to give them up, life seems hard. For a while, at least. After a while, or more than that, you might become used to living without them.

Having got out of the addiction, the feelings that you might have may differ. Sometimes you might still look forward to the day when you can have that thing back in your life. Sometimes you might adopt a sour grapes attitudes and just pretend that you don’t want it anyway. But there are times when you can say, with all truthfulness, “Good riddance!”.

That is how I feel towards Corporate Media now. I have been an addict, in some cases a hard core one, of all (or at least several) kinds of Corporate Media: of radio and T.V., but most of all of newspapers. Radio and T.V. were lost long (several years) ago and the loss was not so big. The hardest was newspaper. I was one of those people whose day is spoilt completely if they don’t get their newspapers, not just everyday, but with their morning tea. And who simply have to read almost all of that newspaper. Even if it is a pain for the eyes and the back and the neck.

Therefore, when I had to stop reading newspaper everyday (whatever may have been the reasons), and here I mean hard copy, not the online version, it really was a hardship for quite some time. It was as if a part of my life was taken away. Still, I continued reading it online, not exactly everyday, but quite regularly. Then, the frequency of reading it got reduced and gradually there came a point where I totally stopped reading newspapers.

This complete stoppage, though from the chronology it seems to be the sole result of not being able to read the newspaper in hard copy, was a conscious choice. Because, by that time, I had come out of the addiction and when I thought about it, I found, very much to my surprise, that I could heartily say, “Good riddance!”.

Note that I am talking about newspapers in general, but with the implied assumption that all of them were basically instances of Corporate Media, and am not talking about a specific newspaper. In fact, the last one, the one that I finally stopped reading was definitely better than most others and perhaps with the least Corporate characteristics. I might also add that I have been an addict of at least three major (Indian ‘National’) newspapers at different times during the last (more than) thirty years. And even in case of T.V. and radio and some other forms of media, I have the experience of regularly following many sources or outlets.

Of course, not reading any newspaper daily has its drawbacks. For example, these days sometimes I find out about some major event several days later. For a person like me (who is marginally involved in the dissident media), that can be problematic. Still, it is not exactly true that I don’t read any newspaper at all now. I do periodically check Google News and read some of the ‘stories’ linked there. But that is mostly in the sense of, “What are they up to now?”.

What I do read, and where I get information and even ‘news’ that matters, is the ‘dissident media’. And I find, with only a few reservations, that this (much) more than compensates for the loss of my daily newspaper, as far as being aware of what is happening in the world is concerned.

In spite of the many usages of the first person pronoun in the preceding paragraphs, I hope the reader will have already understood that it is not about me. Because this kind of thing, even for me, could not have happened independently of what is happening in the world today. For one thing, there was no online newspaper just 15 years ago (neither did I have access to the Internet). There was no online dissident media, no blogs, no subscription in emails etc. For another thing, Corporate Media was never so blatantly, shamelessly Corporate as it is now. And being that, what it produces now is such trash that, when your addiction is gone, you can only wonder why were you addicted to it in the first place?

But then there is another thing. Since I have been consuming the produce of various kinds of Corporate (as well State) Media for such a long time and in such quantities and with such critical concentration (bordering on obsession) that given an event, I can predict most of the things that a particular newspaper would say. I have learnt their mechanics. I can see through them. I can read the subtext. I could do that even when I was still addicted, but what I mean is that this understanding of their methods (and I don’t mean behind the scene goings on, but only the text-subtext-message itself) makes the loss only the loss of an addiction, which is not a bad thing.

There was a time when the media, in spite of being owned by corporations, had something real to offer. You could get some truth out if it. That is now history. Yes, in a crude sense you still can get some information, and if you know how to read the subtext and to guess the unwritten, you can still be in touch with the global and national goings on by following this same media, but only to a small degree. Earlier, blatant lies were a rarity in the prestigious sections of the media. They could be exposed, and when exposed, they could cause major scandals and embarrassment. That is not the case now. Blatant lies are now quite common even among the more responsible newspapers. Let alone the distortions, omissions, spins, deliberate distractions etc. And exposure doesn’t rattle them much. The skins have become much thicker.

So, whatever may be your ideology, if you want to get a good idea about what is going on in the world, your best bet now is the dissident media. Even blogs are better than the mainstream media, if you know how to pick the good ones.

I am not kidding. I am not exaggerating either.

How can that be? There must be a catch somewhere. The bloggers and the dissident media people simply don’t have the infrastructure to gather news from all parts of the world everyday. That can only be done by Corporate Media.

Yes, there is a catch. The thing is, the bloggers and the dissident media people can take all that they want from different sections of the Corporate Media, clear out the trash, put the non-trash things together, and produce something much better than what you get from the mainstream media. There is another catch. Due to the ideological differences and some other factors, one dissident media source alone may not be enough. You might have to more than one of them. You don’t have to do that all at the same time. You can rotate between these sources. Read one source one day and a different one the next day. On the Internet, it is not very difficult to do, provided you don’t become addicted to just one source.

There are problems with the dissident media, some of them the same as with Corporate Media, but they are much less. The major problem is that there is still (as far as I know) hardly any dissident media at levels smaller than at least the national level. For example, if I want to know about the local politics of a particular state in India, there is little of that to be found on the global dissident media sources. There may be some blogs, but they still don’t (at least in the Indian context) provide a real substitute. This is a problem if you want to give up following the Corporate Media altogether. But as long as it is there, there is no harm in using it for some purposes. In fact, one reason I occasionally still follow it is to get an insight into the workings of the minds behind the Corporate Media, from their own sponsored words. (By the way, in that sense, even the advertisements can be helpful). They can also help you in predicting what they are going (or planning) to do, regardless of the surface meanings of what they (and the media) are saying. Crudely put, the Denial Principle works here, i.e., Peace means War.

But we can look forward to the day when the dissident media will be able to collect all its news on its own, probably (and partly) through what is called ‘citizen journalism’, though I am aware of the difficulties.

Meanwhile, there is a life of awareness after Corporate Media. And I can say that it is better than what it was before, leaving aside, for a moment, the other aspects of life.

Not to mention the saving of paper and, therefore, the reduced need to cut trees.

Viva la Dissident Media! (Excuse my Spanish).

February 23, 2009

Hundred (Fictitious) Dollar Oscars

This has been said by someone else, but I will repeat it anyway: if the new ‘Indian’ craze in the West, Slumdog Millionaire, wins one (or possibly more) Oscars, it will be due, to a large extent, to one particular scene in the movie. After the protagonist plays foul with an American (actually the US, lest we forget altogether) tourist couple and is being beaten brutally by an Indian, the American couple rescues him, only to get the retort that ‘you wanted to see a bit of real India’. And the lady’s answer is to get a hundred dollar note (we don’t call it a ‘bill’, nor a ‘bank note’) from her husband and hand it to the offending boy with what we call a dialogue in Hindi, ‘well, here is a bit of real America, son’. As the person who mentioned this scene earlier (although I had thought of the scene in more or less the same way) also pointed out, this American lady (that’s what we now call a woman in Hindi) is shown to be the only really good person in the whole movie.

But the movie is supposed to be all about Indians, so there are no real people other than Indians except this lady. The only Western (White and presumably Christian) person in the whole movie can hardly not be a representative of the average Westerner (let alone the US Americans) as opposed to the wretched, written-to-be-wretched, Indians, especially when she makes such a grand gesture accompanied by a solid dialogue.

Since there still are people out there who are going to (or already have) criticize this movie for some crappy reason like selling India’s poverty to the West etc., one has to give out the mandatory disclaimer that one is most certainly not against this movie for any such reason. In fact, one is not really against this movie at all.

I most probably wouldn’t have commented on this movie had it not become such a sensation and also given that a lot of insightful commentators have already written about it. But now it looks very much likely that the movie is going to get that most-prestigious-in-the-globe-but-actually-the-US-American movie award named Oscar, and probably more than one. This means that the movie will be taken seriously by a lot of non-Indians and perhaps even by some Indians. And, as I indicated earlier, it is not really such a bad movie. The problem is that it is not a great movie at all, which is what it is being made out to be outside India.

And like one other commentator (pardon me for not giving references, but I am tired right now: though I can provide them on need), I find it hard to believe that it is directed by the same person who directed that movie which is in my list of Very Good Movies (in the company of movies by Bergman, Fellini, De Sica, Kubrick and the like), namely Trainspotting. Whereas that movie was exactly what it wanted to be, this movie almost fails completely, although it is still entertaining.

There are so many things which are fundamentally and very clearly wrong with this movie. Accent is, of course, one of them. I wonder whether Danny Boyle knows that the knowledge of English (and even more so its use with a particular accent) is the single most reliable indicator of one’s socio-economic status in the Indian subcontinent. And the movie shows the ‘slumdog’ using the highest caste accent whereas the elite TV show host using a pretty low caste accent (yes, Anil Kapur’s accent is not very ‘good’ and he would usually be looked down upon among a circle of people speaking in almost British accent, as does the protagonist).

I would urge Danny and his crew to go and see Tashan, which has some similarities with this movie and also stars Anil Kapur.

The movie could have been so much better if it was made in Hindi and had better casting and had hired some accent tutors like they do in Hollywood even for the all-(US)-American movies.

The second big problem is that the novel on which it is based doesn’t talk Karma-Varma at all. And the movie resolves everything at the end by saying ‘because it is written’. And Danny Boyle himself in an interview (roughly) said that you simply can’t resolve the complexities of India: they are just there. Then he said ‘they even have a philosophy for this’, which says to me that he seems to know very little about India. Yes, there is a philosophy of that kind, but there are innumerable other philosophies too.

Come on, Danny, no one in India actually says ‘I don’t know, I have got a sort of Karmic feeling about this’ or something like that (as the TV show host does). This Karmic terminology is more used in the West, than in the ‘real India’. No one really talks about ‘Karma’ here. (Even when they do, they don’t do it in this way). Though they do talk of Bhaagya and Taqdeer and Maathe Ki Lakeer etc. Which is not the same thing. And which is the reason this movie can be accused of being indulgent in post-modern Orientalism (someone else said that too).

In many parts of India, if you spoke out the word ‘Karma’ in the way Danny Boyle (or any Westerner talking about India) does, people would think you were talking about a patriotic movie starring an old Dilip Kumar pairing with one of my favorite (favourite for the less dominant party to which Danny belongs) female actors, Nutan. This ‘Karma’ is, of course, not the same word. In fact, it’s not a word at all: it’s a name.

It’s an ambiguous Named Entity that I would classify as either a Person or as an Object-Title, depending on the context.

In the same interview, Danny Boyle says about Mumbai (which we still quite often call Bambai – बंबई in Hindi and Bombay in English) that ‘they call it the Maximum City’. Well, it’s actually Suketu Mehta who calls Mumbai that. A lot can be said about that book too, but I won’t say it now.

Now the music. Well, the simple and solid fact is that A. R. Rehman has given much better music before, right from his very first hit, Roja. If some Indians start respecting him now because he wins an Oscar or two, I can only pity them. And I pity the non-Indians too: for being completely unaware of such great music even in this .mp3 era. Music which has been heard and liked by hundreds of millions of people for more than one and a half decade now.

But let me reiterate. This is not such a bad movie. Your money won’t be wasted if you go and see it. But it is definitely not ‘a gritty and realistic’ movie about India, except in some ways which are of no use to an Indian and could be misleading for a non-Indian.

Let me reiterate something else. The Indian ‘reality’ is much worse than what is depicted in the movie, which is basically a lived-happily-ever-after fantasy.

And featuring the US American lady in the movie with her fictitious hundred dollars is a cheap (pun intended) trick to win over the Western (especially American) audiences whose senses will be offended by what is shown in the movie (for the dummies: this is a deliberate but slight exaggeration). Because if the truth were told, a big share (not all, of course) of the responsibility of this worse reality of India (as of other colonized or near-colonized countries) rests with the West.

Overall, Slumdog Millionaire is in the same league as Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Both movies are inspired by the ‘Bollywood’ style of film making and both have directors who seem to know precious little about India but who wanted to pay some tribute to the country and its films, just as the earlier Orientalist artists paid their own tributes to the seductive, exotic East as imagined by them with their artistic temperament. But as an Indian I feel that the latter movie has a definite edge. That could be partly because it doesn’t pretend to know (and, therefore, tell) much about India.

Slumdog Millionaire’s only connection to Trainspotting, ironically, happens to be a scene that was hard to watch even for the hardened Indians: the jump in and out of the shitpot. And even this scene was done much better in Trainspotting.

There is also a serious matter that is concerned with both the style as well as the content. It’s a very tricky matter to mix realism with fantasy, which is what Slumdog Millionaire tries to do. And it does quite a bad job of it.

As it happens, Danny Boyle came and lived in India for some time for making this movie. One gets the impression that he was overwhelmed by what he saw and didn’t quite know what to make of it. And in such cases the easiest resort is to the Karmic poppycock that the movie ends at. Small mercy that it is done with the tongue at least lightly in the cheek.

P.S.: Also for the dummies, the word ‘caste’ above has been used metaphorically, not literally. Knowledge of English and the accent is a big (perhaps the biggest) determinant of the metaphorical caste in India. Even in the India of Call Centres. Or should it be ‘especially in that India’?

January 12, 2009

Picture of the Future

Orwell described a picture of the future rather bleakly as:

There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face … forever. (1984 by George Orwell: Part III, Chapter III)

This, I believed, was a dystopian picture. I still do. I have my own picture of the future, which has remained almost unchanged for the last decade (at least). Three recent events somehow seem to me to be describing my picture of the future.

The picture is mine, but the future need not necessarily be mine.

But it can very well be.

The first is the unbelievably and blatantly criminal assault by Israel on all Palestinians: man, woman and child. I won’t give references for this. It’s there prominently even in the mainstream media and has been there for some time now.

The second is a recent call by the Andhra Pradesh Human Rights Commission chief (Chairman) for “legislation to prosecute parents with diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, leprosy and dyslexia should they, knowing that they have the disease, have children”.

Inhuman Rights Commission?

The third is the news, or rather the lack of it, about the recent death of a Hindi writer living in Jaipur (yes, the connection with ‘your’ places does make it worse) Lavleen (लवलीन) who was relatively young. She had a reputation as a ‘bold’ writer and woman. She hadn’t really established herself as a great writer, but she was known among the Hindi literary circles. Let alone the Indian English media, (it has been pointed out) even the ‘biggest Hindi daily’ Dainik Bhaskar didn’t report it, even after many requests. And even the small but very vibrant and inter-connected world of Hindi blogging (which is very enthusiastic about events like the wedding of someone’s relative among them) mostly ignored it, though they are trying very hard to find out who ‘the real Tau’ (असली ताऊ) is. Like a lot of other writers, she died with the dream of some day writing a masterpiece.

(But still, I came to know about this from a Hindi writer’s blog).

And, no, I didn’t personally know her. Nor do I know the A. P. Human Rights Commission Chairman. Nor have I ever been to Israel, though a large percentage of the people (in History) I admire happen to be Jewish and most of them (I am sure) would have or have been horrified by what Israel is doing.

I don’t know why but these three events (or should I say sets of events: being a ‘professional’ practitioner of language sciences, crafts and arts is tough when it comes to writing anything) somehow represent for me the picture of the future.

This picture is not quite as horrible as that painted by Orwell (actually, by O’Brien the character, whether or not by the author).

But it doesn’t seem very pleasant.

August 5, 2008

What You May Not Know – 1

Come election time and the propaganda by various parties starts. Nothing unusual (or perhaps even wrong) in that. However, since a particular political family (the Sangh Parivar) has much more clout in the middle class, and even more so among the ‘highly educated’ professionals etc., the newest way for carrying on propaganda are (mass) emails and blogs. This media, while allowing anyone with access to the Net to communicate with others (which is obviously a good thing), also allows blatant and completely over the top lies to be spread. What is dangerous in this case, especially with emails, is that these (mass and) chain mails usually come to people from family, friends and acquaintances. Unless you have the habit of checking everything that is told to you before believing it, you can easily be mislead by such mails and blogs. This is even more likely now when, in this age, people anyway don’t have much time to spend on finding out the truth (as much as possible, not absolute) about matters like national or international politics. There is infinitely more data than one human mind can handle.

Whether in the earlier ages people had time for this or not and, if they did, whether they used it for this purpose or not is something I don’t know. But that still doesn’t change the fact that most people are likely to believe certain kinds of the most outrageous lies.

I usually don’t get many such mails, but sometimes I do. When I do, sometimes I also reply in the hope that at least some of the people will go on to check the facts before believing them. At least make some inquiries from reliable sources. Just make some effort to find whether what is being claimed is anywhere near the truth or not.

When I do reply, I usually get into some kind of trouble or the other. Because the mail has been sent (whatever may be the original source) from friends to friends. You are not supposed to suggest that a friend could have sent a mail containing blatant malicious lies to a friend. That is breaking the social code. It’s like a minor crime. If you repeat this offence, it can even become a major crime and there will be consequences.

I have just got such a mail. I am going to quote it here in full just as an example so that in case you have not received any such mail, you might not conclude that I am talking nonsense. Why I used this N-word may be clear when you read this (verbatim):

Dear all ,

This is list of leading News papers in india & its owners. I think you can point out the media atitude towards hindu society from this statistics.

a) NDTV: Funded by Gospels of Charity in Spain supports Communism. Recently it has developed a soft corner towards Pakistan because Pakistan President has allowed only this channel to be aired in Pakistan . Indian CEO Prannoy Roy is co-brother of Prakash Karat, Gen Secy of Communist party of India .

b) CNN-IBN: 100% Funded by Southern Baptist Church with its branches in all over the world with HQ in US. The Church annually allocates 800 Million Dollars for Promotion of its channel. Its Indian Head is Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sagarika Ghosh.

c) TIMES GROUP LIST: TIMES OF INDIA, MID-DAY, NAV-BHARTH TIMES, STARDUST, FEMINA, VIJAYA TIMES, VIJAYA KARNATAKA, TIMES NOW (24 hr News Channel) & many more.

Times Group is owned by Bennet & Coleman. 80% of the Funding is done by “WORLD CHRISTIAN COUNCIL”, and balance 20% is equally shared by an Englishman and an Italian. The Italian ROBERTIO MINDO IS A CLOSE RELATIVE OF SONIA GANDHI.

D) STAR TV: Is run by an Australian, who is supported by St.Peters Pontificial Church Melbourne.

E) HINDUSTAN TIMES: Owned by Birla Group, but hands have changed since Shobana Bhartiya took over. Presently it is working in Collobration with Times Group.

F) The Hindu: A English Daily, started over 125 years has been recently taken over by Joshua Society, Berne , Switzerland .

G) INDIAN EXPRESS: DIVDED INTO TWO GROUPS. THE INDIAN EXPRESS & NEW INDIAN EXPRESS (SOUTHERN EDITION). Acts Ministries has major stake in the Indian express and later is still with the Indian counterpart

H) EENADU : Still to date controlled by an Indian named Ramoji Rao

I) Andhra Jyothi : The MUSLIM PARTY OF HYDERABAD known as (MIM) along with a Congress Minister Has purchased this Telgu daily very recently.

j) The Statesman: It is controlled by Communist Party of India

k) Kairali TV: It is Controlled by Communist party of India (Marxist)

l) Mathrabhoomi: leaders of Muslim league and Communist Leaders have major investment.

L) Asian Age & Deccan Chronicle: Is owned by a Saudi Arabian Company with its chief Editor M.J.AKBAR.

And I was under the impression that all Indians who are even a little bit politically aware know that many of these newspapers (e.g., the Times of India and the Indian Express) are sympathetic (if not more) to the BJP and the right wing nationalist politics in general.

I am sure if I was writing a spoof on the right wing propaganda machine, I couldn’t have done better than this.

The most depressing fact is that a friend (who is a really decent and a pretty intelligent person) replied that “Worth to know this fact. Thanks”. And the friend who sent the mail is also a really decent and a pretty intelligent person.

To be frank, I am feeling a bit disoriented by all this.

Phrases like ‘intellectual apocalypse’ are attacking my mind.

Then I made a search for ‘Joshua Society, Berne , Switzerland “the hindu”‘. What do I find? There is whole list of matches on the front page where the exact same thing has been repeated.

Here (‘Wisdom of the East’) and here (‘India Interacts’) and here (‘Hindu Gujarati’) and here (‘Fundoo’). And here (‘Pickled Politics’: a comment). And here (Vishwa Samvad Kendra).

The list goes on.

July 13, 2008

Anonymous Abuse – 1

Internet is giving rise to some brand new genres and giving life to some others. The genre I am going to refer to in this post has definitely been revived with extraordinary vigour (vigor for the dominant party), if it is not a new genre.

This genre is called Anonymous Abuse. It’s quite like terrorism, but it involves much less risk. You can be as dastardly cowardly as it is possible for a human being to be, which is saying quite a lot. In fact, there are no risks involved.

There is a particular elite variety of this genre which involves a person in a very safe position at the abusing end and a person in a not very safe position at the receiving end. Naturally, this is even more dastardly cowardly, just like the worst kind of terrorism, minus any risk again.

Even if you surf the net randomly you are likely to find whole sites full of such abuse. But if you go to places like certain kinds of ‘forums’, you will get more on one forum than you would probably have the stomach to read. Forums of news magazines are one such example, especially those which are not moderated much or at all.

So, from now on, I will, once in a while, present gems of this genre. I can do this freely as the person, by choosing to remain anonymous, has implicitly given me the right to reproduce his (or her) stuff. The anarchist in me likes this.

Here is the first gem I found on the Outlook magazine website. One reason I have selected it is that it is probably written by someone on the campus, but more importantly (for me) it might just be the first ‘creative’ spoof that someone has taken the trouble to write that is possibly (even if very very remotely and, of course, mistakenly) connected to either me or what I have been doing and writing.

So here it goes. Verbatim.

Daily Letters | 4 Jun, 2008 07:08:31AM (IST)

It was a great Himalayan assault by the Congress Party that has put Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary to shame. It was the conquering of the Supreme Court and planting a Scheduled Caste judge as the CJI making it a Scheduled Court or Scheduled Caste court, as you like, for all future quota purposes. The political class rejoiced. Everything has been going as per the plan. With no unity or integrity left in the people except their quota greed to preserve nothing could now stop the Congress to cobble a measly majority of “like-minded” parties when the LS polls are over next year.

As the hunchbacked HRD evil Sherpa Tenzing Hillary sat with his Congress cronies giving finishing touches to his another magnificient Himalayan assault plan of SCHEDULEFYING the Indian Army post 2009 they heard a jarring noise. “What was it?” asked the Sherpa hunchback. An aide whispered. It was the Gujjars who were burning Delhi in support of their Rajasthan brothers. The strange noise was unsettling to Tenzing Hillary as even during the doctors stir in Delhi the noise was at low decibel with police slaves handling it firmly and nicely. As his nerves jingled, a courier came: Sir, you are wanted at the durbar of Empress Sonia. You are being called to explain leaking of the Congress secret of Rahul becoming the next prime minister.

As the evil hunchbacked Sherpa limped his way to the sanctum sanctorum of Her Majesty Empress Sonia he was quietly ushered into Her august presence as she sat flanked by her confidantes Jayanti and Renuka.

The kow-towing came very naturally to this born evil owing to his congenital deformity. A durbar attendant finally managed to steady the boulder from kow-towing to his death.

As the Empress stared at the hunchbacked evil incomprehensibly like a Sphinx sitting on the hot sands of Egypt, the jarring Gujjar noise grew louder and louder to an ear-splitting cacophony. The Evil Sherpa muttered helplessly that could be barely heard by the Empress. It sounded something like “FOR WHOM THE EIGHT BELLS TOLL? Jayanti understood it a shade faster as she spat: “It tolls for thee!” Renuka furious that Jayanti had beaten her to the draw by a micro second hit back with venom. And for once in her life spoke the truth: “C’mon Jayanti, you think you know everything. It tolls for us”

As the evil boulder was being slowly dragged limping away after a mild warning to his morbid cabin he wondered if he and his comrade-in-arm Chidambaram had done enough to keep the throne of his Empress secure from shaking.

VEDAM
HYDERABAD INDIA

You don’t get it? What’s the matter? Don’t you like the way the abuser shows contempt for the Dalits as well as the Gujjars (not to mention the Supreme Court or Victor Hugo or Tenzing or Hillary or John Donne or Hemingway or even the Sphinx, for God’s, I mean, Abuse’s sake)? Can’t you appreciate his humor (humour for the non-dominant party) at the expense of the physically deformed? Don’t you see the wonderful ‘Tenzing Hillary’ part? So blatantly racist. How lovely. In this age when people have found extremely innovative ways of hiding their racist and other such tendencies, doesn’t this blatancy come as a breath of fresh air? And the sexism. Good old stuff. But it may be a bit mild for some. What about xenophobia against the Nepalis? Isn’t that impressive?

Some people have a Muse. Some others have an Abuse.

You would have to know a lot of Indian history if you want to make anything of the reference to ‘doctors’ stir’ and the ‘police slaves’ in this particular context. Believe me, I know a whole lot about this. I could write ten books about this, but I won’t. I won’t survive.

No points for guessing that the abuser is a high caste elite professional. You will have to give it to him that he can at least string together more or less grammatical sentences. This is not a characteristic that is very common among the Anonymous Abusers. Because those who can, use their talent (and here I mean for Anonymous Abuse) in a manner that pays.

So what if the abuser doesn’t make any sense? So what if the abuser might make even Congress party haters and right wing ‘democrats’ and ‘liberals’ flinch? So what if even Narendra Modi or Praveen Togadia won’t dare to openly support this abuser.

Make no mistake. This is coming from what is called India’s Best. India’s Crème de la Crème. India’s Very Meritorious Class.

To be frank, I don’t like any of the individuals mentioned (by name) in the above abuse, except perhaps Tenzing and Hillary who climbed the Everest for the first time. And I would hate to see the Congress in power again. (Yes, I would hate to see the BJP in power even more).

But I like this stuff, though not for the above reason.

I am happy to post it here. I hope there is more.

As Ali G. would say, Respect!

June 8, 2008

Some Political Disclaimers

While reading a rant today against Arundhati Roy (Not again!), I came across a new (balancing) label. Neo-Marxism. The ranter says that she and others like her are neo-Marxist ‘intellectuals’. Since my political views have a lot in common with hers, I couldn’t help thinking that I too could be accused of being a neo-Marxist (‘intellectual’ or not).

The idea offends me. So much so that I have decided to declare in advance what I am not. What I most certainly never was. Or will be. I hope this will save the time of those (if any) who bother to pay attention to me and then may want to rant against me. I hope this would allow them to make better use of their energies.

Just in case.

And these are the things I wasn’t, am not and will not be:

  • I most definitely am not a Marxist, let alone a neo-Marxist (whatever that means).
  • I am, most emphatically, not a communist.
  • If I am not a communist, I couldn’t be a Maoist. I hate Stalin and I rank Mao only a little better than him.
  • Nor could I be any of the other things like Leninist, ‘Trotskyst’, etc.

Not just that. I don’t believe in a sudden (violent or non-violent) and quick revolution that will change the world overnight magically. I am almost sure that there will be no final victory and living happily ever after. There can only be a continuous long struggle which is unlikely to completely end ever. Because there are too many things (abstract and concrete; human, inhuman and non-human) which are too strong to be overcome easily. I am not even sure whether some of them can be overcome. Even to overcome a few of them is not going to be possible through just polite academic discourse and a bit of charity here and bit of social work there.

In other words, a dystopia is very likely (almost certain if we don’t try to keep preventing it continuously) but a Utopia is out of the question.

The fact is, I am not even sure whether I am ‘very left liberal’ as I have written on my Orkut profile (which no one visits, including me).

Sure, I might be a lot of other things which people like the above mentioned ranter might find worthy of attack. Or those who advocate ‘let’s discuss it over dinner and not make a fuss’ even if it’s a matter of thousands of lives (or deaths). The latter variety includes those who claim to be admirers and even followers of Gandhi. As far as my knowledge, intelligence and reasoning goes, Gandhi was a Big Fuss Maker (even if not big enough for many) for any cause that he was active for.

That takes me to another disclaimer. I am not a Gandhian either.

Am I a socialist? Am I a leftist? Am I a liberal?

It all depends on what exactly these terms mean for the person who is asking. They could be used to mean anything.

The other day I read someone’s comment on the Outlook website ranting against ‘communal Congress’ and raving in favour (favor for the dominant party) of ‘secular RSS/BJP’.

Even as a BJP national leader was feeling diminished by Nepal being declared a secular republic.

But I am not going to give out disclaimers about not being a communalist or fundamentalist or anything of the sort. Don’t think it’s necessary.

Am I definitely something? I could be, but I am not much interested in being labeled. I want to do many things. I have been many things. I am many things.

Who the heck cares? And why on earth?

Exactly.

June 3, 2008

The Fine Art of L.K. Advani et al.

L.K. Advani is one of those people who turn hypocrisy into a fine art. One of the prerequisites of this art is having at least somewhat charismatic personality. The ability to project a decent middle class ‘measured’ persona helps too.

His party, after the retirement of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is now making the most of Advani’s abilities, as it is of Modi’s. And Modi himself is now suggesting that we fight inflation with fasting, as once advised by India’s former Gandhian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.

From Advani to Jaswant Singh. Add the charms of being a former Maharaja.

As we all know, Nepal has finally got rid of the monarchy (lock, stock and non-smoking barrel, unlike Britain). Moreover, that country will now also be a ‘secular republic’, like India. This is our (possibly) future Prime Minister’s ‘measured’ take on these developments:

As for abolition of monarchy, Mr. Singh said, “It is for the people of Nepal to decide not to have a monarchy.”Was the BJP happy about Nepal becoming a secular state? He said: “As an Indian and a believer in ‘sanatan dharma’ [Hinduism], I feel diminished. … There are four ‘dhams’ [pilgrimage centres] in India and the fifth, Pashupati Nath, is in Nepal. There is nothing more secular than ‘sanatan dharma’. … This is a negative development [in Nepal].”

If there is nothing more secular than ‘sanatan dharma’, why does he feel diminished about Nepal becoming a secular state?

Don’t be insane. Be measured. It’s not good to ask such questions.

And here is the not-so-measured take of his party president Rajnath Singh on the words ‘secular’ and ‘dharmanirpeksh’.

Nice combination.

Winning Combination.

Where do I find the words for Modi?

May 29, 2008

All Around Us (1)

On May 13th, more than 60 people died in Jaipur in a series of bomb blasts. There were nine blasts and at least one bomb was defused. The blasts were earlier said to be of low intensity, but were then said to be of high intensity. They occurred in crowded localities of the old city (the Pink City) and I have been to each of those localities numerous times. The blasts (some of them, at least) were carried out using bicycles. And I have been to each of those localities on foot as well as on bicycle. Mostly years ago, but the last time was one and half years ago.

In almost all the reports about the blasts, the names of these localities were given wrongly. Badi Choupad was being called Badi Choupal, Choti Choupad was being called Choti Choupal, Chand Pole was being called Chandi Pole etc. Does it matter? Only if you believe that getting the details right is important if you not only want to find out the truth, but also want to punish those responsible for these acts of terror. Note that all these localities are Big landmarks in Jaipur. So much that every Jaipurvasi knows where they are. And how to pronounce them. And I am not talking about the foreign media. Nor am I talking about the South Indian media. I am talking about reporters from New Delhi, which is only a little over 250 km from Jaipur and is home to a lot of Jaipurvasis.

Soon after the blasts, as usual, we were being told who might be responsible. The same familiar names were cropping up. The same chants were being repeated. The same red alerts were issued, about which we (Indians) have been hearing for the last quarter of a century, if not more. The same kind of statements were issued.

There was one difference. As I was watching one short video on the Net (I don’t have access to TV, which is why I came to know about the blasts later than many others), there was one person who was answering questions about the implications of the blasts and what was being done to ensure security in the coming days. Then he was asked some questions, which, along with the answers given to them, baffled me completely. I finally realized (Tubelight! Tubelight!) that the man was not an official of the Home Ministry, nor was he a high ranking police officer, nor was he a politician (in the conventional sense). He was someone connected with the IPL, the new 20-20 cricket match league. I couldn’t make out exactly in what capacity. He was being asked a lot of questions by all the mediamen gathered around him, and he was answering quite confidently and with a great deal of, shall we say, responsibility.

Anyway, apart from such indications of the changes that have happened in the world during the last quarter of a century, the same records are being replayed:

  • Condemnation, dastardly, cowardly, despicable etc.
  • Appeals to maintain calm
  • Nationwide red alerts issued
  • Crackdown on ‘Bangladeshis staying illegally in India’
  • The opposition’s talk about the government’s ‘recurring failure to combat terror’
  • Demand for harsher laws to combat terrorism, to bring back the dreaded POTA, as if it had, at any point. succeeded in stopping terrorists from doing what they wanted to do
  • Demands to strengthen intelligence agencies

So on and so on. All of it is so predictable that you could almost write a program to do all these things every time a terror attack occurred.

Sure, there were some articles in newspapers like The Hindu, saying that we should try to deal with the causes of terrorism, rather than repeating the same old knee-jerk reactions. But one can be sure that they would remain unheard amidst the shouts for revenge and bouts of witch hunting.

Which brings us to another demand: Hang Afzal Guru. Supposedly it would magically reduce the incidents of terrorism. Many have pointed out that there seems to be something seriously wrong about the whole investigation carried out in the strange case of the attack on the Indian parliament building, and indeed with the attack itself. The person who was in charge of the investigation, the infamous encounter specialist Rajbir Singh, is now dead. Conveniently?

You can also read some of the ‘Readers’s Opinions’ about the blasts here. This is one good thing about the Internet. What was earlier said in private, is now often said in public. On the Net, it is quite possible and very easy (under the cover of anonymity) to make statements like ‘hang all these Muslims’ or ‘sack the Prime Minister & shoot every one suspected’. Even to say an absurdly amusing thing like ‘where ever in india a blast is done the route is from hyderaabd’. Or like ‘Root out this nuisence of hate and terrorism from Rajasthan, as Modi has done in Gujrat’.

Or like:

ITS enough yaar…..i just request our POLICE to catch those terrorists and hang them till death…

Or like:

As long as we have sikh Prime Minister and foreigner (Sonia Gandhi) is holding the power ,these thing will be very common in near future.

Or a gem like this:

If god gives me one wish to fulfill in my life I will ask all these terrorist together to come face to face to me. These all enuch animals one side and I am the other and i swear I will surely clean 100% of them and i dont want this poloticians to be arround there they are worthless. I am very sure most of indians would agree with me KILL them. This is challenge to all those terrorist who r killing innocent people if they have guts and if they are not enuchs then come out you cowards and face the real MEN.

On this particular site (Times of India) alone, there are 67 pages of such comments from ordinary peace loving innocent civilian Indians who are educated and privileged and ‘developed’ enough to have access to the Net. The citizens of India Shining. A lot of them must be members of the IT industry, which has ‘done India proud’.

All of the above are Hindus, of course.

But there was a comment from one Omer Khan, NY, which went like this:

Let Indians also feel the taste of tragic killings. Read the sceanrio of Kashmir. If 80 People of jaipur are killed whole india is schocked ,what about 25000 Muslims of kashmir who are still missing in Custody & what about those 1500 People found in Mass graves. I really condemn killings but it is good medicine for those who mutiliate the facts of killings in kashmir.

On the other hand, there was a comment by one Rizwan Rafat, Karachi, Pakistan:

i am very sad to see the comment by Omar from NY. Those who died in the blast are innocent civilians who have nothing to do with kashmir. also to add to the knowledge of mr Omar, Kashmir issue has reached this point due to the Indian political mistakes, and also due to vested interest of Pakistani Army who see no gain in solving the kashmir problem and is eating the country. I am behind the people of Jaipur, may god give them patience. also i urge Pakistani government to help India in tracing these coward terrorist if there is any Pakistani connection. hindus, muslims whoever should be ruthlessly crushed to bring peace for everyone.

I looked through many pages to find one reasonable comment by a person with a Hindu name, but I couldn’t. Of course, almost all the people who have written articles I referred to, who will remain unheard, are Hindus. Is there some pattern in all this? Something from which we can learn something?

And one comment was not very clear to me:

please do not now hear talks like 1. excercise maximum restraint 2. Let the law take its own course 3. Jail the terrorists etc etc let the politicians like yada get killed – maybe we will then act?

The social subconscious spills over into the public domain. And is hard to make sense of.

While this may have been the dominant story in the last two weeks, there have been many other events which might merit some of our attention.

On 15th May, militants killed 11 persons in Assam in two separate incidents. Among the 11, there were train drivers, truck drivers and helpers. There have been a series of such attacks in recent days.

Binayak Sen, a highly respected doctor serving in the villages of Chhatisgarh (one of India’s richest states in terms of resources, but one of the poorest in terms of the well being of inhabitants, a lot of them being tribals), who is also associated with the human rights organization People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) has been arrested for being a ‘messenger’ for Naxalites, the Maoist revolutionary ‘terrorists’. He was arrested after he actively criticized the state sponsored terrorism of an organization called Salwa Judum, which consists of tribals who have been given arms by the state to fight the Naxalites (in Chhatisgarh), whose cadres also are made up of tribals. So tribals fight tribals while other tribals are forcibly (by the government) holed up in camps under conditions which you can easily imagine if you are an Indian and keep your eyes and ears open.

Binayak Sen has been refused bail even after appeals by a lot of intellectuals and activists. Even the alumni of the medical college where he had studied have come out in his support and a campaign has been launched to get him free.

On May 10th, a teenager Raj Kumar was lynched to death for picking ‘four luscious shahi litchis without permission’. His body was then thrown into a pond.

On May 11th, ‘in yet another case of honour killing, a retired army jawan has allegedly hacked his 20-year-old daughter to death for marrying against his wishes’.

On May 13th (I am not sure about the date), the car of a cabinet minister in the UP government hit a man in Lucknow (who was riding a bicycle) and left him to die on the road. The bicycle, you might recall, is one of most common modes of transport in India. And road accidents are one of the biggest causes of unnatural deaths in India. More than 100,000 every year. The majority of those who die (who also happen to be innocent civilians) are either pedestrians or those riding a two-wheeler. A bicycle, you might recall, is a two wheeler.

A Kerala godman Amritha Chaithanya, whose real name apparently is Santosh Madhavan has been accused of cheating. He has been arrested, but may go free as ‘the cheating case against him in Dubai may not have legal standing in India.’ You might also recall that the situation in India right now, as indeed at any time in history, is that of godmen galore.

A UN report (World Economic Situation and Prospects) says that ‘about 3 billion people are food insecure‘ and that ‘approximately 18,000 children die daily as a direct or indirect consequence of inadequate nutrition’. The largest number of them are from India. Have been for as long as I can remember.

Around May 19th, at least 68 people died as a result of consuming illicit brew in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Note that 68 is a number higher than of those killed in the Jaipur blasts. Note also that there is something in common between the two incidents of serial deaths. Both occur quite regularly in India and both are followed by the same ritualistic responses. And so it goes on. And on.

On May 11th, there was again firing on the Line of Control (LOC) between the Indian and Pakistan administered parts of Kashmir. This was also a very regular feature and is followed by very predictable responses, but this one is important because there had been a lull for a relatively long time, as India and Pakistan seemed to be heading for a better relationship, whatever be the causes of that. Combine this with the blasts in Jaipur (which is the capital of a state bordering Pakistan), and the prospects of a better relationship don’t seem so bright any more. Let’s hope this is wrong.

On May 21st, ‘forty Bhopal gas leak survivors, including 15 children and 23 women, chained themselves to the railings around the Prime Minister’s residence here on Wednesday afternoon demanding speedy resolution of their demands’. The gas leak, due to which a few thousand people had died and a lot more were left with dysfunctional bodies, had happened in 1984, the same year when Indira Gandhi was assassinated and more than 2000 people were killed during the riots that followed.

Coming back to the Jaipur blasts, there may or may not be a doubt about who was behind this attack and why, but there is no doubt at all about who is going to benefit the most from this. The elections (in Rajasthan, among other states) are coming and India’s party of Fascism-under-the-cover-of-right-wing-nationalism has sensed this and has already started to exploit this incident. If there was any chance of BJP being defeated in the Rajasthan elections, it is now gone.

This is what the terrorists have actually succeeded in doing, whatever they might fool themselves into believing.

April 11, 2008

Patent Madness

So we have one more reason in support for the idea that patents are a bad idea. The latest is the news that a company called Digital Reasoning has been awarded a patent on what looks like contextual similarity. What the ‘news report’ says includes:


This breakthrough patent grants broad protection for how artificial intelligence, including neural networks, genetic algorithms, and vector space models can be used to learn the meanings of symbols – such as words, categories, or numerical values. Understanding the subtle meaning of terms in context has been one of the “Holy Grails” of artificial intelligence. Not only is Digital Reasoning® fully able to accomplish this feat, it is now patented.

Here is one comment about this:

Anyone from the ACL/ML/AI community can immediately recognize this and start citing their favorite papers on these topics starting from at least a decade ago. A promotional video from the company on YouTube can be found here. Excerpt from the video: “… We treat the text representation of human language as a signal … “.

I think everyone should stop taking patents seriously. Wishful thinking?

Here is another:

Do the people ‘in-charge’ have any clue about the previous/current reseach done in the related field? How can they accept such stuff? Doesn’t make any sense, whatsoever.

But then they had accepted patents on haldi, neem and basmati. I am worried about jal jeera and pani poori.

Also, ganne ka ras.

Madness.

No need for me to say more as so many others have already talked about this:

In August last year there was a news item about Yoga devices being patented in the US. Small mercy that the Government of India succeeded in cautioning the U.S. Government against granting patents to Yoga postures (asanas).

There was a time (in India) when patents were awarded on processes, not products. That meant that even if some company had patented a method for producing a particular medicine, someone else could come along and find a better way and sell the medicine cheaper. Now, since the patents are granted on products, under orders from the empire that rules the world, that kind of thing can’t happen.

It can a be matter of life and death for millions of people.

I look forward to the day when self-respecting researchers won’t proudly list the patents they have been able to obtain.

Patents are among the most evil inventions of humankind.

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