Saturday, May 10, 2008


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Saturday, April 12, 2008

A festival of lights

It's the end of Navratra tomorrow. The nine day festival of lights and fasting. And at the end of Navratra, like every year, the search begins for young maidens. It's traditional to invite back nine of these young maidens back to the house and feed them with a nine varieties of food. After which you wash their feet and seek their blessings. And traditionally like every year, women all over India start searching for nine of these young maidens who can be fed and who will in return bless them. Only year by year, it seems to be getting tougher.

As well it might. In prosperous Haryana and Punjab where Navratara is celebrated with fervor there are only 777 women for a thousand men. The rest have been killed.The number is still lower in some of the rural areas. And least in some of the metros where urbanity it can seem can go hand in hand with some extreme barbarism. While the usual process is the ultrasound followed by the quick abortion, for many others it is a quick short burial of the baby in the backyard. The social reasons could be many. But for some of the people this killing too is traditional. Which is the scary part.

The repercussions are many. In some ways a girl has become a scarce resource, and people in power have derived their power from control of these scarce resources. Which they are attempting to do now. There are bars on marrying people of a different or lower caste, different religion or marrying people of the same 'gotr'. Honor killings are rampant, and tragically so are the suicides.

Thanks to all of this Haryana seems to be getting a few new traditions. It's called the bride trade. Where a bride is purchased from another state outside Haryana. "I couldn't find a local
girl," said Chandram, who purchased a wife last year from Bangladesh.
"So I had to go outside to get married. But it wasn't cheap."
Thousands more like Chandram exist in Haryana. And they are looking for brides. Only year by year it will get tougher.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

The root of all Evil

If I were to tell you that by abstaining from one act today, you could potentially save your child from pedophiles I am sure you would happily abstain from that act. But if I were to tell you that that one act is religion?

When you light that one candle, say that one prayer, you use the word: faith. Faith in perhaps your God or your country, you worship one or the other deity. But the fundamental message there is your faith. Your belief in the absence of evidence. And the other implied message. Faith is a virtue. Belief is a virtue. Even in the absence of evidence. Especially in the absence of evidence. And once your children are willing to believe anything (in the stark absence of evidence), then it becomes a simple matter to ensure that they do believe anything. From "uncle (well auntie too) touching them is good for them" to "strapping on bombs and blowing up people".

This is one of the compelling arguments made by Dawkins (and the neo atheists) against religion today. I'll confess here. I am a Dawkins fanboy. However the argument is entirely valid. Faith (and by definition religion) leaves our kids vulnerable because we ask them to just about believe anything we tell them. So how do we ensure they only believe things which are good for them (or which we think are good for them). We simply can't. If they are going to believe anything then they will believe anything. Including stuff which is harmful to them. The only way out of this loop is if they check that evidence. Checking that evidence is what programmers call a guard.And guard it does. From a program going the wrong way to self detrimental belief.

One of the arguments trotted out immediately to the above argument is that when you check evidence you compare this evidence with a standard, you don't know what the standard is, and that by definition religion is that standard. Well it could be. I'd still like to see the evidence. If I were a Jew (or a Muslim) then one of the criteria which would be good for me would be abstinence from pork. I'd still like to see the evidence for it. Why
is it bad for me? Why is it good for others to have it, but bad for me to have it? God, said so. Fine. But why? Does it increase my cholesterol? No, it hurts me spiritually? Well then show me how?

However every time I say that the immediate response is: Physical evidence is not the only evidence. Well maybe. But then if you are going to claim otherwise the onus of proving it is up to you. I might as well claim that if there is something other than physical evidence then you are a murderer. You would then call me absurd. However when you claim that there is a God, then there is no onus of proof on you. Now that's absurd. However the two integral percepts of any religion are: a complete lack of evidence or the need to provide evidence and of course complete belief in the absence of that evidence. The only other place besides the inside of a temple (or a church) where I have seen these two percepts being held fondly ( I could say almost religiously) is with madmen (and madwomen).

This is why I have continuously and spectacularly failed to believe in a specific or a general God. I don't even believe (as my family would fondly wish) in some type of a God. I am an atheist. Through and through. I don't believe in God because there is no evidence of God. There. I said it. I am now (probably) eternally damned. That won't be a problem though. At least my children will be safe. And for that I am willing to go to Hell. Any day.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008


After dinner, on the train and things are heating up. After the missus and I had pushed and heaved two heaving pack mules (also called suitcases) onto the train and set them under a berth we were catching our breath and thinking of something else to do, when we were infested by a group of large Bengali women. The fact that two non Bengali speaking people had penetrated into the depths of a Bengali train was more than their brain could accommodate and the fact that we were occupying the luggage space under the seat 36 and 37 while we had been allocated 35 and 38 an assault on their very senses. This travesty of justice was more than could be taken by any self respecting, peace loving, pan chewing, toothbrush mustache toting (this includes the women mind you) Bengali. The fact that putting our luggage under seats 35 and 38 would mean that we had to chain the entire aisle was not a sufficient deterrent. The women especially were appalled by these lax moral standards. What would the pinnacle of civilization come to if luggages (and foreigners) were not put in their proper place? So after hectic consultations (with a lot of furious finger pointing and mogu mishaiing in chaste Bong speak) two of the women pushed their men folk towards us and the men folk then putting on their best voice said "Excuse me could you move your luggage please".

The missus and I pointed out that it worked out to all the same, since they had more than ample space to accommodate their single bag. However that was not to be. While the men were happy to accommodate, the women decided that they were not going to let anybody walk over their husbands (except them of course), so rudely brushing them aside confronted us. The argument was short and sweet. How can you argue with the sublime piece of logic that they could not keep their bags anywhere else since it was not safe and they wanted it to be in the corner, or the other piece of improvised reasoning that they could only keep their bags under seat number 36 (such are the mental rigors required to elect a communist government term after term). Interestingly theirs was the only bag under the seat, after we moved our luggage once again. Shortly panic set in when they realized we had a chain and they did not. Two more large ladies were recruited into a furious session of hand waving, gesticulating and speaking to us in rapid Bengali (when mind you it was very evident we couldn't understand a word of it). Then in a move that surprised everyone present everybody else got off except one obnoxious Bengali lady and a man who hadn't been seen with her ever before (we can understand why). The lady who had objected in the first place had got off too. And then there was peace in the land of the Bongs. Two innocent bags were peeking out from under 33 and 34 while a single bag winked like a lonely star from under seat number 36 only to disappear early in the morning.

First time in Bongland

In the land of the gol gappa, red flags and large fat farting women. We are in kolkotta now and the difference is obvious from the minute you leave the airplane. All visitors to Kolkotta's domestic airport are greeted first by a large sign exhorting them to visit the ladies' toilet. If that isn't wierd then there is the sign observing that the bong administration is inbetween negotiating contracts for a new trolley service and apologising for the resulting inconvenience. The sign is however dated backwards by a couple of years which leads me to conclude that at a minimum it takes upwards of four years to negotiate a contract at Bongland. I wasn't too off the mark either. At various other transactions I performed later the general air was of someone doing you an absolute favour. From the prepaid taxi booth to the cab driver the air was of a people interrupted from some lofty pursuit into performing something almost trite. The cab driver seemed to be involved in some deep analysis of eighth century Bengali literary circles and his general attitute was that he was filling in for a friend. "Only for the time being", he seemed to be saying. "It's only a favour for a friend, while I am waiting for something better to happen".

The impression seemed to gather momentum as we left for the station in a rickety Ambassador which had seen the light of better days as the official cohort for 'Jyoti Basu'. When we got to the railway station we were mobbed by a group of porters who offered to carry our luggage for as little as twenty rupees into the station. The same in Delhi might have cost ten times as much. When we refused the porters gave up much too easily, perhaps leaving to perform their analysis of Neo-Marxian principles. Calcutta it seems is waiting for something better to happen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Office and Offensibility

It has been recently pointed out to me that my blog has the capacity to cause offense to its readers. Considering that the number of readers till now has barely crossed ten I wondered who I would be giving offense to. It was pointed out to me that I was offending (through my blog):
1. Tambrams
2. Most of the rest of humanity
3. The goats of the animal kingdom whom I had implicated as having carnal relations with some Tambrams and most of the rest of humanity. (Mamis and large predatory females kindly note these are carnal relations not cornell relations. Get your daughters married there at your own peril)

In fact my post on family values has irritated a few people. Upon further inquiry it transpires that it irritated people because:
1. It was basically their own values
2. I am a horrible git
(What is this compulsion I have with numbered lists. Irritating!!!)

However considering that this is India and considering that if ever Tambrams decide that their relegious sensitivities are hurt they could not just sue the bejesus out of me, they could also come and burn me I guess some steps will have to be taken. In fact consider Tasleema Nasreen. Here are the facts of the case:

Tasleema Nasreen was assaulted at a function she was attending in Hyderabad by a member of a relegious minority ( to whom Taslima also belongs) because her book had insulted the member's sentiments. The member spoke only Telugu and Urdu and had barely passed the second standard.

Hang On!!!

So here we have a man who hit a woman because he believed her book had insulted her relegious sentiments even though he couldn't read her book even in his own mother tounge (leave alone the original in Bengali).

However this is India where other members of the relegious minority then bought the book by the dozens and burnt them in order to protest which lead to:
1. The publisher ordering the printing of 10,000 copies because they were selling so fast
2. The book moving to No. 128 in the bestseller charts (it hadn't even figured there before)
3. Global warming and the breakdown of the Kyoto protocol and a lot of exhausted penguins who couldn't locate the ice pack

No. Seriously.

Considering that this is serious stuff. Here's what I plan to do.

1. Write something in this blog that offends the three major Abrahamic Relegion and the Mormon Church
2. Write something more offensive about Hinduism and Buddhism
3. Call up an Imam, a Pope and the Bajrang Dal and warn them about the offensive nature of the blog.
4. Once the carnage begins book myself on a flight to London and request political asylum (seeing that they let ugly mug Salman Rushdie in how bad can it be for this Tambram)
5. Ask Penguin to publish the book since they can be now assured of a bestseller

I have a feeling that this should work. The Christian will buy the book because Muslim sentiments are hurt. The Muslim because Hindu sentiments are hurt. The Hindu because Christian sentiments are hurt. Then they would all proceed to burn the damn thing because their own sentiments are hurt. The publishers would make a killing, I would be in London, preferably with a large bank balance and some nice scotch. How bad can it be?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Random ramblings

It was recently pointed out to me that one of the girls who was in school with me, a specimen whose pimply face we used to make fun of, who we popularly used to call 'nani ma' (meaning old grandmother for the not-so-familiar-with-hindi-parties-reading-this-blog), whose lunch we used to steal and whose dress we used to splatter with the ink of many a shattered nib has now made a career as a fashion model. Which leads me to dispense this nugget of advice:
Girls on whom we throw ink become models.

Sorry. That wasn't the moral after all. No the moral is this. Never make fun of girls. Especially pimply ones. Thanks to the wonder of modern pharmaceuticals (and I am not discounting acid here), they all end up as models thereby making sure we all have extremely horrible lives. Here! They seem to say, I am now loved and adored by all, whereby I should now enjoy a hearty laugh if the number of people who adore you is more than the pinkies on your left hand. I am sure there are classmates of the inestimable Deepika Padukone who are suffering the same tortures now. Sigh!

So there that's it. The one piece of advice I would like to leave the younger generation with. Do not poke fun at girls. Especially the types you love to nickname(nani-ma, boothni etc. etc.) The other piece of advice I have to dispense has nothing to do with girls but an awful lot to do with cricket.

We used to play cricket in our school when I was very young. The fact that we didn't have a cricketing field, did not deter us from playing cricket. The fact that we were not playing anything resembling cricket did not deter our sports teacher from labeling the game we played rather euphemistically as "French cricket". Never having been to France (or having played French cricket there) I cannot comment on what we played, but the game went roughly like this.

One designated person used to stand at the center of a rather large field (dustbowl) while the rest of the class (numbering nearly in the hundreds) used to form a circle around the guy in the middle. The outer circle was huge. I mean really huge. Sometimes occasionally you could see the other guy who was diametrically opposite you. He really looked tiny. The game consisted of trying to hit the player in the middle between his knees and his ankles. The batter would try and swat the ball away. At least attempt to since the only guy who could get the ball into the inner circle was a guy called... let's call him Jo who had failed the grade four times and was regularly to be found bullying smaller kids. The rest of us heaved and flung the ball but rarely did it go anywhere close to the inner circle. It just more or less dribbled to somewhere in between.

I didn't fare any better when the batsman managed to connect with the ball. On the rare occasion the ball came anywhere close to me I would be looking in exactly the wrong direction, digging my nose, eating boogers, whatever. Most other kids managed to stop one two balls occasionally. I managed to miss most of whatever was hit in my direction. So the game consisted of basically Jo running round and round in circles attempting to hit the batter between the knees and the ankle with the ball, the batter making wild ineffectual heaves at whatever we tossed and jumping up or dodging away whatever Jo tossed, and me missing most of whatever was hit in my direction. Entertaining it was not. I was plain bored. Sometimes the batter would stumble as he attempted to dodge and stub his toe, but mostly he was too far away to be seen, so I would just hear his enraged yowl.

I devised ingenious ways to overcome this torture. First was the discovery that a pair of rubber bands could deliver a projectile almost right next to the batsman and with stinging velocity. Four weeks later weary of the assiduous practice schedule I had assigned in my class (aim two feet left of the teacher, two feet above, two feet right), I put small stone to rubber band and let loose. The ensuing yowl let me know I had succeeded. I didn't know if my missile had hit the target. Too far away.

Thus was born my passion for physics but mostly for projectiles. I discovered the ecstasy of elasticity, the subtlety of stiffness, the sublimity of strength, the accuracy of aim and most importantly the power of the projectile. What Jo would manage in an hour of running around was now carelessly in fact nonchalantly achieved with a little application of brain. Which would have all been fine, if not for the damn geometrical implement called the divider.

It was a rash impulse which had led me to brag to my friends about this new found power of mine, and they challenged me to prove that I could actually hit the batsman. Unsatisfied they egged me on to prove more concrete results where nothing would be left to chance but the result would be plain unambiguous for everyone to see. Two weeks later after careful experimentation and sixteen rubber bands stolen from the lunch boxes of unwary children I managed to make a compass and a divider fly accurately.

Which I put into practice in the next sports period. Unfortunately the compass hit the batsman and in the quite fleshy part of the leg between the knee and the ankle. Having hit it politely refused to bounce off but remained embedded in his leg like a tranquilizer dart, while three friends, bosom buddies who I lost touch with after school and who I hope have a job washing trucks pointed to me and immediately said "Sir. Sir. He did it!!! He did it!!!!".

After the ensuing session with everybody (including the director of my institution) the one person who still consoled me and allowed me to continue stealing her lunch was 'nani-ma'. Nani ma! Forgive me. I was cruel to you ( and perhaps the batter who got stuck with the divider). In fact the only person I was more cruel with was an old math book of mine and another girl called 'RoadRunner' who also became a model in her own way. Which brings me to the important cricket advice and the even more important piece of advice.

Cricket advice: Next time your friends want you to do something for a bet stick it to them (kindly also use the divider)

Even more important advice: As a general principle never make fun of pimply girls. The pharmaceutical industry is far too good nowadays

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Things that irritate (Part 2)

(Formal versus dehyde)
During this recent event I was also asked to choose "formal" clothes. I had appeared with a dark blue suit a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie (pinched from Mottai Shankar Ram) with yellow darts on it. This wasn't considered formal.

Me: But this is formal enough for BT VP
Mum: Dark colours are used only for mourning. Abasakunam. Abasakunam.
Me: But traditionally Hindu's wear white for mourning.
Mama: Which reminds me, don't wear that light colored shirt.
Me: Which leaves me with nothing to wear.
Dad: How irresponsible can you get? Important function and you don't even bother to pack your clothes.
Family: And look at the Western wear. We will not tolerate such clothes. You need to be formally and conservatively dressed.
Me: But this is formal and conservative.
Mama II: But western. Though we respect the western tradition of wearing dark clothes at a wedding so you shouldn't.
Chorus: And also no light clothes at wedding since it is Hindu Mourning Color.
Me: Joy!!!

So I spent a large part of my fortune and time on Saturday trying to purchase a piece of garment that was not dark and not light. Here were the formal requirements for my clothes:
1. It could not be dark
2. It could not be light
3. But it had to be bright (pallichu for the Tamil speaking)
4. But not too showy
5. Modern (but no cargoes/t-shirts/short kurtas or long ones)
6. Yet traditional
7. Veshtis are passe
8. Yet jeans are not in.

Finally after a long afternoon spent with salesmen who had every reason to believe I was mad, I finally got the following:
1. A pink shirt: By far the only thing that satisfied requirements one, two and three
2. Khaki pants: That satisfied four to eight

Thank God they still think homosexual still means "sex with humans".

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Things that irritate (Part 1)

(Causation versus correlation)

I was in Chennai recently for a "family function". Here are a few general observations about people:
1. They get terribly offended if you don't do exactly as they do
2. The reason they get offended is that they think since your action isn't exactly what they would have done, they have to defend their choice.

Considering that there are a million things you can do which is different from what your relatives do this can lead to some fairly interesting conversations.

"You brush with your left".
Considering that I am a part lefty that's about the only thing that makes sense. However...
"I brush with my right. You know Vatsyayana recommended brushing with the right since it stimulates the karmic center of the wave function".
I refrained from mentioning that Vatsyayana may have recommended brushing with the right hand but it would certainly not have been the teeth.
"You use Close Up. I prefer Colgate since it's been proved to be effective in preventing plaque". And thus went the long afternoons...

One of the things which came under this category was of course the assertion that "the reason America has so many divorces is because they do not have so many rituals governing their marriage".


The statement above is a perfect showcase of bad thinking. Let's see how.

The statement hinges on the assumption that divorces happen when rituals do not happen. However even if we are willing to concede that rituals (or the lack of them) are a very important factor contributing to a divorce how do we know if they are the one all important factor which cause divorce.

This is a classic case of causation versus correlation. While countries with high divorce rate have lower rituals they also have higher GDP and happier citizens. Whoops! The point is countries with higher divorce rates also has a lot of happier women. In fact countries with a higher divorce rate all also lie to the west of India. Co-incidence. I guess not.

That's the problem with causation versus correlation. Something that anybody who took QT anytime in life should be able to appreciate. Guess our man hadn't taken that course.

P.S: The guy who made the statement did take a QT course in his lifetime. Guess he just doesn't feel like applying himself to the subject or the subject to himself. Watch out for Things that irritate (Education versus Literacy)

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Family Values

I don't like tradition. Marriages are tradition. According to those over forty in my family they are the only institutions that foster "family values". I wonder what those are? If those in my family are any indication they include:
1. An apparent dislike towards supporting anybody over eighty which leads to what I call the super-senior lawn tennis tournaments.
2. An apparent dislike towards treating your wife as your equal
3. A stodgy determination that borders on incenstual xenophobia
4. A fond belief that anything today is described in the vedas including lingerie, MTV, educational cess surcharges and the Smashing Pumpkins.
5. The ability to treat your kids as your own property. Even if they are already married. And if they are not they are tradeable properties.
6. A fond reverence for anything with a three letter or less label (IIM,IIT,REC,MS,PHD). Sorry SOB still does not qualify.
7. The ability to eat only vegetarian food at a Continental Restaurant in Singapore.

I forgot to add these
8. Claiming that the University of Oklohama is amongst the ten top universities in the USA
9. The fond but unique belief that Johnny Walker is a shoe brand for the aged.
10. An apparent need to listen to scratched Mohammed Rafi LP's recorded on DVD's through a BOSE home theater system.


What's your family's values?