Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Elections & popularity

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed the National Integration Council today. Referring to ultra-Left wing extremists like Naxalites, he said elections were the only test of popularity. He was actually suggesting that they should contest elections rather than adopt violent means.

But, is it also not true that elections are the test of only popularity?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Caste subjugation

Nothing hurts more than harassment in the name of race, colour, caste, creed, region, language etc. Nothing can be more demeaning, inhuman. In our country, this debasement occurs at all levels, in varied forms. Many fight it, some successfully, some in vain. A number of others just adjust quietly.

In Orissa, caste fanatic village elders banned recently a 15-year-old girl from riding her bicycle. The first matriculate in her village, this girl, Mamata, used to cycle 7 km to her college to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. Media focus on the issue has finally helped her. A woman police official will escort her to college and back. Government officils are speaking to village elders, to drive sense into them.

Around the same time, we saw India's enlightened lawmakers racking their brains to come to agreement on the number of seats to be reserved for women in Parliament. But there has been no word from many MP -- man or woman -- on the Mamata incident; not even from MPs of Orissa. There were just a few odd voices from leaders representing backward classes. That's quite natural, anyway.

No wonder politicians can't rally behind Mamata, or rather against the vicious caste proponents. Because, politicians themselves are obsessed with playing one caste against the other. That's the only way a good majority of them can distinguish themselves!

Friday, August 26, 2005

India's disastrous defeat

India loss to New Zealand today was disastrous. It was sheer luck that the team recovered from 44 for 8 to 164. Why this team can't perform is mysterious. Probably their performance must hit rock bottom (if it has not already) or even a stage lower than rock bottom; the standard must dip to the worst in the world; then all the hype and glamour will die down; no cricketers will asked to model for products; then we will begin to rediscover cricket, we will learnt to play it afresh; then, hopefully, a new chapter will open...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Capitalism in Red Bengal

The way West Bengal's chief minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee has gone to Singapore and solicited foreign investment for his state (in some sector no cap at all) is amazing. Our outdated communists -- especially the disgusting bunch in Kerala -- won't have to look at China, just look at West Bengal.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Foiled attack on Amma

Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that we are living in troubled times. And I have always wondered why theres'n't any security for Mata Amritanandamayi who is known across the world, for her simplicity and devotion to social work. There's just a ring of devotees around her. Even when devotees come for darshan (the hug) they are not frisked. They are just asked to remove pen or such objects from the shirt pocket, and sweat is wiped off from the face by volunteers. I have also seen devotees being asked to remove the specs. All these are done only because there isn't any discomfort when Amma hugs the devotees and utters words of encouragement and confidence in their ears. Probably now things will changen now with the attempt to harm her on Sunday evening.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Asia may surpass U.S. in doctorates

I have always heard people saying that the number of Americans doing Ph.D. in the US is declining and the number of Asians are on the increase. Here is an article in Detroit News which has all the figures that I wanted. While in 1998, as many as 46,010 doctorates were awarded , the number came down to 44,160 in 2002. But all other education degrees are up dramatically. The article concludes saying the US in 1970 produced more than half of the world's Ph.D.s. But if patterns continue, it will be lucky to produce 15 percent of the world's doctorates by 2010.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

No Coke, Pepsi in US schools now

No more Coke and Pepsi for young school children in the United States. Amidst concerns over growing obesity among children in the country, American American Beverage Association, a trade body, has said its members will only stock bottled water and 100 per cent juice in vending machines in elementary schools.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bus doors, seats and gender equality

Here are some thoughts about doors and seats in transport buses, and gender equality. They are linked to each other!!!

An introduction. The government-run buses in Kerala have just one door, through which all men and women squeeze themselves in and out. Private buses have two, and like in Bangalore's buses, the front one is for women and the one in the middle is for men. In Kerala's government buses, the rear portion of the bus is exclusively for women, so that they are closer to the door. By the same logic, women in the private buses there, and in Bangalore, occupy the front portion.

But this arrangement collapses completely during the rush hour. Inside the bus no one moves in to fill in the vacant space. In Kerala's government buses both men and women crowd around the only door, while in private buses and Bangalore's buses, women mill around the front door and men near the middle door.

The reason is simple: there is only one door for entry and exit. No one wants to squeeze themselves in most awkward positions and often in great pain twice -- once during entry and another during exit -- when one can very well avoid it altogether. So, try to be near the door.

I am told in many places buses have separate doors for entry and exit. One of them is Ahmedabad (where I was for six years) and the system looks sensible, and efficient. Two doors: one at the rear for entry and the one in the front for exit, for men and women.

In buses which have one door for entry and exit, you find it difficult to enter crowded buses (because people are waiting to exit through the same door). Same is the case for alighting, since there is a crowd waiting to push themselves in. On the contrary, in buses with separate doors for entry and exit, it is easier to board and alight.

I am told that the biggest disadvantage of this arrangement -- of having separate doors for entry and exit -- is that men and women have to use the same door: for entry and for exit. I am told (mostly by women) that it is in the best interest of women that men and women are as much separated from each other not just while entering and exiting a bus, but (more importantly) while inside the bus as well.

Harassment of women (by men, that is) inside a bus is rampant. And, women find that squeezing through a crowd of women (whoever they are) is far less torturous than squeezing through nasty, naughty, probing, vulturous, even lecherous men. They say disadvantages far outnumber and outweigh any advantages.

Women are indeed a much-harassed lot, not just inside a bus. So much so, that a number of women get bogged down in this 'harassment problem' -- which for them becomes a 'harassment syndrome' progressively degenerating into the debilitating 'persecution complex'.

Mercifully, the number of such women is on the decline. For, I see an ever-increasing number of women who are getting around this harassment problem (much before it deteriorates into harassment syndrome, and persecution complex). Not with the help of the police or the government or the court or anyone; but by using their own inherent wit, smartness and presence of mind. Look anywhere, you see women, performing as good or even better than men; in an environment where gender is not the denominator.

One such woman told me: "We can do everything that men can do, and in addition deliver babies too." This is supposed to be a counter to what a woman envious of man's capabilities once said: "He may be able to do everything that we (women) can do, but he can't delivery babies." Note the different perspectives to the same issue. The modern woman is woman-centric, while the older version is man-centric.

True, only a very small number of women are able to able to rise above difficulties that have come down generations. The world of harassment for a woman is still very real to ignore. No doubt.

Having said that, does persisting with "separate doors for men and women" and also "separate seats for women" in buses take us any closer to liberating women from horrible men? I doubt. What it does at best is to give a comfort zone for women.

But the danger with this comfort zone is like that of another other such zones: giving one a sense of complacency and being pampered, a feeling of assuredness of being provided for. (Here the whole issue is being looked at from a woman's point of view, but the "comfort zone danger" is applicable as much to a man, when looked at from his viewpoint. So, let me emphasise I am not making a gender difference here.)

That is the danger; the danger of the comfort zone; the danger of separate doors for men and women. The comfort zone is an excellent breeding ground for perpetuation of a womanly attribute that has come down generations; that is the woman's lack of inclination to face up to (what she sees as) a man's world.

Women who haven't been exposed to or used comfort zones in the their lives, on the contrary, are able to move ahead faster and in a much more creditable manner. For, they don't see this world as a man's world where they are always harassed and persecuted. (Even if they do they have found means to get around the problem.) They see this world as a world of opportunities waiting to be made use of.

Let's come back to the bus. Separate seats and doors for men and women make no sense. With one door for entrance and one for exit, men and women move forward automatically and occupy the first available seats. It's easier to board and alight as well, because theres'n't a crowd pushing in the opposite direction.

Now for the issue of a man and woman sitting in the same seat. Let us face it, how real is any danger stemming out of it. I have seen many times, men and women (not couples) sharing seats (though there are separate seats for women). I have never seen a woman refusing to share a seat with a man, a seat going vacant, and instead opting to stand. If the guy stinks, it is not just a woman, even a man wouldn't sit beside him! The point is gender shouldn't be the criterion.

And, haven't we moved ahead sufficiently for us to unshackle ourselves from rigid limitations?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New template

My attempt at changing the template seems to be a success. Totally ignorant of HTML (I just know its expansion and nothing else), I managed to retain the changes I had made to the previous template.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Victoria to open office in Bangalore

The Australian state of Victoria will open an office in -- what the newspaper Australian calls as -- the mini-Silicon Valley of Bangalore "to chase closer links between the Victorian IT industry and its bigger Indian cousin". "Many of the big Indian brands such as Infosys, Satyam, Tata Consulting Services and Birlasoft have operations in Melbourne. Indian IT companies employ about 1000 staff in Victoria."

Read more

Saturday, August 13, 2005

No language is their language

Today when I was travelling in a bus, I found three young men, must be in their twenties, communicating in sign language. I guess, they were all from the same institution, as they were wearing the same coloured shirt and trousers. Their wild gesticulations attracted everyone's attention. More so, they were sharing some joke, for there were smiles and mild laughter too. Now a days, with many such people among us out in public -- unlike in the past when they led a sequestered and condemned life -- their gesticulations distract no one. One feels good to see them well-assimilated into our society.

Watching them, I couldn't help thinking for a moment about the meaningless language controversy that refuses to die down in our country -- English vs local language; Hindi vs local language, English vs Hindi, one local language vs another local language. For the group to which these three youths belong no language is their language.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The 7 Deadly Desi Sins

Christianity condemns the 7 deadly sins of Pride, Greed, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth. But we have our very own desi set of demons to battle with!

Read on

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Discovery is back home safe

The return of Discovery is a cause for celebration of an extraordinary feat. Unlike in the past, from the pre-launch days... to the launch... to the days in space, it was problems, problems and problems. The technical skill of the crew and the ground staff, and above all their courage, needs to be appreciated.

And, remember, Discovery was commanded by a woman, a mother, Eileen Collins. It was she who took a number of crucial decisions, like the one on spacewalks and the repair works. Truly inspiring. Read her biographical sketch here.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Discovery's scary return

The space shuttle Discovery has undocked from the International Space Station is in its initial stages of return to Earth. And, the Big Worry starts. Shuddering memories of Columbia disaster in 2003. Discovery commander Eileen Collins says all is well. NASA too has given the okay to return. Yet, it's nevertheless going to be a scary return on Monday morning (local time), evening in India.

I don't understand why and how these problems regarding insulating foam have cropped up now. The first shuttle Columbia flew in 1981. How is it that the earlier flights went off without any hitch? I think it was its 28th flight that was doomed on Feb 1, 2003. Is it a problem of aging? Do these craft needed to be replaced? Or is it some sort of incompetency among NASA personnel? Both are being speculated in American media. (Unnecessary risk, Risking Discovery).

There have been reports that NASA ignored its own report on faulty laying of insulting foam. Why was NASA in so much of hurry to launch Discovery? One day before Discovery was launched NASA put out a statement saying even if the shuttle is not fully fit to fly it will take off! Not surprising the launch was faulty.

A couple of days back, deputy shuttle programme manager said that risks while landing remained. Surprisingly there doesn't seem to be any outcry in the US about all this.

Today space mission operators said they have real fears of the wings of the shuttle heating up too much while re-entry.

I only hope and pray that these fears turn out to be false alarms, and the the crew return safely back to Earth. But will NASA learn its lessons?

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Copy-pasting on blog

How right is pasting an entire article from a journal on to the blog? I was asked this question by Sudhir, a good friend of mine who is also a regular reader of blogs.

His point: By copying the entire article and pasting it on the blog, aren't bloggers violating any possible copyrights of the publisher?

Access to webcontents of many journals are restricted to various extents. While e-edition of some magazines (like Reader's Digest, India Today) are entirely restricted only to subscribers of the print edition, other likes The Economist have many articles limited only to paid subscribers, and in cases like Newsweek, Time etc, the archives are open only to subscribers.

On the contrary, articles put up on blogs are available in the public domain for ever; unlike a copy of the article lying in the personal folder inaccessible to the world at large.
Thus, aren't bloggers (and other website owners) inviting possible trouble from publishers of reputed newspapers and magazines?

I think, yes. There is an issue here, from the point of view of publishers. Not realising this point, I used to paste the entire article. The aim was nothing but to help the reader in case the link doesn't work. Wiser, from now on, I wouldn't be copy-pasting entire articles on to my blogs. There will be links, of course, whether they work later or not.

Blogs are uptill now the most evolved form of mass communication; sort of democratisation of journalism. The citizen is the writer, editor, publisher, printer, and may be even marketing manager. Blogs are monitored but unregulated. Putting curbs on blogs will kill it, take the beauty out of it. So, may be some self-regulation is in order.