Archive for the ‘ Thoughts ’ Category

Forgotten casualties of `war’

If only they knew they would be forgotten and disowned so easily, they probably wouldn’t have done it. I am referring to the terrorists who were killed in the recent Mumbai terror attacks in India. The bodies of the terrorists are still lying at the morgue. Their country has refused to take the remains back, and the local Muslim community refuses to let them be buried at their cemeteries, as they feel the terror attacks were misguided. This was recently reported by the BBC.¹

What this led me to think, would they have done what they did if they knew they would be in this predicament later on? Weren’t these naive young individuals led to believe they were about to become `martyrs’, never to be forgotten in the history of the sub-continent? Usually the actual terrorists are regular people who don’t know better, and have been misrepresented the truth. If only we could get this to them before the soothsaying `holy men’ preaching violence against humanity to serve their convoluted purposes.

I believe the correct information is extremely powerful when it comes to dealing with misunderstanding between people. In this particular case we could have done nothing to prevent this (other than better patrolling of course), but we do have a serious internal security problem. Isn’t increased awareness the way to go ahead? And the first step to awareness is unaltered education. I add that adjective as not too long in the past we had a government who wanted to rewrite the text books, wanted to control what was being taught in the schools. Although we have survived that, we still haven’t made much progress over making education more accessible throughout the country. The free mid-day meal programme has largely been a failure due to rampant corruption at the various ranks of the government. I believe once a self-consistent system of basic education is in place, which is free from any external tampering and is self-sufficient we could be on the right track.

Once the information is out there, the common man/woman can be trusted to make their own `informed’ decisions. After all don’t you recall what Swamiji said?

Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in Man.



Born free

Since I came to Vancouver, I got to interact with a lot of students from parts of the world where freedom has a different meaning. I realised we Indians don’t appreciate enough how we have been raised. Neither do we realise how things are in other parts of the world. Let me elaborate some more.

The right to free speech has been so ingrained in our daily lives through the intensely active Indian media (although their activity is not always in the right direction) that we don’t even notice it. When it comes to expressing our opinions, we are always at the front. Politicians actually need to worry about how to keep their dirt behind closed doors. I believe all of this freedom to think and express has helped us evolve the idea of right and wrong in two distinct ways,

  • permitted under the law.
  • acceptable as a society.

We also realise that they need not overlap. Although that is not ideal, we try to reach a resolution through debates in either the media, a court of law or the parliament. This has a big implication for us as a society, it is never acceptable for an entity to circumvent the law even when justified by an argument such as, for the greater good. When individuals grow up in an atmosphere with restricted freedom, one doesn’t appreciate this subtlety and often justify breaking the law arguing its for the greater good and whatever collateral damage that comes with it is acceptable. In their mind their personal limits of acceptability is the only constraint on choice.
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Web 2.0

We are undergoing another digital revolution, Web 2.0. When the Internet first made its appearance, it was more curiosity than necessity for the common man and a new born tool for the specialists. Something today as commonplace as the web-based e-mail was an innovation, search engines were primitive and the Internet was static. The web now is all but static, most web pages are dynamic (rather than being written in html, they are written using PHP), everything is interactive. We can comment or share and what not! Technically speaking, Web 2.0 enables me to write this blog!

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Dilution of orthodoxy

In the Indian society, Islam is considered synonymous with orthodoxy. Although there are far more deep-rooted scenarios where orthodoxy is prevalent, this however presents itself in front of us brazenly in the form of attire, food habits, and social behaviour. Although this aid in the stereotyping of muslims, it also makes any changes stand out like a lamp in a dark room.

It was Muharram, a few days back. I had noticed something remarkable, so to put my observation through I started with my friend on the ‘burqa’. Even before I could finish my sentence, he said they come in bright colours these days. Gone are the times, when lady followers of Islam had to choose from their monochrome ‘outdoor’ wardrobes. Now a days you see baby pink, olive green, sky blue, canary yellow and what not. And to add to that the veil is not always down! If you are not blind, you are bound to notice.

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I know many of us will disagree with me on this, or probably will dismiss me as being to idealistic, but these days wealth has gone way up in our list of goals, even higher than happiness or right or wrong. The news channels have been talking about the new richest person in the world the last few days, thanks to the appreciating rupee. With regard to that, the reporter asked some commuters whether the individual in question is a role model for us. I won’t discuss the replies the reporter got. Its a matter of personal opinion. But to put forward this particular question when all that has been achieved is creation of personal wealth. The media was not even heralding the creation of wealth as a corporation.

Has everyone put other aspects of human life way below in their priorities, that someone deserves to be considered for a “role model” just for achieving a more luxurious life for oneself? Have we become too selfishly self centred and indifferent to others that what matters most is our own well being? What was more disappointing was that none of the responses pointed out that wealth does not qualify a person as a role model! (to add to this the corporation in question has been involved in many incidents which fall in the grey areas of what is permissible under law)

In todays age of distrust, injustice and crime, we should start considering what has been traditionally considered to be good and desirable. I don’t mean go back to the conservative school of thought and forget about the liberties of the modern society. But I would like to insist on the traditional values of selflessness, brotherhood, compassion, creativity, and in general anything driven by the will to good for others. We should change our priorities, our morals, our goals but only for the better.

Are ‘no’ and ‘yes’ equal and opposite?

Its sort of an odd thing to write about, but I ‘ll start anyway. A recent disagreement made me think are they just two words in the dictionary with completely opposite meanings or there’s more to it? Rather than beating around the bush I ‘ll start with an example. Lets say you are in a situation where a group of people need to agree to something. Does one no put a stop to the whole process, does it move on but with a limp or is it that it doesn’t matter at all! It seems to me it depends on what your standing is in the group.

We can look at this in many different ways. Since a decision would involve at least two different individuals, we should consider how by differing your choice you can change an outcome and more importantly how your difference in opinion with some one else affects the final decision. If you are someone of note, your no carries more weight and is often immobilizing to the process. Where as if you are someone of less consequence your no can merely be noted as a form of disagreement and just that, nothing more. Or it can be as ineffective as a mosquito bite if you are of no consequence.

A very good example to all these if-thens would be the UN. There are those with a permanent membership in the Security Council, they are the members of consequence I have been referring to. Then there are the other members, who for a period get to vote, and then comes the rest of the world who can’t do a thing even if they outnumber the members in the council. All they can do is pass a resolution in the general assembly which is not even binding!! (the mosquito bite) On the other hand the strength of the permanent members go to the length of actually being able to veto something.

So on the basis of what I speak of above it can be safely concluded:

  1. in the context of a veto, a no is definitely not equal to an yes
  2. coming from someone of less consequence, a no borders on the line of actually being part of the decision making process given the veto powers are “just”
  3. and for entities of no consequence, a no or an yes are, as is written in any of the great English dictionaries of our time, just two words, one the antonym of the other.

All of this is nothing but just a thought.