How we are destroying The Taj

By the time you read this post, the world would have seen it’s New 7 Wonders. I wanted to write this earlier, but thanks to an expired net connection and an unresponsive ISP call centre, here I am posting this on the D-Day 🙂 .

No doubt that all Indians would be hoping to see the Taj Mahal listed the final 7, but it really annoys me to see the extent to which the people and the media have collectively damaged the meaning of a monument, and what it means. Thousands of people may be voting for it, but in the process we are destroying the monument without our knowledge.

It is a well known fact that Indians generally realize the value of some things only after they receive international recognition. That’s all okay… but to pull in the Taj Mahal, which has been our pride for centuries, into this mess is not a very good sign.

Most of you would have been exposed to the campaign that has been happening. There is nothing wrong with requesting people to vote for the monument of love. I voted for it too. But to put it in a way that says if you don’t vote for Taj it somehow loses it beauty, charm and it’s fame amounts to an insult of the monument.

Shah Jahan did not have the World Wonders in mind when he built it. He did not build it for the sake of competing with a few other architectures in the world for a ‘place’ in the list. He simply built it for love. And it is going to stay that, a symbol of love that is admired by the world. It is going to take much more than a competition or an SMS poll to change that fact.

If the Taj makes it to the final 7… let’s all rejoice 🙂 . If it doesn’t, let us not feel bad that we have lost our pride – because it is not going anywhere.

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The Great Indian Tragedy

The 2007 World Cup is all but a financial disaster, thanks to India’s horrid performance. And yes, it’s sensational so our dear media will not miss a chance to analyze each and every atom that was involved in this great Indian ‘tragedy’ (speaking of tragedies, I doubt the tsunami or Gujarat riots invoked a similar amount of empathy from the media).

Just consider this, hours of air time was ‘used’ in going through statistics of Indian team players and the media taking decisions through important polls about who should stay in the team and how things can improve. And when all this was happening, the news of an Indian becoming the world’s top chess player was pushed to the background. Who cares about chess?? The Great Indian Cricket Team is in shambles. How can we possibly be celebrating an Indian as the No. 1 Chess Player when the future of many mediocre Indian cricketers holds more national importance?

Actually, it’s strange how the media that jumps up on every chance to glorify the India Story missed this. However, I suppose Mr. Anand would not really mind missing the spotlight. As an Indian, he would be used to the way cricket is being hyped up. And I’m sure he would be thankful to God that the media and advertisers are not after him to give him a larger-than-life image and ruin his concentration. Chess is not a commercially viable game, so he stands clear of all distractions and can continue reaching new heights in the game.

Back to the ‘tragedy’, it’s amusing the way the news channels are treating it.

Here is a small imaginary transcript of a news channel’s cricket ‘analysis’ (comments in brackets):

Scene: a news reporter standing outside BCCI HQ.

A few meters away, a BCCI official comes out of the building and sees his friend and colleague there.

BCCI official: Did you have your tea?

Colleague: No. The tea here for the past 2 days is very bad. I have sent the security to bring some tea for me from the stall around the corner.

BCCI official: Ok. I have to go home early. Promised to take the kids to the park today.

Saying thus, the official simply nods his head, gets into his car, and drives away.

The reporter immediately gets in touch with the news channel. The news channel flashes the words ‘BREAKING NEWS: BCCI officials hold important discussion at HQ! Future of Indian team questionable’

The headline reads: The Big No(d)

Newreader: Let’s go over to our reporter who is at BCCI Headquarters

Reporter: Just a few minutes ago I spotted a BCCI official discussing something important and nodding his head. We don’t know what it was all about, but there is a high possibility they were discussing about Sachin’s future, as I heard some rumors flying around in the morning. There seems to have been a heated discussion in there. The BCCI official came out early and left in a hurry after talking with a colleague. These are strong indications that serious things are going on inside the headquarters.

(In the screen, repeated visuals are played of the BCCI official walking out of the building and talking to his friend, nodding and leaving in his car.)

Newsreader: Is there any news on the composition of the Indian team now? Because we are sure that some major changes are going to be made after the… (reader slowly glances at his desk) World Cup debacle.

Reporter: No I think no major decisions have been made so far on who’s going to be in the team. Though there are some strong indications that Dravid is going to be retained as captain. Many people here seem to be of the view that it was the team that failed and the captain cannot be blamed.

Newsreader: Thank you. So that is the breaking news for this hour (!!!). Keep watching while we bring you more updates.

After the break…

Newsreader: Welcome back. We continue our discussion on Cricket with a special guest. She’s beautiful, she’s lovely and of course, she’s talented as well (!!!!). We welcome actress Jil Jil Ramamani (sorry I couldn’t resist that bit :p) to the studio. Jil, thanks for joining us here.

Jil, dressed up as most of us normally would do for a wedding ceremony, simply nods her head with a slight smile.

Newsreader: So you like Cricket? (a silly grin on his face).

Jil: Ooohhhh Yeeessss!!! (a siller laugh follows)

Newsreader: So tell us what are your views on the Indian team’s current state after the World Cup?

Jil: I think it is very bad, I have been following India’s progress (???) from the beginning and was very disappointed when they lost to Bangladesh. You know I was praying Oh they shouldn’t lose shouldn’t lose… hahaha… but I guess you know things didn’t happen that way.

Newsreader: So do you think Sachin should be out of the team now that he seems to be out of form?

Jil: Oh no not at all!!! He is such a wonderful player. You see Form is temporary, but Claaasss is permanent (ooh now where have we heard this before??). So I think yes, he should stay (selectors did you hear that??).

Newsreader: Who should be the next captain?

Jil: Ummmm… (thinks – oh they didn’t tell me they would be asking this question…)

Newsreader tilts his head and smiles at Jil. Come on, it’s not everyday a lovely heroine comes into the studio.

Jil: I really think Dravid should continue (which means I can’t think of anything now).

Newsreader: Ok Jil. Thank you for joining our discussion here. Good luck for your upcoming movie.

Jil: Hahaha.. Thanks…

Newsreader: Stay tuned. We will be continuing our discussion with more experts (!!!!!!!) after the break.

*** THE END ***

Ok maybe some of it was a little too much, but not very far away from the truth :).

All this leaves us thinking which is the real Indian Tragedy, the state of the Cricket Team or the state of News in the country.

Who cares??? Money Rules!!!

If you enjoyed reading this, please do read my inspiration for this, by my dear friend and writer Pingu. Even if you did not enjoy reading this one bit, do read that – it will be much better I promise you :).

A Secular Rethink

Pre-Blog Statement: I don’t believe this!!! It’s going to be almost 1 year since I wrote this essay for an Indian Express competition (announced here in August 2005)… and I am yet to update it here. Guess I totally forgot about this essay. Here it is – well that takes care of my update for the week 🙂

In nature there is fundamental unity running through all the
diversity we see about us. Religions are given to mankind so as to accelerate
the process of realization of fundamental unity –
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

In current society, there is perhaps no word that is as modified and confused as the term Secularism. Many claim to practice it, but few understand the true meaning behind the word. Simply put, Secularism today stops where Religion begins. In order to completely understand the significance of the statement, a commonly present line of thought that tends to separate the terms Secular and Religious, needs to be clarified.

Secularism is defined as “skeptical of religious truth or opposed to religious education” (as in the Oxford dictionary) and also as “Rational and free thinking”. The first phrase indicates that, Secularism itself seems to be a concept against Religion. The second phrase, additionally, leads to the conclusion that people who are rational or ‘free-thinkers’ are definitely not religious in nature. It rather points out to a more scientific and practical mindset in a society. But not all the time can we say that Secularism is something that operates against the concept of religion. In present day India, where we see everyone from rocket scientists to politicians seeking divine interventions for their new ventures, it is safe to say that there is a certain blend between Rationalism and Devotion. They are not against each other. They are more like a mutual combination.

The sacred text of Hindus, The Bhagavad-Gita, that outlines the transcripts between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the course of one of the greatest epics of our land, The Mahabharatha, has the Lord saying that ‘It was important to do his duty, only then he would be close to Him’. This is also referred to as Karma Yoga. So, according to the Gita, doing what one has to do is one of the basic requirements to leading a satisfied and spiritual life. In other words, being rational and practical, and applying one’s knowledge fairly in all situations, will take one closer to God. This is the point where secularism and religion mix. The true devotee believes in He who is within himself, while applying free thought to every challenge that comes his way.

At this point, it is also necessary to give the term Religion a more practical outlook as well. Only when devotion goes beyond the screen of deities and customs, can devotees feel the presence of the Almighty behind it. This is necessary to truly appreciate the application of rationalism within the boundaries of religion.

Now that the nature in which devotion and rationalism are interlaced has been cleared, it is only appropriate to conclude that Secularism is more than just Anti-Religion. It is more like a science that encourages freethinking and devotion to flourish together, for the benefit of ourselves and those around us.

No greater example of this has been represented than the greatest soul to walk on our soil, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Father of our Nation. Nobody will doubt his standing as a great thinker, whose teachings are relevant even to this day. At the same time, his belief in the fundamentals of Hinduism was so strong that he saw in it a base for all religions, and showed the world that the concepts of Unity and Non-Violence was the common thread that ran through all religions, something that needs to be widely realized in today’s world. Customs and rituals are only secondary to the realization of these basic concepts when reaching out to the Almighty, be it Ram, Allah or Jesus Christ. If Gandhiji had failed to apply innovation to his understanding of his religion, the world will have lost a nugget of wisdom.

In the India that we know today, with a booming economy, aided by her bright sons and daughters who are proving themselves to the world, there are communal tensions all around. Not all of them may be of the magnitude of the Gujarat riots four years ago, but no sane Indian can deny their existence. The world views us not only as a nation with great knowledge, but also as a place where many cultures, communities, and sub-communities, live together. But within ourselves, we find a lot of infighting, not only among religions, but also among various sections of society.

There is a sense of ego in a few hearts that make them ‘identify’ themselves as the part of a community or religion. The ‘We/Us’ sense of thinking leads one to think in the lines of ‘Either Us or Them’. In other words, people tend to create boundaries around themselves and whoever is not in it, is usually in the ‘other side’ and must be ‘watched out for’. This kind of a mentality, most of the time, spells doom for any community that wants to live in harmony.

There are only two explanations that can be given to the manner in which religious intolerance in our country has risen in recent years. One reason is simple enough – people are just going farther away from each other and from reality, in the modern world. Another possible reason is that communal tension was there all the time, but not openly expressed by the people as it is done now. Whatever may be the reason, the fundamental fact remains that people today have lost a fraction of the power of reasonable thinking, perhaps due to the pressure and the necessity to survive being greater today.

Even some, who claim to have a fair outlook and believe in equality, let communal feelings rise inside them in extreme situations. An appropriate example would be thus – You are a Hindu. You see a burkha-clad woman stepping into a temple.

What would you feel? You might feel anger inside you, or if you are a bit more sane, perhaps a sense of wonder. Why do you feel this way? Simply put, you think people of one religion should not stride into another religion’s boundaries. This little feeling, when magnified, can lead to great hatred for people from other communities.

Another thought etched in the human subconscious, as mentioned earlier, is the feeling that people who do not conform to our way of life are ‘different’. This holds not only for religion, but also language, nationality, disability, etc. The basic tendency to somehow ‘segment’ ourselves in some way, from the people we see, is because we want to tell ourselves ‘we are not like them’, and hence unique. Conversely, when we see people much like what we are, or want to be, we see ourselves in them. Hence we show more affection to such people than we do to others.

Both the tendencies listed above are simply because we see differences between others and us. Such prioritization can only be controlled by reminding ourselves of the basic law of human equality.

The very inconsistency that is visible in the example below underlines the absurdity of religious intolerance – Osama Bin Laden is a Muslim. He’s a terrorist too. When people of other faiths show their anger at him, they talk about how all Muslims are terrorists and the religion itself promotes the practice. Our Honorable President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is also a Muslim. He is one of the best and most popular Presidents our nation has had. When discussing him, why don’t we say that all Muslims are scientists and achievers?

Now that the basic reasons leading to religious intolerance have been pointed out, the next step is to see how we can apply the principle of rationalism to control such feelings, and proceed from thereon to realize the true meaning of Secularism.

The first action to be taken in order to shed priorities is to start by considering everybody as an equal. This is something that has to be etched in one’s mind from childhood. That is easier said than done in today’s society, where segmentation begins right from early childhood. It’s quite common to see parents who feel hesitant about letting their children mix freely with those from other communities, and teachers dividing ‘good and bad’ students. After growing up in such an atmosphere, the children, as adults, tend to retain the same mindset. Children with more freedom of choice will grow up to respect and appreciate the world around them, with its various diversities. So responsible parents and other elders caring for the children must avoid examples of prioritization from registering themselves on impressionable young minds.

In today’s fast-moving world, India is no exception. Being a developing country only makes things worse. We are so busy with our work that we hardly have enough time to notice the little things in our life, ignoring which, leads to much problems and tension. Learning to appreciate seemingly insignificant events will do no harm; it will only broaden our perspective and enrich our outlook of the world around us, and hence encourage open-mindedness. The round-the-clock media, can take some real efforts in this direction, and try to spread multi-cultural awareness among the viewing public.

It is not that Indian society today has lost the ability to be broad-minded. In the wake of the tsunami last year, people were helping each other to come out of distress. Religion would have been the last thing on anybody’s mind. All that was important was that they helped the affected people. This mindset, coming up at times of great tragedy, must be consciously brought into the mind in everyday life.

Once we begin seeing the common thread of humanity running through all people, it really does not matter who prays which God, or – if we include atheists – if they pray at all. A man who lends out a helping hand to the member of another religion is more secular, and definitely more religious, than those who do not.

Those who want to be secular need not forget their religion. They need to use the best of their abilities to be true to their own religion, while freely allowing those from other communities to live their own way. It is well known that one’s knowledge can be broadened only by listening to more opinions. The same applies to religions as well. The more we learn about the customs and lifestyle of others, the more we can appreciate the good points in their way of life.

India, as a nation, has already stood up with her head high in the world stage. Cultural tolerance will increase our chances of growth and lead to the realization of Vision 2020, which is our president’s, and nation’s, dream of making India a developed nation by the year 2020. But for that to happen, we, as a people, must be ready to shed inhibitions about other religions and communities. Only by doing so, we can work together and evolve into a more productive nation. Believing in our faith, with a dose of practical approach, will greatly help us in this direction. Religion is, after all, a way to safeguard our faith. There is more to shaping an individual than just his religion. The understanding of this simple fact will make us a truly secular nation.

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince – Review

Pre-Blog Statement: Ok… it’s not like I really want to do this. It’s the first time I’m writing a review for anything at all. Furthermore, it’s really hard writing a review on a book that’s breaking publishing records.
But… well, I finished reading the book two days ago. Obviously, writing this at that point would have made my words go out of control, just because the ending was a little shocking and emotional, and as the wise ones always say… Decisions made out of emotion can go terribly wrong. Ok ok… maybe this is a little too much, but you get what I’m trying to say, aren’t u?
🙂 I would have probably been unable to put up a fair enough review earlier. So, I’m finally writing it now.
I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, for the benefit of those who have not read the book as yet. But if you are one of them, I recommend you don’t read any further. And those who did read the book, proceed at your own risk
:p

Lord Voldemort, the most Evil Wizard of all time, has returned to power. Though he did so an year ago, the truth has been widely acknowledged only now. And strange things are happening all around the Muggle world. A number of unexplained murders, and the Dementors joining the Dark Side (as mentioned in OOTP), signifies the rise of evil, or rather the rise of Voldemort, and it spelles doom to the wizarding world. Voldemort’s followers, the Death Eaters, whom Harry fought at the Ministry just weeks ago to protect his prophecy (and losing his godfather Sirius Black in the process) are in Azkaban. Among them is Lucius Malfoy, the father of Harry’s nemesis Draco. Draco has been chosen by the Dark Lord for a purpose, which is revealed in the first few chapters. Harry strongly belives, throughout the book, that Draco is a Death Eater now, which is met with a lot of skepticism from his best friends, Ron and Hermione.

The initial days at Hogwarts shows us frightened students and equally scared parents, who are doubtful about lettin their wards return to the school in the aftermath of Voldemort coming back to power. But the extra security put up all round by Dumbledore does give some sort of relief to the inmates of the castle. But is it enough?

When Harry starts his NEWT (6th year) at Hogwarts, he finds himself captaining the new Quidditch team, and taking private lessons with Dumbledore.

He also finds he has a new Potions master (obviously relieved it’s not Snape anymore…), and indirectly as a result of that, another unseen friend – The Half-Blood Prince. The knowledge of the Prince teaches Harry a number of new magical techniques and shortcuts, that make him almost a model student at the very class he used to dread all these years – much to the disappointment of Hermione, who always believes in the ‘Strictly By Rules’ procedure. She warns Harry against trusting the Prince too much. Is she just jealous or is there reason for her caution?

Romance is given much priority, but I guess it must because most of the characters are nearly adults now. Yet, too many lines seen to have been devoted to this aspect of the story. In the end, we get a clear enough picture as to who ends up with whom, but not before a rush of emotions among the characters, especially Harry, mixed with Jealousy, Possessiveness, Betrayal and not to mention a great deal of confusion. 🙂

Being Quidditch captain makes things worse for Harry, who now has to take up extra responsibility to lead the team to victory, rather, prevent them from crashing to their worst position in two centuries. Bearing some accusation of favouring his friends, Harry does his best to show that his team is more than just a bunch of people he likes. But right at the point of his dream coming true, an unexpected obstacle comes up, and it leaves us all wondering what would happen to the Championship.

Amid all this, Harry’s lessons with Dumbledore reveal to us a lot more than we know. Dumbledore intends to show Harry many truths which he feels would help him in his final battle with Voldemort (which undoubtedly we will witness in Book 7, considering it’s the last book in the series). The most important concept of Horcruxes is explained in this book, which is the key point that Harry will have to remember in his battle in the next book.

Yet another character close to Harry passes away in this book. Some see it as betrayal, but a little more thinking would show that there are many other possible explanations. The shock and helplessness that Harry felt the year before when his godfather Sirius Black was killed by a Death Eater, return to haunt him. It only makes Harry more determined than ever to find and kill Voldemort, to the extent that he tells Ron and Herminone that he would not return to Hogwarts again. So, if Harry’s words are to be taken seriously, we would not hear much of Hogwarts in Book 7, and instead, read more about the ‘Final Battle’.

For anybody who has read the first 5 books, this book would be most interesting. It has drawn upon plots and even some little, seemingly insignifiant things from the other books, and has presented us a clear picture of what has happened, why it happened and how it happened. There are still some questions left unanswered, but one doesn’t realize it in the process of reading. There are some chapters which tend to drag, but sheer curiosity keeps readers from feeling bored.

Personally, I feel this is the best book after Prisoner of Azkaban. The final book, no doubt, will be filled with loads of action. Well, we all pretty much know that Harry will not die at the hands of Voldemort, because of the prophecy only one of the two can live, and the last thing anybody wants to see is the death of the Hero. But even then, Harry Potter has a knack of drawing out feelings of suspense and curiosity even during the most predictable situations.

A great book. Definitely worth the wait of 2 years.

Life Cycle of an Average Indian Student…

After Birth:

Parents dream of what ‘he(she) will become one day…’.Three Years (sometimes this process may start at age 2):

Parents browse through various lists of schools, hoping to get the best (and affordable) one for their child.After Joining School:

Ah… Fear, Excitement, Joy, Shock… the great mix of feelings when setting foot on a New World.Standard 1 to 5:

Among friends. School is as much fun as Home! Learning many new things from friendly teachers and colourful textbooks.Standard 6 to 9:

More studying to do. Must get best marks in class. Else face a conversation with parents as follows –

“Why didn’t you get good marks?”

“I studied mom(or dad)…”

“How can I know you studied? Look at [the name of a better performing child in same class, a sibling, among friends or relatives, or in neighbourhood]. How does he(she) study? Why can’t you get marks like him(her)?”“But he(she)… I… uh…”

“Stop talking back to me! Next time I want you to score above 80!” (this figure usually crops up regardless of student’s ability)”

“…”

* * * END OF CONVERSATION * * *

Standard 10:

The toughest phase in the student’s life. Facing the board exams for the first time. Confusion, Fear, even for the best performers.Standard 11:

Initially, glad that the 10th board is done with. But almost immediately after, teachers start finishing current syllabus at jet speed, so that they can start teaching for Standard 12 board, which is a good 18 months away. Entrance training is also arranged for some.Standard 12:

Arguably a very perilous period, especially for students who did not perform well in Standard 10. The board exam is seen as the greatest challenge ever, and people around them do their best to make that feeling stay.College First Year:

The sense of competition and hard work experienced in Standard 12 stays as a residue (also as an effort of trying to make up for effort wasted the previous year), forcing student to study very very hard.Second to Pre-Final Year:

Special Skills and Activities include –

  1. Cutting Classes

  2. Mastering Proxy Attendance

  3. Performing Brave Deeds like Handing Out Blank Answer Sheets

  4. Mastering the Art of Manual Copy-Paste in Tests and Assignments

  5. Forgetting Location of Classroom (sometimes College)

During the process, a sense of wisdom dawns into student, who is often found uttering “Marks are not that important!”Final Year:

Even more wisdom is gained, student now says “Marks are nothing!!!”After getting a Job:
If (Opinion = “Pay Not Sufficent” or “No Recognition” or “Its Just a Boring Job!”)

If (Bond = TRUE)
wait until Bond = FALSE
Else If(Bond = FALSE)
Resign immediately
Find Another Job

Else If(Opinion = “It’s a Great Job!”)

Marry
Settle

Else

Redo Loop until Opinion = “It’s a Great Job!”

End If

After Birth of First Child:
Dreams of what ‘he(she) will become one day…’.

(and so, the cycle continues…)

Pre-Blog Statement: Due to certain unpleasant even…

Pre-Blog Statement: Due to certain unpleasant events in the last week, I’ve been unable to bring myself to normalcy (if there is such a thing in me that is…), and now I’m finally getting the flow of words again. Ok… maybe its somewhat boring (I myself admit it sounds so terribly like one of those self-help books)… but do remember that I’m not normal yet ;). I’m holding back this post by a couple of days for some internal feedback…

In this Great Nation of ours, there seems to be a large crowd of dreamers, who often find themselves uttering scentences ‘If I…’. The ‘Then..’ part of the scentences may be anything ranging from personal to social hopes, for oneself or for the country. But few realize the ‘If’ and go on to work for the ‘Then’. Those who do are the oes we call as Achievers (which varies greatly on what they ‘achieve’)!

Though many of us would like to join the league of Dreamers-turned-Achievers, we find something standing in our way, something we cannot change, something that flashes a big ‘No’ on our faces as we look toward our goal. The Achievers are the ones highly skilled at recognizing this something and getting rid of it. So how does one do it?

  • Clarity: Just as we expect others to be good communicators and say their points clearly, we ought to be good at communicating with ourselves. Sketching out our goal with a mix of optimism and realism, a strong picture of what we really want to accomplish will form in our mind. This makes planning our steps easier.
  • The Way: While clarity may help improve the situation, having a solid plan will make it better. It will be helpful if we know how each event outside us affects the plan we have in hand. Re-planning will then be made quicker.
  • Observe: We need to have an eye for detail. Seeing and realizing little things will make one realize the complexity of our surroundings. One can start from simple things like books, newspapers, television, and practice seeing and absorbing the contents completely… (some people tend to forget what they read in a few minutes). That way our brain is trained to understand and experience everything.
  • Think: This does not mean you sit in your chair, stare at the ceiling and think over each and everything that happened that day, and relate it to your goal. Nor can one be so paranoid that they are thinking about their ‘goal’ all the time! But if you grow your observation to be strong enough, your brain will start comparing each event to your goal, without your knowledge. This is the point where ideas will strike you.
  • Do It: This is where a lot of people falter. They know what they need, what to do, everything on paper. But the implementation part just seems too hard at times. One needs only to muster all mental strength and start the process. Though there may be rough patches, if we keep in mind how badly we want it done, and the effort put in for it upto that moment, it is motivating enough to take us to the end.

The points above are not ‘Steps’. They are well-interleaved with each other. Each point may require the service of the other four stages. Using them wisely (instinctively also helps), will ensure proper results.

And above all, you really have to want it bad enough. If you are not serious about it, you might as well forget realizing it.

Mingling Hearts, Fading Hatred

About 10 years ago, the thought of an Indian and Pakistani holding hands would have evoked a sigh from peace-lovers and would have even seemed funny for some. But, thanks to the developments in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the India-Pakistan cricket series this year, all of us can hope to see people of the two nations mingling with each other regularly.

After decades of hatred, the two countries are taking solid steps to become closer to each other. Forget the Kashmir issue… forget what the cynics are saying… whatever the differences that may exist between the countries, as was said in a statement after Musharraf’s visit this year, the peace process has indeed become irreversible. And it is because – beyond the efforts of the two governments – the people from both sides now know each other. This is much unlike previous generations, when children grew up learning that the ‘other side’ was bad. Frankly, my political knowledge is very bad, but I don’t care. Politics can do little harm when the public have strong impressions in their mind.

The new-found friendship was evident during the cricket series in February-March 2005. It’s no secret that hundreds of Pakistanis crossed the borders to ‘watch’ the cricket matches, but only a part of them were actually present in the stadiums witnessing the games. They made most out of the oppurtunity to know the culture and people of the country, which is very much similar to theirs – from food to movies to music. Indian homes happily welcomed their visitors from other sides of the border. Some Pakistanis even made trips to their ancestral homes. Even the heads of the two nations used this as an oppurtunity to hold discussions, which mostly turned out to be positive, though concrete solutions were not put in place.

During the matches too, an air of friendship was spread around the ground. It was not like war anymore. Supporters of each nation openly acknowledged good performances from the other team. India’s loss did not bother Indians much. The aim of the series was not winning or losing, but improving the ties between the two countries. Chennai of 1999, the popular act of a standing ovation given to the Pakistan team when they won a test, may have been the leading example in this exercise. The same spirit spreading across the country is a good sign.

The visitors returned home a happy lot. Indians, too, were surprised and all their illusions of Pakistanis were shattered. All this was followed by the flagging off of the Srinagar-Muzzafurabad buses. The passengers, though threatened by militants – explosives were unearthed from the path of the vehicle – crossed the border bravely.

The most significant part of all these developments, is the people. Indians and Pakistanis now freely mingle with, and understand, each other. After this stage, nothing can change their impressions of the other side of the border. This kind of healthy interaction and people-to-people contact is exactly what is required. Even if the Kashmir problem is not solved soon enough, one can be assured that it will not bring hatred in the hearts of the people.

And while we all celebrate the new found closeness between the two nations, let us take a moment to remember Baby Noor, the child from Pakistan treated for a cardiac problem in a Bangalore Hospital. It was followed by many such successful ventures, and more Pakistanis coming into the country. The hype created around Baby Noor was so much that she almost became the official initiator of friendship between India and Pakistan.

And while the child grows up thanking the Indian doctors, let us thank her for being the first Symbol of Peace between two troubled nations.

Tainted Glory

On May 7, 2005, the discovery of switched answer sheets in the undergraduate B.E/B.Tech examinations shocked all engineering colleges around the state of Tamil Nadu. The students involved had, with the help of a few daily wage workers incharge of the examinations, switched their original answer sheets with new ones after rewriting the answers.

Such incidents are not rare at all in this country. In November 2003, the leaking of CAT papers forced candidates all over India to prepare for the examination all over again. The shock and anguish the CAT candidates had to go through at that time was really huge, seeing that it considered among the toughest exams in the world. And all though the year we see in news reports, though not in such large scale, incidents that show desperation on the part of students to pass and score high marks. Of course, it’s not fair to blame the students alone. A lot of people are prepared to go to any extent to get what they want.

What is it that makes people take short-cuts, cheat, and hurt others, just to taste success? Is achieving your goals so important that you may risk your values and reputation? It’s an undisputed fact that in today’s rat race (wonder who coined that!), competition is such that we cannot afford to relax and enjoy the finer things of life. But it’s also true that there are people, who are hard-working, and yet have a pleasing personality. But such people are rare. People feel that in order to edge out competition, they must view those around them as enemies. This causes numerous ego hassles, and violent behaviour.

Grumpy people, as long as they don’t go the wrong way, are fine. But when they make use of illegal methods to win, compromising on their values, that is the height of desparation. People who cheat know that they are not capable of achieving their goal, not through the path of hard-work. But they don’t want the society to know it. In order to hide their inability, they look at easier ways. This leads them to cheat to fulfill their goal. But a lot of them repent about it later. At the point of committing the act of cheating, their thrist for success is so high, they don’t realize that they are risking their values, reputation, social status, and probably a guilt-free life.

After achieving their goal, they slowly realize the extent to which they have inflicted damage upon themselves. Again, to protect themselves from the consequences of their act, they continue to lie and cheat in other ways. This builds up a chain reaction. It’s not fair to blame them alone for this. Society views wrong-doers, even if they have realized their mistake, in a way that alienates them. Nobody wants to face such a situation.

Success is not a destination. It’s not something that you reach, and then relax. Life keeps throwing challenges at us all the time. Some we can handle, some we can’t. We must accept that we cannot succeed in certain ventures, though we may have spent time and money on it. We should learn to get on with our lives inspite of the results our efforts may lead to.

If Success means, You change the way you are,
It is not Success at all…
True Success is what you get when you win – your values intact

Fruits without Roots

If you are somewhere between the middle-upper strata of society, you would be exposed to the feel-good factor no doubt. Coined by the BJP during last year’s campaign for the Lok Sabha polls, it has been carried forward and even magnified significantly by the ruling coalition. Agreed, India is moving rapidly on the path of development, both in terms of economy and infrastructure. But amidst all the hype, is there something that is missing from our view?

To make it clearer we must take into account the main philosophy of a good government – a tree cannot live long if its roots are bad. That’s pretty much what’s happening in this country. We are so happy that the tree is producing good fruits, that we are ignoring the roots. The ‘roots’ here is nothing but the lower layer of the society – the village population, which also happens to be the backbone of the economy. No sane Indian would quickly forget the Andhra disaster, which led to the fall of the much-celebrated Chandrababu-led government. While a lot of emphasis was laid on making Hyderabad the technical hub of the region, hundreds of farmers and their troubles went almost unnoticed, and came to light with the increasing number of suicides. This one incident provides enough insight into what is really going on in the ‘developing’ economy of ours.

The government has introduced a lot of schemes to bring technology to the poor. Yes, that’s a good step, but who wants to learn about the Internet when they don’t get enough food each day? Would a child who does not know to read or write a single letter in English be interested in Word Processors or Web Browsers? Even if the government and NGOs manage to successfully penetrate the essence of technology into the villages, who benefits from them? In a society where money decides everything from good clothing and shelter to education and jobs, how deep can we expect technology to penetrate? Even in the backward sections, it’s mostly affluent people who get access to such schemes.

The new medical revolution in India has proved to the world that the infrastructure here is just as good as anywhere else in the world. Yet we have hundreds – especially women and children – dying every year due to lack of proper health care. If the public turn toward private institutions with hopes of better facilities, they are greeted with high amounts of fee to save their lives, which in turn forces them to sell their property or go into debt.

Whatever maybe said about the many schemes and initiatives taken by the government to develop the country, the fact still remains that the poor get a raw deal most of the time. This fact is only confirmed by the news reports we see about how they suffer due to neglect.

It’s true that we have seen people from most backward sections of society going on to set a path for the rest to follow. But the sign of an effective government is when we see such achievements regularly, not as exceptions. To really achieve the goal of technical and economic competency, funds for the corporate or reasearch sectors is not the need of the hour. First, we must aim at full developement of rural India in the fields of Education, Standards of Living, Medicine and Trade. Once stability is achieved at the base of the economy, it will become easier to take technology to the entire population. The Developed World today has been successfully built on this strategy alone. There is no harm in waiting a few years for this transition to take place if what would result is a good, robust economy. Only then can we, as a ecomonic superpower, hold our head high in the global stage.

Cricket(?)-Mania

Pre-Blog Statement – Ah! Feels good to be writing such nonsense [:-)] again after days and days of washing my brain with lines of code and other tensions one would normally associate with the final year project! Now I can think about other duties that form a part of my activities, including this blog!

With the arrival of the Pakistan Cricket team in India, yet another step has been taken in the road to peace between the two nations. More than that, Cricket Fever has once again gripped millions of cricket fans around the country. The sixth one-day international just concluded, with Pakistan clinching the series 4-2. The test series which was played last month was drawn 1-1. Don’t get bored, this is not another article giving commentary of the matches. I just want to give a realistic view on the much-celebrated cricket-mania in India.

True, the knowledge of the game is very high here, and nations like champions Australia and even the Home of Cricket, England, are amazed at the amount of expertise that can be found in every street corner of this country. I need not mention the amount of fame (and fortune) that our national team players get once they put in a couple of good performances. Does all this reflect on the passion for cricket in India? If you say “Yes”, read on –

* The Ranji Trophy, the Premier Cricket Championship of India, is usually witnessed by near-empty stands

* The players of this tournament, in the early 90s, used to earn as little as 25 Rs a day. Now the amount has been raised to 10,000 (pardon me if I’m wrong), but it’s still a small amount compared to what the national team gets

* The women’s cricket team reached the final of the World Cup for the first time, but lost to Australia. If this had been men’s cricket, pages and pages of articles would have been printed about this achievement

* A number of yesteryear cricketers, who were star-performers in their playing days, and played with all heart for their country, are today languishing in poverty. Those players with sufficient earnings when they started playing, are luckier.

I’m not too knowledgeable about cricket, or I could have collected more facts to add to the ones above. But I guess this is sufficient.

The points mentioned above will put in perspective as to what we are, as a nation, obsessed about. If we love to watch cricket, why do we see so many empty seats in the stadium for domestic matches? If we are crazy about cricket, why is it that even a fifty in a league match ODI is highly celebrated, while the entry of the women’s team into a world cup final is only worth enough to ‘mention’? If we are experts in cricket, why is it that the ‘experts’ who know the names of all members of Sachin’s or Sourav’s families, don’t know the name of the first player to lead the country in a Test match?

The truth is, we are not obsessed with cricket as such. We are obsessed with winning, obsessed about seeing star cricketers perform, and obsessed with highlighting the potential of the national team in the international arena. All this, together, has been labeled as Passion for Cricket. This is not a love for the game at all. It has been wrongly understood that we are a ‘cricket-crazy’ nation, while we are actually a ‘cricketer-crazy’ nation.

Yes, cricket has it’s reach to the extent that every street in a city will have it’s own ‘team’. But the fuel for this too, is the overdose of international matches on TV and the newspapers. Today it’s a game that is driven by money, for money. If we have to turn into a truly cricket-crazy nation, we have to change our perspectives of the game itself. We need to look beyond just the international matches, and be aware of all that is going-on in the domestic circuit, and other aspects involved with the game as a whole. Once that is achieved, India can spot and produce a large talent base for the game, and it will be no time before we are world champions again.