Thursday, April 26, 2012

On Low Quality

Usually when people get low quality governance it means that the people themselves are poor quality people and so deserve what they get. I think our politicians, IAS officers, policemen, and more importantly Rajya Sabha MPs reflect the kind of poor quality people that the country is filled with. 

The cringe-worthiness of Gemini Ganesan's daughter and Sachin Tendulkar becoming Rajya Sabha MPs needs to balanced with the fact that the people of India truly deserve this sort of garbage. The other MPs in Rajya Sabha may not be popular enough for us to know that they are bad choices. This X Std fail and third rate glamour actress as choices are merely reflective of the kind of people the country is filled with.So in effect this is true representation. I am a low quality person. My countrymen set extremely poor standards. This appointment is well aligned.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Akshaya Tritiya

If one buys gold on Parasurama's birthday then jewel shop owners have found an inexhaustible Akshaya that keeps on giving them money. The Akshaya vessel is you.

If on the other hand if one decided to start writing an epic or a magnum opus on this day, Vishwaksenar will become the Akshaya vessel from which one can draw immense quantities of knowledge. Hayagreeva will remain on in his tongue and hand. One such person ended up writing Mahabharata, completed the separation of vedas into 4 components, and ended up writing the most important document of all - the Brahmasutras. He obtained knowledge from an Akshaya container and became one himself.

Not that I am recommending against financial investment. It is good, wise and important to do that. However the word  'Artha' means meaning and purpose. It also means wealth and gold. But there are fourth purusharthas that one can choose to pursue at various times and they need not be mutually exclusive. And gold is a small part of of one such Purushartha. As M.N. Nambiar says "the shaaaice is yuvars".  Learn something new, teach your kids something new and maybe if you have enough give jewelers more money.

p.s: I thought Sun @ 10 deg Aries = Akshaya Tritiya. But I learned that lunar Tithi determines this. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When Prevention is not better than cure

After Delhi became the rape capital of India the government passed an ordinance that bars and pubs should not employ women after 8PM. While I believe most of the people in country would be in agreement with this move by the government, a majority of the twitter folks and other main stream media elites were aghast and expressed outrage. Their outrage stemmed from the fact that the government let rapists walk away free but penalize employment of women who are innocent. While the topic of why tweeters and "common man" have divergent opinions is an interesting topic by itself - lets set that aside for another day. This post is about why I think GoI is correct and why I disagree with feminists, many journalists, and most tweeters writing on this topic.

Allow me to express my disagreement via these five categories of elementary logic that many arguing on this topic don't seem to understand.

1. A person is a rapist only if he commits rape:  I generally assumed this to be common sense. Its as simple as saying only fruits that are mangoes can be branded as mangoes. But such is the sad state of affairs that this needs to be spelled out. If a person has already committed the act of raping someone, he is a criminal. It would be accurate to brand him a rapist. The police should be searching for him and work on arresting him. That is a separate topic. Not directly relevant to the topic of discussion here - which is preventing rape. From reading the news it appears that the police/government have identified that there are areas, time-of-day, situations where the probability of women getting raped is very high. This means that there is some evidence and statistical backing to conclude that in these situations the observed instances of rape is alarmingly greater than the mean. If a government is a sensible one - it is common sense to prevent exposure of women to that kind of probability. This preemption does not mean that government is letting rapists walk-away free. And you know why that is so? This is because in this instance the occurrence of rape has been prevented. By not letting women be in that dangerous situation, the act of rape did not happen. Unless there is a pre-existing threat by a specific person, you can't arrest arbitrary strangers who may have raped a woman if given an opportunity. Legally, they aren't rapists. therefore should walk free. You can only arrest people who have raped. So claiming that government let rapists walk away scott-free while punishing women is an inaccurate statement. There are no rapists in this situation.

2. In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is: Pause and reflect on the previous phrase for a moment. This paragraph is based on this theme. My biggest accusation of tweeters, journalists and social media experts is that they are very theoretical about laws and constitutional provisions. I accuse them of being greatly out of touch with some practical reality. For example; I can leave the door of my house open and legally expect that no citizen will steal from my house. In theory this works. In practice this wont. If all citizens open their doors, they are entitled to expect that the police will prevent criminals from entering. In theory it is the responsibility of police to ensure this. In practice the size of police force will not scale up to match the crime rate increase in this situation. In theory and practice the people who steal in such situations are criminals and deserve jail sentence. But there aren't enough policemen in the force to arrest everyone. The only way the government can deal with this situation is make it illegal for you to leave the door open. Extend this to wearing a Rolex watch, wade of $1000 bills in your pocket and a Ferrari and go to a crime neighborhood. If you do this everyday - you will get robbed someday. Yes, the people who mug you are criminals. In theory you have the right to expect police to protect you at all times. In practice they can't. In theory the police shouldn't be judgmental on you and protect you. In practice, they will be and they won't. In theory you can go in a bikini to a pub, get slosh drunk, hitch a ride with complete strangers in an call-taxi and not expect to get raped. In theory the police force should assign 1 policeman with  a revolver to protect every single woman who exposes herself to such dangerous situations. In practice...

3. Human Beings can do more than 1 thing at a time.  This may sound surprising to many tweeters but human beings can do two things at the same time. I can watch TV and eat a muffin at the same time. Really, I can. I have seen many people do two things at the same time. Some comb their hair and whistle. Some talk on the phone and type on their computer. But many tweeters assume mutual exclusion when none exists. If you accuse a person of being careless because he left the door of his house open, these feminists assume you are forgiving the criminals who entered the house and burgled stuff. This is patently not true. Blaming someone does not mean "shifting the blame". It is not a zero sum game. I can accuse the victim of being careless and at the same time agree that the burglar is a criminal. You know why? because human beings can do two things at the same time. So if police has given explicit instruction to women citizens to not venture into dangerous areas beyond a particular time, consume alcohol and hitch-ride with strangers. And if a woman ends up doing all the above and gets raped. I.. (wait for it) (wait for it) will blame her for being careless and irresponsible. I will blame her for not putting a premium on her personal safety. This does not mean I condone and forgive the rapists. They are criminals and will need to be arrested. Punishing a criminal and calling someone careless isn't mutually exclusive. We can do both things. And we should be doing both.

4. Post-rape situation is different from preventing rape:  If policemen act indifferently to complaints of rape they are not discharging their duty and deserve reprimand. My personal view is that rapists deserve capital punishment. Eve-teasing deserves multiple years of jail sentence.There are no situations where a rapist can be condoned and the blame shifted to the victim. No girl ever "asks for it" because of the way she dresses or walks or drinks.  It is true that many times women lie about rape. It is also probably true that the instances where they are genuinely raped far outnumber the other instances where it is a cooked up lie. Once it is established that someone has been raped the police should not be biased by the other cases they have seen where women have lied. They should act in an unbiased manner to pursue justice. However, when it comes to preventing rape - the 'prevention' must be given maximum priority. If this comes at the cost of marginal economic opportunities for women then - so be it. If a government is forced to make a trade-off they should always trade-off economic opportunity to prevent rape.

5. It is not 'All or Nothing'. It rarely is: Sometimes RBI doesn't allow me to transfer  larger amounts of money across countries at the same time. I am inconvenienced but not dead. I can still transfer some money. I can't go tell the RBI that if they don't allow me to transfer $1 billion it means that they are a non-entity. It doesn't mean I live in stone age. It doesn't mean that I can't transfer $1 if I wanted to. I can still transfer some money. Some kind of jobs may not available in the place where I live. That could be my perfect dream job. But that is okay - I can find a job that is reasonably close to what I want that matches my skills. If  the government has failed in giving me employment that is 100% to my liking, it doesn't mean that they have killed all my hopes for employment. They haven't failed. Unless I have enormous sense of entitlement, the fact that I have employment means the govt is doing a good job. Theoretically they are supposed to help me. But needn't satisfy my every whim. So lets face it. The government has asked women who work in pubs after 8PM to not go to work. This doesn't mean we have regressed back to the Mughal era where women have to be covered head to toe and never venture out of their house. You guys need to get some perspective. Working in a 'saaraya kadai' doesn't require you to have 3 PhDs and embellish a 3-page resume. You probably have transferable skills to work somewhere else. It doesn't mean the government will completely stop women from working everywhere. This is not a slippery slope. It doesn't mean government will prevent women from working in a place/time/situation where 1 instance of rape happens. It is not "all or nothing". It is an equilibrium. It is  a trade-off or balance where reasonable employment opportunities are provided for reasonable costs/restrictions. You may ask "who decides what is reasonable". It is the elected government. Live with it. If you don't like it change the government. Any other questions on this will fall into one of these 5 categories.

In conclusion: This is a situation where a government has traded-off employment opportunities for women in pubs after 8PM to reduce their exposure to rape crimes. It is probably because of practical difficulties in ensuring safety for women in all bar/pubs across the country/city/state. It is not a kick back to stone age for women. Its a practical trade-off. Stop over-reacting. This leads to "grease the squeaky wheel" situation. The upper class elitist twits make such a big deal about careless women who get drunk, party and hang out with questionable strangers. And there is generally no noise about impacted women who dont fit into this class description.

The underprivileged voiceless women are used in an argument only as an embellishment. They are never the main topic. just a side act. And they are talked about only as a support act when some rich delhi girl gets raped when she's partying at 1AM. In this context the poverty ridden Ranganathan street cloth shop women are mentioned in passing to give the journalist a noble purpose. If these feminists and jounalists truly cared they would've protested against a specific (very very specific) element of injustice in that space. Its not like it never happens. It happens everyday but its never news.

On the other hand nonsense news such as kudigaara bar hopping reckless teenagers (and in the kolkata case: 37 yr old kudigaara mom-of-two was bar hopping and hitch-rided with strangers) getting raped is front and center news. This drains the resources and focus of the govt and makes them focus on unimportant issues. The fakeness of this issue makes an average guy cynical. which further contributes to poor response to real issues.
P.s: Some disclaimers to let you know of my personal biases. 
1. I don't like the alcohol industry-mafia and wish them bad things
2: I have low tolerance and sympathy for people who consume alcohol, let go of their senses and their personal security. Same disregard I have for drunken drivers who get into accidents. Given this I care a rats-ass if women get employed in bars or not.
3. Post is based on twitter discussions (& indirect contributions ) with Gaurav and IITG

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

That Crazy Old Man

I had a relative who was very strict and generally was known as Hitler in our family. My great grandmother used to say this about him "if he is the tree and the wind is blowing in one direction, he will not sway in the direction of the wind. He will sway in the opposite direction and will ask the wind to sway in his way". Reading this girl's post reminded me of something about him. He lived right behind Nilgiri's in Radhakrishnan Salai. Diagonally opposite to Vivekananda. His house was this massive bungalow and had a front yard with swings and stuff. It is hard to imagine that kind of a house in today's world in that location. I used to be awed every time I visited that place. And I was terrified of him.

He had a living room that was probably 3000 square feet and the ceiling was probably 20 foot tall (I was a kid so of course I exaggerate. But it was really really tall).  3 out of 4 sides of the walls were actually book shelves. These book shelves were long tall shelves and you needed big ladders to reach the top shelf - like the ones you saw in some historical libraries. The house was bursting at its seams - the walls were breaking. Yet this dude was holding on to every single book he had bought since his childhood. He had books in all genres; philosophy, science, religion, autobiographies, biographies and even cook books. Added to that he had Sports Star (all issues ever since it was launched,) all editions of Indian Cricket books, Manorama, and fat bound books in tamil. He also had random indrajal, chandamama and amar chithra katha comics. He had managed to hold on to his notebooks and textbooks from his childhood. No one else but him could touch his books. If they did he would bark at them and send them out of his house. He was very grumpy, eccentric and had idiosyncrasies that would take half those book shelf space to document. One day, while visiting his house, I pulled out a book from his shelf, he caught me, barked at me and complained to every single member of my extended family. I became branded as the "avan eppavume ippadi dhaan. Sonna kekkave maatan" boy. He was one of the reasons why I began to love reading books. He also re-enforced my dad's dislike for people  who read books other than what was required in school. My dad called such people "avan book padikaravan da. Loosu payal."  And then told me "neeyum kanda book'a padi, mental'a pogalam"

That old man was intelligent but not street smart. His idiosyncrasies made him believe that a grandfather's property belonged to his grandchildren. So sold his gigantic house, gave the money to his kids and became their dependent. His life then followed the Tuesday 7:30 PM doordarshan "amma inge ganeshu ange" type dramas.  His sons made him sell all his books because they frankly never ever read any sort of books (even their own school books), drunk their way through his money, moved into 500 Sq Ft houses, treated him like dirt and made him sleep on the floor in a verandah near the toilet. That was when he wrote his autobiography that traced back N-generations of his ancestors. No one read it. Not his sons. I don't think his wife could read. He spent his last savings printing 1000s of copies of the book and gifting it to arbitrary libraries and people. This gave many more people an opportunity to not read his book.  Until a few weeks before he died he still had the habit of folding 'The Hindu' just the way it was delivered in the morning. His wife gave him 7 tumblers of filter coffee every day and he had nasty comments about several cricket player's abilities. But he got as close to being 'the crazy old book thatha next door' as possible.

Btw  - this girl writes an awesome blog. Granted, I am a sucker for the most futile exercise of interpreting fight club movie in excruciating detail.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Vaali Vs Karna

Writing the previous post on the slaying of Vaali & Karna has made me realize that Vaali's conduct was more acceptable than that of Karna. Both had committed bucketful of sins - but Karna's brand of adharma seems slightly more 'worshtu-fellow ba'.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Prarabdha Karma

Suffering makes people ask 'why me'. A question that often leads us to look up our own upanishads, ithihasas and puranas.

 Two characters - Son of Indra and Son of Surya play pivotal roles in our epics. They are pitted against each other in the battlefield of life and they bring out the inter-connectedness of life events across births. It is intriguing and very humbling to note the similarity of their choices and the mirror-image nature of their eventual destiny. In the epics these two characters are very dear to the reader. This is because their actions cause great conflict of human emotions and ethics within the reader's/listener's mind. An average person does not necessarily think of either character as flawless or good. But we are disturbed by what happens to the flawed heroes. Maybe because a third person - some can call it fate but I will call it simply as 'someone else' - plays a bigger role in their life than anybody else's. Maybe these two characters thread the needle of what is ethical and what is not. The role they play in across the two births and two epic stories brings out the very essence of life. Of God.

Take for instance the events that unfold in one of their re-births. When Son of Indira - by devious means - gets the power that allows him to steal away the strength of his enemy during battle. A glaring violation of war rules where a fair fight between two adversaries is measured by the duel of their own strengths. When one steals the strength of another through improper means it becomes an unequal fight and therefore - adharma. Indra-putra could have won many great adversaries using his own strength. But he chose to be a coward and swindled his enemy's strength. In a battle field - he often fought the weaponless and the defenseless. He has a choice to fight fairly. But by constantly making a choice to fight unfairly - he removed his right for a fair fight even if he wanted one. It didn't stop there. The Son of Indira ruled a kingdom with great cruelty and does heinous crimes on his people. He steals the wife of the Son of Surya and keeps her for himself. He steals the kingdom of son of Surya. The sin of coveting and stealing another man's wife being worse than violating mere rules of battle. The death of Indra-putra came when he made his choices. It didn't come when he actually died - during the one-on-one battle with Surya-putra. It didn't come when the arrow hit his chest. That was merely symbolic. The Son of Surya befriended people of dharma. Fought for dharma. And things were darkest for him for a long long time. The good always seemed to be going through suffering. But like it happens to all good people he just had to point a finger and justice was restored as easily as it was taken away.

In another life, in another birth - it was the turn of the Son of Surya to make his choices. The choices presented to Surya-putra were more nuanced but choices nevertheless. And he did not make good choices. The sequence of events in his life seems to be exact mirror image of Indra-putra's previous life. Surya-Putra lies about his birth to deviously obtain the supreme weapon that could be used to kill anyone in battle. He befriended children of adharma. He went against the wishes of his mother to support evil men knowing fully well what he was doing. He trampled a subject of his kingdom - a brahmin child - with his chariot. He supports the insult of (and thereby insults) the modesty the wife of Son of Indra. He helps adharmic people steal the kingdom of Indra-putra. He kills Indra-putra's son in battle when the victim was unarmed. He died several times, much before his death actually arrived in the form of an arrow to his chest.

What is fascinating is how they meet their ends. Both are killed in a fashion that seem to violate the rules of battle. Struck by an arrow to the chest in battle field, during a one-on-one duel with each other. Killed when unarmed or when not looking. But their death is heroic. It also fits the choices they made in life. It fits them very well. What is even more fascinating is during both these events there was a third person. The same One.