Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When does unfair start becoming fair?

Hello fellow-bloggers

We have a new contributor to this blog now - my dear friend Nishant. I think the more the number of contributors , the more varied the opinions, the less chances of this blog being one-man/woman's trumpet. Keep reading/writing.



There is no doubt that we have been living in a male-dominated society since mankind (see what I mean … I should say humankind) has been around. This has of course been unfair to women; they have been suppressed until very recently, though this still continues in many parts of the world. History has taught us that any kind of suppression has always created problems. In today’s world I think such problems are visible, though they are very subtle.

Men have enjoyed unquestioned authority for ages. Naturally this has led to evils such as exploitation of women (e.g. not allowing them to have careers of their own), and accepted norms like women leaving their home after marriage to live with their husbands. As a result, the society expects men to be the heads of families, bringing in money to support the family. In such a situation, women who do succeed in making a career of their own, have to yet deal with another problem, typically an ego/chauvinism issue – if their husband is less successful than them. This is again extremely unfair to women.

In today’s world, I believe, these problems have manifested themselves in such a way that the situation has started to reverse, although probably very locally. What I mean is that men are generally assumed to be less trustworthy than women, they are assumed to have ego problems and to be chauvinistic. I’ll give a few examples (1) If a marriage breaks, it is generally thought that it must have been the man’s fault. (2) Let us suppose you have a friend who is a girl. She falls in love with a boy of another caste, and they both hope to get married. Suddenly the boy’s parents refuse to allow inter-caste marriage, and so the boy calls off the wedding. You may feel that the boy is a … and he should have known this before falling in love and making promises. Now let us reverse the situation. Your friend (who is still the girl) calls off the wedding because her parents refused to an inter-caste marriage. Would you call the girl a … or will you sympathize with her? (3) If a woman says “I want to be more successful than my husband”, this is interpreted as she does not want to be known by her husband’s name, she is ambitious, she may be head-strong, etc. If, on the other hand, a man says “I want to be more successful than my wife”, this is generally interpreted as – what a male-chauvinistic pig!

Now the above examples may seem to suggest that I feel that the society is being unfair to men. Well … yes, but they deserve it right? They are the ones who claimed superiority, and they are the ones who started exploiting women. But do all men deserve this, even those who do not have ego issues, who are not chauvinistic, and who completely love their wife and family? I guess the answer should be that not all men deserve this, exactly as women do not deserve the treatment they have got in the past, and continue to get in many places today. It seems to me to be a situation like men dug a pit for women and are falling in it themselves today. Some people may call this fair, others may call it unfair. But I think it is just unfortunate – the society needs to be more balanced when it comes to men and women for the benefit of BOTH!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

Media: Movie
Genre: Pathetic

Okay, I really wanted to write something on the blog. A new month has started and as it is unrolling, I see I'll find less and less time to wag my tongue online. So I thought that I might as well indulge in this soothing exercise of blogging right away and write about something even if it is pitiful. So it is about this movie which I watched with my friend at a Mall a few weeks ago -- recently released, and non-conventional title. I was intrigued...

It is a movie about this guy who time travels, all over the place without control. And when he does so in his hurry he leaves behind his clothes..captivating hunh (?). He starts this habit of 'never being in time' as a child when he time travels out of car in which he is traveling with his mother. The car gets crashed in an accident but he time travels and saves himself (after watching the movie you'd wish that he didn't). And then we all know, bad habits die hard... and so he continues...meets his wife when she is a child, forgets her when she actually grows up and meets him, then goes back in time and meets her again in childhood, in the meantime his older self returns and gets married to his wife when actually he should be marrying him - what? ..........whatever! And the mystery continues - mystery of what was the story writer thinking when he was writing this crap. (may be was also a traveler from his kindergarten past trying to write a Hollywood flick). And it does not end there - his baby also keeps traveling out of his wife's womb leading to miscarriages...yuck!

Still I sat through this.... only to end up wishing ardently that I could also travel back in time to stop myself from buying the tickets and put my money to some good use instead..cheers to another bag of popcorn (without the movie of course!).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth

Media: Book
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Genre: Fiction

I had resigned myself to spend long hours at the San Francisco International airport. I was tired after a long and hectic day and was hoping to catch up with some good sleep on my flight. The announcement that my flight would get delayed by a good three and a half hours made me resume my battle against boredom half-heartedly. I was browsing through news-stands for some beam of interest to save myself from falling into usual torpor of such situations when I came across this one. I have not really followed Lahiri's work in any depth though she is frequently credited with churning out bestsellers.

It is a collection of short stories centered around NRIs, mainly people of West Bengal in India, and their experiences on the U.S. continent (Lahiri is from Bengal herself and currently lives in Brooklyn , NY). It makes for a tolerable read. I quite liked the first story and it remained my favorite of the collection even after finishing the book. The author is definitely adept at capturing emotional dilemmas and intricacies of human mind and heart. The last three stories which form the second part of the book are also quite moving. They are independent accounts of experiences of two characters - Hema and Kaushik. Eventually the reader discovers deep connections in their stories as their paths cross unexpectedly.

I will recommend this book for a one-time read. But like many others in its league, it brought me yet again to this unanswered question - do the stories that aim to touch our heart necessarily need to be sad ... ? Most of them failed to do so but I still wasn't able to have a sound sleep on my flight.

Banker to the Poor

Media: Book
Author: Muhammad Yunus
Genre: Non-fiction

This was a present from my family on my M.S. graduation. The book is the story of an idea that started small and evolved into a movement, that aims to provide a novel economic solution to one of the most practical problems of the world --- poverty! The crux of this tale is about provision and impact of microfinance for the poor --- the idea that a little and timely help to the poorest of the poor can help them break the vicious circle of poverty and lead a life of dignity is really quite simple and practical. However, it has more to it and hence I abstained from restricting it to the genre of books on rich theories of microeconomics.

The first two chapters are totally autobiographical in nature. The childhood reminiscences of author leave you with a Malgudi-day like feeling (most of us R.K. Narayan fans would be familiar with this). The tale is so simply and wonderfully told that I didn't feel even a tinge of bitterness at the author's description (then a child) of partition of India in 1947 amidst chants of Pakistan Zindabad. He amalgamates you completely in his journey and you are hooked.

The real story of Grameen Bank* - the movement which has lifted millions of people out of poverty since its inception - starts in chapter 3 with author's return to Bangladesh in late 70s. You and I who have the luxury of reading and writing blogs in our spare time without worrying about two square meals a day are introduced to an existence which has to battle, struggle and win over the threats imposed by ruthless poverty everyday. The evolution of Grameen, starting from a small project in the village of Jobra to an international movement covering 2.5 million people worldwide is charted out with the ingenuity of a master storyteller. (You have to trust me for that, I am the first one to doze off on seeing reams of data and figures .) The author weaves an engaging tale of human triumph over the most hostile circumstances with application of concepts of banking and microeconomics as aides in this battle against poverty - of course with a twist. The reader is able to maintain the same level of involvement with the narrative be it the description of extraordinary lives of the ordinary people which were touched and changed by the Grameen movement or an account of bureaucratic and financial hurdles Grameen had to overcome to reach where it is today (anyone who has walked the official corridors in India would be painfully aware of this).

It also breaks some important and persistent myths, - I subscribed to some of them too before reading this book. For instance, contrary to the popular perception the repayment rate of loans by the poor is the highest. Most of us suffer from a subtle social arrogance which may sometimes manifest itself as distributing cash or alms to underprivileged on religious occasions or the like and any thought of such people recompensing our 'charity' is almost unthinkable. This book gives a reality check - the poor can be most ardent of workers and most faithful borrowers. They respect and cling to a ray of hope which can pull them out of their harsh reality and this makes them infallible to many temptations which, in fact, the privileged lot is more susceptible to.

I think this book should be read by one and all . Even if someone is not interested in the philanthropic aspects, it surely holds some lessons for all of us.

* 'Grameen' is a Hindi word which means 'of the village' (village is called 'Gram' in Hindi).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some beautiful lines...

I could not include it in the earlier post of Landmarks in Poetry - that's because it isn't one. Nonetheless, the simplicity of this piece touches a cord somewhere and hence I'm sharing it on this blog. Unfortnately, I am not aware of the name of the poet who penned the lines below.

कोई तुमसे पूछे कौन हूँ मैं
तुम कह देना कोई ख़ास नही .

एक दोस्त है कच्चा पक्का सा
एक झूठ है आधा सच्चा सा,
जज़्बात को ढके एक परदा बस
एक बहाना है अच्छा सा

हवा का एक सुहाना झोंखा है
कभी नाजुक तो कभी तूफानो सा,
सकल देख कर जो नज़रें झुका ले
कभी अपना तो कभी बेगानों सा

जिंदगी का एक ऐसा हमसफ़र
जो समंदर है पर दिल को प्यास नही,
कोई तुमसे पूछे कौन हूँ मैं
तुम कह देना कोई ख़ास नही

एक साथी जो अनकही कुछ बातें कह जाता है
यादों में जिसका एक धुंधला चेहरा रह जाता है,
यूँ तो उसके होने का कुछ गम नहीं
पर कभी-कभी आंखों से आंसू बन के बह जाता है

यूँ रहता तो मेरे तस्सवुर में है
पर इन आंखों को उसकी तलाश नही,
कोई तुमसे पूछे कौन हूँ मैं
तुम कह देना कोई ख़ास नहीं

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Scrapping the Section 377

There is so much happening around the world these days, that I sometimes feel disillusioned with my internet window for being unsuccessful in giving me an adequate peep into it. The attempts of keeping myself abreast of what's going on in other parts of the world seem to fall flat when I realize that I remain woefully ignorant of slightest hints of the storm in my cocoon.

The current storm pervading Delhi originates from scrapping of the anti-gay law by the Delhi high court  --- strong enough to make me log into my blogger acct. and think aloud about the issue in front of you all. I would refrain from calling it a discussion because I understand very little or none of the underlying thesis, nonetheless like every other educated elite I should talk about it! I discovered that I belong to this category after I read some public opinions on the matter and tracked their source to everyone who could afford to worry about something other than two square meals a day.

As I said earlier, I can boast of neither an opinion nor an understanding of queer group. For starters, I would surely raise a strong objection to being referred to as 'queer' if I was one of them --- we lose half the battle there itself by proclaiming some sizable proportion of world's population abnormal/odd. Looking beyond the unfortunate nomenclature, there are a host of questions in my mind. There is a multitude of opinions on the source of this 'problem' as they say --- psychological, biological, genetic, social etc. etc. A more kind reference addresses the homosexual tendency as a latent inclination which a person is born with --- essentially we have as many opinions as we have heads under the sun. For me, even a 'usual' relationship between a boy and a girl is complicated enough to have any concrete views about homosexual relationships. I do find them 'odd' --- but on that count my relationships might look 'odd' to a gay, so that's not sufficiently reasonable to adopt godforsaken attitude towards this community. But just by sheer common sense and my little experience with a restricted variety of relationships till date, I can safely say that just because I love a person, I can't be called a criminal. Of course, that presumes that the person is not uncomfortable with the emotion. Just to be clear here, I am not propounding the consenting adults argument here --- even adultery involves adults consenting to cheat on each of their partners. I am talking about usual relationships with which we grow, formulate and live with - the good hindi movies ones! So in spite of my primitive knowledge about the issue, based on my rudimentary analysis above, I feel reasonably assured about the judgement scrapping 377. It is definitely a step in right direction.

Even if some of us 'usual' ones (I won't use non-queer, there is enough 'strangeness' prevalent among heterosexuals also --- ask any girl who has walked the streets of Delhi!) think that we have a moral responsibility to dig into sexual inclinations of a particular group and set it right (ahoy.. the religious leaders), the first step is to create a level ground for discussion. You can't make criminals out of people and then lie the burden of proof on them, occasionally indulging in kind interjections of 'whats-your-problem-dude' ---- this is like terrorists asking a captive to do an appraisal of the food and hygiene conditions in the terror camp. And the judgment of the Delhi high court is the first step in building an even platform. The blackmail of the gay group which persists behind the cover of this law should not be acceptable in a civilized and just society. For that matter, our men in uniform do not need any laws to make a travesty of the 'Citizens first' motto of the police force (for instance rape cases of women, irrespective of their sexual backgrounds, at the hands of policemen and soldiers continue to make shameful headlines). But why give another weapon in hands of a loutish and corrupt force?

Besides, there is an urgent need to bring the homosexual group into mainstream of the society. If the numbers are to be believed, there is a higher than average prevalence of HIV-AIDS and other STDs amongst this group. The problem is worsened by social and legal ostracization of gays, which pushes any solution farther from sight. Delhi high court has done well in attempting to alleviate the latter, the former remains to be remedied by us 'usuals'. So let us disembark from our moral high horses and try to do this right!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rampaging ragging

It is one of those pieces where I feel angry with myself for writing so late. Not that I was unaware of the incident which brought this ever-prevalent monster back to light, but the thoughts had flickered and died out amidst the platitudes of routine life. The revival was triggered when I recently caught up with episode of 'We The People' on NDTV. The discussion was covering recent acts of violence committed in the name of ragging, particularly the one which took place in Dr. Rajendra Prasad Medical College in Himachal Pradesh leading to death of a teenager Aman Kachroo due to severe beating by his drunken seniors.

One of the panelists was the father of deceased boy --- Dr. Raj Kachroo, who had the courage to come out and voice a balanced opinion against this growing menace even in the wake of his own terrible loss. There were a few other noted names on the show --- like Deepak Paintal, the VC of University of Delhi who took the controversial yet sanest stand of complete eradication and defended it adequately, famous columnist Jug Suraiya who insisted on discriminating between 'good' and 'bad ragging, based on the halcyon days of his adolescence. He recounted, to the glee of some members of the audience, how ragging used to be indeed quite innocuos in his hostel, and just involved hurling water-filled condom balloons --- really innocuous and stupid....yeah! Other panelists included R. K. Raghavan of the Raghavan committee which submitted a report with the government in 2007 advising certain measures to eradicate the evil, filmmaker Manish Gupta who has made a movie 'Hostel' based on his real experiences of ragging in engineering college and who was ballistic in his support for complete ban and also towards likes of another movie maker Apoorv Lakia. Lakia is an alumnus of Lawrence School Sanawar, which was the spot for a recent incident involving beating of some junior students by their Class XII seniors. He, however, expressed surprise of a 10-year old on the occurrence of this incident at his revered school and tried to make us believe in the golden days he had spent there interspersed with being made 'murga' by the prefects (form of punishment where the defaulter crouches and holds his ears_more details on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murga_Punishment) --- but that was it, he insisted.

I think the show was pretty good and covered most of the related issues, giving space to all viewpoints (.. how else can you get Lakia on airwaves for so long a time - it exceeded the combined run-time of all his movies at the theaters !!). Nonetheless, I still want to share my sentiments on this through this blog. The reason in part being that, though I have had a fair share of fun in my college life spanning DU's St. Stephen's and IIT Delhi without perpetrating or suffering this menace myself, yet I kept seeing around myself and reading about varying forms of it - consensual, coercive, light fun, sick - really the complete spectrum! And again and again I have been convinced of the complete futility and hypocrisy of this mindless exercise, which had reared its ugliest face in the case of Aman Kachroo and cost him his life.

Let us face it guys (and girls) - there is really no justification of ragging. If we are making ourselves or someone else believe that, without ragging, the students who attend the same institution for 3-4 years will be left exchanging nods as strangers at their graduation ceremonies, the whole argument crumbles on being dealt with an iota of logic. Alas we never-got-to-know-you-better excuse because there was no ragging, is so hollow and cliched that even a political speech before elections will sound fresh to that. If there is a sincere intention of both seniors and juniors of extending a hand out, I don't see why such an awkward, and often embarrassing, interaction required to break the ice. And seriously, if a senior refuses to help you and makes the above excuse, it's good that you escaped the clutches of that psycho. 'Dance for me so if you need this set of notes' - sounds like a perfect gentleman, isn't it! So once and for all, let us give a rest to this friendship argument for ragging - we all know that there are much healthier avenues to know each other better.

A related issue is that of 'good' and 'bad' ragging. But 'good' for one can be a 'torture' for other. If you are a dancing sensation in your school, asking to burn the dance floor on a hip bollywood number is a cakewalk and surely a lot of fun (On second thoughts, even if I dance like Hrithik Roshan, I will not be willing to shake a leg on someone's command) - but the person standing next to you might have been born with two left feet. The prospect of dancing in front of a group including his own peers and seniors can be horrifying. Yet another excuse often furnished by seniors/raggers is 'you-need-to-open-up' program. Not every student thinks that he/she requires a majors in dance/drama/poetry.. and maybe harassment by the end of program! Another hazard of letting even non-physical ragging unabated is the danger of it quickly devolving into something more perverse. Unbridled authority is dangerous, esp. in hands of 20-year somethings. There have been ample examples of physical and sexual abuse in the name of ragging - it might just have started with the usually thought to be innocent song and dance routine or something of that order. And really, the whole idea of any sort of authority exercised in this hierarchical fashion is quite perverse in itself. As far as lighthearted teasing goes, that is a usual riot even in close-knitted friend circles - but demanding such a right just because of academic seniority is pretty baseless. All the people who pass off as teasing seniors are just a bunch of deeply insecure people who vent their insecurities and impress themselves in a twisted fashion through an aggressive act of ragging - rest all the excuses are rubbish and mere hypocrisy. So we need not bother ourselves with drawing lines between good and bad ragging - there is just one line to be drawn, that of ragging (in any form) or no ragging.

This also brings us to an important question of responsibility. I think besides meting out irrevocable punishments to those directly involved in propagating this menace, the relevant authorities should also be held accountable. The importance of the institutional responsibility cannot be diluted, esp. after the report tabled by Additional District Magistrate of Kangra makes it clear that, in Kachroo case, the college authorities behaved imperviously to student complaints of rampant ragging in the institution. Moreover, evidence for physically abusive ragging in the college dates back to at least 2006. Such apathy on the part of the institution should lead to charges of criminal neglect against the top management and in absence of remedial measures educational licenses may be revoked. Also, each student, junior or senior, should feel responsible towards curbing this menace and fearlessly report the perpetrators to the authorities. To ensure and encourage the report of such incidents without any fear of retribution, setting up anonymous helplines for students should be helpful. It has reached a proportion where any price is a small price to pay because nothing is more precious than human life and dignity.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Atonement

Media: Movie
Genre: Fiction

This post is about the movie made by Joe Wright on the novel by the same name from Ian McEwan. The views expressed are solely based on the visual depiction as the author is blissfully unaware of how true a rendition of the book the screenplay is.

I got this movie issued last week from the library. The movie section at Yale's BASS library boasts of a small yet excellent collection of new and old English movies (with some crossover cinema ---couldn't think of an alternative to this awful and widely used word --- thrown in here and there). Besides, if the DVD cover boasts of some academy award nominations/awards, it may serve to boost the confidence of the viewer and this one had a golden globe for best movie to its credit in 2008. (Though the last test doesn't always work as I discovered in the case of American Beauty :-X ).

This movie is set in the backdrop of a British country estate before and during the period of World War II. The story revolves around three main characters - Cecilia, Briony and Robbie. Briony is a fledgling teenage writer who gets jealous of a passionate romance between her beautiful elder sister Cecilia and her childhood crush Robbie - the housekeeper's suave, Cambridge-educated son. Her jealousy drives her to tell a lie which changes the lives of all three characters irrevocably.

The movie has a taut screenplay, which develops and catches pace as the movie evolves. The director uses the clever trick of first showing a compelling visual at a dramatic turn and then depicts the sequence of events leading up to it. It has a desired effect in most places but makes the narrative confusing at some others.

You might be thinking that I would really be recommending this movie to everyone. Well..yes and no. Cinematically, it is of course a unique presentation of a unique story and the viewer revels in the richness of exposition of the characters. But me being a lover of Hindi movies believes in happy endings (gullible me - at least I am honest!) - so at that front it might fail as it makes you sad, really sad.

Nonetheless, why I thought of writing about this movie on the blog was the deep influence it exercises on you through Briony. You can almost feel the stifling existence she practices bearing the penance of her lie in form of a lifelong guilt. The screenplay conveys both her imagination and existence perspicaciously to the viewer.

I am still not sure whether I want to read the book!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pen is Mightier than the sword *...

..* and SHOE IS MIGHTIER THAN THE PEN. The next time you step out of the house, have a closer look at your shoes. Apparently innocuous accessories for our feet have transformed into a new weapon in the hands of the media to deal with love-to-hate politicians.

This unusual trend, acting as the harbinger of dirty shoes in dirty politics, started when an angry Iraqi journalist became the pioneer of this novel mode of freedom of expression by throwing a shoe at U.S. President George Bush at a press conference in Baghdad. People who think that it was just a strange and maybe unacceptable way of expressing one's anger should take a chill pill and continue reading this piece by the end of which I will try to convince the cynics of the power of this new revolution. Besides giving some good practice to both Mr. Bush and Iraqi Prime minister Nouri Maliki in 'grenade-catching' (yes, he threw the second shoe too - of course it would have been useless anyways without its partner whose chances of recovery were..er.. slim!!), it also inspired some restless minds in search of a breakthrough in communication revolution -- at last they found their calling! The importance of the former advantage can not be undermined though, esp. given the usual games two countries have indulged in the past few years but that deserves to be a topic for a separate article. Let us concentrate on the mini-revolution of shoe hurling here.

As always, Indians are fast on catching up with the western trends, or at least in this case what happens to people out there. And for all his dropping popularity ratings, President Bush remains a westerner, that too reasonably well known. So fast forward to April 2009. The venue is again a press conference, though summoned by Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambram..and whalloa! Whoever said history repeats itself, forgot to add, very often!! A shoe again flew through the air and missed the target. The launchpad was again a journo, aggrieved by the pronouncements of a politician. Funny ..?? Outrageous... maybe!

But let us not forget the strategic issues which the above two incidents bring to light, in our haste to condemn them or be bemused. First and foremost, being a politician is no longer as safe as it used to be. The recent overhaul of military equipment for our security forces in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks is urgently required to cater to our politicians too. They should be provided with ballistic helmets and headgear before attending any press conference or public event. The helmets should, of course, be proven resistant to bullets, grenades and SHOES. Also all that paunchy fat won't do sir... remember that it was the agility of the target after all (at least in Baghdad case) which saved it from the surface-to-surface shoe missile. So any elected Member of Parliament should be elected on interim basis. The interns should then be required to run at least a mile every morning to keep in shape. In fact, they can use this opportunity to manage a look into their respective constituencies, a rare feat which they otherwise undertake only during elections. This may be followed by a training where the security personnel can throw shoes on them for 30 minutes to test their proficiency on dodging them. Only those who are able to maintain a high 'duck-rate', averaged over a period of month or so can qualify to take up the dangerous job of being a parliamentarian. (Have I given myself way - yes I am an experimentalist! 8-).

Besides this, to ensure the safety of our shoo-able political bosses, some measures are recommended at other end of spectrum too. All the public visitors should be profiled, at least their shoes most definitely, and anyone sporting footwear hevaier than a kilogram should be booked under S-POTA = Shoes on Politician Obstruction and Termination Act. As an added precaution, sale of such footwear can be banned altogether. Of course, this would halve the business of brands like Woodland.. but nothing is more important than national security! And ladies, heels are an absolute no-no. Try to find less hazardous and head-splitting avenues to display the woman-power.

Also, a legislation may be considered which requires that in rallies which are attended by a large number of people, all the attendees should come bare-footed (else imagine a single slip in the speech and what a zoo of shoes can end up being on the stage..... scary man). On second thoughts, it might have been sheer farsightedness on part of our leaders, to ensure that most of their humble subjects remain humble... deprived of food, shelter and shoes!

So while our media schools are busy including a shoe-hurling class in their curriculum and the scribes are honing their skills at shooting and targeting (I would keep a tab on all the shoe sales to journos if I was a M.P., seriously), let us continue to keep a watch on this amazing new trend in our politics. And all you budding journalists out there, stop blogging and go buy yourself a pair of shoes.... shoo shoo!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Landmarks in Poetry II

The following is a beautiful nazm by Kaifi Azmi
- another gem of Urdu poetry.

बस एक झिझक है यही हाल-ऐ-दिल सुनाने में
की तेरा ज़िक्र भी आयेगा इस फ़साने में

(The chagrin in narrating the truth of my love
lies in your allusion in the tale of my heart)

बरस पड़ी थी जो रुख से नकाब उठाने में
वो चाँदनी है अभी तक मेरे गरीब-खाने में

(The light of your beauty which filled my life
still endures in my humble abode)

इसी में इश्क की किस्मत बदल भी सकती थी
जो वक्त बीत गया मुझ को आजमाने में

(The sands of time which flew past
could have changed the destiny of my love alas)

ये कह के टूट पड़ा शाख-ऐ-गुल से आखिरी फूल
अब और देर है कितनी बहार आने में

(The last blossom withered away
yearning for the spring of your love)

The following poem is a very famous one by Makhanlal Chaturvedi. It probably one of the best and most heart-touching piece of poetry on nationalism which I have come across (without the awful rhetoric we all get used to ...)

चाह नहीं मैं सुरबाला के
गहनों में गूथा जाऊँ
चाह नहीं प्रेमी माला में
बिंध प्यारी को ललचाऊँ

चाह नहीं सम्राटों के
शव पर हे हरि डाला जाऊँ
चाह नहीं देवों के सिर पर
चढूँ भाग्य पर इतराऊँ

मुझे तोड़ लेना बनमाली
उस पथ पर तुम देना फेंक
मातृभूमि पर शीश चढ़ाने
जिस पथ जाएँ वीर अनेक

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Landmarks in Poetry I

In spite of my restricted reading of poetry, I have been fortunate enough to be introduced to works of some extraordinary Hindi, Urdu and English poets. The credit goes to my mother who is an astute reader of various forms of this art. Hence, it's only appropriate if I dedicate the first one of my collection to her - it is the most famous and one of her most favorites 'Madhushala' by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. I can recollect two of the couplets which have remained with me all these years. The full poem is a long and exhilarating piece of writing by one of the greatest poets of the last century and can be found at http://manaskriti.com/kaavyaalaya/mdhshla.stm.

मदिरालय जाने को घर से चलता है पीनेवाला,
किस पथ से जाऊं, है असमंजस में वो भोला-भाला।
अलग-अलग पथ बतलाते सब पर मैं ये बतलाता हूँ
राह पकड़ तू एक चला चल पा जाएगा मधुशाला ।।

(The drunkard starts from his home without a clue to get to his destination - the bar. Various people suggest him different routes but I suggest the followwing: choose one way and keep going - you'll find your destination.)

मुसलमान और हिंदू हैं दो, एक मगर उनका प्याला
एक मगर उनका मदिरालय, एक मगर उनकी हाला।
दोनों रहते एक न जब तक, मन्दिर मस्जिद में जाते
बैर बदाते मन्दिर मस्जिद, मेल कराती मधुशाला ।।

(Muslim and Hindus are two tribes but they drink from the same cup. They go to the same bar and drink the same wine. When they visit temple or mosque, they go separate ways but find themselves united in the drink bar.)


This one is a charming couplet penned by Sahir Ludhianvi.

तुझको मुझको जीवन अमृत अब इन हाथों से पीना है
इनकी धड़कन में बसना है, इनकी साँसों में जीना है
तू अपनी अदाएं बख्श इन्हे,
मैं अपनी वफायें देता हूँ
अपने लिए जो सोची थीं कभी
वो सारी दुआएं देता हूँ।

P.S.: I have spared the translation after looking at the shoddy job I made out of Madhushala. Any volunteers are welcome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the Power and the Point of PowerPoint

Gone are the days when ppts. referred to the nauseating residues adorning the test tubes in the chemistry lab - reminiscent of the misadventure which students routinely indulged in, at the provocation of their high-school teachers. Nowadays, they spell out the new-age mantra of connecting to the world (okay barring cellphones!). Wanna convince your teacher that you did do some work in the semester after all - make a ppt. Wanna win over your next customer - welcome ppts. mr. manager! Even the trashiest of ideas and products seem appealing and even promising, when presented on this platform.

The reach of this invention of Microsoft can be guaged by the fact that any lesser mortal incapable of mastering the nuances of this art is instantly recognized, rather de-recognized, as a remain of the historical era of pen-and-paper or chalk-and-board.

Such is the power of PowerPoint (PP) !..but what's the point?

The point, which is usually shared by one and all, is the one of convenience offered by this software of presenting complex ideas in an easy and time-efficient manner. The user gets a chance not only to organize the ideas in an attractive format but also can include certain relevant accouterments, which are impossible to be conveyed by speech alone or are too hard to be delineated extempore. The former feature is especially important for people in areas like marketing who are required to deliver a high-impact proposal in a short period of time while the latter finds special use for educational purposes. For instance, imagine the agony of a biology teacher trying to depict the visceral system of a rat or that of a physics teacher attempting to recreate a three dimensional image of a crystal without the aid of ppts.

I, as a student of science, am a close witness of this phenomena. Obeying the call of the times, I have tried hard to keep up with the trends and try to squeeze in images and animations at the slightest scope in my slides (On one occasion, I made the various slides have different transition styles....yes, yes there are more features like this..... when everything else stubbornly refused to render themselves to any sort of movements. At another instance, I made my name appear on the first slide in a fashion which reminded a highly amused audience of applying breaks to their car in the event of a stray dog suddenly coming in the way). Also, I religiously check updates to my computer and usually never fail to install one esp. if it pertains to PP, even if I learn about it at inauspicious moments (which is usually the case). An ironical occurrence in this league was when I was alerted by the automatic update service of my computer about another such leap of human imagination right in the middle of a presentation, but of course on PP. I remember the internal struggle I went through as I swung between the curiosity of checking out yet another mini revolution in the world of ppts. and the annoyance at it screwing up my effort of two weeks.

But sometimes I feel that amidst all this ppt.-euphoria, we might have actually missed the point really. The above cited advantages are all valid and well-taken but how do they explain the mediocre job passed off as teaching, in the garb of flashy presentations. How do we condone a lecture where we do see a pretty 3D image of an intricate lattice but fail to appreciate the science behind, as it is blurred in the swooshing and who00oshing of one slide after the other? Even public seminars and presentations are not immune from such technical travesties.

The blame lies not with the technology (let us not sue Bill Gates for starting Microscoft!), but the consumers . The technology is only an aid to human understanding and cannot, and should not, act as a substitute. No amount of cool images and pretty animations can replace good instruction in classrooms. The talent of the teacher lies in helping the students connect with the concepts, rather than just awe them with intricacies. The awe-inspiring thing about science is its simplicity not the flamboyance of its presentation, esp. if it comes at the cost of rigor and understanding. This simplicity is passed down from generation to generation in classrooms by the connection which a teacher establishes with the minds of his students. This human connection is frequently obscured and threatened to be lost, if the connection begins and ends with the keys of a computer.

Friday, February 13, 2009


This was a result of those idle moments, which stretched themselves into a good hour and a half of complete detachment from physics - a love of my life in good hair days. It may not be a masterpiece but it should make for a tolerable reading. I must confess that the first four lines which culminated in the rest, are not mine though I can't clearly remember when and how I came across these simple, yet powerful words.

A little bit of everything
makes this little life
A little bit to laugh
and a little bit to cry

A little bit to hide
a little bit to share
A little bit to quit
a little bit to dare

A little bit to make
a little bit to break
A little bit to mend
a little bit to forsake

A little bit to forget
a little bit to remember
A little bit to know
a little bit to wonder

A little bit of sunshine
a little bit of sky
A little bit of rain
and little spells dry

A little bit of smiles
a little bit of tears
A little bit of dreams
a little bit of fears

A little bit of efforts
a little bit of fate
Lots to love
and a little bit to hate

A little bit of you
a little bit of me
makes this little life
a long story...

            -- Archana
(to be continued..)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A new dimension

Life can be pretty mundane at times. And here is an attempt to fight the boredom by sharing it or wondering about some turns and events which break the humdrum. So I put my pen to paper (electronically translated to a finger on my electronic keypad) and write about everything and anything worth it. A place to share my unreserved opinion about my perceptions of this world....

P.S.: Just for the sake of completeness, "Ankasya" is a sanskrit word which means the concluding scene before the start of the next act.