Tuesday, May 30, 2006

believe it or not

I would have so loved to write here in sanskrit, but this post is essentially for all those "hey, how did ur long weekend go?" people, and hence the english

4-days of samskritam immersion ! was just wonderful.. okay, lemme first talk about the life part and then the language part

Great food, a beautiful campsite, great weather.. Oh yeah, bit of issues here and there, but then overall, it was a 9/10 ... and quite a hectic schedule, but then, I guess thats how its meant to be - you simply do not have time to think of anything else....from the morning yoga sessions which were so refreshing albeit quite hectic, thro' all the super-active classes along the day, to the evening games, to the night entertainment program - everybit of which was awesome - the camp leaves me with tons of sweet memories....

As for the language : There was one point when I sort of was really convinced that the camp has clicked as it shud be, atleast on me. (For those who donno, we were speaking 99% samskritam for the last 4 days).

It was the third day of the camp.. I had to go inside the kitchen and ask for something - since the caterers did not know sanskrit, as I walked towards the kitchen , I was giving autosuggestions in my mind (believe it or not, in samskritam) that I should speak in English to them. But then, I reach the kitchen, and there.. I stand blank for 15-20 seconds. The only thing thats coming to my mind is samskritam. For once I had to translate whatever I was supposed to say, from samskritam to English, and speak !

No.. not just the camp... As the 4 of us drove back, I drove the 3 hr 15 drive (as per google maps) distance in 2 hr 40 mins and so we decided the use the "extra time" we got by dropping by the temple near my house (for me, sort of a thank you note). As I entered, the priest was talking to some one in Hindi. but I somehow thought it was samskritam. As I was trying hard to come to terms with the fact that it was Hindi, my friend, said "Its now going to take some time to figure out which language is being spoken".. so it was not just me .. And it holds for english too... When I switch on the TV for BBC news, the first one-or-two sentences, goes over my head.. - because somewhere my brain tries to interpret them as sasmkritam and fails.. and then slowly, it shifts to the english mode !!

Before tha camp, it was hard to avoid saying english words in between, while speaking in samskritam. Now, its diffficult to avoid, samskritam words popping up while talking in english.. For example "There are two problems here", end up being "there is probladvayam here" .. whenever I have to say "I mean" or "meaning", I end up saying "Ithyukte".......

Yup, I know, its perhaps going to go down and down as I get immresed back into the english world, but then, I am sure, my ears are going to have those reverberations for quite some days to come ..

Great job, SB :-)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

all in one day !

As the day (may 23) finally ended, I realized that there was something special about it - relating to my friends. 4 different friends, 4 different reasons... with the common underlying emotion - the joy of success

* One of them, my IITmate, successfully defended PhD thesis

* Another friend has now 3 different job offers at hand, after being served a layoff notice from the current employer

* A third friend was all excited about India trip (on May 24) after 2 years

* And a fourth was still coming to terms with the pleasant reality , having passed the drivers licence test with just 1 hr of practice the previous day [I happened to be the fortunate "trainer" :-) and a treat awaits me !!]

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Unto them, shall I dedicate this li'l piece, for which like many others, I am also trying to find the original

Listen to the Exhortation of the Dawn!
Look to this Day!
For it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course lie all theVerities
and Realities of your Existence;
The Bliss of Growth,
The Glory of Action,
The Splendor of Beauty;
For Yesterday is but a Dream,
And To-morrow is only a Vision:
But To-day well lived makes
Every Yesterday a Dream of Happiness,
And every To-morrow a Vision of Hope.
Look well therefore to this Day!
Such is the Salutation of the Dawn!

Author unknown. From the Sanskrit, “The Salutation of the Dawn.”—Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed. James Dalton Morrison, p. 301 (1948). Attributed in some sources to Kalidasa, Hindu dramatist and lyric poet of the fifth century, A.D.
( http://www.bartleby.com/73/1106.html )


Saturday, May 20, 2006

A decimation so systematic - Part 2

I believe I was in 4th standard or so, in a Christian management run English medium school in a semi-town in Kerala. One day, the class teacher asked us all to ask our parents, and write on a neat sheet of paper, a bunch of things about our family.. like parents name, occupation.... the usual stuff and caste !

Now, I would be surprised if such details were already not there in the school records, including the caste. So then, I am not so sure why exactly this was done. I sincerely do not believe that it had anything to do with the fact that it was a christian management, but I have a gut feeling that in the entire data that they collected, caste was what they were really looking for - may be that was the time when reservations and so on had started taking center stage, and proper records about one's caste was important.

Whatever it may be, overnite, it turned me caste conscious. I would come back and ask my parents "So, what is our caste ? Why is it considered OBC ? Whats so backward about us ?".. No, that is not all .. " What about Kumar , my friend, what caste is he ? Is he 'above' us or 'below' us ? " .. you get the picture, don't you. ?

The next day, kids are all ready with their papers, and not surprisingly, not just me, but many more had just found out a new tag to their identities !! We would ask each other, hide our papers until we were assured that the other kid would "reveal" his caste. Christian classmates of mine were asking us around curiously as to what each one of us were. Of course, we did not have, at that time, the knowledge to ask back if they were RC or SC or Jacobite or Syrian or Marthoma.... For a while it looked like hitherto friends had starting viewing each other in a different light

But then, kids we were, and so the innocence took over.. and I don't think there was ever a caste based friendship ever that I saw in the school, anymore

Why did I write this ? I think the entire thrust of this second part of my write up, is the importance of "self healing" . And I believe, institutionalisation of caste has been the biggest hindrance in solving what should have been an evolutionary process to solve the problems that arose out of it

Let me try to explain - imagine you do not consider caste as relevant anymore in your life. Can you still write that in your school records ? I believe you can choose not be from any religion, but once you are a Hindu, can you choose not to have a caste ? Unlike the Vedic period where movement within varnas (which is NOT equivalent of castes) was possible, movement within the British introduced system of castes is not possible, and I guess much less to not choose one

Okay, I admit, I do not know the technicalities of the above issue vis-a-vis the school records part- so let me talk about a more down-to-earth scenario. In fact this came up as part of dicussions on this very blog. - I have said this before and so let me be brief. I did not want to use my OBC quota while I was filling my application form for Kerala Engg Entrance, simply bacause, given my reasonably well off family background, I do not need that "mercy". But then, by putting myself in general category, I may have obstructed the chances of another GC candidate.. yeah it may have helped another OBC candidate, but what decides who is more deserving ?

So the catch-22 is such that even if AS AN ELIGIBLE PERSON, I decide that I do not want the mercy, and that I do not agree with the system, my hands are tied by the very system so that I cannot make a logical decision. Damn it if I do, damn it if I don't.

I brought this up, for the reason that many people, after my first part write up asked me, "So whats the solution ?" No, I do not have a magic pill, but I think most of you would agree that instead of what-should ideally have been a catalyst to a natural healing process, the government is actually trying to cut off the very veins that supply blood to the injured part just because there is bleeding (Oh well, the MBBS would correct me and say, its the arteries)

For one full hour, my housemate and I sat together and tried to evolve one model after another, to try to see if there is a workable and reasonable way to have reservations, and at the same time, not let the country down. And we failed miserably. I believe we failed, not because those models were useless, but the simple fact that after putting down a model, we would start discussing the practicality of it being implemented, and then some politician's or some community leaders name would come up, or some practically un-changeable law written up in the constitution would come up or the image of the greedy jackal, waiting to prey upon a disintegrating Hinduism would come up and there goes the plan, down the drain..

There is a Malayalam movies of the 90s.. can't recollect its name. There is a character acted by Mamukoya in that movie, where he is supposed to be a Tabla player. However, the singer (played by Kaithapram) and the rest of the musicians do not allow to touch the tabla at all, becuase he is so bad at it (Its a movie, so no questions) . He just sits there as a on-paper artist, the moment his hands strech towards the table, the others just pounce on him and pull his arms back

These are times when I wish, we had the magic hands to do the same to the goverment as was done to Mamukoya in the movie. Why don't u people just sit there and do nothing ? Would be a great service to the Nation

-to be continued

Monday, May 15, 2006

tooo personal !!

You mostly guessed this right - its about my marriage (din't u see that my profile details actually changed :-) ). And eventhough I would not deny that this post is almost like a matrimonial ad, hopefully at the end of this post, you will realise the connection this one has to my previous post, as well the future parts of it

So lets get this straight. Yes, I have started looking.. The story goes back to around Oct of 2005 - about when I turned 26. Still the time when I used to tell everyone who asks abt my marriage plans "why do u want me to ruin some nice girls happiness in life?" ... And then comes my usual b'day greeting card and letter written in mallu (they come every year w/o break, of course nothing compared to the weekly letters that i used to exchange with my parents when in chennai) .

Among the many things there was this small bit from my mom . "Deepachechi asked.. what your plans are... " Deepachechi (a very common mallu name) is my neighbor (ever since i was 5), one year older to me, now married with a 3 yr or so old kid, and like a sister to me, as both of us were single childs. The implications of what my mom wrote were clear.. "we are not saying anything, but u see, people around are" ..

Don't I know u amma ?

I have always been frank with my parents on these matters. My father keeps saying, if u fall in love with some one, don't run away with her, tell us . Everytime my mom sees a group picture of mine where she sees another girl standing somewhere, she wud ask "Aaarada Athu?" (who's that?).. and when I say "she is so and so, and she has a boyfriend", my mom would go "ummmmmm".. I know that deep within she will actually be regretting "Dammit, this fellow is still not good enuf to go after girls" ...

So I asked my mom whats going on, next time i called them. They really wanted to know where i stood. So then, for a month i had to think, where life stood for me, whether practically its ever going to be possible for me to remain unmarried , being the only child.. and so on.. and as always is the planning man, I evolved a details 2-3 year plan (oh yeah) and in my new year letter to them (again fully in mallu), wrote abt it in detail .

Don't wanna get into what i wrote, suffice to say that the talk from their end continued, almost every other weekly call "There is a girl from our caste doing MBA in US da " .. "Why don't u put your profile on the internet ?" , "why are you so slow on this, do you have anyone in mind" stuff .... I kept doing the usual "let me come home amma".. and they kept saying "this is the fifth time you have postponed your india trip... God knows " stuff..

So then finally one day I decided to give in. But then its me, its scorpio, and so I have to believe that I made the decision, and not my parents.. so I came up with the necessary logic for that and so on and so forth (nope, don't wanna bore u with all that) ..

Funny thing, two weeks or so before, I put up my first profile, it got rejected.. I must have carelessly typed up something.. or may be the internet portal also thot I am not eligible :-)

Pulled myself to put up another one the week after

Anyway, so there I stand, getting into a "new field" altogether, with a childs curiosity to know how things work.. i predict that me shall end up wasting a year or two doing this.. well, not really waste i guess- just that i wanna take my own time .. and by the time someone likes me, i think it will take about that time...

**********************
So what are ur preferences machaa ? the usual question eh ? nope i am not going to get into that full details except a few points which may be relevant to being on a blog.. yeah, I am particular of the girl being malayali, atleast shud know to speak fluently in mallu because otherwise my parents won't be able to connect ...And the more mallu she is, the better !! And now comes the main reason why I even took up this excercise - caste

So that was an issue that I myself posted to my parents.. well to begin with I kind of jokingly said, "I don't mind inter-religious marriage also, as long as the girl is willing to become a Hindu"... and my mom immediately went "do u have a girl in mind , eh ? " .. But then, the caste issue was serious - because thats part of my belief, and something which I thought, may work out afterall . What is the point in talking about ideals, if one's feet start trembling when it comes to following it in one's own life .. ? atleast a try

The first time I suggested a "caste no bar" , my parents rejected it outright. So I kept the profile to my caste only.. But then surprisingly last friday, they gave in .. (hope thats not just a momentary abberation) . Have to admit that it did excite me quite a bit..

End of the day, I may still end up marrying within the caste, because it takes two hands to clap- even if the girl is okay , her parents are most likely gonna b against it.. and I am preparing myself for a series of rejects to every inter-caste case that I propose.. but thats okay, I will have the satisfaction of atleast sincerely trying . And yeah its not as though I will marry only intercaste to prove a point.., and I do not consider those people insisting on same caste marriage as any meaner to me... Its discrimination thats bad, having a choice (to stick to the same caste) is not

My profile says "parent's preference - same caste; but caste no bar" .. thats the part in my profile that I am most proud of !!

And one more note before I leave.. I will not have anything against my parents if they did not agree , or even if in future they did not support me in this. I will just assume that they have their reasons, something which I cannot understand with internet and bookreading knowledge.

And for me, they themselves are the greatest inspiration as far as mutual adjustment goes. They are a blend of contrasts. My father is only 5 ft and my mother 5'4" - father is quite fair, and mom quite dark... and yet against usual norms, they married - arranged marriage.. When people ask me, aren't u sad that you are short, I quote them this fact and say- u imagine, what if both my father and mother had stuck to the usual ways .. There wud perhaps have born a shorter kid and a darker kid... May be they too thought about it and thats why they are now letting their son letting to try to break another barrier !!

All the best to me :-)

Friday, May 12, 2006

A decimation so systematic - Part 1

I wrote this piece, loooong back. But could not make it public, for some reason. Now, with the debate about reservations , as well as minorty status taking center stage once more, I present this one, with some editions.

I hope to follow this up with a part 2 (or more) covering Jainism, Buddhism,Sikhsim Ramakrishnaism,.. and so on. comments most welcome

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A Decimation so Systematic - Part 1


"They are the world’s poorest aristrocracy” said Sorokin , the famous sociologist
(1), the two words cover perhaps as varied a spectrum as the two worlds he lived in (2). He was referring to the Brahmins !

A good number of people would agree with the second word, and a handful would agree with the first word, I guess. Since articles and books and what not have already been written about the “oppressors” called Brahmins, let me focus more on “les miserables” part. How poor? How frustrated?

Take the case of S who in a discussion with her friends on caste, suddenly came up with “You know what, I think we Brahmins should demand minority status even if it meant ceasing to be Hindus “ . One is naturally reminded of Ramakrishnaism, Aurobindonism (3), and perhaps more of these “isms” who went to the court for a minority status and to separate from Hindu religion. Recently, the issue of Jains as minority has as usual become entangled in state-center-caste-vote and what not based politics and online and otherwise petitions that the Supreme court has asked for a final verdict (4,5). The only surprise so far is, “Why were the Jains of Tamil Nadu this late?” (6)

Lets go back to S- and do a bit of an analysis. She is from a rather orthodox, but reasonably well off, “TamBram” family, now doing her graduate studies in US, like her innumerable Brahmin counterparts. A typical temple going, bhajan singing, occasionally fasting type- no surprises so far

So then what made her suddenly say this? She went on to rcollect some of her experiences, and allow me to paraphrase. “I had high , but not perfect marks for my degree course and yet I was in waiting list in most colleges in TN for my post-graduation. And my father would not pay. We were literally driven away from most colleges asking what a forward caste is doing there. At one place the person even told on my Fathers’ face that even though I have good mark, his “sacred” thread is a problem. Added to it is the humiliation amongst family members that I did not score enough in my college to get into IIT or become a doctor. I do not want my kids to go through all these. Minority status is the only way out”.

Try arguing the usual way, and she had an answer pretty much ready for everything. “Don’t you think by doing that such a community will soon be absorbed into some other religion. May be you and your kids may remain Brahmin, but a few generations down the line?” and quick was her response “ What makes you feel that’s not already happening. There is so much of inter religious marriages happening already in the community. And many so called Brahmins are not even connected to their roots"

Eventhough a first reaction would be “well, a unique case, perhaps just out of momentary anger”, it may have more to what meets the eye. There is no doubt that there is lot of frustration among the community about the way reservations and other caste based things are handled in India, especially Tamil Nadu. There are also voices of dissentment within the community itself… And some try to look at with a sense of humor, like this one from the internet (7) “For a middle class Tam Bram family (and that means the whole lot of them for all Tam Brams qualify as middle class if you take outlook and behavior as parameters), mathematics and science are not merely subjects in the schoolcurriculum. They are a religion. And the dharma of every Tam Bram student is tomaster them and pave his way to the heavenly portal of an IIT. Or at least tothe ordinary portal of a local engineering college, which the family willeventually reconcile to, in the absence of the 'real thing'” ……… “'Centum' is a word unique to the Tam Bram world, that a child grows up listening to. It is a figure that even if sometimes elusive, is never lost sight of throughout the academic career. Centum, Math, Science, Brilliant Tutorials, Engineering, IIT, B.Tech., Computer Science, USA, Financial Aid, I-20,Student Visa, M.S., San Jose, California, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel [add Green Card, stock options - the latter is a little subdued now, thanks to the dot-com bust]. These words and names are like carefully arranged furniture in the mental landscape of a Tam Bram boy-and increasingly girl- below the age of 25"

Should the community be blamed, for in order to cross the “barrier” of reservations and the rest of the anti-forward caste laws in Tamil Nadu, the TamBram has to set his/her standards high. In fact, another Tam friend of mine, surprisingly used this fact in favour of reservations – Hello, I thought the aim was to close in the gap!

And finally back to the question of “minority status” . It looks like this isn’t a “new issue” either. Atleast this Christian website claims so (8)“A few years ago, a group of Brahmins filed a petition with the Backward Commission at Mylapore, Chennai, India, requesting backward community status. On October 8th, 1995 the Tamilnadu Brahmin Association organized a rally Demanding 20% Exclusive Reservation for hitherto neglected Forward Communities in Tamilnadu"

Is this the inevitable fate that Tagore refered to when he said (9) “On the other hand, it has to be recognised that there is an inevitableness in the fate that has overtaken Hindu India. We have divided and subdivided ourselves into mincemeat, not fit to live but only to be swallowed. Never up to now has our disjointed society been able to ward off any threatening evil. We are a suicidal race, ourselves keeping wide open for ages, with marvellous ingenuity, gaps that we are forbidden to cross under penalty and cracks that are considered to be too sacred to be repaired because of their antiquity”

References

References

1. http://www.hindu.org/publications/ramswarup/

brahminism.html


2. http://www.britannica.com/ebi/article?tocId=9313615


3. http://pramodkumar.voiceofdharma.com/

aurorama.htm

4.http://www.jainworld.com/society/jainevents/GJE2003/

supreme_courts_directs_governmen.htm

5. http://www.petitiononline.com/jm7i2004/petition.html

6.http://newstodaynet.com/21apr/rf1.htm

7.http://www.vijayv.org/wwwvijayvorg/FunStuff/

TamBramLegacy.php

8. http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/2104/

varnashrama.html

9.http://www.guardian.co.uk/india/story/

0,12559,822584,00.html



Monday, May 08, 2006

As another May 11 approaches !

May 11 (and the dates around it) always holds a special place in my life, and these could be the reasons, most of whom have hardly anything to do with me,the person ! okay, lets go chronological

* 1857, the first war of indian independence, essentially started on May 9, and the Indian soldiers recaptured Delhi from the Brits on May 11 . here's something to read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Delhi_(1857) .

* 1951 : Dr Rajendra Prasad, the then President, performed the Prana Prathistha ceremony of a renovated Somnath Temple. And I so love to quote his words, year after year

"By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath, is to say proclaiming to the world,that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts..... Today our aim is not to rectify history, our only aim is to proclaim anew our attachment to the faith , convictions and values on which our religion has rested since immemorial ages"

* 1998 : The Pokhran tests . Years before, I wrote this article combining the 1951 and 1998 incidents . Needless to say, at a time when Indo-US nuke deal is a matter of great debate, I just wonder- what if India did not do those tests at that time ? would we have ever ??

* 2000 : At the turn of the "millenium" (as per Gregorian...) , the "equal pay day" hit a pretty bad May 11, compared to an April 7 in 1999 !! In 2003, it was a better April 15, and this year, it again hit a bad April 25 ! Feminists and proletariat of the world, unite :-)

* Last year, on May 11, I wrote this time pass (or "day" pass ??) article ...

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So, what do we have in store this year ?

Apart from the personal aspect that, it would be the first day after 4 months of having taken up the academic excercise that I am currently on (and the hope that some miracle saves me by then), it also is the election results day for the state elections in India

I 've got mixed thots on this... for one, the main oppossition party, BJP hardly have any presence in any of these places.. it never stopped surprising me on why they have failed to understand the basic psychology of these states, so badly.

That apart- Kerala - well, mostly the devil will replace the deep sea - no surprises. The good part - as some one said, hopefully Achuthanandan is the last communist left in Kerala, and let him finally taste - albeit, at 84- what he has been thirsting all these days : would be interesting to watch !! The bad part - the great amount of violence unleashed by the left , in the name of protests, including by the likes of a brainwashed-young Sindu Joy (couldn't help notice !!), will get an "approval" from the people in the form of election results

W. Bengal - Buddha shall smile again !! As my Bengali friend keeps saying, "non-Bengalis will get it tomorrow" and it always remains a tomorrow !

TN - well, eventho' initial predictions favored the fat lady, current ones favor the old man .either way,what do i care ? - yathaa praja, tathaa raja

Assam - Disunity among the opposition, is leading to a hung assembly, as oppossed to what could have been a clear Congress defeat....

There seems to be a calmness and silence , during these days running upto the result-day .. but how much ever insignificant these results may seem to be, something tells me, its going to be the beginning of something - good or bad, I donno ....

Looks like as always, May 11 is like a gentle breeze, carrying with it, impressions from the past, and a message and hope for the future....

3, 2 , 1 .....


Friday, May 05, 2006

ambigram


Thanks to my "animator/graphics-designer" cousin.. pretty neat stuff I shud say ..

Din't get waaaatt it eeese all about ? Turn your computer monitor upside down :-)

............................

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Of news and views


The worlds "youngest" country....and to-be-soon the most populous... if the following news items are true, we have a strength as well as a big challenge waiting..

1. The new UNICEF report says that India is as bad as Ethiopia when it comes to malnutrition.

As per its report (Source NDTV ) :

* India has the highest number of undernourished children in the world at 57 million.

* India has the same rate of malnutrition as Ethiopia with 47 per cent of its children undernourished.

* Nearly 2.1 million children die of malnutrition every year and India accounts for one third of the world's malnourished children.

* This is in stark contrast to Afghanistan that has 39 per cent malnutrition while China has just eight per cent.

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2. 7.5 crore drug addicts in India : survey (source: IBN )

An estimated 7.5 crore Indians are drug addicts and the number is going up significantly, spreading to semi-urban and backward areas, according to official figures.

"Drug and alcohol abuse is becoming an area of concern as this is increasing while traditional moorings, social taboos, emphasis on self-restraint and pervasive control and discipline of the joint family and community are eroding", senior officials of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment said.

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Every country has its problems.. we just have to deal with it...

And yes, my tributes to Pramod Mahajan .. I repeat that favorite lines of mine which I posted once before in one of those sanskrit posts as well as is quoted by the former CVC N. Vittal (does it ring a bell ?) in this article

"Amantram aksharam nasti, nasti moolam anaushadam
Ayogyo purusho nasti, yojakah tatra durlabah"

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ps: Pic courtesy W.Post . A live volcano in Mexico as captured today

Monday, May 01, 2006

deja vu

Selective killing of Hindus.. people called out of homes and shot indiscriminately.... Hindus fleeing... Sunday's killings come to light only on Monday.... way too familiar, isn't it ?

Does it not send a chill up your spine ?

And look where Doda is ... !!

No end to this madness... its all in The Book !

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4961464.stm