Friday, June 25, 2010

Bhopal, Football, Politics, Religion and Sex

Unless you have been buried alive, there's slim chance you would've missed the Top News..
Bhopal: I was around 4 years old when this happened and growing up in an Indian community abroad, you tend to get biased views about India. For many many years since, I dreaded the place Bhopal and thought it would be India's Chernobyl. The reality is not too far. In what is typical of how Indian Democracy functions, the real losers have always been the Victims. The government appears to be reluctant to work for the very people it swore to serve. Why do they have to form GoM's when there has been a clear travesty of Justice here? Well, the story does not change anywhere, in India.
We have ZERO disaster recovery and rehabilitation plans in place. Do I hear a Nuclear plant being commissioned?
Football: Arguably one of the most charismatic games ever played. I've played the game growing up in the Middle East and know how the game can grow on you. A game that is so simple yet complex. It is a game that would require true Team work and the highest levels of consistent training and fitness. Which is also why India can be ruled out!
Our athletes are neither consistent nor fit. If there is any semblence of football as a growing sport it is because many of the nation's best footballers, mainly from Goa, take this as a ticket to greener pastures in Europe.
We have the best (or so they claim) Cricket team in the world. But honestly, we have less than a dozen countries to compete with. It is almost like the famously qouted misqoute : World famous in India!
We play half the year with the same half a dozen teams and the rest of the year battling poor health and scandals. And while all the Football mania thankfully took up a lot of media coverage, our National Cricket team managed to loose to a 'lesser' team in a 3 nation tournament. What does this mean? That even when we can be 2nd place, we are so bad in our game that we....
Well, that is for Dhoni and Co to ponder upon. I wish them well.
Politics: If you are in Bangalore, I am pretty sure that you would've by now been assaulted with the ruling party's 'in your face' gloat campaign of having completed 2 years. WoW! It is almost like that was a feat in itself. Maybe, it is. With all the hit wickets and self goals that the BJP had in the past 24 months, I am surprised that they lasted this long. I wasn't aware that they had major celebrations planned in a ground near my home but I got stuck in a massive ground on my way to work and that's when it struck me. And MJ sang it well: 'They don't care about us'. But again, I think they deserve to celebrate. Like a brat who through the year didn't obey his parents gets to choose his celebrations on his birthday. I'm pretty sure there will be a slew of initiatives and schemes and a lot of projects announced and even more gloating and bragging that will be done. And in a week's time, when the pandals and the last polythene bag and litter has been evacuated to the most distant dumpsite, our politicians will get back to doing what they do best, which is corrupting and gathering.
Religion: Of false Swamis and every falser doctrines, language is a wonderful thing and in India, if you have great oratorical skills, you can be a rich man. You can skirt and skim across issues like it is a puddle in the ground. But I've observed that no matter how many scandals or wolves in sheep's clothing, there'll always be millions of followers for that swami or guru. It is our innate need and thirst for divine peace and solace that drives us to these swamis, who by the way, end up with our money in their pocket. Grow a beard, read a lot of literature/philosophy, appear calm and mystical and wear simple clothes that resemble loin clothes that shepherds wear and bang! You have all it takes to be the next big Swami.
Sex: Can you have a day go by where you don't have a sex scandal? And if you think men and women would be more cautious and prudent. No, we all fall for the apple. And one would think that people would be bored to read any more? Never. The human need for voyeurism is fed by the almost continuous onslaught of men and women being exploited by a human process that should have been so natural and divine, but has been sullied by temptation and greed.

A potent mix of news.
With all the vital ingrediants that are required for a potboiler, this year like most years since the advent of vicious journalism is turning out to be The Year of the Newspapers!
Never mind all the trees that are being cut down. Sensationalism can't wait.

The Religion of Hate

England recently banned radical Islamic preacher and founder of Peace TV, Dr Zakir Naik from entering their countries.
Couple of thoughts that sprang to my mind was, 'What took them so long?' and 'How hypocritical?'
I have a dear friend of mine who follows his speeches very carefully, and I am pretty sure the good Dr has a long list of followers.
So curious and having heard a lot about the charismatic doctor who gave up his practice to follow his calling, I decided to hear him on Peace TV.
First impressions, he definitely needs to fire his costume designer or whoever the heck it is who is in charge of his attire. He looks atrocious in the tuxedo.
And why are his trousers always 4 inches short??
However, once you struggle to move past this visual tragedy, he does come across as a fanatic who has amazing oratorical skills.
Most of the people in the audience looked disinterested and bored. Many of them kids with the Muslim skull cap.
His speeches are filled with logic that appears convulted and barbaric and suddenly I am able to understand why Islamic radicals have been able to run entire societies back to the middle ages in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As a rule, I believe religious leaders and preachers should not touch politics even with a barge pole, however this guy loves to dabble in pointing fingers. It escapes my understanding how blaming George bush for the 9/11 can help in religious harmony among the brotherhood religions of Christianity and Islam. He supports polygamy and stricter regulations for Islamic women.
However, as much as we like to hate people and ideologies that are opposite ours, the Countries that banned Zakir and the Preacher that got banned must understand that what goes around comes around.. To ban a person or an ideology is a knee jerk way of stepping around the real issue.
Most Western Countries would not dare ban Christian preachers who are radical and 'outspoken'. They would dare not ban artists and politicians that promote religious strife. A case in point is how the West treated the Danish Cartoonist with kid gloves instead of convicting him for causing communal discord. I personally cant imagine any artist going Scot free if he/she were to humiliate Jesus or even less, the Pope the same way.
Zakir Naik, in his true form, protested the British ban in a fit of moral outrage.
But he conveniently forgot how he would ban anti Islamic books, practices and people with a whiff of his fist. So, going by the same measure, he shouldn't complain when the British government is trying to banning him.
He is upset his freedom of expression is being stifled. He calls his television network 'Peace TV'. A complete misnomer, since it has nothing that promotes peace nor has anything that resembles harmony among humanity in any of its programs. Of course I can understand that Dr Naik needs to play to the galleries but how can a channel that is a platform to portray Islam as the most divine of religion promote peace. Of the half a dozen Christian channels that are broadcast, not one of them trashes other religions the way Peace TV does. This channel is nothing but a Muslim supremacist media. By questioning the legitimacy of other religions he is not doing Islam any favor.

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His views on freedom are outrageous and this would be an understatement. He is all for equal rights for Muslims in non Islamic countries but not the reverse. Why? Because Islam is the right religion. Or so, Dr Naik professes eloquently. And if you think otherwise, he would muffle your debate with Islamic rhetoric.
As an Indian, living in India, if not for all his education and the many many liberties that he enjoys and could be taking for granted, he forgot that there are many reasons why India has survived several centuries of oppression and occupation is because we as a Civilization believe that there are many paths and different ways to get to our common goal; Eternity.
In a planet that is armed to the teeth and baying for blood, we can do without preachers and politicians that are hypocritical and can steer clear of each others profession.
We've had far too many fundamentalist and great orators that have created enough divisions and strife in humanity and its not even a century since all this happened ! At the rate things are going, we are heading to a nuclear showdown. And none of the Islamic BS Dr Naik preaches is going to immunize all the Islamic brotherhood from the same destruction that humanity will face.

We must do away with preachers of hate rhetoric. Religious Tolerance and Unity. Is that too much to ask?
Religion was supposed to bring in Harmony and Peace. Where did we go so wrong?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Incredible India

I love traveling.

Well, most people do, and in a time when travel is a way of life, it is a fashionable thing to mention in resumes and 'About Me' sections online.
Tourism is a huge industry and unlike most other industries, tourism can propel an entire economy into the 'first world'.

India, unfortunately has a few black horses.
While states like Kerala and Goa have been the Toppers in the Class, the same cannot be said of the other states that pretend to be tourist friendly but instead cannibalize their travelers.

I am a fairly prolific traveler. However I am a careful and a very cautious traveler too. Am very skeptical about overly friendly co passengers, abhor passengers who put up and attitude and ignore those of them who show off their gadgets and supposed wealth.
I have a gift of being able to grasp the local language of the place I am visiting and that has saved me a lot of times.

Of all the places that I have traveled, my least favorite place is Hyderabad!
Sweltering heat and an almost unending need for water. If you are headed that way, be prepared to stay in an air conditioned room inside. The buses are archaic and public transportation is utter chaos. Not that it is different from the other parts of Incredible India, but what the heck!

Locals in places that I've visited often think that if you talk in English and look "forward", that they can relieve you of your wallet's content. Nevermind their smile and polite manners, they will unabashedly make sure you part with as much money as they can. All this unless you are cautious and prudent.

Sometimes, paranoia and lack of good sense can get the better of you.

You could miss out on the good stuff. India is not a Sweden or a Switzerland. And it can never be one either. However it is a land of extremes. You can travel to just across the border and a lot of curious anomalies and strange traditions. Bombay, one of my favorite places to travel to is fast paced and very practical. Kerala, one of my favorite holiday spots is exactly the opposite. The people there are neither fast paced nor practical. Keralites in Kerala are a sluggish lot. Most businessmen who start businesses are smart and intelligent, but some of them start a business for the wrong reasons. They simply hate to work under a boss. And whatever little zeal that they had quickly evaporates and fails to make up for the utter lack of business acumen.
They fail to capitalize on opportunities that knock and their ventures will die a natural demise.

India has its quirks too and while you can see towering examples of well thought out infrastructure, you will also see shoddy remains of poor civic work. Its like that oft quoted statement: "Examples of ancient culture coexisting with modern architecture..".

Its that rat race for more money, that has relegated us to the Third World/Developing Nation bin.

When per capita, our growth could have been as good as that of the US of A, we have corrupt leadership and politicians on the one hand an agrarian society that does not take care of its farmers.

But there's hope. Though not a revolution, I can sense a movement. A slow awakening of the youth to the real issues that plague this land. What we now need is a real Leader. A charismatic Leader of the Young.

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country"
This Speaker exhorted that we as humanity fight tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself. This statement is as relevant as it was 30 years ago as it is now and unless we shed our colonial hangup, shake the dust of excuses and pull up our socks we will always be as defenseless as drunk man on an Indian road.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I've been hunting for this video for ages now!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Give! Get Rich

A survey that studies trends of charity in India showed that the wealthier you got, the lesser you gave to charity.
The reason why the rich don't give to the poor is because of that section of the society that the poor depend on.
Its not always been this way though..

Charity in India has long been a milch cow.
Widespread corruption and the general unwillingness to punish the people who misappropriate charity has led to a general scepticism of Charity as a concept.

How can you blame the poor for remaining poor.

Every time we have a natural calamity, the Prime Minister's Fund open up and so does a dozen other 'Relief and Donation funds'. Good Samaritans donate out of the generosity of their hearts or because of the personal grief of the tragedy. However just a small fraction of all this will eventually reach the benefactors, if any. That all the money will end up lining the pockets of the 'Trustees' is India's shame.

'Let the left hand not know what the right hand gives' is a saying that transcends many religions.

However in a ritual that is repeated every at Mass every Sunday, I still see 'members' of wealthier churches flaunting their Gucci and Valentino purses when it is 'Offertory time', and when the Alter boys/volunteers start collecting the tiths, that's when the well heeled Ladies and Gentlemen dig deep into their bags and wallets for the smallest available denomination they can spare.
Some of them will even do a quick math to think if they need might need the money for parking on that day. Suddenly it becomes a battle of whether I 'pass' the bag or sacrifice the 'parking charge'.
And when the alter boy nudges the bag, you take a quick look with your peripheral vision to make sure you don't have any one staring down at your purse/wallet, you fish real quick pick the smallest coin dispensable and in a maneuver that will make a pick pocket blush dispose off the Rs 2 coin in the bag, while making sure that you put the hand deep inside the bag so as to give the illusion of pious offertory but actually to make sure no one sees your pittance.

Well, I've got news for all of you!
God does not need your Rs 2.
He created you. He created everything else. And 'He owns all the sheep in all the hills of the world'. Though this is just a metaphor, this is the Truth.

I find it absurd that we think we are paying/bribing Him (depending on what your need/reason is)
Doesn't He own the air we breathe. Not all the wealth in all the world can build another Earth, yet we try to save and hoard.

We hate the words 'Give' and 'Charity' in the same sentence.

'Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto you. For with the same measure that you give shall be measured to you again..'
Luke 6:38

When we have been promised abundance in return for generosity, why are we so reluctant? Is it because no matter how wealthy we get, our soul remains poor?
Lets learn to give out of our heart. True Charity begins in your heart. Lets get rich

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