Sunday, January 28, 2007

A More Serious Me

This has been some time coming. I have always thought of having two blogs - one for my sensitive (hmmpphh ) side, featuring poems , stories , the lighthearted stuff etc and another one for more serious posts.

So Ladies and Gentleman , for your reading pleasure, I present Sachin Da Politics.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Quiz Prelims at the Office

Today we had our Quiz Prelims at office. Teams of 3 had to answer questionairres of 20 questions. The top 6 teams to be announced on Monday ( Jan 29th ) will qualify for the Quiz final on Feb 1st.

We reached the venue with some trepidation. We were cheered considerably by the fact that there were only around 25 odd teams participating. This made our chances of qualifying roughly 25% Ceteris Paribus ( all else being equal). Our hopes rose higher when we saw the questions. Dead easy. Finals , here we come.

'The first male model for Christine Dior', went one question. David Beckam, we cried. One guy hesitated, 'Could it be Zidane'? Nahh, we shushhed him. Next question was about a Microsoft Windows game that had the word 'hearts' two times in the clue. We weren't going to be taken in by that , were we. We opted bravely for 'Solitaire'. "What is one followed by hundred zeroes", went the next question? Google ,cried three voices frantically, each trying hard to be a hoarse whisper unable to be heard over the next table. The last question was "What is Japanese for one"? Uno , cried one. When another looked unconvinced , he was asked, "Come on , havent you heard of Fiat Uno?".

We were out in five minutes, confident we had got all 20 correct and merrily counting away our chickens before the eggs had even been laid. We were going over the questions , when I had a sinking feeling in my stomach , 'Wasnt Google derived from Googol which meant one followed by a hundred zeroes' ( whoever needs that many zeroes anyway). Another piped up , "Uno is Spanish, Ichi is one for Japanese ". Reached office and Googled ( not Googoled ) for Christine Dior. It had been Zidane after all. The icing on the cake came when the Microsoft Windows game turned out to be Hearts.

From sure finalists to nervous would be qualifiers, the fall was a hard one. Well time or rather Monday will tell . Not too bad though, we did get 16 right.

p.s: This was not however, the high point of the day. In office , I had this conversation with a colleague.

Colleague: So , Sachin, which events are you participating in for the Sports Day?

Self: Badminton, TT and Chess.

Colleague: But , but dont you have to be intelligent to play chess?

Self : Speechless

On that lost-for-words note, I sign off.

A Situation For You

Today I was discussing a situation with a friend. This was narrated to me a while back. I had always been struck by this illustration and today it suddenly leaped to mind. I will now present this to you. At the time of deciding, opt for the choice that pops into your head. Remember there are two options and neither is wrong.

Suppose you are a railway signalman. You sit in a signal box, which is linked to two different tracks - one which is old and no longer currently used, the second which is used at present. You decide which track the train should take and you have been invariably chosing the new one ( makes sense doesnt it ).

Now one day you come to your signal box and find one boy playing alone on the old track. At the same time there is a group of children ( five, for want of a better number ) , playing on the new track. And unexpectedly a train comes. There is no time to warn the children, no time to stop the train. You can only decide which track to send the train along - the old , unused one , killing the lone boy or the along the new track, killing five innocent children. Make your decision NOW. ( Note: Both tracks , the old and the new , are equally safe for the train to travel on ).




This situation was posed to me in a session of 20. 18 people there opted for the train to go along the old track arguing that one death was better than 5 ( The Greatest good of the Greatest number ). I and one other opted for allowing the train along the new track which was the course it would have followed if there had been no children in the first place. Our argument was simple - the lone boy took the wise decision of playing on the disused track and to punish him for essentially doing the right thing was not right.

And here the trainer gave his punchline. He agreed that there was no correct or incorrect decision. But he said that this situation illustrates that for the welfare of the majority , you may need to take decisions which are not morally right.

Isnt that what democracy is all about?

Which brings me to this quote by Anatole France:
"If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Speak Out or Shut Up

"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Martin Niemoeller

How often has it happened to you? You see something that raises your hackles. You keep quiet at the time, not raising your voice in public. Then from the safety of anonymity provided by your home, you denounce the incident , expousing your righteous indignation to all who may be willing to lend you an ear. Well I have two words of advice for you - "Zip it".

If you see something wrong being done, show the guts to voice your dissent. Break out from that lofty group called the 'Silent Majority'. Its not enough that something has offended you, dont congratulate yourself that you still have your morals, as long as you keep silent you are nothing better than a willing accomplice.

Dont hide behind that oft touted line, "What difference can I alone make"? Your reaction today will make a person have second thoughts tomorrow before doing the same wrong. Its easy to be cynical and take the soft path of being Silent.Much more difficult to stand up for what you believe is right and make a real difference.

Edmund Burke rightly said, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dont Shh Shh Me

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.".

Article 19 of the Constitution of India guarantees to every citizen the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. And one would assume an Indian could speak his mind throughout the country without fear of reprisal. The above would hold true certainly for the mass media. You only need to see the issues they focus on to realize that they certainly dont believe in any restrictions on their freedom. In addition to this, our judiciary zealously guards this right. But what about the Common Man - you and me , included.

If we were to judge the freedom available in India against the 'Sharansky Town Square Test' , we would rightly come to the conclusion that India is a 'fear society'. For the test states:"If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society."

Could you freely go to any public place in India and voice your opinion freely and expect to go unpunished? The answer is No. There is a rising trend in this country to gag voices which may be voicing opinions unpalatable to any group of people. The Government usually takes the lead by banning the offending piece. In such cases where this does not happen, the self proclaimed moral police takes it upon itself to put the perperator in his place. Two recent episodes would serve to highlight this.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board ( AIMPLB ) has asked for Taslima Nasreen to be expelled from India. An article she wrote in the Outlook has offended the sensibilities of some moulavis it seems. I would advise the moulavis , that this is India, not Pakistan or China. If something is written that offends you, I have a simple advice - Dont read it.

Another case that shocked me was the self imposed exile by artist MF Husain. Arguably India's best modern painter , he has been hounded by the saffron brigade out of his own country because of his paintings of Hindu Godesses. I do not find some of his paintings very tasteful. But that is beside the point. A true test of democracy is how tolerant you are of criticism. If you take the line that nothing that is unpalatable to anyone should be printed, soon you will have newspapers coming out with only advertisements and classifieds in them.

Truly a long way to go before India attains the dream Tagore had for this country.
"Where the mind is without fear
And the head is held high,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,
let my country awake."

Monday, January 15, 2007

The World View of an Atheist

"God made me an atheist. Who are you to question his wisdom."

Iam not a very religious person. I do go to the temple once in a while but those of you who may have read my previous posts on this subject ('Swargathile Leela Vilasangal' and 'The Gods Must Be Crazy' ) would have typecasted me as a non believer.And you would have been right.

I have been inspired to post this after going through some very religious-cloaked-in-the-garb-of-spiritualism posts that I came across various blogs. Isnt it an irony of fate ( Duh!!! What am I talking about , there is no Fate ), that the more we seem to progress , the more we seem to be sinking in the mire of new found beliefs
that defy all logic. Religion indeed seems to be like the mythological Hydra , a poisonous new head springing up for every old one we cut.

The earlier century superstitions have been replaced by the new age Godmen ( and women ) , who having learnt the tricks of the trade from the less revered P C Sorcar and his ilk, would now ascend the throne, commit the ultimate blasphemy of claiming to be God himself ( or herself, depending on which con artist you are talking about ) , all this accompanied to the cheers of their delirious supporters. And the saddest part is these supporters do not consist of the rabble that formed a major part of such charlatans support base in the earlier centuries. No, the new supporters are supposedly educated men and women who should know better.

Is this our vision for 21st Century India? An India driven by IT to take on the world, still keeping one feet firmly planted in the puja room , always ready to give alms to the prayer book armed , sagely looking con artists, all the while ignoring the really needy , the downtrodden , who are not mentioned like the Elephant in The Room.

I can believe in a God who asks me to help my neighbour, not in one who demands I show my loyalty by regular prayer. I can believe in a God who says I will be saved if I do good to others, not in one who claims my only road to salvation is through my belief in Him. If God indeed be so insecure that he feels the need for me to pander to his ego by regularly singing paens of praise, "Sorry , but No Thanks".

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Why Tragedy is King

The question's been posed to me before - why do your stories always seem to end in someone dying. I frankly dont know. There is something about death, about sadness that happiness can never match.

I offer to you these beautiful lines from a song by Don Mclean in homage of Vincent Van Gogh who committed suicide in a fit of depression.

Now I understand
what you tried to say to me
how you suffered for your sanity
how you tried to set them free
they would not listen they did not know how
perhaps they'll listen now

For they could not love you
but still your love was true
and when no hope was left inside
on that starry starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you,Vincent
this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

I rest my case.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Experiments With Swimming

My first swimming lesson was in the river flowing nearby my house. A giant rubber tyre around my waist, surrounded by a dozen expert swimmers , I waded bravely into the unknown. Surprisingly enough , I floated, that is for the first few days while I had the tyre fitting snugly around my waist. The fourth day , my self appointed guru decide it was time for me to strut my stuff. Egged on by his inspirational speech, I dived head first, without the tyre ,into the moving water. Have you heard all the bullshit that our bodies are naturally buoyant and you just have to keep still and you will float up like a cork. I believed that for all of five seconds. Five seconds passed and I was still going like an express train towards the bottom of the river. Then all reason deserted me and I started thrashing wildly about and opened my mouth to scream for help. Now opening your mouth is not such a good idea, especially when you are about 10 feet under water. The fresh river water rushed into my mouth. Mercifully by this time my guru had decided I wasnt in prime form and dragged me to shore. No sooner was I on dry land than I ran home for dear life.

You would think such an experience would put me off swimming for the rest of my life. No Sir. We , from the land of Thachholi Othenan are made of sterner stuff. And accordingly I was back in the ambala kulam (Temple pool ) for my next lesson ( with a new guru, the previous one having been fired for his below exemplary performance). For those who have read my old posts , the new guru was none other than bade bhaiyya.

Now this ambala kulam was very well suited for the purpose. It had steps all around , so one could actually swim very close to the steps and get to safety whenever peril threatened. As an added precaution bade bhaiyya was standing on the steps with a thorthhu (towel ) which would be lowered into the water whenever I needed it to grab and climb up. My lessons in the ambala kulam lasted for all of two days.

The first day, bade bhaiya was talking to an old friend. He had the thorthhu lowered into the water. I was of course swimming , blissfully unaware, that my guru did not have his full attention on how his eager pupil was faring. I accordingly swam as far as I could and reached for the thorthhu. Bade bhaiyya felt a gentle tug on the thorthu and let go , laughing at his friend's joke. Imagine my sense of pure disbelief, when I plunged to the bottom , thorthhu and all. When bade bhaiyya finally finished laughing, he could see neither me nor the thorthhu . Luckily for me , and for you dear readers, the kulam water was very clear and a tragedy was averted.

But 'Never Say Die' is our family motto. The next dawn saw us back at the pond , early enough so my guru wouldnt be disturbed by any old buddies. I was swimming along the steps as was my wont when Vasu Namboodiri, the temple priest ,came to the pond to say his prayers. He saw me swimming and obviously expected me to stop splashing when he neared. You will excuse me when I say that thrashing my arms and legs was the only way I could keep my head above water, and I had no intention of stopping for Swami Aiyyappan , much less Vasu Namboodiri. To cut a painful story short, I splashed water on the devout priest and he cursed me "Nee oru kalathhilum gunam pidikilla" ( Editor's note : Loosely transalated as 'You will never be saved') . Of course I was under water while this was going on , and the curse was clearly explained to me by bade bahaiyya when he had got over his fit of laughter. Ironically enough, exactly one week later I got a job offer through campus selection and a new phrase came into being in my village , 'Namboothiri shapam upakaram aayi'. ( Editor's note : A pun on how Urvashi cursing Arjuna in the Mahabharata actually helps him when he has to spend one year disguised as a woman)

But that was the end of my swimming lessons. The end had more to do with the fact that none of the expert gurus was ready to risk his reputation enrolling me as a pupil. Added to this were pointed comments to the tune of 'For you vellam ( drinks ) is better than vellam (water)'. However, Iam willing for one more throw of the dice. The vacancy for a swimming instructor is therefore still open. Any expert swimmer may apply via the Comments section.

Nothing to Be Proud Of

A friend had posted this article recently. At the time I thought it overly pessimistic. Now Iam not so sure.

I had occasion to go on a train journey recently. The one thing that struck and saddened me was the abject poverty. Little children sweeping carriages for a small coin, old people shivering in the early morning cold begging from people half their age, mothers cradling children to cajole money or food from the coldest hearted. Clearly they had not heard about the newest Asian tiger, poised to become the third largest economy in the world by 2025.

Insulated as Iam in the city life I live, these scenes were stark reminders. True, there are beggars in the city too, but I have all along dismissed them as opportunists, out to make a fast buck. But these were the real people of India. Mahatma Gandhi said, "India lives in its villages". This may come as surprise to Manmohan and co but the Mahatma's India is still poor, living a hand to mouth existence thankful if for one night it does not need to go to bed unfed.

I buy a shirt for Rs 800 and marvel at the new spending power of the Indian Middle Class. I go to Coffee Day , pay Rs 100 for two cups of coffee and sing paens to Globalisation. I switch on CNBC , hear the experts toasting to the Indian success story and bask in the reflected glory. On the way to office in my car, I come across street urchins rummaging in the garbage. I look the other way, preferring to see the gleaming buildings by the roadside, heralding India's arrival on the IT scene.

p.s : I had started this post immediately after the Vizag trip, but feel unable to complete this. Too pessimistic. But sadly enough , this is nothing but the truth.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Friendly Neighbourhood PostMaster

I guess every village has its own colourful personalities. One such in my village has to be the PostMaster. I hail from a sleepy village in North Kerala which has its fair share of claimants to the Mr DontPissMeOff title, but the PostMaster springs to the mind because of an incident during the recent Christmas leave.

I was expecting a registered post and needed to give an authorisation letter. So whats the big deal, ask the more flippant of the readers. Just sign a letter and have it shown to the postman when he arrives with the concerned article, and he leaves the registered item and God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.And this is where you would be sadly mistaken, for you have not heard the tales the village people sing about our valiant post master.

For you see, our Post Master has a history of refusing registered letters to any one other than the person its addressed to. All your wailings , your entreaties fall on deaf ears. If you cannot find the time to enter the august presence of His Majesty when you are called to , you can kiss goodbye to the the registered letter. Before you can say , "But but ,I have signed an authorisation letter", the registered article will be winging its way back to the sender.

I left my nimble mind to work its magic and sure enough , seconds later , it presented me with two scenarios.

Scenario A : I go to the post office with an authorisation letter signed , and present it to the Post Master. He of course crumples and throws it into the dustbin. A heated exchange ( 2 minutes long , shall we say ) later , I shout Saddam ki jai and slap him on the face, hearing which the village people who are present will recognise him for the Bush charan he undoubtedly is and give him his just desserts while I quietly make good my escape ( after of course, retrieving the crumpled letter from the waste paper bin , like I have been taught by all the detective novels I have read )

Scenario B : I work myself up into quite a steam thinking about the exchange that will take place, barge into the Post office , and when the Post master asks "What do you want?" , shrilly cry out "Nee authorised person nu registered letter kodukilla alle?" (Editors note : which may be transalated into "You wont give the registered letter to the authorised person?") and slap him a juicy one right on the face. and before the flabbergasted guy can recover and say , "Nayinte mone" ( Editor's note : "Son of God er Dog") , storm out of the Post Office.

Now either of these scenarios was pure brilliance , and would have ideally served my purpose ( except , of course for the small detail that I would still be without the registered article , but then which plan is perfect? ) . So which scenario did you choose , you ask breathlessly. Now its been said of me before ( by better men than me, I might add ) , that I remind them of the little boy in the joke who is reputed to have said, "My teacher told me procrastination is the root of all my troubles.I dont know what that big word means. I will look it up tomorrow".

So I thought, and thought. And thought. And did precisely nothing. And may God be praised, when the article in question did arrive, it was not registered but Speed post, which of course anyone can sign for. Which just goes to prove my point that Good things happen to Good people.

p.s : There are other nasty things I have heard about this Postmaster ( like steaming open and reading others' letters, and even gasp, stealing sweets from little children) but all of this is just hearsay and cannot find a place on any reputed person's (ahem , ahem ) blog . I just brought this up in case any of you gentle people are worrying about me betraying my keen desire to bring the palm of my right hand into contact with the honourable person's grizzly cheek.