Monday, August 29, 2011

'Done with It'

Kabhi kabhi mere Dil me,
Khayal aaata hai...
Ke tuuj ko....banaya gaya hai mere liyeee
That was a status update I read some time ago on facebook. As we all know it’s a song from the film Kabhie Kabhie. The film is about a young poet Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) and a young girl named Pooja who are very much in love and believe that they are made for each other. But destiny had other plans and Pooja is married off to Vijay (Shashi Kapoor). Out of sheer hopelessness and despair Amit gives up on his poetry and gets married to someone else (Waheeda Rahman).
Well why I’m I talking about Kabhie Kabhie out here? Do we really get to see such strong emotion in relationships these days? I would say No!!! Everything is just a matter of convenience. Now you would say that I’m sounding pessimistic but fortunately or unfortunately with time priorities and options change. We are heading towards something called the use and throw culture.
Let it be a ball point pen, or a big Mac, a chewing gum or a rubber band, plastic bags, cellphones, clothes,slippers or oshsos as they call it and even people may be. It’s like you use an IPAD APP for some days, love it get addicted to it and then move on to something different when you’re done with it, as simple as that.
Everything has its own expiry date who would bother to reuse a broken spectacle or a ‘not so smoothly working’ electronic gadget when we can get something new with little effort which would eventually fit our bill of convenience? It’s surprising to see how this trend is getting engraved in our lives. Throw away whatever is ‘useless’ or ‘not needed’ in the near future who cares it’s the age of ‘throw away’.
Developed countries like the US who are right now dicey about them being no.1 economy in the world are also facing a lot of trouble because of this culture. As per a website called the the average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year. They every year throw away enough paper, plastic cups, forks and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. Over 7 billion pounds of PVC are thrown away in the US every year out of which only 18 million that is one percent is recycled. As per an article from The Huffington Post the US has 71,862 tons of nuclear waste and the nation has no place to permanently store the material which remains dangerous for thousands of years. This is indeed an issue of great concern to avoid an Irene or a Jose in the future. (Irene is the name of a hurricane and Jose, a storm)
Yes in the millennium era dumping is in. Dumping which was once used for garbage is now used for anything and everything. From your old parents, to your old shoes, lipsticks, camera and the list goes on. And why do we do that because life offers numerous options. There is a replacement for almost everything available. Stubborn individualism and arrogance have wiped off concepts like slowing down, persevering, preserving. It is indeed questionable as to where are we headed with this kind of attitude.
What influences this culture? Its probably the lifestyle we lead. Urbanization has given rise to the 'temporariness' in our lives. Living in nuclear families or even alone in small flats, leading hectic lives gets us so used to thinking about ourselves that we forget to value other people's presence. Unlike small towns and villages the concept of community life is non existent in big cities. In our personalized lives individuality takes precedence over everything else and we become used to calling the shots in any situation. The perception of right and wrong change and the line between the two blurs. And as I said everything becomes a matter of convenience.

With a conscious attempt to not sound very preachy, all I have to say is lets not get so self absorbed or Insensitive that we forget to value what we have and the basis of our entire existence. Lets not equate people to inanimate objects, as someone said we are humans after all. .Why waste or get wasted when there is just one life to live, one life to love...

Ravanayan- story of the one who lost

I have never been a big comic fan. Just read a few here and there, Archies, Tinkles, Chacha Chaudharys, and last year some Japanese comic (I don’t even remember the name). Never planned and bought any of them. Most of the times on the station (while taking a train from Kolkata to Delhi) or the Japanese one online (a friend forced me to read it) or sitting amid the mess during Diwali cleaning while sorting out books from a discarded brown box (my brother had a collection). They were always an option when I didn’t want to read 100 pages (yes, you read it right) of heavy text (saying this is like a sin when you are a Journalism student, and one of my teachers will probably hang me for this, but never mind this is not for her).

So, now one day, all of a sudden, while working on a college project, this gtalk window pops up with a link. Sender is brother, looks like some random flipkart link, minimize and continue working, get tired of working, take a look at the minimized window...send two question marks (??), get a reply- take a look. Ok, something called Ravanayan (Book-1) by Vijayendra Mohanty, Vivek Goel. Price: Rs. 50. The name said pretty much, but go back to the chat window, what is it about?, reply- google it, you'll like it. I hated google at that moment.

Looks interesting- The story of the one who lost. Sit almost for an hour reading the reviews and comments. Go back to the flipkart link, order it. First planned comic bought. The comic reminded me of a long debate that I had with an old relative on what is more realistic- Ramayan or Mahabharat. Ramayan most of the time puts me to sleep(not really). Hero, the good guy, never did anything wrong, villain, the bad guy, never did anything right, hero's love story, hero defeats the villian. It was all very black and white, very little shades of grey. Mahabharat, on the other hand was full of characters with shades of grey. Even Krishn for that matter. It's more like how people behave in real life and not always idealistic.

What I had always missed out was realising that Ravan (in Ramayan), who is considered to be the epitome of adharma and the archetypical villain is actually a very interesting character. He is the ruler of Lanka, a Brahmin, the greatest ever known devotee of Lord Shiva, a just king, a great scholar, extremely wise, so formidable that even the gods were not up to the task of ending his reign on the earth. Ram was well aware of the powers of Ravan which is why after shooting his last arrow on Ravan (which resulted in killing him), he asks Lakshman to go and request Ravan to share his wisdom because if he dies, all his wisdom will be lost forever to the world.

So, Ravanayan in basically, as Mohanty says ‘a view of Valmiki’s Ramayan through the lens of Ravan’s dharma’, a price one pays for doing his duty. It is a 10- part series by Vijayendra Mohanty and the superb detailed graphics by Vivek Goel. I love the way the comic opens with dasyu (bandit) Ratnakar (Valmiki, subsequently) and the way Dasha’s (Ravan) mother indirectly explains to him what and who he is and what is to become of him. In fact the way the story unfolds on each panel (I’m not too sure what the little boxes are called) is a complete experience altogether. It is an easy read and anybody with the basic idea of what Ramayan is will easily understand.

The 1st book of the series is out and the 2nd one is soon to hit the newsstands. You will want to die to read them all at once, but I think it’s worth a wait (hopefully). You could buy your copy here or place an order for all the 10 issues at

Enjoy reading! J

(I am extremely sorry for the white highlighted bit, but I have no idea why that is happening)

Quest to stop corruption

For the past few months we have been having a great debate on the formation of a new authority to punish the corrupt.

I refer to the battle for the Jan Lok Pal as proposed by Anna Hazare and and his ‘civil society’ and the government inflexibility in insisting that its version of Lok Pal is all they will concede. Anna wants that the Jan lok Pal must have the authority to investigate and punish everyone including the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India. The government has left many out of the purview of the Lok Pal.

Corruption is a disease that affects our society from top to bottom. We have all expected it as a way of life. It will not be eradicated by anyone fasting for 11 odd days or so. If we seriously want to free our society from the curse of corruption then we must start with ourselves. When we commit a traffic offence or a drink and drive offence, we bribe the cop instead of paying the fine, to get admission in a good college, we pay bribe than settling in which ever college we get through our grades. We bribe every possible person to make our lives easy. We all do this but have we become ignorant to our addiction to corruption. The Lok Pal or Jan Lok Pal will only punish those who take bribes. What about those who give bribes? If one stops giving bribe, automatically corruption level will fall. To eradicate corruption, the giving will have to stop, only then will the corruption will stop too.

Anna Hazare’s appeal for Jan Lok Pal has become a moment in our history that calls for humility and courage, the public has come on streets to support Anna, with the perception that if the bill is passed- corruption will wipe out. They fail to realise that it will reduce to some extent but never stop, his bill is not a magic wand that corruption will dissolve in few days or few months-it will take years to slow down. But the passing of the bill will atleast give light to the core areas of corruption. Anna Hazare has lit a fire and now its our duty to keep the flame of hope alive.


Friday, August 26, 2011


After the death of Pop superstar Michael Jackson the entire media went berserk with reports of his accidental and unexpected death. The media also threw light on his epic music journey from being a kid in a world famous bad ‘The Jackson 5’ to making it big on his own as a very talented singer and songwriter. There were also controversial details of his life that were brought out after his death on June 25th 2009.
His death came as shock to not only the music industry but also the entire world. As a child my memories of Michael Jackson’s music were the songs Heal the World, They don’t care about us and Black or White. But the best memory of Michael Jackson was that of my 15 year old cousin dancing to his music. At every family function my cousin dancing to Michael Jackson was something that was a must. The rest of us would have Goosebumps as he grooved to the music and depicted every move form the moonwalk to the robot.
After the megastars death I was automatically drawn to the media’s different analysis of his controversial life. So I began reading up on him. In my own little way I was gripped with not only his musical journey but also how he led his life. Through his life he witnessed severe criticism for what he did in his personal life. The media also went on to label him as ‘WackoJacko’ for the innumerable disagreements he had with society for his lifestyle. He was accused of molesting a 13year old boy, having a number of plastic surgeries, the hyperbaric chamber and also for living half way between reality and fantasy with his Peter Pan themed estate called Neverland.
That same year to get a clearer picture, a little of truth, and answers on matters of his life I went on to buy his biography titled ‘The Magic and the Madness’ written by Randy J Taraborelli. The author studied his life for a very long time and had a very comprehensive and balanced outlook. The book was another confirmation for me not to trust the media. The media became obsessed with the negatives of his life and failed to see through the truth Michael was fighting for.
Everything said and done Michael Jackson is undoubtedly 20th century’s biggest pop star. His music has touched the hearts of millions of people worldwide and paved the way for a variety of music for the next generation of music makers. Through his songs he spoke about issues that he dealt with, one of the most important one was that of racism. Besides that he openly spoke about his abusive father and the trauma he went through as a child with his song ‘Scream’. He made an immediate connect with the younger generation. Jackson’s music has influenced a number of new-age artists. An estimated 1 billion people reportedly tuned into their television sets to watch the emotional memorial service that was held in his honor.
Michael Jackson not only made history while he was alive but continued to do so even after his death. In 2009 his music album became the number one best-seller in the USA, selling 8.2 million copies. With 13 Grammy awards, a rock and role hall of fame inductee, Guinness world record holder, philanthropist the title of ‘King of Pop’ is apt.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nationalism and Kashmir

Recently I read an article where the author questioned people from both India and Pakistan on what they think of Kashmir and what it means to them. And while I was going through the responses I could not help but realise how similar their thoughts and ideas are to what mine used to be a few years back.

To give you an idea here are some of the responses and maybe some of you can still relate to them:

Indian Responses:

“Kashmir is the crown of India. It is like heaven on earth.”

“Kashmir is an integral part of India, and that is where it belongs.”

“In my opinion, 10 per cent of Kashmiris have mixed feelings. But an overwhelming majority, 90 per cent of Kashmiris, want to be a part of India. They desire the end of the terrorism that has been inflicted on them, and do not want their land to be a playground for violence anymore.”

Pakistani Responses:

“Well, Kashmir is a part of Pakistan in a way. There are Muslims there and they are facing hardships. And Indians are killing innocent Muslims there and that is why we want Kashmir, I guess.”

“Kashmir is Pakistan's right. If the Kashmir problem is resolved, Kashmir should come to Pakistan. Our rivers are dependent on Kashmir.”

“India has been ruling Kashmir forcibly, whereas the people of Kashmir want to be with Pakistan. Our history says that Kashmir should be with Pakistan. That is why the Kashmiris struggle; they want religious freedom also, because they are Muslims. If they want to live independently it is fine as well, but [it is] better if [they are] with Pakistan.”

For the full article go here.

I always knew that the opinion of these few is not singular to only them but is felt by many, as I, myself used to think this way.

I clearly remember the day my opinion changed; it was when a senior of mine while discussing Kashmir asked me this one basic question, “Do you live there? Then how is Kashmir yours.” I had no answer. So I went back home and looked up Kashmir on the internet and for the first time went beyond the basic news and dug deeper.

My basic idea of Kashmir has always been that the Pakistanis are the bad guys; they are the ones who sent over the militants who are creating trouble in the region. And when the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their own homes the basic thing I heard was its like partition again, Muslims and Hindus cannot live together, though at least here I can say that I never bought into the whole ‘Muslims are like that only’ syndrome that many around me were afflicted with. But that was my basic idea, and I wonder why I never thought of the actual people and instead I always thought of it as a piece of land where its ownership became a matter of pride. At the time my friends and I couldn’t even harbour the thought of Kashmir with Pakistan, ‘Whatever happens, if they want to separate from India fine, but we will never give it to Pakistan’ And now when I think about it all I want to say to my old self is, ‘fool, how can you give away something that does not even belong to you.’ To think of it, it’s the same paradox where Palestine was given away by the British to the Jews/Israelis.

The different point of view that I got from the Internet was as bad as a major culture shock. I read blogs by Kashmiris that showed their frustration and the animosity that they now feel towards the Indian state. The various offences committed by the Army and no punishment. And why was I not aware of all this? Yes, I wasn’t the most avid news consumer but I did read my newspaper, they should have told me something.

And so I came to the conclusion that something must be wrong with the message. Because, as I saw in the article that I posted a link to above, I was not the only one who had such opinions and perceptions when it came to Kashmir. My History NCERT textbook always told me that Kashmir was given autonomy and assured of self-rule. India was shown as benevolent.

The message has been skewed to official government policy where according to them, the trouble in paradise is usually caused by some ‘bad elements’ or ‘harvested by LeT’ or some other terrorist outfit. Why are there no long debates about the situation or condition of the half widows of Kashmir and why does Chidambaram get away with dismissing the 2010 summer unrest which had left 112 people dead on the streets in Kashmir as an, “an unfortunate chapter”.

There is a marked difference between our lives here and the one being lived by people in Kashmir and it’s not really ‘normal’ as Chidambaram claims it to be. Take this Independence Day, where many of us used this long 15th August holiday to take a break and unwind, or head far away from this Mumbai heat or participated in housing societies’ I-Day celebrations where we raised our hands in salute to the Indian Flag, Kashmir was denied freedom of movement, put under undeclared curfew and had their communication services blocked. So yeah, not really an Independence Day for all.

Monday, August 15, 2011


London is burning….the thick clouds of smoke is rising across the London skyline.

The violence was spread on 8th August, 2011,Monday night outside London, with severe outbreaks of violence, but the scale of events in the British capital was unprecedented, and utterly overwhelmed the city’s police. The city plays host to the Olympic Games and the fire has higher dark dreads for the city’s security.

There was one inspirational statement that Prime Minister David Cameron said "Its criminality, pure and simple" it has to be confronted and defeated….People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain’s streets.”

This is the most extensive rioting Londoners have seen in a generation, surpassing the scope of the huge race riots that paralyzed the city in the 1980s, with scores of fires and fights spreading over .An unpredictable and seemingly random set of mass crime explosions – but also the least comprehensible.

These are neither race riots nor political riots: It began with a small protest but quickly became a much wider and less purposeful explosion of youth criminality. No message, no motive, no cause, no slogan is found behind this riot.

Why these subjugated youth so explosively made their presence known in such a devastatingly violent way, and how this will all end, is not yet understood. But it puts a dark punctuation mark on what had, been London’s brightest modern era.

The horrifying pictures, videos of the London riots and the situation of London reminds nothing but love, patience, forgiveness and calmness that can cure the ills of this increasingly globalised and urbanised world where more and more ethnically and racially opposite individuals are sharing the civic space.

The riots are surprisingly exposing the flaws in England's policing system. The widespread riots actually is a manifestation of the anger among the nation's unemployed lower middle class over the deep socio-economic inequalities.

The riots have certainly smeared the image of the London city and have aroused to be a real body setback to the venue of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Hats off to London police force who have brilliantly controlled the worst riots in the country's recent history without using brute force involving human losses.

If compared, our police force is ill-equipped to tackle law and order issues and civilian troubles. Police brutality sometimes stops from the pride of those in power who cannot take opposition as a part of democratic ideal.

Crime is a complex phenomenon. Is there a systemic problem and a simple solution? Would cracking down on welfare payments help, or would widening them? Would reducing the gap between the rich and poor? Would financially supporting marriage, reducing immigration, cutting taxes, increasing taxes, cutting spending, increasing spending? Mandatory minimums or social rehabilitation? Education and support, or threat and punishment?

Why has there to be riots, terror, conflicts? Is there no love and humanity left out? Why the innocent have to sacrifice their life? This situation is not only in the City of London but it’s all over the globe and some action should be taken to live a peaceful life.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nothing is kept a secret aNymOre!!

When I was young and used to look at my dad’s cell phone, I used to curse myself for being small and not old enough to carry a cell phone. I used to sneak out my dad’s cell and play with it or make calls to my friends... I used to feel my life is so incomplete without a cell phone, because most of my friends carried a cell phone and I dint ….sighhh

But now that I have a cell phone, I tell you friends it’s not at all a fun thing. Now I feel how blessed I was to not have a cell phone. Every time i look at my cell phone there is some message or some tom, dik and harry calling me and requesting me to take a loan or apply XYZ scheme, blahh!! Blah!!. There are some friend of mine calling me during my study hours or family time period. Earlier it seemed like a full proof way to live a life until the day I realized cell phones are such a pain in the butt.

Today we live in the age of technology, I feel everyone suffers from “information diarrhoea” where nothing is accessible without a phone or internet or the latest ‘BLACKBERRY MESSENGER’ people who do not have any of these above technologies are considered to be lunacs or dumb. And after the official opening of FACEBOOK, nothing is kept a secret; nothing private or withheld in fact everything is a matter of public record. What you say or do is all to be liked or commented and also expected to be remembered till eternity. Though facebook helps coming across new friends and also our lost old friends but instead of staying in touch on facebook one can always stay in touch through messages and phone calls to give a more personal touch to it. Facebook has become like an addiction to kids. They spend their valuable time sitting with computer instead of reading books or going downstairs to play with friends. Now the weird thing about facebook is the rate at which they allow people to change their status messages. I say it should be restricted to around three times in a day or so, why do people think others are interesting in knowing about their personal lives, in some years this is going to be a BIG problem.

Twitter is one more social networking site where your 140 characters are seen by billions of people. People have gone crazy now-a-days they post any rubbish-shit. Recently I encountered a post of someone saying, ‘the loo here stinks’, ohh and more, ‘I just sneezed’ that’s so awful. Who on earth would want to know if you are in a stinky loo, or you are unwell...gosh!!! People will definitely go bonkers reading that…… or wait they won’t because now-a-days everyone is posting something like this. They disclose their personal life on social networking sites as if the live on these sites or should I say they LIVE for these sites. Adding to these problems is the friend suggestion section, even we press the ignore button 100times in a day, facebook will still keep haunting us until we add that...uhmm well that is not important.

Using these sites is nothing wrong but one should need to use them in right manner. A whole day chatting will harm you physically and mentally. Choose your priorities. One must adhere to their discipline and self control then nothing in this world will be a laugh on someone’s face.

As I conclude I would say ‘HELLO’ to all the strangers who will read this and may definitely go and post something about me on your social networking sites, so I want to tell you all; think before you do things, don’t make this sites eat up your precious time because a day will come when texting, posting will make no difference in your life but where you stand, what you did in your life will build your future.


Terror in the back of my mind

11/7-Death Toll:209
26/11-Death Toll:164
13/7-Death Toll:26
In the last 5 years I have seen more blood than I will ever see. I have seen death. I have seen people lose their lives to bombs and men who came armed with weapons to DESTROY. The death toll was high, people were scared. I was scared. They came to terrorize. And they surely got what they wanted.
As I watched the aftermath of the terrorist attacks I couldn’t help but wonder why is my city being targeted over and over again? Why are we prey to bombs and bullets? But there was no answer. Maybe it is just something that we were supposed to deal with. Be resilient. Move on each time it happens because this will show the murders that they cannot take away our spirit. But aren’t fright, tears, and death a sign that the terrorists indeed took away just that?
What happens to innocent people who are victims to terrorism? Most of them dead. Some severely injured. And a few who even after years still suffer. These people in no way can recover from the after effects of a terror attack. It is something that becomes a part of them.
Terrorism is something that is become a part of our lives, it is a fight we face everyday. Precautionary measures, announcements and railways, thoughts in our heads-Will I return home the next time I step out? What is in the abandoned plastic bag lying at the sidewalk? This is what terrorism does to us. It is hard to get over, but even harder to deal with. Moving on are just words till the time the next bomb goes off.
It pained me to see a young boy, with destruction on his mind and not a sign of guilt in his eyes, brainwashed, took away innocent lives. He is now in prison fighting for his case. Is this justice? He with a no reason sprayed bullets at innocent people, why is he then being given a chance?
Why are we being terrorized? It is time for us to stop the blame game. Think beyond religion, sect, caste, and race. It is time we start thinking about humanity. It is time we start reflecting on how one individual treats another. Terrorism should be fought as a nation and not as individual states. It is time we look at terror in the eye and fight it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gwalior: Tumultuous Changes

When going back for my holidays this last summer I could imagine my hometown, quiet and simple. But things had changed, everything was not how I remembered it.

Gwalior for me is home, its family and memories. It’s also, in encyclopedic words a second tier city in Madhya Pradesh with a recorded history going back centuries where it has played small roles in important historical events across time.

As a child I have always been given immense freedom, with limitations of course, I was allowed to go anywhere as long as to put in my in my mothers words, “ghar se 100 feet se jyada nahi,” but again that was expendable because I claimed to never know how much 100 feet was. And every time I dared to cross that limit with my bicycle I would look back to make sure that mother was not there and make the fastest round with my cycle across the colony. Ah, the joy of breaking rules!
But things have changed now, Gwalior has changed. No more would you let your child out without making sure someone is keeping an eye on him/her. Kidnappings and people getting murdered are just a few of the things that have increased in the city. And among the biggest change is the drive for development.

Gwalior used to be the home of the Scindias and Gwalior Fort. Now it is home to the biggest mall in M.P. The family picnics in the park are replaced by window shopping in the mall. I’m not saying that a mall coming up is a bad thing; instead I was amazed to see people from all walks of life enjoying the novelty of it. But when I compare it with my own childhood it just pales in comparison. There can never really be a modern day building or a product to replace the outdoors.

So before the holidays, like everybody else I was busy looking at the CWG scam or some other going-ons in Delhi or Mumbai, but events as important as these were happening in Gwalior. Much of Gwalior was being pulled down by bulldozers and the Nagar Nigam (Municipal Corporation). Their claim was that the land these shops or houses were built on is owned by the government. And as proof they flayed around some document from 1924.

I had no idea about all this happening. So I was quite surprised to see the familiar roads did not exist anymore, there was rubble from the demolished houses and shops everywhere.

When did this happen? And how could the government just go ahead and clear out a whole market and areas and not just one, five to six of them. There was no more Chawla Chicken my favourite eating place, no more computer guy who I have known forever and would just have to call and he would provide personal service at home. Half of Gwalior was cut down and why? My only source of information was my mother and some online Hindi articles who and which told me that the houses and shops were on government land and after some 50 odd years when people were settled on it they finally realised it and wanted it back.

And as they went ahead with the demolition, they declared on a side note their purpose that Gwalior is turning over a new leaf under collector Akash Tripathi. And it was time to make the city beautiful. They wanted to make the roads wider, build parks, and convert the land to provide car-parking. In the process it didn’t matter what the human or emotional cost of the fiasco was, it should just look good, you know. And apparently even buildings more than a hundred years old didn’t qualify as beautiful, Sarafa Bazaar which is home to many such old buildings looked as if a tornado had passed through wrecking much havoc on its way.

My mother told me stories about how the merchants and shop owners ended up in hospitals with heart attacks not being able to deal with their sudden loss of livelihood. Did they get a chance to clear out? Every time a building or a house or shop is to be build it goes through clearance with the Nagar Nigam, why did municipality not object then? And while the rest of India is demanding compensation there can be no such talk here because what compensation can they expect as the land they have lived on for years was never theirs to begin with. People agitated and went out on the streets but had nobody to talk to.

While many people saw their life savings crash around them some made money out of it. A man on realising that his shop was going to be demolished put the land on the market for sale, land which apparently did not or never belong to him. He put it at a price much lower than the going rate and someone did pick it up thinking how lucky he was. And so the poor chap who probably spent all his life savings on it, realised the next day that the land was never his to be bought. He had just been conned. And all he could do was stand while they pulled the place apart.

Gwalior is not the only city where things are changing rapidly in the name of ‘development for the better’, but development for whom, some people living 500 km away? I have never really been up for encroachment by hawkers or small shops or even bigger ones for that matter, but is it encroachment when they have been there for over half a century and build their lives around that little piece of land that they have always known as home? 

What's in a fast?

It's the 9th month of the Islamic Lunar calendar, which is not only of much significance to my fellow Muslim friends, but also to me. It's Ramadan, or popularly known as Ramzan, one of my favorite festivals of the year, solely for gastronomical reasons.

Enter Mohammad Ali Road post daylight, and what you see is a feast for your eyes, literally. The shimmering reds of Chicken Reshmi Kababs, Chicken 65s, Shawarmas, and Chicken Lahoris will sweep you off your feet. And if you suffer from a sweet tooth like me, you've landed at the right spot where pure cow’s milk and sugar come together to form a beautiful union in the form of Malpuwa, Barfis, Faloodas and the milkiest of Firnis. And the ageing Kulfi-walla who sells Kulfi in flavours like Strawberry, Pista, Mango Raspberry, Banana and of course Badam-Kesar in his little square-shaped tin containers.

Enough has been seen and written about the fantastic banquet of food that we all get to tuck into during the holy festival. But what not too many people are aware about is the Ramadan is so much more than just fasting.

Apart from food, Muslims must abstain also from drinking. They cannot even drink a drop of water from dawn to dusk. And you thought not eating was hard enough. Also, they avoid overindulgences of any kind like sex and cigarettes.

The idea behind this is that every part of the body must attain complete reticence or be restrained. The tongue must be restrained be bitching, back-biting or gossip, the eyes must be restrained from looking at wanton activities, the hand must not take anything that does not belong to it, the feet must not enter sinful places. So in this manner, the entire body observes the fast.

Dates, which are traditionally the first item eaten after breaking the fast have and the best ones are given catchy names by vendors in order to help market them during this month. In 2006, after Israel's war against Lebanon, the best dates were called Hassan Nasrallah, after the leader of Lebanon's Hizballah. In 2009, after the U.S. resident made a visit to Cairo, the best dates were called Obama. This year, the most prized dates are called ‘Martyrs of the Revolution.’ ‘Tahir Square’ is another popular variety.

The rules of the fast are not as stringent as it is believed to be. There are some instances in which one may take leave of the fast. According to the holy Koran, people who are sick, elderly, traveling, pregnant or breast-feeding, as well as children under the age of puberty, can forgo fasting if it will negatively affect their health. Also, a fast can become nullified for reasons such as menstruation, postpartum bleeding, intentional vomiting and, of course, breaking a fast to eat or drink. In all these cases, the Koran requires that believers take a qada fast, which is essentially fast one day for one day to make up for the missed days of fasting.

The two sects of Islam, Sunni and Shi’ites follow different methodologies of when to end their fast. The former may break their fast as soon as the daily maghrib prayer begins, which is when the sun is no longer visible on the horizon. The latter wait longer, believing that their fast cannot be broken until the last rays of light have vanished from the sky. However, this is not an absolute distinction.

During summer, the days are much longer and hotter, making fasting that much more difficult. Late in the holy month, Muslims celebrate the Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Power. This is the anniversary of the night on which Allah first revealed the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad. So, the 27th night is the most widely celebrated date, when the Koran says, "The grand night is better than a thousand months."

Ramadan is a highly anticipated season for TV producers and advertisers as this time for family bonding and people stay indoors and watch a lot of television. It has been found in the Bible that Queen Esther asks the Jews to fast for three days before she visits her husband, the king, to ask him not to kill them. And in the New Testament, Jesus fasts in the desert for 40 days, which is why to this day certain Christian denominations observe Lenten fasts.

Historically, fasting did not start with the advent of Islam. Its origins date back to mentions of it in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament.

Ramzan brings out the philanthropic side of the Muslims. Donations to charities see a significant rise during the month of Ramadan, as many choose to give their charity for the year during the holy month as it is considered the most auspicious time for good deeds.

Mosques and religious organizations offer free iftar meals to the poor every evening. It's also common for the more wealthier Muslims to give poor families Ramadan baskets containing basic cooking items like tea, oil, and sugar before the first day of the month.

I’ve always wondered how my friends control their appetites through out the day. But a recent study has revealed that contrary to popular belief, Ramzan is actually the month where Muslims gain most weight. So, no, it’s not your best diet plan. This is because fasting and low levels of activity during the day give rise to some major binge eating at night. Such behavior results in slower metabolism that forces the body to store fat instead of burning it. And the iftar meals, which are served during the late evenings, are high in carbohydrates, oil, fat, thereby low nutritional sustenance.

But who can blame them? One stop at Mohammad Ali Road on an August evening and you’re sure to surrender to all its glories.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Going Gaga over Google?

I recently read a hard-hitting article on how Google was making us stupid by Nicholas Carr a popular columnist for The Atlantic magazine based in the US. And it really got me thinking. Are we being fooled into believing that Google has revolutionized the way we think for the better?
It’s true that the search engine has taken over our lives in more ways than one. I for one can shamelessly admit to the fact that it’s made me sound so much more intelligent, when someone senior talks to me about a company or an allegedly important person that I have no clue about. It takes me only less than 4 seconds to give a detailed bio-data on that person by quickly typing his/her name on the magic toggle-bar and tadaa. I feel good about myself again ( Don't you dare snort at this. I'm sure each and everyone of us have been there and done that.)
Nicholas claims that receiving information on the click of a button has slowed down our process for retaining information and our capacity to sit down and digest copious amounts of text at one go. We get fidgety, distracted and worse, simply skim through the data, thereby skipping relevant information is a high possibility.
Marshall McLuhan’s theory of technological determinism; something I studied in theory for my exams last year is suddenly making sense to me now. In a nutshell, he stated that the medium of the message determines the way we perceive this message. So in this case, we perceive our message in nuggets that we are most likely to forget sooner or later rather than a thorough understanding of the subject. Similarly, when Google spoon-feeds exactly what we want to research on, then where is the question of research? The whole purpose of research is defeated.

It is also likely that our attention span has reduced to 4 seconds. That’s right. That same amount of time that it takes to ‘google’ a word.
Yes, it saves a hell of a lot of time. But don’t you think the time you spend in a library or looking at hundreds of journals, archives and documentaries is much more self-satisfying than the instant gratification we get when we see 12 pages of hits on our specific subject of study?
So when McLuhan claims that the a change in the technological medium( in this contaxt, Google) will not only supply to our thoughts, but change the entire thought process by itself. Carr puts it so well, “
Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.’’
This trend is also reflected in today’s contemporary news media where it is becoming an increasingly common sight of newspapers giving out quick bites of news items by giving them a choice to read further only if they want by continuing the story in a supplementary page and summarising complex scams or social issues into little boxes on the side. It’s safe to blame this trend on the advent of the internet as it has chipped our threshold for contemplation and concentration.
This effect really hit me when I went to the Center for Education and Documentation(CED) for a project I was doing on how the Indian media covered the Godhra Riots of 2002 which required me to look at their archives. I walked in there and felt lost. The entire idea of manually looking for hardcopies of old newspaper clippings seemed so alien, so archaic to me. That’s when my respect for the yester-year journalists took a quantum leap. This place must have been their relic. And today, you’ll be surprised if you see more than a handful of people here.
This doesn’t take away from the enormous credibility of Mr. Sergey Brin and Larry page, the geniuses behind Google. I’m no luddite or nostalgist, but I long to go back to those days when it was so easy for me to read back to back Jeffrey Archer novels in a single sitting on those lovely Sundays.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Crime Rate Increasing In India

Rape cases have long attracted debate for their low conviction rates, and questions over how the police and prosecutors deal with victims and bring cases through the courts. One of the most serious problems remains the initial handling of rape complaints by the police. It is probable that out of the rape cases we come across everyday happening in one or the other city the cases do not proceed beyond the investigation stage. Punishment for the rape attempters should be not only excessive but also in way that no one can dare easily because it is like a charge of murder. We are a moral society living in democratic country and still creeping towards immorality. I believe in “nabbing the evil from the bud.” If we want our mother and sister to be safe we have to get hold on the collars of the wrathful men of the society. If the law isn't working we should appeal to change it. The constitution is for the people, people are not for constitution.

The government starts pointing one party to other but the question arises “will there be any security for we women? “The number of rape cases is growing day by day. Do these rape attempters don’t have heart? “Recently we have come across so many rape attempts done on minors. The height of cruelty has gone to such an extent that on a girl was molested and blinded.

And with respect to the same case two more cases are mentioned bringing to light of readers that there are so many crimes taking place in our country and the government is still blindfolded.

Where does government vanish when these cases are required to be sorted and the criminals need to be hanged? Why the local police people can’t help the victims? Why is there a need for CBI to enter into these matters? Are the police sold in the hands of the government and ministers? Will ever the time of Kiran Bedi come back? And will we be able to fly like a free bird in this independent country. Why has the performance of government gone so low? There are thousands of hearts and soul broken into pieces upon number of rape cases taking place.

We need our leaders /politicians /Government to highlight this on a top banner and announce a very Incredible and horrifying punishment to such cruelty!!!!!!!!!!!

The time has passed for leaders in this country to assign women the exact same protections and status as any man. However, many of our leaders are no different than sexual predators for putting savage rapists at ease and forcing women to prove they are victims instead of “accusers.”

Revenge is not a sufficient justification for invoking a system of capital punishment, with all its accompanying problems and risks. Our laws and criminal justice system should lead us to higher principles that demonstrate a complete respect for life. We women need to fly with a fresh breeze and clean surroundings around and with no fright in our hearts …where children/teenagers will be freely going to schools and colleges and offices …and the infants will be saved with their lives and horrifying death…We women are not weak and need the support of our country to fight against the rapist and we need our government to give them the true punishment.

Give us the HOPE…..Give us a NEW LIFE….Give us a TRUE JUSTICE.