my Scribbling

Remember the time…

August 2018
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my Chirps

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Vajpayee

Vajpayee dead.

And very typical of Indian tradition, people here do not speak ill of the dead. As a result of this or otherwise they miss this ‘statesman’. Why? Because compared to the current regime and autocrat ruling the country, he appeared a little more timid or sane. But look a little more deeper and you will see the rot he prevailed upon.

How did the BJP come to power, that resulted in Vajpayee becoming the PM? It rode on the hate wave spearheaded by Advani, in the form of a Rath Yatra. And everywhere this vehicle went, it spewed hatred and violence against the muslims and other minorities. Hinduism was being replaced by a more hateful thought called Hindutva. Hindu terrorists were being spawned as a result of this hateful environment.

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And yet we think Vajpayee was a statesman. This statesman was at the helm of the country, when Gujarat burned under the influence of the then Chief Minister Modi. The state and government stood by watching as innocent were butchered on the streets in the name of revenge. Muslims that is. And we are told stories of how this man wanted Modi government dismissed. Yet as i recall, he and his goverment in the center uttered not a single word to stop, instead he adviced Modi to follow his “Raj Dharma”. Modi, the maniac manufactor from the same factory that produced Vajpayee, the RSS.

Today with his death, we call him a stateman. Tomorrow some will do the same for Advani and later Modi. Because by then we may have experienced some other maniac, far worse than what Modi and his RSS have done till date.

By these standards, i wonder how we should address other monsters that are dead and gone. And whose poisonous acts have been surpassed manifold by others.

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The News Deluge

I don’t recall when i first started reading ‘The Hindu‘, the local daily from Chennai; given that it was the only daily we ever subscribed at our home as a kid, it is safe to assume a very early age. But the concerted devouring of news from page to page, column to column was during my college years. I had the opportunity to read other newspapers, news magazines, and other publications that bordered on information and gossip. Radio news was dead by this time, and in India, the news on TV was mainly a government propaganda broadcast. Newspaper was the only source, and The Hindu was the only source that i trusted.

A political animal at an early stage in my life, news and current information was a prerequisite. No, it was more than that. It was the basis for simple survival. Those days, it was not too difficult to consume news from different sources, with slant and bias for different topics. The biases if any were more straightforward, and always applied, based on principles. Journalist curated news and published, and put their name and stamp with an authority that demonstrated validation, authenticity and credibility. I am yet to recall a story that was later labelled as “fake news” , during those times. Publications that carried sleaze and or naked pronouncements without validation or stories without proper attribution was collectively junked as “Yellow Journalism”. These publications and journalists were treated with the rightful disdain.

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Today is different. The news is already stale and old, by the time my favourite newspaper is delivered in the morning at 6am. Can you imagine that? Between the 24×7 TV Channels and online news etc., the news, or better stated views has already been shared, sliced/diced and shred to pieces. Then there is the social media, notoriously twitter, closely followed by facebook and whatsapp, all which spray information. The poor receiver is inundated, by this overflow and struggles to keep their sanity. News, views, fake news, accuracy, credibility, information and source are all compromised and interchanged, leaving doubt about which is what?

I have given up watching TV news. I use twitter a bit, but its a place to dump my views, just like this blog. I read stuff, but am always double checking stuff i read on twitter or from other SM. In the end, i still look to my newspaper for credible source of news. I try to maintain a steady head and clear mind as i read The Hindu newspaper every morning and form my own opinion on issues that interest me. It is a losing battle tho’, and i am trying my best to stay afloat.

Good luck to you too.

Contemptuous Misapplication

If you are from Chennai, then you have salivated over the melt in your mouth Mysurpa from Sri Krishna Sweets. I have. Living close to one for many years in Adyar, i have visited their store, and end up buying a small box of this freshly cut pieces of magic. Even if that was not the original purpose of the trip. The person would behind the counter, begin cutting them into pieces from a tray, and box them based on weight as per your preference. Smallest they usually sold was 1/4kg (250gm), which was about 4-5 pieces.

I was aghast to see how Sri Krishna Sweets have turned their stores into selling packed and sealed boxes. It does make business sense, given they have been on a roll.  This new concept killed the pleasure of seeing your food packed in front of you, but that is only a cultural change that eventually one may have to get used to. Better yet, if you want the old feel, we can switch to other stores and brands. The shocker though comes from packaging.

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They now sell a single piece of Mysurpa in a box. A neat little cardboard box, or sometimes a tin container, within it a nicely shaped plastic pouch that snugly holds a single Mysurpa. Adorable and charming design, almost rivaling ideas of packaging from Apple and the Steve Jobs idea factory. This piece of about 70-80 grams of ghee, sugar and flour will melt in your mouth in a total of about 20 seconds.

That is till you stop and realize the ecological and environmental impact of all this. To me, that is what struck me almost immediately. First the plastic, the single use, and the resultant wastage. All this because they want to sell many more pieces of this sweet dish at the lowest unit cost. In spite of all this cost reduction, this single unit costs almost Rs 40/-, little more than half a US dollar, making it out of reach for most of the people in India. The economic sense is without basis, since the person who can afford to burn this kind of money, can easily bear the expenditure to buy larger quantities.

This action by Sri Krishna Sweets is only a symptom of the larger problem of packaging that is contributing to an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Online shopping and convenience hold the biggest responsibility when it comes to this packaging issue.

How do you fight this? How do you stop this? Something we can fight, something we cannot. Online shopping is so ubiquitous now, for most, if not all the items we need to buy. The best way to counter this packaging issue, albeit a little easier, is to recycle. Bigger and larger packaging material makes it easier to recycle or reuse.

As for the Mysurpa, i have decided to stop buying it. My last visit to a Sri Krishna Sweets, resulted in me providing a written complaint about their packaging concept.

Forwarded as Received

With just three words, we absolve ourselves, of a crime, we are about to commit. Yes, crime is a very elephantine word, but given the circumstances, there is every possibility that it could just become true.fakenews

If you havent come across this phenomenon, you are probably not active on one of the many social media platforms, specially some of the biggies like whatsapp, facebook, or twitter etc. Given the prevalence of these, it is likely that only a few small sections of humankind has been spared from this plague. And in which case, you are also less like likely to be reading this post.

The SocMedia is taking the place of the gossip circles and rumour mills that existed before, only it is able to proliferate misinformation at a much faster rate. And thanks to all the education, or i should say literacy, we have become predisposed to news, even before it converges on us. We either believe, or we dont. Simple, there is very little scope to change opinion with just one news item. One swallow does not a summer make. What do you make of it, when you see the next swallow, and the next, and the next? Oh then, slowly but steadily you give in.

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Mitron (friends)! Catch whatever i keep throwing at you!

SocMedia has exposed us to so many view points, that it is difficult to be ever satiated. A paradox? Yes. Its a typical problem, with the choice of plenty. You never know if you made the right one. And so in a bid to contribute, we end up bringing more sand to the beach. We crow louder than required, without thinking and reflecting upon one’s action, we drop the grains of sand, and walk away purportlessly.

When you come across another news on your fav SocMedia, dont just shoot it off into the www of nothingness. Think before you do. If there is any truth, it is that the information you recieved today, is old, rehashed and most importantly a sham. If it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and looks like a duck, the chances are it is a duck.

The only possibility of rebuilding any trust is not to forward, unless you subscribe to the information a 100%, or have verified the content yourself. If you have any doubt left, then it is best simply left alone. When in doubt, Dont!

Republic Day – 2018

Today is Jan 26th, 2018. It is India’s Republic Day. The day, India effected its new https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Constitution_of_india.jpgconstitution and declared itself a “sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic Republic”.

For many years, Republic Day to me meant, “march past”. During my school days at Asan Memorial, i used to be a member of the Scouts (Digbe Beste Sea Scouts). And when the new year begins, we scouts and whole of lot of others begin our annual marching parade at the Marina, in preparation for the Republic Day. It was a profound honor, at least to me, to march with my battalion on that day, salute to the Governor, who would be stationed at the Gandhi Statue, to receive the guard of honour.

I also used to be enamoured by a similar parade, that is held in Delhi, on the Rajpath. Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 3.16.05 PM.pngAnd to be selected to participate in that parade was the ultimate honour for any scout or cadet. For me, that always has remained but a dream. And so every Republic Day, when i was older, i would wake up and wait to witness the parade telecast live on TV. It was always special if only to rekindle memories, and to bask in the glory of the nation i was born in, and to celebrate freedom we fought so hard.

Over the past few years, irrespective of the government that as ruled the country or the many different states and territories, their respect for the rule of the law has been scant to say the least. And since the emergence of the hindutva party, what little of such law was left, has been dumped on the wayside. Today unless you are rich, belonged to the upper class, or part of the ruling party, you had no rights worth protecting. If you belonged to the ‘other’ religion, which included Hindus, Muslims and some others, and if you raised your voice against this atrocious behaviour, you were treated as an anti-national, and showered with choicest blessings in foul language at best, or beaten up.

My misgiving of today didn’t happen in a day. It took a couple of years of constant eroding, of our constitutional values. A slow but steady, erosion of the value systems that were encoded in the constitution, which was developed after learning from our own past, and the many democracies that were established already. Fundamental rights, Human rights, Civil liberties, and many more were adopted from teachings and philosophies in human social advancement that were already in place. The Indian constitution also went further than most its times, for example making it one of the few, if not the only one that granted Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 3.16.05 PM.png universal franchise from the very first day. And yet today all of these are being questioned, and whittled away. All in the name of hindutva, and taking the country back a few decades or even centuries. The post of contention was effectively moved from the middle, to a point, which would lead one to believe that one half of the country marched to a different band altogether. A religious hate mongering and terrorizing one at that. Where they wished the other half didn’t exist, and were ready to go to any extent to eliminate, remove or simply silence their voices.

I should be celebrating. Yet i contemplate. I worry of what we have made ourselves today. How much we have progressed, and yet how far backward we have regressed? I worry about the legacy we leave behind for our children.

I hold a prayer in my heart, as i close this. It is poem written by Rabindranath Tagore. It was also the very first blog i wrote in my life. We can pray, we can hope and we can fight to make them true.

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Its the most…

Its Saturday. The second one, for this December. After relaxing, or I must say rusting, almost the whole day, I decide to venture out. I need some eggs to add to the granary at home. Yes, thats it. I also had to get the usual weekend coffee, at my local Peets. I decide to finish the shopping before I relax with my coffee and a book (a new-found  toy).

So it is December. It’s there for all to see. There is also a dusting of snow today, the first this winter, a bit too early for the DC area. So there again if there was any doubt, that would clear it up. If it is December, then its time for the big festival in this part of the world. Its Christmas time. Most every year, since I have known it has fallen on the 25th of December, like clockwork, as some would say. You might wonder why I bring up this obvious fact, that everyone takes for granted.

Its simple. If everyone knows its Christmas time, then why do the stores have to remind me. In the mall, at the grocery store and even at the Peets where I am now seated, tapping this stodgy tale. Everyone is singing or playing the christmasy tunes. The most rankling of all, probably the favorite of many, is “Its the most wonderful time”. Oh my god, please save me from hearing that again. Todays trip to the mall, grocery store and the coffee shop, has so far spared me of this repetitive tune.

In the US, these tunes begin wafting through hidden speakers in the shopping places the day after Thanksgiving. Basically you cook most morning, gorge yourself to near death and then race to the stores, wearing your best running shoes, to get you in sooner than anyone. Well that used to be the norm, till the likes of Amazon and other online shopping killed the last of the traditions.

Then why? Why these songs? Why this repetitive tedium? Why oh why?

The answer is Christmas Carols. These songs keep alive the tradition of carol singing. While I have not yet seen carol singers, in all the many years I have lived in the US, I am sure there are many that go door to door in smaller neighborhoods. Growing up in India, I had the opportunity to witness and experience a few. It’s quite common in Kerala, and used to be so in Chennai, where I have lived. But these days I guess they only visit Christian homes, and so unless you have many Christian neighbors, you are unlikely to see any.

And so, I let my defenses down, let my soul soak in the music. But please spare me the “Its the most”, unless you want me humming and croaking it, at every spare moment.

Then they came for me..

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Martin Niemöller

Since 2014, when Narendra Modi and his BJP came to power, they have steadily worked towards eroding the ethos of a democratic society. Freedom of speech and expression, Freedom of religion and Right to equality, all guarnteed as part of the our own Constitution have been challenged, and with its Executive power and support of State machinery, these have been reduced to mere words on an old parchment in a library.

In this age of WWW, ie Whole Wide World, where nothing is a secret anymore, and where citizens are no longer bound by a geography, ideas circle faster than the speed of light, emotions unite classes, thoughts break language barriers, and it in this new brave world people have to expect different. Today basic human and civil rights are considered as important, if not more important than food and water. In this era, it is therefore impossible to accept and live with rules and norms as expounded by regressive governments and or their followers.

Followers? Yes! Through out history, no one has been able to impose restrictions or upsurp rights without support from a section of the populace. These people are common folk like me, lured by an idea, swooned by charisma or spurred by simple hate. If by hate, there is usually a personal bias that allows this emotion to gain an edge over empathy. Some people are influenced by past experiences, and probably justified in their actions, because of the private imprints on them. But many others are simply swayed by emotions, of fear of the unknown, what if the worst that happened to them, happens to me. Collective conscience imparts the most heaviest burden on most average folks. It is easier to succumb to this, and be at peace, rather than try to revolt and rationalise feelings.

But protest we must. Rationalise we must. We are humans only because we possess a sense, a unique sense of intellect that would allow us to discriminate; as in allow us to analyze a situation and take different action, that is required based on all information that is immediately available and those that can be discerned. It is important for sanity to speak, and must not be suppressed in all the din. Narendra Modi and his Bhakts (as they have come to be known on social media), may attempt to hijack prudence, but there is a duty upon those who are not influenced to stand up and speak up.

I am writing this, because many of my friends and family are in this realm of influence. Thankfully in varying degree. And so when i speak up, if it causes even one to stop and reflect, i have probably served humanity. I have felt intimidated by the overwhelming support sometimes, but more often it is the nagging question, of “why do you have to question everything?”. Then there is the narrative to compare and equate wrongs, and thereby silence my voice. People who oppose these thoughts are even branded, tagged and name-called. Subtly by friends, but with blatant abuse on the anonymous social media.

Wake up! Speak up! Let it not be too late!

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