JNU – all that buzz non academic

jnuJawaharlal Nehru University – a premier educational institute of India, has been in regular news over the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, for reasons not academic.

Not because its students or professors achieved anything remarkable connected with higher studies, research or anything related to learning for that matter. But, because of the battle of supremacy of one idea over the other accompanied by violent protests and clashes bordering in anti national activities.

Jawaharlal Nehru, after whom the university is named, was a free thinker and welcomed criticism of his own ideas. While he advocated secularism, he has also written books about the lofty heritage of this country. By no means he would have been delighted by the attempt to propagate anti-national ideas on Indian soil.

Healthy debates and discussions and free expression of opinions are the bread and butter of a citadel of higher learning. Even though the university was dedicated to the memory of Jawaharlal Nehru, it was the leftist leader Prakash Karat who formulated the major policies related to the University. Moreover, the student politics of the campus has been mostly left dominated. Hence, it can only be expected that the university propagates and zealously guards a particular point of view.

An ideology is just a notion. As a prodigious student, in stead of probing the origin or relevance  age old ideologies, it is unfortunate that  a citadel of learning has been a stage to propagate particular ideologies.

A student should be a skeptic, questioning everything. The faculty should engage in producing and encouraging that spirit of inquiry and should not in any way bring their own ideologies  to influence their commitment for the intellectual growth of the students.

According to the Wikipedia page on JNU, while it is ranked third best university by India’s Ministry of HRD, it ranks 1177th in the world by an international study. Academically speaking, the university has still a long way to go in spite of attracting some of the best minds of India.

The events at JNU also raises serious questions as to whether student politics should be allowed across educational institutes in India. By the way, elections were banned in JNU from 2008 to 2011. At the age when students in India enter campus politics, are they mature enough not to be used as pawns? Moreover, by indulging in active politics, do not they lose precious student time  that they would have devoted to learning? After all ,educational institutes are not meant to give hands on training about the nitty- gritties of winning elections. During my college days I witnessed classes being postponed frequently due to student activism over trivial issues.

As the JNU events  show, students are used as pawns to push forth particular ideologies or carry on certain types of propaganda not at all related to the curriculum of study. The situation becomes dangerous when anti national propaganda are carried out in the name of free speech. Somewhere a line should be drawn between free speech that genuinely encourages spirit of inquiry and self reflection on one hand and  propaganda by vested interests that questions the very fabric of a nation that after all gave them an opportunity to study in that university with a generous subsidy out of her citizens’ earnings.

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Views as News

Media has always been an instrument of propaganda.

I remember in my childhood days listening to the Hindi Programs of BBC and Radio Moscow. Even in a Hindi program by BBC, if at all India was covered, it would be in connection with something bad that happened.  Radio Moscow was all about the glory of communism and the evils done by countries like the US.

I think nothing much has changed since then. Unless there is a rape,  cyclone or a starvation death, the western media hardly mentions India. The TV Channel RT (Russia Times) focuses on the evils of American politics and society while, in a subtle way trying to establish the supremacy of the Russian leaders.

In fact the whole story of the James Bond movie – Tomorrow Never Dies – is centered around the controlling power of a media Moghul. It shows to what extent the head of the media house could go to create sensational news.

Of course, in real life media houses may not go the extreme extent of creating war so as to be one up in covering  sensational news. However, it may be remembered that most of the media houses are owned either by the government or, by big business houses. Ultimately, the owners impose their vested interest in some form or the other.

In our country, particularly in South India many of the media houses are owned by the political parties. While some of remaining ones have their own political or ideological leanings, the rest have their business interests at heart.  In such a scenario how can you expect the media house to be neutral and non-sensational in covering and presenting news?

In our country, particularly in South India many of the media houses are owned by the political parties. While some of remaining ones have their own political or ideological leanings, the rest have their business interests at heart.

The bias of the media can be visible particularly in election times. Propaganda material is peddled as news. Even on the day the election results are announced, till the last moment TV channels would be showing inflated numbers for their favourite political party.

Another irritating feature of Indian TV channels is the number of advertisements they show. Sometimes you feel, it is an  advertisement channel with little bits of news nuggets thrown in as fillers.Of course Doordarshan and regional language channels are way better in this respect.

Another irritating feature of Indian TV channels is the number of advertisements they show. Sometimes you feel, it is an  advertisement channel with little bits of news nuggets thrown in as fillers.

Then of course there was this Arnab Goswami. I think he is still there somewhere in invisible mode planning his next strike.  He has started a whole new trend in imposing a particular point of view.  One can see the influence of his Tughlaqi andaz on other channels where some go to ridiculous extents to imitate his style.

Another disconcerting fact that is noticed not only in the case of Indian journalists but also in the case of international ones is that, even senior and renowned journalists do not take stands based on the merits of each issue de-linking it from their personal bias towards a person or a group.

The press in general touches a low point when journalists go to any extent to serve biased news for pecuniary benefits and other favours. This has given rise to a new word that is in vougue now a days. Presstitutes. The interesting thing is – this is out and out an Indian contribution to the English vocabulary.

It is unfortunate that the press,  which is termed as the fourth pillar of democracy, is on shaky grounds.

     presstitutes-india

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Love is in the Air

love
American Bald Eagles during mating season

To associate love with sacrifice is divine. To mix love with pleasure is human. And to make business out of love is American.

According to the Greeting Card Association of America 25% of all cards sent are valentines. Of course, now it is a global trend.

Well, love is in the air. In India it is the Spring season which has been traditionally associated with harvests, festivals, flowering and romance. Then of course, now a days we have caught up fast with this international tradition of celebrating the legacy of St. Valentine.

At this age I cannot join the the young enthusiastic valentine brigade. I cannot ‘beat’ them either by joining the moral brigade in India who are suddenly on a Swadeshi hype. I am still a fence sitter. Maybe, there is no harm in just ruminating a bit on various aspects of love.

Flavours of Love

Love is something that everyone experiences in some form or other. No amount of talk or preaching about love can transfer one’s experience of love to another.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Love is that glue that holds everything together”. Going by this definition, everything is love, expressed in its various flavors or distortions. No one is devoid of love. Even the so called loner loves his loneliness, disregarding the love poured on him by nature from all sides.

Gurudev also says that the negative emotions like anger, lust etc are distortions of love. Love for the objects becomes greed, love for perfection becomes anger, love for one’s own supremacy becomes jealousy. Taken to extreme, coupled with a sense insecurity, one’s love for one’s religion, race, language etc.  may make one a chauvinist, bigot or extremist depending on one’s intensity and stupidity.

Transcending Relative Love

When love  is relative, all these flavors and distortions are experienced. Love for parents, love for one’s own children, love for siblings, romantic love etc. are all different flavors of love. Then there is love of the highest order, when all these relative flavors are transcended. That is what Maharshi Narada calls in His Bhakti Sutras parama prema rupa or the ultimate love or the absolute love or bhakti. Bhakti may start as a love for the divine in form or formless. But it flowers to its ultimate state when love remains without its distortions. Then one becomes love and one’s being permeates love.

The Legend of St. Valentine

Somewhat similar to the eastern concept of Bhakti is the Christian concept of ‘Agape’. Four kinds of love are described in the Bible. The lowest being the erotic love (Eros) and the highest being the Agape, exemplified by the love of Jesus Christ to humanity and God. In between are Storge (family love) and Philia (brotherhood or love between co-followers of Jesus) .

Many scholars trace the origin of  Valentine’s Day to the ancient pagan ‘fertility’ festival of Rome celebrated on 15 Feb. Later on, along with the people of Rome, the festival too was Christianized and renamed as Valentine’s Day, to commemorate  agape. Towards 14th century the term came to be associated with romantic love. Fourteenth Century English Poet Chaucer extended Valentine’s Day beyond human beings, when he wrote:

“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”

By the way, nothing is known for sure about the St. Valentine- the inspiration for the Valentine’s Day. There are many versions of the legend of St. Valentine. However, according to the majority of scholars and theologians, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who, performed secret marriages in 3rd century Rome against the dictate of the emperor to debar young men from marrying  so that they became better soldiers.

The English Church removed the feast Day associated with St. Valentine in 1969 citing his questionable origin.

P.S. – I Love You

This expression is commonly used to express love, particularly in western countries and the westernized in other countries. Even a romantic movie has been made by this name. As we know, P.S is abbreviations of ” Post Script”,  written at the end of a letter when someone remembers to have forgotten to write something in the main script.

I wonder what kind of love it is that comes as a post script, some kind of an afterthought. If there is love, it is there at the beginning, in the middle and at the end, it is a continuum. If you love something, you do not make it a side issue or forget it.

Some say, the expression is used to remind the other how much one loves the other. It is like saying – “By the way, do not forget that I love you”. Do real lovers keep on reminding expressly how much they love each  other? Like everything else, as we progress in the name of civilization, is love also becoming formal, superficial?

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Wear Your T-shirt to Humanity

The other day my social activist friend said,” Come on we have to start doing something some where”.

“Where exactly do we start? Do you have an action plan”, I asked in a friendly voice, even though he would often term me,  in as unfriendly manner as possible, as a speed breaker.

“It is like this. We go and raise funds. Then we buy fifty thousand T shirts”.

Being a born skeptic, I asked, “T Shirts?”.

“I mean these will not be ordinary T shirts. We will get the slogan -Save Trees – printed boldly on both the front and back of the T shirts. If needed we will go for another fund raising to organise a grand function. We will invite a celebrity I know to inaugurate the T shirt”.

“Great”,   I said. “Why can’t we use the funds to plant trees. Directly. As simple as that”.

My friend was agitated. Annoyed. I could see the passion of social service burning in his eyes. “You people will never appreciate my subtle ideas. You will never understand. First it is important to educate people. You know, educate people. Create awareness. You know, create awareness”.

He went on and on till I surrendered. His idea was that writing ‘cigarette smoking is injuries to health’ was the only way to eradicate smoking from this earth once and for ever.

We are a people of symbols and gestures.  It is in our DNA. That is why events and campaigns about social ills start with a bang and fizzle out in a couple of months, till another grand even after a couple of months comes up to cover up for all our callousness.

Occasions like campaigning for swatchh bharat are great opportunities for schools to improve their brand value. It also provides an opportunity for the teachers and students to upgrade their social media status. You may clean something in the morning and by evening it is back to square one. That is why one should not make one’s hands dirty and preserve their cleanliness to to utilise for a fantastic selfie.

During those initial days of swatchh bharat mania, it was a usual sight to see a duo or trio of  school teachers  driving a herd  of school kids holding placards and shouting slogans. They also held brooms and stopped every now and then for selfies and photo ops. I was so much swayed by their enthusiasm I also joined them. (Not because one of the teachers was pretty, mind you). At the end of the rigorous ritual lasting for one hundred and twenty minute, each child and teacher, on an average, must have spent one hundred minutes in selfies and photo ops. One teacher confided in me, “There is strict instruction from the principal. The photos must be of good quality. This event will be a watershed one for our school magazine. We will also go for a press release”

Social media like whatsapp have created another brand of social activists. You can feel the fire in their fingers. They are experts in forwarded as received messages. They do no have even time to read the messages. Because in a day they have a set a target of 10, 000 messages to be forwarded. So, you cannot accuse them of not understanding the messages.  However, it makes them appear more humane than you are. They even threaten you and emotionally black mail you. “You must forward the message to hundred others, or else you are not a patriot/ your are not a human being / you do not love your mother and so on”.  By the way I have lost a couple of close old friends because I dared to exit from such non sense groups created by them to spread socially bullshit messages. On their part, such virtual activists are absolved of all the social responsibility that comes up with being actively associated with the issues on the ground.

In the ultimate analysis, it makes sense to wear your T shirt to humanity.  You might have erroneously and unintentionally (and very humanely, because to err is human) killed a couple of animals and human beings, but wearing a T shirt is regret enough to absolve you of all your sins, because now you appear more humane than your fellow human beings and animals who choose not to flaunt such a T shirt.

being gandu

image source: https://teespring.com/shop/beinggandu#pid=6&cid=619&sid=front


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Alone in the World of Technology?

After their adaptability to the mobiles, social media apps like Facebook have become a rage. On these very social media platforms quite often we get ‘forwarded as received messages ‘ ringing alarm bells as to how real relationships have taken a back seat as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Whatsapp etc. .

This week’s Indispire topic too raises questions linked to the above propagated fears. It says, “In this world so connected with technology, we have actually lost our real connections. Technology has actually surpassed human interactions. Real time conversations became texting and feelings became status updates…. “.

I am reminded of an often repeated theme in twentieth century Bollywood films. The hero would go to a foreign country for studies. When he comes back after twelve years  no body is able to recognize him. Sometimes, the story would take a ‘comedy of error’ twist.  Now you cannot present such a story to the present skype generation. It is a great loss to the Bollywood script writers.

Barring the above notional loss, I do not think there is any real cause for alarm. Rather three are reasons enough to rejoice.

We can look at it this way. Now we leverage technology to save a lot of time.  No more do we travel 20 kms to a railway station and stand in queue for two hours to book that vacation ticket. We do not have to visit a post office to send money or a letter or a telegram.  Some even do not go to office to their official job. This in turn gives us more time for creativity, productivity or have real life fun.

Even though my wife is very active on social media, she does not miss her daily quota of enlightening and philosophical  face to face conversations with her neighbours. Now there are more topics for discussion. Like, why her dress from Amazon cost more than her neighbour’s.

Jokes apart, now she is able to connect with her daughter in Switzerland on a daily basis almost at no extra cost. Sometimes during the video chat my daughter closes in on the dinner plate and they both cry. In a way it has deepened the feelings. Imagine how we would have interacted ten years back. Maybe once or twice a month a phone call. Or, an international mail. Hardly can our daughter be out of sight, to be out of mind.

There has been no let up in my face to face interactions with my family members, my neighbours and  my colleagues, even though I use technology a lot.  Now, due to these latest developments in communication technology, I am able to make connection with those with whom I would not have been able to do so if these latest developments were not there. In fact technology has helped me to connect more with real people, far and near.

Thanks to their status updates, now I feel being connected on a daily basis to hundreds of my school/college mates and ex- colleagues.  Many long lost friends have been found. Those who are nearby still come physically to express their feelings whenever the occasion demands.

The fear that the virtual world created by  technology has taken over the real world is over exaggerated. Especially in the case of India. Or else, every year you would not be seeing larger crowds at public events and holiday places with their friends and families.

In fact technology is providing me less and less excuses to be alone. The virtual reality provided by technology is only a medium. The people I interact with through this medium are real. Does not matter if they are far or near. And sometimes even if I have never met with them.

What about our blogging activity and our real time interactions over so many bloggers from India and outside?

Before the era of computers and BPO did you hear of someone earning a salary in one year, the equivalent of his father’s life time earnings in a private or government service?

Or the senior citizens (and the non-IT guys) attributing all the ills of present Bengaluru, including cost of living and heavy traffic jam, to ‘those IT guys’.

Well, that could be a kind of loss to those attached to the idea of good old Bangalore.

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Note Ban – probable long term impacts

 

Right decision is that which may bring short term misery but benefit in the long run. Wrong decision is that which brings short term pleasure but pain in the long run – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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In reaction to the government’s demonetization move, the mainstream and the social media are full of pro and anti sentiments. While the government insists that such measures will kill the black money, terror funding  and bring transparency to the financial dealings, the opposition’s hallabol is only about the hassles faced by the people in long queues in front of the Banks. There is hardly any reasoned and in depth debate about the long term impact of such a measure.

No doubt, getting legal tender notes has become a big hassle for the common man.  The troubles to get  back one’s own money parked in the banks are definitely worth taking if,  it ends the era of black money and the parallel economy and heralds a new economic and social order without adversely effecting the economic growth.

Remember the purchasing power is not dependent on the colour of money. Whether black or white, the loss of purchasing power is a loss of purchasing power. So it all depends upon how quickly the purchasing power is restored. If it continues for a long time, the sales of goods and services will be hit, leading to a domino effect. When the sales are hit, it will result in lower production of goods and services, lower GDP, lower employment and ultimately a recession of the economy.

Even at the cost of being politically incorrect, let me explain it this way. Let us say:

Purchasing power before demonetization (P1)= legal tender (x1) money + fake currency or illegal tender money (y1) + plastic money in the form of credit (not debit) cards  or other kind of credit instruments (z1). Here black money is already factored in as either these will be in legal tender or illegal tender.

Purchasing power after demonetization (P2) = x2 + y2

Now when I say the purchasing power should be restored, P2 must be made equal to P1, or x1+y1+z1 must be made equal to x2+z2. In simple terms to restore the health of the economy to its status before demonetization, Govt should replace (with new legal tender) not only the demonetized legal tender money, but also the fake currencies which were in circulation. And the sooner it is done, the better. If the cash crunch position persists for a prolonged period, the sales of goods and services will be adversely effected  leading to long term negative economic consequences.

Taking India towards a cashless society will be the final nail in the coffin of the parallel economy which threatens the stability of not only the economy but also the society in the form of terror funding and erosion of the value of the rupee. In a country like India the hurdles will be many considering, the average education level and the large rural population.

Then, the first step has already been taken.

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Water also may mean disputes and scarcity

The theme of Day 3 of the photo challenge of #developingyoureye I is ‘Water’. Of course you may ask, where is the element of water in these photographs? For that, one has to visit the Google Map where these are beautifully marked water bodies.

Well, these depict the story of a couple of vanishing lakes of Bengaluru.  Many other places in India may have the same story.  The real estate sharks may be already on the prowl. Maybe, after some years nobody will remember that there used to be thriving water bodies here.

It is said  that there used to be an ocean,  right at the place where the mighty Himalayas stand now. Who knows, there might have been beautiful water bodies right at the places where many of our skyscrapers vie for attention.

In countries like India water also may mean the lack of it. In spite of being surrounded by the sea from three sides, being flooded by the thousands of rivers every now and then, the water crisis in many parts of India is a harsh reality.

Well, let us forget Latur and move on. And, of course, not to speak of the water disputes.

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Sunday Musings and Random Notes #4

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Those unknown heroes did not even wait to hear our applause

One day, while I was driving to Bengaluru Airport, I spotted two small IAF planes moving in synchronicity. Instantly I was reminded of an aerobatic display by the Suryakiran team two decades back.

It happened at a  forward base. The local Chief Minister was the chief guest. All were waiting for the first glimpse. The perfect formation of the nine aircraft became visible over the horizon and in an instant they zoomed past the spectators who looked on with awe. There after followed various hair raising stunts and manoeuvres, all in perfect coordination and formation. Every one knew that a split second error could result in a major disaster. Only those at the cockpit knew how much practice, patience, alertness and gut feelings went into producing such an impeccable display.

Of course in some of the later displays that I witnessed at other locations including the displays for the public, there were arrangement for running commentaries where the name of the team leaders were mentioned. But then with all those din and excitement in the surroundings,  the running commentary hardly held your attention. In this particular show there was no such running commentary or public announcement. After the display there was arrangement for refreshments. During that time the Chief Guest was supposed to meet and compliment the pilots. A large part of the spectators was eagerly waiting to see those men behind the machines who gave those miraculous stunts. However, after some time we came to know that the team had to leave urgently. Neither did we know their name then nor did we have any opportunity to let them hear our applause.

This incident is a representative of the larger events involving our soldiers. Forget about the applause, in the theater that the soldier operates there are no spectators to applaud. Sometimes the hero even does not live to narrate or hear his glory. There are case where a soldier is awarded and may occupy a fifth  page mention. But the majority of those heroes go unsung. May be that is why we have so many memorials to the ‘unknown soldiers’.

suryakiran
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 By Sivakumar ThyagarajanSurya kirans !, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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 Why should the Hero take all the credit

Here of course I am talking about the reel life heroes. There is no need to mention that. Our social conditioning is such that when we talk of heroes, the first ones to come to mind are the filmy ones, even though majority of them could be damn cowards and hypocrites in real life and may be suffering from all kind of fears including fear of not being the best noticed one in a public gathering and not to speak of the fear  of cockroaches. To distinguish a real life hero from the filmi hero, we have to say – so and so was a real life hero; where as,  it should be the other way round.

Now coming to the real (or, reel) issue, the filmi hero is like the body of a car. It is the most visible and highlighted part of the movie. The other fellows (including the heroine) who work equally hard and are equally talented, do not get as much credit as the hero. In the filmi world too there are unsung heroes. The body double who does the real ‘heroic acts’ remains  unsung.

body-double

Sunday Musings and Random Notes #3


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Come on India, do not lose your sense of humour

A good sense of humour is vital for democracy, especially for its citizens. At least, it lets you live through all the broken promises made by your politicians.

It seems India is turning into a country of no dissent and no humour. There are some political and religious leaders who themselves act as jokers. But all hell breaks lose when some one makes a joke at their expense. It is unfortunate that the painter turned  CM of a state that takes pride in its hoary history of great intellectuals and artists cannot take dissent and humour in right democratic spirit. Down south, a Chief Minister who herself was an accomplished actress cannot digest a few songs written to criticize her. Recently, the backlash received by Justice Katju over his humorous Facebook Posts is unprecedented. I was reading one of the counter Facebook posts written by an Odiya politician, who has questioned Justice Katju’s authenticity of birth, education career and what not. As if by writing this one humorous post, Justice Katju lost all his democratic rights to be an honourable citizen of this great country where we have more statues and more cities and streets named after political and religions leaders than those named after writers and artists.

In India, it is somewhat OK to slight your nation. But, God forbid, you give a perceived sense of slighting to someone’s regional, religious or language identity. I wonder how the the great humorist Khushwant Singh would have reacted to the news that some one has filed a petition in Supreme Court to stop Santa Banta Jokes.

In this connection, all politicians have much to learn from the likes of Nehru,  Manmohan, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. Nehru not only encouraged criticism of his works, it is also rumoured that he himself wrote articles criticizing himself and published the articles anonymously. We have  had unprecedented number of jokes floating online and offline about the other three. Imagine how much less humorous the world would be if these guys suddenly decided to file defamation cases.

Come on India. The drama enacted in your parliaments, ashrams, streets and offices are already full of so much humor. Just recognize, enjoy and have the last laugh. Leave all the serious business to your religious and political leaders.

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Celebrating thirty years of Malgudi Days

It is a humongous task for any director to convert a novel into a movie retaining its authenticity. It becomes all the more difficult when the story is humorous. In my young adult days I used to be a  great fan of RK Narayan. I still am. Malgudi Days, directed and produced by Shankar Nag did full justice to the characterization of the denizens of the fictional town Malgudi. Rarely did I miss an episode when it was first telecast on Doordarshan. Sometimes while random channel surfing I come across an episode of Malgudi Days on DD. It is as delightful to watch it today as it was three decades back.

As I have mentioned earlier in this post, in our country, we have more memorials built for religious and political leaders than writers and artists. If you go to a country like England or Canada, a famous writer’s erstwhile residence is marked as a must visit place for tourists to that city. But not here in India. How many of the present generation who visit Mysore would know that RK Narayan was a resident of that city. Of course after much hue and cry, the dilapidated house of RK Narayan was restored a couple of years back and now it functions as a memorial. Still, does it feature in the top ten, or, top twenty five places to see in Mysore?

malgudidays.jpgimage credit: thebetterindia.com