Friday, June 30, 2006

Swamiye Sharam Ayyappa

This post is in reponse to a post by blogger Neha Vishwanathan on the latest controversy surrounding actress Jaimala’s claims that she had entered Sabarimala temple.

Dear Neha,

I have read many of your posts and I appreciate your opinion generation efforts against gender-bias through your blog. But I think you have got it really very wrong this time. When you made statements like “Cut state funding” (this year’s revenue was Rs 62.5 Crores, last year 57.75 Crores) it became clear that your knowledge on the subject is very limited(which you have duly mentioned in the beginning of your post). In my opinion, when one is not fully aware of the subject, its custom, history and significance to the people concerned, then its better not to voice your opinion, let alone pass a judgement, more so when it’s a sensitive and personal matter like religion. When you say women should be allowed entry to Sabarimala, you are hurting the religious sentiments of devotees of Lord Ayyappa which (quite ironically) includes women too! And that exactly is why I disagree with your take on it.

Lord Ayyappa is believed to be a celibate hermit. As per the beliefs, proximity of young woman will be detrimental to the sanctity of the place. Even men who are planning to visit Sabarimala should observe a strict regime for 41 days viz. waking up early and taking breakfast only after taking bath and morning prayers, not shaving or taking hair cuts, walk bare-foot, wear only black mundu, follow strict vegetarian diet, total abstinence from sex and sexual thoughts. Here’s the complete list. These are beliefs of believers. And when I say believers, it includes woman also. I don’t remember any of the womenfolk in my family protesting against their non-entry to the temple. In fact the situation is quite contrary. Lord Ayyappa is so revered among malayalees that an average young woman considers the very thought of entering the temple blasphemous. Its not that women cannot worship Lord Ayyappa. There are numerous Ayyappa temples across the world and women are allowed in most of them. In case of Sabarimala, legend has it that Lord Ayyappa himself had ordered King Rajasekara that only those who observe vritham should be allowed to enter the holy sanctum. And as part of that, young women are not allowed in the temple premises.

When I asked my mother if she doesn’t feel like visiting Sabarimala, she said she will after she turns 50. Before that she shouldn’t and she won’t. So even though I appreciate your intention of voicing your thoughts for gender equality, I think this is a case of misplaced enthusiasm. Its not about gender discrimination, it’s a matter of faith. Various religions have their customs. To an outsider, these may seem silly, illogical. But hey, is belief in God logical? Does that stop us from believing in God? I hope you get my point. When it comes to matters of faith, I am of the firm belief that you should find peace in your own faith(it can even be aethism) and at the same time not question others faith. Questioning another person’s religion and beliefs are serious offence, in my opinion.

In case you are looking for more info on Lord Ayyappa, is a good website.

-Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa-

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The travails of being Devil’s Advocate.

Didn’t we just love Karan Thapar grilling Arjun “Reservation” Singh? He’s been in good form of late, particularly since this reservation thing came up. After Arjun Singh, he makes Kamal Nath look silly. And recently, his nosiness makes Rahul Bajaj loose his cool.

But last week Karan ran into the inimitable Arun Shourie and he finally proved that being Devil’s advocate is not an easy job after all. Up against a well read man of amazing clarity of thought , our own home-grown Tim Sebastian, was found floundering on more than one occasion.

Sample this:

Karan Thapar: Compare it with 2006. Name one village out of India’s 6,00,000 villages where the Dalits are permitted to stay in the centre of the village. Not only are they banished to the outskirts, but in most cases, they are required to live in the south side so that the wind that blows over them doesn’t pollute the village. That is the extent of discrimination they still suffer.

Arun Shourie: And the wind in all of South India comes from the south my friend. I don’t know where you get this nonsense from?

Karan Thapar: Chandrabhan Prasad, perhaps one of the few Dalit intellectual scholars, who can easily confirm the facts to you.

Arun Shourie: Well, maybe. We have all got impressions about India. India is a large country. Almost every statement about India must be true, but the south business is quite silly because if you come to Goa my friend, you see the wind coming form the south. You come to Kerala, you see the wind coming from the south.

There’s more coming:

Karan Thapar: You have answered it in terms of the moral obligation. Let me point out to you the efficacy between ’47 and ’97. In those 50 years alone, the number of Dalits who as a result of reservations went to schools and colleges grew from 1.74 million to 27.92 million. During the same period, the number of Dalit graduates jumped from 50,000 to over 5.5 million. That’s an example of how reservations have helped and you are denying this to them.

Arun Shourie: Just one second. For the total number of persons going to school, what is the statistics from 1947 to 2006?

Karan Thapar: What do you mean the total number?

Arun Shourie: Irrespective of Dalits. The total number of school-going population in India from 1947 and now. Tell me.

Karan Thapar: I don’t know the answer, but the point that I am making is that the percentage of both has increased. I am saying the percentage of Dalits has increased because of reservations. Otherwise the system would have kept them out.

And finally the knock-out punch from Mr. Shourie:

Karan Thapar: Arun Shourie, since you are implacably opposed to reservations for the Scheduled Castes, what is your preferred way of tackling the discrimination they have suffered for centuries?

Arun Shourie: Firstly, I am not against reservations only for the Scheduled Castes, but for everybody. Second point is yes, if they have suffered that kind of discrimination and we have got good records of this kind of thing happening in the South, for instance in many parts of Tamil Nadu, then the best way is social reform and these great reformers who have made an enormous difference to India in the last 200 years as testified to by the Christian missionaries themselves.

Karan Thapar: Is there a second way beyond social reforms?

Arun Shourie: Yes, there is. Second is economic growth and modernisation.

Karan Thapar: Third?

Arun Shourie: Third is to find out what is the real reason for the poor performance of the child. For instance, he cannot retain what he learns in class because of poor nutrition, give him four free meals a day.

Karan Thapar: Individual attention?

Arun Shourie: Yes, absolutely.

Karan Thapar: Is there a fourth?

Arun Shourie: Yes. There are many things. He doesn’t have a place to study, make free dormitories. He needs free textbooks, he needs training and education.

For once, Karan would have felt like tearing his hair apart and screaming. I guess that’s what happens when you are Devil’s Advocate and just have to argue even if you don’t believe in what you are arguing.

Nice try, Mr. Thapar. Stick to Jayalalithas and Arjun Singhs.

Do read the full interview, and here’s the video links – 1 and 2.

Gaurav has blogged on it here, and here’s Confused’s take.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Can’t digest this one.

Guys, Aamchi Mumbai is 35th most courteous city in the world. Now before you start jumping up and down with joy, let me add that only 35 cities that were surveyed. That’s right, Mumbai is the least courteous city as per a survey by Readers Digest.

Was a bit surprised that Mumbai, a city known for its zest for life and free spirit can be among the rudest. New York tops the list. More surprises in store in the form of Sau Paulo (high crime rates) at # 5 and Seoul (weren’t they supposed to be very courteous, like the japs) at # 32. But when you read the full article, the reason for Mumbai’s abysmal ranking becomes crystal clear.

So here’s the three “tests” RD reporters did to determine “courtesy index”.

  1. Do shopkeepers say “Thank you for shopping” as you leave the shop
  2. Whether people hold the door open for others following behind them
  3. Drop newspaper in a busy street and see if someone picks it up for you.

Imagine buying groceries from the neighbourhood lala and as you turn back counting the change, lala screams “Thank you for shopping, please do visit again”. Its just not part of the culture in our country. So not saying “Thanks” after shopping does not mean lack of courtesy or disrespect. We just don’t do it. Simple. Now if only someone could explain it to those reporters from RD. By the way I find this “Thanks for shopping” stuff really phoney unless if its in Japan where the salesgirls bend 90 degrees and sing in unison “Aarigato Gozaimaaaaaaaz” in the most nasal tone imaginable (Himesh Reshammiya will be ashamed). In that case, its more funny that phoney.

Now holding open the door bit. This too is not a convention in our country. Don’t the RD guys know that we Indians don’t hold the door open and just stand there, all smiles, waiting for others behind us to pass buy and expect them to say “Thanks you so much”. We just push open the door and get in. If someone is following behind us, we just we push it a bit wider so that he/she can also enter in before the door shuts. No fuss!

If Readers Digest was taking the pain of sending its 2000 reporters to 35 cities in the world, they might as well have put some effort in selecting proper test cases. Atleast they could have chosen tests based on the regional culture and ways of life. Salespersons saying things like “How are you doing?” and “Thank You”, holding the door open etc. are considered as part of good manners in a country like USA but are largely unknown(let alone be followed) in India.

I am not so sure about the newspaper dropping part of the test but looks like you Mumbaikars did a very bad job there. Didn’t I tell you to be on the look out for people dropping newspapers? Now look what your negligence has cost you! Ok now atleast be alert from the next time. The moment you see someone dropping even a tissue paper, dive towards it, like Mohd Kaif and catch it before it hits ground. But don’t appeal, just give it back with a smile. And if the other guy gives you a stare, just ignore it – remember , courteous. If not for anything else, do it as a mark of repect that poor RD reporter, who on a soggy summer afternoon outside Church Gate station, dropped his newspaper, making it look like an accident, and after five minutes had to pick it up himself.

Update : I would like to add that I am not defending Mumbai or saying that Mumbai is a very courteous city. As much as I hate to admit it, we, Indians in general are not courteous when it comes to behaviour in public domain. More than lack of courtesy, its the lack of sensitivity which rankles. This post was just to voice my opinion on the survey and its funny methods, totally disregarding regional sensibilities.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Comedy Of Errors

The controversial Dhoni dismissal has resulted in ICC issuing a clarification of protocol under such circumstances. Read it here.

Ruchir Joshi at SightScreen points out the silliness of this rule. As per the wise men at ICC, if a Dhoni-Ganga like situation arises, the onfield umpires can refer it to the third umpire. Fair enough. Now the funny part. The third umpire has to first decide whether it’s a boundary or not. In case of inconclusive TV footage, it is not a boundary since there is no evidence of any boundary(Ah Genius!). And since its not a boundary, it a clean catch and the batsman is out (Einstein!). Whatever happened to benefit of doubt being given to the batsman? Why can’t the third umpire first adjudicate on the catch?

Apart from this obvious inanity, another grudge I have is why is it that the third umpire has to make a decision even in case of inconclusive evidence? What if there are no footages of the fielder catching (or saving the boundary)? So we have a situation where the onfield umpires refer it to the third umpire, who has no other option but to make a decision, but he has no help whatsoever in form of replays. What does he do? Still rule that its not a boundary and hence imply that the batsman is out (since it automatically becomes a catch)? Mind you, such a situation is quite possible. I have seen many times (mostly on Doordarshan) when the batsman hits the ball high in the air, cameras point skywards and keep searching for the ball while it has already landed. On other times, the cameraman moves the camera so fast that he sometimes overshoots. Infact something similar happened in this Dhoni dismissal. As you can see in the video here, initially Ganga is in the frame, but as he tries to zoom it, the cameraman looses it and he zooms on to an inflated pepsi bottle advertisement outside the boundary.

In such cases why can’t the third umpire just communicate to the onfield umpires that he cannot make any decision due to lack of proper replays. The onfield umpires can then take the word of the concerned fielder. If he’s sure that he took the catch cleanly, rule the batsman out, else, as per the norm, give the benefit of doubt to the batsman. The fielding captain or any other player should not have any rights to question this decision.

Why this rigidity that the third umpire should make a decision even if he is not in the best position to make the right call? Isn’t the whole idea of having a third umpire to reduce umpiring errors? Then why make such inflexible rules and introduce the possibility of more errors?

As with most of ICC’s other “rules”, one can only wonder.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

That 70s show – Bollywood ishtyle

Ladies and Gentlemen, thodi hi der mein hamara jahaz 1970s ki duniya mein pahunch jayega aur hum aakpo 70s ke kuch dialogues sunanevale hai. Bhagne ki koshih mat karna kyonki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi..oops..kyonki tumhari maa hamare kabze mein hai. Robert, 70s ke dialogues ke tape shuru karo. Mona, hamari godh mein baitho aur dialogues suno.

  • Khabardaar, varna mujhse bura koi nahi hoga (Vaise bhi tumse bura koi nahi hai)
  • Dadima aaj mein bahut khush hoon (For the uninitiated, that’s heroine’s way of telling that she’s fallen in love)
  • Mein tumhare bache ki maa banne vali hoo (Sorry, I need a DNA report)
  • Ek ek ko chun chun ke maroonga (Patented by Dharmendra)
  • Kutte, kameene, mein tera khoon pee jaoonga (Patent pending with USPTO, applicant – Dharmendra)
  • Bhagwaan ke liye mujhe chod do (To which Prem Chopra responds “Itni achi cheez bhagwaan ke liye kaise chod doon?”)
  • Maa…mein aa gaya maa…
  • Tumhaare ghar mein maa behan nahi hai kya? (Initially this did the trick but after sometimes eve teasers got smart and started replying “Ma-behan to hai, lekin girl-friend nahin hai”)
  • Aaj tak maine tumse kuch nahi manga (Mangna bhi nahi)
  • Bas, isse aage ek lavs bhi nahi bolna (It took 30 years and Baboo Rav Apte to ask the logical question - Ek lavs? Kaunsa lavs? )
  • Beti tho paraya dhan hoti hai
  • Bachne ki koshish mat karna, Pulees ne is ilake ko charo tharaf se gher liya hai
  • Maa, Mera baap kaun hai? (Camera zooms into Nirupa Roy's face who flexes her eyebrows)
  • Kaan khol kar sunlo (Heroine tries to open her ears)
  • Khabardaar agar aaj ke baad Vijay se kabhi milne kee koshish ki to (Generally delivered by Pran, though occasionally by Prem Chopra, Vijay enacted by angry young Big B)
  • Maa…mein pass ho gaya (Bas beta ab ek OBC certificate ka bhi intezaam kar lo)
  • Aaj se mera tumhara koi sambhand nahi hai
  • Tum insaan ho ya pathar? (Err..Insaan?)
  • Mubarak ho, tum maa banne vali ho
  • Maa ka doodh piya hai tho saamne aa (Umm..sorry horlicks piya hai)
  • Bhachaaoo
  • Apne aap ko kaanoon ke hawale kar do
  • Kaanoon ko hath mein math lo (This line was the most common graffito I have seen in boys’ rest room during school days)
  • Kaanoon ke hath bade lambe hote hain (hehehe)
  • Daddy! Mein Vijay ke siva kisi aur se shaadi nahin karoongi
  • Arre, thijori ki chaabi kahaan gayi?
  • Tamaam gavahon aur bayano ko madde nazar rakhthe hue, ye adaalat is nathize par pahunchi hai.. ki mujrim ko iss blog ke saare posts padne ki sazaa di jaathi hai

Friday, June 02, 2006

Banning The Da Vinci Code

First censor board clears it, then the I&B ministry (going out of its way) holds a special screening and clears it albeit with some conditions. We then thought that that was the end of it and everybody can sit back and enjoy the most talked about movie of the year. And now various state governments have banned it. Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Nagaland, Meghalaya and counting.

When I read this news, my first reaction was that of anger.

“Our country is intellectually so backward”, I shouted out loudly.

I have seen the movie myself (luckily they didn’t ban it in California) and it just looked like a normal thriller movie to me. Instead of creating all this ruckus, if these guys just had let it play in the theatres, it may run for 2-3 weeks (I don’t think its going to be a big hit) and then make way for “Kabhi Omelette Kabhi Half-Boiled” and then will just fade away from people’s minds and life will move on. Right?


On second thoughts, I feel banning it is a right decision. First of all, it does hurt sentiments of certain sections of the society. It may be a piece of fiction but saying that Jesus was married and had a child, well it sure does sound blasphemous to me. I am not a christian but a little bit of sensible thinking is all that is required to understand how a god-fearing, deeply religious christian will feel about it.

When we see or read something which hurts our religious sentiments, we do act defensively, though the way in which different people react may be different. Some of us are privileged with better education and better judgement and hence react in a peaceful, responsible manner. But that need not be the case with everyone, more so in a country like ours where emotions run high.

In an official statement, Special Chief Secretary (Home) Paul Bhuyan justified the ban, arguing that the minority organisations had pointed out that 'the film's story line attacked the very heart of the Holy Gospel destroying the divinity of Jesus Christ. Its screening might lead to unrest among the semi-literate and illiterate rural folk following the faith.'

I think the above official statement pretty much sums it up.

Secondly, the movie is just not worth the violence that will accompany the protests that would follow its screening. I mean, really, its just an ordinary movie based on a ordinary book, not some great work of art that has to be seen and appreciated by one and all. We have had some really well made artistic movies of our times getting inadvertently embroiled in controversies of all kinds. And one does feel sad and helpless at the bigotry and intolerance shown by a few handful which deprives the rest of the society from appriciating true art – be it a feature film, a book or a painting. But this one doesn’t fall into that category. So the question arises - do we really need all the stone throwing, broken foreheads and destroyed screens just for showing a darn movie?

Let me clarify that I do believe in freedom of expression. My viewpoints are largely libertarian. But freedom of expression ceases to be so when it intrudes into someone else’s faiths and beliefs. It becomes plain “Panga Lena”.

Anway, those who really want to watch it will anyway watch it through CDs and DVDs which will soon flood the markets, if not already. So there you go, rent a DVD, take home and watch it. Enjoy!

Jiyo aur Jeene Do!!

On a funny note, had this movie been released in Punjab, here’s probably how the scene would look outside “Ludhiana Talkies”..

I got it from the internet, all credits to the creator of this (Morparic?)

Update : This cartoon is by Morparia, a cartoonist for Mid-Day in Mumbai. Thanks amit for the info.