Codename: SulphurSufferSafar

The Haryana Akhil Khap Panchayat Dal has agreed to sponsor a mission to Venus (Shukrayaan) if it takes away all jeans-wearing girls to the hottest planet  in the Solar System. (No, that’s not Mercury, even though it’s closer to the sun.)

Because men are from Mars, and jeans-wearing girls deserve to burn in sulphur fumes. See for yourself their depravity.

Zalzale Me Dubki Maaro.

In a rear public display of decency (PDC), the opinion of the aforementioned girls was sought. They agreed to embark on this voyage on the condition that dish-from-China-that-causes-hormonal-hijinks is served on board. The Khap Dal declined their obnoxious demand and has decided to use stuff that it knows will work: laathis.

Not these laathis. Women have touched them. Women shouldn’t touch sticks. Oh wait.

The mission will be codenamed SulphurSufferSafar. Safalta is hoped for, and an image of Asaram Bapu will be emblazoned on the shuttle for good luck. ISRO representatives declined comment, as they are busy calculating how many rang mashaals can be bought with Rs. 6000 crores.

[Don’t ask me how it is a codename if we all know the code.]

[Images courtesy: Wired.com and tyci.org.uk]

200 Minutes of IEH

[Written a month or so back.]

Four 50-minute periods of pre-independence Indian economic history? No way was I supposed to attend that, but I did, and it turned out to be a darn good lecture by Prof. RC. It essentially constituted the stories of the cotton industry, the jute industry and the railways in the British period. Very interesting case studies in themselves, but the digression is what I enjoyed the most. Somehow the lecture turned to the origin of the INC and the contrast between the forms of nationalism seen in Bombay and in Bengal; the Bombay region’s (and the INC’s) mainly moderate approach and the Bengal region’s militant nationalism.

RC said that militant nationalism seeks its power from images of the past. It beckons a reversion to what was, and to illustrate this, RC used Bankim Chandra Chattapadhyay’s Anandamath. There’s a scene [read below] where three images of Mother India are shown worshipped: [from Wikipedia]

  1. What Mother Was – An idol of Goddess Jagaddhatri
  2. What Mother Has Become – An idol of Goddess Kali
  3. What Mother Will Be – An idol of Goddess Durga

image

The important aspect is that What the Mother Will Be is a spitting image of What the Mother Was. RC contended that the militant nationalists, the Sannyasis in the case of Anandamath, lacked a concrete vision for the future, except for a nostalgic return to the past. Something that would work to invigorate people, but not something that would lead to a better tomorrow. RC went on to say that Gandhi’s economic vision, even though his nationalism wasn’t militant in a sense (but militant in a non-physical sense, maybe?), wasn’t too different, as he spoke of  a return to charkha-spinning and villages being the units of the new (old?) economy and a small government.

The Occupy movement, on the other hand, had no past symbol to refer to, nor a concrete vision for the future. But it brought into focus the enormous income disparity that exists today, and for that it must be credited.

The excerpt from Anandamath is a good read, but reeks of too much nationalism for my taste:

Mahendra, following the Mahatma, soon found himself in a spacious room with a high ceiling. The room was dark, even though the landscape outside was glowing like a diamond in the sun. At first Mahendra could not see what there was in the room.

Gradually a picture revealed itself to him. It was a gigantic, imposing, resplendent, yes, almost a living map of India.This is our Mother India as she was before the British conquest,’ the Mahatma said. ‘Now say Bande Mataram.’ Bande Mataram,’ Mahendra said with much feeling.

‘Now follow me, Mahendra,’ the Mahatma ordered and they entered a dark tunnel to emerge into another,even darker room. Only one ray of light entered it, so it was sad and gloomy. There Mahendra saw a map of India in rags and tatters. The gloom over this map was beyond description. ‘This is what our Mother India is today,’ the Mahatma said. ‘She is in the gloom of famine, disease, death, humiliation and destruction.”Why does a sword hang over Mother India of today?’ Mahendra asked. ‘Because the British keep India in subjection by the sword. And she can be freed only by the sword. Those who talk of winning India’s independence by peaceful means do not know the British, I am sure. Please say Bande Mataram.’Mahendra shouted Bande Mataram and bowed low in reverence with tears in his eyes.

‘Follow me along this way,’ the Mahatma said. They went through another dark tunnel and suddenly faced a heavenly light inside another room. The effulgence of the light was radiating from the map of a golden India- bright, beautiful, full of glory and dignity! This is our Mother as she is destined to be,’ the Mahatma said and he in turn began to chant Bande Mataram. Mahendra was moved. Tears flooded his eyes as he asked: ‘When, O Master, when shall we see our Mother India in this garb again so radiant and so cheerful?”Only when all the children of the Motherland shall call her Mother in all sincerity.

New Study Reveals One In Five Indian Male Students Is Gay

I started writing what I thought was an intelligent post showing how blog publishing rates mirror the diminished sex life of married couples post the Honeymoon period, and searched for Outlook’s famed sex surveys.

Maybe I would have done some regression analysis, y-axis showing coital frequency per month and x-axis representing time.

But I forgot all about that when I found this: the Geography of Sex. It’s not as interesting as it sounds. But within it was this innocuous, stat-filled paragraph that most percentage-fearing people would have skipped: (you can skip it too, actually)

India is obviously less a dating society than the US. But the atlas points to a survey that suggests that in India 79 per cent of male students surveyed supported pre-marital sex for men but only 58 per cent supported it for women. At the same time 60 per cent of female students did not think they had to marry before having sex. In the US girls begin to date at an average age of 12 or 13, and boys at 13 or 14 years. Only 47 per cent of women surveyed in 21 countries would choose their current husband or boyfriend as their perfect date. But dating, if the survey is to be believed, is not all about sexual liberation. It has its flip side: one in five women in the US become victims of date rape. In Britain and Germany more than 70 per cent of women under 20 have sex outside marriage; more than half of all married men under 20 have sex outside marriage.

Concentrate on the second sentence. Only 58% male Indian students supported pre-marital sex for women as opposed to 79% who supported PM Sex. (Can’t really shorten it to PMS, can I? This also has the advantage of possibly roping in innocent googlers who were just searching for some Prime Ministerial porn. Which reminds me, will a scandalous clip of our PM be called MMS MMS?) What about the 21% who find that it’s okay for a guy to have PM Sex but not for a woman? (Assuming that all those who were okay with women having PM Sex were okay with guys having it too.) Surely they are God-fearing and against women having multiple partners. Don’t cite the Mahabharata here; Draupadi was married. Does it then mean that they are ok with ‘fraternal kissing‘ a la Brezhnev and Honecker? (The two weren’t married.)

Russians and Germans :/ Commies :/ Putin has passed the anti-gay propaganda bill :/ Idiots.

And the slippery slope leads us here…

Maybe why Indians Are Bad at Football.

Sacrificing that one percentage point at the altar of rounding-off, we can then safely conclude that one in five Indian male students is gay. To hell with sampling errors, EPW wouldn’t publish this anyway.

Mallika Monroe?

Saw that? Yes? Fantasized about Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday, Mr. PresidentBlogreader? Fuzzy feeling right?

Now, see this:

I was almost expecting her to say Narender bhai, but she checked herself and went for Narender ji.

Smart, progressive and very often misunderstood like me.

Modi has a great chance of winning Mallika’s hand if he enters into this swayamvar. Move over Madhu Kishwar and her troop of Modi fangirls.

Kya? Nahi!

And Uma Bharti.

Ruk jaa Mallika!

And, of course, Sushma Swaraj. (Though Modiji and she aren’t exactly on talking terms now.)

Can you dance like this, Mallika?

Your argument is invalid, Sushi baby. HISSSSS!

 

Red Ant Dream: Not a review.

What follow are disparate thoughts I thought while watching Red Ant Dream at Derozio Hall, Presidency.

Red-ant-dream

Ladhaai binha shantih naahi, shantih binha mukti naahi.

(Without struggle there’s no peace, without peace there’s no freedom)

The logical conclusion to this syllogism would be that there exists no freedom without struggle.

Ladhaai binha mukti naahi.

Something that struck me was the omnipresence of Ahuja speakers: from the congregations in Punjab celebrating the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and Avtar Singh Pash to public meetings in the hamlets of Niyamgiri to the refurbished Room No. 26 (rechristened the Dipak Banerjee Memorial Lecture Room) in the Department of Economics in Presidency, this brand is everywhere.

Ahuja Speakers: Bharat ki Awaaz?

Ahuja Speakers: Bharat ki Awaaz?

Another thing: In India, it seems that the word ‘Company’ has stood for the oppressor since the British East India Company set up its factories and this usage sees a sort of continuity in the struggle of the Maati ke Laal.

company

And don't forget this!

And don’t forget this!

Pash’s poetry is powerful, and remains so even with my rudimentary understanding of Punjabi. I couldn’t find any good Punjabi recitations online, but do listen to this and this (Hindi translations).

Often the tales of displacement only revolve around the loss of livelihood, but the misery due to the displacement of lives is far greater. Can alternate livelihoods compensate the loss of a way of living? Economic theory isn’t yet advanced enough to answer this question.

An army brigadier calls what the State is trying to do a “politico-military-socio-economic-psychological counter-Naxal campaign”. Phew! He also says that in this case, the population forms the centre of gravity and the side towards which they tilt will win.

Centre of Gravity

In the interactive session that followed the screening I asked the director, Sanjay Kak, whether any questions about bias had cropped up. I quote loosely his reply:

I’m not a big fan of being balanced. It is the job of the TV news anchors to be balanced, because that’s how they are able to hold onto their jobs. No one questions them and the hundreds of newspapers that print only the story of the poor young CRPF soldier being killed. It’s only when an independent documentary filmmaker makes a film are fingers pointed and hackles raised. ‘What about the other side?’ Well, what about them? We have only heard about the other side all this while.

This reminded me about what he had said about the symbolic power of the clearly edged-out Bhagat Singh, and maybe that is what guided this film: being clear about where you stand, no ambiguities; no lip-service to ‘balance’.

When asked about the use of poetry and music to accompany the revolutionary side’s story while the State’s case was presented through a haughty horse-riding army Brigadier and marching exercises and PPT presentations:

Well, that’s the way it is. The army commander clicks his heels and rides his horse very well, but doesn’t dance and sing with the tribals or even his jawaans.

He DOES look like an Angrezo ke zamaane ka Company-wala Brigadier.

He DOES look like an Angrezo ke zamaane ka Company-wala Brigadier.

After it all ended, Waled and I got together and bought two DVDs of Kak’s films, swimming out of the Piratebay after a long time.

[Images used are screenshots from the movie, except, of course, the Company poster]

Black Cat Crosses the Street

I dare you to read on and incur the wrath of this kaali billi.

I double-dare you, mot&#$&*#^$*!

This article written in the wake of Narendra Dabholkar’s killing gives a few pointers as to how rationalists and superstition-busters might be more successful by laying emphasis on the mistakes they make, but is largely filled with words that ring hollow.

“When a minuscule minority aims to scare, browbeat and threaten people of faith by trying to get legislation passed that criminalises a set of practices they voluntarily submit to, what we have is the naked use of privileged access.”

If someone believes in a Jhadoo-wale-baba and gets duped into paying a lot (fifty bucks for a daily-wager?) of money for his misplaced belief, will his voluntary submission be a defence for the criminal? A blanket assumption of caveat emptor? The problem is that such services don’t come with warning labels like ‘Exorcism-at-your-own-risk’ or ‘ShakalakaBoomBoom, TeraPaisaGoomGoom’.

“In post-colonial societies, the anti-traditionalist worldview can be received wisdom as much as any other tradition. Such a formulation might hurt the bloated egos of those who think that university departments and wistfully imported and badly digested bits of European post-enlightenment thought elevates them vis-à-vis their fellow people, seen as haplessly ignorant.”

This theme is the author’s favourite and he returns to it again and again. What I fail to grasp is the anathema that the author shows towards rationalist thought since it (according to him) originated in the evil West. He sees it bulldozing away all the plurality of Indian beliefs and existence, while quietly ignoring the possibility that rationality itself might be diverse. I’m sure no sane rationalist (if there are any) believes that weddings are a superstitious practice that need to be done away with. The author makes his burning-man of a rationalist condemn all rituals with equal vigour. He pictures these rationalists neutering social life and homogenizing everything they touch like Phenol-toting nu-age Midases.

In his last exhortation he wants ‘rationalism’ to  find ways to preserve the “plural ways of being human”. Well, sure. How about the exponential diversity in the way you dress, the food you eat, the places you go to, the people you meet, the movies you see, the music you listen to, the work you do. the books you read, the paintings you buy, the way you speak? Most of the above is not available to the class that is most in the cross-hairs of the peddlers of make-believe, yes, but one thing that experience has shown us is that BIG THINGS like education and upward-mobility can lessen the effectiveness of faith-healersstealers, but not eliminate it. Shashi Tharoor had a Ph.D at 23, but ended up launching Naveen Jindal’s Trivortex Tiranga Bangle.

Rationality doesn’t require sterilisation of all religious thought and expression. Worship idols and go on a Hajj, but please don’t marry off your daughters to dogs. (No, not even your mangalik ones.)

Who better than Ila Arun and her Jamai to welcome you to Sajjanpur.

The Quizmaster Is Always Right

I have been quizzing for some time now. Wouldn’t call it ‘professional quizzing’ – yes, that exists now – but it’s in a way specialized, since one sees the same group of individuals pursuing it for a long time. This group has additions and more infrequent subtractions, but is generally very stable.

When I began (a dozen years ago when I mistook the Charminar for the Buland Darwaza, or vice-versa), the quizmasters used to read out the questions from cue-cards, while today PPTs are ubiquitous. But the one thing that hasn’t changed much, in fact, I believe the practice has been reinforced in all these years, is that they all like to begin by telling the audience that “The Quizmaster is always right.” Nowadays, most of the quizzes include this dictum on a ‘Rules’ slide, and a subset calls this ‘Rule #1’ (as will we) and places a loop at ‘Rule #2’ asking you to refer back to ‘Rule #1’ in cases of doubt.

One would have thought that with the inclusion of ‘googling’ into the OED and the immense wiki-ization of the knowledge industry, this edict would get rusty. As it has, and yet, the usage hasn’t been reduced but has rather been propagated. Is the quizmaster always right? No, s/he isn’t. Some would say that they agree with this point but would still support the prevalence of Rule #1 on the grounds that quizzing is a game/sport and the quizmaster is the referee/umpire whose authority must not be questioned while the quiz is in progress. This is a seemingly obvious argument, but if one digs deeper, one realizes the absurdity that this represents.

The trouble with Rule #1 is that it implicitly assumes that during the quiz the quizmaster MAY be wrong. There might be a factual mistake in the question, there might be equally correct alternative answers other than the one the QM will give points for, or the QM might make a practical error in the conducting of the quiz itself. For now, we ignore the last type of QM-error, since those are easily resolved most times (but at other times they are not!) Focusing on the Q/As, Rule #1 gives the QM a bit of a respite. It sort of tells him: ‘It’s okay to not research your question to the fullest, I’m there. No one will call out your mistake. Chill.’ It exhorts him to Ctrl+C ‘facts’ verbatim from the wiki-store and not consider checking the source.

A typical quiz consists of around 60-100 questions (including the preliminaries). Surely, the QM has enough time to check whether the facts he has put into the quiz are all correct. More so for the QMs who copy their questions straight from slideshare.net, but then again, expecting them to maintain any standards in this or any regard is futile.

A small error is fine, but if the incorrect factoid changes the meaning of the question or has a direct or indirect bearing on the answer, then the mistake isn’t forgivable. The QM brings this upon himself by talking up his omniscience at the beginning of the quiz through Rule #1. To put it succinctly, if you as the QM believe that there is no major error in your set, you don’t need to put in Rule #1. If, on the other hand, you have reason to believe that there might be some major errors in your set (since you didn’t check the facts or are incredibly unlucky), then it makes no sense being a bigot and putting in Rule #1 and making a fool of yourself later. In case, out of nowhere a blooper does appear, if you haven’t put in Rule #1, you can easily save face by acknowledging your mistake, but you wouldn’t be so lucky if you believe that the quizmaster is always right. You have been warned. Thanks.

P.s. this assumes that you are not Parnab, because then you are above rules.

(Written on August 10, 2013)