Thursday, May 25, 2006

My friends,
My letter to you in the morning, and the adjoining thoughts, have been churning in my head. There was one old bookmarked link I had grazed through once, and had refused to think over again, in a more optimistic mood. Today, I was drawn to re-read it, and think a bit on it.,,1746948,00.html

No! Don't listen to Ayn Rand. There's still hope. We can bring up a new
generation that manufactures love and harmony at the same rate as they
manufacture money. We can't change the corrupt politicians. But we can
change their kids who can be gradually shown the falseness of the maxim
that one can't prosper (live) without dishonesty.

And don't think Adam Smith's postulates work in India too. Our
becoming rich doesn't ensure the nation's wealth.
It needs us to accept that there's something bigger than our individual
prosperity which needs a conscious design and intellectual and emotional
inputs. We can do something. We must!

We can change the world. Come back, you all! :) Love,

Ritesh Toshniwal wrote:
Dear Sujit,
> Rightly said that we can't do a Rang De Basanti - kill the politicians and
> end the apathy. But we can definitely instill these values in our kids -
> values that are progressive, that don't recognize casteism etc.
> I didn't quite follow your argument about economic prosperity though - our
> becoming rich doesn't ensure nation's wealth. Are you asking every person to
> rise over money matters and see the problem from a high level view - give up
> materialistic views and accept the spiritual or more wise views of humans
> loving humans? Or are you saying that capitalist approach is not good for
> India and it wouldn't benefit India in the long run? Why do you think that
> way? That will be interesting to hear.
> Junta,
> What do you think of the current situation in India? How do you see it?
> Hoping to see some intellectually stimulating thoughts from the thinking
> gurus of our group! :)
> Take care.
> Cheers,
> Ritesh

Hi Ritesh,

I feel this group does well in keeping us informed of each other --
who's moving to which part of the world, who's getting married and who's
not, who's getting kids, who's switching jobs etc. I am thankful to this
egroup for that. But what's been lacking is a visible sign of the fact
that each one of us is an engineering graduate, stationed advantageously
in profession and society in general. I feel, we all are doing
reasonably well in our lives. We are in a position to build and share
with each other our views about other greater, less trivial things.
Other guys! Please be vocal. Bash me up if I sound offending (though the
fact that I have been generously allowed to be a part of this group
indicates that a bit of frankness won't be taken as an offense. And
after all why do you have scientists? To ruffle up a few feathers, na!).
But do voice your opinions, abashedly.

Having said that, I thank you Ritesh a hundred times for responding. I
was thinking that my two letters would be lost after causing some
momentary disquiet. I am hopeful that some good and wise thoughts will
be exchanged on this matter in this group.

By putting forth your questions, you encourage me to be a bit more
explicit about my opinion. :)

You got it right! I do think that our becoming rich doesn't ensure
nation's wealth. Am I asking every person to rise over money matters and
see the problem from a high level view - give up materialistic views and
accept the spiritual or more wise views of humans loving humans? No! Not
every person. Yes, perhaps I am asking you to do that, and Nachiket, and
Shruti, and Raji, and Shailesh, and RiteshP and Suyog and Suvarna ...
and all my friends in this group. Most importantly, I have always been
asking 'ME' to do that! I am asking only those whom I love and feel I
have a right upon; I am asking only those, who, I feel, have the
capability of giving it a serious thought.

I don't think there's a possibility of an equally rich society in any
foreseeable future. Differences will be there. Those differences will
generally be respected if it's provable that they arise out of
differences in merit. There'll be aberrations: Criminal elements who
don't respect these variances and attempt to violate the equilibrium.
But in such a society which has variances closely commensurate with
merit, such elements will be rare and few, and can be handled by
symptomatic methods: force, appeasement, rehabilitation.

The whole issue of reservations is such a rage because of one single
reason : the status of merit as the singlemost determining factor of
one's place in society. Reservations are institutionalising the idea of
status being matter of chance, being decided by a vote-hungry corrupt
government for its potential vote-bank. The general faith in the
proportionality of status to merit is going to disappear after this.
Every chap who loses his faith will be a potential criminal. And
tragically, there will be a very big overlap between this set of
potential criminals, and set of the most meritorious and potent members
of the society.

But if variances are created by chance happenings -- lotteries,
robberies, discovery of oil-reserves by a tiny few, sudden focus of the
developed world on the cheap intellectual labour in the country --
riches do suddenly start flowing into the society, but, it doesn't
trickle through in a healthy manner.

Similar to a starving chap suddenly hailed with endless source of food.
He will eat and not exercise. He will grow fat and unhealthy.

I feel, in some sense, we all are cells in the body of our national
society. This body, off late, has suddenly started eating more. Some of
us are at points in the body which have the advantage of getting the
lion's share of this extra intake. It's not our fault. But mind you,
it's not fully our merit too. It's a chance happening. If it continues
happening for too long, soon starving organs will stop cooperating.
Noone will have an argument against this lack of faith in them. The
differences should be provably commensurate to merit. If they aren't, we
can't expect conformance from the disadvantaged ones.

But unlike cells of the body, we are intelligent creatures who have the
capability to be aware of this obesity and its consequences. The
individual cells, whether starving or overfed, will last only as long as
the body is alive. We can't ignore the fact that the whole body must
consciously get up and work out for staying fit. If this working out
hasn't been in the regular schedule of this body, it has to be inducted
consciously. It just won't happen by itself. Helpless cells are in no
position to make that happen to the body. But human members of the
society do possess the power to start that process in their society.

The objective of drawing the parallel between the society and the body
was to hint at the fact that riches don't have an inherent property of
getting distributed in the social body so as to cause an increase in the
overall health. Increase in overall consumption will not just not mean
an increase in health, it may even prove detrimental, if healthy methods
of disseminating that extra intake aren't consciously devised by the
responsible members of the society

Unlike brain cells, which never accumulate fat, the brain cells of the
society consider it their right to accumulate and grow obese.

Now, who are the brains of the society? If we claim that it's we,
then we also must relinquish our rights to grow obese, to accumulate. Am
I talking about renunciation? Am I talking about spiritual
enlightenment? I don't know! But in this social body, every cell has a
choice to take up a role. But definitely I am saying this: Every one
doesn't need to be a neuron; once someone selects that role for himself,
a lot of onus comes in.

Perhaps the comparison is simplistic. But it does give us many
directions to think in. There're similarities as well as differences. We
need to carefully examine them and be wiser.

I will dare answer your question on my views about 'capitalism' if I
see that this discussion is indeed evoking interest in everybody in the
group. Otherwise, as they say in all angreji talks 'May be, we will take
it off-line!' ;)

In short, my arguments will sound similar to the above. But will be
more directed towards economy and India.

Cheers and love, :)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I started this blog by copy-pasting an emotionally charged letter I wrote this morning to my engineering classmates' group. I thought, I could add value to the blog by chronicling the developments regarding this issue in as I see it.

HI friends,
AIIMS people have confirmed that this is a hoax. The earlier SMS (or
mail) reporting that certain students had collapsed during the strike
was also denied. I myself have no way to know. But I feel, in moments
when emotions are running high, a single hoax may cause things to go out
of control. Be careful in forwarding unconfirmed information. Lots of
people have already taken to streets, petitions are being signed, and
there is a general concern on the whole matter. Rest assured there's no
apathy in the intellectual community regarding this issue.

I don't know if we will succeed in stopping this bill from being
passed, but this will be a crucial point in the history of our country.
We had just started thinking that India is arriving. We thought that
with a bit of more hard work, perseverance and faith we could make our
nation what we think it actually is. This bill brings us down with a
thud! There isn't a way to tell whose fault it is. Perhaps, the notion
of India shining was a hoax. Perhaps because GDP and Forex is rising,
some handful of us are enjoying a more expensive lifestyle, we have been
fooled to assume that India is going ahead. May be in the dazzle of so
much riches, we have forgotten many of our fellows. Their jealousy is
not justifiable, yet it is understandable.

Or perhaps, it's being framed by social parasites who depend on merit
never realising its own value. There are definitely elements in the
society who don't have enough survival capabilities in them to survive
by themselves. They need a host whose vital power they can suck out for
their own survival. They will live only as long as the host survives.
They won't let the host die; nor would they let it go. Ayn Rand would
ask us to leave this country and go elsewhere. She would say that the
virtue we have been taught as 'patriotism' is the first vicious dope
that has been planted in us so we will never be able to free ourselves
from the clutches of our parasites. Perhaps, Rand would argue that at
this juncture forsaking the motherland would be the greatest service
that we could do her. Parasites will automatically dry away in absence
of the hosts.

I don't know! It's very tragic.


Interesting links:
Protest Rally in Bangalore (Pritesh's account)

A fumbling Arjun Singh
- Interview given to IBNLive

An Economically Divided India - Could these developments be but side-effects of the skewed development that we are so excited about?

Youth for Equality

Voting for the Closest Competitor

Mao's best students - Chandan Mitra

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's So Special About R. K. Laxman?

Some Zen master was heard saying 'A good sense of humour is the highest form of intellect.' Think of a person who could churn out humour for now nearly 60 years, day after day, year after year. With unabated standards. That's RKL for you!

Making a good cartoon once in a while is one thing; making excellent cartoons everyday for so many decades is nothing but genius.

A sense of humour at someone's cost has an element of inherent malice. But what do you say of a humour that's at the cost of oneself? I feel the cute Common Man always placed at a point from which he can't do anything but hopelessly observe the ludicrity of current affairs is a deep hurt in the heart of all Indians. RKL satires, not on politicians or corrupt bureaucrats, but on the Indian's absurd helplessness -- that's the invariant feature of all Laxman cartoons.
...and yet Laxman must have unsettled many a corrupt person by the very menace that all his cartoons seem to make silently to all parasites of the society: 'The common man is watching you; and one day he will give you his verdict.'
Let's see when.
Hats off to the genius!

A Bit on Drawing and Cartooning

I have observed that drawing is one of the forms of art that the largest number of kids try their hands on. However, it's one of those, which suffers a horrendously large number of dropouts too. Among the grownups you will find almost every body saying 'Ya! used to draw in the childhood. But then ...'

On the contrary, you may find a plenty of people retaining, and often even developing, their interest afterwards in their adulthood in various kinds of performing arts: music and dramatics in particular.

Drawing is a private art. Stardom either doesn't come or comes very late. The process of drawing is a lonely toil and mostly very boring for the impatient.

But I feel what makes drawing a particularly difficult thing to master is the big gap between being skilled and being artistic. After working hard for years, the rewards from copying another work are limited. Creating original art is the real challenge. And is very very difficult! Having a skillful hand is of course the bare necessity. The second level, which borders at artistic is the ability to break down a given drawing into components and handle them dexterously.

But what qualify drawing as an art -- which essentially has to be a medium of expression of something original -- is the third level. It is the power of observation and the power of imagination.

When the subject of drawing, whether a painting, a sketch or a cartoon, start popping out of the real life surrounding, it's an entry to the wonderful world of art. The artist's interpretation of the real world translates the beauty already present in the world, into a form that is visible to even an eye which is not so astute as the artist's. That beauty could be present in the colour, tone, composition, shapes. Or the beauty could lie the subject being depicted and the style of depiction. It could be an emotion, an event, an idea, a story, a joke or satire. Or just in the abstract something which can exist only in the mind.

But even further, when the mind starts conjuring magical realities in spite of the real world, the artist has really arrived.

Drawing deals with the most predominant sensory capability: sight. Yet, there's so little formalisms available. It's said that 'sound' directly connects to the soul. Perhaps that's why music could be so well formalised. Just a thought, that was.

Cartooning is a difficult form of drawing. It has to tell a story, joke or pun through a picture. Its casual appearance makes it look easy to draw. I think we grow up thinking of cartoons as a bad form of painting or sketching. Moreover, most of us hate drawing human figures in our childhood, simply because they are harder to get right, and harder still to get impressive. This removes cartoons from our good books early on, since cartooning is not just all about drawing people, animals and all living creatures, but about distorting them beyond proportions. And through the distortions, the essential features of the subject aren't just to be preserved, but have to be accentuated. I think, this habit of cartoonists to show as if drawing living creatures, which already is a more difficult thing for beginners, is such an easy thing for them, intimidates many. What's funniest about a cartoon for an onlooker is the put off for the aspirant cartoonist.

I feel that the state of affairs in the field of cartooning in India is very pathetic. We have very few cartoonists to reckon with. R. K. Laxman, of course. But he has had his career. After the stroke he got a couple of years ago, he has put up a brave fight and has continued to draw. I can only feel my reverence for him growing with his passion for his trade. But unfortunately, the draughtsmanship in those cartoons has deteriorated, and quite expectedly so. One side of his body is now paralysed. His movements are severely restricted by the after-effects of stroke.
We have Ajit Ninan and Mario Miranda. We have SD Phadnis, but he's now quite old. I am sorry but that's it about the list of Indian cartoonists to reckon with! :( You can count them on your fingers!