Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thank you Mom and Dad!

Research is a way to continue to wonder like a child all your life. It's not about how smart you are. It's not about how you did in your exams in schools. It's not even about fame and recognition. It's about the thrill in discovering an added level of order in the chaos around.

What would I have done if I hadn't known to wonder? To ask questions? And to seek their answers? What a drudgery life would be devoid of questions! I would have had to seek pleasure in owning cars, houses, being in top positions...being successful, in convincing myself of the meaningfulness of my existence by spotting envy and admiration for me in others!

My parents. They didn't send me to the best schools. They didn't expose me to the best sources of knowledge. They just left me free to wonder. I feel thankful to them!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Thin Line

There's a thin line between scepticism and cynicism. Since it's our occupation to be on the leading edge of scepticism, we researchers often tend to cross that line. To be brieft, scepticism is good, because it earns us our bread. Cynicism is bad, because it makes us bitter, suspicious (of people, not just concepts), sometimes bitter and almost always unapproachable.

In our lab in IISc, I feel, we all used to suffer from the highest degree of cynicism. People were too eager to be looked at as top-notch computer scientists to each other. Lest they appeared as something else, they would refrain from talking anything else with each other apart from computer science, that too cutting edge. The show of intellectual vanity was rather ugly. And to see some really good, likeable people (author included) being consumed by it was disgusting. There could be, and happened, only one consequence. We were hardly interacting but in the shallowest of matters, because we just didn't have so much computer science in us that we could talking about only that. The plight was such people did their work as well-guarded secrets. I didn't have a clue what my neighbours were doing. I am sure, the ignorance graph was complete. The situation explains to a large extent why researchers are so often associal geeks. Being a researcher myself (of whatever calibre), I can vouch for it that no research subject is designed to make a person callous and ignorant about his physical surroundings and fellow-beings. It has to be a result of a deep insecurity which forces one to recede into a shell, to carry their laptops to meetings, and to get their coffee to their desks!

Researchers are humans. More than anyone, they ought to remember it themselves. And they shouldn't shy away from interacting with their peers on terms which don't re-inforce their image as authority in their field of study. There are other more valuable aspects of one's personality. Why not be comfortable with them?

What's this anxiety?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reply; Don't Forward

I don't ever forward chain mails. I delete most of them. To some, which have meaningful contents, I find replying to the sender a more meaningful thing to do, than forwarding it to many. Some reasons are:
- Down the recipient tree, the seriousness of the thought about the issue discussed in the mail is diluted to near zero-concentration.
- I think, getting a reply to a casually sent mail suddenly makes you take the contents more seriously. Particularly, it's a prove that someone read the mail seriously.
- Throwing the matter back up into the recipient tree has a larger chance of meeting more sincere audience than down below.

An Example
Please read on for an example of a reply I wrote to a problem we all feel about.

For a change I pressed the reply button.

I agree with the idea of this mail, i.e. stopping the squandering of public money would help. But, I do wish to add a bit to this view. Even if the figures are authentic, saying that all this money would make the life livable for crores of poor people may be over-optimistic. Poverty and deprivation aren't mere lack of material resources. They are more deep rooted. Merely by diverting money from the plentiful to the deprived is not a solution to this problem. It won't take any time to turn those crores into worse demons than our few thousand politicians are if only they had money and power.

I feel, there's no evil in providing good facilities to public servants, provided they do their job. If they misuse the resources, it's a pity and they should be prevented from doing so. Not so much to save those resources (or money) but because that money symbolises the trust and respect that public places on these people. These people must exhibit very high work ethics so this trust is justified. But the problem of low work ethic is not limited to only politicians. It's a larger problem which pervades the society. Merely by replacing a person in a position of power and influence is not a solution; nor will diverting resources to other sectors of the population answer this huge issue.

Very unfortunately, problems of ethical poverty are deep rooted, probably a consequence of centuries of oppression. They have taken time to set in. They will most probably take time to go away. Probably, we may have to wait until the complete generation infected with this virus fades away giving place to a newer, more ethical, generation. I am rather doubtful about how much success, attempts to accelerate the pace of this social reformation will meet.

To end this, I want to thank you for the mail. I don't find forwarding it to an endless number of thoughtless, emotional junta (almost all of whom will probably rid themselves of their responsibility by forwarding it to some more people) of much use. Instead, replying to the more thoughtful audience in this group, along with my 2 paisa thoughts will probably matter more.

Thanks and regards,
- Hide quoted text -

On 19 August 2010 12:17, ... wrote:

Politician's drama

mail of the week…

Mr. Rahul Gandhi do this work just for an hour....without media.
Then tell us what you got...
If you really want to Change our India....No need to show us.....
We will follow you......Definitely.

arunaaNidhi Fasting

First time in the world history fasting only 4 hours and that too with an AC …….
This is the comedy of the year 2009….
Fastingstarts after breakfast and ending before lunch. Interesting one!!

Dont forget to forward this mail, We have to show these type of drama's to everyone

stop this....................grow up to be an indian

Govt. Concessions for a Member of Parliament (MP)

Monthly Salary
: 12,000

Expense for Constitution per month
: 10,000

Office expenditure per month
: 14,000

Traveling concession (Rs. 8 per km)
: 48,000
( eg.For a visit from kerala to Delhi & return: 6000 km)

Daily DA TA during parliament meets

Charge for 1 class (A/C) in train: Free (For any number of times)

(All over India )

Charge for Business Class in flights
: Free for 40 trips / year (With wife or P.A .)

Rent for MP hostel at Delhi
: Free

Electricity costs at home
: Free up to 50,000 units

Local phone call charge
: Free up to 1 ,70,000 calls.

TOTAL expense for a MP
[having no qualification] per year : 32,00,000 [ i.e. 2.66 lakh/month]

TOTAL expense for 5 years
: 1,60,00,000

For 534 MPs, the expense for 5 years :

8,54,40,00,000 (nearly 855 crores)


This is how all our tax money is been swallowed and price hike on our regular commodities.......
And this is the present condition of our country:

The image
855 crores could make their life livable !!

Think of the great democracy we have.............

STILL Proud to be INDIAN

know hitting a delete button is 2 press fwd button 2 make people aware of it!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Proud Moment and a Wishlist

Saina Nehwal scored a hat trick winning 3 tournaments in 3 weeks repeating Padukone Sr.'s feat. She is now going to be World No. 2, probably. That's a wonderful achievement. A very proud moment for India. I hope she keeps doing well for a long time. Would it be wrong to say that India isn't doing that bad in sports these days?

A wish-list:
- Hockey must improve.
- Not being in football map is disgraceful.
- Sania Mirza must get back to her form and put India back into tennis map.

This is the first time I thought so seriously about sports. But this morning while going through the newspaper, I honestly felt proud on seeing Saina's achievement. Really great!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Thought on Thoughts

There's this angel and devil model of our mind that comic books and cartoons have popularised to such heights. I feel there's a lot of truth in it. The subconscious part of our brain which is supposed to be stronger than our conscious brain, is home to both these gentlemen (or ladies as your case may be). It's also the battleground of moral war which these two people wage against each other. The result of each battle is the verdict of our subconscious. This being the stronger part of the brain, might also be the output of our brain itself. That is, if we equate ourselves, not considering the fact that our conscious brain is equipped with some unique qualities, to beasts.

This may be source of pessimism for some of us. Particularly those, whose brain hosts a strong devil and a feeble angel. If all our actions, and hence our life, are slave to the dictates of these two people, isn't there any hope for us to grow beyond our born destinies?

But there are a few things to note. One is that our conscious brain is the gatekeeper guarding the exit of all things coming from the world of thought to that of actions. And secondly, most importantly, even though its own raw powers are dwarfed before the subconscious's, conscious brain has the capability of learning from years and centuries of conscious thought that has been done and recorded by the entire human race. Subconscious lacks the power to learn (except through the slow process of evolution). Conscious can choose to act on results which it mayn't be equipped alone to arrive at. This incremental process of knowledge acquisition has made conscious mind, potentially a much stronger part of the brain.

Of course, exercising of this power depends on education, learning, reading and listening.

All this sounds so sickenly similar to discourses on karma, praarabh and free-will! That's the downside of learning. Over so many centuries, so many people have thought up so much that it's awfully difficult to sound original every time.

About Value

Why do we do research, man?! In fact, why anything?
One simple answer is: to make ourselves happy, prosperous, richer etc. That's OK.
But the 'why' becomes significant when we are talking about making choices between various things.
Often, there's a question raised about the practicality of the topic of research. For example, should a person do research on philosophy, or on digital electronics. Simplistic answers are:
- Whatever you feel like.
- Whichever is funded well.

These formulae may work in very clear cases. But, sometimes, things aren't clear enough. For example, whether you have enough funds for a research project depends a lot on whether you are interested enough in it or not. As long as the settlement of this balance between interest and funding is with one person, it may reach a steady state after some soul-searching. But what happens when the researcher is not the one who funds the research? His interest will hardly work as a great motivation for the military general who may be the one to sign the funding cheque.

Framing the whole problem of deciding research can be framed conveniently as a business problem where everyone has different (sometimes conflicting) motives. But the motive of profit-making unites all motives. Economic forces reign supreme. A capitalistic model.

But ignoring the fact that this model is insufficient to define motives of research could have disastrous effects on everyone. If economic forces are allowed to decide all research policies, it will drive the frontlines of knowledge in such directions as will mutate the whole body of human knowledge into an ugly monster.

The point is: what really is the meaning of the word 'useful'? What are those basic acts A, B, C... etc which are useful. If we are able to define that set, we could just argue on that basis to define the usefulness of other activities on the basis of laws like the following ones:
Law of composite activities: Say, some other composite act X is a combination of acts A and B. If A and B are known to be useful, we may conclude that X is useful.
Law of enabling activities: Say, an activity X results in increase in the ability of people to do activities A and B, then we may conclude that X is useful.

There might be many such laws if we give it a thought. That's the easy part to come up with such laws. The difficult part is to define a fundamental tenet of usefulness. The law that lets us conclude that atomic activities like A and B are useful. Their usefulness isn't derived from the usefulness of some other activities.

Let me dwell a bit on why our current knowledge falls short of achieving the above. Say, arbitrarily assign some positive value to some activities. If more of such acts are done, there is an overall rise in the 'value'. Thus, these acts are useful in that sense.

Say, one such act is 'eating'. A person who eats feels happy. So, there's a sense in assigning some positive value to eating. The more people eat, the more value there is. Nice and simple!

But there's trouble brewing there. If I eat too much, I get indigestion. My arteries may clog and I may die of heart attack. So, eating too much now may result in my dying early reducing the total number of times I enjoy eating. Also, suppose I am a criminal psychopath. I like killing people. The more I eat, the longer I live. The longer I live, the more number of people I murder. Hence, my eating results in many other people not living enough to enjoy eating. Hence, whether my eating indeed is valuable overall depends on what other activities it enables or disables, and the value contained in them.

Both the difficulties above are operational. They talk about the difficulties in computing the actual value of an activity. The difficulty arises from our inability in determining what other activities it may enable/disable. This difficulty, though significant, is not fundamental. It doesn't still present the fundamental difficulty of defining usefulness, or 'value', to be more precise.

The sense of that fundamental difficulty can be got from the apparent vacuousness of the idea of assigning value to such mundane things like eating, sleeping, having sex, etc. To me, doing this makes the whole idea of life appear vulgar! So, it's all about maximising eating and making merry?! There's nothing more than that?! Even computer programs, which can be broken down into a sequence of bits, or an electronic circuit, which can be looked at as a combination of numerous gates, seem to have a more respectable existence. At least when brought together, they serve purposes which can't be served by individual bits or logic gates. On the other hand, it appears blasphemous to compute the value of the most elevated life on the basis of the number of meals, sleeps and copulations it eventually results in.

There lies the problem of value. That hunch: That the value of elevated acts must lie in something less vulgar than can be reduced to a large series of mindless animal acts. I haven't read much of ethics, but I surmise that this is, in some way, the essential problem of that subject.

...and that's also my underlying thought when I ask: 'Why do we do research?'

Note: I foresee a link to this post appearing in many many of my future posts.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Programming and Home-making

What a tedium it used to look to write functions, let alone classes! During my ME, while I was generally regarded as a good programmer, my obsession with good programming practices was almost jeered at by my colleagues. Once, one labmate of mine had some programming issue which he said he wished to take my help in. While I waited later for a few days, he never came to me. Finally, I asked him what happened. He said that he was afraid I would use a lot of functions in the program which would then make it difficult for him to understand it. Instead, he had taken help of another PhD student there. He had made a program which was one straight line monolithic piece of code with not a single function call. Then I had felt funny. These people are definitely stupid -- incapable of appreciating the beauty of programming, I had thought.

About a decade afterwards, starting to live with a wife who was pedantically disciplined in keeping the household in shape was a shock. It was a toilsome process to learn that each thing had to have a designated place for itself, and that every time after being used it was supposed to be put back to that place. It automatically created an entry barrier to introducing housing articles. The process of procuring a domestic article was invariably accompanied by the process of figuring out where it would sit. The need to avoid cluttering the house with unnecessary articles was paramountly important. The household must be lean and mean. It was more in the fear of meeting with angry stares and words from the better half than from any real appreciation of the method that I learned it.

I haven't changed much fundamentally. I am still a bit untidy and need some monitoring to keep things in place; I am very much absent-minded and need uncountable reminders to keep doing my stuff. But, where I have really changed is in my appreciation of that household discipline that I had to initially imbibe with so much unwillingness. Now, I can see how similar it is to maintain the household in order to the problem of writing a large and complex computer program that is usable and enhancable by others. Same principles apply.

Intuitive variable/function/class naming; using of namespaces/packages and folders to arrange the source code, these are all programming parallels to the discipline of having a place for everything and everything in its place. Encapsulation and modularisation are similar to the division of responsibilities. Maintaining punctuality at home is not so much about mindless discipline. It's objective is the same as that of the discipline of concurrent programming -- to optimise use of processors, to about race-conditions and deadlocks, to keep multiple threads/processes from interfering with each other in destructive manner. All this eventually boils down to good timing. Each process doing its job isn't enough; it must do it when it's supposed to, so that other processes who arrive expecting a readymade output from the process don't have to wait.

Now I am surprised how, in my younger days, I couldn't see that what good principles and practices apply to my intellectual life are applicable to my day to day life too. In fact, I would go to the extent of saying that loyalty to good methods in professional life, if not present to the personal life, loses much of its meaning.

Related post:

5S -- the Management Mantra of Tidiness

Thanks Uncle!

Today, at the gate of the Manyata Tech. Park, a young chap, clad in trendy T-shirt, jeans, goaty and iPod plugged asked for a lift to IBM building. I gave him. And he paid for my favour by saying 'thanks uncle!'

Rascal! *^%*^@%*&^

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Unreality of Reality Shows

Yesterday, I was watching Indian Idol - 5. My wife likes it a lot, and dotes on some of the competitors. But for her thriftiness, nothing stands in her way to send zillions of SMSs to make some of them go ahead in the competition. I am not jealous of those competitors. And that's definitely not the reason for my writing this article

But this article is indeed with the motive of expressing my disgust with the reality shows being aired these days. That's a tacky topic to write on. But I will be more specific in things which I disapprove of.

First, a mention of things which I approve of. I think the competition has risen to unprecedented heights. Competitors are awesome. They are superbly talented. And more than that, they generally show tremendous grits in handling stress.

But beyond that, everything is a minus. Firstly, the way things are judged there is really aweful. SMSs sent by by and large a section of population with nothing better to do are far from representative of the public opinion. More serious listeners (assuming it's a music-based show like Indian Idol) will send a few SMSs under the influence of disgust that's caused by the feeling that undeserving candidates may win because of good looks and other gimmicks. But they can't continue to do so. The scepticism of the knowledgeable and judicious portion of the population about these SMSs mattering is pretty much of the same nature as in democracy -- when people think that there are far too many morons voting for a junk candidate for our votes to count

This pressure of impressing a very thoughtless majority audience brings out startling acrobatics on screen. In the opening episode, a girl is hailed as a simple village based contestant who has struggled her way to the competition against general opposition of her traditional village patriarchs. Some million votes (and SMSs). A couple of episodes down the line, she is found draped in all sorts of dresses which don't fit in well with her village background which was such a strong sympathy earning factor for her in the first episode. But, it doesn't matter if those who voted for the upliftment of an underprivileged talent in the first episode turn up their noses now. A few episodes' survival in the show has already earned the lady a semi-celebrity status. Now there's another -- bigger -- section of the audience for which the co-effecient of reflection of her bare shoulders and calves wins far more support than her underdog beginnings. Millions of votes again. As many SMSs.

Similarly, singers are made to dance, act and make faces. Dancers are made to fight with each other in well-rehearsed manners. Judges applaud and insult competitors in such melodramatic ways! Often they engage in verbal broils with each other which look supremely unbecoming and unnatural. It sends shivers thinking what kind of incentives make these great people behave in such artificial ways in the sets.

On the one hand, these days, judges' participation in the actual fate of the competitors has been drastically reduced by SMS competitions. On the other, during the performance, and in the few critical minutes that follow the performance, the judges bias the audience's judgement critically by making faces and hailing applauds and insults of their choosing. I am sure that most of the people who send their SMSs are impressionable enough to be seriously affected by minor twitches in the face of the judges. The whole thing appear like a setup where people are made to pronounce the judge's opinion. Additionally, it appears that the bias that the judges sometimes show during the performances aren't merely their personal opinion; they could even be pre-fabricated verdicts of the entire strategy of the organisers geared completely towards maximising TRPs.

Overall, the gaudiness of today's reality shows far outweighs the increased levels of talents. I'm not ready to believe that exposition of talents is critically dependent on fake spices of melodrama being played in the name of 'reality.' They stink of a systematic manipulativeness that arbitrarily alters the mass behaviour, and creates business models around them, thus closing the gates of redeaming oneself once the negative aspects start surfacing. In this world of mass-production, there has been little knowledge created on ramping down industries. They have just learned to grow bigger and bigger. And by the time the justifiabilty of their existence becomes questionable, it's too late to wind it up gracefully. The only way is to stretch them, at the cost of manipulating the consumption patterns of the population in unnatural ways. Companies keep getting bigger first devouring other companies, then governments, and then entire nations; soaps keep running for ever and ever, news programmes keep reeling the same sensationilsed coverage of a news item for hours, days, weeks.

Heck! What am I writing?!

I have equally disgusted thoughts about news channels, soap operas and the way the experience of TV viewing has become off late. But, I will speak of it some other time, if I do.

Related post:
SMS Competitions

Monday, May 31, 2010

Some Interesting Links

Some interesting links:
  • YouTube videos:
  • Search keywords:
  • Century of self
  • Happiness machines
  • Engineering of consent

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Meaning(lessness) of it All

A trip to cafeteria found a news report running on the latest train derailment that has killed 65 people. Again supposed to be a Maoist attack! Interleaved with it was the report where little girls in Rajasthan are being injected with growth chemicals before being pushed into prostitution. Then there are reports of Pramod Mutalick's alleged vandalism contract. An illness in the family of a childhood buddy is going to cost him all the money he has earned so far. I know about the struggle he has gone through to earn that money.

Visions of ugliness and meaninglessness around is overwhelming me at this moment. I often momentarily archor on such thoughts . I writhe for a few weeks in the pain of 'kuchh karna padega' (to borrow the phrase from the classic Hindi satire 'Raag Darbari' by Shrilal Shukla) feeling. Then the currents of everyday life take me away on my way. Sometimes, it feels as if the meaningless chores of everyday life are the only shelter from the burning flames that pierce our eyes the moment we try to look up, look around.

Am I doing anything good by even cribbing? Sitting in an air-conditioned office, being paid a salary which an impoverished fellow no worse than me except in the initial conditions of life would never dream of earning...As one of my dear friends rightly pointed out in response to my earlier posts, even talking about it brings up the question: 'Will you give it all up to save the world? So why talk about it?'

Really! Am I doing any good even talking about it, thinking about it? Wouldn't I better be busying myself feverishly in the chores of life without bothering about the bigger context. So, is that what Krishna meant by 'Karmanyavaadhikaaraste...'?

Did he say it because anything beautiful we make has an ugliness in the context that nurtures it? Because every thought of love has hatred hidden in it? Every building or highway we build destroys the ecology around? Every convenience we earn causes inconvenience to someone else we don't know? Every slurping sound we make over a delicious food is distilled out of the cries of helpless creatures dying? Because every instance of affluence causes many instances of poverty?

Or isn't there anything real called beauty without cruelty?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Side-Effects of Healthcare

The other day, discussion over lunch turned towards the popular subject of Jews. How brilliant they are. How shrewd they are. How most of the Nobel prizes in basic sciences have gone to Jews and so on. We also got to hear the natural selection arguments -- that says that the centuries of persecution of Jews has made sure that only the best of the best of them survive. That has resulted in a small but extremely purified gene pool among the present Jewish population.

This naturally led us to the undying arguments about the fundamental effect of improved healthcare on human race. In short, healthcare's main function is to support the life of the diseased. In general, it also means that it supports those lives who would otherwise have been lost because their bodies are too weak to survive. That means, healthcare is defying the basic law of natural selection which results in the survival of the fittest. Healthcare will result in the survival of the unfit too. We being in the healthcare industry can say how much rejoicing there is in the industry because the world population is growing older and there's a huge growing market for healthcare products and services. How, then, do we expect the human race to become stronger in the long run?

I think the argument is strong. But I have the following doubts:
Is it possible to defy the law of natural selection in the long run? If these bad guys whom healthcare is making live longer are finally going to meet their grievous end a few hundred generations down the line, the point of natural selection is reaffirmed, albiet a bit late. What big deal is that in the billion year long Earth calender? Natural selection seems to prove its point whether it sets in or not. What I mean is if these bad guys do manage to survive till doomsday, then they are the fit ones. It's just the 'fitness' gets redefined. Whoever said that fitness is just physical fitness?
The above point apart, is there any harm done by letting these unfit individuals exist by the side of the fit ones? OK, there will be cross breeding resulting in poorer gene pool. But there will still be some to carry the pure genes. How does that reduce the chances of the survival of the entire species is hard to comprehend.

Anyway, just to give a corny philosophical close to the discussion, it's said that death is nature's way to give way to new things. Had there been no death, there would have been no need to evolve, no need to innovate, no need to improve. No species would have seen the best of itself had there been no death. Death is after all not such a bad thing. If the average human life is about 75 years, we anyway lose 1/75 of the world population every year. That must be a huge number! Then why does death shock us so much? Why do we care so much to avoid it? These are innocent comtemplative questions, not condescending ones. Which means, death does shock me. And I care to avoid it at all cost for myself and my dear ones. But I don't know why!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buzz off!

My addiction to Google Buzz is very recent. No doubt it's got potential. To an extent, it's an integrated substitute of all the social networking one does with twitter, or facebook. In short, it's Google's trump card to reaffirm its monopoly on the Web.

From my personal viewpoint, Buzz, Twitter, and the whole bunch of social networking sites are methods of quenching my insatiable thirst for distraction. They all keep me from facing the painful reality that a working day is after all about a few hours (at least) of focussed effort. Mails are quick and practical ways of communication. The problem is that it's not insane. In emails, one has to explicate the list of recipients of that message.
In other words, one has to own the responsibility of where his words go. In consequence, evesdropping is illegal. This drastically reduces the traffic bringing it down to sane limits. Even with 3 to 4 mailboxes open, I don't get enough material enough to remain forever distracted. After reading a message, I have to again go back to work.

Buzz and twitter legalise eavedropping. Everyone is listening to everyone else. Now, things are insane. There's a chaos, noise all around. With Blogger, twitter, ... all integrated to create buzzes, there's no need to get back to work anymore. Buzz is continually buzzing while you are unwillingly pretending to try to get back to work. Since it buzzes you, you are saved from the guilty feeling that's associated with browsing the wikipedia, which involves a initiation from yourself, either voluntary or compulsive. This is the jackpot that tweets and buzzes have hit against emails and scraps.

Buzz is good. But it's got the potential of doing to me what Orkut had done 6 years back -- throwing me completely off track. So, begins the long process of disciplining myself and learning defense mechanisms against the messages buzzing off on my machine.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Dark Night

Power condition in Bangalore has been pretty bad as it is. Sunday evening's storm has made things worse. For the last two days, we are facing long power outages at home during the night lasting for 2-3 hours. My little son Vigyan wasn't able to sleep due to the heat and mosquitoes. I stood there fanning him with a magazine for about an hour, non-stop. Seeing him in trauma is a far dearer price to pay for me than an hourlong torture of standing in dark, sweltering heat of the night, myself bathing in sweat, trying to comfort him with a medieval apparatus. Seeing him slide back into a peaceful sleep was more than a compensation.
But this post is not all about showing off what an affectionate father I was last night (though I can't claim that not to be in the fringe of the agenda). The main purpose is to raise an alarm from my personal side.
I think we have started scraping the edge of the precipice. There will soon be a sudden disappearance of earth from beneath our feet, and then will begin a sudden, fatal fall. The way weather has been off late, the uncontrolled shortage of power and water, basic necessities of civilised life, all these is somewhat too ugly, too regular, to be caprices of nature. I think we are in a decisive stage of our battle against our unplanned, uncontrolled growth as a species. And we are going to lose this battle!
And at every moment I see instances of how we have abused our surroundings. How we continue to do it, thinking that it's normal to do so. Thinking that worry about it is a sign of one's own morbidity.
At office, the instances are most rampant.
People travelling to office by car, all alone. Shame on all of you!
People who don't switch off their computers while leaving office. Shame on you!
People who waste tissue papers and water in the toilet. Shame on you!
People who waste food. Shame on you!
You, who are often good people otherwise, often you are my friend, my colleague -- you are the reason why last night was such a long dark night for me and my son.
A long dark night awaits. A very long, a very dark night. Then, we'll most probably not have the luxury to exchange pleasantries at cafe. There will no lunch and snacks to go together to, because there will be only so much as only either of us will be able to eat. Not you and me. It'll be you or me! In those dark times, we may have to avoid each other's eyes. For it's hard to look into the eyes of a person you are killing. We will soon be fighting each other. Killing each other. Just like beasts! Because there will soon be so little left to survive on, that we have to reduce ourselves to savage ways even to exist.
Meet you in the battleground. Meet you in the jungle. Meet you in the dark night.
I had written this post for the company internal blog. But found it relevant to be reproduced here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beauty without Cruelty

I bumped into this webpage today, again reminding me of the ever-elusive issue of cruelty towards animals.

Where one draws the line of cruelty is subjective. One may go to the one extent of saying that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- should get hurt by what one does. Or he may choose the other extreme, saying, nothing that I don't 'know' as cruel death, is to be considered cruel. Both the stances have pitfalls. The first one has the oft quoted pitfall of considering plant-death as cruel, and hence, farming is cruel. On the other hand, the second one has the pitfall trying to explain why killing humans for food should be considered cruel. In fact, one doesn't need to go so far, since, the scene of Indian non-vegetarianism is rife with contradictions. Some people consider it OK to have fish, some draw the line after chicken, some after mutton. Beef, pork etc. are out for some people who, otherwise, neither swear by religion, nor give a second thought before relishing a mutton recipe.

There are unpleasant discussions between people arguing about whether indeed killing plants isn't as cruel as killing animals. After all how do we know that they don't feel pain and fear? What is the nature of this knowledge of ours? After dwelling shortly on themes of touch-me-nots and chemicals which flow in plants in response to physical stimuli, the problem eventually drifts into the dubious realms of epistemology!

And there are contradictions in human nature too. From my own experience, the most soft hearted creature I have ever met was this Muslim girl in my earlier office whose diet included everything that moves by itself. And the most aggressive of creatures I know are those who observe vegetarianism with Brahminical austerity. For one, I am not sure that my giving up meat-eating at an early age against the remonstrance from my family was a sign of my docility. Going through the unpleasantness of explaining myself everywhere, getting into ugly arguments every now and then with those who took my ethical vegetarianism as a personal attack on their non-vegetarian habits -- all these needed a determination bordering at arrogance. It was nothing short of a war against my circumstances. So much for the saying that vegetarian diet breeds peacefulness. I have met vegetarians with extreme conceit, laziness, greed, ...and every vice vegetarianism is supposed to protect you against. I am really not convinced that there exists any positive correlation between human nature and vegetarianism.

Then, is it a subject about which there's no constructive thought possible? May be people will/should continue with whatever food habits they inherit from their parents. I feel that's a very natural and just criterion for choosing one's food habit. We indeed have our eating ways too well-drilled in our basic nature. By basing our choice of our pallete on such general principles as 'cruelty and kindness' would be a mistake on this present day. The basic nature of 'cruelty' isn't known too well today. If tomorrow's philosophers do figure it out for us, only to find out that any kind of food is indeed based on a cruel act, will we have the guts to stop living?

Or is 'cruelty' such a big unknown? I feel, all philosophical problems are nearly unsolvably difficult when we try to solve them in general. But are exceedingly simple when we try to answer for ourselves. For it's very easy to know if what we are eating is due to our sense of righteousness, or is it because we are afraid to face an obvious question lest it makes appeal on us to give up our gluttony. I think, we should all face the question at our very personal level but we shouldn't argue with anyone. For all we know, asking someone to give up something he loves without sufficient convincing could be as cruel as killing. But examining our beliefs, our faiths, our personal sense of right and wrong, is not cruel.

The only prescriptive statement I would make here is that we should, in solitude, give these questions some thought. We needn't talk about it to anyone. But think, we must. Even if we are able to accept to ourselves that some item we consume is fundamentally a product of cruelty to someone, even if we mayn't be in a position to give up consuming it, or even to openly proclaim our finding, it'll be an act of momentous courage.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hunger Helpline

I don't know if posting the content in my blog is a healthy compromise between continuing a chain mail and just being callous. But the content seems authentic.
जो खाना खाते हो वो पसंद नहीं आता ? उकता गये ?

............ ... ........... .....थोड़ा पिज्जा कैसा रहेगा ?

नहीं ??? ओके ......... पास्ता ?
नहीं ?? .. इसके बारे में क्या सोचते हैं ?
आज ये खाने का भी मन नहीं ? ... ओके .. क्या इस मेक्सिकन खाने को आजमायें ?

दुबारा नहीं ? कोई समस्या नहीं .... हमारे पास कुछ और भी विकल्प हैं........
ह्म्म्मम्म्म्म ... चाइनीज ????? ??
बर्गर्सस्स्स्सस्स्स्स ? ???????
ओके .. हमें भारतीय खाना देखना चाहिए ....... J ? दक्षिण भारतीय व्यंजन ना ??? उत्तर भारतीय ?
जंक फ़ूड का मन है ?

हमारे पास अनगिनत विकल्प हैं ..... .. टिफिन ?
मांसाहार ?
ज्यादा मात्रा ?
या केवल पके हुए मुर्गे के कुछ टुकड़े ?
आप इनमें से कुछ भी ले सकते हैं ... या इन सब में से थोड़ा- थोड़ा ले सकते हैं ...

अब शेष बची मेल के लिए परेशान मत होओ....

मगर .. इन लोगों के पास कोई विकल्प नहीं है ...
इन्हें तो बस थोड़ा सा खाना चाहिए ताकि ये जिन्दा रह सकें ..........

इनके बारे में अगली बार तब सोचना जब आप किसी केफेटेरिया या होटल में यह कह कर खाना फैंक रहे होंगे कि यह स्वाद नहीं है !!

इनके बारे में अगली बार सोचना जब आप यह कह रहे हों ... यहाँ की रोटी इतनी सख्त है कि खायी ही नहीं जाती.........

कृपया खाने के अपव्यय को रोकिये
अगर आगे से कभी आपके घर में पार्टी / समारोह हो और खाना बच जाये या बेकार जा रहा हो तो बिना झिझके आप 1098 (केवल भारत में )पर फ़ोन करें - यह एक मजाक नहीं है - यह चाइल्ड हेल्पलाइन है वे आयेंगे और भोजन एकत्रित करके ले जायेंगे।
कृप्या इस सन्देश को ज्यादा से ज्यादा प्रसारित करें इससे उन बच्चों का पेट भर सकता है

कृप्या इस श्रृंखला को तोड़े नहीं .....
हम चुटकुले और स्पाम मेल अपने दोस्तों और अपने नेटवर्क में करते हैं ,क्यों नहीं इस बार इस अच्छे सन्देश को