Knee Jerk Blasphemy

It has been almost two weeks since the terrorist attack in Mumbai; on India. This attack has shaken the masses like never before. Everyone has been jolted into “action”. There has been an overnight explosion in the number and magnitude of knee-jerk reactions. Except that these reactions refuse to die down even after the “knee-jerk” period has elapsed.

In this post, I offer my two cents on the various opinions and solutions doing the rounds and attempt to reach a middle ground rooted in realism rather than one spewing out from emotion.

Reaction 1: Declare war on Pakistan.


I just can’t gauge the reasoning behind this opinion. I believe that Pakistan is suffering from more or less the same problems as India: a toothless political class; shameless, over-zealous media; and rampant internal terrorism.

Agreed that there’s evidence that links the Mumbai attacks to Pakistan. Agreed that India has evidence of terrorist training camps in Pakistan. But, are we saying that we should attack a whole country, with a population of 17 crores, for this reason?

By the same logic,

  • Jihadi training camps have been found in Karnataka. So, should we bomb Karnataka?
  • It’s a shame that India has been the world-leader as far as dowry-deaths, Sati, female infanticide/foeticide are concerned .. and this has been happening for decades (if not centuries). These shameful practices kill far more innocent people than terrorism. So, how about nuking India?
  • Road accidents in India probably kill more innocents every week than terrorists do in a year. So how do we deal with a Government which is unable to control these drivers (analogous to terrorists in the current scenario) from wreaking havoc? Declare war on 1 billion Indians?

How many of those 170 million Pakistanis really support terrorism? A few thousand? A few lakh? And have we even thought about those countless innocent Pakistanis who, just like countless innocent Indians, only want peace and harmony between the two countries? Just think about our heroes and icons from Pakistan - like Ustaad Ghulam Ali, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ateef Aslam. Just think about the outstandingly talented contestants from across the border in reality shows (Amanat Ali, Akbar Ali, Sara to name a few). Are they not just like any of us?

Besides, this kind of hatred will only spell doom for the future generations. It will only result in more terrorist groups springing up everywhere; and more bloodshed.

Yes, war it is. However, the Indians and Pakistanis (as in the general public in the two countries) are on the same side in this war. They are all waging a war against terrorism; against their respective impotent Governments; against the elements whose only aim is to destabilize the entire region.

Reaction 2: Shoot all the politicians.

Well, this is what came to my mind too when I saw the ridiculous manner in which the whole issue was handled by Indian “leaders” (Government and opposition alike). However, lets take a moment to think – can we really do without them? A 100 crore people need leaders. A country needs politicians to run it, especially when it is the largest democracy in the world. Our hatred for them notwithstanding, we need these leaders. Full Stop.

The alternatives are not very tempting either. President’s Rule, Military Rule, Dictatorship – these are all good only if the leader is good. But, will the “right” person ever get to be at the helm? Will Abdul Kalam ever be given full powers? I doubt that. Its more likely that without democracy, India would be divided into two dozen Myanmars!

IMO, the better option is to choose the right leaders. Go out and vote. I admit that at the moment, we do not have any good party to vote for .. they are all as bad as any other. But, lets hope things change for the better. Lets rest our hopes on the young blood in politics. Lets also resolve to enter politics ourselves if we don’t see any worth in the current swarm of leaders.

I know all that’s easier said than done, but I believe that change and reform are more effective if carried out at the grass-roots level (which means it will be slow) rather than aiming for overnight overhaul of the system.

Reaction 3: Negative Profiling of Muslims

I again find this highly puzzling. I strongly believe that Muslims are as patriotic as any of us. They are also as much victims of terrorism as the rest of us. Why single them out for negative profiling?

Before harboring unwarranted feeling towards an entire community, should we not stop and think for a moment about the Muslims we know? Who are close to us? Who are our role models? What image do you get in your mind when you think of Amir Khan? Do you feel anything other than respect when you think of Abdul Kalam or Naseeruddin Shah? What image does the thought of Ustad Zakhir Hussain conjure up in your mind?

The Muslim community has been blamed for not speaking out against these acts of terror as strongly as they should. That might have been true in the past. No anymore. Imams all around the country are voicing their opinions against terror; and denouncing this form of Jihad. Blogosphere is full of Muslim bloggers who have been crying hoarse against anything which disrupts the peace of the country (like this absolutely must-read post: Dear Mr. Terrorist ).

I strongly feel this is the time to unite as a country against terror; rather than play petty divisive politics amongst ourselves. Demographic classification be damned.

Reaction 4: Permanently silence the media

To say that I was upset with the insensitive manner in which the media handled the entire episode would be a gross understatement. Blog posts like Shoddy Journalism shed more light on how low the media really stooped during those 3 days.

However, is silencing the media really an option? I think not. The vibrant Indian media is crucial to the functioning of a democracy. The problem is that compared to the print media, the electronic media is just an infant; and infants get excited easily don’t they?

I am not suggesting here that we simply accept the TV news channels as-is. The last thing I want to do is idolize journalists like Barkha Dutt (who probably lets out an ecstatic moan of you-know-what, every time she sees an injured person or a dead body), or the other equally blood-thirsty hyenas who love to call themselves “reporters”. What we can do is change the channel if one news channel is so repulsive in its coverage! I have found that regional language news channels handled the coverage in a much more mature manner. Switch over to those.

Further, unlike the political class, the media is not in a position to disregard the public opinion. After all, the very reason they are breaking every rule of responsible journalism is to garner higher TRP’s; for which they need to keep the viewers happy. Right now, public opinion of media is as negative as it could possibly be. What we need to do is take this opportunity to reform the media as well! Write more blogs to make our anger known to the journalists. Contact the news channels, post comments on their blogs, write emails to them. Again, I understand that many of these efforts might prove fruitless. The Barkha Dutts of the world might simply trash our email. But, as I mentioned earlier, reform is a slow process.

Reaction 5: Raid the Terrorist Camps in Pakistan and in PoK.

This by far seems to me to be the most appropriate course of action for India. If we have irrefutable evidence that terrorists are being trained in those locations; we should demand that they be cleansed. If the Pakistan Govt is unable to carry out this operation, then India should be allowed to do so.

In conclusion

I believe now is the time for nation-building. Lets all resolve to tide over this crisis; lets all resolve to defeat the terrorists as a nation. Lets stand united against this heinous form of crime. Most importantly, lets also use this opportunity to start long-term reforms in every walk of life. JAI BHARATH.

Road to 700: Techno-Lazy

Update: This post has featured on BlogBharti

I landed up on full2faltu's blog which was counting down to its 700th post, through a post on Bohemian Rhapsody. Full2faltu is inviting guest writers to help him reach 700 (the count now stands at 697). The post you write will contribute to charity.

Here's what I managed to come up with for Full2faltu's charity initiative. Reproducing the post here.

There have been discussions in the recent past about technology breeding ignorance, or even plain stupidity. Well I tend not to agree with this. I’d rather say technology breeds laziness, hence the title of this post – techno-lazy.

Scene 1:

Sometime last year, I had been to a mall in Kuala Lumpur and enquired about the price of an iPod. The lady told me its 740 Malaysian Ringgit (RM). Now, obviously, I had to convert that to Indian Rupees, and 1 RM equals Rs. 12 approx. So what do I do?

I reach into the left pocket of my jeans to pull out my cell phone (for the calculator you know). Uh-oh! The phone is in the other pocket. So I pull out the phone from the other pocket. But damn! This pocket is so tight that along with the phone comes some money that I had kept in that pocket. And it falls to the floor. Aargh! I bend to pick up the money, give a silly smile to the pretty sales-lady. At last, I can start calculating .. but wait . . how do I get to the calculator on this phone? (I rarely use the calci you see).

Finally, maybe 3 minutes after I had first reached into my pocket to pull out the phone, I arrive at the answer – 740RM = Rs. 8880.

Had I not been so over-dependent on technology, I would probably have done the calculation in 30 seconds (700*12 = 8400, 40*12 = 480.. make that approx 500 … so cost of that iPod is approx Rs. 8900). Not to mention that I’d have saved myself from embarrassment in front of that cute salesgirl.

Scene 2:

I forget birthdays of three close friends within a span of 2 months. Can you imagine? Not one, not two, but THREE birthdays!!! And what’s the excuse I give them? “Hey, how would I know? You have not mentioned your birthday on ______ [fill in the blanks with a social networking site of your choice].”

Aww c’mon now. How difficult is it really to remember birthdays? During my early teens and before the advent of internet, I used to remember them effortlessly. Then how come this sudden loss of memory? Well .. its not loss of memory. Its just pure laziness, that’s what it is.

These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. In the first case, had I not had access to that stupid calculator on that stupid mobile handset, I would definitely have performed the calculation mentally; and much more efficiently at that! In the second case, I certainly remembered birthdays before I started relying on Orkut for the same.

Point I am trying to make is, technology is not making us stupid. Its just making us lazy to the core. Take away the technological prop, and we will still continue to perform the same tasks as efficiently. Its only because the technology is there that we use it. And we will continue to do so. I will continue to call/SMS the person in the next room (instead of walking up to him).. until Airtel keeps offering me the dirt-cheap call rates and hundreds of free SMSes every month :D

Hypocrite Radar - RR Patil.

In the aftermath of the Rahul Raj incident, wherein a gun-wielding youth was shot dead by Mumbai police, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil had this to say: "Those who take the law in their own hands will be dealt with in the same way".

Well Mr. Patil, in that case, perhaps tomorrow morning we should be reading

  • About the Mumbai Police shooting MNS activists, beginning with their chief, the honorable Mr. Raj Thackeray?
  • About the Mumbai Police shooting the famed Mumbai underworld dons to death?
  • About Mumbai police shooting the corrupt politicians?
  • About Mumbai police shooting YOU - since in issuing such a statement, you have taken the law in your own hands as well?

Mr. Patil, please do not give us this hypocritical, politically-motivated, i-wanna-save-my-rear bullshit. I do not want to opine on whether the Mumbai police was or was not justified in shooting Rahul Raj. My point is - why one set of rules for MNS and a different set for others?

Any answers , Honorable Mr. RR Patil?

A Letter to the "Religious Trouble-Mongers"

To the Bajrang Dal and other Hindu right-wings:

  • Yes, I agree forceful conversion is a crime. But, killing poor innocents in Kandhamal just because of their religion is a bigger crime - an unpardonable one at that.
  • Have you seen the photographs splashed across the newspapers - those of an injured nun with blood on her face - after the attacks on Churches in Mangalore? Is that your idea of delivering justice?

I hate to deliver my verdict thus, but if you continue with your brutal agenda of religious discrimination (and this includes Godhra, Babri Masjid and other incidents), it is in the interest of the country that Bajrang Dal be banned.

To the Christian institutions ..

... those accused of forceful conversions:

  • If forceful conversion is indeed what you are indulging in, remember that it is your religion which gets defamed by your act. The innocent nuns and Church-goers are the ones who face the brunt of resentment.
  • More importantly, it is against the law and against your own religion (I am no expert on Christianity, but I am dead sure that no religion preaches forcing people to follow their faith). After all the word "preach" implies that no force is involved.
  • Taking advantage of the people's situation (for example their poverty) and converting them .. well - I am unable to decide whether this is acceptable - for I feel both sides of the debate are equally strong.

... those which closed down for a day in protest against Kandhamal the attacks:

  • Your colleges have students from all religions. How come you did not protest against the bombs going off all over the country? Or against Godhra?
  • By only protesting against Kandhamal, you have made yourself as guilty of disturbing the religious harmony of the country as the perpetrators of the crimes themselves (not to mention that your act reeks of hypocrisy).
  • Christianity (just like any other religion) places as much importance on humanity as on religion. Keep that (and the fact that you have students and staff from all religions) in mind before going communal next time around.

I have nothing to say to the Islamic extremists, particularly Indian Mujahiddeen. After all, what could I possibly say, except re-iterate the opinions put forth by hundreds of moderate Muslims time and again: that terrorism is as un-Islamic as it could possibly get ?? I know LOTS of Muslims personally, many of them very religious. NEVER have I come across any of them harboring any form of ill-feelings towards people of any other religion. They all believe as much in live-and-let-live as any of us.

To all of us everyday Indians - let us all join hands to defeat the nefarious intentions of the various extreme right-wing organizations - which exist in the names of all religions. Let us all resolve to do everything we can to see to it that religious harmony is maintained - and to prove that it is possible (and pretty easy) to follow our respective faiths, at the same time uphold the Constitution.


Would the Gods Brand Me an Atheist If ....

.... instead of burning my money on firecrackers during Diwali (probably inflicting burn wounds on someone in the process), I were to donate the same money and time to cure a poor child of the burns she has suffered?

.... instead of splurging on Ganesha idols (which will end up at the
bottom of a pond anyway) and feeding him umpteen varieties of eatables , I were to feed a hungry child with the same money?

.... instead of literally wasting money and resources during every festival (and we have no dearth of festivals - do we?), I were to do something constructive which has timely relevance (for example, do something for the Bihar flood victims right now)?

Festivals are meant to be kind of family reunions - which is all the more relevant in today's scheme of things - where families are scattered everywhere. Festivals are meant to be occasions for middle class people to indulge in a little materialism - like purchase new clothes for children, gift yourselves a TV/fridge/vehicle.

Alas! The original meaning and intention have dissolved totally. Festivals are now a question of who splurges more. I want my Ganapati idol to be bigger and more lavishly decorated than my neighbours'. I want to show off to the whole village that I burst the maximum firecrackers during Diwali. It is a competition.

I have decided that I am going to celebrate festivals in their original spirit. I wonder whether the Gods would brand me an atheist and punish or curse me for doing so ..... !!!!

Communal Musings - from a person of mixed religious heritage

In this very thought-provoking series on, a person who is half-Hindu and half-Muslim writes about how he wishes each of these religions to be perceived by the world.

The first post looks at issues from a Muslim's point of view, while the second part of the article is a Hindu's view of things. Extremely well-articulated. If all (or even a majority) of people on both sides of the "divide" start thinking this way, then most of the problems, differences and animosity would be solved!

Looking forward to an India resplendent in communal harmony. JAI BHARAT.

There Are Two Types Of ....

There is a popular dialogue in the Amitabh Bachhan-starrer Bollywood movie - Hum. It goes like this:

इस दुनिया में दो तरह के कीडे होते हैं - एक गन्दी नाली का कीडा और एक समाज का कीडा. गन्दी नाली के कीडे के लिए बाज़ार में spray मिलता है .. लेकिन समाज के कीडे के लिए कोई spray नहीं है.

[Literal Translation: Two types of cockroaches exist in this world - one which breed in gutters; and the other society-bred. The gutter-pests can be controlled by sprays available in the market. However, no such extermination means are available for the societal worms]

Its interesting how this dialog relates to the corporate world. Here's my adaptation of the same:

इस दुनिया में mistakes के दो कारण होते हैं - एक Inexperience से उभरने वाला; और एक incompetence से उगने वाला. पहले तरह के mistake को सुधारा जा सकता है; लेकिन दूसरी तरह की गलती के लिए कोई इलाज नहीं है.

[Translation: In this world, mistakes may occur for 2 reasons:

  1. Out of Inexperience
  2. Out of Incompetence
The first kind of mistakes can be reduced by experience; however there is no cure for the blunders of the second category.]

I wonder by what magnitude it would benefit the nation as a whole if the incompetent lot were weeded out - both from the government circles and equally importantly; from the corporate world.

The Call of Duty

This is a very interesting (and disturbing) story. It is a true life story about a guy I know. We are talking about a professional who has spent the most of the last five months abroad on business. He occasionally comes home and one would be forgiven for mistaking him for a guest at his home! Read on ….

In the past five months, his father has been doing all his “official work” for him – right from paying phone bills to doing paperwork for their property. At an age when he should be serving his father; his father is serving him!!! But, he says his hands are bound – “Duty Beckons”, he says.

In the past five months, he has never taken his mother shopping. “I don’t have time to go shopping with you – why don’t you go on your own? I will give you my card”, he says. Upon being told that it’s not his money that his mom wants; but his company; he retorts saying he’s “busy” – The Call of Duty is his excuse.

He has not visited his village for more than a year now. Why should he? After all, he’s this big shot who’s flying around the world, living out of a suitcase. Don’t you know his profession, his Duty, demands more of his time? Village and relatives can wait.

In the past five months, he has missed every single important occasion in his dearest friends’ lives – weddings, engagements – everything, without the slightest hint of guilt. He has never been there when his friends needed him. “Sorry buddy, I’m too busy with my profession.”

In the recent past, he has completely ignored his resolution of doing something for under privileged children. The last time he did anything for them was more than eight months ago. He has all but forgotten about his responsibility towards his motherland, his country. Why would he? He’s touring the world on the pretext of his professional Duty. Country, society, underprivileged children – they all are not as important as his Duty, are they?

In the past few months, he has put his hobbies on the backburner. He has not posted a blog in the past 4 months; and he hasn’t done any serious photography for as long as he can remember. But hey, who’s got time for some dumb hobbies? He’s a professional. His Duty takes precedence over all these irrelevant things.

Well, well. Our professional sure does sound like a villain doesn’t he? I think I need to admonish this guy – or at the very least, ask him a question or two.

Mr. Professional, here are some questions for you.

  • Isn’t taking care of your parents and keeping them happy your first and foremost duty?
  • Don’t you know your business, profession is temporary, but your relatives will be there forever?
  • Don’t you think it is your duty as a friend to be with your friends on the most important days of their lives? Don't you know the only way to have true friends is BE ONE?
  • How can you forget your responsibility towards your country? You, the youth of the country, MUST play an important role in shaping its future. What happened to all the commitment you made towards the children who are the future of the country?
  • Is it not your duty, too, to set aside time for your hobbies, interests and passions? Especially since some of your passions have the potential to make a difference in others’ lives?

Mr. Professional, it is high time you get your priorities right. You have to decide which duty comes first – the duty that pays, feeds and clothes you; or your duty and responsibility towards family, friends, country and society. Signing off with the hope that you choose sensibly.

Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. All the views and opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, organization, relatives, friends, acquaintances or any other person/entity.