Privilege


Dear Parliament of the Union of Suparlia,

If you don't mind, may I ask you a question? Wouldn't it do the nation and the people of Suparlia a whole lot of good if you concentrated on making laws (for instance, discussing and debating the provisions of a recently agreed-upon bill) rather than wasting time bringing in privilege motions against some poor souls who just vented their frustration?

OOPS … Oh no … Uh oh .. wait .. I'm extremely sorry. I profusely apologize for insulting your holy institution – the Parliament, by asking this question. I am so very very really really SORRY. I shouldn't have uttered these words .. they are blasphemous. How dare I, an ordinary citizen, ask such a question of you, the very reigning deities of our great country?

This is equivalent to insulting Suparlia herself. In fact, this act is more shameful than insulting the Suparlia flag, insulting the Suparlia national anthem, and looting, plundering and raping the entire nation – all put together. I once again repeat – I tender an unconditional apology for bringing your virtuous shrine to disrepute.

To prove just how deep my remorse is regarding my outburst against you, I shall:
  • Start a campaign to educate the people of the country about the sanctity of the Parliament and Parliamentarians.
  • Call for the entire monsoon session of Parliament to only look for cases across the country where the righteousness of the Parliament has been brought into question, and to act on each of them in turn.
  • Lobby for bringing in a bill that makes it mandatory for the Parliament to set aside an hour every day to bask in its own glory.
  • Mobilise the public to such an extent that they demand setting aside 5% of the annual Union Budget just to bring to book, anyone who dares to challenge the supremacy of the Parliament.

Whatever you do, please please pretty please spare me. I beg you to not bring a privilege motion against me. I am just an ordinary citizen and I did not mean whatever I said. I should never have asked that question. I withdraw my question in word and spirit. I consider it my privilege to prostrate myself in front of the supra-consecrated Parliament of Suparlia.

Yours Sincerely,
A meek, unprivileged Citizen of Suparlia.

Book Review: "Annexed" by Sharon Dogar


So, we've all heard and read about Anne Frank, who is arguably the most famous victim of the Nazi-perpetrated WW II holocaust. Anne Frank has been made immortal through her diary "Kitty", which is now a book "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl". We have read about what went through the early teenager's mind, body and life as she was holed up in a warehouse somewhere in Amsterdam trying to escape arrest by the Nazis; for two years. We have also all read about her crush on Peter van-Daan, the boy two years older than her, whose family was also in hiding along with the Franks in the same house.

Now, can you imagine the entire incident from Peter's point of view? Had he maintained a diary too, what might he have written in it? Would he see it differently from Anne? Anne was a proud Jew and she wanted to get back to her roots once the war was over. Peter, on the other hand, just wanted to be him – Peter van-Pels (in Anne's diary he is mentioned as van-Daan) – without any racial or religious tags. Are these two opinions really as mutually exclusive as they seem?



Sharon Dogar, in her book "Annexed" writes up an imaginary diary – one that Peter might have penned. Anne's diary abruptly stops at the date when the 2 families were finally arrested and sent out on the last train to Auschwitz camp. However, in "Annexed", Sharon goes beyond the arrest and into the concentration camps, the gas chambers, the lives which are worse than death, the death marches.

What struck me about this book is the depth of Sharon's imagination. She has gone deep into Peter's soul and understood his character in mind-boggling detail. You would be forgiven for thinking that this actually is Peter's diary!

The other aspect of "Annexed" is how it makes you feel for the residents of the hide-out, for Peter, for Anne, for the victims of the holocaust. It reminds you that the simple things in life that you take for granted – are not really so. Peter keeps talking about "outside" in his diary. Can you imagine being indoors for 2 years straight, without ever stepping out, and yearning with all your being just to be outside for a few minutes?

The closing chapters describe the conditions in the concentration camps in detail – and leave you horrified. How is it possible for one human to nurse so much hatred against other? How can Anne's father Otto Frank stay focused and advocate against "an eye for an eye" even in the face of such impending doom?

All in all, I would highly recommend "Annexed". If you have read The Diary of Anne Frank, then this book is a great read to make you appreciate the sometimes contradicting, sometimes agreeing views from Peter's point of view. Even if you haven't read Anne Frank, "Annexed" is still a recommended read (although I also suggest you read Anne Frank first!).

55er: Child Next Door


This child in the slum next door? Her constant smile puzzles the observer.
Her drunkard father beats her.
Mornings she's a maid at a dozen households.
School occupies her afternoons.
Evening she cooks and cleans.

Such turmoil at this tender age, yet she manages that perennial smile?
Is there something to be learnt from her?

An Open Letter to Mainstream Media


Dear Indian Mainstream Media,

So, the cat is out of the bag. David Headley has reaffirmed what we already knew. But YOU heard it straight from the demon's mouth. LeT did make use of YOUR live coverage of 26/11 to guide the attackers, alter instructions and make the attack more effective.

What strikes me about this matter is the way YOU played right into LeT's hands. LeT knew YOUR greed in such matters, and knew that YOU would even pimp yourself for a chance to get those exclusive visuals. I guess that using the live coverage as a tool to adapt the attacks – that was a key part of the plan. They knew YOU would cover it live. In short, the LeT used YOU in a manipulative way, without YOU even realizing it (although practically everyone else did!). Even LeT deserves credit for this shrewdness.

So, can YOU finally come round and issue a collective acknowledgement that YOU were wrong? That YOU were irresponsible in YOUR coverage that day? An apology, and a commitment that YOU will be more responsible in the future? Just so that We The People are reassured that there is at least an iota of ethics retained in YOUR highly esteemed self?

Or, do I ask for too much?

Yours Truly,
Just one Among “We, the People”.

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 Previous Posts on this Topic:

Book Review: Worth Every Gasp


What's it About?

Image source: Flipkart page for this book.

Meet Anamika Mukherjee. While on a trek in Markha Valley in Ladakh with her husband and friends, she suffered from pulmonary oedema, and had to abort the trek mid-way. She returned to Leh for rest and recuperation.

Ok, that's just he beginning of the story. What happened after that is the real thing. While her husband returned home having completed the trek, Anamika stayed back. And, after she had recovered enough, set her sights on completing the trek that she had left unfinished!

This journey is what the book “Worth Every Gasp – A Lone Woman's Journey In the Himalayas” is all about. Anamika was joined by an acquaintance Ballu, who had in the past accompanied them as a guide on a few treks in Uttaranchal. Yes – you read that right. A lone woman, trekking in the Himalayas with a man who is not her husband!

Anamika spent a few months trekking in the Himalayas. She started in and around the “lower altitude” (ya, right!) Manali . This was to get a feel for her readiness for the higher altitude treks in Ladakh. Once she was reasonably sure she could pull through, she got back to Ladakh, where she completed, among others, the Markha valley trek which had been her nemesis last time round. That accomplished, she also spent a few weeks back in Himachal Pradesh, rounding off her adventures with the trek to Chandertaal, and then one final visit to the Valley of Flowers in Uttaranchal.


Salient points?
For one, the adventure itself is extraordinary. I mean, can you even begin to imagine the adventure quotient of this trip? In addition, the writing style is so endearing and alluring, I almost packed my bags and left for Ladakh while reading this book.

The language, the wit and humor. You would be pleasantly surprised at the number of philosophical questions that are put forth in the book, disguised as anecdotes.

Then, the writing is also very candid. It is full of matters which we all think about but never say out loud.
  • “What? A married woman sleeping in the same tent as a guide?”
  • How does one cope with toilet issues on journeys like these?
  • How does a woman cope with unwanted attention, especially if she's a solitary traveler?

But, most of all, the thing that made me absolutely riveted to the book is the author's description of the places. Believe me when I say that describing natural beauty is a gift. And the author is gifted. I found myself repeatedly doing a Google image search for the places she mentions, and quite often finding that the image she drew for me very closely matches the image on screen.

Verdict
All in all, if you are a travel enthusiast, a trekker, a nature lover or a Ladakh-addict, then this book is for you. I guarantee you – you will not be disappointed.

Desh Raag


Meet me. I am the modern, 21st century, Indian youth. I have a deep mine of knowledge about anything and everything in the world.

Forget about the Indian map, I even know the Polynesian, Scandinavian and Baltic maps by heart. When it comes to USA, I speak in terms of states and their capitals.

I know the names of coaches of all football teams in the EPL. I even know the amount for which player X moved from club A to club B.

I have in-depth knowledge of the tug-of-war going on in Silicon Valley; about the cut-throat competition between Apple and Google to gain control of the mobile market.

I can rattle off the engine specifications of German, Japanese and Korean cars to astonishing detail; heck I can even give you a crash course on fighter jets.

In spite of all this, when I watch Desh Raag on TV after a long long time, I discover that I cannot even name all the instruments used in it – let alone the names of the artistes playing those instruments!

And I write this blog post, in shame. Directed at my own self and nothing else.

55er: Agony


The law could not help her.
Ethics were mute spectators.
Intellectuals debated her fate.

And she suffered silently, incapable of expressing herself.
No-one, but no one understood what she was going through; what was going through her.

How could she tell them that Euthanasia or not, all she wanted was release from this endless misery?

Book Review: Children of a Better God by Susmita Bagchi


Children of a Better God is a novel by Oriya writer Susmita Bagchi. It was written originally in Oriya (Deba Shishu) and has been translated into other languages, including English.

This is one novel which first by-passes the brain and proceeds straight to the heart. However, it eventually asks several questions of the reader.

The story is about Anupurba, who has just returned from the US with her husband and two sons. Anupurba was an art teacher in the US, but she doesn't find any suitable job for herself back in Bangalore. She ends up volunteering to teach art at Asha Jyothi, a school for spastic children.

This experience turns out to be a life-changing one for Purba. The story takes the reader through Purba's journey, which begins with the realization that she had very wrong notions about cerebral palsy. Her initial apprehensions are found to be unfounded. She ends up being emotionally attached and also succeeds in making a difference, even guiding the children to an art exhibition.

Children of a Better God is more than a story. It attempts to give people a glimpse into the lives of children who suffer from cerebral palsy, to remove misconceptions, to answer several questions, to pose others.
  • Spastic children may have physical deformities, but they are often shunned by society because of misgivings.
  • Dealing with children requires lot of patience, dealing with spastic children even more so. For example, the book has one character, Uma, who has almost no legs, has a very bad temper. So, how does one deal with such children? Ignore their excesses? Or strike a balance by being strict with them?
  • What such children lack in anatomy, they make up for in something else. They are brilliant in art or poetry or academics - something or the other. By no means are they to be dismissed.
  • What is the future for spastic children? What happens when they are at the threshold of adulthood? Do they crave for romantic and sexual fulfillment?

Above all, the book reinforces the point that has been made about special children time and again: They do not need your sympathy. It is the understanding and support that they seek from this society.

I would definitely recommend this book. Apart from educating me about spastic children, it has sent me on a soul-searching mission. It has also increased my respect for the countless nameless teachers, volunteers, ayahs and other staff who work selflessly and tirelessly to give hope to special children.

Landmark


I just completed 1000 days serving as the President of FakesLand. And Phew! What a busy time it has been. I've been up to my neck in work. All the time. It isn't easy running a nation of 50 million people, is it?

What's that snicker for? You don't believe me, do you? Ok, here's my list of achievements
  • I completed 1000 days in office. You have no idea how big an achievement that is in itself.
  • I presided over 100 celebrations (completion of 100 days, completion of 200 days, acquittal in a case of corruption, onset of monsoon, my birthday, departure of monsoon, castration of a donkey, ... and so on and so forth)
  • I conducted roughly 200 bandh's in protest against everything from the big bang to solar flares to my neighbor's cat peeing on the road-side at the exact spot where my dog is supposed to pee. “Wait a minute”, I hear you say. “If you were ruling, then who were the protests against”, you ask? Well, I don't consider it necessary to answer that question.
  • I set the world record for the number, magnitude and frequency of disruptions caused to the lives of the general public in my capital city. Considering the immense competition in this field, and the unquestionable talent and capability of my counterparts from other nations in this respect, I hold this accomplishment of mine in highest regard.

There – does that suffice? Now wipe that smirk off your face and scoot. I have business to attend to. I am planning to hold a massive rally to commemorate the 100th case of corruption registered against me. So, if you will be so kind as to excuse me …

Books: Good. TV: Bad

Reading is generally considered a good hobby. Watching TV, on the other hand, is supposed to be a waste of time. Ok, who am I kidding with this third person narration? I've been guilty of making this distinction myself. But now that I think of it, what is the basis?

Is it because TV has “objectionable content”? But then, so do books. Remember, books don't go through a censorship process, are more easily accessible and are more “private” compared TV viewing. So books are guiltier than TV of corrupting minds with such content.

Is it because TV is not good for one's eyesight? But books don't score very well on that count either (especially if you are like me – reading in moving vehicles, in less-then-ideal lighting conditions … and .. you get the point).

Is it because TV “distracts” people, particularly children? Books do too, don't they? I remember reading Alfred Hitchcock's “Three Investigators” series even during exam season in my pre-high school days.

So, why the prejudice against TV?

I have come to the conclusion that TV can be not only an entertainer, it can also be a great quencher of the thirst for knowledge. It can be as effective a companion for the inquisitive soul as books. It is all a matter of what one chooses to watch; just as it is a matter of what one opts to read.

55er: Enemy


The enemy soldier lay lifeless in his trench.
He bent over the body, systematically looking for belongings.
He found a letter in the shirt pocket.

On reading it, he broke down, wondering about futility of war; of sacrifice for reasons unbeknownst.
For, the letter was from the deceased's wife, with a photo of their newborn.

Abble iStink



Abble Computers today announced the release of its latest earth-shattering, life-changing product – the iStink. The iStink is the latest gadget from this company which has been a pioneer in the space of mouth-watering products. This follows the release of the hugely successful iFad last year, and the run-away successes, the iDrone and the iSod the year before that.

Showcasing the product in a press conference, Abble founder and CEO, Jeev Snobs, said that the iStink experience will seamlessly integrate with that of previous Abble products. For example, users can purchase “craps” for the iStink from the Abble CrappStore. The iStink is powered by Abble's flagship, critically acclaimed OS – the iOhShit. Snobs said that iStink will feature version 6.1 of the legendary OS, and that it has been fine-tuned specifically for this product.

How the iStink is received by consumers remains to be seen, but it is widely expected to emulate the stupendous success of its predecessors. Watch this space for further updates on this, and other products from Abble.

55er: Full Circle


As a student:
Neighbourhood stand-and-eat self-services (Darshinis et. al.)

As an intern:
Upgradation to A/C halls of the Sagars

Early days of employment:
Graduation to CCDs and restaurants serving impressive sounding cuisines

That's when reality dawns; The concept of "savings" beginning to make a non-negligible impression.

Soon, back it is to the neighbourhood stand-and-eat self-services.

Who's the Patriot?

Exhibit A: A politician, businessman or celebrity. Twice a year, he hoists the flag and sings the national anthem, his chest swelling with pride at those two occasions.


Exhibit B: A Defence personnel, a security guard, a policeman, a fire-fighter. They dedicate their lives for the country. They are the first breed that come to mind when we think “patriotism”.


Exhibit C: A driver, municipal sweeper, house-maid, toilet cleaner, daily wage labourer, coolie, primary school teacher. Most of these people are probably illiterate; chances are that they don't know what a “flag” is and have never heard of something called a “national anthem”. But these are the people that keep the nation running.



So, who among these should be counted among true patriots? In other words, what place does tokenism and symbolism have in patriotism and nation-building?

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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.