Sunday, October 26, 2014

A hyprocritical argument

I received this picture yesterday. It is an innocuous little thing - the sad irony of an elephant in India. Usually, one would just dismiss it as humour, but somehow, as I read it, it smacked of hypocrisy to me.

Yes, the elephant does have trouble in India and yes,we do indeed worship an elephant headed god (atleast the Hindus do). We also worship a monkey and we worship many other things. After all Hinduism is a polytheist religion apart from animals, we worship forests, trees, lakes, mountains and then some. We even worship the sun, fire, water...the list goes on and on.

Two things here. So, is the picture any reflection of the cause and effect? No it is not. Just because the elephant is not worshipped in Africa does that make the crime against elephants any less? Or just because nobody worships the rhino does that make it fair game? Or if people stop praying to the elephant god, will it make the elephant less vulnerable or less - your guess is as good as mine. This is a non-sequitur at best,

Why people do what they do - is a matter of policies, punishments, incentives, behaviour and so on and so forth.

The second and bigger issue here is that all animals - face a very bad situation under humans. Either we have tamed them (which may be a lesser evil) or we breed them for food, hunt them down to extinction or hunt them for various beliefs or skin or tusk or use them to test poisons and toxins in the name of research. Even if you are a vegeterian, there is a high likelihood that animals are harmed directly or indirectly because of human existence. So, if you can, become vegeterian - at least direct impact is lowered. If you cannot, try to save animals, their habitats etc. Whether you pray to a god or an animal has precious little to do with it.

Now replace the statement with women. Yes, as a religion we worship women. And yet whether it is a religion that worships or does not worship women - either of them do commit atrocities on them. Does that make any side less guilty? Or is the praying hypocritical? Or is there is no real connection at all? And whether you pray or you do not, the crime remains one to be punished for?

And while I am all for mocking all religious beliefs, as humans perhaps we need to live lightly, tread lightly on the earth while we are at it, given that our existence itself is hypocritical.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stuck on Hosur Road

Today, I had the great privilege of being stuck on Hosur Road - just at the base of the Electronic City Tollway. For many others, this may be a daily occurrence, but for me, today, this was a privilege. You see, the Bangalore traffic police had stopped traffic on both sides so that a Chief Minister who was recently jailed for disproportionate assets had to return to her home state of Tamil Nadu. Still wondering why I did not say Jayalalitha?

Well, so the police stopped the traffic leading to a long pile up along both sides of the road so that the common people who possess proportionate assets can wait to watch someone who possesses disproportionate assets I suppose. Hence, I was among the privileged crowd.

Why does traffic have to be stopped? At all? (If it is so important, why dont they take a helicopter or some other means).

That is a simple question and perhaps we have our own reasons for doing so - leave that aside.

And then her motorcade passed us by. And therein lies a bigger question. Why do we have security personnel hanging onto the outside of the cars on footboards as the cars whizz by at upwards of 80 kmph. I can understand personnel doing this at lower speeds or when a vehicle goes through crowds etc, but on a highway? I dont think POTUS motorcade has this idiotic spectacle of security guards clinging to the outside of the vehicle? I am sure armour is advanced enough to protect corrupt politicians - apart from body fat and thick skin? Why do other humans have to cling to the outside of that vehicle, or any vehicle?

(If there is some other great reason, please do enlighten, but to this observer, it seems ridiculous.) 

And yes, finally the motorcade passed and those with proportionate assets burned disproportionate amounts of petrol to reach their destinations.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Who are these people?

In the olden days, just a few elite had access to canvas and paints and became painters. Ditto for those who had access to cameras (both money and technology). I am not saying these people were not passionate - of course they were, but for someone who wanted to explore it as their passion, it was tough - there were many mountains to climb. Today, everybody is an artist. And anybody with a digital camera is a photographer. Go to a bird sanctuary and you will see what I mean. Ditto for artists - there are many. And it is a good thing. People explore what they are good at, work at it and so on and so forth.

Yes, it pisses off the established painters and photographers - because today competition has multiplied. But as in all fields, the good become better with competition - the mediocre crib and wilt.

Today media is a closed industry. Much like the other industries in India in the licence permit raj - where a certain set of industrialists got access to licences and they set up monopolistic or duopolistic companies and thrived making money. This was the socialist set up we were born and brought up in. But slowly, industry opened up. But media remains a cabal - by and large. The acronym best used is BYOC - Bring Your Own Cronies - somewhat like the BYOD - Bring Your Own Device prevalent in technology.

So, you have husband and wife teams operating out of which one or both are famous sons or daughters. Sons and relatives (legal and illegal) of politicians, editors, anchors, newsreaders, lobbyists, industrialists, diplomats, quasi celebrities - even those who get invited for those echo chambers that pass off as opinions are just one short web of hardly any degree of separation. It is an echo chamber at best and a web of multiple conflicts of interest at worst. 

The arrival of social media just turned that around on its head. Anyone can write - all you need is a blog. Anyone can create news on twitter - why some of the best twitter guys have day jobs that are anything but media. Anyone can become a photojournalist - or even a citizen journalist.

As the incident in Madison Square of a famous journo tycoon showed - one sided biased reporting wont help. Within hours, there were images and videos that completely exposed the journo tycoon shouting victim. Social media threatens these existing journalists - who got there because they are part of the cabal and they  are shouting foul because these people - whose duty is sit and watch them talk and pontificate on TV are now newsmakers and hold strong opinion.

It does not help that there is a Prime Minister who also shuns media - who now have to travel on their own to cover the Prime Minister - whereas earlier, they got reserved seats, unlimited privileges and access. They are doubly pissed off with a government that talks directly to people and people who challenge the media.

So, you have hilarious scenes of a journalist taunting NRIs asking how come you have so much time to tweet.
And of journalists referring to company handles taunting their employees.

These are just a few examples, but there are quite a few others where these journalists who got there because they knew someone (Heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by exertion, but they while their companions slept, were busy contacting the right person - Ogden Nash) are pissed off because these ordinary people are questioning them. How dare they question us? Who are these people?

Well, media may still be fighting over whether to allow FDI in media  - but the People are in it already. Get used to it. Bonus link, an old post with a review of Cognitive Surplus.  

Friday, October 03, 2014

Coffee in Puducherry

Nobody told us about the coffee bars of Pondicherry. People told us about Auroville, the Ashram, about the continental food, about the handicrafts and the French architecture and what not. But it is hard to miss them. They are there are at every street corner.  Maybe that is why nobody told us about them. Maybe they are not coffee aficionados.

But the coffee aficionados that we are, we decided to try them - it was tempting to say the least - I mean, how can you not? These are not swanky, not your Starbucks, not your CCD - there is no sitting room even. The price of the coffee at the coffee bar would be a small tip at either of these places. But they serve some absolutely fabulous South Indian filter coffee. The whole place runs around a specialist who makes coffee. The others, right from the order taker to the vessel washer to the milk boiler to any other thing are just enablers to make the coffee guy serve great coffee. The cups are washed in front of your eyes with hot water. And then he takes a metre of milk (hot, piping hot) whisks up a lather that would make shaving cream proud. adds a dollop of decoction, sugar and then just as the froth threatens to overflow the cup, he adds another dash of decoction. Take that you coffee chains.

And they have a few snacks (limited choice) to go with it, if you so desire.

The place frequented as the KBS coffee bar - right at the edge of Vysial street. It was so good, we did not try any other. But every street corner, every coffee bar was doing brisk business - and given that the flavour is so local, they have to serve great coffee else they would not be there. So, the next time you are in Pondicherry, try them and you will get the best filter coffee that will beat your espresso machine by a metre of coffee.