Saturday, February 25, 2006

"Rape Country" and "CNN Live Videos"

Two things I am dying to write about. Yes absolutely, I must get them out.

Yesterday was “Work to Schedule” (as my blog friend Mumbaiwalla tells me) or some such day and as usual I was working till, you won’t believe it, 10.30 in the night. I happen to get a drop to home at that late hour. There was this Marathi song that was playing on the stereo in the Sumo that was driving me home. Some lyrics of this song goes like this:

Diwasbhar jhopayacha
Ratrabhar karayacha!

Sleep the whole day
And do it the entire night!

As soon as I realized the meaning in my tired and dazed mind I went “Oh! My God!” To that add several such exclamations, not all of them as decent. The “it” in the lyrics is quite obvious.

Come on what is this? Do it the entire night? Are they serious? If this is the kind of lyrics that the Marathi manoos plays on his stereo for inspiration, I hate to think what would be passing through his mind about the pretty women he drives to work every day. No wonder a girl was raped on such a drop in Bangalore. That too in a BPO unit. A driver in another BPO unit used to see porno videos on his MMS mobile phone the entire night as he waited for the shift to end.

Is this a moral corruption issue or what? Is this any pointer to why there are so many rapes happening in India? Or is our sweet and beloved country turning into “Rape country?”

Also see my reaction to Fetcher Monk’s poem on Caferati, again, somewhere in this blog.

CNN beams live videos
Now, coming to the other thing I should get out of my system:

Yesterday I subscribed to CNN’s live videos paying around $ 2 per month. I can have a vast library of news videos online for this measly sum of money. And the best part is no ads.

I guess this is the future of newscasting and newspapers as we know it. I am so, so, so tired of all those ads coming in the twenty-four hour news channels that I guess this is the best way to catch up with what is happening on terra firma.

And the visuals are excellent on streaming video.

Go take a look. I guess CNN should pay me my $ 2 back for promoting them.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

My short story makes it to Penguin-Sulekha short lists
Gives me great pleasure to announce that my short story Flirting in Short Messages is in the fourth position in the Penguin-Sulekha Global Short Story Contest Judged by a jury consisting of literary personalities such as: Khushwant Singh, Farouque Shaikh, Ashok Mahadevan, Ruskin Bond, Anita Nair, Sushila Ravindranath, and Geetha Doctor. Honor indeed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Read what Al Gore has to say about "Global Warming" in an interview with Deepak Chopra

Seems we have only ten years left to reverse the global warming process. I had ranted about this in this short story and this blog entry

Al Gore
"We are facing what is probably a planetary emergency. It is difficult to see the reality of this emergency because it’s outside the boundaries of any previous experience in human history. But there are three factors that have combined to completely and utterly transform the relationship between the human species and the earth’s ecology. The first is the population explosion, which has quadrupled the human population in the last 100 years. To put that in a broader historical context, it took 10,000 generations of human beings before we reached a global population of two billion. Now, in the course of a single lifetime — the generation born after World War II — we have moved from two billion to over nine billion.
"Second, our technology’s power has magnified thousandfold in just the last century. When this new power has been used without adequate wisdom and when the new power is multiplied by six-and-a-half billion people, what we get is a very new relationship between humankind and the planet.
"The third factor is a psychology, a philosophy and an attitude — a way of living on the earth — which is dominated by a focus on the short term to the exclusion of the long term. A willingness to ignore the future consequences of present action, a willingness to abandon responsible ways of our grandparents in reusing, recycling and minimising our impact on the world around us. Instead, we are behaving as if the planet is a business in liquidation. When all these three factors combine, it produces a collision between our civilisation and the earth. The atmospheric shell of the planet is thin and we are now changing its composition, filling it up with global warming pollutants, warming the planet, changing seasons, disrupting the climatic pattern that existed since the last Ice Age 11,000 years ago, well before the first human cities were built. All this is happening very rapidly, but we can still change it — we have the time, technology, everything except the political will. Though in a democracy, political will is a renewable resource.
"Leading scientists in the world are openly saying we probably have less than 10 years in which to make dramatic change in the pattern that now represents business as usual. We have less than 10 years to dramatically reduce the accumulation of global warming pollutants like carbon dioxide, methane and a few other gases. Yes, we can fulfil the task but we will first have to change attitudes and awareness and recognise it as a spiritual issue. It’s a moral, ethical challenge that goes to the core of who we are as human beings."

Seems very unlikely that the powers that be would change their ways. The corridors of power are lined by the ill-gotten wealth of sooty chimney stacks and blackened exhaust pipes.

So more Tsunami's Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Katrina, are set to happen. And we can look forward to more of our own 26/7. Remember our own deluge of July 26, 2005? So be prepared to send a night in the office and listen to FM radio broadcasting messages from people stranded for, well, something like 24 hours in a car, in one spot, yes, one spot.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Fetcher Monk's Poem "My Mother Was Raped" seems to have kicked up a lot of dust in Caferati. Here's my reaction.

I think it is a starkly written poem that states emotional facts without the crutches of figures of speech, the way it would appear in some of the experimental poetry written in Malayalam.

I am not entering into an academic discussion here, but, that's not my domain. If the poet pours out his heart over an incident in his life that scarred his life for ever, it is our duty to be sympathetic towards him than be callous and accusatory towards him.

What this poem portrays is raw emotions that has emanated after much thought and deliberation, after much fidgeting over whether one should or one shouldn't. I think the poet deserves applause for coming out with an expression of his angst.

About the style, it is simple and may not be palatable to western sensibilities. But, we, on this board do not state that we are catering to western sensibilities. We are Indian writers experimenting with a style all our own.

As for being unpatriotic, can anyone who view India with rose tinted glasses (because it suits them) tell me why there has been a spate of sensational rapes and why every woman in this country lives in dread of being a victim of it? And how secure are minorities whose women have been ravaged? And this when the policing authorities have been proved to have looked the other way.

Why? Why? Why? Any answers?

Monk has written a poem with a message, a subtext of angst. He doesn't claim to be an established poet, he is merely experimenting with expression through poetry. If that is not agreeable to some, at least leave him be, and do not sprinkle salt into wounds.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A rap for rape

Having read Fetcher Monk’s disturbing poem on Caferati I can’t but pen these words of the beaten-to-death theme of who started the fire or point a finger at the originators of the culture of rape that our country has of late become a prey. If true, this story being his poem makes interesting comparison with the many incidents of rape that have been filling the pages of newspapers these days.

A foreigner is kidnapped and raped from a Delhi parking lot, a South African model is raped in Bombay, a minor is raped inside a Bombay local train, countless instance, I don’t remember, forgive me. It seems our wives, daughters, mothers, and girlfriends are threatened by everyday acts of lewdness and perversion. The latest fad in Bombay is throwing acid on girls who spurn their suitors. If you don’t get her, destroy her, disfigure her, or, better still, rape her.

I read an article, which claimed that moral values are on the decline in India. I have no doubt that it is. Why blame politicians when we ourselves do not raise our voices against the increasing sex and nudity invading our own drawing rooms in the guise of music and soft selling promos for consumer products.

Now, India is a traditional society that has only recently stepped into the mall culture and twenty-four hour television. Once loud thumping beats and wailing guitar riffs was the domain of discos and nightclubs, if and when one was lucky enough to be in one. And that, in my case, happened only rarely. But today they are part of the living room where families sit down to eat their supper.

Music television has brought to India the images of naked women dancing around pop stars and having a good time. (A popular bhangra pop song these days has a lyric that is sung in a hung-over voice, “Ek gilasi, do gilasi, theen gilasi, char,” meaning one glass is not enough, that only four glasses will do. There is, I suspect, a strong sexual undertone in the dancing shown in this music video.) The adjunct to all this is the presumption that sex is freely available in our society, when it is not. Sex is as difficult, if not even more, than before. I may be wrong here, again, forgive me!

A few men would mistakenly think that everyone is being permissive while they are the ones who are being deprived. What they would go ahead and do is not too gruesome to the imagination considering what is already happening. They would go ahead and get it by force. And rape is not confined to dingy corners in shady areas of the city, it happens inside bedrooms and playgrounds of people considered “decent” and “gentle” too.

When music television invaded our drawing rooms I was the one to sing its hosannas being a music freak. I would give my right hand to see Elton John sing his “Your Song” with his pudgy fingers punching the keyboard, and Elvis’s gyrations extolling his “Blue Suede Shoes.” But I wasn’t quite prepared for what was to follow – meaningless sex and nudity shown on music television. Now I dread the very sight of my son’s addiction to a twenty-four hour music channel, to the exclusion of everything else.

Votaries of freedom of expression, and covert advocates of the advertising fraternity pontificate that sex and lewdness are in the eyes of the beholder. And, they add, rape has been going on down the ages. Massive rapes of the conquered women, and extermination of men have followed wars. But are we still living in that day and age to advocate the decay of moral values that we have so assiduously cultivated over the years?

Then why give this impression that we in India are a permissive lot and we dance well-choreographed songs in synchrony, skimpily clad on the beach? As most of our music videos these days show. Are our people, members of a society in transition from very conservative values able to adjust to the powerfully beamed images of a permissive society?

Our movies have taken a cue from music television and have fabricated their own version of music television — what are known as item numbers. They now show naked bodies gyrating to insistent beats one would associate with discos and nightclubs.

I have always maintained that the powerful medium of television and mass media can influence people in the extreme. They say a picture can say a thousand words, I say, a music video can say a million words in a split second. What are beamed through the media are powerful images that can influence and pervert.

I am asking these questions, has anyone got the answers?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Google and MS in a soup over China censoring

Pasing the buck? Read this in Google today. Here’s Google and Microsoft passing the buck to the US government!

Google and Microsoft on Wednesday tried to deflect criticism of their business practices in China by calling on the US government to take a more active role in promoting freedom in the communist country through "government-to-government" engagement.

The comments were made as the companies, along with Cisco and Yahoo, have come under intense scrutiny in Washington because of allegations that the groups' adherence to Chinese censorship rules and other regulations represented a capitulation to China's government.

Here’s what they actually did. This is what they are attracting criticism for!

Congressional human rights advocates Wednesday hammered four Internet giants -- Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems -- for helping Chinese authorities censor Web information and crack down on cyber-dissidents and warned that bipartisan legislation to prevent such cooperation could move forward rapidly.

The four companies have found a rapidly growing market in China, where there are now more than 110 million Internet users, second only to the United States. But the Internet industry has been castigated for its reported cooperation with Chinese authorities who have demanded strict controls, including software that detects and filters out such sensitive words or phrases as "democracy," "Dalai Lama,'' "Tiananmen massacre'' and "China torture'' and blocks access to certain chat rooms and bulletin boards.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Pictured here are Neha (neice), Lillyamama (elder sister), cousin, and aunt (she is older than Ammachi)... in grief!

Sonnet for mother: Her Last Journey

Decked in blooms,
Swaddled in gold filigreed shrouds,
Smeared with perfumes,
She traveled into the clouds.

A life of love lived,
A life of more giving than taking,
Living a life of tears shed,
Turnings, and missed crossings.

She lies besides father,
In a grave prearranged for her,
Knowing she would be in the sepulcher,
With the man she had promised to care.

There is a time when we all connect
And then we all must self-destruct.

Ammachi's last journey to the world beyond.

She died on 06/01/2006 and I was with her when she died. She was eighty-eight. A priest said during the funeral, "You are only prepared to live, if you are prepared to accept death." How true.

If this is the end - for which we all have to prepare - then we better start living, loving, celebrating, creating, sharing, revelling in this journey called life.

Are you prepared to die? Only then can you prepare to live, as our priest said.

She was a teacher who sacrificed her career to look after her five children. In the process she became old, wrinkled, and lost her teeth and her eye sight. Her regret was that she didn't pursue her career as a teacher. If she had she would have been drawing a good pension, a fact she regretted all her life! Each time I used to phone her she would ask, "When are you coming?"

When she was grieveously ill and bed ridden she actually told me, "Why don't you lie down somewhere, you look tired." Guess mothers are always like that, sacrificing, giving up, letting go, releasing, and still willing to give unconditional love in spite of all the cruel neglect they receive from their children.