Indian strike, ‘Bharat Bandh’, for subsidies is poor thinking

Your free tea is on the way… (Pic courtesy 8pmnews.com) Today’s countrywide strike in India, Bharat Bandh, shows Indians are not prepared to live without government subsidies. It goes against the healthy instinct that we remain fair and square and pay for what we get. The rise in cost of living – food, medicines, and petrol – are only consequences of the pouring of wealth across all classes – with the exception of the remote, tribal hinterland (which provides photo-ops to the foreign media.) Most executives earn salaries in excess of Rs 4-500,000. Many families have multiple earners, whose income adds to the household account. Why then this clamour for cheap petrol, education and vegetables? The cultural roots of this tendency lie in a very deep expectation that we are bred with – of enjoying life without having to pay for it. What is the dream, THE DREAM, of a typical Indian? Free food, free transportation, free accommodation, free water and power, free...
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Quitting Cigarette smoking isn’t a big deal

Cigarette smoking ought to be self-controlled, not state controlled There is no doubt that we are in the middle of a sustained and multi-pronged attack on the freedom to smoke. From government to NGOs, medicine to municipality, every quarter has some good ground of opposing this age-old habit. But is it really worth it, and do we really need this outside help? By now every single chemical component of tobacco might have been analysed for its adverse effects on the human body. The chemicals have been counted as well, thousands of them, and over 10 considered carcinogenic. The medical spent on fighting these illnesses is said to be 10-12% more than the tax revenue earned in India.Yet, the share prices of cigarette companies have soared. With work stress perceived to be at an all time high, what will we turn to for relief? ‘A woman is a woman, but a cigar is  a smoke,’ so said Kipling. Those were the days when even...
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Little souls In Buddha’s garden – A picture story

Shravasti – Where Buddha walked in person Sravasti, or shravasti is where Buddha is said to have spent many rainy seasons. The monastery where he lived is in the centre of a garden donated by a rich man of his times. The two young girls climbed down from the trees when they saw me, and lured me to their village with a sweet local accent – “Follow us to the village; Mother Ganges has come to visit us.” They were referring to the flood in the local river that had submerged most of this district. To the faithful, a river flood is a visit by the goddess herself.  I followed them to join a group of shepherds led by an old man the girls were travelling with. The remains of the fort seen in the background were probably the palace of the king of this rich and vibrant trading city. Nothing remains of it now, and only grass and trees grow over the...
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A small temple that quenches thirst

If there is an oasis in the spiritual desert, then it is here – a small, beautiful piece of stonework that relives all stress when merely glimpsed. Stand on the stone steps and let the cool breeze moisten your skin. A place that satisfies equally the body, mind and soul. In the surrounding fields and villages, nothing like this exists — the architecture, the artistic stonework emerges from nowhere, making one wonder: What stories does the intricate artwork conceal? There used to flow nearby (or still is?) a small stream whose water was sweet. I can dimly recall tasting the water and its subtle sweetness when I was very young. On a subsequent visit, the stream had dried up, and the holed up water undrinkable. The heavenly fountain of life has an end too. Photo Courtesy: Peter & Jackie Main ...
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Will Viswanathan Anand go for the kill? – Sport – DNA

Viswanathan Anand has reached that stage in the World Chess Championship from where he can literally call the shots against Boris Gelfand. It is a great position to be in, but the question is will he actually try to call the shots or opt to play it safe? via Will Viswanathan Anand go for the kill? – Sport – DNA.   Anand had a marvellous time in the drawn ninth game: – He built a marvellous little castle. – His rook was bound to protect the pawn. – His knight bravely jumped around and kept the lone enemy Queen at bay. As the younger of the two contenders, I guess he ought to eventually outrace Gelfand and come out on top. ...
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Shelley’s Poem – The Flower that Smiles Today

I was in my high school when I came across this famous poem by P.B. Shelley. It left some impression on me, and made my adolescent gloomy outlook on life even darker! Recently I revisited the verse with fresh eyes, and uplifted spirits, and saw the silver linings for the first time – that we could learn from the flowers. I guess the poet himself felt the same way, and the verse tapers appears to taper off on an optimistic note, albeit with gravity –  enjoy the delights, then wake up to weep. The poem begins with an analogy — a very terse statement. The flower that smiles today, tomorrow dies. It goes on to point out the transitory, ephemeral nature of the delights of this world, all so very tempting but momentary flashes of pleasure. And if pleasures are such, then equally so are even the higher value of life – love, friendship, virtue too, all beset by an inbuilt mortality.  Soon, an optimistic note takes over. Let us...
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The pleasures and treasures of South India – Malabar

South India – Travel Itinerary Travelling through India is a taxing affair, as people travel here mostly for religious or family reasons, which means the ‘tourist’ – not yet a very respected figure – must be prepared for all eventualities while travelling, stay and shopping. I went on a Malabar coast trip in 2009, touching and spending a day or two at some of the major and lesser known coastal towns and cities on the Malabar or western coast of India. This is the treasure house of nature, and the fortunes of the West were partly made here – on spice trade. The weather here is sunny and coastal, and the people in small towns and hamlets live a relaxed life, though the pouring in of money from Arab countries means even these have taken on a commercial, advertisement laden look. Poverty is visible though on the way through the countryside, surrounded and hidden by the lush green natural treasures. Only a botanist...
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Response to – An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Classes – NYTimes.com

An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Classes – NYTimes.com. The India Ink blog column carried this piece of advice from a consulting firm employee a few days earlier. The letter is addressed to India’s new graduates and postgraduates (from engg. and business schools) and carries a typical employer’s expectations, experiences and words of advice to the soon-to-join younglings at work. The piece generated some heated discussion and angry reactions for its truth-on-your-face writing style. Here is a rather sketchy attempt to address the same audience, but from the perspective of an employee with 10 years of experience in the corporate world. Dear friends, Leaving college to join workplace is both an exciting as well as challenging time. The workplace is a sphere of life that till now had remained a half-mystery, and it was all too convenient to lose oneself in the invigorating atmosphere of college life. The postgraduates may differ on this, for they are already half-way through to the employer’s door. But...
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Think For Me

As machines take over all the most cumbersome tasks from us, in office and at home, there is one that still remains an only-human task – THINKING. It is also the supreme goal, the final dream of many a scientists and technologists. How much easier life would be if I could hold a gadget in my hands and make it think! I believe it can be done. We could gradually, personally, program a gadget to absorb our thinking patterns and enliven them in front of us. It won’t live, it won’t breathe, or make plans and schemes. But it would put in front of our eyes the exact way in which someone tends to think, or more or less the same way. It might just be a media gizmo, and nothing more. A story teller, if you would like. A dreamer. Association maker. But it would help in relieving us of many a labours. Let’s wait for the day!   ...
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Odyssey

Tribal Odyssey – Yawalapiti – YouTube. We are the children of civilization. Pursuing our dreams, living with ambition, observing the world go round… Our eyes carry a history, and we breathe ourselves to self-awareness everyday. We spend the day working for others, and make a living for ourselves. Could things be different from what they are today? Were they any different in the ‘beginning’? What would it be like to live among the tribes in the rain forests of the Amazon? What would life be life in 3012? 4012? It’s not given to us to know these things. And that’s the greatest thing about life and living. It means no one can conquer or destroy the spring from which mankind has emerged. Was man better off when naked than he is today? Our clothes seem to have made a big difference. Our writing made us more human. The tribes had to actually live out their culture. We can do with mere recordings. So...
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