Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No Contradictions

Perceiving the sun

In the midst of the rain,

Ladling out clear water

From the depths of fire.

I have always been fascinated by Haikus and here is a beautiful one from the Zen. Let me try to understand this one!

We are surrounded by the clouds, mist, fog and the rain. Remember yourself ……. Not to get lost.

“Ladling out clear water from the depths of fire”. It is an impossible thing to ladle out pure water from fire. But howsoever impossible it may be, it happens. This is the mystery of existence. Here, fire turns into water. Here, the dance of the rain declares the sun. There is no opposition in existence, no contradiction. Everything supports everything else. Alas! The irony is that, we live in contradictions, with others, with nature and with ourselves.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mani C Markose

It was in my 9th class that I met Mani C Markose, a little 6th class guy who had the guts to walk in front of us when we were standing in the mess. I wouldn’t have cared if he had been from some other house. But his T-shirt revealed that he is from Bharathi House, for which I was the House Captain. I turned pale with anger and shame, when my batch mates stared at me. I didn’t react, as I didn’t want to make scene in the mess, where the whole school, including my seniors has gathered for the evening Roll Call, instead made quick plans to deal with the guy during the House Roll call, where I will have complete authority.

As usual, the house Roll Call started at 9:00 PM and when it was finished, I asked him to meet me in my room. The house master KRMK asked if there is a specific reason, and I told him that he deserves a punishment for his misbehavior in the mess. He asked me not to man-handle(beat) him, as it is becoming an issue during the Parent’s meet and I agreed.

I went to my room and washed and changed. There was a knock at the door, accompanied by a cry, “Please, may I come in man?.”

I said with a stern voice knowing that it would be culprit, “Come in.”

I was shooting many questions about his misconduct, about himself, about his family and he was answering everything with a pleasing smile. At the back of the mind, something kept saying that, this guy will be a friend for ever and somehow, I felt that he should be treated so, though it is not a custom for an Amravian to treat a junior as a friend. I order to keep a balance, I decided that he will be punished, but at the same time, he will remain a friend. I delegated a few duties as a form of punishment and he will perform them for me, so that he will be a friend.

You will bring tea for me in the mess
You will carry my books (envisioning to study a couple of text books in the room, which never materialized) from the school to house and back

The next day, my friends were proud of me, seeing the guy carrying my books and offering tea for me. This went on for 2 years and by then we were almost friends that, I visited his house and he visited mine. Finally, he ended up writing all my practical records, when I was in 12th class.

We were in constant touch even after I left the school, and after he left the school, though we were poles apart with respect to the career we have chosen.

It was a happy moment for me, when he visited our house yesterday and I was astonished by the kind of love and respect he had for me in the same way I have for him. Apart from the gifts for my son and a bottle of Smirnoff for me, he shared with me some beautiful snaps of Andaman, so that I will fulfill his long pending invitation. I don't think I will be able to make it before he is posted to the next station! OK, let me post some of those beautiful snaps...........

This is he!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Highway to Hell

I was reading Kamzee’s post on the road passing through his apartment and as a result started exploring the need for the most wasteful new road projects. Roads created problems long before the invention of cars, as the villages lost their self efficiency when they became dependent on trade and travel. In more recent times, roads are the precursor to the so-called development, that has lead us to the peak of self-destruction. Time and again, the roads have trashed the Garden of Eden; cutting through the villages, forests and rivers.

India, with a total road length of about 5.0 million KMs (excluding the Golden Quadrangle Project), has one of the largest road networks. The condition of most of the rural roads is deplorable due to the neglect and negligence of the officials and the politicians. District and State authorities are responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads, but large scale corruption has led to this sad state of the roads. Due to the contractor-engineer-bureaucracy nexus, the common people have to suffer a lot while commuting. We have got too many roads already and close to half of the urban space is paved to accommodate automobiles; more land is converted to cars than to housing and agriculture. There was a proposal to build an alternate road to connect Kodaikanal and Palani, which would cut through the endangered shoal forests and some pristine rivers on the Palani Hills requiring resettlement of villages, agricultural fields and the fauna. Thanks to the efforts of PHCC, to halt such proposal. Resettlement - They say human beings and the organisms should be resettled. But, where? Where is the land? Has someone invented a land-manufacturing machine?

All these roads cost money. The expenditure on highways and major roads is of a great magnitude when compared with what is being spent on the basic needs of the people including education. The most powerful reason why road building dominates our infrastructural budget, even when it makes no fiscal or ecological sense: those earth-moving machines, trucks, rollers and the plants cost lot of money, and their owners are not going to let them rust. Another reason is the belief that the roads have become a reflex article of faith and the faith in them is impervious to arguments and hence serves as gold mines for the politicians, bureaucrats and the construction industry.

And perhaps, the only genuine reason can be cited is that we want to get from here to there directly, without going around, which means, we have got to have another road. There was a time when I also agreed to that. I used to think; more roads are good because they would allow people to reach the destination soon through a more convenient angle with minimum fuel. I disagreed, on seeing the fact of the study conducted by Ivan Illich that revealed that: If we divide the distance we travel by the number of hours we spend not just sitting behind the wheels but also working to pay for our cars and fuel or doing other things in some way associated with our cars, our net speed comes to around 5 miles per hour!

People should realize that motor vehicles are the largest single source of atmospheric pollution worldwide and 65% of all carbon monoxide emitted into the environment comes from vehicles. Carbon monoxide, besides being poisonous, contributes to global warming by promoting the buildup of methane, a powerful green-house gas. In a world threatened by global warming and cancer epidemic, we keep accumulating pollution. A certain amount of pollution is inevitable; but, we can at least examine our conduct on an individual level and try to cut down to a minimum damage.

A new highway means worse air and water quality, less money available for road maintenance and public transportation and more burden on the tax payers, Tax payers’ money is being hijacked for unneeded roads that cause sprawl, damage the environment and hurt local communities. We are destroying some of the most pristine wilderness in this country for outdated, short-term solutions that won’t solve traffic problems.
It is not logical just to state the problem and leave the solution unattended. A few recommendations would be
1. Enhanced and Attractive Public Transport System
2. Work Near Home or Work from Home
3. Utilization of Inland Waterways using ferries - A resurrected Koovam in Chennai!
4. Pedelling Vehicles
5. Efficient Traffic Management System
6. Horse Power ( I apologize if you are from Blue Cross! - Menaka Gandhi muje maaff karo - It's apt for our IT geeks riding on a horse with their laptops crossed- helmet compulsory)
More suggestions and recommendations are welcome:)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fxxx - The most beautiful word!

Every prophet has been misinterpreted and finally institutionalized by the so called followers. For example, Jesus’ repeated call for repentance has led to branding the humanity as sinners to be repented all their life. In essence, what he meant was to “turn inward”. The equivalent word for repentance in Aramaic meant to turn inward.

Osho is no exception too. I believe he is the highly misinterpreted prophet I have known and he was once called the “Sex Guru”. As a person who was fortunate enough to have a profound insight of his teachings, I can say that he has made millions understand the timelessness of the west and the eternity of the east.

This is the hilarious, infamous F**k discourse by Osho. Hope you will enjoy this.

A call from Sandy

The day started beautifully when I received a call from Sandy Thomas (after one year) to wish my son a Hearty Welcome and me and Sujathaa a Happy Parenthood. She was surprised when I recognized the voice. How is it possible for me to forget a voice that has dominated my life for two years and has transformed my life in every aspect? Only people who have loved and transcended that love will understand the way the heart gets elated, when a person who had permeated every cell of your body, perforated every sheath of your mind and imbued every action of your life, calls and wishes you with such concern and love. I understand from her that, she was grateful to me for adding beauty to those two years of her life and I need to state here that I am always grateful to her for; those two years have eternally beautified my life. Though as lovers we were successful, both of us agreed of the fact that we could have never cooked up a good marriage. Not all successful love ends in marriage. But with me and Sujathaa both are successful.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Superman

He energized the conscious force and came to knowledge that matter is the Brahman. Far from Matter all existences are born: born by Matter they increase and enter into Matter in their passing hence. Then he went to Varuna, his father, and said, “Lord, teach me of the Brahman.” But his father said to him, “Energize the Conscious Energy in thee; for the Energy is Brahman."

From the day I started my search, I have been trying to understand the totality of the above verse and I have not been able to understand. I sometimes hate the word totality as its use always deprives me of the partial and fragmentary comprehension I am capable of. I understand or I don’t understand. That’s the truth. Totality and Partiality are tricks to satiate my ego. But my search continued and time and again found shelter in various forms manifested by the teachings of the greatest prophets of the recent past. One such shelter is the following excerpt from Life Divine of Sri Aurobindo.

It enlightened me of the higher possibilities of humanity being manifested naturally as a process of evolution, as manifestation is progressive in nature and hence, humanity is the potent divinity.

The persistent ideals of the race are at once the contradiction of its normal experience and the affirmation of higher and deeper experiences which are abnormal to humanity and only to be attained, in their organized entirety, by a revolutionary individual or an evolutiuonary progression. To know, possesses and be the divine being in an animal and egoistic consciousness, to convert our twilit or obscure physical pain and physical mentality into the plenary supramental illumination, to build peace and a self existent bliss where there is only a stress of transitory satisfaction besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering, to establish an infinite freedom in the world which presents itself as a group of mechanical necessaities, to discover and realize the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant mutation – this is offered to us as the manifestation of God in Matter and the goal of Nature in her terrestrial evolution. To the ordinary material intellect which takes its present organization for the limit of its possibilities, the direct contradictions of the unrealized ideals with the realized fact is a final argument against their validity. But if we take a more deliberate view of the world’s workings, that direct opposition appears rather as part of nature’s profoundest method and the seal of her complete sanction.

We speak of of the evolution of life in Matter, the evolution of Mind in Matter; but evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness. And then there seems to be little objection to the farther step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond mind. In that case, the unconquerable impulse of man toward God, Light, Bliss, Freedom, Immortality presents itself in its right place in the chain as simply the imperative impulse by which Nature is seeking to evolve beyond Mind, and appeard to be as natural, true and just as the impulse toward Life. As the impulse toward Mind ranges from more sensitive reactions of Life in the things like metal and plants up to its full organization in man, so in man himself there is the same ascending series, the preparation, if nothing more, of a higher and divine life. The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has worked out man. Man himself may well be a living and thinking laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation Nature wills to work out the Superman, the God. For it is likely that such is the next higher state of consciousness of which Mind is only a form and veil, and through the splendours of that light may lie the path of our progressive self-enlargement into whatever highest state is humanity’s ultimate resting-place.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Women's Day - A Joke!

While shattering the glass ceiling and the phenomenon of the glass cliff are the challenges facing women seeking to climb the corporate ladder, making an existence itself is a challenge for the unempowered women of rural India. Hence, on this day, I think it's appropriate to provide a bird’s eye view of the crimes inflicted on them. Though, it is a collective responsibility of the humanity to provide a solution, the following excerpt from a case study I did a couple of years ago (without any purpose!) would at least enlighten the minds of the nouveau riche softies of the problems faced by the women.

International Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, the crime and violence inflicted on them remains as is.

In India, the deep-rooted discrimination of woman begins at her family and her entire socialization process is oriented toward making her an obedient mother and a sincere Wife. She is being discriminated in education, health and decision-making. Most of the work she does for the family remains largely unaccounted and unrecognized by the family and the community which reflects the invisibility of much or her work, making her a mere reproducer and not as a producer. In any Indian family, gender identity determines the status of a person with in the family and hence, the father has more authority over the children than the mother, brother enjoys more facilities, than the sister, the husband has more authority than the wife, and the son is the sole decision maker of a widowed mother’s destiny. Dowry deaths, wife beating, desertion, incest, feticide, infanticide, and polygamy are some of the maladies of the domestic order of the Indian society and are still prevalent. It is often said that domestic violence is a traditional phenomenon, which is not so, as it is both traditional and modern. The tradition burnt women alive, while the use of the modern science kills them in the wombs and denies them the right to be born. Equal property rights to all women and joint matrimonial property rights are not recognized and mother not considered as natural guardian. Women are often used as an instrument to humiliate as her body is considered to be the best site where any kind of revenge can be wrecked. By attacking the women of targeted group, the targeted group is sought to be taught a lesson.

India is in a period of transition and new ideas and ways of living have been introduced in the wake of liberalization, which has resulted in blind consumerism and unreal aspirations fuelled by the barrage of advertisements and get-rich quick schemes influencing the manner people think and behave. Women usually face a double workday, working on an average of 4 to 5 hours a day at home, fulfilling their traditional domestic responsibilities in addition to their economic activity that depends on the size of their family. The factors pushing women and children to displacement and excess work are,

1. Poverty
2. Secondary status of women with in family due to cultural and financial reasons.
3. Customs like dowry, which makes her a financial burden.
4. Son preference
5. Loss or incapability or unemployment of the male member of a family.
6. Consumerism and the aspirations of the family to cope up with the modern life style with material comforts.

At work place the problem starts from wage discrimination, reluctant to employ women and sexual harassment. Both in the informal sector and formal sector most women are not organized in trade union that makes them insecure as far as their jobs and rights are concerned. Many women considering their family responsibilities refuse promotion, training opportunities and leaves. Sexual exploitation of women by the employers, co-workers, colleagues, contractors, middlemen etc. is another serious issue faced by working women. Instance of sexual harassment in the organized sectors may not be as violent as the unorganized sector, but differing degrees of harassment are widespread. Harassment can be in different forms such as verbal harassment, unwanted invitations, sexually colored comments and also physical advances.

The one issue that remains least addressed in Indian society and law, which is one of the most under-reported crimes in our country, is rape. Rape is one of the most brutal forms of aggression against women. In addition to the trauma of rape itself, the victims have to further agony during the legal proceedings that require repeated explanation of the incident before the police and court. Rape by socially and economically powerful persons misusing their position to exploit women is seen in large numbers and most of the women do not even report the cases as they feel that it will not help them, considering the strong position of the aggressors. The girl child remains to be the not vulnerable and powerless target to be sexually exploited. Crime statistics from the national crime records bureau of the home ministry have consistently shown for the last 10 years that rape of minors below 16 years of age are more than 25% of the total rape cases and the shame on the part of law convictions. Of the 284 reports cases of rape in New Delhi in 1992 there were only 3 devaluation of women and children in the society and their oppressed status.

According to official records in 30% to 50% of the cases of child abuse, the offenders are family members, close relatives, neighbors and friends. When it is not with in the family, most of the victims are the children belonging to the poor section and street children of the society. There is also great deal of hesitation by families, to report cases of child abuse as the police or social environment of the legal procedure are not sympathetic towards the victim. When the abuser is the male member of the family, pressure from other members of the family in the name of saving the family honor is the, main consideration and in such cases there is a conspiracy of silence as the family is dependent on the abuser financially. If the victim is 12 to16 years of age she is blamed for inviting the assault or her parents are accursed of allowing her too much freedom, which results in the blame-the-victim syndrome that traumatizes the victim affecting her self esteem. The definition of rape in the Indian penal code is archaic and is remnant of Victorian colonial legislation, which defines rape as vaginal penile penetration and does not recognize oral sex or anal sex as rape of sexual assault. Since vaginal penetration is not often possible in child abuse and does not occur in child rape, the rapist under the Indian law is liable to be punished only for molestation an there is also a failure in the proper registration of the case in the FIR. There is also a serous mental stress due to the lack of counseling for the child and her family and because of the social prejudice against the victim, which is very common.

The Next important issue is the immoral trafficking of girls or women or children in our society. In India according to the 9th five-year plan, 320 million people are below poverty line and of these 70% are women and so this can be referred as feminization of poverty. The rewards of globalization have been reaped by privileged few, amassing wealth and power in the hands of multinationals and the individuals. This has led to unemployment , under employment and retrenchment of the female Labour force which makes them loose their source of livelihood and under these circumstances, more and more women and children are under great pressure to earn more to supplement their family’s income. Hence the tragedy starts to have child Labour, child prostitutes, street children and even men prostitutes. Trafficking is the illicit and clandestine transport of people across national and international borders, largely from developing countries with the motive of forcing them in to oppressive and exploitative situation for the profit of the traffickers or exploiters. Women who are widowed, deserted, abandoned, victims of fraud marriages, are soft targets for the trafficking Mafia. Family, friends, lovers and even parents are often party to the process and in most case the labour contractor or an employment agent or practicing or retired prostitutes are the party to the process. These trafficking people are used in.

1. Flesh trade,
2. Purpose of begging,
3. Attraction in sex tourism,
4. Illegal organ transplant,
5. Drug trafficking,
6. Urban household requiring cheap domestic labour and in
7. Industries that require cheap Labour.

Today the entire flesh trade market is demanding younger girls and according to a current study of the approximate 9,00,000 prostitutes, some 30% are children, and the number of girls below 14 years engaged in prostitution is increasing at the rate of 8% to 10% per annum. This is because of the following factors.

1. It is easier to force them in to submission with the use or threat of physical violent.
2. Myths that sex with virgins is a sure cure of impotent and STD.
3. The fear of HIV among the amateur prostitutes and the mistaken belief that the young girls present a much lower risk of infection.

Despite constitutional guarantees and ratification of international conventions that protect the rights of women and children, laws are followed more in their breach than in their observance. There are special police officers for controlling trafficking and curbing exploitation and most of them do not regard this as serious offence and often collude with the traffickers. There is also a strong nexus of traffickers with the politicians, officials, businessmen and the priesthood. There is no penal sections against officials who fail to take action in cases involving, trafficking of women and girls. Hypocritical moralizing against prostitutes while remaining completely silent on the sexual perversions and promiscuity of the ever-growing male clientele is futile effort in the system of justice and law enforcement.

Culture created by the liberalization process on the economy have encouraged the proliferation of the pornographic industry designed to create sexual fantasies with obscene films, photographs, websites and books, which are easily accessible. This has resulted in the exploited of the children beyond any resistance and further it is fuelled by the immoral portrayal of women by the medial as instrument of lust and pleasure. I beleieve that the best way to conclude is to present the following verses of the former president of India Late Shir.K.R.Narayanan.

“Violence in society has bared a hundred fangs
As advertisement-driven consumerism is
Unleashing frustrations and tensions in our society.
The unabashed, vulgar indulgence in
Conspicuous consumption by the nouveau riche
Has left the under class seething in frustration.
One half of our society guzzles aerated beverages
While the other half has to make to with
Palmfuls of muddied water.
Our three-way fat lane of
Liberalization, privatization and globalization
Must provide safe pedestrian crossings
For the unempowered India also.”