General ravings, Potshots, Verse perverse

CAA, Nuclear Physics and Opium for the Masses

I write this at the urging of a dear friend, who believes (bless him!) that I might have something worthwhile to contribute on this whole CAA-NRC issue that’s  destroying so many lives and so much public property and so many millions of youngsters’ academic careers and the nation’s collective equanimity (except, maybe, Amit Shah’s and Pinarayi Vijayan’s equanimity).

But I can’t get started on CAA-NRC and affiliated crap; not right now, at least. I am still too filled with angst at the way our political leaders – BJP, Congress, CPI(M), the whole rabid lot of them and their respective captive media-houses – have yet again exploited the well-known, repeatedly validated tendency of We the Moronic Indian People to allow ourselves to be suckered by netas and kooky religious leaders into taking violently extreme and opposed positions on things we understand little or nothing about.

Right now I only do three things (ignoring your theatrical groans):

1 – I declare my belief that Amit Shah, Union Home Minister and BJP leader, has crafted and timed the passage of CAA in Parliament, supplemented with carefully planned loose talk about NRC and NPR, as a cold-blooded, brilliantly laid trap to ensure that India remains divided along communal Hindu vs. Muslim lines till the next Lok Sabha elections. I believe Amit Shah has done this because the Ayodhya issue, which has been used by all political parties to divide the people for 30 years but benefited BJP the most, has finally and honourably been resolved by the Supreme Court…and therefore the BJP is desperate to find another issue to keep the people polarized on communal lines.  And predictably, tragically, the fools of the Congress, CPI(M) and other Opposition parties have fallen into this BJP trap by taking communal positions on the CAA issue and fighting street battles over CAA instead of fighting CAA on logical grounds, on Constitutional grounds; they are right in opposing the CAA, but they are opposing  it for horrendously wrong reasons and in violent ways…and this is precisely what BJP wants  [More on this later, I promise…if I can conquer my nausea]

2 – I translate the infernal, eternal, and vehemently disavowed words of the great Narakasura the Terrible, ruler of ancient Pragjyotishpura [c. 1191–1124 BCE]

Beware cruel Leaders who light Fires of Radicalism, Fanaticism

In the minds of the ignorant, gullible and young,

To divide them, break them, as white light in a prism

Till they forget the One Source from which we’ve all sprung…

 Thus riven, passions aflame, driven by Sermons of Venom and Hate

The masses butcher one another in the names of Secular Gods and Prophets

Whilst in theirs quiet clubs and boardrooms, on their electronic slates

The Netas and the Priests chuckle, and chalk up their Profits…

 

3 – To complete your agony, I paste below a highly irrelevant article on Secularism and Nuclear Physics written in 2007 by another dear old friend, Ghatotkacha the Late (alas, he disappeared without trace soon after posting this article: unconfirmed reports suggest he was dispatched by a joint assassin squad comprising members of Bajrang Dal,  SIMI and certain unnameable and unmentionable Leftist groups).

Indian Scientists Discover ‘Secularon’

It is a moment that all Indians should be proud of. On Friday 1st June 2007, at precisely 2344 hrs IST, a team of scientists headed by Dr Falturam G Bakthahai of the prestigious IIFS (Indian Institute of Fundamentalist Sciences) announced the discovery of a new fundamentalist particle found only in Indian adult brains: the ‘secularon’.  Social and political scientists believe that this strange and elusive particle holds the key to understanding the various forces that influence political behaviour among Indians.

“Naturally, we are thrilled!” announced a visibly tired Dr Falturam at a hastily convened press conference at the sprawling IIFS campus in New Delhi. “Our team has worked very hard these past four years. We have had to face and overcome immense technological challenges and resource constraints…but now, finally our efforts have been rewarded!”

News of the IIFS breakthrough has generated great excitement not only in India but across the global scientific community. Many feel the secularon’s discovery is as momentous as that of the neutron in 1932 by Sir James Chadwick.

“The IIFS finding is stupendous!” says Prof. Mel O’Drama, well-known philosopher, science writer and Head of Caltech’s Department of High Energy Physics. “The discovery of the secularon confirms Richard Feynman’s famous tenet: that ‘the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure’!”

His views are echoed by scientists across the world. “The secularon’s discovery reveals how little we know about our Universe, and indeed about humankind itself,” observes Nobel laureate Dr Gott Tubi-Jokin, Head of the Psychophysics-Cyberobiology group at the University of Grumingen-Schlauss. “Just as the discovery of the neutron changed our understanding of atomic science, the secularon’s discovery dramatically alters our long-held theories of Indian political science.”

Dr Falturam agreed to answer a few basic questions regarding the nature and significance of the secularon.

 What is the secularon?

The secularon is a tiny, negatively charged fundamentalist particle that is found only in living Indian brain cells. It contains at least 237 extremely complex organic compounds – most appear to be enzymes. These compounds are looped together in a kind of triple-helix form, vaguely reminiscent of DNA’s double-helix shape and also somewhat resembling the trishul shape venerated by Hindus.

Why is the secularon’s discovery so important?

The secularon exists only in Indian adult brains; it is unique to our nation’s population! Our studies reveal that an average adult Indian brain contains an estimated 2.34 billion secularons, and that the nature and level of secularon activity in a brain directly influences the political outlook of the owner of the brain. In simple terms, we can tell whether an Indian is secular or communal simply by studying the secularons in his or her brain!

Can you please elaborate?

Well…to start with it is important to understand that the secularon can exist in two possible energy states: ‘passive’ or ‘active’. We have found that the secularon can switch between these two states several million times a day! At any given instant, if the majority of secularons in a person’s brain are passive, that person exhibits secular behaviour. However, when the majority of secularons are active, the person becomes communal.

How does the secularon switch between active and passive states?

Indeed, this question foxed our team for three years. Now we know that the secularon’s energy state is determined by a factor that is external to the brain itself! To be precise, whether a secularon is active or passive depends entirely on the political climate in which the observation is made.

Do you mean a person is sometimes secular and sometimes communal, depending on both the observer and the external political environment?

Precisely! IIFS has evolved a set of equations – tentatively named ‘Arjun-Advani Transformations’ – to describe this extraordinary behaviour. These equations resemble the Lorentzian transformations of relativity theory. At the macro-level, we have found that the secularity of a person varies in direct proportion to the closeness of that person to the Congress and/or Communist parties. Examples abound, not only of individuals but entire political parties!  For instance, the DMK party members had active secularons in their brains (and were therefore communal) when they opposed Congress in the late 1980s. However, their secularons switched to passive (and they became secular) as soon as they backed the Congress-led UPA government. The Telugu Desam members were purely secular when they backed the United Front, but deeply communal when they backed the BJP-led NDA. Sharad Pawar was a secular Congressman who became communal when he opposed Sonia Gandhi and formed the NCP; but now he has regained secularity by supporting the UPA. Another fine example is Sanjay Nirupam, ex-Shiv Sena MP and rabid communalist who is now the epitome of secularity because he has joined the Congress.

 Truly amazing!   Will the discovery have any impact on future politics in India?

Well, I cannot comment on that. However, our discovery does reveal that Indian secularism is as transient and ephemeral as our development plans are.

What is your team’s next quest?

We are trying to isolate another even more elusive fundamentalist particle – we call it the ‘minoritron’. As its name suggests, the minoritron imparts the feeling of ‘minority-ness’ to a brain. The minoritron is far more stable than the secularon; once a brain feels a sense of minority-ness, it becomes permanent. Unfortunately, the minoritron carries no charge and occupies virtual space; this makes it as difficult to detect as the neutrino. However, we are confident we shall succeed, thanks to a grant of 2200 crore rupees from our beloved HRD Minister Arjun Singh. We shall be collaborating in our work with a team of scientists from ILS (Institute of Lactile Sociodynamics), Kanpur. You may recall that ILS did path-breaking research with milk cookers in the 1980s that finally led to the discovery of the regresson – the Backward-spinning cerebral particle – and formulation of the famous Creamy Layer Postulate that forms the bedrock of today’s affirmative action policy. It is our hope that we may one day unify the secularon and minoritron into a Grand Unified Theory of Backward Integration, thereby showing India the way to retrogressive progress.

 

Jai Hind!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings, Verse perverse

A Short Prayer on Deepavali Eve

a-short-prayer-on-deepavali-eve.jpg

Even now

As residents of the neighbouring apartments, in pre-Deepavali revels

Rend the peace; render the night hideous with 240 decibels…

I contemplate the serene wisdom of the ancient sage

Who counselled against rage, advised restraint with the adage

Of Yudhisthira, that troubled  but patient ass of bygone age…

 

Even now

As the last ghastly Bollywood song fades, like a bad dream

Anon a Voice begins reciting Tambola numbers in soprano scream

Interspersed with inane jokes, in baritone bray

As hardened bandicoots flee in terror, their fur in disarray

 

Even now

In this dark noisy hour, when Despair threatens to cloak all humankind

Lo! The clouds disperse; Inspiration illumines my fevered mind!

Now we too can play Tambola; there’s no need for tiles

All we need are tickets; that Voice carries for miles!

 

Even now

I beseech thee,  O Mighty Devi—thou who felled Mahishasura, that Incarnation of Ignorance!

Do shine Reason’s Light on these cacophonous fools; gift them Silence, common sense!

That our ears, and Earth, be spared their racket; that we may awaken from this deafening dreadful night

To the glorious Dawn of Deepavali – the Celebration of thy Light

A short prayer pre-Deepavali - 2

 

Musings, Remembering

Shrugging away our Atlas

The other day I was looking at a world map. A ‘Mercator Map’, which is the nice rectangular map all of us are familiar with and which is still used in our school atlases to teach Geography.

Mercator Map
Mercator Map [Source: http://www.thetruesize.com]
Of course, we all know (though I for one rarely remember) that the Mercator map presents a cockeyed picture of the world’s continents and countries, because it shows a 3-dimensional spheroid Earth as a flat surface.  In depicting the world as a flat rectangle with the Equator cutting across its midriff, the Mercator Map utterly deforms the comparative sizes and shapes of all the continents (and therefore, all countries). The further you move away from the Equator, the more the Mercator Map exaggerates the sizes of countries;   that’s why China and India look much smaller than they actually are compared to, say, USA; that’s why Greenland looks bigger than the entire continent of Africa!

There’s a wonderful free-to-access site, www.thetruesize.com,  that lets you shift around countries on the Mercator Map and figure out the actual size of a country compared to other countries/continents. Do visit the site: it’s fun, and also a real eye-opener!  Here are a few screenshots showing  how big India actually is compared to Europe and Greenland, and how big Brazil is compared to India [all images captured from http://www.thetruesize.com]

India - true size

India and Europe

Greenland - true size

Greenland and India

True size - Brazil

Brazil and India

Some say the European colonizers used the Mercator Map to boost the apparent sizes of their own countries and thereby belittle (literally!) their African and Asian colonies.  That’s a matter of perception: but I don’t think we can really fault the man who created the Mercator Map in 1569 – geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator of Flanders (Belgium) – because his sole and very honourable aim was to make a map that would help voyagers from Europe navigate the oceans more easily.

Besides, as an Indian I personally believe we Indians are masters at belittling ourselves at the drop of a hat – or more accurately, at the slightest hint of ‘Western’ disapproval –  and that we should cure ourselves of this low self-esteem rather than pretend that it is some kind of genetic disease impregnated in our Bharatiya DNA by Thomas B Macaulay.

Anyway, while playing around with the Map and reflecting on how easy it is for me –  perhaps for all of us – to be misled by warped imagery and memory, by ignorance and illusion, by prejudice and propaganda, I remembered an article I’d written for the Indian Express over 15 years ago – written in deep angst because the media at that time seemed focused on whipping itself, and indeed the entire population of India, into a frenzy of self-flagellation following the hideous Gujarat violence of 2002.

Here’s the article: reading it again, I get the feeling nothing much has changed….good or bad.

What do you think? I’d love to know…

THE GOOD SHIP INDIA

Indian Express: Nov 27, 2003

[http://archive.indianexpress.com/oldStory/36064/]

At times of internal strife one sometimes wonders: will India ever be united? Open the atlas and look at Europe. Start at Ireland, and trace a path eastwards across the Irish Sea to England, and onwards across the Dover Straits through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. Turn southwards and wander through the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary; wheel west into Austria, and again south to explore Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Greece. Skim across the Adriatic Sea to travel through Italy, cross the Alps into Switzerland, cut eastwards to sweep across France, and then veer southwards over the Pyrenees into Spain, and finally, Portugal.

A long journey across a vast terrain, to be sure. Yet all those lands we traversed would together fit into the territory of India with room to spare. What’s more, India comprises people who differ from each other in far many more ways than the peoples of Europe: in race, religion, language, culture. To the wonderment of the world, the good ship India hangs together! Battered she is by violent storms of communalism and sectarianism, tossed to and fro by the conflicting pulls of her bewilderingly diverse populace, yet India sails on, her billion passengers united by a Vision.

A Vision, of a land in which all are equal and enjoy equal rights.

The Constitution of India, which we gave ourselves on 26 November 1949, describes this Vision in great detail. It crystallizes the most sublime ideas of millennia. It tells of a just and humane land, where we may dwell and think and speak and follow our chosen beliefs and faiths freely and without fear. The Constitution alone binds us together. It expresses our shared vision, and contains the blueprint for the ship that will help us realize that vision, the ship we have named the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India.

The unity we seek is alive in the Constitution; in times of strife, internal and external, we must reaffirm our faith in this great Book. Amends must be made for past wrongs; walls of prejudice that have hardened over centuries must be dismantled not by force but with understanding. There will be upheavals and unrest; hurdles posed by the corrupt, the jealous and the slothful, by those who interpret freedom as mere licence. But as long as the Constitution and its vision are alive in our minds and our hearts, India shall prevail.

And her 5000 year-old voyage will continue.

General ravings, Musings

Holland: Remembering Eternity…

It’s 43° C in the shade here in Delhi, with a scalding hot wind ripping the  leaves off trees and propelling kilograms of nano-sized dust particles through the tiniest cracks and crevices in the doors and windows to fill the room where I sit, listening to the air cooler roaring in futile rage, eating juicy chunks of chilled watermelon in between keystrokes and cheering myself with visions of my not-so-favourite netas roaming the streets and campaigning for votes in this infernal weather.

Indeed, there is Dharma in this world.

Delhi’s incendiary summer is a good time to remember the crisp chill of Holland’s winter. I visited Holland in December-January; a dreamy, timeless three weeks during which I re-learned the sublime and long-forgotten art of simply being. Base camp was my friend Udai’s apartment in Delft –  it’s the prettiest little town I’ve ever been in. Delft is young by Indian standards (it’s only 600 years old) but its history is linked closely—oh so closely— to the history of India, indeed of the whole world.  There was so much to see, to experience, to learn…not only in Delft but in Leiden, Rotterdam, The Hague … no, it’s impossible to find words to describe it all, I don’t know where to start, so  I won’t even try – at least not now.

Right now I’m just going to place a few photos of Delft, from here and there. Like this…

I did miss two things, briefly but deeply, in Holland.

One was seeing tulips carpeting the earth out in the countryside like in the photos I’ve seen. Winter is off-season for tulips. So, I plan visiting Holland again, in April/May 2020.

Yayy.

The other thing I missed is actually a person: a friend, the first Dutchman I ever met, I’ll call him Helm, for it wouldn’t be fair for me to use his real name without asking him, and sadly I can’t do that now because Helm and I’ve lost touch since we last met in Shillong in the mid-1970s. I was then pursuing an elusive college degree in Shillong, invigorated in my chase by the healing vapours of garden-fresh cannabis and affiliated psychoactive substances. Helm was a visitor to Shillong from Calcutta, over three successive years, each time just for a fortnight or so. He was a Masters student (of Comparative Religions, if memory serves right) at the Viswa Bharati University, Santiniketan (Calcutta); a few years older than I, tall, broad, strong, golden-haired, ruddy-faced, always clad in white kurta-pajama and clogs. Helm was learned, earnest, serene, yet with a ready smile and a huge laugh that could shake the dust and woodlice off the  rafters. Helm lugged his classical guitar along wherever we wandered—exploring the hills and rills, meadows and forests, taverns and caverns—and when the heady ganja and mellow kyat had soothed the spirits sufficiently and the comfortable silences had settled, he would pull out the guitar and pluck and strum beautiful melodies and belt out folk  songs – Dutch, sometimes English – in a powerful baritone. He even taught me one Dutch song: I only remember the tune now, the lyrics are long forgotten.

I learned much from Helm: about the beauty of all religions and the horrors inflicted across the world in the names of gods and prophets, about humanism, tolerance, the need to remain curious as a child throughout life, how travel can open minds. Helm didn’t educate me on the tulips of Holland, but he taught me a far more valuable life-skill, one that is deeply rooted in India’s glorious heritage and culture—the refined art of making the purest charas (hashish) from the cannabis plants that grow in such profusion in the meadows of Meghalaya. It was a primary objective of his annual pilgrimage to Shillong, to manufacture sufficient stocks of charas to keep him going in Calcutta till the winter break when he went home to Holland.  Thanks to Helm, I and a few friends drastically cut down our ganja-smoking; we switched to charas.

Wherever you are, Helm of Holland, may peace be with you. It was wonderful visiting your beautiful, eternal country: I remembered you, briefly but deeply, when there.  Who knows, the One willing, perhaps we shall meet again someday, in this life or in another, in some timeless rolling meadow filled with music and laughter and companionship and comfortable silences and mounds of stroopwaffel and the divine fragrances of tulips and mellow wine and ripening ganja plants in the sunshine…