Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ban this dreadful and stupid game once and for all!

Cricket just claimed another victim, this time 25 year old Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes. For cricket lovers and who worship the game the title of my post may be blasphemy and many of them may even be up in arms against me but I stand by what I am saying. Ban this stupid game once and for all or rewrite the rules so that it can be played safely.

In 2013, we lost two cricketers, Zulfiqar Bhatti, a 22 year old rising cricketing star from Sukkur in Sindh, Pakistan, who died after being hit by a ball on his chest. South African cricketer Darryn Randall also died that year after he was hit on the head by a delivery. Other players who died on the ground were Jasper Vinall and George Summers, both English cricketers who were both hit on the head with the ball and Abdul Aziz from Pakistan who was struck on his chest with the ball. I am wondering if the bowlder or batsman or fielder are culpable for murder, though that was not their intention when they were bowling, batting or throwing the ball at the unfortunate victim. One Umpire, Alcwyn Jenkins was also an unfortunate victim. He died in 2009 in Swansea, Wales after being hit on the head by a ball thrown by a fielder. What a tragic way for an umpire to die.

We also lost Raman Lamba and Ian Folley who died soon after cricket balls struck them. Raman Lamba was struck on the head and Ian Folley was hit below his eye.

Apart from deaths the cricket ball is responsible for an untold list of injuries of players. And what to say of others playing the game the world over. To quote Wikipedia, "Numerous injuries are reported to health institutions, worldwide, in relation to cricket ball injuries including ocular (with some players having lost eyes), cranial (head), dental (teeth), digital (fingers and toes) and testicular". One of our close friends lost his son when the cricket ball hit the child's groin area. The child went through excruciating pain for several years before death finally took him. The boy obviously wouldn't have used the groin guard. Even if he did I wonder how much it would have helped. Phil Hughes who was struck a couple of days ago was wearing the helmet after all.

Ask anyone playing cricket and they have a story or more to tell about injuries with the cricket ball. Not to forget the innumerable broken window panes, lights of lamp posts, headlights and windscreens of vehicles besides other damages. I warn parents whose children are taking to the game with the cricket ball for the first time to be with them and monitor the game closely to prevent any damage or injuries that may happen to your precious children. Ensure they are adequately protected, particularly if they are batting, doing wicket keeping and while fielding close to the batsmen in positions such as the forward short leg.

I had mentioned in a post made on this blog long ago Why cricket can be dumped for baseball, how cricket is gradually becoming baseball. It is high time we dumped cricket for baseball.

Though the baseball (used in the baseball game) is bigger than the cricket ball, the latter is heavier, making it even more dangerous. Baseballs today contain rubber for the dense material which is a lot more elastic and softer than the "cork" that goes into cricket balls. Considering how hard the baseball is struck all over the pitch it came as a surprise to me that the game has seen just one fatality on the ground and that too way back in 1920. I have been reading that there was another death but I haven't come across conclusive reports but 2 is way smaller than the fatality figures we have in cricket.

My research revealed yet another truth. Spitball (polishing the ball with saliva) was banned in Baseball as early at the 1920's whereas in cricket it was being employed even in the 80's and 90's. Using sweat and saliva on the ball (which is disgusting in the first place) gives it additional aerodynamics on it flight path making it more lethal to the facing batsman.

The most astonishing find of all was with American football. Considering the game that American Football (NFL) is, only one player has died on the field in the history of the sport and that too due to a heart attack and that too without any contact with other players or the ball.

Replacing the ball with a tennis ball or other softer balls is certainly a safer option but the cricket world is not going to play it that way. So the best solution would be to stop playing this game all together but that's wishful thinking on my part.

My heart goes out for the family of Phillip Hughes and I pray his soul rest in peace.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wonders from mom's garden

Taken almost a month ago at the Velachery home. Click the images to view them full sized.

First, the unbeatable changing rose, taken in the morning at around 9:00 AM.

The same rose at around 12 noon. It has changed completely pink in color.

In the evening at around 4:00 PM it was a deep pink but the petals had shriveled.

The lily leaf in the artificial pond.

The Sunbird's nest in the lemon tree. You can actually see the bird's head with the curved beak protruding from the nest. It is probably sitting on its eggs.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Satyamev Jayate Season 2 - Episode 1

I would like to warn minors that this review is graphic in nature and as Aamir requested on his show, if you are 12 yrs or younger you had better skip reading this post. Don't say I didn't warn you. This post is for Adults and I request that it be read with discretion.

As a precursor I would like you to read my post on a previous Satyamev Jayate season 1 show.

I'll now review the most recent episode and then post my comments and views.

The first show that aired on Sunday, March 2'nd, was good and presented very well. At the end of the show Aamir asks us to send our comments and reviews and after two days I see there are over 10,000 comments for the first episode. Before submitting my comment or review I went through a 100 or more of these comments and most of them were just praising Aamir and the show and there were just two comments that asks the makers of the show to look into what makes a rapist today and what can be done to prevent that or mitigate that. Isn't that the better thing to do instead of trying to improve the behavior of the Police, Doctor and Lawyer in the aftermath of a rape? AFTERALL ISN'T PREVENTION BETTER THAN CURE? I am not saying that the Police, Doctor and Lawyer are to be spared but if we only tackle the real problem, then we will not have to worry about the callousness, irresponsibility and heartlessness of these three. Unless there is a mini-revolution our legal (courts and the police) and medical departments are going to improve only marginally. So why flog the dead horse where there are other important things can be done to prevent rape in the first place.

As I did with Season 1 I will try and provide my solution to the problem and then will also be writing the makers of the show to read, respond and if possible take action on these lines but I am very skeptical if my comments or posts will be given the consideration of being read, leave alone take action.

So what are my suggestions for the solutions? I would like the Indian Government to impose the three below.

1. Invoke a complete ban of every type of Pornography and this includes pornographic Internet sites, chat rooms, chat phone lines, books, games, downloadable material etc.,
2. Invoke a complete ban on every type of Horror movie, both Indian or Foreign.
3. Include Moral Science as a subject in schools with ample doses of Spirituality.

Drugs, alcohol and a host of other reasons also exist but the first two mentioned earlier are what I consider the biggest evils creating the rapist today.

I'll go over these in detail now.

1. Banning all types of Pornography and 2. Banning all types of Horror movies

Banning is only going to make them (Porn and Horror films) go underground but like anti-social elements they will lie quiet and in hiding fully knowing that once they are out in the open they will be persecuted to the fullest extent by the law (i.e. if the ban is in place).

I read in "The Hindu" dated March 6'th, 2014 that Turkey has banned the film "Nymphomaniac" due to the pornographic nature of the film. I haven't seen this movie and neither do I have the desire to watch it but watching the trailer and reading about it, "Nymphomaniac" pales when it comes to the kind of abominably grotesque movies that are being made today.

The list of movies banned by India is pathetic. Just a few days ago the Censor board of India cleared its first full frontal nudity for the film "12 years a Slave". Just take a look at what developed countries like New Zealand, Germany, Singapore and several others on Wikipedia have banned and you'll be appalled with the kind of movies one can watch in India. India hasn't banned any of these films. It looks like anyone of any age can watch literally "anything". Our MLA's watch porn during assembly proceedings. There are uploads of pornographic material involving Indian teenagers. One clip of a popular Indian Actress (and probably many others) is still floating around. Access to any objectionable site in the world is possible by the flick of a switch and with the growing sales of big screen smartphones almost anyone can access a world of porn from their pockets.

There used to be a "The Exorcist" challenge in the seventies, a prize for watching "The Exorcist" alone in a cinema. Similar challenges exist to this day too. I don't want to call it peer pressure but when my son who'll be turning 15 this year asks me how to watch horror movies with being scared I warn him not to watch them in the first place. No one becomes a hero watching horror movies. Instead you only become more miserable, frightened and eventually destroy your precious personality. When I asked him about the films his friends were talking about he mentioned one called  "The Human Centipede". Out of sheer curiosity I check this film on Wikipedia and I am shocked at the kind of stuff that goes into a horror film these days. The film has shocked people all around the world with extreme content. The second installment which is more horrible than the first has been banned in several countries. To make it even worse, a third installment is in the offing.

These days we have a new kind of horror. Enter, pornography mixed with torture! It is called "Torture Porn" and has become the staple in movies outside India and it now has started showing its presence in Indian movies too.

In the 80's I came to know of "Snuff" films for the first time. Many of these films are make believe but what is shown is the most morbid and the most macabre. Mutilations, torture and killings and nothing else. Several of these films are even believed to be real, like the ones rumored to have been made (again in the 80's) on the victims of the Sri Lankan army atrocities.

And for those of you who have no idea what "Extreme Porn", brace yourself, here are some very untoward facts. In 1995, in the U.S.A., Annabel Chong then 22, and who was born and raised in Singapore (where coincidentally pornography is banned in all its forms with particularly heavy restriction on Internet pornography sites) set out to do the impossible. Annabel teamed up with a producer of pornographic films and made a video where she is seen having sex with 251 men. In fact it was an edited film where the total number of men was 70 but many of them had sex repeatedly with her to total 251 encounters over several hours that even included lunch breaks and drinks. Soon after this record other professional pornstars took the cue and started beating her record. By 1999 the benchmark had been set. In 10 hours, pornstar Houston had had sex with 620 different men. Now this is from the 90's and one and a half decades later you can imagine what the scenario of Extreme Porn can be. And by the way this is only one genre of "Extreme Porn". Several other styles and genres exist.

"Torture porn" is "Snuff" + "Extreme Porn" and so you can imagine how "cursed" it is.

I can unequivocally say that today's rapist IS a habitual watcher of "extreme porn" or "torture porn" or both.

Movies are responsible for the damage too. Sadly Aamir belongs to the movie industry and it is ironic that one of the biggest fuel that feeds and fires the imagination and un-satiated sexual urges of today's criminals wasn't considered or even discussed in the show. I am not sure if the solution is slated for another show but I am doubtful of that. The damage that Bollywood and other Indian commercial cinema is doing is marginal compared to the damage that imported movies are doing but "damage is damage" and it is being done. When pornstar turned movie star Sunny Leone in sensually titillating costumes walks through the streets of Mumbai and interacts with auto-drivers and starts pasting stickers promoting her adult Hindi film with messages such as (translated into English) "Two is more" we can imagine what the intent of the message is and "what" in the name of "marketing movies" is being distributed.

Now how does all this make a rapist? Read on.

As for the viewers of porn and horror films I classify two types of people, one who watch and know how to act responsibly or go about it (though the subconscious has already been damaged) and the others who have no control or idea how to go about it. To them what is shown in these films is the real thing. These are the troubled lot and ones we need to worry about. Though today's rapist seem to be more from the lower rungs of the society, all levels of the society are prone to the ill-effects of this "torture porn".

Considering the rapes that have been going on in recent times it just not sexual frustration that is in the minds of the rapists but obviously there's seems to be something more because today's victims are maimed and killed in bizarre fashions.

There's no doubt, today's rapist is a frustrated individual. Here is my attempt to explain his frustration. When a rapist (or one who is eventually becoming one) watches smooching scenes in a move (let's say for example the Hindi film "Ishqzaade"), his idea of the "docile, demure bride" is totally obliterated. Instead it is replaced with a girl who not only demands pleasure for herself but also knows how to please her man. When he sees the girls and ladies of the society, he looks at them this way. When he see's a skimpily attired girl or woman or when he watches girls going on dates, being with their boyfriends and at parties, his longing only increases. Unfortunately from the strata of society that he is, the rapist does not get what he wants. For him even the prostitute is no longer a temptation. His frustration therefore, only snowballs. It doesn't stop there. With "torture porn" his imagination is fuelled a thousand fold and his frustration knows no bounds. That is why he goes beyond his sexual indulgence during rape and takes vengeance on the victim by maiming her and in the process causing her death. For him, hurting his victim and giving her agony is when his mountain of frustration finds release. This also applies to men from other levels of the strata but for many of these a release is found either with their partners or by some other means. That is why most rapists are ones from the lower rungs of the society.

If you still don't believe that movies don't influence rapists just check out the documentary "The Act of Killing" that was nominated for the Oscars a couple of days ago. The mass murderers (who have killed tens and thousands, one single guy attributed to even over a 1000 killings) readily confess how they got their inspiration by watching Hollywood movies of the Nazi criminals. Those movies of the 60's pale to what is being made today.

From the Wikipedia - Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki's murders of preschool girls was primarily because he was addicted to Guinea pig movies (ones made to look like genuine Snuff films, in Japan). They found one on his possession too besides the 5763 videos of anime and slasher films. He was addicted to child pornography too, another genre of extreme porn. Quoting Wikipedia again, K. Vijay Kumar, the Tamil Nadu Additional Director-General of Police, claimed that cinema was solely responsible for making the notorious serial killer, Auto Shankar a criminal. He mentioned this during a seminar on "Crime and Media" in Kerala.

3. Inculcating Moral Science and Spirituality in the curriculum of schools

I believe this subject no longer exists but in our days it used to be part of the curriculum in schools. The books and topics of Moral Science talked about God, goodness and other noble qualities and the power of prayer. I still remember some of those lessons. These lessons were not about religion but they inculcated the teachings of the wise and the Mystics and imparting this knowledge at a very early stage to children will go a long way in creating a better society.

As far as spirituality or civilization is concerned India is the cradle of the world but it's painful to observe where we have gone today. Spirituality even tells you of bliss that makes the "orgasm" a fleeting, trifling, silly thing but that's another story.

I conclude with a forewarning of what's to come if the law (police and lawyers) and the doctors continue their practices in the despicable fashion that has been reported on the show and the media. I am afraid that what's happening in the U.S.A with the ARA (American Rifles Association) will soon be happening in India. Women and their men (brothers, fathers, husbands, partners) are going to go armed to fight rapists and criminals. It's a frightening situation but it may be the only solution if current dire situation of rapes and ill-treatment of rape-victims in this country persists in this fashion.

I wish Aamir and his team had focused more on the "prevention" rather than the cure. Without prevention trying to get even with or trying to change the Police, legal and medical system as ours is a futile battle tackling one of the biggest crimes in our society today.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You might know the "300", but have you heard about the "21"?

Today is India's 65'th Republic Day.

After watching a video shared by my friend Deepak Sharma on Facebook several months ago (I think it was on Independence Day on how the brave Sikhs beheaded their own women (sisters, daughters and mothers) to avoid being captured and persecuted by the marauding Muslims) I don't think it is fair to delay any longer the publishing of this post.

This year the viewers of the Hollwood film "300" are eagerly awaiting the release of its sequel. For those of you who have seen "300" you may recall that it was a landmark film in the history of films for the depiction of "Graphical Violence". Inspired by a comic written by Frank Miller, the film extolls and eulogizes the Spartan King Leonidas and his men, a total of 300 warriors for their bravery in resisting Xerxes and his army and in the process, all get killed.

As many of you might know 300 was based on Miller's graphic novel and the makers of the film have agreed that the purpose was to glamorize and fantasize the event and not adhere strictly to the historic facts. What the movie does not mention is the fact that some 700 Thespians also laid down their lives after pledging their alliance to Leonidas. Some others Helots and Thebans also died for Leonidas although a good number of Thebans deserted him and defected to Xerses in the final moments of the battle.

I clearly remember "Leonidas" and the Battle of Thermopylae was the first lesson in my History text book at school (don't know which class though) but what many Indians don't know is that one of the greatest or probably the greatest of the "Last Stands" involved 21 Sikh soldiers, of the 36'th Sikh Regiment, who then as part of the British Raj fought 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai tribesmen in a relatively unknown and unpopular battle called the The Battle of Saragarhi. The battle was fought in the North West Frontier Province, now in Pakistan, when it was part of British India.

The ratio of the Sikh soldier versus the adversary  was 1:476.  All of the 21 soldiers fought till their dying breaths.  All were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, equivalent to the Victoria Cross and the Param Vir Chakra. Fortunately, the complete story of their heroic and tragic battle can be viewed online on Wikipedia. You can find it at the link below.

One of the most hardy and enterprising people I have known, and of whom India can be proud of are the Sardars. In 1996, when I first stepped outside India to Singapore, I was surprised to see in the local newspaper, "The Straits Times", the picture of the Businessmen of the Year, a couple of Sardars (I recall their last name was Takral) in all their turbans and beards and gait that they are most popular for. I even recall the gatekeeper at Singapore's popular Raffles City Hotel, dressed regally, was a tall well-built Sardar. Even in the seven cities I lived in the U.S, and Toronto, Canada, there wasn't a place where I couldn't find a Punjabi-Daba, or restaurant run by a Sardarji. Only the ubiquitous Malayalee comes close. Even in a small town such as Cypress (on the outskirts of Houston, Texas) I found a restaurant run by a Sardarji and his wife. He was friendly but talkative and he would also tell me how one of his sons was a self-made millionaire in the U.S. I wasn't surprised.

In India anyone would tell you that the entire city of Ludhiana was built with the hands of these able Sardars. Two of the biggest industries that require manual labour, the Automobile and the Argriculture industries thrive there.

When I was in school I cannot tell you how many of the brave Sikhs were my heroes. Thanks to Amar Chitra Katha, Ranjit Singhji, Hari Singh Nalwa, the Sikh Gurus - Guru Nanak, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh, and my favorites Bandha Bahadur and Satwant Kaur were stories I would read over and over again. Years later when I read an abridged version of Amrita Pritam's novel "Pinjar", I actually thought it was the story of  Satwant Kaur. And of course, the stories of Sikh bravery and sacrifice during the Partition is legendary.

Back to the Battle of Sragarhi, The Indian Army has been trying hard to get this story of courage into the History Text books in Indian schools but in vain. This post is just a tiny effort of mine to spread the awareness of this historic battle.

Quoting from the Wikipedia, Saragarhi Day, is a Sikh military commemoration day celebrated on 12 September every year to commemorate The Battle of Saragarhi. Sikh military personnel and Sikh non-military people commemorate the battle around the World every year on 12'th, September. All units of the Sikh Regiment celebrate Saragarhi Day every year as the Regimental Battle Honours Day. The Saragarhi Memorial Gurudwara (temple) was built in memory of the 21 Sikh soldiers that fought at The Battle of Saragarhi

So next time someone tells you that silly Sardarji joke you may just have the best reason to brush it aside or better still think of those "21" and say a prayer for them for laying down their lives in probably the greatest "last stand" in History.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

ISKCON Jagannath Rath Yathra in Chennai

I was there last Monday on January the 13'th and it was indeed an experience participating in my first ever Jagannath Rath Yathra.

For the folks at ISKCON who have been conducting the rath yathra for several years it was yet another event, efficiently handled. They had conveniently picked a day when the traffic on the roads was dull, the next day being the holiday for Pongal. There were traffic jams but these were resolved efficiently with the help of the Traffic Police and the regular cops who were assigned duty that day. On two occasions I did watch the devotes cutting branches of trees that were obtrusive to the rath's "Gopuram" and was also wondering if that was ethical or right. Even as per ISKCON's beliefs isn't God present in the tree too.  Even a simple gesture of worshipping the tree before cutting its branches or saying some "shlokas" would have made a big difference to me.

I have to admit, the enthusiasm of the devotees was something that deserved to be mentioned, several of them, singing and dancing (sometimes frenzied) throughout the 4 hour journey of the "rath" and these include ladies and small children. Not to forget devotees and volunteers controlling the pulling of the "rath" and managing traffic, singing, chanting and distributing "Prasad" to passers by and people on the roads, in autos, buses and cars. And talking of "Prasad" which was copiously overflowing not only during the rath's journey but at the halls of the destination (Kuchalambal Kalyana Mandapam, Chetpet) also makes me believe that all this is possible only with the hand of God. The expenditure must have been staggering.

Enroute I was even wondering what if there was some emergency as rushing someone in a critical state to the hospital, wouldn't the procession be a hindrance? Fortunately I did not witness any such untoward incidents for the two hours I spent on the journey. And when I am wondering if such "Rath Yathras" are necessary I am only reminded of Swami Vivekananda's message on charity when he said that the greatest gift that one can give away in charity is the dissemination of spiritual knowledge. Srila Prabupada, the founder of ISKCON also advocates the same.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Meeting a legend

I have one more Saarang (used to be Mardi Gras) related post before the cultural fest begins at IIT Madras in another couple of weeks.

Before I begin to write about it, I hope you all had a wonderful New Year. I pray all your wishes come true this year.

And so it was Mardi Gras in 1983. I was in the Xth Std at school and for the pro-show, Ananda Shankar and his troupe comprising his wife Tanusree Shankar and company were to perform. I went there with my brother, sister and parents and till date I can say that is was probably the best pro-show I had ever watched at the O.A.T, IIT Madras. The dances were unbelievable. I didn't know that there was someone (credit actually goes to Ananda's parents Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar) who could take all the dance forms of India and present the amalgamation in such a colourful, beautiful and delightful manner. For the first time in my life that I fell in love with Indian dance. To top it all was Ananda's incredible sitar-meets-rock fusion music that never lacked melody or that classical classical touch. For the first half of the show, dances were accompanied to music being played in the background. This probably went on for an hour or an hour and a half. There was a break and what we treated to for the second half was even more unbelievable. Ananda Shankar and his entire band were on stage, with the dancers performing in front of the band. The lighting was incredible for a show staged way back in 1983. Ananda and Tanusree would come a second time in the 90's but this time their music was more modern but there was no band on stage, nevertheless the dances were spectacular.

After the passing away of Ananda Shankar in 1999 I was even told that the troupe's days were over. It was heart-breaking to hear from some folks who had been living in Calcutta too but that was far from the truth. Tanusree Shankar has only taken Ananda's dance company ever forward. On Monday I was fortunate to witness a short but lovely performance (not on the scale of the previous performances with Ananda) at the Kalakshetra in Chennai. It was also a privilege to have had the opportunity to have interacted with the legend herself and her dancers after the show. I did mention to her about the 1983 show and she was so excited to talk about it and about the green campus of IIT Madras. Tanusree choreographs most of the dances and also takes part in some of them. I actually couldn't help admiring her English too. I was given her card and will be writing to her. In fact one of the first albums I reviewed on my website was Ananda's classic debut album. The link to the review is here.

After taking her blessings I requested for a picture to which she gladly obliged.

While leaving Kalakshetra I was only wondering what a nice beginning it was to 2014 when I have also planned my first trip to Mayapur via Kolkota. Will I get a chance to visit Tanusree and Ananda Shankar's dance Company? Let me see.