Saturday, October 22, 2011

Online Bangla Boi

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Muammar Qaddafi

I do not know Muammar Qaddafi was good or bad, his rule was brutal or benign. People of Libya are a better judge for that. From what I gather it is a mixed a reaction. He did rule well in the beginning but became corrupt with power at the end. Usual story of old revolutionaries.

But this thing I do know for certain, the western imperialist who are calling him a “mad dog” and a brutal dictator are far worse than him for the people of Libya. They don’t give a shit for the people or Libya, freedom, democracy etc. etc. They want OIL FOR THEIR CORPORATIONS and now they have got it. They are hand in glove with far more brutal dictators all across the Arab world and the rest of the world. What I do know that this guy stood against the loot of the natural resources of Libya by the imperialist oil companies at least at the beginning of his career and gave the wealth back to his people. And they never forgave him for that. They could not carry on with their loot as long as he was alive. So he had to go.

This is a very familiar tactic. Any ruler that has natural resources and is unwilling to part that to the western companies, the western media starts maligning him first. Then they call a few goons to Europe, give them money, woman whatever and ask them to start a fake revolution. It does not matter how many people revolt. Then they send their planes and tanks to protect the people from “massacre” by massacring the very same people. They justify it by showing fabricated story of mass killing, unmarked graves etc etc. Finally the remove the obstacle, install a puppet regime and take full control of the oil. The people of that country are totally fucked. But amazingly it works. I hardly read any article protesting what is going on in Libya. Everyone has taken for granted that that’s how the world will work. Not even one protest march anywhere in the world.

I am just wondering who is next. Is it Iran or Venezuela?

Posted in Economist

Our Baby

We SAW our baby today. It is BIG. Around 5cm to be precise. It is jumping. It seems that it is bored of sitting there. It wants to come out and have fun.

We also HEARD its heart beating.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tere Bin Laden

Last night I saw the movie Tere Bin Laden and I loved it! Here is why.

1) It was short, only 95 minutes. I don't racall seeing such a short hindi movie before.
2) It was damn funny :) Not that Jonny Lever/Govinda/Akshay Kumar crap. It was real fun. The spoofs were creative, spot on, the character were well chosen, particularly the communist guy! Real good stuff.
3) It did not degenerate, perhaps because the director knew when to end it. Thanks alot! Just because I paid money, does not mean that you have to entertain(read torture) me for 3 hours.
4) There was no sentimental crap anywhere in the movie as is typical in hindi moview.
5) They did not try to portrey Pakistan in bad light, as is typical in hindi movies. Neither were they sentimental India-Pakistan bhai-bhai type. They showed what seemed real and funny.
7) The dialogs were smart and convicing.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Spirituality, Halo or Hoax ------- A Speech By Javed Akhtar

I got this from Soham (Again!). I think this should be preserved for posterity.

I am quite sure ladies and gentlemen, that in this august assembly nobody would envy my position at this moment. Speaking after such a charismatic and formidable personality like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is like coming out of the pavilion to play after Tendulkar has made a sparkling century. But in some weak moment I had committed myself.

There are certain things that I would like to make very clear at the very outset. Don’t get carried away by my name – Javed Akhtar. I am not revealing a secret, I am saying something that I have said many times, in writing or on TV, in public…I am an atheist, I have no religious beliefs. And obviously I don’t believe in spirituality of some kind. Some kind.
Another thing. I am not standing here to criticize, analyze, or attack this gentleman who is sitting here. We have a very pleasant, civilized relation. I have always found him to be an extremely courteous person.

One is talking about an idea, an attitude, a mindset. Not any individual.
I must tell you that when Rajeev opened this session, for a moment I felt that I have come to the wrong place. Because, if we are discussing the philosophy of Krishan and Gautam and Kabir, Vivekanand, then I have nothing to say. I can sit down right now. I am not here to discuss a glorious past of which I suppose every Indian is proud, and rightly so. I am here to discuss a dubious present.

India Today has invited me and I have come here to talk of spirituality today. Let’s not be confused by this word spirituality, you can find two people with the same name and they can be totally different people. Ram Charit Manas was written by Tulsidas. And the television film has been made by Ramanand Sagar. Ramayan is common but I don’t think it would be very wise to club Tulsidas with Ramanand Sagar. I remember, when he had written Ramcharit Manas, he had faced a kind of a social boycott. How could he write a holy book in such a language like Avadhi? Sometimes I wonder fundamentalists of all hues and all colors, religions and communities…how similar they are. In 1798, a gentleman called Shah Abdul Qadir, in this very city, for the first time translated Quran in Urdu, and all the ulemas of that time gave fatwa against him that how could he translate this holy book in such a heathen language.

When Tulsi wrote Ramcharit Manas and he was boycotted, I remember a chowpai that he had written.

“Dhut kaho abdhut kaho rajput kaho ki julawa kohu
Kohu ki beti se beta na biahab, kohu ki jaat bigaar na chahu
Mang ke khaibo, mehjid ma raihbo, lebe ka ek na debe ka dohu”

Ramanand Sagar, when he made his television serial, he made millions. I am not undermining him, but obviously he is much lower in the rung.
I will give you another example. Perhaps it would be more direct and more appropriate. Gautam came out of a palace and went into wilderness to find the truth. But nowadays we see, the modern age gurus, come out of the wilderness and wind up in the palaces. They are moving in the opposite direction. We can’t talk of them in the same breath. So let us not hide behind names which are dear and respectable for every Indian.

When I was invited to give this talk, I felt that yes, I am an atheist, try to be a rationalist in any given situation, Maybe that’s why I have been called. But suddenly I have realized that there is another quality that I share with Modern Age gurus. I work in films. We have lot in common. Both of us, sell dreams, both of us create illusions, both of us create icons, but with a difference. After three hours we put a placard – the end. Go back to reality. They don’t.

So ladies and gentlemen, let me make it very clear that I have come to talk of this spirituality that has a supermarket in the world. Arms, drugs and spirituality – these are the three big businesses in the world. But in arms and drugs you really have to do something, give something. That’s the difference. Here you don’t have to give anything.

In this supermarket you get instant Nirvana, Moksha by mail, a crash course in self realization, cosmic consciousness in four easy lessons. This supermarket has its chain all over the world, where the restless elite buy spiritual fast food. I am talking about this spirituality.

Plato in his dialogues has said many a wise thing, and one of them is – before starting any discussion decide on the meanings of words. Let us try to decide on the meaning of this word spirituality. Does it mean love for mankind that transcends all religion, caste, creed, race? Is that so? Then I have no problem. Except that I call it humanity. Does it mean love of plants, trees, mountains, oceans, rivers, animals? The non-human world? If that is so, again I have no problem at all. Except that I call it environmental consciousness. Does spirituality mean heartfelt regard for social institutions like marriage, parenthood, fine arts, judiciary, freedom of expression. I have no problem again sir, how can I disagree here? I call it civil responsibility. Does spirituality mean going into your own world trying to understand the meaning of your own life? Who can object on that? I call it self-introspection, self assessment. Does spirituality mean Yoga? Thanks to Patanjali, who has given us the details of Yoga, Yam, Yatam, aasan, pranayam…We may do it under any name, but if we are doing pranayam, wonderful. I call it healthcare. Physical fitness.

Now is it a matter of only semantics. If all this is spirituality, then what is the discussion. All these words that I have used are extremely respectable and totally acceptable words. There is nothing abstract or intangible about them. So why stick to this word spirituality? What is there in spirituality that has not been covered by all these words? Is there something? If that is so then what is that?

Somebody in return can ask me what is my problem with this word. I am asking to change it, leave it, drop it, make it obsolete but why so? I will tell you what is my reservation. If spirituality means all this then there is no discussion. But there is something else which makes me uneasy. In a dictionary, the meaning of spirituality is rooted in a word called “spirit”. When mankind didn’t know whether this earth is round or flat, he had decided that human beings are actually the combination of two things. Body and spirit. Body is temporary, it dies. But the spirit is, shall I say, non-biodegradable. In your body you have a liver and heart and intestines and the brain, but since the brain is a part of the body, and mind lies within the brain, it is inferior because ultimately the brain too shall die with the body, but don’t worry, you are not going to die, because you are your spirit, and the spirit has the supreme consciousness that will remain, and whatever problem you have is because you listen to your mind. Stop listening to your mind. Listen to your spirit - the supreme consciousness that knows the cosmic truth. All right. It’s not surprising that in Pune there is an ashram and I used to go there. I loved the oratory. On the gate of the lecture hall there was a placard. Leave your shoes and minds here. There are other gurus who don’t mind if you carry your shoes. But minds?…sorry.
Now, if you leave your mind what do you do? You need the Guru to find the next station of consciousness. That hides somewhere in the spirit. He has reached the supreme consciousness, he knows the supreme truth. But can he tell you. No sir, he cannot tell you. So can you find out on your own? No sir, you need the guru for that. You need him but he cannot guarantee that you will know the ultimate truth… and what is that ultimate truth? What is the cosmic truth? Relating to cosmos? I have really not been able to understand that. The moment we step out of the solar system the first star is Alpha.Centueri It is just four light years away. How do I relate to that!! What do I do!!

So the emperor is wearing robes that only the wise can see. And the emperor is becoming bigger and bigger. And there are more and more wise people who are appreciating the robe.

I used to think that actually spirituality is the second line of defence for the religious people. When they get embarrassed about traditional religion, when it starts looking too down-market, they hide behind this smokescreen of cosmos and super consciousness. But that is not the complete truth. Because the clientele of traditional religion and spirituality is different. You take the map of the world, you start marking places which are extremely religious, within India or outside India, Asia, Latin America, Europe…wherever. You will find that wherever there is lot of religion there is lack of human rights. There is repression. Anywhere. Our Marxist friends used to say that religion is the opium of poor masses, the sigh of the oppressed. I don’t want to get into that discussion. But spirituality nowadays is definitely the tranquilizer of the rich.

You see that the clientele is well heeled, it is the affluent class. Alright, so the guru gets power, high self esteem, status, wealth…(which is not that important), power…and lot of wealth too. What does the disciple get? When I looked at them carefully I realized that there are categories and categories of these disciples. It’s not a monolith. There are different kinds of followers. Different kinds of disciples. One, who is rich, successful, doing extremely well in his life, making money, gaining property. Now, since he has everything he wants absolution too. So guru tells him - whatever you are doing, is “niskaam karma” – you are playing a role, this is all “Maya”, the money that you are making everyday and the property that you are acquiring, you are not emotionally involved with it. You are just playing a role. You come to me because you are in search of eternal truth. Maybe your hands are dirty, but your spirit and soul are pure. And this man, he starts feeling wonderful about himself. For seven days he is exploiting the world, and at the end of the seven days when he goes and sits at the feet of the guru, he feels – I am a sensitive person.

There is another category. That too comes from the affluent class. But he is not the winner like the first one. You know winning or losing that is also relative. A rickshaw-wallah if he is gambling on the pavement and wins hundred rupees will feel victorious, and if a corporate man makes only 300 million dollars, while his brother is a billionaire, he will feel like a failure. Now, what does this rich failure do? He needs a guru to tell him – who says that you have failed? You have other worlds, you have another vision, you have other sensibility that your brother doesn’t have. He thinks that he is successful…wrong. The world is very cruel, you know. The world tells you honestly, no sir, you have got three out of ten. The other person has seven out of ten. Fair. They will treat you that way and they will meet you that way. There he gets compassion. There he plays another game.

Another category. And I will talk about this category not with contempt or with any sense of superiority, not any bitterness, but all the compassion available one that is a very big client of this modern day guru and today’s spirituality, is the unhappy rich wife.

Here is a person who put all her individuality, aspirations and dreams, and her being at the altar of marriage and in return she got an indifferent husband. Who at the most gave her a couple of children. Who is rather busy with his work, or busy with other women. This woman needs a shoulder. She knows that she is an existential failure. There is nothing to look forward to. She has a vacuous, empty, comfortable yet purposeless life. It’s sad, but it is true.

Then there are other people. Who are suddenly traumatized. They lose a child. The wife dies. The husband dies. Or they lose the property, they lose their business. Something happens that shocks them and they ask – why me? So who do they ask? They go to the Guru. And the guru tells him that this is Karma. But there is another world if you follow me. Where there is no pain. Where there is no death. Where there is immortality. Where there is only bliss. He tells all these unhappy souls – follow me and I will take you to the heaven, to the paradise, where there is no pain. I am sorry sir, it is disappointing but true that there is no such paradise. Life will always have a certain quota of pain, of hurts, a possibility of defeats. But they do get some satisfaction.

Somebody may ask me if they are feeling better, if they are getting peace then what is your problem. It reminds me of a story that I have read. It’s an old Indian story told by a sage, that a hungry dog finds a dry bone and tries to eat it and in the process bites its own tongue. And the tongue is bleeding and the dog feels that he is getting nourishment from the bone.
I feel sad. I don’t want them, these adults, to behave like this because I respect them. Drugs and alcohol are also supposed to give mental peace and serenity, but is that kind of piece or serenity desirable or advisable? The answer is no. Any mental peace that is not anchored in rational thoughts is nothing but self-deception. Any serenity that takes you away from truth is just an illusion – a mirage. I know that there is a kind of a security in this which is like the security of a tri-cycle. If you are riding a tri-cycle you can’t fall. But adults do not ride tricycles. They ride bi-cycles. They can even fall. It is a part of life.

There is one more kind. Like everybody who is the member of the golf club is not fond of golf. In the same way everybody who is seen in an ashram is not a spiritual person. A film producer who is an ardent follower of a guru, whose ashram is about two hours from Delhi once told me that you must go to my Guru. You will see the who’s who of Delhi there. Let me tell you my Guruji is another Chandraswami in the making. Now this is a contact point for networking.

I have great respect for people who are spiritual, or religious, and in spite of this they are good people. And I have a reason. I believe that like every emotion or feeling, you have a limitation.
I am feeling slightly pressurized about time, can I get another five six minutes please…may I sir… Rajiv Mehrotra

“yes you can”

You can see upto a point. And you can’t see further. You can hear upto a point, but beyond that you won’t be able to register sounds. You can mourn upto a point and then you will get over your mourning. You will feel happy upto a point and then you will be through with your happiness. Same way, I am sure that you have a certain capacity for nobility also. You can be as noble and no more. Now suppose if we count this capacity for nobility in the average man as ten units, now anybody who goes to pray in a mosque five times is consuming his five units, there anybody who goes to the temple or sits in the feet of the Guru, he is consuming his quota of nobility there. And in a totally non-productive manner. I don’t go to pray. I don’t pray. If I don’t go to any guru, or mosque or temple or church, what do I do with my quota of nobility. I will have to help somebody, feed somebody, give shelter to somebody. People who use their quota in worshipping, praying, adoring religious figures and spiritual figures, in spite of that, if they are left with some nobility, hats off to them.

You may ask me, that if I have this kind of ideas about religious people, why should I show such reverence for Krishan and Kabir and Gautam? You can ask me. I’ll tell you why I respect them. These were the great contributors in the human civilization. They were born in different points of time in history, in different situations. But one thing is common in them. They stood up against injustice. They fought for the downtrodden. Whether it was Ravana, or Kansha or the pharaoh or the high priests or the British Samrajya in front of Gandhi – or the communal empire of Firoze Tughlaq in the times of Kabir, they stood against that.

And what surprises me, and confirms my worst feelings, that today, the enlightened people who know the cosmic truth, none of them stand up against the powers that be. None of them raises his voice against the ruling classes and the privileged classes. Charity, yes, when it is approved and cleared by the establishment and the powers that be. But I want to know which was that guru which took the dalits to those temples which are still closed to them. I want to know which was that guru who stood for the rights of the Adivasis against the thekedaars and contractors. I want to know which was that guru who spoke about the victims of Gujarat and went to their relief camps. They are human beings.

Sir…It is not enough to teach the rich how to breathe. It is the rich mans recreation. It is the hypocrites’ pretension. It is a mischievous deception. And you know that in the oxford dictionary, mischievous deception is a term that is used for a word, and that word is…HOAX.

Thank you.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Yesterday I saw our unborn baby's heart beating using USG. It was an electrifying feeling. It is a seven week old foetus of roughly one centimeter. But still it is life, created. I cannot describe the feeling. It was something I never felt before.

I never wanted to have a baby. I considered it not only an unnecessary trouble, but a huge risky emotional investment. So when we came to know that Ranjita was pregnant, I did not have any special feeling. Of course I liked the fact that she was happy, but my feelings did not go beyond that.

But that stoicism was swept aside yesterday. Now I am waiting for more excitement!

Update on 12 October:

Now I lost that excitement. I am back to zero feeling again. Not even thinking about it. I am back to my drinks/movies/books combo. I love my life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Second Freedom Struggle

For last several weeks top three headlines and the front page photo on most newspapers are about Anna Hazare. I hardly read the newspaper these days and do not watch national English channels. But even then I am getting really bored by this circus. My personal problem with Anna Hazare is he is very ugly. He is almost as ugly as Narasimha Rao. So he occupying the news paper front page day after day is esthetically wrong and bad for your eyes :)

But jokes apart, what is going on here? Typical Indian response to an eternal problem. This man sees an opportunity by correctly guessing the middle class anger against corruption. I will give him that credit. Even though I think he himself was pleasantly surprised to see a slightly higher level of intensity. Media grabs the scoop offered to them. Guilt ridden middle class people, who feel they are left out of the great Indian loot (not quite, they are getting their share), lashes out against the establishment, there by feeling good that they are finally doing something for their country, not just sitting there and talking. So start the second freedom struggle. Freedom from who/what? Corruption of all the problems. In this country millions of children die because of malnutrition/disease. Half of the people live for less than a dollar a day, cannot read, do not have access to healthcare, food, justice, clean drinking water, a loo. There are hardly any road, there are three policemen for every one lakh citizens (not sure about this number. But sure that it is pathetically low). Half of the country is on the verge of revolution because of endemic poverty and systematic dispossession. They don’t become issues. If any channel dares show any of these news once in a while even for a few seconds, people just switch out of them. But corruption IS an issue, after all the loot is so BIG, thousands of crores. These numbers appeal to middle class and the media. In my opinion the best social sector investment ever done in India was the NREGA. But it failed because of the massive corruption. Where was our “anti corruption crusader” then? Where was the “civil society”? No way. It’s not glamorous man. Who cares about few hundred rupees stolen from millions of poor people? No channel showed any report on this. Now suddenly they discovered corruption.

I am not supporting corruption. What I am trying to say is that corruption is eternal. And this is not the burning issue. The burning issues are poverty and lack of development. Corruption does not impede development. If anything, it accelerates it. Generally corrupt people are ambitious and ambitious people are key to development. Even with a higher rate of corruption, China lifted 600 million people out of poverty in less than two generations. But to do so, you need to work hard. You need to plan. We don’t do that. We see a few problems and charge emotionally and start a “second freedom struggle” without any agenda, without any plan and above all without an adversary (I hope the people of this country is not initiation a freedom struggle against Congress whom they have voted to power less than three years back!) At the best, Anna Hazare is plain lazy that he cannot start a party, get elected and raise a voice against corruption in the parliament. There he will get all the immunity he wants against arrest and detention. At the worst, he is so arrogant that he believes that only he is right and the voters of this country are all wrong.

I believe that Dr. Manmohan Sing’s government has failed miserably on corruption. At the very least the PM has tolerated corruption in his government to save his “gaddi”. I believe he should go. I believe he should have gone long back. For corruption and more (much more) importantly for his complete failure to check price rise, for his lack of vision to move the country forward. For his inability to lead. But I think this is not entirely right to say that Congress has done nothing against corruption? Mind it, for the first time in the country’s history, three MPs (I think two of them were ministers) are in jail. Another cabinet minister is fired. One high court judge is fired, one top officer and one chief minister is also fired. Are they enough? No. But it’s NOT “done nothing”. I think credit for all this goes for Mrs. Gandhi. And the sooner she recovers and returns back to public service, the better it is for the country. I doubt, at present, anyone else in the Congress has the ability to lead. And man, we desperately need a LEADER. And my personal request, someone good looking :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

PC 5150

IBM PC 5150 was launched on 12 August 1981. A little over 30 years ago. In thirty years it has "changed the world". Now "changed the world" is such a cliche. Everything changed the world from automobile to telephone to condoms. So in that sense it really did NOT change the world. We are still stupid, insignificant, mortal human beings visiting planet earth for a roughly average 65 years. Nothing changed on that front. But on the other hand, the impact of PC on our daily lives is far more than the convenience of paying bills and buying train tickets from our desk. It DID change our lives in more profound way.

I think the most profound impact of computers in our lives is the way we think. People who uses computers thinks more objectively that people who don't. While phrases like "do it in your free cycle", "I have no bandwidth left" may sound geeky and mere phrases, I think they are not mere phrases anymore. They have invaded our thought process. We do tend to think the way computer thinks rather than the way humans used to think. Life is now a sequence of instructions to be processed rather than a sequence of experiences to be felt and enjoyed/endured. Improving things is like optimizing a program than making life better. A phone call from my father when I am in a party seems like a NMI while doing an important subroutine. I think I have now less feeling and more computing than I used to be when I did not know computers.

Now that can as well be just because I have grown old. But I have a suspicion computer did play a role here.

I first saw a PC (A little better than the one in the above picture) in 1989 in our Jadavpur University, Computer Science lab, in August! We had one that was exactly same as the above picture in a different lab. It is amazing that guy from a backward region of such an impoverished country and from a quite poor background will work on the most advanced machine within eight years after it was built. We also had a CDC Cyber 180 and a Norsk Data ND-500 machine in our labs. Both of these machines were less than 10 years old and I think used to cost thousands of dollars.

Our tuition fee for undergraduate studies in 1989 was IIRC Rs 20/month. When I was thinking about this last night I felt real gratitude for my country and the people on my country whose contribution made it possible.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cantor's theorem

Today I read and understood Cantor's theorem.Thanks to Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I was reading Glimpses of World History last night and I was thinking what a life Mr. Nehru lived. Often time I try to thing if someone asks me to write a "the man you admire most" or "Your favorite hero" type essay, who shall I write about? Of course there are many people whose work I admire like Einstein or Russel? But I do not know what kind of life they lived (I have a plan to read Russel's autobiography). Also, they were philosophers and thinkers and not leaders or heroes. I like Mandela. But I think Nehru comes closest to the man I can write the above essays about. He has all the stuffs that I like in a human being, atheist, left leaning, fiercely democratic, secular, intellectual. The only flaw I can think in him is that he followed Gandhi even when they were poles apart in their thinking. Gandhi was a pure Indian, deeply religious, capitalist. Nehru was almost alien to India. He was true atheist, secular, socialist. These are very un-Indian traits. I wonder how he was so successful in Indian politics. But being so different intellectually, how could he follow Gandhi? How come he did not have a fight with Gandhi like Subhas Bose. I guess he had no other option. At that point of time if you want to serve India politically, you could not fight with Gandhi.

Going back to the point, I just admire and envy the life that he lived, His childhood, his education, his English, socialist, intellectual upbringing, his sense of satisfaction from the work that he did as a politician and as a statesman. All these things (barring the last one), I would have loved to do. The thing I like most in him is his passion for history. No one tells history so interestingly and impartially as he does. Just too good.

I could not find my Discovery of India last night. I will try this tonight. If I cannot find it, I will buy one tomorrow.