Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Peoples President

Evening of July 23, 2007, India's parliamentarians await arrival, perhaps for the last time, in the central hall of parliament of the outgoing President of the Republic Mr. A P J Abdul Kalam. They have gathered to give him a warm and affectionate send off. The show is telecast live and the commentator lauds multifaceted personality of Mr. Kalam. Upon his arrival Mr. Somnath Chatterjee, the Speaker of the lower house of parliament begins the proceedings by enumerating various achievements of illustrious Mr. Kalam and the praising continues throughout the ceremony. We all sit glued to our TV sets watching with serious attention and, in between, also thinking as to how the politicians hide their real intentions behind the strings of words they so cunningly craft for the occasion.

His actions and achievements first as an aeronautical engineer, a teacher and a rocket scientist and then as the constitutional head are indeed laudable and make us proud as a nation of achievers. A mere presence of Mr. Kalam as the first citizen of India filled many youngsters with hope and confidence. Common man felt great seeing him as President. His dream of seeing India a world power by 2020 is the most significant motivating factor for the dreaming Indian youngsters as well as the intelligentsia.

How come, then, the politicians in this country didn't find it appropriate to keep such a capable and accomplished man there for another term. Does he fall short of qualifications by not earning any new doctorate (we see lots of politicians earning degrees from a beeline of obliging universities) during his term? If displeasure shown by him in a couple of instances of constitutional impropriety committed by the union government, albeit under compulsions of coalition management, was the reason for Mr. Kalam not getting a second term then the portents are not good for the health of democracy in India. Seemingly the elected representatives and other politicians of the country relegated public interest to backstage viz a viz political convenience.

It is beyond doubt that of the two contestants for the top job neither could match Mr. Kalam in eminence and integrity. We have seen enough dirt fly, during campaigning, in the faces of both; winner and loser. By ignoring an accomplished and perfectly qualified person the peoples' representatives, in spirit, have acted in a manner inimical to the larger interest of democracy while in letter they might have done nothing wrong by sticking to the ideals of open competition and rules ‘of first past the post’.

Whatever the argument or reasoning, the fact is that something is missing somewhere in the present Indian democratic setup. Why can't we have the best people at the best places? And if at all compromises are to be made that ought to be always in the best interest of common man. But where does the common man stand today in India? Is the adage of ‘by the people, for the people’ changing to ‘by some, for the convenience of some’?

PS. July 25, 2007
He is demitting office Today. I salute him.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Happy moments

At times moments of happiness spring up to us face-to-face when least expected. This fawn, instead of running away along with some others, stood still perhaps sure of invisibility amongst the green foliage. It gave me ample opportunity to take a couple of shots from a reasonable distance so as to capture some fine details. My Canon S3IS measured up to occasion and I got these two pretty shots.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Malefic Saturn in your zodiac sign

Of malefic Saturn and the costs involved.

On June 30 / July 01 Venus and Saturn presented a rare celestial phenomenon in the western skies when both the planets appeared less than one degree apart. It was visual treat of a rare type. This event happened just thirteen days after another spectacular one had taken place involving Moon and Venus with the latter momentarily and partly hiding behind the former. In scientific parlance this is termed occultation. People watched the occultation either out of curiosity and fun or for the sake of gaining some knowledge about orbits and movements of heavenly bodies. These as well as other such events are part of completely natural phenomena which could be precisely calculated and predicted. Nothing abnormal or supernatural about it.

However, in India some people have entirely different versions of the events. Majority of the population would like to perceive and interpret such events religiously. They view such happenings in astrological terms wherein anything occurring in the sky has a bearing on us in the shape of our fate and future.

That day a popular TV channel while reporting on the event had one astrologer stationed in the studios. The man was predicting effects (both good and bad) on the lives of individuals falling under different signs of zodiac. He even predicted political disturbance and economic downturn for the country. In case of one particular zodiac sign he was predicting rather a longer period of suffering. He said that this meeting of Saturn and Venus signaled a terrible start of the seven and half years period of malefic effects on all those people who had a particular configuration in their birth charts. Then he went on to dividing this seven and a half years period into further three sub periods of two and a half years each. Each sub period would have different intensity of suffering for the native.

As is common with astrologers they don't stop at merely making predictions for, that would only half serve their purpose. They need to complete their job by spelling out in detail the solutions to the problems created by malefic effects of such planetary positions. Yes, you can ward off the ill effects by making a trade off with the gods and goddesses. Offer them money, eatables, clothes and precious metals or rare stones so as buy peace. Such propitiatory rites coupled with visits to holy places, shrines and rivers complete the ritual of getting rid of the ill effects of a 'dark' Saturn.

While watching the TV show I made some quick back of the envelope calculations so as to estimate in monetary terms the yearly outgo from the pockets of the believers who must appease the Saturn god. While people of all religious beliefs in India consult astrologers (and why shouldn't they when one strong candidate for the President claims, if media reports are to be believed, to have spoken with the soul of her guru) astrology is mainly in the domain of Hinduism, though not exclusively. Assuming about 75 million of Hindus, one twelfth of the country's Hindu population, falling under one zodiac sign which would suffer the severest wrath of the malefic Saturn and further assuming that only 50% (a very conservative estimate) will seek resolution we arrive roughly at a figure of around 40 million individuals seriously seeking remedial measures.

There is no limit to spending on appeasement of the gods. Assuming that the average expenditure incurred by an individual in one year is pegged at paltry rupees one thousand i.e., about USD 25 – a pittance in the wake of huge digesting capabilities of bulging bellies of the priests in India, we arrive at a figure of 40 billion Indian rupees or USD one billion. Over a period of seven years this money would multiply accordingly. Moreover it is an ongoing cycle for, Saturn will not be satiated and would rush towards another zodiac sign and capture fate of many more. Imagine this immense flow of money going down the rituals drain.

And all this in a country where reflections of poverty in the shape of mothers selling their children to buy rice, slavery, child labor and starvation deaths periodically emerge. Any takers, among believers, for this argument or stance?

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why must Taj Mahal be included in New 7 Wonders of the World?

Why must Taj Mahal be included in the New 7 Seven Wonders of the World?

The Taj, literally the crown, occupies the crowning glory in Indian tourism. For anyone visiting India this wonderful monument is a must-see. India otherwise possesses some of the world's best known historical and cultural sites offering knowledge as well as visual treats to a variety of interests. However, the Taj is such a unique wonder that defies all the logical reasoning one might come up with for visiting a particular destination.

Now that the world's new seven wonders are going to be picked up shortly I have my own reasons for voting for this monument. It is not on the basis of some emotional value attached to it (some people call it a 'monument of love' considering the view that it was built by an emperor in memory of his beloved wife. But that may not be entirely true as preserving history in Indian conditions have never been sacrosanct and ruling out distortions would not be that easy) but due to its sheer mesmerizing power as a magnificent structure. The visual treat is so overwhelming that one forgets all historical, cultural, architectural and any other related aspect at the first glance of it from outside of the boundary wall itself. As one draws closer, the mesmerizing effects of the monument become complete thereby showering upon the viewer a sense of happiness and fulfillment. It doesn't prod your senses to desire for more, it soothes them. What else a wonder ought to possess then?

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