The political scene in Karnataka is pitiful to say the least. The cabinet has been reshuffled at least half a dozen times in under two and a half years. Most ministers have been ousted due to their alleged involvement in Scams and fraud. The Hon Chief Minister of the state himself is embroiled in a property scam which involved denotifying land under litigation and then buying it at a throw away price. I returned yesterday from my native town of Shimoga, which also happens to be the Chief Minister’s constituency. Almost every alternate piece of land was called out to be owned by the Chief Minister or one of his family members. The road to an Engineering college, owned partly by our CM, is wide, pothole free and flat. Just 3 kilometers away, the road becomes half its size, is unkempt and is ridden with potholes. Almost every minister in the current cabinet has been busted being a part of some fraud or scam. The government almost fell thrice due to supporters switching sides. The Chief Minister’s son, during the course of the investigation around his involvement in property fraud decided to sell a questionably acquired piece of land for the sum of Rupees forty five Crores. What was hilarious was that the CM, apparently summoned and threatened the person who was doling out this information to people as per the Right to Information act. Despite proof about fraud, nepotism, immoral behavior and attitude, the Chief Minister and his cabinet are still intact and in Power. When asked to justify his actions, he simply referred to incidents where ex chief ministers were involved in similar situations, and said he will not be singled out. Truly exceptional, I must say.
This brings me to the role of Wikileaks in the international political scene. The amount of Buzz that is created by Wikileaks is tremendous, but when it comes to acting on the information that is available at hand, the response from the respective Governments is really really poor. As is the case with our current government in Karnataka. Despite mountain loads of proofs against the CM and his cabinet ministers, they still are in power trying to maximize their profits while in office. What is the point of information in the public domain if its not going to be put to any use. Is bringing confidential documents into the public domain enough to stop the wrong doings ? Here’s a question I always wonder about; Once a minister is proved to have made say X amounts of money in a scam, is the minister liable to pay that money back to the Government or the treasury? I haven’t of such a thing happening. He/she falls in disgrace, but he/she falls an extremely wealthy person.
Karnataka’s Anti Corruption bureau, the Lok Ayukta is akin to WikiLeaks in Karnataka. They catch people red handed and set up a detailed enquiry or an investigation on the matter at hand. Its a pity they do not have prosecution powers. I guess, bringing the information to people is definitely a start and it should continue, but it also lead to concrete results and punishment.
I never cease to be amazed by our everyday life in India. Its better than any reality game show I know of. Every single day is filled with situations, what I call tasks, which require solutions which are counter intuitive and complex. Surely anyone claiming to be bored by their mundane lives are not looking at their lives, and complex task solving capabilities, enough. In India, at any given time, if you are dealing with another person or an entity, you are constantly solving a very complex task. How do I get out of this situation without being cheated. Transactions of all forms force us to use concepts of Game Theory to ascertain we are not being ripped off. We look at everything as a Symmetric Game. We always put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and think, “What would the despicable me do”.
Lets take the example of the most rudimentary of chores, filling fuel at a gas station. I have lost count of the number of times I got cheated by one (or more) of the station attendants. Some of their vile tricks include: The flick of the fuel gun switch to jump to an older higher value, the called out “zero sir” jumping directly to 100, the accomplice distracting me on the pretext of payment while the attendant finishes before the full amount and resets the meter. The most despicable one I almost fell for was the old switcharoo. Two attendants shout out the amount of fuel each person has requested for, then both switch the guns on either sides of the pump, they start filling almost simultaneously and end at wrong figures . Confusion then follows an attempt at correction all the while one person is being led to believe that he/she has had their full share of fuel. There is plenty more.
Lets take the city bus as another example. A well dressed person who pays Rs 10 for Rs 8 ticket never gets back the remainder Rs 2 unless he/she demands it. A large take away order at a hotel always has one or two items lesser than requested for. A large group of people at a restaurant always get billed more than they consumed because they couldn’t remember how much they ordered. The billing clerk at the mall zaps the item on the bar code reader twice when the person is distracted by some free samples or is looking for money to pay the bill. Auto-rickshaw drivers rigging their meters to over charge people. A bunch of my friends even launched a product to combat the Auto Driver menace, checkout Suruk. The regional transport officer who gives you the driving test fails you at least 3 times if you don’t go via a middle man or a driving school. You could be Micheal Schumacher , but you cannot pass the driving test with a clean conscience. Old folks at the pension office have to bribe the pension official 10% of the pension amount for their own money to be released. Shopkeepers selling their wares showing you one thing and selling you a (already known) defective item. People slipping in a torn currency note amongst many notes in the hopes that you wont notice.Your domestic help stealing from you when you are not around. The taxi driver who hasn’t been hired the entire day boxing you in forcing you to hit him so he can walk away with damage money. A random person knocking on your door claiming to be the milkman, paper boy etc and asking for the monthly charges. Your car or bike mechanic replacing new parts in your vehicle for old ones. You cannot get any government document, be it a birth certificate, marriage certificate or even death certificate, without paying a bribe. Meritorious students who get scholarships from the government have to pay a bribe to get their rewards. And almost no relief money reaches any victim. These are just some of the countless situations that one faces in everyday life.
Its no wonder people are double cautious when it comes to any form of a transaction. So much so that even altruism takes a beating, charities cannot get donations because of the numerous fake charity agencies cashing in. One has to be at the top of their game if they have to ensure a just and fair deal. There is never a dull moment when I transact with other people. This behavioral characteristic has a severe impact on businesses. The dismal adoption of online shopping, (why! my mom doesn’t believe in online banking), shopping malls, glitzy showrooms etc are proof that this disturbing characteristic is guaranteeing us sub standard experience in everything. I cannot even dream of buying electronics online, self filling gas stations or a corruption free government departments in India. Let me not even talk about the polity in the country. We probably have the most independent and cognizant judiciary, completely isolated from the legislature, but at least 50% of the politicians in any state have cases against them. Why, you can even contest and win elections, and secure a seat in the parliament, all while being incarcerated.
It is unfortunate that we have to be subjected to such treachery and malice in our everyday life. But hey, that’s the circle of life isn’t it. They do it to us because someone else does it to them. The ones that suffer the most are people like us, the ones who try to be ( and I say try to be) fair and just. Screw reality shows.
My neighbors were talking about how a temple recently had a meeting to discuss the fall in the number of visitors and donations. This was surprising considering religion is one of the biggest industries in India is now seeing a decline. Tirupati, a religious destination, second only to the vatican in terms of donations received, has seen a sharp decline in the number of visitors and donations. (blame the telengana debacle also for this). In the metros there is a sharp increase of people who are turning atheists and there is also a significant number of people who don’t have any incentive to be religious anymore. In the older times, a typical Indian office would be characterized by a gigantic Idol of the Lord that had a Lamp and incense sticks burning all day. There was the infamous cash box or the safe, that was worshiped everyday as well. Most managers had big pictures of the various Gods and deities and it was always a good idea to spend a fair amount of the company’s budget on a religious celebration (something like a Gana Homa or a trip to not so close Temple). Being religious had serious incentives when it came to being on the favorable side of your Boss or promotions.
Lets move to 2010. Most offices are characterized by large glass and wood facades, plush and contemporary furniture and central air conditioning. Idols and Photos of deities are replaced by an abstract art painting or some motivational poster. Company budgets are spent on a either short adventurous trips or on expensive wine and dining. I would dare someone to suggest going to Tirupati for their team outing. Nobody discusses religion primarily because of a multilingual , multicultural and multi religious nature of most teams. There is absolutely no incentive in being religious ( at least in companies like mine; I don’t know about the strong Brahmin dominated 100,000 plus employee companies). All in all, religion is not as inter twined in our society as its used to be.
Here’s another thought, exposure to literature from around the world, videos of people right from eminent scholars like Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins to standups like George Carlin have changed the way people think about religion. Consequentially, we have a growing population of people who are questioning indoctrination and age old beliefs. Then there are the others, who between their farmville activities, twitter, youtube , facebook and pub/mall hopping, dont find time to be religious. Why would they? It pays more to have seen Susan Boyle in Britain’s Got Talent than being religious in today’s social circle.
Most people who used to cash in on the religious phenomenon are being hit bad. Lets take the million dollar Agarbatti (incense) industry. Agarbatti served a dual purpose, apart from being a symbol of worship, it would also serve as a room freshner for many people. You cannot even dare light a match, let alone an agarbatti, in a modern office. Add to this that most premium agarbatti makers (like the one shown below) cashed in primarily due to exports and metros. So what do they do? Market agarbatti as a natural room freshner? Nah, Room Freshner sprays would beat them by a long shot. So they go make an advertisement. The one which has very satisfactory scientific explanations about the divine phenomenon. Surely, even the divine is based on some scientific principle, even if its weakly rooted in fact.
Disclaimer: I love my country and am not not a patriot. I do not disrespect the freedom fighters, the nationalist spirit or the fact that we celebrate I day. This post must be treated only as a vent for my anger against the stereotypical Independence day.
The typical Independence day in India reminds me of Bill Murray’s movie Groundhog Day. A day filled with events so stereotypical that it is worth documenting and ranting about. Here is what my Independence day looks like, for now and probably forever.
- Parents get up early in the morning and switch on Doordarshan to watch the Independence Day Parade. I remember how they ( and me) would sit and watch the entire telecast. Until that fateful day Hon H D Devegowda gave the National address, my parents actually watched the Prime Ministers address. You just got to credit HDD, his speech changed the paradigm in my house.
- This is followed by Flag hoisting & Patriotic songs near an Auto stand or a circle near my house. I even happened to live next to a school where eager parents would watch their kids (who are sulking and pissed that they have to do this on a National Holiday) do the march and sing the National Anthem. A chief guest, usually ex – military, cop or a politico will harp on for about 20 minutes about the Nationalism and likes whilst the kids slowly pass out either cause of them waking up at 6AM and not eating anything or …, well you figure.
- The enthusiastic local communities are also more than eager to organize an Independence day celebration. The Flag pole which sports the Karnataka flag all through the year (not to forget the posters announcing job openings, English speaking courses and the new beauty parlor down the road) bears a festive look, decked with flowers and fruits. The community is usually a small enthusiastic bunch like the residents of a flat, the local autodriver community or the daily visitors of Sri Tirumala Bar. Loud speakers announce the neighborhood of the ceremony and proceedings. After the rendition of the whole play list of Kannada patriotic songs about India (which is about 3 and half songs ), songs about Karnataka -Kannada follow. This is right about where you get confused whether the event is to promote interests of nationalism or parochialism. Well it could be just the lack of enough songs about India in Kannada. It could also be attempt by the local (usually unemployed) youth to collect money from residents and the local politico in the name of I Day celebrations and show their loyalty to their real master, Sri Tirumala Bar.
- Some flag poles get other artifacts hoisted as well. Take this one for example.
- You will find the roads filled with hawkers trying to sell tri-colored merchandise. Yes, the very same merchandise which will grace the local bins and the gutters the next day.
- Afternoons are usually complete only after the screening of the dubbed Tamil movie Roja.
- A recent trend has been spamming people with Independence day messages. Be it facebook or twitter. If you have been online long enough, you will know how the same mails repeat themselves over and over. The very same pictures and quotes. Well, its patriotism. No matter how repetitive and beaten down it may be.
- Late afternoons, well nobody cares, because most are sleeping.
- You will usually find most channels playing movies which invoke nationalist pride. JP Dutta probably makes movies, like border, knowing it will be aired on at least two days in a year. Then there was Pukaar, Lagaan, more recently – Rang de Basanti and the newest addition being Slumdog Millionaire.
- It all ends with a showing of the Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum starrer Independence Day. Yes, its very essential to watch invading aliens and the president say those priced lines, “Today, we celebrate our Independence day” , followed by the music Dan da da .. da Daan da da da.
Yep, that about sums up Independence day for me.
Time for electing a new Cental Government and I am yet again puzzled by the dilemma that shrouds over my puny mind during every elections. I dont want to take any names, so lets just name the two major political parties A and B. My constituency has candidates from both these parties. Party A’s candidate sounds very promising but Party B is power in the state. Here’s the dilemma, given the structure of our political system, it becomes essential that the Centre – State relationship should stay healthy. It should be too given the policies that the centre holds control over. Since party B is in power, rationally, knowing the bigger scheme of things, I should’nt be voting for party A’s candidate as party A at the centre will mean disconnect in the dialogue between the centre and the state. And thats not good. But party A’s candidate is the best person according to my judgement. How do I solve this problem?
A certain trigger got me thinking about our virtual identities and there were things that I couldn’t take a stand on. The first being that of boundaries in our lives. Fifteen years back, at least in India, we had to send out snail mails or greetings to all my relatives during festive seasons. The mail was more to serve as an update mechanism, a pretext to talk. My relatives would usually call back to acknowledge the receipt of the mail and then exchange updates on each of our families lives. This intrinsic need to discover and exchange information, fast and reliably, was the reason social networking sites and email saw such great adoption. What’s happened now is that we (or should I say, I) don’t recognize boundaries about our life. I am talking about people like me. The overtly public beings who wish to tell the world about every happening in their life via a lifestream of sorts ( read twitter, blogs etc). I don’t think it even matters if there is someone on the other side who is interested in what I have to say.
Where do you draw the line when it comes to your real life vs your virtual life. Are modern day technologies upping the exhibitionism quotient in people like me? Where does my public life end and where does my private life start? Even though most of my lifestream updates usually tend to be knowledge sharing bits of information, usually interesting artifacts I find on the net or general thoughts. I starting to feel people are taking it the wrong way. I have a belief that a system is what controls actions of people. If blogs and twitter didn’t exist, would I still be the person that I am? This post by itself is a sort of a strangeloop if you think about it. What started as a forum for expressing my views on topics on everyday life has turned into frighful medium for exhibitionism. Will I stop ? Probably. Will it affect my life and its priorities? Definitely. I will still continue to pour my opinions on the web about certain artifacts, because thats what the internet is all about; diminishing information asymmetries.
Keeping up with the national news has become a drag lately. The source of fresh information and ground breaking stories aka news channels and papers, seem like they are playing the old vinyl in repeat mode. Take the grandmaster of all news in India, the Times group, who with their brilliant and articulate reporting has the country hooked onto their constant stream of infogasms. Never has there been a paper, which has exemplified neutrality, just in time journalism and masterful critic of all things news. Or as a visiting professor from UK told me once, in England its called Sarcasm.
Anyway. After carefully examining the quality and content of most newspaper, I propose a set of new sections to be added to the newspapers. The logic is that most of these incidents aren’t really stray and its better to dedicate a specific section in the newspaper so that people looking for their scoop needn’t struggle hard. The best part about TOI is their ability to generalize information just at the right instant of time and make an entire section of it. How else can you explain sections like crime-beat(reporting cases everyday faithfully), numerology, Masseurs, citizen journalism, Dubyaman, Bizzare, Education Classifieds (yes, Education) and God in Gucci. As information overload occurs, its time we help organize these commonly occuring patterns into daily sections to help the general public locate this information. I am just playing the Google of the print media. My new sections include:
- Ministers involved in fraud or ousted from the assembly for being convicted section.
- Foreign National Molested Yesterday section
- Politico – religious tension today section
- Company layoffs today section
- Daily Economic Indigestion section
- Prasad Bidapa and Family Sightings section ( this can go along with the Other unknown people I dont care about on page 3 section )
- Daily Actress Tantrum section
- What Celebrity did wrong yesterday ( or rather what he/she shouldn’t be wearing section)
- How to break up with your partner today section ( and yes, the relationship advice on papers suck !!)
- John Abhram and Bipasha Basu Drool Corner
- Cricketer’s Love Interest section
- Boy who fell in the borewell yesterday section (this is cruel, but has happened too many times to remain non generalized )
- Church, Mosque and Temple’s damaged yesterday section
- Celebrity Arrested yesterday section ( this can also be called the Times Shows Solidarity To … section )
- Saas Bahu’s and Reality TV daily ( this is a contender for a seperate newsdaily right now. If rumours are to believed, the Times group, after their launch of the widely popular Mirror, are contemplating starting this paper. I hope it does, cause I cant stand the sight of the supplement being bigger than the actual newspaper, on saturday’s especially .)
- Ridiculous Poll/Survey of the day section ( where three villagers are questioned about ridiculous things that nobody really cares about – for example the day Kumble decided to retire, Times Asks – Should Kumble have retired ? Answers to which should have been a. why do you care, its his life, let him lead it the way he wants to b. Arent you running a newspaper? I get the impression its a gossip tabaloid and c. Where’s the money you promised me for wasting my time answering this stupid question ? )
Well thats as much as I can think of an empty stomach. Please do add comments and let people know of any more generalizations that you have spotted. What say ?
Yes, most Indians are, or rather were, cricket crazy. Cricket in India is a religion and was probably the only thread holding all the citizens together. A sport watched by grandmas and grandpas, uncle’s and aunty’s, kids and teenagers alike. But that interest in cricket seems to be fading. There are many reasons for the same that I shall try and summarize in this post.
For starters there is the influence of television and globalization. People are discovering new sources of entertainment. The more number of channels that a television has, the more variety the user has to choose and watch the programme of his/her choice. This trend is evident amongst the youth who, thanks to umpteen number of sports channels, have discovered other sporting entities like Soccer, NBA, International Rugby, Formula 1 racing etc. Its almost a fad not to like or watch cricket, which is reason enough for many to resent cricket. Back in the old days, radio and Doordarshan mandated cricket and left users hardly any choice. In a surprising twist of fate, Doordarshan, due to its inability to secure rights to show cricket, are showing sports like curling and eqeustrian - Howazzat !!. Even the regulatory mandate to show cricket on National Television ends up airing ten minutes late. With Mobile scores and ecstatic neighbors, thats like watching a Karan Johar movie (Predictable is what I was trying to say, didnt turn up right).
Another important factor is the birth of the Twenty20 aka 20-20 aka IPL aka ICL aka Cheer Leaders aka @@ With life at least in urban and semi-urban settlements in India becoming really fast paced, the fact that a regular game of cricket takes either 5 days or an entire day to complete. Nobody can spare that kind of time for a sport anymore. 20-20 is a really clever way to actually keep the sport alive and keep some of the fanatics happy. Forget the fact that the entire concept sort reminds me of EPL. Even the CCI’s(read title) follow tests like how they follow the weather, find out what the score line is and whether we can win. Nobody watches test matches anymore. The current Ind-Aus test is supposed to have had the poorest response from users.
If someone were to ask me what was the national television of India, I would say Star Plus and the soaps the news. Kyuki a popular soap, airing daily from before I was born, has more viewership then any of the 20 odd news channels India has. And what better way to entice the CCI than bring in cricketers. Cricketers have been featuring regularly in soap opera’s. Cricketers are also part of the big reality tv buzz. A new programme called “Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina” – literally meaning Beauty and the Beast, features a cricketer with a model. Now why would somebody want to watch Harbhajan Singh bowl (like he always does, on every ball) , when you can watch him groove with India’s very own Ugly Betty.
The controversies regarding our very own dada, match fixing, dope allegations take its toll on people. When people lose faith in a sport, they lose interest. Add to these woes, poor commentators on local sports channels with their ball-going-up-airhostess-catching-bird-falling-plane-crashing anecdotes. I still respect WWE for this feat; part of the reason people watch WWE is because of the commentary.
People are growing up and becoming wiser. The post IT-BPO Indian is not fooled easily ( except by Big Bazaar) by the glitz and glamour of cricket. Unless BCCI – does something radical, like SMS style alternate endings to the cricket matches or cheer leaders playing instead of men, cricket will fall, and fall hard. It will be nice to see what cricket will be ten years from now. Our’s is the only country in the world that is keeping this game alive. A phenomenon like cricket is hard to kill but not impossible.
Please leave your thoughts on this one and enlighten me and the others reading this. Also, on popular demand, you can follow comments written by others, just use the check box while submitting your comment.
A lot of people ask me about my new stands on God and Religion, and also what it is that is making me change the my views on it. Well, its just the amount of trouble religion gives you in the name of ceremonies, functions and festivals. Though I like religion because of its social significance ( it brings together most of my estranged cousins), I still feel there is just too much of it. The hindu polytheistic indoctrination ensures that we keep at half of our 200 crore Gods happy and most people are victims of such abuse. To think they do it for the sake of religion is shuddering. What I can’t stand – insolvents take loans to adhere to these religious norms so that society doesn’t shun them in the name of religion. I shall try and mention a list of some of the ceremonies and rituals that traditional hindu families are SUBJECTED to.
- Rituals start from even before a person is born. The first ritual is the “basari pooje” aka “preggy ritual”. A ritual where family members gather to celebrate impregnation. Is this => population problem ? A party for the man spreading his seed. Isn’t that almost like inspiring him to screw again ?
- When the child is born, the first time seeing ceremony by the grandparents et al. Most grandparents bear gifts for the infant.
- 14 days after being born is the naming ceremony. Scores of unknown faces scare the poor 14 day old with gifts the size of tiny dinosaurs. The ceremony is unmistakably marked by endless shrills of the toddler. ( there is also a tradition of hanging mango leaves next to the baby; in case of a baby boy, some tiny mangoes are also subtly left behind. Go figure !!). Did I forget to mention that most babies are given five official names, 4 of which are based on Gods. And to top it all, the kids never get called any of the 5 names until they reach school. How contrived is that ?
- There is a sub ceremony of piercing the ears of the baby, usually combined with the naming ceremony.
- The first Oil Bath ceremony – self explanatory
- A ceremony when the baby rolls over the first time – this one didn’t make sense. Are the parents rejoicing that their child is not physically challenged or what ?
- The really grand ( and I mean REALLY grand) first year birthday party.
- The three year Mundan. The first time the child gets his haircut. ( pretty grand, usually followed by lunch)
TEN YEARS LATER
- The threading ceremony for guys and the puberty (yes PUBERTY) ceremony for girls. A ceremony to inform the world about the coming of age of the boy or the girl. In the olden days this was sort of an invitation to the townsfolk to send in marriage proposals.
TEN to FIFTEEN YEARS LATER
- Boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, live happily ever after …………..sccccrrrrreeeeecccccchhhhhh , not very Hindu. Lets spice it up
- Boy sees girl for the first time ceremony, usually accompanied by exchange of fruits (?)
- Boy gets engaged to girl ( the engagement ceremony) the marriage date is also decided on the same day.
- 14 days before the marriage, a ceremony to ward of all evils ( like television, ex boyfriends, neighborhood flames etc) and make the process more peaceful
- The day before the marriage – boys side meets the girls side (Kannada : yeduru kansane ). Exchange of fruits ( its like the families are in dire need of fruits or something )
- Day of the marriage (ceremonies, that I can think of, are comma seperated ) – the washing of the feet ceremony, the grinding of pulses for no apparent reason, the enactment of resentment ( kashi yatra), the symbolic lifting of the brides by their uncles ( why symbolic ? go figure again and join a gym) , the marriage ritual with the homam, the symbolic sex ed class using bananas, breaking the ice session by embarassing the couple in front of the whole population, the big deal lunch, the visit to the temple by the couple and finally ….. Phew!! the marriage reception.
- As if all this public intrusion isn’t enough, family members also accompany the couple to the cermoniously prepared bed. I doubt that bed has ever seen any action. Its kinda obvious, dont ya think, after a day of complete chaos, all the couple will want is to sleep for the tiring ceremonies that lie ahead.
- The satyanarayan pooja the next day is almost a compulsion.
- This is where we start the bulleting again from point 1.
Question : Hey, this isn’t that bad. Its over say 30 years. then why is there a problem ?
Answer: Its coz I haven’t mentioned the yearly ceremony calendar.
- January has three festivals : Sankranti, pongal and Lohri. I dont know about lohri, but sankranti and pongal are pretty grand in south india. There is also the naga panchami.
- February: I cant think of anything other than valentines day, which is a day you better shut up and stay at home, if you dont want to get beaten up on the road.
- March: Maha Shivratri, ceremonies followed by night without sleep. Also there is Holi, the festival of colors.
- April: the hindu new year Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Ram navami and Hanuman jayanthi.
- may ,june and july: there is some respite or may be because its marriage season.
- August: Guru Poornima and Krishna janmashtmi
- September: The famous ganesh chaturti, mahalaya amvasa and Navratri begins
- October: The month I was born has the most number of festivals. Dusshera , vijay dashami, karwa chaut, dhan teras and Diwali ( the festival of light)
- November and december: I cant remember. But I forgot the ayutha pooja (tools pooja), durga pooja etc
This also is alright but add to it the fact that most of these cermonies are performed by other family members as well ( esp families like mine with about 27 cousins). Its almost certain that a week doesn’t pass by without a ceremony. Add to it the ceremonies for buying anything new, like a car or a house.
There is also the occasional Gana homa(Ganesh Homam) for goodwill, Satyanarayana vratha (for Lord Satyanarayana), Laxmi pooje (Goddess Laxmi – Goddess of Wealth) etc which people just do occasionally to get more blessings. Plus there are so called dark side of pooja’s which are death ceremonies, yearly remembrance ceremonies, Amavasya pooja ( eclipsed day ceremony) etc.
Also, if a hermit or an astrologer says that your stars( or planetary positions – hindu mythology strongly links a person’s fate to Astronomy) aren’t aligned for optimality then you have to correct those interplanetary misunderstandings by performing shanti’s ( literally asking the planets to calm down ) like Kuja Rahu shanti (Uranus and Neptune Im guessing ), Shani shanti (Saturn – the most vile of the 9(8) planets ) etc.
Well , I can go on and on about these things but I am guessing you get the point. In contrast I feel the God delusion ( Richard Dawkin’s book that I am reading ) is beautifully captured by Bertrand Russel in his teapot theory. And I quote:
If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
This is definitely one of the biggest posts I have written, but its definitely a favorite of mine. Please leave your comments on this as you always do and let me know what you think.
For the uninitiated, Sambhar is a totally awesome mix of vegetables ( mainly onions, tomatoes ) and spices, which is served as curry alongside rice and idlies. The case in point is the sambhar at our college mess. Sambhar in our college looks crappy and there are many that will vouch for its non authenticity. The rich brown of the sambar is replaced by a colorless blur of water floating on top of cut vegetables, amidst some traces of instant sambhar powder that lost its way during the making of the curry. Who is to blame for this ? Blame Globalization.
Interestingly, in a completely different dimension, academics, I was reading about the inter-twining of regional cultures to form this pseudo urban culture, marked distinctly by its mix of languages and cuisines. I was reading about how immigrant workforce in the Silicon valley has driven the san-man into oblivion. The blogs are roaring about the dilution of the Californian culture thanks to the invasion of the Brown and Asian. It even got the wrath of the television when South Park in a very (or not so) subtle way created the goobacks of the future.
In our case, it was the tragic Sambhar. The new caterer served home brewed Sambhar for quite sometime. Later, thanks to the labor surplus in our city, plus the willingness of immigrant labor to work for probably half the cost of local labor, the local cooks were replaced by immigrant cooks. The sambhar was done for. Only a true glutton knows that you can tell a sambhar that wasn’t cooked by a native. Or that Sambhar was not cooked with lovesup. Blame processed food companies, who thinks they can replace the good old chef with a bunch of instant powders, that are a sham in the face of the real thing. I am sure that if it wasn’t for the instant sambhar powder, we would still be relishing authentic food. The sad part is that our home bred Sambhar was replaced due to the state of the economy of our city. We couldn’t help but see how a simple thing like Sambhar could actually depict the economy and the current state of affairs. I couldn’t help but empathize with the poor Californian’s. God know’s how many delicacies they had to compromise on.