Thursday, March 27, 2008

Its the Cool Way to Die

The subject of debate these days is whether you are more likely to die of tuberculosis or from lung cancer. The undisputed fact is that this classy way of making a statement,a symbol of women liberation WILL lead to death. Death it may be but atleast it is a cool way to die. And the deceased will forever be remembered as a passionate, bold and glamarous person who puffed in until he snuffed out.
I do sometimes wonder why I waste time reading news articles that quote the extraordinarily foolish thinking of my generation.Those who deign to agree that they smoke not for "cooldom" harness a strong disbelief for the fact that smoking surely kills.Even if its just people like me who strongly disapprove of smoking who read thse articles, there is enough hue and cry made these days about the murderous nature of tobacco( I do not mean the hypocritic statutory warning on cigarette covers).
A lot of interesting/shocking statistics are being thrown around everywhere by everyone.I shall not quote them all here(there are links for those interested) but would like to mention a few measures taken by some governments that caught my attention.I have indicated before that I find the idea of warnings on cigarette covers insincere. However,cigarette covers from Canada apparently have gory images of damages that are caused to internal organs!France made progress with their anti smoking measures whe they raised the prices of cigarettes by about 20 % and imposed a COMPLETE ban on public smoking(not conditional like closed room/restaurants/cafes imposed in a lot of other countries) and Bhutan is the first country to impose a complete ban on sale of all tobacco products...this is the kind of stuff that I like and approve. The fine imposed on people flouting the ban in France is 450 euros and people who donot bring smokers to law are liable to be fined 750 euros!From my previous blog, it should be evident to readers that I support heavy punishment, for I have little faith in self discipline.A whole list of less impressive measures by other governments can be found on the internet.
India is one among the countries in this list and is one that definitely should not be. Time for statistics...the projected number of deaths in India due to smoking in the year 2010(thats only two years away) is 1 milliion. Cynics who laugh that this is a service to the nation in terms of population control would definitely do greater service by shutting up.The "will be dead" will fall under the age group of 35-59, which is the most economically contributing age sector.The Indian government is trying hard...there is a public ban with a fine of 200 Rs for anyone who disregards it(I doubt many law enforcers are aware of this)...smoking scenes are banned from movies...there is more hullaboo about it's unnecessity(I personally think the cooldom did evolve from film stars, how many people try imitating Rajnikanth's "awesome" way of lighting a cigarette?)...tobacco is still the most valued cash crop.
If we are serious about preventing harm from tobacco, why are we not imposing a complete ban like Bhutan? Why do we still allow the growth of a crop that not only damages the health of people, but also make land unfit for growing anything else worthwhile?The answer is that there is big money involved...the relationship of law makers with tobacco barons...the contribution of tobacco to the economy(kill some to make money for others), etc, etc...
While people continue to die, the rest of us can atleast debate on whats right and whats wrong for we cannot take actions while we are lamed with kleptocracy, lack of self discipline and belief in the existence of a smart way to die...

Monday, March 17, 2008

मातृ देवो भव

An unadmirable growth rate of 700 percent over the last 30 years... grown from 7 reported a day to 53 reported a day and growing...children and grown ups treated alike...villages,cities,everywhere...India's fastest growing crime.

Welcome to Incredible India, a glorious civilization degenerated; a land of integrity and culture, in posters and presentations,the land where values from time immemorial are still remembered, in books।It is the country whose earliest scriptures describe women as a divine race. Even by the rules of the detestable caste system, women were not allowed to lower their status.Today, even as women are expanding their presence into every field imaginable, they are being lowered to mere objects of play by the physically stronger human species.

My outrage has been fed by the lately regular reports of foreign women being raped and murdered in my country.The anger is not directed at the fact that the victims are foreigners, but that every woman, no matter the color of her skin has a right to walk anywhere on god given land without fearing for what is not her fault, and yet has to. The foreign victims have only brought the shocking statistics to light.The fuss made by the foreign media have sparked retorts that rape rates in India are by no means the highest in the world(sexual assaults are reported in the US about every 6 minutes). I shudder to think that there are people who justify the worst crime in the world in such a crass manner!and I donot wonder that justice has not been meted out even in publicised cases like that of Jessica Lal.
Everybody knows why such crimes occur, but why do they continue to occur? Even after the victim, if alive and has answered humiliating questions, the culprits walk free sooner or later. I am not being an extreme feminist but I do believe that only extreme punishments can rein these uncontrolled acts. Anything less than capital punishment will not suffice. I am sure Christ did not think of this when he asked us to show the other cheek when slapped on one...this is what we are precisely doing. The culprits are certainly among the lowest breed of mankind, but are the adjudicators any better? I wonder how they can bear to hear about lives being ruined in this fashion and not exercise their power when they can.Atleast the knowledge that a kid who has no clue why she is suffering should melt a human heart.
These stories are told by statistics, and they do not tell half the story. The victims are put to shame more than the culprits.The family is ashamed and try to hide her than bring her justice. If they do try for justice, the media without discretion capitalize on another's misery under the pretext of reaching out to the public.I wonder,would the women have been better off if they had been murdered?
I am sorry if this article makes an extremely unpleasant reading, but these are my thoughts on these gory crimes. I wonder if people who wrote the taittiriya upanishad wrote what was or what should be when they wrote "मातृ देवो भव "

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Planet Earth: In an Age of no civilization

It was a long way.We were two hours late and we were driving fast.The sun was mocking at us, trying to hold us static with its magical beauty even as we were speeding away from it.Only when we were rid of the sun did I realize that our destination must be enchanted, for the beautiful west side sun was just the first of many obstacles.

The apsaras in the sky began their hypnotic dances leading us into a world where space and time had no meaning.Known and nameless planets,shooting stars and billions of stars made me want to get out of the car, lie on my back in the middle of the desert and watch the sky till world's end.The performers had to contend with my craning my neck up the window, but the damsels were not to be outdone. Their next attempt did slow us down. Dozens of deer, hare and javelinas ran across our paths at regular intervals causing my friend to break often.They were relentless in their pursuit. I saw them racing across skies in herds(or constellations,in the language of the learned) with men on their tracks pelting stones.
 As I got out and looked about me at our campsite, I was consumed in unearthliness.It was extremely cold, dark,silent and eerie.The propane lanterns we brought along were stuck with a bunch of co-travelers who were yet to find their way. Since we had no idea when to expect them(no outer-world communication signals), we put up the tents using the light from our car headlights.After a very late dinner(or a very early breakfast?) we tried to catch some sleep,unsuccessfully before setting out to explore this strange land.
The sun caught up with us after a night of bitter cold. With daylight came a strange excitement. As we stepped out of the campsite at Big Bend National Park, we were engulfed in fantastic views that seemed to be right out of prehistoric photographs.We were in the middle of vast stretches of nothing for miles on every side. I learned that the area of this place is 800,000 acres which is three times the size of Delhi.

We first set out on the lost mine hiking trail in Chisos Basin, which would take us to an elevation of 4400 ft above sea level. The five mile trek did not seem to be half as much as we were constantly admiring the breath taking views of mountains and deserts and..cacti(in shades of purple and pink).The higher we went the mountains seemed mightier and the deserts vaster. The sun and the wind were in perfect harmony with each other. Sitting on the rocks at the top left me with the feeling that nothing more could be desired or derived from this trip.
How wrong I was...the river was yet to prove that it was mightier than the mountains...the sun was to show its prowess again. It never ceases to amaze me that a mere ball of fire could bring such surreal beauty to everything it's glow grazes. We traveled 100 km to witness this sublime testimonial from nature. We reached the Santa Elana Canyons just before sunset and wasted not time in getting on to the canyon trail which took us by the side of the Rio Grande river up the canyon. No words nor photographs can ever sing the glory of the scene.As the sun set behind the canyons, the rocks lining them changed hue from brown to an unbelievable orange.The memory of that spectacle can bring joy to anyone who thinks there is nothing worth living for in this life.

I was reveling in more such romantic thoughts as I watched the play of colors on the sky the next morning. We were driving back through the desert,vast nothingness on all sides with the skies touching the distant horizons.It gave me the impression of being on the flat portion of a huge hemisphere.I sat watching the eastern horizon slowly change colors from dark blue to a lighter blue with shades of pink and purple to golden yellow, and the gradation of colors moving gracefully across the sky announcing the arrival of the sun.Suddenly I understood why the early Greeks so easily imagined the Earth to be surrounded by a vast transparent sphere with the sun and the planets moving on its surface and why the complicated motions of the earth,the solar system and the galaxies were much more difficult to relate to. The first theory is so obvious!

I did not realize I was out of touch with reality for two days until I was shaken out of it. The border patrol was there and asked to look at our immigration documents. We certainly did not have them. They detained us for almost three hours and cleared all but me and another friend. They had problems verifying our information with nothing more than our names to go by.The lady officer actually told us that we were going to be "taken in" and may be deported. My heart dropped like a stone...another guy came running and said he did find something on us to clear us...whew!!! I certainly did not see mountain lions or bears in the trip as people promised me, but I certainly got nearer to getting arrested than I would ever want to be!Oh, well..we were back to the present. Big Bend already seemed like a setting from an age bygone.