Tuesday, August 22, 2006


From a news report:
Varanasi: Thousands bid an emotional farewell to shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan whose mortal remains were laid to rest at the Karbala-Fatamaan burial ground in Varanasi.
Men of the 1/11 Gorkha battalion lowered their muffled weapons as a mark of respect to the departed soul. The troops saluted the Bharat Ratna awardee by firing 36 blank rounds in the air even as buglers paid the Last Post. Before the burial, a majlis was held at the grounds in which prayers were offered for the peace of the departed soul. The burial, incidentally, took place under a neem tree just by the side of the place where Khan Saheb used to sit and play the shehnai during the 5th and 8th day of Moharram. Earlier, in the evening, people had queued up all along the two-kilometre road through which he had gone to express his 'Aasu Ka Nazrana' by playing shehnai during the 5th and 8th day of Moharra

Oh life, who are you? You blow through the passages of the shehnai in glorious rhythm. Your tune ushers in the nation's independence, your melody brings men and women together in wedlock. A neem tree was your companion for many years, and while the world was still waking up to your genius, the leaves of the neem were dancing in an unchained melody. Now that you are in some other world, the tree grieves, much as the parents who left you long ago would have. With every riffle shot, the neem tree cries tears of leaves, for its loyal son is no more. As is said; "अपने ही पानी मे घुल जाना बर्फ का मुकद्दर होता है।"

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If it weren't for CNN-IBN ...

Ref: http://clients.ibnlive.com/features/mumatt/

This kind, charitable news agency, an Indian version of CNN, very graciously offers to donate 1 Rupee for every "e-candle" that is lit on their website to the relief of victims of "Terrible Tuesday." So although they seemed to be very moved by the tragedy and this that, and have some money to offer to its victims, it wants you to log on to their site, provide them with your name, email and phone no., and only then will it donate this huge sum of money.

Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai and CNN-IBN, kindly go to hell.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Not in this incarnation"

Ras leela comes to an end. Presently, hot samosas are being sold outside. The westerners form a single line and patiently wait their turn. Little groups of people are scattered across the courtyard, each discussing some aspect of the dance and their interpretation. Soon, the line is no more and an old man with shaking hands comes over to the table and says, "So, which part of India are you from?"

"Serampore, Calcutta."

"Wonderful! Have you heard of Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri? I've been an indirect disciple of his for many years. Both me and my wife. It has been an absolute blessing to have known about him and to have read his teachings."

"Indeed. You surely would have heard of his disciple, Swami Paramhansa Yogananda. Especially in this part of the world."

"But of course!"

"So, what all parts of India have you traveled to?"

There followed an odd silence.With a far off look in his old eyes, he said "I've not been to India. Atleast not in this incarnation." The far off look transformed into a warm smile. One that demanded understanding. "During one of my meditation sessions I realized that I was once a temple dancer in North India, not too far from Benaras. And this was a long long time ago, around 300 years in the past.

The irony, beauty and subtlety of fate, my child. In this life I've been designing spacecraft for NASA.

Someday, maybe, I will go back to where I belong."

Friday, March 03, 2006

European hypocrisy?

Two issues in the recent past, very similar in essence, bring out this instance of what I perceive to be European hypocrisy. The first, being the publication of the controversial cartoons by the Danish newspaper. The second, being the arrest & imprisonment of the British author David Irving for denying the Holocaust. At the very outset let me put the required disclaimer: The emphasis of this piece is about the dual standards as I see being displayed, and not about the merits of the individual cases. At the core of all of this is freedom of expression, which must be absolute in scope for it to make sense, because, it is very likely that an opinion I express is likely to offend some random person at some random place on this globe. Now if I were to be take into account all such possibilities, I'm not likely to have much to say. Hence, this freedom must be absolute.

A minor digression. This does beg the question though, if the freedom comes with a responsibility. In my humble opinion, the water gets too muddy for any meaningful & objective rules to govern this freedom, for it to make any sense. And it would end up contradicting the very freedom that I talk about. One could argue that this would allow fundamentalists/extremists to deliver inflammatory/communal speeches etc. But, look at it this way, putting such people in jail is not going to prevent supporters/followers of the cause from doing what they want to anyway. In fact, there is even the danger of the action of punishment backfiring. So, if people wish to make "inflammatory" speeches, let them! However, if and as and when they break the law, they should be dealt with appropriately. That would be the responsibility of the state.

So getting back to the main point. Since the argument presented in favor of the publication of the cartoons is freedom of expression, how different is it when Mr. Irving does it? He chooses to deny the Holocaust. If you don't agree with him, don't listen to him or read his books. Him denying facts would only prove his delusion, and doesn't change a thing. Agreed that most of Europe and the world at large feels very deeply about the Holocaust (and rightly so), well, so do Muslims about the depiction of their most divine. One puts state before religion, the other, religion before state. And both societies exist, and for them to co-exist, each has to be tolerant of the other. (In this context, a friend of mine remarked that Europe has learnt more about the Islamic world than the other way around.) Having said all this, doesn't the whole issue smack of double standards?

ps: Read Amit Varma's brilliant take on the cartoon row here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lakeside @ iitb

.. those timeless times at iit bombay.. Posted by Picasa