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‘Chandrayaan Mission a Complete Success October 5, 2009

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‘Techtree News Staff, Sep 29, 2009 1128 hrs IST

ISRO chairman says detection of water on the moon was one of the primary objectives

E-Mail Print   India’s Chandrayaan Mission, which was called off just last month owing to a communications failure, has been termed a complete success by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) chairman, G Madhavan Nair.

He was addressing media persons who were quizzing him regarding the “historic” discovery of water on the moon by NASAs (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Moon Mineralogy Mapper, a small instrument aboard the Chandrayaan. Apart from calling the discovery of water historic, he added that his earlier statement of the Chandrayaan completing 95 percent of its objectives can now be enhanced to 110 percent because the detection of water on the lunar surface was one of the primary objectives of the mission.

Madhavan said he was very proud of the fact that India was able to make such a significant contribution to science. “All over the world people are applauding the Chandrayaan’s achievement. The discovery of water on the moon has been acknowledged as a significant discovery. The main aim of the Chandrayaan1 mission has been achieved,” he added.  During Chandrayaan’s almost year-long rendezvous with the moon, it has been able to collect lots of data, which run into a few thousand Gigabytes, all of which are still in the process of being decoded. In fact, the data is so huge that scientists expect six months to three years before all of them are decoded.

To make things clearer for the layman, Madhavan said that the finding of water on the moon doesn’t imply that the moon is filled with lakes and ponds or there is water in the form of a drop. The detection of water is in fact in the form of embedded molecules on the surface and in the lunar rocks. While there are positive signs about the presence of water on the moon, scientists are still perplexed as to how it got there in the first place. A plausible explanation is the effect of asteroids and meteors that might have crashed onto the moon – all of which had some water content in them.

The project director of the Chandrayaan mission said in an interview that it would be possible that the discovery of water on the moon might not be the last of the achievements of the Chandrayaan mission. With thousands of gigabytes of data yet to be analyzed, who knows how many more surprises the mission will throw up!

http://www.techtree.com/India/News/Chandrayaan_1_Mission_a_Complete_Success/551-106588-547.html

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Tendulkar’s ‘shell house’ designs a net hoax October 5, 2009

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Abhijit Dasgupta
Kolkata, September 16, 2009 

A Bengali topline daily in Kolkata flashed on its frontpage on Monday that global brand Mexican architect, Javier Senosian, was designing an organic weird shell house for Sachin Tendulkar bang in the middle of Mumbai and even carried photographs as “first images” of what was purportedly the master blaster’s TV room.

It was too good to be true and seemed outlandish though brilliant. The paper also said that the house, worth Rs 30 crores spread over 9000 sq feet, was being built on Carter Road in Mumbai and gave a host of reasons as to why Tendulkar was shifting.

The photographs kindled interest and a search on the net revealed hundreds of matches saying the same thing but what jarred was the look of the house, shaped like a snail with its snout out of the shell, which looked hopelessly out of place in Mumbai. It looked more weird and bizarre than imaginative. The Bengali newspaper also praised Tendulkar’s “great sense of imagination.” Incidentally, the report was written by a topline sports journalist who, it has always been thought, was close to Tendulkar and other international cricketers. Obviously, no one doubted the story.

This correspondent, however, rang up the Mexican designer in Mexico City after a look at his homepage showed photographs which had appeared on the net and thence in the Bengali newspaper but clearly said that the Nautilus House as it is called in Mexico City had no plans of replication anywhere else. The internet stories could be a fake.

It was early morning in Mexico and Senosian himself picked up the phone. First, he hardly knew English. Second, he was rudely jolted early in the morning by a name as unfamiliar as Tendulkar and this correspondent had to spell it out for him. “No, no…what is cricket? I have never been to India and this is nothing concerning me, “he spluttered.” 

Who is Senor Tendulkar?” he asked incredulously.

Later he sent India Today an email which reads simply: “Your query about the Shell House is accepted. That’s not true, this house is not in Mumbai, India, and Sachin Tendulkar is not the owner of this house. The house is in Mexico City and Javier Senosian, Mexican architect, has designed and built it here in Mexico. He has never been to India. I have a house like a shell but we call it Nautilus House, and I don’t have any work in India.”
 
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/61994/Top%20Stories/Tendulkar’s+’shell+house’+designs+a+net+hoax.html

Kerala Dalit group under scanner: police October 5, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Hindu Rights Register, Kerala.
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Indo-Asian News Service
Kochi, September 29, 2009

The Kerala police are looking into the activities of a Dalit organisation after two of its key leaders were arrested in a murder case, an official said in Kochi on Monday.

Speaking about the Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM), Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose told reporters in Kochi, “We know of this organization but we have to probe whether they have any terror links.” Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy criticised the police for not doing enough to curb the activities of DHRM.

He was speaking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram after visiting the house of Sivaprasad, a resident of Varkala who was brutally murdered allegedly by a DHRM activist last Wednesday.

DHRM has a strong base in Varkala, especially among the numerous colonies where Dalits live.

“It is unfortunate that the Kerala home department failed to find out the activities of the DHRM. Even though there have been increased reports of DHRM taking to violence, the police failed to act. At the same time, one should not brand all Dalits in this manner,” said Chandy.

Two activists of the DHRM arrested on Sunday were remanded in judicial custody on Monday. Those arrested include Ashokan, an advocate, and Das – both key leaders of DHRM.

Meanwhile, Sasi, a resident of one of the colonies where DHRM has a strong presence, told reporters that while his close relatives had joined the DHRM, he had not.

“Since I refused to join them, I was badly beaten up by my own brother, though we never had any enmity before,” said Sasi, who ekes out a living doing odd jobs. Another person from the same place said the activities of DHRM are quite strange.

“The members of this group, even if they belong to the same family, address each other in a different manner. Their ideology too sounded strange and was not acceptable to me and I stayed away,” said the person.

Kumari was in tears as she recounted to reporters how her son was brutally beaten up by members of DHRM after he refused to join them.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/459116.aspx

Symbols akin to Indus valley culture discovered in Kerala October 5, 2009

Posted by reader111 in hinduism, History, Kerala.
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PTI 29 September 2009, 10:26am IST

KOZHIKODE (KERALA): A rock engraving indicating clear remnants of Harappan culture, has been found in the Edakkal caves in neighbouring Wayanad 
district, linking the Indus Valley civilisation with South India.

“There had been indications of remnants akin to the Indus Valley civilisation in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but these new findings give credence to the fact that the Harappan civilisation had its presence in the region too and could trace the history of Kerala even beyond the Iron Age,” said historian M R Raghava Varier.

The unique symbols integral to the Indus Valley culture traced in Harappa and Mohanjedaro region that stretched up to Pakistan were found inside the caves during recent excavations by the State Archaeological Department.

Of the identified 429 signs, “a man with jar cup, a symbol unique to the Indus civilisation and other compound letters testified to remnants of the Harappan culture, spanning from 2300 BC to 1700 BC, in South India,” said Varier, who led the excavation at the caves.

The “man-with-the-jar” symbol, an integral remnant commonly traced in parts where the Indus Valley civilisation existed, has even more similarities than those traced in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, he added.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/science/Symbols-akin-to-Indus-valley-culture-discovered-in-Kerala-/articleshow/5067025.cms

Indus Valley symbols found in Kerala October 5, 2009

Posted by reader111 in History, India, Kerala.
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Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times
Thiruvananthapuram, September 29, 2009

A rock engraving similar to the unique sign of the Indus Valley civilization — a man with a jar — has been found in Kerala for the first time.

The engraving provides a significant southern link with the 600-year-old Indus Valley civilization that flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian sub-continent between 2300 BC and 1700 BC. Harappa and Mohenjodaro, both now in Pakistan, were the principal towns of the developed urban civilization discovered in the 1920s.

The Dravidian or an equally vibrant civilization existed in southern India during this period, historians said.

The engraving seems to have been made with a stone axe in a linear style to portray a two-dimensional human figure. It was discovered at the Edakkal caves in Wayanad district, 450 km north of state capital Thiruvananthapuram, last week.

Archaeologists and historians are excited with the “unique” discovery.

“What is striking in the Edakkal sign is the presence of an Indus motif, which is rare. The jar is the same as the Indus Valley’s. But the human figure is slightly different. This is where the influence of the Edakkal style really dominates,” said historian M R Raghava Varrier, who identified the sign during the excavation.

“The occurrence of the sign, which is the most characteristic symbol of the Indus script, is very significant,” he said.

Varrier said there had been indications of remnants similar to the Indus Valley civilization in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. But this new finding clearly establishes the fact that the Indus Valley civilization had its presence in the south, he said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/459499.aspx

Railways: Accounting for profit March 22, 2009

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Was the Railways really ‘bankrupt’ in 2001?.

 

Mamuni Das

 

Had the accounting methods that the Indian Railways follows now been followed during Mr Nitish Kumar’s stint as a Railway Minister, the Railways would have had an annual cash surplus of Rs 4,789.5 crore in 2001, Rs 6,286.58 crore in 2002, and Rs 8583.25 crore in 2003. And, please hold your breath — in 2004, the year when Mr Nitish handed over charge to Mr Lalu Prasad, the Railways would have had a cash surplus of Rs 9,552.27 crore!

 

This startling information is tucked away in Appendix 6 of Sudhir Kumar and Shagun Mehrotra’s lucidly-written book, Bankruptcy to Billions (OUP, 2009, Rs 495). Indeed, it is one of the key takeaways from the book.

 

So, was the Indian Railways actually not bankrupt in 2001? It is this that has made Mr Lalu Prasad’s tenure seem so wonderful. The readers can take a call on the issue.

 

Great transformation

 

The authors also admit that, in 2008, accounting changes helped the Railways reflect an incremental cash surplus of Rs 3,489 crore (14 per cent of Rs 25,006 crore surplus).

 

Sudhir Kumar, a 1982-batch Bihar IAS officer, is the officer on special duty of Mr Lalu. Shagun Mehrotra, the co-author, is pursuing his doctoral studies at Columbia University and has worked in the World Bank on the infrastructure reforms.

 

Sudhir Kumar has been instrumental in implementing the profit-making policies for the Railways. He also deserves credit for managing the Minister’s image. A case in point is the sponsored study by IIM-Ahmedabad (where the ‘sponsored’ bit was hidden) on the Railways turnaround.

 

The first sentence in the first chapter — “How Indian Railways was transformed in four years under Lalu Prasad” — sets the tone for the book. From there, it does not look back and the reader is treated to a nice, long account of the Great Transformation. The Railways was quick to see an opportunity in the booming commodity cycle, and through consecutive freight rate hikes in iron ore for export, freight rates were increased by 400 per cent, say the authors. The Railways earned an additional Rs 9,000 crore in profits from this.

 

The chapter “Milking the Cow” provides more insights into how they utilised the assets. The authors provide a detailed account of how the Railways increased the freight earnings during Mr Lalu’s regime.

 

The Railways also increased axle loads. Mr Lalu realised there was rampant overloading in the system. By simply legalising higher axle loads — through some clever interpretation of the laws pertaining to it — the Railways started billing for much higher levels of loads without having to physically chase extra loads.

 

Thus, by adding six tonnes of load per wagon, the Railways transported 90 tonnes of incremental load each year or Rs 6,000 crore in incremental revenue.

 

The authors have accorded due credit for this strategy to the former chairman, Mr M. S. Gujral, who, as the Railway Board Chairman in the 1980s, had initiated a similar move. But his attempt was subsequently discarded due to risks associated with it.

 

The passenger rail business dynamics are extensively explained in the chapter “The Market”. Railways ran longer, faster, high capacity trains on a priority basis in areas with high demand and reduced fares by token amounts of even one rupee. But unlike the details provided regarding the freight business, the authors have not shared much details about how the Railways raised passenger fares by hiking reservation and cancellation charges, levying super-fast charges by converting many trains to super-fast trains.

 

Similarly, it would have been nice to read up on the Tatkal service that allows passengers to pay extra for securing a reserved ticket. Charges for booking under the Tatkal scheme were increased by Rs 100-150 for nine months of a year, in 2004.

 

They also do not mention how the Railways subsumed the safety surcharge into fares even after the charge was discontinued in 2007. This, in effect, disallowed a fare reduction for passengers.

 

Privatising The non-core areas

 

In the chapter “Political Economy of Reforms”, there is a detailed explanation on how the Railways identified areas for reforms. Mr Lalu Prasad was not against privatisation, say the authors, of non-core railway functions.

 

So, the Railways did partially try to follow some of the Rakesh Mohan Committee recommendations on privatising non-core functions such as allowing private container train operators, getting private firms to run the Rail Yatri Nivas and inviting private investment in new production units. But not much has come out of it.

 

Another key point is that under Mr Lalu, the Railways became more responsive to market conditions with a dynamic pricing policy. So through surcharges, freight charges were increased wherever possible and incremental freight was captured with incentives. In effect, he successfully milked the robust system created during Nitish Kumar’s regime.

 

Ref: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2009/03/13/stories/2009031350250900.htm

Try and say this in Hindi—bet you can’t March 8, 2009

Posted by reader111 in India, Language.
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Aakar Patel

 

Our dance floors light up only when Bollywood songs play. But why? Bollywood melodies are Indian in their modulation. We respond to the words; we feel their emotion, more than we do for songs in English. An Englishman will not “get” Mitwa, no matter how often he listens to it. This is because words are loaded with meaning that is more than just definition; we invest them with an emotion. Other words are based on evolved concepts. What happens when we borrow such words from another language is that often we don’t really understand what they mean.

 

Indians think secularism means inclusion. This is because we have no precise word for it in any Indian language. The word actually means distance from religion, but in no Indian language can distance from dharma be a good thing. The word does not exist because the concept is alien to us. Hindi uses binsampradayik, which means non-sectarian, and that’s why the meaning is lost to us. We have the strange phenomenon of parties with names such as Hyderabad’s Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (Group for the Unity of Muslims) and Kerala’s Indian Union Muslim League in the Lok Sabha calling themselves, and believing themselves to be, secular.

 

This inability to understand because of the limitations of our language and culture extends to concepts such as rights. When one points to the violence against Muslims in their state, Gujaratis will say, “but they started it first with Godhra”.

 

The Gujarati is not being evasive when he says this, nor is he being cruel. He is stating fact. He cannot understand why you cannot understand how “Muslims” could have “started it first” and then escaped punishment.

 

Gujaratis don’t have the vocabulary to internalize the horror of collective punishment, or the uniqueness of the individual. This is because identity comes from community in India, not from the individual. Unfortunately, though it’s India’s most urban state, English is not popular in Gujarat because it is not the language of success. Its merchants trade in Gujarati, which is a superb language of trade, given its rich and evolved vocabulary of Perso-Arabic (hawala, hundi, badla), which is used in all of India’s markets.

 

Gujaratis are pragmatic, but their language and culture do not accommodate individualism. Even their dances, Garba and Dandiya, are communal, another word which Indians do not understand clearly.

 

Seven years ago, the Editors Guild sent three of its members (I was one) to Gujarat to meet local editors and write a report on the role of media bias during the 2002 riots. What the team members heard made their hair stand on end.

 

Distance from English, from the European languages of reason, is always a bad thing for the developing world.

 

Isolationist states such as Iran and North Korea, defying the world at the cost of hurting their citizens, are more likely to have populations that don’t speak English. The danger to Pakistan comes mostly from its non-English culture, which wants the supremacy of religion. Urdu-medium Muslims are unhappy under secular law based on reason because the rule of reason is not utopian.

 

A study by Tariq Rahman, a professor of sociolinguistic history at Pakistan’s Quaid-i-Azam University, (www.tariqrahman.net) showed that Urdu-medium Pakistani students were almost twice as likely as English-medium students to favour discriminatory laws for Pakistan’s Hindus. Madrasa students were four times more likely.

 

Allama Iqbal knew the limitations of Indian languages. Iqbal spoke Arabic, German and Punjabi. He knew Sanskrit well enough to translate the Gayatri Mantra.

 

He wrote his poetry in Persian and in Urdu. But his great text of reform was written in English because you cannot communicate reform without its vocabulary. He wrote the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam in the 1920s as a series of lectures. The lectures comprise the world’s finest document on Islamic reform, and lie mostly unread. Muslims love the emotional Iqbal who wrote stirring songs of Muslims on horseback conquering the world. They are bored by the rational Iqbal who talks of reason—or they cannot access him because he’s talking in English.

 

But Iqbal could not have written his Reconstruction lectures in Urdu, or for that matter in Persian or in Arabic, even though all the Islamic terminology he used was Arabic. He was giving those words flexibility through English, something he could not do in Urdu.

 

We connect emotionally to our culture through our language. And that is important, because it is our culture and we should be able to feel it not just through words but also visuals and sound and movement. But we understand the world, its science, its intricacies and its wisdom, through the language of Europe. It is the language of our universal civilization; Europeans have only achieved it before the rest of us, and that is fine.

 

The best Indian writers are those who understand this and are truly bilingual. They talk about our culture with the Westerner’s method and vocabulary. That is why we like the English writing of men such as Gandhi, Tagore and Iqbal, because it is illuminating.

 

English monolinguals, those who do not read their mother tongue fluently, are also at a disadvantage. They cannot understand their own culture fully since they have limited access, though they can sniff its odour. And their penetration into the West is cosmetic because of the attached prophylactic of the pidgin English which most of us know. We don’t really understand the West. We can follow its rules when we migrate but we cannot build a society along its lines here, even a housing society, because it’s not yet in our nature. That civilization hasn’t really been penetrated, because a study of its classical roots, its harmony, is needed to actually internalize it.

 

And so we return to the Englishman who cannot really “get” Mitwa.

 

Can we in turn really understand the English songs we listen to, and the books we read, the way that the English do?

 

Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media. Write to Aakar at replytoall@livemint.com

 

Ref: http://www.livemint.com/2009/03/05210959/Try-and-say-this-in-Hindibet.html

The same people? Surely not March 8, 2009

Posted by reader111 in India, Pakistan.
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Vir Sanghvi

 

Few things annoy me as much as the claim often advanced by well-meaning but woolly- headed (and usually Punjabi) liberals to the effect that when it comes to India and Pakistan, “We’re all the same people, yaar.”

 

This may have been true once upon a time. Before 1947, Pakistan was part of undivided India and you could claim that Punjabis from West Punjab (what is now Pakistan) were as Indian as, say, Tamils from Madras.

 

But time has a way of moving on. And while the gap between our Punjabis (from east Punjab which is now the only Punjab left in India) and our Tamils may actually have narrowed, thanks to improved communications, shared popular culture and greater physical mobility, the gap between Indians and Pakistanis has now widened to the extent that we are no longer the same people in any significant sense.

 

This was brought home to me most clearly by two major events over the last few weeks.

 

The first of these was the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team on the streets of Lahore. In their defence, Pakistanis said that they were powerless to act against the terrorists because religious fanaticism was growing. Each day more misguided youngsters joined jihadi outfits and the law and order situation worsened.

 

Further, they added, things had got so bad that in the tribal areas the government of Pakistan had agreed to suspend the rule of law under pressure from the Taliban and had conceded that sharia law would reign instead. Interestingly, while most civilised liberals should have been appalled by this surrender to the forces of extremism, many Pakistanis defended this concession.

 

Imran Khan (Keble College, Oxford, 1973-76) even declared that sharia law would be better because justice would be dispensed more swiftly! (I know this is politically incorrect but the Loin of the Punjab’s defence of sharia law reminded me of the famous Private Eye cover when his marriage to Jemima Goldsmith was announced. The Eye carried a picture of Khan speaking to Jemima’s father. “Can I have your daughter’s hand?” Imran was supposedly asking James Goldsmith. “Why? Has she been caught shoplifting?” Goldsmith replied. So much for sharia law.)

 

The second contrasting event was one that took place in Los Angeles but which was perhaps celebrated more in India than in any other country in the world. Three Indians won Oscars: A.R. Rahman, Resul Pookutty and Gulzar.

 

Their victory set off a frenzy of rejoicing. We were proud of our countrymen. We were pleased that India’s entertainment industry and its veterans had been recognised at an international platform. And all three men became even bigger heroes than they already were.

 

But here’s the thing: Not one of them is a Hindu.

 

Can you imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan? Can you even conceive of a situation where the whole country would celebrate the victory of three members of two religious minorities? For that matter, can you even imagine a situation where people from religious minorities would have got to the top of their fields and were, therefore, in the running for international awards?

 

On the one hand, you have Pakistan imposing sharia law, doing deals with the Taliban, teaching hatred in madrasas, declaring jihad on the world and trying to kill innocent Sri Lankan cricketers. On the other, you have the triumph of Indian secularism.

 

The same people?

 

Surely not.

 

We are defined by our nationality. They choose to define themselves by their religion.

 

But it gets even more complicated. As you probably know, Rahman was born Dilip Kumar. He converted to Islam when he was 21. His religious preferences made no difference to his prospects. Even now, his music cuts across all religious boundaries. He’s as much at home with Sufi music as he is with bhajans. Nor does he have any problem with saying ‘Vande Mataram’.

 

Now, think of a similar situation in Pakistan. Can you conceive of a Pakistani composer who converted to Hinduism at the age of 21 and still went on to become a national hero? Under sharia law, they’d probably have to execute him.

 

Resul Pookutty’s is an even more interesting case. Until you realise that Malayalis tend to put an ‘e’ where the rest of us would put an ‘a,’ (Ravi becomes Revi and sometimes the Gulf becomes the Gelf), you cannot work out that his name derives from Rasool, a fairly obviously Islamic name.

 

But here’s the point: even when you point out to people that Pookutty is in fact a Muslim, they don’t really care. It makes no difference to them. He’s an authentic Indian hero, his religion is irrelevant.

 

Can you imagine Pakistan being indifferent to a man’s religion? Can you believe that Pakistanis would not know that one of their Oscar winners came from a religious minority? And would any Pakistani have dared bridge the religious divide in the manner Resul did by referring to the primeval power of Om in his acceptance speech?

 

The same people?

 

Surely not.

 

Most interesting of all is the case of Gulzar who many Indians believe is a Muslim. He is not. He is a Sikh. And his real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra.

 

So why does he have a Muslim name?

 

It’s a good story and he told it on my TV show some years ago. He was born in West Pakistan and came over the border during the bloody days of Partition. He had seen so much hatred and religious violence on both sides, he said, that he was determined never to lose himself to that kind of blind religious prejudice and fanaticism.

 

Rather than blame Muslims for the violence inflicted on his community — after all, Hindus and Sikhs behaved with equal ferocity — he adopted a Muslim pen name to remind himself that his identity was beyond religion. He still writes in Urdu and considers it irrelevant whether a person is a Sikh, a Muslim or a Hindu.

 

Let’s forget about political correctness and come clean: can you see such a thing happening in Pakistan? Can you actually conceive of a famous Pakistani Muslim who adopts a Hindu or Sikh name out of choice to demonstrate the irrelevance of religion?

 

My point, exactly.

 

What all those misguided liberals who keep blathering on about us being the same people forget is that in the 60-odd years since Independence, our two nations have traversed very different paths.

 

Pakistan was founded on the basis of Islam. It still defines itself in terms of Islam. And over the next decade as it destroys itself, it will be because of Islamic extremism.

 

India was founded on the basis that religion had no role in determining citizenship or nationhood. An Indian can belong to any religion in the world and face no discrimination in his rights as a citizen.

 

It is nobody’s case that India is a perfect society or that Muslims face no discrimination. But only a fool would deny that in the last six decades, we have travelled a long way towards religious equality. In the early days of independent India, a Yusuf Khan had to call himself Dilip Kumar for fear of attracting religious prejudice.

 

In today’s India, a Dilip Kumar can change his name to A.R. Rahman and nobody really gives a damn either way.

 

So think back to the events of the last few weeks. To the murderous attack on innocent Sri Lankan cricketers by jihadi fanatics in a society that is being buried by Islamic extremism. And to the triumphs of Indian secularism.

 

Same people?

 

Don’t make me laugh.

Ref: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=HomePage&id=4e661b6b-ca91-43f6-8153-e927ad151c76&Headline=The+same+people%3f+Surely+not

Public tragedy as a learning tool? February 22, 2009

Posted by reader111 in India, Psychology.
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Gouri Dange

 

After the 26/11 attacks, my friend often tells her children, aged 13 and 15, when they complain: “Stop whining— you’re lucky to have this food. People today can be killed in the middle of their dinner.” If one of them complains about lack of space in the room she shares with her brother, the mother says: “People have spent hours, days, hidden under beds… count your blessings that you are safe and have a nice room and a brother alive to share it with.” I find all this too much. She says it is time for her children to get some perspective. I agree, but isn’t there another way?

 

Like the rest of us, your friend, too, is shaken to the core by the events of November. We all process tragedy of these proportions in different ways but from what you describe, her way of doing it is really doing no one any good. Events of this kind force many of us to change our way of looking at things in a fundamental way. For her, like for many other people, the tragedy has brought home the fact that it’s a blessing to be alive and well. Nothing wrong with that. However, expecting her children to see it in exactly this way is inappropriate.

 

Incorrect approach: Don’t use the 26/11 attacks as a means to discipline. Lorenzo Tugnoli / AFPWhile she may feel prompted by those events to sensitize her children to the suffering of others and to be grateful for what they have, this is simply not the way to do it. This way, in fact, will ensure that they get desensitized to those tragic events. It will soon become, for them, just something that their mother holds over their heads when trying to get them to do something.

 

No doubt children need to be taught empathy and guided to see themselves as part of the larger picture of things when there is a crisis in the public domain—whether disasters or attacks or other such life-changing occurrences. But the lessons that flow from such events should be taught or reflected quite, quite independent of day-to-day home and family rules about eating and sharing space with other siblings, among other things. First, if your friend keeps processing her response to the tragedy in this in-your-face fashion via her kids, she may be deeply shocked one fine day to find that they will just laugh her off as their connection to it becomes trivialized.

 

Second, when we keep telling kids to see their own complaints or needs in comparison to other much worse things, it tends to invalidate their real anxieties, likes and dislikes, or needs. Of course, in comparison to something like a terrorist attack or a flood, a child’s whining about something or the other that he wants looks trivial. But to keep reducing and dismissing it in the way your friend is doing, under the name of “keeping perspective”, simply denies her kids legitimate access to her time and attention on something.

 

If she wants to sensitize her kids to the larger inequalities and unhappiness in the world, she needs to do it in an ongoing, non-guilt-inducing way, by involving them in a larger programme of sharing and caring and volunteering somewhere in any small way. This is much harder work for a parent than simply telling them that their problems are nothing compared to 26/11. How long can a horrific tragedy serve as a life lesson, after all?

 

Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting. Send your queries to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com

 

http://www.livemint.com/2009/02/20210911/Public-tragedy-as-a-learning-t.html?d=1 

Worthy of worship February 22, 2009

Posted by reader111 in hinduism, History, India, religion.
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Devdutt Pattanaik, TNN, 7 Mar 2008

 

Power in hindu mythology is a goddess — Shakti, commonly visualised as Durga, a goddess who rides into battle on a lion and kills a buffalo-demon with her many weapons held in her many arms. The goddess is power but who is Shaktimaan , the powerful one? That is Shakti’s husband, Shiva, a hermitgod , who has no desire for anything. This must not be translated literally (“ men are powerful because of their wives” ) but symbolically (“ why is power the spouse of the ascetic?”). Is there a message here?

 

Chanankya once told Dhanannad, king of Magadha, who had insulted him, “I have no desire for wealth or power or pleasure. That makes me a dangerous enemy. You cannot corrupt me and I have nothing to lose.” Dhananand had power but it was Chanakya who was powerful.

 

Power has to be distinguished from being powerful. Power is a resource that exists in the external world while being powerful is a state of mind. Power is outside, being powerful is inside. Power is a resource while being powerful is an attitude . One can have the resource but not the attitude. That is why many people in positions of power feel weak and constantly threatened. Like Indra, for example.

 

Indra, the king of the gods, is visualised as sitting in Swarga or paradise, located in the sky. There, in his garden , is the wish-fulfilling tree, Kalpataru, and in his shed is the desire-realising cow, Kamadhenu, and in his treasury the dream-manifesting jewel, Chintamani. His elephant, Airavat, has seven trunks and six tusks. His weapon, Vajra, is the great thunderbolt. He seems to have access to a lot of power but he is eternally insecure . A king by performing more sacrifices (yagnas) or a hermit by performing more austerities (tapasya) can accumulate more power and usurp his position. That is why Indra is always depicted as a jealous god, someone who disrupts yagnas of kings and tapasyas of hermits . His position is not permanent. Anyone who is better than him can lay claim to his paradise, his thunderbolt and his elephant. Even his wife, Sachi, a form of Lakshmi, goddess of fortune, is not faithful to him. She is faithful to the throne, to the position, not to the person.

 

 

All around us there are many Indras , apparently powerful, holding thunderbolts in their hands and riding elephants, but terrified of losing their position. For they know that their power resides in the position, not in them. So they cling to the throne and destroy anyone who comes close to it. And around Indras there are others who also believe the same thing and struggle all their lives striving to occupy the position.

 

The Mahabharata tells the story of Ashwatthama, the son of Drona. Though son of a priest, Ashwatthama aspires to be a warrior and a king. He goes to Krishna and asks for alms in his capacity as a priest. In keeping with the laws of hospitality, Krishna is obliged to give the ‘priest’ whatever he desires. “What can I give you?” he asks. “I want your Sudarshanchakra ,” says Ashwatthama, referring to Krishna’s discus, a very powerful weapon. “Take it,” says Krishna. Ashwatthama rushes to pick it up. First he tries to pick it with his left hand. He cannot.

 

So he tries to pick it up with his right hand. He fails once again. He tries with both his hands and still he cannot not pick up the Chakra. He looks at Krishna and Krishna only smiles. Finally, after many failed attempts, Ashwatthama leaves, feeling frustrated, wondering what has happened. Ashwatthama thought that by possessing the Sudarshan-Chakra he could become as powerful as Krishna. What he does not realise is that Krishna is not powerful because he has the Sudarshan-Chakra . It is because Krishna was powerful that he could wield the great weapon.

 

Indra clings to the throne because he believes his power comes from the throne. Invariably, someone comes along and takes the throne from him. Indra fights back with cunning or strength and eventually takes back what he lost for his self-esteem resides in victory. Thus the cycle continues — a merry-go-round fuelled by ignorance. Trapped in a cycle of losing and winning, Indra becomes unworthy of worship.

 

Indra needs to be contrasted with Vishnu. Vishnu never seeks power but he is infinitely powerful. As indicated by the spiral of the conch-shell in his hand and the rotations of his discus, he knows that everything in life is cyclical — so he does not fight to win. He does not need to win because he does not need victory to feel powerful. He is powerful all the time, irrespective of the situation he is in.

 

As Ram, he is powerful in Ayodhya and in the forest. As Krishna, he is more powerful than kings whether he is cowherd or charioteer . His actions are governed by dharma, which means the ‘other’ matters to him more than the ‘self’ . He works for the betterment of the organisation, the team, the world at large, and not to indulge his own ego.

 

Whether he is Ram, maintaining things, or Krishna, who is changing things, his strategic intent is always love, which means his attention is to make those around him feel secure and inspired so that they can realise their full potential. Power , manifesting as his many weapons, is but a tool, not an end in itself. That is why Indra chases Lakshmi while Lakshmi chases Vishnu.

 

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/rssarticleshow/msid-2843968,prtpage-1.cms