Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yann Martel's Life of Pi

It is by chance that I got the e-book – Life of Pi.

Think I missed reading about this book until I heard that the movie is going to be shortly released. What interested me was an article that mentioned that it was partly shot at Munnar (mainly in Pondicherry). And now that I finished reading the novel, I just cant wait to watch the movie directed by Ang Lee. It may not be as arresting as the book but I am looking forward to it.

Ang Lee

I did not want to stop reading the book since the story was very interesting. There were times when it turned horrific.  But the entire tale though surreal, I somehow wanted to belive that it was a true story. While the author never really tells us if it is entirely fictious, I would really love to know the truth.
The protagonist of the novel Mr. Patel or Pi as he wanted himself to be called instead of Pissing is an interesting character. I liked the way he discovered the three major religions in India at the age of 16 and how he ended practicing all three. The people who introduced him into each believed that he had become one of their own. This was proved wrong when all of them meet together. 
After the "Hellos" and the "Good days", there was an awkward silence.

The priest broke it when he said, with pride in his voice, "Piscine is a good Christian boy. I hope to see him join our choir soon."  

My parents, the pandit and the imam looked surprised.  "You must be mistaken. He's a good Muslim boy. He comes without fail to Friday prayer, and his knowledge of the Holy Qur'an is coming along nicely." So said the imam. 

My parents, the priest and the pandit looked incredulous. 

The pandit spoke. "You're both wrong. He's a good Hindu boy. l see him all the time at the temple coming for darshan and performing puja." 

My parents, the imam and the priest looked astounded.
Then ensued a war of words between them and they slaughtered and  slandered each other’s religion while exhorting his own. Finally it was decided that one cannot be a Hindu, Muslim and a Chrisitian. This is when Patel  answers thus.
"Bapu Gandhi said, 'All religions are true.' I just want to love God," I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face.
How true!
For most of us religion is another tool to exhort favours or to exert power but seldom to love God. If only religion was used to love God and in turn to love what He created lovingly!
The author also writes the following about religious strife.
And that wasn't the end of it. There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, "Business as usual." But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.  These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out.

The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defence, not God's, that the self-righteous should rush.
It is when Patel is cast away in the ocean with a man eating tiger that the novel grips you truly. From there you can do nothing else but finish the tale.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

RIP Thilakan

Yesterday one more giant passed away.

Picture source: The Hindu

It is sad to see the favourites bid adieu to this world we know. Selfish as we are, we want them to entertain us forever.

Thilakan was one of a kind and can never be replaced. He survived solely on his skills and his passion for acting. Like Murali, he needed no props nor a God Father. The cinema wanted them and it had to fit them in. I remember the days when Thilakan was hounded by the Malayalam film industry. Though one did not enjoy watching the drama, It provided an opportunity to see the ugly side of many of our actors. They might be comedians, lovers or heroes on the film screen but in real life they were as ugly as the villain on the same screen. It was also during the same time that a film call Dam 999 was to be shot. A big trumpeting started before the shoot and curiosity led me to their website. Thilakan was supposed to have a good part in this movie. It was all about dams and the disasters it can bring and based on a true incident that happened in China which claimed the lives of 250,000 people. Yes.. it was a big cause to fight for. But soon I chanced to read on their site that Thilakan is being replaced since various associations, mainly AMMA and FEFKA threatened them with dire consequences. The people behind the movie cowered under the threat and Thilakan was replaced. I remember writing to them and asking them how they intend to take such a big cause like dams if they cannot face minor hurdles like casting an Actor of their choice.

But the movie did not run well and Thilakan moved on to other pursuits mainly his first love – drama. It did disappoint his fans but soon to the delight of the true cinema lovers (not the mad fan associations) cinema was forced to bring him back. He was at his best in Indian Ruppee and many others but if not for those silly association, I continue to believe that we could have seen more of Thilakan. Now he is no more and we saw the crocodile tears and meaningless eulogies on TV. We saw how even his death was used to hog the lime light by many.

It is at times like this that one misses the true cinema artists like, Prem Nazir, Murali, Cochin Haneefa etc. Prem Nazir used to be evergreen lover but when age overtook him he gracefully withdrew and accepted roles that suited him. We saw him in dignified roles unlike the current superstars who never seem to age except in the eyes of the audience. I wish some of them would take heed of what Thilakan himself said.

I have high regard for Mohanlal. He is a brilliant, natural, flexible actor. Problem with Mohanlal is the company he keeps.

Mohanlal continues to be a favourite and I am sure there are many more roles that he can do to mesmerise his fans but he continues to blunder away his time with heroines as young as his daughter.

Thilakan also told about the various lobbies that worked within the industry and specially mentioned the Nair lobby. I am sure there are Christian lobbies too. If a place like Kuwait can have them why not the Cinema Industry. If you join these clubs, one can have an easier access to jobs and to the society in general. I am sure there was a lobby that catered to Thilakan’s own caste too.

Whatever, I wish his death would brush away at least a bit of murk away from the industry.

I know we shall never see them perform again but let me post this tweet that caught my eyes.

#IfIwasGOD I would bring back Thilakan.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Air Kerala

If there is one project every Keralite or at least the NRI shall support, it will be the proposal to start an airlines. This is a very viable project and I am sure each NRI will gladly part with a minimum of 10,000 IRS for this project. The money can be collected quickly and if this can be run by the one who managed the Cochin Airport project, V J Kurian,  then it will be too good.

Air India has been royally ignoring / abusing Keralites since many years. The recent one was the cancellation of 168 flights so that these air crafts can be used for Haj purpose in UP! This is when there are flights which barely operate with minimum passengers in other states that could have been used. Air India Express is the one that is used by many since it is a low cost airlines. (We are yet to use this since it was always famous for cancelling at the last moment)

Air India lands NRKs in soup

Dealing a deadly blow to air passengers from Kerala, the Air India and Air India Express are continuing with the cancellation of their flights from the state and diverting them to Uttar Pradesh on the orders of Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajith Singh, to carry Haj pilgrims from there.

Since September 17, the national airliner and its arm have cancelled two dozen schedules to the Gulf alone.

In March when the pilots started their strike, the two airliners had to cancel over 160 schedules almost every month.
 I am sure those going for Haj from this state are unaware of the gross injustice done to many. There would be many Keralites grieving for a lost job, opportunity, a vacation etc. only because of these people.

Only recently, after watching a malayalam movie "Adaminte Makan, Abu", I realized that there are many rules for Haj. In the movie the old couple is trying everything to fulfil their lifelong wish to do Haj but is finds it hard to collect enough funds. This is when their Hindu neighbour offers money; but this was rejected by them since they are not supposed to take money from non-Muslims specially when they go for Haj.

Abu refuses it, saying that it wouldn't be halal and hence could anger God.

In this case, aren't these Haj travellers breaking this very same rule when they use the subsidised air tickets? Is it not from the tax payers and the majority of them being Hindus? Beats me. Hope someone explains this to me one day.

As for Air Kerala, I hope this project sees light. They can have both kind of flights. A low cost airlines similar to the current Air India Express and a normal one. This shall cater the needs of all the NRI's.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We shall only fly!

Yesterday I was listening to this MP from Kerala supporting the Airport at Aranmula. Actually I have nothing against Airports and if it comes to Aranmula it would be easier to catch a flight but are Airports the number one priority for Kerala?

As per this author..

CHENNAI: In Kerala, they have their heads in the clouds and eyes on non-residents. A fifth international airport—and India's first wholly private one—is coming up in a state where no highway is more than half as wide as the National Highways Authority of India's standard minimum of 60 metres.
 No other state in the country has as many international airports. Tiny Kerala, where narrow roads are the norm due to lack of land, clearly bets its future on its vast army of non-resident Keralites whose remittances account for 31% of the state's GDP.
  Fittingly enough, the new airport is coming up at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district, where a toy plane flown into a crowd could well hit a non-resident Indian.

 Anyway let me tell you how this MP, P. J. Kurien justified. He says that every traveller bound to Trivandrum or Cochin airports would be going in two cars! Now I dont know how he came up with this idea. Maybe he was thinking of the escort cars that accompany the ministers? In this case he wants us to imagine 100 travellers and hence 200 cars that commute daily to these airports and the pollution, the fuel consumption etc that this creates. We hear that around 700 acres of land is to be acquired for this airport and this may include paddy fields too.

"The area is a wetland, and a flood-plain region for the seasonal flooding of the Pampa river, and there are paddy fields, too," said NK Sukumaran Nair, general secretary of Pampa Parirakshana Samithy, an environmental organisation leading the agitation against the project.

But our MP asserts that environment would be much better off without these cars on the road. What an idea sirji!

Sometimes I hate myself and it is when these people evoke the same feelings of those who bombed our parliament.

These MP's and their cronies must have already acquired a sizeable property within this area and must be now waiting to book their profit as usual. 

I also read that Reliance holds 15% stake in the company that is going to develop this Airport.

KGS Developers, in which Anil Ambani's Reliance Capital and Reliance Infra hold a 15% stake, expects the first flight to land at Aranmula in less than two years.

If they are really depending on the Gulf NRI's to bring in the traffic then it is good to note that within a span of 20 years, Saudi is ging to be a major oil importer mainly since they guzzle more gas internally and since their oil reserves are running dry. This holds true for other Gulf countries too.

"Our analysis shows that if nothing changes Saudi may have no available oil for export by 2030," said the report, adding that it ran the risk of becoming oil importer.

The country already consumes all its gas production, 9.6 billion cubic feet (ft3) per day of natural gas, all of which is entirely consumed domestically.  
And at the rate Kerala is emerging, very soon it shall turn into a concrete jungle. Which tourist would then want to visit Kerala? Even my retirement plans shall go up in smoke in case I live that long! We would only be retiring to another desert. 

I am starting to hate all those who send these idiots to the parliament. It would be only appropriate to copy this tweet;

Define INDIA: A place where the Cartoonist is in jail, and the Cartoons are in Parliament.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Justice will be done.

When this comes from the President of the United States of America, we believe it. Obama stated this in response to the brutal killing of the US ambassador to Libya yesterday. 

Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday to hunt down the killers of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans during an assault on its mission in Benghazi as suspicion grew that the diplomat was the victim of an organised attack by an Islamist group.

Yes, they will avenge the killing for sure. But if I am to shift this scenario to India my mind refuses to conjure such an image. Can you imagine MM Singh uttering such words and even if he ever utters them will you believe him? We are yet to punish Kasab. We don’t have even have any clue of the Indians who helped him. Never mind terrorism, let us talk about the other burning issue: corruption. Scan after scam has eroded every Indian’s trust in our democracy, yet has he done anything to restore the trust. Instead of assuring us that justice will be done, he discredits the institution that was only doing it’s job. It is similar to a company’s CEO ranting against the auditors whose only job is to set accounts straight.

Yesterday MM Singh was in Kerala to inaugurate “Emerging Kerala” and did open his mouth to give nothing to Kerala. He only promised yet again (this was promised 8 years ago) that he shall give an IIT. God knows when! 

But our much ‘beloved’ economist who asserted that 32 RS is enough to live in India said that Kerala should not look for food security and but use the paddy fields and import food from other states! It really proves that he knows nothing about Kerala.

For Kerala the low lying lands are necessary for many other reasons, ground water table being the main one. If one is to raise land and construct concrete structures it will be a total disaster. As for food security, Kerala has not forgotten what happened when Mullperiyar Dam issue was at its peak. Tamilnadu stopped sending vegetables and milk and there was none from the center to intervene. In fact one wondered if Tamilnadu was not part of the Indian states but from Pakistan!

Anyway like every other Keralaite let me dream of a Kerala which shall indeed emerge from its lethargic state. Let me also hope that India will one day have a leader like Obama.

Tall dreams I am sure!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Every house to become a hotel.....

The Ministry is preparing a draft Bill that would entitle housewives a monthly income from their husbands.

The Bill is likely to be presented before Parliament within six months.

Union Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath said the proposal was aimed at empowering women.
I am not sure what kind of empowerment she is hoping to achieve from this idiotic move!

Personally, I love to take care of my family. At times I may complain but nothing is perfect in our lives. But the immense satisfaction that I get when I make a healthy and tasty meal cannot be bought. And imagine if my Hubby after one such meal gives me money! It will be like a slap on my face since I then become just a paid maid!

But our Krishna Tirath has this explanation:

“A majority of women in India are involved in household chores after getting married but they do not get any salary for it. The socially accepted behaviour becomes a tragedy when a woman gets divorced or is widowed when she is left with nothing for survival.
So her problem is that divorced or widowed women is left with nothing. Don't we already have laws for paying annuity? And widows are normally entitled to her husband's wealth and government employees even have widow pensions. So what is she up to? Is it because she cannot solve the real issues, like dowry and dowry deaths.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of dowry deaths have increased in India.

In 2010, 8391 dowry death cases were reported across India, meaning a bride was burned every 90 minutes, according to statistics recently released by the National Crime Records Bureau.

A decade earlier this number was 6995, but climbed to 8093 dowry deaths in 2007.

Dowry, although banned by law in 1961 but never seriously enforced, is an ancient tradition prevalent amongst most Indian families.

Dowry has been banned only in papers but in reality, families continue to pay for a groom. A girl becomes a bride only if she is accompanied by an appropriate dowry, no matter what other educational qualification she holds. The minute a daughter is born, the hapless parent is forced to hoard gold/money so that he can purchase a groom for his daughter. Some people say that dowry is so ingrained in the hearts of the Indians that it cannot be done away with and for some it is a matter of pride! This pride is alright for the rich and the upper middle class but for those below, it is never a matter of pride but it is only out of necessity that a dowry is paid. No dowry means the girl shall stay at home. And for this the parents stop enjoying their lives so that their daughter can have a life. Even then this life is not always guaranteed. And now if she needs to be paid too then the marriage is already in the rocks. And how in the world are they planning to monitor? If monitoring is such an easy task, then why don't they monitor dowry and domestic violence? Even men are being harassed these days.

And if pocket money is the real issue then why don't a fixed amount of money be kept in the bank under the bride's name soon after marriage? This can serve multiple purpose. This is being done everywhere these days since dowry was stopped. The parents transfer the "dowry" to the bank under the name of the daughter. She can then decide to spend it the way she likes.

In my opinion this "salary" to be paid after marriage is as demeaning as the dowry that is being paid before marriage. Unless one stops treating a bride and groom as commodities in the market nothing is going to change. Treat a girl as just another human being and give her all the education that is possible. Solve problems like female foeticide and try to change the cultural attitude of Indians that make them take dowry, kill baby girls, yearn for baby boys over girls and then maybe everything shall be solved. Instead, please don't come up with ridiculous solutions that shall solve no problem but is like pouring oil over already troubled waters.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Amul's mentor is no more....

Dr. Verghese Kurien, the man behind the utterly, butterly, delicious or the taste of India is no more. There is much one can say about this man, yet it is this one brand that has stood the test of time and I hope shall remain so as a tribute to him. I had compiled a few of the Amul advertisements on my blog a month back since Amul continues to be our family's favourite.

The father of India’s ‘White Revolution’ Dr Verghese Kurien passed away early on Sunday morning at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital in neighbouring Nadiad town due to age-related problems, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) sources said.

I think the following is from his last birthday.

Verghese Kurien was born on 26 November 1921 in Calicut, Madras Presidency, British India (now Kozhikode, Kerala). His father was a civil surgeon in Cochin. He graduated in Physics from Loyola College, Madras in 1940 and then did B.E. (mechanical engineering) from the College of Engineering, Guindy (then the University of Madras). After completing his degree, he joined the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur from where he graduated in 1946. He then went to the United States on a government scholarship to earn his Master of Science in metallurgical engineering (with distinction) from Michigan State University.

Honours, awards and international recognition

Year Name of Award or Honor Awarding Organization
2012 Gangadharan Memorial Award V. Gangadharan Memorial Trust
2011 Life Time Achievement Award CNN-IBN
2010 Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) Karunya University
2010 Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda
2007 Karmaveer Puraskaar iCONGO- Confederation of NGOs
2007 Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Award Godfrey Phillips India Ltd
2006 Doctor of Science Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
2002 Lokmanya Tilak award Lokmanya Tilak Trust
1999 Padma Vibhushan President of India
1991 Doctor of Science University of Guelph, Canada.
1991 Distinguished Alumni Award Michigan State University, USA.
1989 World Food Prize World Food Prize, USA.
1986 Wateler Peace Prize Award Carnegie Foundation, USA.
1986 Krishi Ratna Award President of India.
1966 Padma Bhushan President of India.
1965 Doctor of Science Michigan State University, USA.
1965 Padma Shri President of India.
1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Is it not a Eureka moment for India, when a chief minister (the ablest they say) says our children are malnourised only because of figure consciousness? How sweet! Imagine a child aged 2 or 4 looking at our zero figure, Kareena Kapoor and dreaming to be like her? Or the boys like Salman Khan? Or let us imagine that it is their mothers who are making these poor ones starve in order to attain the zero figure. If so, damn these mothers!

He also says that it is because of vegetarianism. But in this case how about Punjab?

There are more vegetarians in Punjab than in Gujarat and yet Punjab, along with Kerala and north east states like, Manipur, Mizoram and Sikkim are the states where there are less malnourished children.

It must be hard to swallow the truth since India has been up in the chart since years for having the most malnourished under-5 children. We are way up above the poorest African countries too!

The World Bank estimates that India is ranked 2nd in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition, after Bangladesh (in 1998), where 47% of the children exhibit a degree of malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth.[
Now let us look at the Infant Mortality Rates or the number of Infants dying under one year of age per 1000 births in the same year.

Even here, states like Gujarat which claims development paints a dismal picture. One can download the Family Statistics Report 2011 to get the complete picture.

Health is wealth. The nation's wealth lies in it's citizens and if good health cannot be provided to our furture generation then this nation will continue to lag behind in every other area of development.
The effect of undernutrition on young children (ages 0-8) can be devastating and enduring. It can impede behavioral and cognitive development, educability, and reproductive health, thereby undermining future work productivity. Since growth failure occurs almost exclusively during the intrauterine period and in the first two years of life, preventing stunting, anemia, or xerophthalmia, therefore calls for interventions, which focus on the very young.
Whether or not children are well-nourished during their first years of life can have a profound effect on their health status, as well as their ability to learn, communicate, think analytically, socialize effectively and adapt to new environments and people. Good nutrition is the first line of defense against numerous childhood diseases, which can leave their mark on a child for life. In the area of cognitive development, "when there isn't enough food, the body has to make a decision about how to invest the limited foodstuffs available. Survival comes first. Growth comes second. In this nutritional triage, the body seems obliged to rank learning last. Better to be stupid and alive than smart and dead" (Sagan and Druyan).
But then the paradox is that a section of the society is facing obesity too.

Hope Modi realizes that his state too ranks pretty high in the obesity list (7th in the country). 

So who is beauty consious? Himself?


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