Dam-ned?

Mullaperiyar, or Mullaiperiyar Dam depending upon your loyalties, is a catastrophe in waiting. The adjoining info-graphic traces the history of the issue and lists the arguments given by the two conflicting states. Click on it to enlarge.


Being dependent upon water bodies flowing in through neighbouring states, Tamil Nadu has always been on logger heads with them. Its concerns are genuine as these rivers are mainstay for its economy, providing irrigation facilities for agriculture and power generation for the industries. However, Mullaperiyar is a case of much more grave concern for the state of Kerala.

Kerala government has been defending its case for a new dam on the basis of the ‘Precautionary Principle’ laid down in the famous Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), of which India is a signatory.

Its Principle 15 states, “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”

In the given case, the danger is not mere environmental degradation but major loss of human life and biodiversity.

In this scenario, the adamance being shown by the Tamil Nadu government is uncalled for. Not only is it denying Kerala’s demand for a new dam but is also not cooperating with the Center on this issue. Recently Jayalalithaa Government decided not to participate in the “informal discussion” on the dam dispute in New Delhi.

Moreover, Tamil Nadu moved the Supreme Court to restrain the Kerala Government from making any remark on de-commissioning of the dam or construction of a new one as it was allegedly creating a fear psychosis among the people.

At this juncture, it is important for Jayalalithaa Government to allay such fears if any by going an extra mile rather than rubbishing them altogether.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court, while asking both the states not to politicize the issue, has decided against Kerala's demand for reduction in water level from 136 ft. to 120 ft. Tamil Nadu Government must not regard this as a victory but help in restoring peace and normalcy in the region.

If steps are not taken to redress this issue at the earliest, any untoward incidence will be a blot on India’s federal polity.

Image Courtesy:
Self-designed

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क्या तेरा है, क्या मेरा है?

An attempt to present a poem through an audio-visual medium.



Images Courtesy:
Various sources. Kindly bring any copyright violations to notice.

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

Koodankulam to Chennai

As banana bajji wrapped in a newspaper took the round of the motley gathering on the roof of a house in Besant Nagar, no one was too keen to have it. They had arrived at the venue at five o’clock as planned, after a tiring day at their jobs and colleges. However, their own hunger was not on their mind right now. They were more concerned about fisherfolk and local residents of a coastal village, more than 700 kilometers south of Chennai, many of whom have not gone to sea or earned any income since they started an agitation more than a month ago. These villagers have been protesting against the commissioning of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, which according to them not only poses danger to their livelihood by endangering the marine life but even holds larger nuclear safety issues.

Nityanand Jayaraman, a well-known environmental activist based in Chennai had called ‘youngsters and other interested people’ to plan a solidarity action on the part of the capital city, through an impassioned appeal on various mailing groups, “We're faced with a tremendous opportunity, made possible by the struggles of thousands of fisherfolk, who are camped outside the gate of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant even as we speak. The Government of India is unrelenting in its insistence that the plant should be commissioned. The Government of Tamil Nadu has made half-hearted gestures that it is in support of the agitation. If people put their weight and support behind the struggle, we have a possibility of getting Tamil Nadu declared as a nuclear-free state, and closed for all future nuclear power plant proposals.”

Though hardly a dozen and a half turned up at the meeting organised today evening at the collective’s office, it did not deter those present to carry on the proceedings with utmost conviction.

Protests against this project have been going on since its very inception, more than two decades ago. The adjoining info-graphic traces its history. Click on it to enlarge.

The present round of agitations started with 127 villagers going on an indefinite hunger strike on Sep 11 as the date of commissioning of the first two reactors neared. Their basic apprehensions rose from the plight of Japanese towns of Okuma and Futaba following the Fukushima-Daichii nuclear disaster in March earlier this year which led to release of radioactive material.

Those present at the meeting concurred that Fukushima disaster being fresh in the minds of the people can also be used as a rallying point in their solidarity action. On the basis of extensive brainstorming, various ideas came up, were rebutted, were shelved or accepted.

Nityanand cautioned that the solidarity action should be immediate but not sporadic. The group narrowed down to a petition campaign as their central medium. However, they argued for it to be more meaningful than just a signature campaign. It was decided that it will include fund-raising, in form of Rs 5 donations, to help the poor agitators, and will invite all those interested to further workshops and seminars on the issue. Besant Nagar was chosen as the venue for the petition campaign where the volunteers will create awareness over the weekend. A photo exhibition and a documentary screening were also planned at various venues which will exhibit the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl, Jaduguda and Fukushima to bring to light the dangers of nuclear reactors.

There was also an appeal to push the envelope further. A suggestion was made in this direction to encourage the petitioners to adopt bio-composting at their homes. The argument was that by doing so, they can reduce their carbon footprint considerably which can act as an alternative to government’s assertion that nuclear energy is the only answer to global warming being caused by carbon-based fuels.

Around half past six in the evening as it started getting darker, the collective members decided to disperse. The action will now shift to Besant Nagar beach which will see the tides of a new commitment, promising to be more than just a token gesture.


Image Courtesy:
My new found interest in Photoshop

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A political victory or a lost Cause?

The result of Hisar by-election is being read in many ways by the political pundits. The event kick-started the anti-Congress campaign of Team Anna. It seems as if Team Anna has taken it to itself to be the panacea of all ills in Indian political landscape. Its first detour from the basic objective of getting the Jan Lokpal Bill legislated came when it called for electoral reforms. It included introduction of negative voting and the recalling of sitting legislators. In this context, campaigning in Hisar should have been about making the voters aware about the credentials of all the candidates. The choice of candidate should have been left to the ‘informed’ citizenry.


Fight against corruption should not be limited to the political party in power at the centre. It is endemic to the whole political system. It is questionable if Team Anna’s intervention had any role to play in the defeat of Congress candidate and the forfeiture of his security deposit. However, the way Team Anna is meddling in the actual political process puts a big question mark on its often claimed apolitical overtures. With the eyes now set on the UP assembly elections, it may do further disservice to its own cause. Anna, himself has been vacillating between the stands of giving Congress a breather till the Winter session of Parliament on one hand and personally entering the anti-Congress campaign in UP on the other. Focus needs to be shifted back to the Jan Lokpal Bill. The support that Team Anna garnered was for this basic agenda. It cannot keep stacking newer agendas on it, hoping that all its wishes will be fulfilled within the ambit of this single movement.

It is true that Congress has been making many political manoeuvrings inside and outside the Parliament to stall the passing of a meaningful Jan Lokpal Bill. However, Anna should continue using the civil society route to bring to light such practices. He might have testified it many a times that he is having no political ambitions. But this might not be true for his foot-soldiers. It is a known fact that one of the Team Anna members resigned from the police services on being bypassed for a coveted office. So to claim that the people behind this movement are above such power motives will be naïve. In this context, taking the fight to political arena will only make things more complex. Moreover, the movement may also lose a considerable chunk of sympathisers if it gets reduced to anti-Congress from anti-Corruption.

The movement is already being negatively affected by the incoherent statements coming out of the Team Anna camp. While Anna and other members have distanced themselves from Prashant Bhushan’s statement on Kashmir, Santosh Hegde has openly shown his displeasure over Kejriwal’s move to meddle in the Hisar by-elections. As Anna sits on a week-long vow of silence for ‘peace of soul’, two prominent activists P V Rajagopal and 'Waterman' Rajinder Singh quit its core committee over the latter issue of ‘political turn’ of movement. Democracy within the movement should definitely be appreciated. All the members should have a right to voice their personal opinions on different issues. However, for the sake of Jan Lokpal Bill, some coherence is needed. Any such incoherent statements and infighting give the detractors an opportunity to make a mountain out of a molehill. Therefore, it is important for Anna to bring together his foot-soldiers and unify the camp. This is a prerequisite to sustain the battle against the indifference of the political honchos towards an effective Jan Lokpal Bill.

P.S. This is the first draft of my editorial for our Lab Journal in ACJ to be published this Saturday

Image Courtesy:
Designed by me

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A Bookmark From Life


In the Image:
I standing on the Besant Nagar (Elliot's) Beach.

Image Courtesy:
Saurabh Goyal

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Beyond Words


She always wants me 
When she has to pee
When I rush to loo
She wants to come too

In the Image:
Me with my niece in Delhi (clicked a couple of hours back)

Image Courtesy:
No one but me

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That Anonymous Nice Young Ailment


She's an ordinary girl
A girl next door
And thats the thing about her
That i adore

She has no pretensions
Won't go case by case
She is what she is
Always in your face

She is too matured
At times for her age
At other times she's a kid
Difficult to engage

She will pull your legs
With a naughty glint in eyes
That you will just give in
To her innocent tries

She likes to be by her own
Most of the times
But is a great company
When a partner in crime

She is the perfect girl
You will like to take home
And introduce gleefully 
To your dad and mom

She reads this, i hope
And know that it's her
Because no more proposing shit
And subsequent torture

Image Courtesy:
Confidential

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Am I Done With Love?


Each time it happened, it brought a ray of hope
But now it carries with it, just a fear to cope

Am I done with Love?
Or I still have it in me?
Is it just a mirage?
Or can I still succeed?

When I look back at what transpired
Sometimes it was them, sometimes me
But whoever be blamed for the failures
In the end I was the loser to be

So when the heart skips a beat again
How can it be a reason to smile?
For I have learnt it the hard way
That this thing is not meant for me.

Am I done with Love?
Or I still have it in me?
Is it just a mirage?
Or can I still succeed?

I've always seen myself as a romantic
And this notion has taken my toll
Weaving the dreams just too soon
I have seen them tumbling galore

I want to take a chance again
But know well, that’s not the right way
For each smile that adorns my face today
Will be paid by a drop of tear not far away

Am I done with Love?
Or I still have it in me?
Is it just a mirage?
Or can I still succeed?



P.S. - A comment posted on my novelette 'Everyone Has a Cupid Tale to Tell' after a long time brought out this stupid song. So please don’t ask ‘who is she?'

Image Courtesy:
A friend behind another friends's camera

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

The Face Off

Flaunting the newly learnt Photoshop skills.


And now a GIF image. Click on it to enlarge and see it in action.


For a change, I do not want to comment about the developments around this movement. However, you may read my Op-Ed in The Tribune which got published during the first wave of the movement.

Images Courtesy:
Various sources

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

Life Within The Four Walls

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 23; the twenty-third edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. The theme for this month is FREE. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton


Your whole life can be packed in a single room. Within those four walls you can measure expanse of your knowledge, and within those few meters between floor and ceiling, depth in your understanding can be gauged. It is nothing less than incarceration, an imposed limit on your physical space to allow you to wander more freely within your mental space. Even I went through this stage when I decided, like many other brave souls before me, to sit for the civil services examinations.

Immersed in studies within the three dimensions of my room, I soon became oblivious to the fourth dimension of time. The chirping of birds followed by sound of gong emanating from a neighboring boarding school used to intimate me that it is dawn and I should be going to sleep.

My day started with the shouts of my mother followed by incessant thumping on the door to wake me up. The poor creaking door had to go through this ordeal everyday till I finally got up and unlatched it.

In those days, I preferred to stay in my room with innumerable inanimate things accompanying me. The only live things were the lizards on the wall and my reflection in the long mirror on the right corner of the room.

I was envious of the lizards because they could traverse more dimensions within the room. For them the room was infinity, an end in itself, but for me it was just a means to an elusive end.

The 6 by 6-foot bed felt like a mother’s lap since the day it got a new pair of mattresses. They were expensive but were needed to cure the constant pain in my back. Despite many rebukes from my father, I continued lying on the bed to study, while the uncomfortable chair that accompanied the study table stood vacant and listless.

I was very fond of the study table which took up most of the space opposite my bed. It had retained its woody smell despite thick coats of varnish and was the only link to nature in this lifeless room. Though seldom used to study, the books with their different-colored bindings decked on the two shelves of the table, were a constant reminder and motivation to keep studying.

The night lamp on the side table became an innocent accomplice in my contemplations. As my thoughts meandered through the unknown reaches of my consciousness, I kept switching it on and off subconsciously. Every other month its bulb had to be replaced, tormented by my thoughts and actions.

On the far left corner of the room, by the curtained windows, stood my personal computer with all its paraphernalia. The dark monitor of the computer always stared at me with expectant eyes, which were only a reflection of my own eyes, waiting to be switched on. But it had already been replaced by my new laptop which lay regally on one side of my bed. The computer reminded me of those days when gadgets were much larger and the life was much simpler.

My mother had the nagging habit of opening the curtains whenever she got a chance. I somehow felt more secure in the darkness and dampness of the room. The sunlight that came through the window seemed to me as an unnecessary intrusion into my own space. The pale-looking curtains became focal point of this unspoken jostle between me and my mother as we tried to outdo each other every day.

Two years had passed in this room when the result of my second attempt came. Keeping the laptop aside, I looked up at the ceiling with moist eyes.

The worn-out fan was revolving as usual, emitting the ugly noises. There was certain movement in it but there was no displacement.

Then my eyes moved towards far corner of the wall where it met the ceiling. A trapped moth was struggling to get free from the cobwebs that had formed there.

The following day, I took a broom and removed the cobwebs from there.

The following day, I opened the curtains to let the slanting rays onto my bed freely.

The following day, I unlatched the windows to allow fresh air into the deoxygenated corners of the room.

The following day, I decided to let go my ambition and venture out to find some work.

Image Courtesy:
My camera (clicked in November 2007)


The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

My third published article

Its 4 in 4 months. Of course, as I mentioned in the previous post, the actual third article I wrote for Tribune was not published in its totality but only some of the sound-bytes I had gathered were used. So here is my third published Op-Ed in which I have compiled the whole page including my own write up, the photograph (of my students in Bulls Eye), the counter argument (by my colleague) and the opinions of the students.


You can read the article here - Coaching Industry - A Parallel Education System

However, the article got pruned down a bit due to space constraints and the end result seems a bit incoherent. Somehow, I feel this particular line from the original draft should not have been removed by the editors -

Many academic trainers in this industry have emerged as the role models for the students and work hard under very stressful schedules in helping them to crack the tough examinations.

Do give your feedback and suggest what other issues I can take up for my future Op-Eds.

Here are links to my previous articles -

Image Courtesy:
My dad and his cell phone :)

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

The 'World Class' Debate



Here I am reproducing an article originally written for The Tribune but finally published on a web portal The Viewspaper sometime back.

The Union Minister for Environment, Jairam Ramesh has the knack to remain in the news with his proactive but sometimes provocative take on environmental issues. However, this time he chose an unrelated issue to make the headlines once again. According to this IIT Bombay graduate; the most coveted and sought after seats of learning in India, i.e., IIT’s and IIM’s, lack the world-class faculty as well as research facilities. He believes that these institutes have been able to survive due to the world class students who take admission into these institutions after a grueling selection process.

Before one starts taking sides, it’s important to define the term ‘World Class.’ Going by its dictionary meaning it is to rank amongst the foremost in the world and to meet the international standards of excellence. If one adopts this definition, then Jairam Ramesh is not that wide of the mark as it’s true that in most of the world rankings, these institutes fail to reach the top-notch positions.

However, is it justified to use such objective parameters given the grand divide between the West and the East? To create a world-class research institute, the foremost requirement is a world-class policy formulation and world-class funding for the same. With the meager amount of resources made available to these institutes, how can one expect them to compete with the best in the business?

To add to this, the fact is that these institutes were incepted with the objective of developing a skilled workforce to support the social and economic development of India. Research and development was started much later. Hence, to compare the amount of research done by these institutes with that done by the MIT’s or Harvard’s is again unfair.

Rajesh Behera, an IIT Bombay alumnus, unequivocally attributes his success to the guidance he got from his teachers. According to him, it was their experience and exposure to the international environment that enabled them to find the true potential of the students like him and instilled in them confidence to become world-class.

Taking the example of the Civil Engineering Department of his alma mater, he shows how all the major infrastructural development taking place around Mumbai, in one form or the other, has inputs from the IIT Bombay faculty, from consultancy to actual implementation.

One cannot deny that the faculty of these institutes have to work in a much harder environment than their counterparts in the West. Take the example of the student to teacher ratio which according to an internal study of Union Human Resource Development Ministry is as high as 15:1 in the leading institutes of India as compared to around 5:1 to 7:1 in the leading technical institutes of US, West Europe and even Singapore or Hong Kong for that matter. Moreover, funding at both the project level and at the level of personal compensation to teachers make the situation graver.

The whole issue gathers more importance in the context of the new IIMs and IITs that have opened recently to cater to the ever growing demand for the world-class education in India, a prerequisite to tap India’s demographic dividend.

Swati Gupta, an IIM Indore alumna feels that there is a dearth of world-class faculty in the new IIMs. However, she considers Jairam Ramesh’s statement pretty harsh and feels it’s naive to tag all the professors under the same umbrella.

To quote her, “There is no doubt that there is a visible gap in the style and understanding of the newer faculty as compared to the old professors. While the latter make sure that there is a conceptual clarity before teaching the contextual application, the former at times tend to focus too much on the case method.”

This perspective shatters the belief that the older professors are too rigid and averse to adopt newer world-class methodologies as there is still substance left in the older teaching methodologies.

Overall, it’s important to take into consideration all these contingencies before coming to any concrete conclusion. However, one cannot deny the fact that there is a lot that needs to be done to make the Indian premiere institutes, globally more competitive and this statement of Jairam Ramesh might act as a stimulant for the same.


The following sound-bytes taken from IIT Mumbai faculty members, however, were published in Tribune and attributed to me.

Two senior members of IIT, Bombay, on the condition that their names would be withheld had this to say:

Make it attractive for the best

The profession of teaching and research is not an attractive profession for most young students due to financial reasons. The top talent is not opting for a career in teaching and research. There are perhaps only 25 per cent of faculty members who do research that can be termed “of international standards”. The IITs are far ahead of any university in India in terms of research quantity and quality. The socio-economic conditions must improve in order to create world class universities and institutes. World class institutes did not become world class in 50 years. The top universities in the world have a long tradition and attract talent from all over the world.

The Government must provide autonomy to institutions of higher learning. The UGC and AICTE have failed in managing higher education. There is a lot of corruption in these bodies. Every minister in charge of the Ministry of Human Resource Development tries to change something in IITs to get public attention. They will serve the country better by improving schools and colleges which are in a pathetic condition. Once these improve, there will be better people going in for higher education.

The Chinese invest heavily in higher education and elementary education. They offered 50 per cent of the American salary to the Chinese who were teaching in developed countries. As a result, hundreds of Chinese came back and enriched their universities. There are talented Indians abroad, the MHRD should devise a strategy to encourage good researchers to come back. In developed countries, teaching is a respected profession but in India it is not. One may ask any class in a school and verify this. Hardly any one wants to go in for teaching and research. Creation of world class institutions requires full autonomy, a good pay and a large proportion of people going in for higher education. Until this happens, we cannot have world class institutes.

No roadmap for higher education in the country

In my opinion, the decision to open new IITs without having an adequate number of skilled scientific/technology manpower in the country was, by itself, a wrong decision. It was only motivated by considerations that were non-professional and had to do more with realpolitik in the then ruling class that took the decision. It is slightly irresponsible on the part of the minister to make such statements, instead of helping out the IITs that are already facing far too many difficulties due to the government’s decision of opening IITs in a thoughtless manner.

The IITs have a better faculty than most state universities but that is hardly any consolation given that they have larger funding and better facilities. The entire thing boils down to one moot question.: It is not this government (to which Jairam Ramesh belongs) or that government, but no government in India has the desire to work out a well thought out roadmap for higher education in the country. The late Rajiv Gandhi made an attempt to start something in that direction but it was all lost later. (As told to Vipul Grover)


Image Courtesy:
Star News

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

Finding My True Self


I don’t know how it all started but I do have a faint idea that it was around the time I entered secondary school. Until then, I had always longed for opportunities to excel in extra-curricular activities. Debating in particular gave me an opportunity to enhance my knowledge beyond text-books.

Then, one day, I started finding it difficult to speak. The words came out with utmost difficulty or with involuntary repetitions and sometimes they just wouldn’t come. Passion became p..p..p..p..passion or sometimes it became just a long pause. In short, I developed an acute case of stuttering.

I began to find excuses not to read aloud in class. Each time a friend or a cousin made fun of my stammering, I grew diffident and insecure. However, my passion for singing was still unaffected by it. As you might know, stuttering is not an impediment to singing. However, with adolescence as my voice cracked, I was politely asked to leave the class choir too.

When I was chosen for a Hindi play because of my consistently good performance in the subject, I could not utter a single dialogue. Though I still participated in events like quizzing and dumb charades, I found myself shying away from limelight.

The two years in senior secondary school were spent studying hard for the engineering entrance examinations and somehow, the speech impediment took a back seat. But when college started, it came back to haunt me.

Reading a self-help book during my first year at college, I suddenly decided to throw it in the dustbin and take matters into my own hands. To get rid of the fear of public speaking, I had to seek occasions when it would be necessary for me to speak. Thus, Panache was born, the first students’ organization of my college. With it was born a new me, one who mustered the courage to stand in front of the class and give the presentation regarding the proposed organization.

As I pushed myself more and more, I was able to devise new ways to tackle the problem and soon I was confidently compering at the freshers’ party and delivering the opening address at a Rotaract event and imitating Inzamam-ul-Haq at a mock press conference while throwing the packed audience into fits of laughter.

It’s not that I stopped stuttering. I just stopped thinking about it and stopped thinking about the derogatory comments by others. Once this burden was gone, I could speak freely.

I have shared this story innumerable times with my students in personality development workshops. We all may have our inhibitions in public speaking due to lack of fluency or due to a speech disorder like mine. Even today, when I have to speak impromptu, I do shiver from within.

However, it’s important to face these fears because as long as we keep hiding from them, we won’t be able to search our true self. I don’t remember when it all started and I don’t even care if it ends in this lifetime or not. I have found my true self.

In the Image:
I, Me and Myself (Shot by - Saurabh Goyal, Location - A beach along East Coast Road, Tamil Nadu)

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

The King of Dystopia

Originally published at The Mind Blogglers.


Whenever I come across a news report about some new political scam or scandal which is pretty regular these days, I wonder if it is the ignorance of the masses that is allowing the political elite to indulge in such rampant corruption and malfeasance. Is India or even the world at large moving towards the dystopian society envisioned by George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four?

In this novel, Orwell had described an Oligarchic dictatorship which borrows its stability from three basic tenets; one of these being - 'Ignorance is Strength'. Through pervasive government surveillance and incessant public mind control, the ruling ‘Party’ is able to subjugate the individual and manipulate humanity, hence strengthening its own domain.

It will be far-fetched to compare the present society with the society projected by Orwell; however the way things are going, the Orwellian conception remains still relevant and is a prism to the ill-fated consequences of a society that lacks democracy and free will.

Born in India as Eric Arthur Blair to a civil servant father in 1903, Orwell found the inspiration for his writings from his own life experiences. These included an early childhood in London, education in a missionary school, policing in Burma, his bohemian lifestyle in Paris, seeing the hardships of economically depressed North England, the participation in the Spanish Civil War and many other experiences which gradually developed in him a “natural hatred towards authority”.

He mentions in his essay Why I Write that “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it,” evidently triggered by the Spanish Civil War and the increasing influence of Nazism and Fascism.

However, even his debut novel, The Burmese Days which got published in 1934, talks of the travails of a British subject in Burma disillusioned by imperialism and white domination.

It was his political satire, Animal Farm published in 1945 that brought him into limelight and for the first time prosperity in a life, otherwise filled with hardships. In a compact piece of fiction, he targeted the Stalin brand of Communism and was well appreciated in the West. The story revolves around a farm where animals take over control under the leadership of pigs but the leader gradually corrupts the socialist ideals on which their revolution was based.

However, Orwell’s concept of free will was not in consonance with the philosophy of another contemporary author hailed by the West, Ayn Rand. Both are known for their belief in individualism; however, while Rand stands for libertarianism, essentially a capitalist model, Orwell stuck to democratic socialism, a model of the welfare state which can be compared to Gandhian and Nehruvian socialism.

Despite this, several critics, particularly from the Left, accused Orwell of exploiting the street-folk, calling him a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing upper class intellectual posing as a revolutionary. However, Orwell withstood these criticisms and remained true to his convictions till the end of his life.

In his seminal work, Nineteen Eighty Four, published just before his untimely demise in 1950 due to an artery burst in the lungs, he once again brought to the fore the struggle between totalitarianism and an individual’s yearning to break the shackles imposed by it. Like most of his other novels, it had an unhappy ending where the individual finally succumbs to the system.

For this reason, Nineteen Eighty Four is usually categorized as a novel portraying political pessimism. However, it will be wrong to term his writings as pessimistic because Orwell preferred to stick to his conceived dystopian structures in order to make his argument against them stronger. Moreover, to consider it Orwell’s forecast of the probable future will be naïve as the author clarified it in a post-publication statement.

Just like the instability portrayed in his writings, Orwell had a rather unstable life. Growing up in the absence of his father, lack of resources in the family, a bitter school life, initial struggle to get his due as a writer, contracting tuberculosis and the subsequent deteriorating health and an unhappy married life, marked the forty seven years of his life.

However, his life did a great service to the literary tradition of that era and continues to inspire even today. According to Orwell, there are four great motives for writing; sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose. He was honest enough to mention the first motive though his way of writing and prose was by no means elitist. However, the other dimension of egoism is to be remembered for our work. Orwell’s legacy can be gauged from the simple fact that ‘Orwellian’ is now a byword for any oppressive or manipulative social phenomenon opposed to a free society.

As far as the last two motives go, his later works that in addition to his novels include a number of essays, literary reviews, linguistic articles, anti-war propaganda and other journalistic endeavours in BBC, the Tribune, the Observer and other journals ensured that they served the political purpose and facilitated the historical impulse.

In fact, many of his observations hold a lot of historical significance as they portray how some of the societal structures haven’t changed much in all these years. For example, in his autobiographical essay, "Such, Such Were the Joys" published after his death in 1952, Orwell describes the education he received as "a preparation for a sort of confidence trick," geared entirely towards maximizing his future performance in the admissions exams to leading English public schools such as Eton and Harrow, without any concern for actual knowledge or understanding. The education reforms in India today are also addressing similar problems in our system of education.

As for the final remaining motive, only the man of his genius could make a twelve line poem Romance written during his stay in Burma and based on the negotiations of a foreigner with a local prostitute, seem so aesthetic. Sample it for yourself.

When I was young and had no sense
In far-off Mandalay
I lost my heart to a Burmese girl
As lovely as the day.

Her skin was gold, her hair was jet,
Her teeth were ivory;
I said ‘For twenty silver pieces,
Maiden, sleep with me.’

She looked at me, so pure, so sad,
The loveliest thing alive,
And in her lisping, virgin voice,
Stood out for twenty-five.

Image Courtesy:

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My second published article

I might be away from blogging but my freelancing assignments are giving me a chance to update the blog. Here is my second published article in the Op-Ed section of The Tribune, Chandigarh-Delhi.



You can read the article on the newspaper's website - http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110517/edit.htm#7

Image Courtesy:
My mobile phone and The Tribune

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

My first published article

Hello friends, I mean all those who are still lingering around this nearly dead blog :)

I just came over to share with you my article which got published today in the Op-Ed section of The Tribune, Chandigarh.



Here is the link to the online edition - http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110409/edit.htm#6 - where you can read it without straining your eyes on this low-resolution image.

Image Courtesy 
WTF.. It's my own article ;)

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

Change

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton Season 2 edition 18; the eighteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.


Change, they say is always for good. But what if the thing you fear the most is the change itself? I always thought that my path is set clear in front of me. But, some contingencies, I forgot to account for. Now, I had two options, either to keep treading the same path or change the path itself. But how could I overcome the fear of change?

*

My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist. No points for guessing that I am a huge fan of Shahrukh bhai. And my life is as filmy as his movies. However, I didn’t come to Mumbai, like many other fans of his, to see him. I was here to create a spectacle for the world to see.

I come from a village, some miles north of Peshawar. I was happy rearing my father’s cattle and my world was limited to that village and the vast grazing terrain around it. How was I to know, that my horizon will soon be broadened and I’ll become a carrier of Allah’s message. Or that’s what they claimed. They, to whom my father sold me to buy some more cattle.

I was sent to a training camp in Azad Kashmir along with two other boys from my village and about a dozen from neighboring ones. It was literally, a crash course to manhood. From there, we were sent to another training camp in Punjab, a more sophisticated one. Finally, after an intensive training of one year, a team of fifteen was formed. Our mission was to reach the shores of Mumbai and recreate the horrors of 2008. However, this time, we were to wait, live amongst the people for some time and carry out the assigned task when called for. In short, we were to form a sleeper cell.

We reached Mumbai safely. It seemed the Indians had learnt nothing from the previous catastrophe. I along with couple of others moved to a kholi in Dharavi where we were to be harbored during our stay here. And within no time, thanks to the training we had obtained, we melted within this subaltern melting pot of Mumbai.

So now, you must be wondering, when are we planning the next 26/11? You’ll get your answers soon. Picture abhi baki hai mere dost!!!


*

I wasn’t a Khan anymore, I became Raj. I had a tough time making a choice between Rahul and Raj but DDLJ made all the difference.

While, I was busy waiting for the final orders, I had no idea that here in India, I’ll also meet my Simran, my P…P…P…Pooja. And, yes that is the contingency that I had never accounted for.

I didn’t meet her on a train or a local, as they call it here, with my hand extended at the door as she came running on the platform. My life is filmy as I said, but not that filmy too. We crossed each other’s path for the first time while I was rushing to join the line outside the public lavatory one early morning. Not an ideal setting for the love at first sight but still kuchh kuchh hota hai… tum nahin samjhoge.

I can’t claim that she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. On the contrary, her virtue was her simplicity, the indefinable thing about her that made her look so familiar. It felt as if I had known her all along. I bet, even you must have felt like this about someone at some point of time in your life. If not, then you have missed upon a feeling which has no match.

Pooja stayed just a couple of lanes across and we started meeting in the evenings when I returned from the shop where I worked.

They had told us during our training that if we kept following His path, one day we will experience completeness – the completeness of conviction and purpose. With Pooja around, I could experience the same. It seemed as if she was the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of my life.

I used to wonder at nights that how could the passion for Jihad be more essential than this passion of souls? If it was so insignificant, then why did Allah allow such thoughts to enter our mind? Or was it the devil playing games on me? Should I leave her as she is the source behind all this inquisitiveness? How can I be with her when she is a kafir? But how could she be a kafir? Both of us seemed so alike. And what harm had she done to anyone?

Such jihad within my mind kept me awakened for hours.

To ward off these thoughts, I started recollecting the verses from the Holy Book which were incessantly recited to us day and night during those days of training. The things started becoming clearer as such contemplating nights passed.

They used to say that He loves the one who does good, the pure, the righteous, the patient and persevering and also the one who takes up arms to fight in His cause.

But that made me wonder, where is the love for those who have sinned and erred? Where is the love for those who are not like us and don’t share our beliefs? Is their path not righteous just because they choose to follow a different path?

We humans too tend to love those who demonstrate good qualities and are obedient to us. Then what is the difference between Him and us, the mere mortals, if his love is also based on conditions.

I had achieved the Jihad. As Shahrukh bhai would have said, "Pyaar zindagi ki tarah hota hai, Jiska har morr aasan nahi hota, Har raste per khushi nahi milti, Par jab hum zindagi ka saath nahin chorte, To hum pyaar karna kyon chorein!" Other things were of no consequence to me.

They wanted me to become a carrier of Allah’s message. And I decided to become one. So this morning, I gathered my belongings and left the kholi discreetly. I wanted to meet Pooja first but decided against it. I went straight to the police station to surrender and become the whistle blower. As it is, whistle blowing is the new fad.

In my voice, Allah won’t speak of Jihad-e-Asghar, the 'Lesser Jihad' of purifying the world with war and crusade. He shall speak only of Jihad-e-Akbar, the 'Greater Jihad' of cleansing ones soul with love and compassion. Nasrun Minallahi Wa Fathun Qareeb!

*

Sitting here in this cell tonight and thinking about what all has transpired in all these days, I realize that wasn’t it a change itself that made me change my path? Yes, the change of heart nourished by someone’s love. And wasn’t it this change that changed the very message I set out to convey to the world? And wasn’t it this change which gave me the strength to ward off the fears of the eventuality of such a decision?

Change, my friends, is indeed always for good.

***

Reflections for Reference
  • My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist is the defining dialogue of Shahrukh Khan’s (SRK) My name is Khan (2010)
  • Picture abhi baki hai mere dost is the famous line from SRK’s Om Shanti Om (2007) and it means, ‘The movie is still not over, my friend’.
  • Raj is the name of the character played by SRK in DDLJ, the abbreviation for Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayeinge (1995) and Simran is his love interest.
  • Rahul is the name of the character played by SRK in Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai (1998).
  • P…P…P…Pooja is a reference to SRK’s stuttering K..K..K.. Kiran in Darr (1993).
  • Kuchh kuchh hota hai… tum nahin samjhoge is the romantic line from SRK’s Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai (1998) and colloquially it means, 'Something transpires in the heart... You won't understand'.
  • 'Pyaar zindagi ki tarah hota hai...' is SRK’s famous dialogue from Mohabbatein (2000) which means, 'Love is like life, whose every turn isn’t easy, there isn’t happiness on every path, but when we don’t let go of life, then how can we let go of love!'
  • Nasrun Minallahi Wa Fathun Qareeb is an Arabic phrase meaning ‘With the help from Allah, the success is near’ which was rendered by SRK in his movie Chak De India (2007).


In the Image:
An edited poster of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayeinge (1995)

Image Courtesy:
http://wallpapers-desktop-studio.blogspot.com/ (edited)

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

The Last Flight



He revved up his bike as he neared yet another bend. He had done it each time but somehow at the last moment, allowed himself to flow with the road. By now, he had ascended much higher than he had actually planned to. But on the contrary, his actual plans were to ascend much higher than these physical bounds and measures. He could see another bend approaching some meters away. He throttled his bike further and this time his grip on the accelerator didn’t loosen. There was no fencing on the outer side of the bend. The bike smoothly shifted from the solid concrete road to the weightless air below it. He was flying. He had heard it many times that at such moments, the whole life flashes through in front of you. He saw nothing. He shut his eyes. The only thing he could feel was weightlessness - weightlessness of his mind and of his body. Soon the gravity took over. And he let go of the bike. As he descended, his sensory perceptions kept shutting off one by one. Whole through, he could hear the air gushing past him. Soon, that sense also got shut off. However, a faint smile still remained on his face, an expression embossed there upon the realization that he had eventually ascended much higher through this descent. While the searchers recovered his dismantled body from the foot of the gorge, his soul had been recovered by him much earlier during that last flight.

P.S. Though not an ideal plot for a post commemorating a milestone on this blog, it happens to be the hundredth published post on Reflections of an Empathic Libertarian. 

Image Courtesy:
http://andrewmagrath.files.wordpress.com (edited)

Dear reader, I have been diagnosed with ACDS or Acute Comments Deficiency Syndrome. My condition is critical and deteriorating day by day. The Doctor has recommended me a high dosage of comments to stay alive. So, if you took out time to read this post, be kind enough to take out some more time to leave a comment. Your few more moments may add few more moments to my life. May God bless you and your blog.

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