Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Comment on Dr.Guha's article in The Telegraph

Reviving the dead letter

Eloquent, pragmatic views on the need for a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and how best to implement it. However, with all due respect, I beg to differ with Dr. Guha on the
point that “many liberals oppose it (the UCC) merely as knee-jerk reaction because
the BJP is in favor of it”. First of all, I don’t think there have been any clarification/assurances or any explanation articulated by the BJP government on what the uniform civil
code entails (especially under their governance). Also, Dr. Guha has stated in
the article how in the past the “Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological forbears
bitterly opposed the reforms of the Hindu personal laws (on the grounds that it
gave Hindu women too much independence)”. Considering this and
considering all the “events” that has unfolded since their coming to power, isn’t
the opposition expressed by most “liberals and feminists”, as well as their suspicion
that pushing for a UCC by the present government is a ploy to force Hindu laws
on minorities valid (and not merely a "knee-jerk reaction")?

An ardent admirer of Dr. Guha and a reader of anything and everything he has written and will write in future.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Sounds of Nature

The Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology has made available all its digital recordings of the natural world dating back to 1929 available and accessible to all for free! What a fantastic endeavor! And the willingness to make it open access to all is truly wonderful! Thanks Cornell!
Here is a sample of one of the recordings from the sound library. As per the title it is a "dawn chorus in tropical Queensland, Australia". Absolutely delightful!

ML: ML 107159: Environmental Recording

More details here

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Obsessive Loop

Some days you become this soapy, corny South Indian, who gets hooked on A.R Rahman and Vairamuthu and listens to their creation on an obsessive loop!

 "Pollaatha En Ithayam Yetho Solluthae 
Nillaatha En Uyiro Engo Selluthae 
Pollaatha En Ithayam Yetho Solluthae
 Naane Varugiren,Kelaamal Tharugiren 
Naane Varugiren, Kelaamal Tharugiren 
Kan Theendi Uraigiren 
Kai Theendi Karaigiren"

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hopeless and Mourning

A display of deep reverence for a humble, just man and grievance  for his passing juxtaposed with a display of pride, celebration and accomplishment at the death (rather killing) of another man in the name of justice. All the callous, morons that surround me - atleast show some humanity and shut the fuck up!!!! Oh but wait!...

I feel hopeless and I cannot stop mourning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Food and Beyond

A fantastic documentary on food emphasizing quality, sustainability, flavor and creativity. A visual delight to watch in terms of the culinary creations presented. The movie also features some outstanding chefs across the world, who are truly artists par excellence. Their artistry, passion, dedication, enthusiasm, perseverance and energy to prepare exquisite food and their commitment to quality ingredients is awe inspiring. In the process they also address the most important aspects of food and food production – locally grown and harvested, fresh and sustainable.  Their ability to not compromise and to see beyond the (monetary) bottom lines is truly commendable. These are fine dining chefs and the food they prepare are like fine art – exquisite and often inaccessible to ordinary folks, which is rather unfortunate. The show also features the personal stories of these chefs, mostly from humble beginnings, talking about their struggles and failures and how all that influenced their cooking and motivated them to keep going. The show is a unique one, not limited to food but goes beyond it, serving you important life lessons, leaving you with the realization that we are all part of this web of life. And compromising one may compromise all it’s other linked parts.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

I Heart All Three!

Indian writers in English, regional Indian writers and translators of regional writings - I heart all three!

Came across this article/interview through a friend on Facebook.

Although not in agreement with K.R Meera’s opinion of (or her support of Marathi writer Nemade’s opinion of) Indian writers writing in English, I am in full agreement on the need to preserve regional literature and the significant role of translation in making it accessible to all. If it weren’t for translations, I would have missed out on some of the fabulous writings by Malayalam authors like Mohammed Basheer, O.V Vijayan, Lalithambika Andarjanam to name a few… 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Simbly Venting

Reading this new report on our government's "great", "insightful", "inclusive", "development oriented" plans  I had a couple of  quick thoughts run through me (with a good measure of sarcasm). So now that we have executive orders/ordinances in place to overcome environmental regulations, next in agenda is more structural and policy-level changes  in order to lead us (quickly) to that promised land of #achedin.

To begin with, additional clearances will be done away with (the aim is obviously “speedy development”). Heck, if the government had its way, it would implement and then inform its people. We are not quite there yet. When that happens we can enjoy "achedin" in a nice, blissed out, totalitarian environment.

There are  plans to redefine the  legal definition of forests. Now who is redefining it, what is the new definition? Who knows? But that is irrelevant. Imagine the real estate prospects here!! Gold! I mean don't we all aspire to live in a  gated community, in a sprawling bungalow, in the middle of the Western Ghats!. Imagine people...just imagine! Ah! "achedin" indeed!

Private sector to be involved in afforestation practices. Meaning how? Financial support or actually deciding what trees/plants to grow where?!?. So here is how I imagine it- Mrs. Ambnani glides into her husband's gold plated suite ( my head the super rich glide and live in gold plated rooms) and goes -"suniya jee--wouldn't it be wonderful if we planted conifers in that large tract of forest land, down south, in Kerala, on that site the minister jee had mentioned. It will be just like Europe and those who cannot afford to travel to Europe or way up North can get the feel on home turf. Wouldn't that be a win-win? And Mr. Ambanani goes- "sure darling - what a thoughtful, brilliant idea!". And Mrs. Ambnani giggles shyly.
Now you decide if this is a funny or a frightening scenario.

The report talked about two step changes planned - “mild changes” during the current session and “radical changes” in the next. Someone explain mild and radical please? I thought things were pretty radical enough. And I  don't think my poor self can handle anymore radical changes.

And last but not the least – the government is all set to overhaul environmental and forest regulations but no plans to enhance monitoring. Excellent! This is like the government being an indulgent parent where the petulant child gets his/her way whom they neither care to monitor and nor do they want to spend on a nanny. 

Venting over, looking for aspirin.

Friday, March 27, 2015

No "Reservations"?

A conversation among friends on reservation for minorities lead to a comment on vote banks and corrupt politicians. The point asserted was the need to get rid of policies that foster minorities, creating a level playing field, thus reigning in corrupt politicians and their dirty tactics. This led me to think-----

Political parties may manipulate community groups and rely on vote banks to acquire or retain power and continue on with the cycle of corruption. This is definitely not good. But we cannot tackle the issue or outsmart corrupt politicians by simply getting rid of policies affecting minorities  and artificially creating a level playing field. Creating a level playing field is a great idea but not easy as one may think. The reason being, its not just economic disparity that is  in play here when we think of minorities and think of creating a level playing field. The social-cultural disparities are more deep rooted and tougher to tackle. The kind of mind set that still prevails (overtly or covertly, blatantly or subtly) towards the minorities, to say with the least bit drama is that it is shocking! Having had  lengthy conversations with my Dalit/minority/tribal friends, and when they talk about the prejudices they encounter in their daily lives it's not just difficult but inappropriate to think of quick fix solutions, especially the type that calls for doing away with policies that favor them. I draw parallels to the African American communities in the US. One would imagine as a progressive, developed society opportunities are found in a fair and square manner and that its a level playing field. But no, the truth  is far from it. When social prejudices remain deep rooted, it becomes tough to seek out opportunities even if the law prescribes all are equal and therefore all have equal opportunities.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Need to Get Away from Academics

The more I stick around the academic environment, the more I am convinced I must get away.  Here is the thing- There is nothing wrong with academics or sticking around in this environment. In fact it is a great place to formally acquire skills and knowledge that prepares you to understand the problems of the world and formulate solutions in a more balanced, structured, productive and effective way. But, once you feel you have acquired the skills then it’s important to decide whether to continue in the same environment or move to an environment that is more suitable to your goals and aspirations. This is a valid question one must ask oneself. The most natural transition (based on my observations) is to continue on the familiar path of academics, especially if you have spent a substantial amount of time in it, receiving formal training and receiving relevant degrees. I am such an individual who decided to continue on the journey just because the opportunity came and it seemed like a natural transition at the time. However, since then I have had the time to think and reflect and I have come to realize this is not what I want. I have enjoyed academics for the purpose it served- to help me develop skills and/or develop a sound theoretical base on the area that interests me. Once that has been reasonably accomplished (which is when you are generally conferred the degree) then how you utilize that knowledge is based on what drives you most. I have come to realize that I am a purpose/cause driven person. I feel motivated with the idea of using my skill/knowledge to be of use to someone and in situations where the outcome is more tangible and meaningful.

To put it in simple practical terms, I want to be out there with the people, on the field, facing issues head on, trying to  design and implement solutions, and experience the outcome process in person. I am not cut out for operating in a sterile, detached lab environment where your only access to the problem is through data sets and you ponder day in and day out on what to do with it, how to analyze it and what ideas or solutions can be generated out of it. My problem with this is not the process per se ( since it is integral to any research based solution), but how in the long run it gets reduced to the business of data collection, analysis, publication, citations, impact factors and h-indices. It becomes a rat race of career goals and moving up the academic professional ladder.  With the  occasional opportunity to teach a bunch of students, which perhaps gives you the chance to satisfy the notion of giving back or to be of some service, the academic environment does not evoke any desire or drive in me that makes me want to stay. I need to get away. *sigh*

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Annoyed and Reflective

So I  started watching the documentary "India's daughter" and could only do so for 15 mints. Too disturbing and I don't want to hear anymore the rapist asshole describing what he and his asshole buddies did to the poor helpless girl. I don't even understand why there is a stay or a debate on what to do with these animals. Just castrate them and hang them. As far as their defense lawyers and others who are arguing that the girl asked for it can take their moralistic fundas and shove it up their ass.

Now that my outrage is slightly under check I am in a self reflecting mood. I am in North America working in a research lab trying to understand and be part of solutions to local environmental problems (which I could also argue may have positive externalities with benefits beyond the immediate local). And yet, I feel this is not what I should be doing. My heart is totally elsewhere..elsewhere in terms of physical location and the kind of work I should be doing. Let me try and explain- Academics is great as you have a closer and quicker access to learn of a problem. It also helps you to think beyond the  immediate problem  and connect the dots; see the bigger picture or see how it's all connected and understand how prescribed solutions must consider both short term and long term benefits as well as consider its ripple effects. Now the trouble or rather the frustrating part is the time it takes from learning about the problem and understanding it to suggesting solutions that may potentially fix the problem. I just don't seem to have the patience for that. Also, you very rarely get to be part of the process of implementing your prescribed solutions. This makes me feel I am not contributing to fixing anything because by the time solution for one has been figured out a new problem has already cropped up. I suppose my point is I am not the kind of person to be sitting long hours reading, data crunching and analyzing, and just figuring out solutions. I am the restless kind who needs to be out, in the middle of the problem, working with the stakeholders, implementing the prescribed solutions in trying to fix the problem and perhaps use my academic background to evaluate and make improvements to the implementation process or provide more informed feedbacks. Despite having it all figured out in my head, I feel tied down and I don't know why.