Tag: india (page 1 of 2)


This is not so much a travelogue as it is a bunch of random thoughts penned in conclusion to my recent trip across the Switzerland of the East. I have always loved clouds and fog and coniferous trees, and I was surrounded by all these for the past few days. (This article only has a few photographs; you can find others on my VSCO journal which I will soon publish my VSCO journal entry.)

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Telangana etc.: why the Andhra Pradesh statehood movement is a hornet’s nest

Smaller states have generally been richer. The World Bank’s list of top countries by GDP put Luxembourg, Macau, Qatar, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland right at the top five, in that order. They are some of the smallest countries on Earth; in fact, the largest, Norway, is only the 61st largest, and most others fall around the 140th-160th mark.

Smaller states are also easier to govern. The population density is lower, the government can juggle funds better, generally everything becomes more transparent and understandable when we speak in millions rather than billion-trillions.

Conversely, larger states are easier to ignore. Larger land area means a greater risk of some regions being better looked after for no apparent reason other than proximity, geographic location, climate and such — none of which local residents have control over.

Enter KCR

One calm day of early December 2009, a 55-year-old Mehboobnagar MP, Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao, decided to go on a fast and take the country down with him. His fast was a weapon to etch the state of Telangana occupying 10 of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 districts. He also made sure that his hometown of Hyderabad would be included in the proposed state.

The main reasons given to justify the creation of a separate state were historic circumstances — Telangana spoke Telugu in times of Hyderabad state (1724-1948) — and the alleged suppression of Northern Hyderabad. KCR, as Mr K. Chandrashekhar Rao is popularly known, previously resigned from the Teugu Desam Party to form his Telangana Rashtra Samithi citing suppression as a reason.

Aren’t there other factors?

Although the Telangana movement started in 1969, and pulsated from 2004 to 2009, it was not until KCR stepped in that people began taking things seriously. The man is currently eyeing the chair of Telangana’s first Chief Minister and looking for complete credit for the formation of the state. The Andhra Pradesh reorganisation bill having been passed in both houses, all that remains is a mere formality — the president’s signature.

In spite of its several years of existence, the formation of Telangana seems more personal and emotional than carefully thought out. For instance, Telangana has opted to give up a coastline. It has lost power plants and three out of Andhra Pradesh’s four electricity distribution utilities. But supporters of Telangana should have learnt a thing or two from the exact opposite incident that happened with Chattisgarh: the newly formed state took home all of Madhya Pradesh’s major power plants and let the parent state lying with a need of literal rejuvenation.

Look around

Dire as it may seem, with Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh’s, special package of tax concessions and extra funds for underdeveloped parts of Seemandhra, finding a new capital and developing it in ten years will be easier than many think, simply because Seemandhra is not starting anew. Vishakhapatnam is an extremely suitable capital for the Southern Andhra Pradesh state, what with it being a major seaport and a fairly well developed city, infrastructure- and education-wise.

Ironically, Telangana is putting itself in a worse position, opting to start off with hardly any power sources, absolutely no sea port, landlocked between Chattisgarh, Orrissa, Seemandhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka — states with a combined population bigger than the United States; states with problems of their own that will be in no mood to assist Telangana’s growth.

If neighbour Chattisgarh or the mountaneous northern state of Uttarakhand at all inspired Telangana’s formation, it must be quickly realised that Telangana itself is really more akin to Jarkhand — once part of Bihar and now a struggling economy, while Bihar itself is growing pretty impressively (the state grew 12% in the last seven years).

Aftermaths the government ought to fear

What few fail to see is that doing practically anything with Andhrapradesh — now Telangana and Seemandhra — will inevitably provide a lease of life to nearly twenty-five statehood movements patiently waiting to erupt. A green light for Telangana will also be a green light for them to start making demands, fasting, dying (supposedly as martyrs) etc. Here is a map:

Statehood movements in India. Courtesy, Maps of India

Statehood movements in India. Courtesy, Maps of India

That would be like stirring a hornet’s nest. India will soon go from having 29 states to mothering over 35, should all uprisings have their way. This is definitely a hard matter to deal with, but only so long as political parties have vote shares in mind. Every state broken will leave a party with one supporting and one opposing state. A much better solution is to provide temporary funds exclusively to those parts who believe they are suppressed and then ensure better administration.

Statehoods are really quick and dirty solutions with short-term profit to the states themselves, that ultimately weigh down national economy on the  long run. With India’s population growth rate, Telangana’s current 35 million number will increase dramatically by the 2050s and the governing troubles that it faces today will return to haunt it.

The Economist suggests a “a new commission to decide how to reorganise states, for it would be a mistake to leave it to politicians always thinking about the next election.” If such reorganisation is indeed left to executive bodies, perhaps more promising puzzle pieces may be cut out of India, paying attention to resources and geography rather than personal trivialities. It is time everybody thought of the country as a whole, or risk sinking India into an abyss.

The sorry state of Indian politics: AAP v BJP

Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) attention-seeking has taken to new heights. When protests followed a 30 min detention of the party leader and then reverberated across three states, one was left wondering what all the fuss was really about. Mr Kejriwal’s breaking the election code of conduct, Mr Modi’s attempt at suppressing his political rival, or Mr Kejriwal’s desperate attempt to make people believe Mr Modi was trying to put him down?

Digging up the past

It seems any movement against Mr Kejriwal’s brief detention was uncalled for simply because the man has bigger problems: there are at least five well-documented cases against him, somehow happily ducking out of any court’s view.

And Mr Kejriwal’s over-ambitious plans to rake in all voters at all costs is proving increasingly irritable. Fellow leader, Yogendra Yadav’s, words sound almost silly, if not staged:

“Kejriwal was going and he had no flags or wasn’t with any candidate. He was not even doing any type of campaigning for polls. Police stopped him and took him to police station… If this kind of behaviour is given by Gujarat to a former Chief Minister of a state, I don’t know how Gujarat government is flaunting about the law and order of their state”

This all comes down to the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Mr Kejriwal may have had no flags or candidates on his side, but the “aam admi” that he is, he was traveling in a motorcade (which he probably reckons is a perfectly normal thing for a common man to do) and for somebody whose face is arguably quite familiar — even in Mr Modi’s home state — moving about so and stopping every now and then may be easily mistaken for political campaigning.

That also explains the cops’ 30 minutes long detention: (although purely conjecture at this point) it is not unlikely that they were merely clearing up matters.

Modi’s fear

It would not seem far fetched that conveniently being arrested in an arch rival’s state was benifical to Mr Kejriwal in more ways than one. He could, for instance, heroically tweet the following statement:

(His twitter account famously claims that a “political revolution in India has begun.”) Now, I would completely understand if Mr Kejriwal’s defense was that he was unaware of the election code of conduct. It was, instead, more a placement of blame than clarification of anything. Throwing stones and apologising rarely undoes the damage to BJP’s offices and the AAP itself, one of which is fast gathering a violent, anarchist-driven image for itself that it will soon find hard to shed.

Following this, Rupashree Nanda, a CNN IBN correspondent made the following tweet:

Firstly, the police has no political adversary. Secondly, being a former CM does not count under any law related to this matter. Thirdly, AAP has not presented any substantial evidence of BJP’s (or exclusively Mr Modi’s) involvement in what is a police decision. But AAP is not a stranger to such outrageous, unsubstantiated claims. Here, for example, is party member Manish Sisodia, who suffers from what those who did not know better might call identity crisis (he says he is not sure if he is “a politician, activist, reader, writer, journalist, or..” but is a follower of Gandhi):

Mr Sisodia is not the only follower of Gandhi in AAP. In fact, at some point or other, the whole party has probably made that claim. But they all seem to have dramatically mis-read Mohandas K Gandhi’s intention and approach. Also, having M.K. Gandhi’s grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi, in the party is not the same as having M.K. Gandhi’s support, but the “Gandhi” brand name is a trump card in AAP’s hand, most likely waiting to be dealt against Congress in the coming days.

A case of immaturity

The recent protests have highlighted the lack of differences between AAP and their so-called ideological rival, BJP. Mr Kejriwal’s apology does not strengthen his case. He previously rose to fame as a result of Gish galloping (as other parties claim) — or spreading, to use the more formal debating term — and now that that strategy has turned stale, the AAP, like any infant organisation, believes having the limelight on itself will help it race ahead in the coming election — particularly in Gujrath.

Mr Kejriwal had better times in places like Haryana, where his speeches were met with praise and applause. But Gujrath was always pro-Modi for whatever reason, and the fact that Mr Kejriwal was greeted with black flags on four separate occasions in four cities in Gujrath probably made him feel a lot more like Simon than Gandhi.

Many AAP members are acting as popularists, tweeting pictures and thoughts about places they visit rather than do anything about it. True, with 33 million users, India has the second largest presence on Twitter; but that would be painting a wrong picture. In earnest, 33 million is a mere 32% of India’s population. Now, remember that not all 33 million are active, and fewer still devoutly follow AAP, making the party’s reach a lot lesser than they believe.

But this is only one of many such trips and falls AAP is trying to veil with baseless accusations. As the party itself told the Daily Bhaskar of Gujrath, “During his first visit to the state, Kejriwal is likely to travel extensively in Gujarat for the first three days and on the fourth day address a public meeting in the city.”

I doubt addressing public gatherings would fall under any category other than campaigning.

Photographic grittiness: justifying what we leave out of the frame

This is one of those Ah, I’ve figured it out! moments you get when you think you stumbled upon the key to a secret treasure. Only, there are so many of them that this becomes just another I think this is how it’s done… maybe? moments.

It is alright if you followed none of that, because that flowed unchecked from the back of my mind. But I think what I have come to realise in framing a photograph today will cause me to make a pretty huge turn in my photographic endeavours.

Oftentimes I am guilty (as I am sure you are too) of leaving out certain things from my frame for whatever reason. But I think only about 60% of the time or thereabouts we do this for a real cause: composition, light, the whole assortment of technical reasons.

And then, the rest of the time, we leave it out because we just do not like it. A hanging wire, a cracked wall, a broken pane, a stray leaf, and the list can go on. These have come to be subconscious decisions of cleanliness rather than aesthetic. A cracked wall, many of us believe, will somehow wreck out photograph; that it will somehow make our photograph look like it stemmed from a poorer locale. The same with a broken window pane, for instance.

What I notice about many people shooting a country like India, is that they attempt to make it look better than it is. Indeed there are parts of the country’s urban belts that are no less modern, high in tech or global than a so-called first-world metropolis. But the other side of India — the one National Geographic is so fond of showcasing — is something many photographers shy away from.

The best illustration I can think of is when I made the photograph below. I decided to make the place look alive more than photogenic. But then I went ahead and made this photograph of the same place anyway, as a more artistic twist. (You can always see more on my portfolio. Also, the large building here is an oriental carpets store — wow!)

To make it look good or to make it look alive

To make it look good, or to make it look alive

I am just as guilty of this as the next fellow. In fact, I have seen far too many people who decided not to shoot a doorway because it was so common, so mundane. Or a wrecked old tonga because — what’s interesting about a wrecked old tonga? I think this is answered in much the same way as why Mr N!xau’s character from The Gods must be crazy was so taken aback by a Coke bottle and why you and I are not.

However, what interests a global audience (such as the one your photographs are subject to when uploaded to the internet) is precisely that which we think is commonplace. A metropolitan skyscraper, except for its geometric identity, is far less awe-inspiring to a global audience (who have probably seen a skyscraper in their own city, to say the least) than a stray buffalo.

But nobody really up and shoots a stray buffalo on camera, because… buffalo?

Perhaps that was all extreme, but one thing I have learnt from looking at so many legendary photographers make photographs of India is that they showed the country as it was, not as they thought it would be. But, more importantly, India here is only a namesake. In general, in all of photography, I think if we paid a little more attention to what we photograph than what we think we are photographing, the results would surprise us.

Art photography is highly subjective, so I do not expect somebody trying to weave, say, minimalism (myself included) to adapt this approach 24×7. But when we are trying to depict a place (as we do every once in a while) we ought to try to show it as it is, albeit through the magic of our lens and our eyes, being careful not to repaint it altogether. This may seem similar to abusing Photoshop but, trust me, this is far worse.

So I for one will make sure I include that little element I was too quick to judge as a defect because maybe it will enrich my photographs like I never thought before. How ever your edits end up, it’s time your compositions are bold and gritty.


Let us examine the abyss Indian politics is falling into

As I sat watching the news this morning, following the results of the recent state elections in North India, an interesting discussion began that lasted nearly four hours; one among the panel of experts speaking on the issue was my father.

Setting the stage

As the talks went on, right around the two-hour mark, what seemed quite apparent to me was that the possibility that the country was spiraling into an abyss was something few were prepared to accept.

Part of this, no doubt, was a direct result of the participation of party-representatives in the talk. There were times when they were quite defensive about their parties; but a few things that stood out were hard to deny.

Four states (Chattisghar, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) along with one nobody cared about (Mizoram) today elected representatives of their choice into state houses. But the voting was preceded by bizarre political campaigns and media-happy scandals, and voting day itself involved machines carrying a none of the above option.

A lesson in voting for anarchy

The thing about this weird none of the above option is that it is the very definition of futility in not one, but two, manners.

Firstly, why should voters opting for none of the above even bother to vote? After all, voting for nobody is effectively the same as not voting at all.

Here is a brief lesson in maths to illustrate my point: if 80 of 100 people in a town voted for three political parties and the exit polls rewarded them 20, 30 and 10 vote shares each, (in other words, adding up to 60 votes), then, clearly, the remaining 20 voted for none of the above. Had just the select sixty voted, the share would still have been 20, 30 and 10, making no difference.

Now, assuming this is meant to be more of a fashionable statement to make about allegedly corrupt political parties, what happens when an entire nation votes for none of the above. By all logic, it would be like voting out the concept of a leadership, an administration and governance itself.

Voting for none of the above is like voting for anarchy. If you think a none of the above win means the highest remaining candidate gets to govern (or indeed if you think there is any solution to that result), read this article released by the election commission of India. The action to be taken in such an event is still hazy.

Of mad hats and politicians

Red fezzes do not make Tommy Coopers out of unfunny comedians any more than Gandhian headdresses make symbols of spotless administration out of  self-proclaimed statesmen. Not even if the cap is shiny white.

The way I see it, to that 25% India which cannot read party names on ballot boxes , party symbols and placements on those boxes make a huge, unwelcome impact on election results. There is no reason why an illiterate tribal housewife from a remote corner in India should not pick “the broomstick option” simply because she identifies with it more than a palm or a lotus or an elephant.

Now available: anarchy!  Photo courtesy: Flickr/757Live

And this has greater impact that it appears at first, because, unlike in most other countries (see “American voter turnout in comparative perspective” by G.B. Powell, Jr, for example) Indian voter turnout comes from the poorer, likely less literate, section of the population than from the middle- or richer-classes.

New York University professor, Kanchan Chandra, in her study on ethnic voting argues in the following manner:

When survival goods are allotted by the political market rather than as entitlements, voters who need these goods have no option but to participate. […] Voters do not themselves have control over the distribution of goods. But by voting strategically and voting often, they can increase their chances of obtaining these goods

(This paper quotes Prof Chandra.)

Perhaps this was not the kind of influence India’s founding fathers reckoned  party symbols would one day command.

Politics is not all talk either

Shocking as it may seem, even the generic barber, whose in-depth knowledge of running a country while cutting hair is legendary, will falter once the chair is given to him. Running a country involves more than what idealistic principles and sheer disregard of administrative talents warrant.

Neither a mechanical degree from an IIT nor the Ramon Magsaysay award sufficiently speak of anybody’s, let alone Mr Kejriwal’s, ability to govern a country. But, once elected, his own party website states that they do not intend to decide things by themselves, but involve the country in these decision as well. But why paraphrase when you can quote?

In a true democracy The people have the power. Governments should be responsible to the people, not the other way around. This is the goal of Aam Aadmi Party – to give the power back in the hands of the people of India. This is SWARAJ or self rule – but can it be done practically?
The answer is YES!
SWARAJ can be created in a fully democratic system and many countries in the world have done it.

(The out of place capitalisation of words such as “YES!” is as used on the AAP website as of the date of writing of this article. Clearly, AAP believes it is above the rules of common English grammar.)

Now I have a couple of problems with this statement, completely unrelated to grammar. Firstly, the AAP aims to “give the power back in the hands of the people of India.” Given that we vote for our leaders, we already have as much power in our hands as anybody in any country that votes for its leaders.

Secondly, AAP believs that “swaraj”, or self-rule, can be done practically. The problem with this claim is (and a brief peruse through any history book would have told them) that we have had self-rule (defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as the act of a country, a part of a country, or nation choosing its own government and controlling its own activities) and we have been following it earnestly for 65 years now. This would also render the last statement (that many countries have done it) moot.

Richard Nixon and Indira Gandhi at the arrival ceremony for Mrs Gandhi in the US, in 1971. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Other aspects of the party’s stated goals are also vague. For instance, they plan to “implement long overdue judicial reforms in order to create a judicial system easily accessible and affordable for all Indians”.

The party’s take on legislation involves an almost story-like quality, accompanied by no lesser than four accusations not backed by data of any sort (betrayal of trust, making unfair policies, making corrupt policies, and taking unilateral decisions):

The common men and women of India elect the MLAs and MPs and send them to Parliament. These chosen few then betray the trust of the common man and make unfair and corrupt policies and take unilateral decisions that affect the lives of millions of Indians.

There are also some fantastic ideas such as enacting a “Right to Reject law, wherein the common man does not have to wait for 5 years to remove a corrupt MLA or MP from office”, which seems geared towards promoting annual general elections in the coming years, and which will perhaps end up mimicking Karnataka’s suffrage of four elections in five years but on a nation-wide basis.

AAP, conveniently, speaks little, if anything, about things that matter, be it international relations, environmental sustainability or science. The party seems to be contesting for an anti-corruption squad than federal governance. Mr Kejriwal, for instance, cannot fast his way to a stronger Indo-US relationship.

Voting does not have to be a messy affair. Photo courtesy: Flickr/Tracy Hunter

Does this abyss have a bottom?

There is a reason why a government exists: 1.237 billion people deciding the fate of one nation is laughable, not to mention a royal pain in the neck. The fittest solution is to filter the system out so select, interested people whom other people trust are given the responsibility to govern and decide with the best interests of the nation in mind.

The solution to a corrupt set of these elected members is not to replace them with another potentially corrupt set of members. But it does not mean the system needs any correction either. If not in government, corrupt people will find other ways to feed their itching palms.

A system can always be worked around, and no system, over time, is foolproof. The intelligent solution lies in matching corruption with a consequence and surging forward. A jan lokpal is not the answer; in fact, it is an unnecessary cog in a wearing machine. The trick is to oil the machine, not throw more spanners at it.

In time, such idealistic thinking will become catch 22 situations. They will be fine examples of  “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”, or, “who will guard the guardians?”

 Cover image: Flickr/Yogesh Mhatre 


Revisiting the past: old beliefs with an old acquaintance from a remote village

Here is an article that justifies the title of a personal blog. This was a planned trip, made about a week ago, to meet an old acquaintance, that almost ended in futility — not to mention possible embarrassment.

It all starts roughly four decades ago (or more), when, as is still the custom in India, flower, fruit and vegetable vendors would roam the streets selling their goods. In a way, this is far more convenient than a trip to either the supermarket or the grocer’s. There was one such woman by name Bīramma.

During this trip, although I did not carry my camera, I managed to take exactly two pictures with my phone, very careful not to invade anybody’s privacy or turn them off. They have both been published below.

A glimpse into life in erstwhile Mysore

Often, anybody from two generations ago who lived in the heart of Mysore city, would tell you a thing or two about her; especially about her helpful nature, her hard working spirit and her trustfulness.

It so happens that ours was one of the houses she used to frequent, to sell, and later in the day, to rest herself before she traveled back home, or, in the morning, from home. Her journey was a good twenty-four kilometres in all, a tedious, time-consuming journey back in the day.

The peak of it all was when my grandmother decided to seat herself on the floor beside Bīramma — an act unseen, even if vaguely heard of.

There are two things most people still remember about this economically poor village woman. Firstly, that she had already lost her husband when she was in her agile youth: an indication of child marriage, as a few strongly suspected.

Secondly, that she was always ready to help no matter what the job. She was a fruit seller, a person who could look down upon a sweeper in yesteryear India; but Bīramma would substitute for the maid whenever it was necessary.

Thoughts on a prevailing class and caste system

Although urban India has come quite far from such class system (although it has not been completely abolished) remote villages, like the one Bīramma has lived in all her life, still hold social classes in high regard. By their own outlook, ours was one of the richer Brahmin family (Brahmin, yes, but rich — I wonder how they determined that!) and it was often more a privilege working for them than a chore.

Surprisingly enough, when we met Bīramma last week, after a nearly a decade, her first words, with a broad, grateful, smile on her face, were, “Do you know, now, that just like me, back when I was young, my daughter-in-law works in a Brahmin’s house.”

Had I been completely unconnected to my Indian roots, I would have scoffed at her naïvety. But what surprised me was how the rest of the village too (I learnt this on talking briefly with a couple of them) considered her privileged. Indeed, the most shocking part was the fact that her next generation, her three daughters-in-law, too consider the situation in the same light.

A lake in Bīramma's village.

A lake in Bīramma’s village.

When we arrived there, we went into the house of a Bīramma, introduced by a friend of a friend of a watchman elsewhere in the city, who was originally from the same village, only to find out she was the wrong one. We quickly doubled back, by which time we had an audience around our car, and word floated to us that another Bīramma lived in the same village, further North.

The second time was the charm. My grandmother — who was the one who originally knew her — and her friend of 70 long years, Evelyn M. (without her spectacles and Bible), were the ones Bīramma connected to first. By her own admission, I was a young lad of a couple of years when she decided to stop coming to the city owing to her fogging eyes and weakening joints.

The times

At no more than 65 to 70 years of age, Bīramma, who, like a multitude of other villagers who could not care less about their birthdays, believes she is 95. Her first reaction on seeing her old acquaintances were tearful eyes filled with overwhelming gratitude. That soon morphed into pride as she realised everybody around saw that a bunch of city folk had travelled all the way from the city (really, just 12 km; I cycle much longer than that) just to visit her. She must be important.

And she probably was, as any foreigner to the conversation that presently went on, such as myself, would deduce. The peak of it all was when my grandmother decided to seat herself on the floor beside Bīramma — an act unseen, even if vaguely heard of. And talk rumbled from health to old times, and on to older times and still older ones that otherwise existed only in aging books on social commentary.

A long talk was warranted

A long talk was warranted between Bīramma (left) and my grandmother.

Quite a while later, we suggested it was time to leave. That face filled with gratitude once again and allegedly 95-year-old Bīramma saw us back to our car. In a stark contrast of falling youths, two grumpy-faced boys from the village carelessly honked and sped past the old woman even as she shuffled to the safety of her small house.

An experience

The day was short, the trip was a spur of the moment decision, but what came of it, and what I — and I daresay everybody else — witnessed, was something to carry with us. We have probably all had experiences of the sort; they were not so much touchy than eye-opening or just very singular in a good way.

I expected to see a happy, short reunion at best, but what in I did see, happiness and brevity were subtexts. There was something more. It brings to mind words from Randy Pausch’s The last lecture: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”


Adjectives and substance: a five-minute guide to running a nation

Running a nation is easy. Just ask your barber.

These few thoughts popped up in my mind when I was watching a debate on national television this evening about the raging something in India. The reason I say something is because nobody knows what the biggest reason is that they are fighting for.

As far as I could ascertain, the main reason was that the peoples’ money was stolen which actually made it seemed like they cared. And then somebody else thought it fit to butt in: innocent men, women and children were lathi-charged. That has become a cliche; far too cliched a statement to tolerate for my own small part. Yet another argument circled around the probability that some ffigureheads were leading India to anarchy. And, parenthetically, came the argument that this was indeed the fall of democracy.

But democracy falls when it has first stood up. Perhaps it was the joy of having gained freedom that gave leaders that impression, or perhaps those who really understood were shot thrice in the chest at close-range.

Whatever the reason, in my own opinion, leaders nowadays are a waste of my time because they use the media as the announcers of their personal beliefs.

My own stress on the proper use of english language is not unknown to the people around me. I think, therefore, that when one is talking in public, he has a certain standard to maintain and certain responsibilities to be conscious of.

The foremost of these (and I will not waste time by examining any more of them) is the proper use of adjectives. I think the public speak which is most ideal insofar as an honest opinion is concerned is one that has an almost complete drought of adjectives.

The adjective is the result of a conspiracy between the grammarian and the devil to alter people’s minds. And it has become the politician’s tool to run the nation. And when the nation is filled with a majority of frail minds, the work becomes that much easier. He need not even bother sharpening his tool after a certain point.

The true, even if idealistic, approach to this would be short, brief sentences that hit the nail on the head. This introduces substance and almost automatically slams aside the frightening use of adjectives.

What we need is substance, not adjectives. Not drama, certainly not melodrama.

So, for the senior lawyer who saw fit to call the ruling party a lot of thugs, it is wise advice from my part to learn the meaning of the word discretion as quickly as you humanely can.

To Mr Rajinikanth, from nowhere

Mr Rajinikanth is lying in an Intensive Care Unit bed as I type this. He is, it is needless for me to say, one of the most iconic actors in the Indian Film Industry. His impossible stunts, his funny dialogues bordering on the silly, and his unbelievable visual effects all through a film are, in the pith, not what made him the man he is today.

Anybody, you and I included, can cut a speeding bullet in half or score twelve runs in one ball in a game of cricket–on the silver screen. But what made Rajini (as he is popularly known) the star he is today, and what kept him there more importantly, was his character. Read more →

On the honourable Indian road laws

The reason why Indian road laws are so honourable is because, to a new visitor, they humbly make themselves inconspicuous, bordering on invisibility. On further examination it becomes clear that they do not exist. At least they are no longer in active practice. Read more →

Munnar and INO: Day 3

Today is my last full day at Munnar. Tomorrow morning I head further south to the proposed India Based Neutrino Observatory site near Theni, Tamil Nadu. While the first half of today I spent mostly in the resort, typing, reading &c. I spent most of the later part of the day driving around the mountains, exploring parts–or rather paths–that I had only been to a few years back when I had spent about four days in this very place, in this very resort and in a room neighbouring the one I had been in previously. Like the last two posts, here are the pictures:

[You can also see Days 1 and 2 here: ?Day 1 ?Day 2]

Munnar and INO: Day 2

Nothing much went on today. Remember that lovely thing from yesterday? Well I decided I can’t forget it. So I’ll live with it. And yet, do not ask me to expand on it.

I awoke and typed out a couple of pages of my script and then readied myself quickly to do nothing through the day. I decided that since I was on a holiday, I would rather do nothing (by nothing I refer to writing my script and reading some books) than go sightseeing. The point in taking a vacation is to cut yourself off from your daily schedule, not make things more rigid. So I was at my informal best and seemed to like it.

By afternoon, I was hoping to go out at least for an hour or two so I set off on a drive. Not stopping where everybody does or visiting places tourists frequent, rather just driving. It looked like six o’clock when it was actually three and began raining like I was in a rainforest. It happens. And not everything  can go right all the time.

So these were some pictures I managed to click with my tablet. (My camera wisely chose to stay back home.)

[Also visit ?Day 1 and Day 3?]

Munnar and INO: Day 1

Today, at 3 o’clock in the morning, (I am not very certain of the time because I’d just awoken and I have absolutely no idea if I even glanced at my watch!)  I readied myself and set out on my four-day trip to Munnar, a hill station in Kerala, South India–popularly called the Switzerland of the East–and a quick drive by the proposed site of the India-based Neutrino Observatory which lies near here.

I am a travel fanatic and I’ve been wanting to get certain (lovely) things out of my mind lately and relax; and then I’m an aspiring physicist: anybody can put two and two together to realise this is quite the dream vacation for someone like me. There’s the serene, tranquil ambience of this beautiful, almost untouched place which lies in the range of the tallest mountain peak in India, south of the Himalayas. Added to this is the world’s largest experiment on neutrinos being planned nearby, which appeals to the physicist in me; and I think it’s a place any physics enthusiast would want to see even if not participate in. I am in no position to do that right now, considering my somewhat limited knowledge. Read more →


A view that captured me on my way to Munnar. Majestic is the one word I could associate with this. Part of the Munnar ranges in Kerala, this is actually the foothills of the set of mountains that rise over halfway through the height of Mt Everest. You can read more about my trip to Munnar and the proposed INO site here.

View other Shutter: photographs here.


A ship anchored near the coast of GoaThis is a ship I happened to spot anchored a walkable distance (if you could walk on water) from the last sand in the Goan coast in India. It was a silt remover which was to be decommissioned soon, we learned from the captain. The picture really does not do justice to its size. How large was it? Try to figure it out yourself: the length of the vessel from the blue chimney you see to the extreme left end is the length of an average Indian main road. Not the breadth, but length. Is its sheer size alone not mind-blowing?

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