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Mon, May. 19th, 2008, 09:11 am
Blatant bid to swindle

The Tamilnadu Chief Minister Mr.Karunanidhi's steadfast insistence on the construction of Sethu Samudram project and his sidekick, the Central Environment and Shipping minister Mr.T.R.Baalu's enthusiasm and energy for this project are a blatant bid for swindling billions of public money with scant respect for the eco-sensitivity of the region.

We cannot ofcourse expect a modicum of impartiality from the Oxford educated prime-minister or his Harvard-educated Finance minister or Congress supremo Ms.Sonia Gandhi or even the even-handed Communists, who stick on to power without a fig leaf of concern for the future.

Fri, Apr. 11th, 2008, 07:22 pm
Deeper malaise

The Supreme Court of India's verdict in favor of providing reservation to OBCs is welcome, but not for the panacea that the Indian politicians say that the verdict will prove to be.

The verdict acknowledges Indian Constitution's obligation to "preserve and promote the essence of equality, so that disadvantaged groups can be brought to the forefront of civil life." It also clarifies that Article 15(4) (Power to make special provisions for any socially and educationally backward class and Scheduled Castes and Tribes) and Article 15(5) (extending the special provisions to educational institutions) are not contradictory. This observation could be because statistically speaking, all those who are covered in 15(4) will be covered in 15(5) too.

The verdict is welcome not so much for upholding reservation but for instructing the State to remove Creamy Layer from the purview of reservation. This is important because the hallowed portals of esteemed institutions are now thrown open to the really deprived. The creamy layer among the OBC (and even SCs/STs) do not have any disadvantage compared to the others and hence they can compete on an equal footing. The socialistic principles of our consitution are restored by excluding creamy layer. By excluding creamy layer, the judiciary has stressed that reservation is needed, but only for those who absolutely need it.

Politicians will find ways to subvert the creamy layer law. People, dishonest as they always are, will have no qualms about declaring abysmally low incomes and will thereby get themselves in the ambit of reservation. This is evident when one looks at how many small scale businessmen pay taxes in India.

More than the verdict, more than the questions whether IIT or IIM will lose their sheen, what is important is the question raised by the judiciary if there is any beneficial effect of reservation.
Why is the State reluctant to identify which castes among the OBCs or SCs/STs keep garnering the benefits of reservation ? Why is the State not committed to the upliftment of the real downtrodden among the OBCs ? Even the role-model theory proposed by Sanjeevi Guhan supporting the inclusion of creamy layer does not hold water, in my opinion, because a poor country like India cannot afford to pamper role models at the expense of the deprived millions.

So where does this leave those who are outside the ambit of reservation ? I do not want to answer this question because what is happening in India now is not injustice against the upper castes. What is happening is symptomatic social engineering. I stress the word symptomatic because the seats present in higher educational institutions are statistically insignificant.

What the Government is doing is evading the real issues like price rise and farmers' debts and diverting the public's attention to issues that won't have any impact on the poor. The Government has miserably failed in bailing out the poor. In the 1940s, the poor were dying of famines. Now they are committing suicides or drinking liquor or watching movies. The opium administered has changed. And like movie or liquor, the reservation issue is yet another tool to make the poor forget what is (not) being done to them.

Fri, Mar. 21st, 2008, 04:15 pm

This article in Economist laments that the state of mathematics education in the US is in doldrums. It says that the US maintains it's lead position in the research output in pure Math by importing talent from other countries and says that the future is bleak if this run continues.

More interestingly the article talks about the anti-intellectual culture in the US and contrasts it with that in the EU.

My thought is that may be the anti-intellectual climate (if any) in the US is probably the attraction to the top talent that migrate from else-where...that and the fact that much of the top talent doesn't have problems communicating in English and it's hope in the goodness of the English culture...the attraction to US will not fade away due to abstract anti-intellectualism or whatever...the American dream is sold big to the rest of the world and I guess that a lot of it is true too...as long as the population in the US does not reach a critical point of "No more immigration", it can thrive...even after reaching the critical point, there will always be innovative INS ideas like "Going Home schemes" for the not-so-useful immigrants where they will be sent back with lots of attractive goodies...So I don't see a threat for another couple of centuries unless some politician tries to play with emotions of xenophobia.

On the other hand, the over-selling of anti-intellectualism may scare away the top talent...on more thinking, one may come to a point where one thinks that there is something self-destructive in the US education system that gives an edge to the foreigners...but I guess the system is not yet there at that nadir.

Mon, Mar. 3rd, 2008, 06:19 pm
Sujatha - a tribute

Sujatha, the Tamil writer, passed away last week. It was known that he was not keeping great health ; he had written about his cardiac surgeries a few
years ago. But it was still a shock to me because I did not expect that someone who was so young at heart would die so soon. 73 was
not a grand old age for someone like him.

Rangarajan, the writer, assumed the pseudonym Sujatha when he started writing in 1962. He wrote in Tamil. Thousands of Tamil people
have read his works and many more certainly have heard about him. It is very difficult to grasp the personality of someone like Sujatha.
The term "writer" is just a convenient, imperfect way to encapsulate the genius that existed inside his thin physical frame.

The first time that I heard about him was in 1990 when my uncle asked me to read a short-story written by him in Kalki. The O.Henry kind of
twist baffled me then. That was just the beginning of a long, intervallic, continual literary encounter with the master. A lot of these
encounters were the articles that he wrote in Tamil weekly magazines. The man could write just about anything. He was an engineer and
retired as Director from Bharat Electronics Limited. Now the superset of his scientific education and proficiency in Tamil would
still not capture Sujatha's personality, even in a nutshell.

Sujatha's genius spanned a range of subjects where he could delve and explain at the level of an expert but in the terms that a lay man would use.
I have read articles that he had written on philisophy, psychology, computers, neuro-science (!), cardiology,
nephrology, ancient Tamil poetry, modern Tamil poetry, Srilankan Tamil poetry, metaphysics, Relativity, electronics...

The man was a genius, someone who I could not envy, admire or comprehend. I could only just read, observe and come to terms with the fact that such
"creations" do exist...just like the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas...you don't question them, you just wallow in their grandeur and forget yourself.

Sujatha wrote hundreds of novels, stories, poems, Haiku, articles, articles and articles...just anything under the sun. His humor was subtle, an
acquired taste.

And then ofcourse his involvement in movies ; he was there in filmdom from the mid-seventies until the latest Rajinikanth flick Sivaji. He worked
with Shankar for the movie Robot even in death-bed.

His contributions towards the spreading of Alwars' divine ancient Tamil verses are legendary. He had memorized all the 4000 songs of the Alwars.

In "translating" ancient Tamil poetry to modern Tamil but in retaining the grammatical rules in toto, Sujatha left a new trail for everyone to follow.

A great man who will be greatly missed, we can only be grateful that someone like him ever existed.

Thu, Feb. 21st, 2008, 05:06 pm
Basic Instinct

It's official. The default position is to believe in God. So does denying God mean that one dehumanizes oneself ? The answer is not a flippant one -- if one were to say that there are so many humane atheists, it is possible that the atheists are trying to prove a point by "living up" to the believers. As I said, the answer is not an easy one.

Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008, 07:19 pm

If something as complex as a human language can be institutionalized and taught to every sane person, as it is done today, to me it means that *any* skill -- however nerdy -- can be taught to everyone.

Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008, 07:03 pm

I don't understand the excitement over Obama. The only president who seems to have made an impact, is, of course, Mr.Bush. And how !!

Wed, Jan. 30th, 2008, 03:41 pm

It's quite a bit of gap. It's more than a month now.

I have switched jobs.
I have been making more attempts
towards spiritualism.
I have been denying myself certain simple pleasures.

I think that I am growing up. It is a good way to start a year.

Wed, Dec. 26th, 2007, 12:44 pm

When I was 7 or 8 years old, there was this translated weekly episode of a Malayalam novel published in the Tam weekly "Saavi". The novel was "Krishna Parundhu", written originally in Malayalam by P.V.Thambi (translated into Tam by Sivan). I sporadically read a couple of episodes. The plot,set in a time may be a hundred years ago in Kerala, is about black magic practised by a few illustrious families there. I was dead scared then and said to myself that I would grow up and read the novel after that.

Last week, in a nearby lending library, I got this novel (2 volumes) and read it. P.V.Thambi describes the Kerala social set-up in great details. He says he spent many months interacting with sorcerers and such people to understand black magic and how it was put to use. The novel also explains the unique, matriarchal set-up in Kerala.

There are many interpretations that one can draw from the novel regarding the ethics and reality of black magic and also the larger questions that evolve (fate, free-will, to what extent black magic is effective etc.). But such conclusions are quite subjective and I am not going to dwell on such things here.

More than the exotic happenings explained by the narration, it is the social life of the ordinary people caught in the circumstances described by P.V.Thambi that has been keeping me occupied...those details are more exotic...

On the whole a fulfilling experience.

The novel was also made into a Malayalam movie starring Mohanlal, in 1984 (the original Malayalam version of the novel appeared in 1984, I think)

I am into Tamil novels, greatly, these days.

Fri, Dec. 14th, 2007, 08:35 pm
Say cheese

Making cheese requires using something that can be obtained only by killing a calf. Indian vegetarians need to make note of this.

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