Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Trying out Blogger Images

Hmmm ... I don't know how I could have missed this. I have wanted this feature ever since I started this blog - the ability to actually post images in my posts without having to link to images hosted elsewhere. Well done, Google/Blogger !

Let's see ... which pic should I pick? I guess graduation will have to do...

[PS: This is back in December '03 when I got my MS in Electrical Engineering. I am sort of proud of it even if my buddy Mike said "Meh! Real men get PhDs." I am working on that part. ]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


I am sure you have heard of Ms Mukhtar Mai, a genuinely brave Pakistani woman who was gang-raped on the orders of the local village council as punishment for her brother's "indiscreet" fraternization. This happened about 3 years ago and since then Ms. Mai has suffered even more ordeals - Being barred to travel abroad and tell her story, the rapists being acquitted for lack of evidence etc. But I don't want to talk about her admirable struggle itself in the face of such great odds (read the brilliant Nicholas Kristof's column here for more on that).

I want to talk about a quote from the "President" of Pakistan which pretty much sums up his feelings of apathy towards this iniquity. Upon being asked by the BBC to comment, he said "We are no worse than any other developing country".

Am I the only one who is appalled by this? That is his excuse? "No one else does anything, so why should we?" I am sorry if this seems like an overreaction but I don't think Mr Musharraf makes for a very good President, let alone a human being.

[Update: Looks like the Supreme Court is not as apathetic as the rest of the Pakistani government - it overturned the acquittals of the accused and gave orders for them to be retried at a future date. Ms. Mai's passport has also been returned to her.]

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Tigger Tribute

I just read on Google News that the amazingly talented ventriloquist Paul Winchell, who voiced my favorite character in the Winnie The Pooh [Warning: Flash intensive] series - Tigger. Tigger always made that show so upbeat and optimistic, even when Pooh and Piglet were down in the dumps.

Here's something I didn't know - Winchell was also the voice of Dick Dastardly of Dastardly & Muttley (I still remember that sneaky laugh) fame.

Here's to you, Paul. You made a lot of kids laugh in your lifetime ... a man can do a lot worse with his life.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pointless Indignance

I had decided that I would not be posting anything today. I had considered posting something when I finished watching the brilliant The Breakfast Club but I realized that most of you out there probably had not waited this long to see it and any kind of recommendation or praise I could muster up would be moot. So, I decided I would just go to bed and read.

What I am reading currently is the insightful collection of essays called "The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters" by the always brilliant and masterful William Dalrymple. This is Mr Dalrymple's second book about his experiences in India. The first one, one of my all time favorites, was City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, a fascinating read about his stay in the city that I grew up in. This second one covers almost the entire subcontinent.

This might look like a post about how wonderful the book is, and I wish it was since the book is quite wonderful. However, I am a little too angry to do any such post proper justice. I am reading the chapter about Vijayaraje Scindia - the late Rajmata (Queen Mother) of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior (now part of the state of Madhya Pradesh). She figured quite prominently in Indian politics during the 1990s. To call her a hardliner would be quite an understatement. She was one of the vice-presidents of the Bhartiya Janata Party, the political arm of the right-wing Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Association of National Volunteers).

Every year since 1989, various of the Rajmata's organizations had held an annual rally at the site of a disputed Mosque - the Babri Masjid - which, they claimed, had been built by invading Muslim rulers over the holy site of the birth of the Hindu god Rama. The purpose of such a rally was to perform sacred rites to indicate their intentions to rebuild the temple. On December 6, 1992, however, at one such rally, a vast crowd of 200,000 militant Hindus stormed the barricades and tore the entire Mosque down with ropes, pickaxes, hammers and even their own hands. They then attacked the local Muslim population and also the foreign correspondents at the scene with knives and iron bars.

This event itself is galling, but what makes be absolutely crazy is the behavior of this so called Queen. She, despite having signed a written pldege to the Indian High Court guaranteeing the safety of the mosque, was at a podium cheering and shouting encouraging words to the crowd over a microphone. Here are some other snippets from an interview taken by Dalrymple about 5 weeks later (during which the city of Bombay witnessed some of the worst acts ever performed by Indians against Indians since the partition in 1947 - 1400 Muslims died at the hands of local lynch mobs):

1) When asked whether she at least condemned the attacks on the journalists, she replied "Acha Hua" (it was a good thing that happened)

2) The Rajmata's political mentor, Sardar Angre, when asked to comment on the murders said that "The Muslims must be made to understand that they should be proud of Hindustan. Look at what happens at cricket matches: the Muslims always support Pakistan."

3) When Dalrymple mentioned that "... can hardly justify murdering people because they support the wrong cricket team", the Rajmata had the temerity to say, "Hindus are docile people. They always welcome anyone - even the Jews", and then nodded her head to emphasize that this was an act of extreme tolerance.

4) She later mentioned that "... if only the Muslims followed the Hindu ideology there would be no more trouble. They should accept our common culture and unite in the name of God."

I am literally at a loss for words. Words like these should not be uttered by any human being let alone a Queen and a servant of the people. I know I have been indignant about the state of Indian politics before and I know that it is pointless since reason is hardly a weapon that prevails when it comes to things like this. However, I cannot help being appalled that I belong to a country where such thinking is not only acceptable but also encouraged. You may tell me that people have moved on but frankly, I am not sure that things have changed. Even though the Rajmata has passed on, there is no shortage of intolerance and hate.

[ PS: I am a practicing Hindu and I do not believe that my God has or will ever ask for a drop of blood to be shed in his name. ]

[ PPS: This post borrows heavily from The Age of Kali. ]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Inimitable Al Pacino

Is there anyone out there who does not love Scent of a Woman? This cinematic gem blows me away every time I watch it. If the Academy had not pulled its act together and gave a very deserving Pacino his first (can you believe that?) Best Actor Oscar, I would have been mighty pissed.

You nailed it, Al.