Vantage point

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Only Good Thing About Pirates 3

I was watching Pirates 3, wishing the world would really end. Not surprisingly, I fell asleep an hour into the movie. When I woke up, the screen was occupied by a regal looking desi guy with a lot of promise. Imagine going to sleep in the worst movie of all time and waking up to find a compatriot pirate? So the only good thing about the movie?

Has to be Sri Sumbhajee, the desi pirate with the squeaky voice. Please please, someone make a movie about the life and times of Sri Sumbhajee. Even a cheesy Tam movie will do. Vijayganth in and as Sri Sumbhajee!

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Another Thompson

Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, and now Fred Thompson. Media-created superstars. Thompson of course, in the political arena. He is about to put all speculation to rest by announcing his candidacy. Excuse me while I barf in my predictability barf bag.

And seriously, do they expect any significant results for a guy who thinks having a vlog-war with Michael Moore is a macho thing to do?

All this speculation is pointless. I am writing this post just so that I can goat in february about having been right. The Republican candidate for 08 is Mitt Romney. Doesn't make me happy, but doesn't make me as sad as the idea of Giuliani or McCain having a shot at the top job.

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Advantages of Knowing Marathi

A few weeks back I had a fun debate/discussion/argument with a friend of mine whom I burden with the "post-modernist" label, much to his chagrin and dislike for labels. He was trying to convince me that the dying of languages other than english was a tragedy of catastrophic nature. He argued passionately that unless "we"/the state/media/society/flying spaghetti monster do something about it, more and more Indian children will grow up without being able to speak their mother tongue. And that would be a travesty. I didn't buy his prediction, much less his evaluation of the consequences.

But this weekend, I learnt the immense value in knowing marathi, and the unlikely location was Union Square. Now most of Manhattan is refreshing because it is so different from the standard template of urban layout, cultural make-up, fashion sense, and etiquette that one gets to see all over the United States. In the rest of the country, each of us is a single cell in the great body of the American nation, purged of parasites. Manhattan is one of the exceptions. But Union Square is even more uniquely kitschy.

And there aren't many ways to have more fun than just sit on the stairs in Union Square with a friend and pass comments behind people's back right to their face. It is possible only because I know a language that no one within earshot could likely know. Whether it was the disinterested and clearly stoned chinese girl dressed like a fairy with a stack of promotional pamphlets, distributing them at the frequency of 1 every 10 minutes. Whether it was the black guy so insecure about his blackness that he was wearing black clothes, black bandana, black wrist band, black shades, black shoes... almost ensuring that not a single photon emanated from him. Or whether it was the scraggly looking men hustling others in, of all the possible games, chess. The joy that their mere kitschy presence bought was multiplied by the ability to offer a running commentary about all of them, thanks to both me and my friend speaking marathi.

Successive generations, which know only English, will be robbed of such a joy. And that indeed is a gargantuan travesty.

FedEx is similar to the Bombay Dabbawallahs

Now that's disarmingly cute attitude for you.

“There is a service called FedEx that is similar to ours — but they don’t deliver lunch,” said one dabbawalla, Dhondu Kondaji Chowdhury.

More good press for the Mumbai dabbawallahs, now in the New York Times. The simple ingenuity is mind-boggling.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Very innovative viral marketing campaign for the next batman movie. And what a brilliant way to get people to voluntarily give you their email IDs for your database!

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Review of Khel Shuru

Khel Shuru has been marketed as a "different" NRI film, so much so that it has been produced by a company called Differential Films. Its positives are that it is indeed different. It does not have any of the stereotypical humour, wisecracks about grad student life, or H1B visas, FOB vs ABCD clashes etc that one usually expects in an NRI film. The filming location, presumably a jungle in Ohio, is very picturesque. And the movie is just 90 minutes long. Unfortunately, the positives end there.

It is not enough to just be different from the mainstream. It is not enough to just mechanically make sure that you have implemented learnings from every lecture in film school. You need a gripping narrative, particularly when you pitch your movie as a suspense thriller. You need slick editing. You need good performances. And you need to make sure your 90 minute movie does not seem like a 90 hour ordeal.

The film-makers, in their zeal to be different, probably tried to inject too much into the movie. Male bonding and unbonding, intra-group romantic permutations, nostalgia, Mithun jokes, coincidences, innuendo, a bizarre and quite frankly meaningless coming-out-of-the-closet moment, and a lot more that just whizzes by. The film tastes like a bhelpuri gone wrong.

One can almost hear the writers think to themselves - "we nee to flesh out the characters.. we need to flesh out the characters... we need to flesh out the characters...". It seems like they were too focused on the fact that they were fleshing out the characters to actually make sure this fleshing-out was meaningful. It seems like whoever was writing the back-stories just lost interest midway. At the end of the movie, the characters seem like half-drawn stick people abandoned by a kindergarten kid.

The story itself is extremely predictable. From the trailers and the previews, you know what is going to happen. Seven friends, playing a gambler's version of hide and seek, run into some gangsters who look like they will kill them. A twist towards the end is to be expected. But this very twist, the supposed coup-de-grace which could have salvaged the meandering film, is extremely bizarre. And I don't mean "bizarre" in a Charlie Kaufman or David Lynch way. I mean bizarre in the way vegetable korma at a 5-dollar Indian lunch buffet is bizarre.

About the performances, the less said the better. I am not going and looking up the names of all the actors because I don't have the heart to trash each of them personally.

In conclusion, the movie just ended up seeming like one of those mis-shapen bowls or ashtrays that your aunt who passionately took a pottery class made and gifted you with a proud twinkle in her eye. You politely say, "Thanks, it's nice" and later tuck it away at the back of the closet hoping to never find it. I hope the memory of having watched this movie recedes into the folds of my brain in much the same way.

P.S. - Oh, there was another positive, sort of. The movie has been released on google video for $ 1.99. If you have a fast enough internet connection, it is an excellent way to watch a movie. Other off-beat film-makers with a meagre budget could try this distribution channel to reach a wider audience.

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Pakistan's very own Waco?

Pardon the cliche, but the chickens are finally coming home to roost in Pakistan. A little too much home. Right in the spic-n-span articifical reality capital Islamabad. The crisis over the Lal Masjid has all the makings of being Pakistan's very own Waco. I mean strictly as a news story of course, not in terms of what happens.

What Pakistan has done in Baluchistan would make Waco look like a school picnic. But then Pakistan was always more about Punjab and Sindh. No one anywhere gave a damn about the Baluchistan massacres. It was too far away to affect us, so India didn't give a damn. It had no oil, so the US government didn't give a damn. And Baluchistan isn't buddhist, so the US media didn't give a damn.

This stand-off, thrillingly enough, is happening right in Islamabad. Extremists are showing the Pakistani army the finger right in their very den. This should be good. Get the pop-corn.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Relativism in Freedom

I love Spiderman. And I love freedom. Which is why I get bugged when people mangle the comic books' most famous quote to come up with an aphorism they think is axiomatic - "with freedom come responsibilities".

No! Please! Stop! Shut up!

Giving in to this hyphenation of freedom and responsibilities is the first step towards the erosion of freedoms. These people should realise there is a difference between "responsibility" and "discretion". Sure, it is wise to exercise discretion while we express ourselves. But that does not mean we have some kind of responsibility. Responsibility implies an obligation. And a freedom saddles with an obligation is not freedom. It is not a right. It is a privilege. And the very idea of free speech being a privilege instead of a right sickens me.

We live in a world where free speech is often under attack, legally or through mob violence. In such times, when there is an attack on free speech by people who are "offended", you would usually expect right-minded individuals to condone this attack and speak up for free speechh. And it happens. But then, depending on ideological bent, we also have apologists. The "But-ers".

These but-ers will say, "Yes, this attack on free speech is despicable. I oppose violence. I support free speech. BUT...!!!" and following the BUT is a very dangerous slippery slope - an argument which basically says, "with freedom comes responsibility... blablabla". At least to me, and this may sound like an extreme analogy and it probably is, this is analogous to people who say, "It was sad that the woman was raped. The rapist should be punished harshly. But she should not have been walking home alone at night."

Now here's something funny. Two guys who are not exactly the best of friends. Two guys who are in opposite ideological camps. And two guys who, I daresay, never agree on anything. And yet when each one does the but-ing, on two separate occasion, they are making the same basic point. Hilarious. I know both will be offended I am comparing them to each other. So apologies to both. But notice the similarity in the import of the following.

Dilip D'souza, after the Danish cartoon controversy wrote -

A friend is a free-speech fundamentalist, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. With him, it's crystal clear: the right to free-speech trumps anything else. No buts. I admire the man for that clarity of thought. I wish I could say the same about myself.

Thing is, I can't. I believe in free speech, but I'm troubled by its implications.
You can say till you're blue in the face that the protesters are stuck in medieval times. You can also say till you're blue in the face that they do not understand the intellectual traditions that make Westerners -- some Westerners -- cherish that freedom above all.

The whole point is, these things matter not at all. The cartoons were offensive to people who believe the Prophet cannot be depicted, period. (Let alone caricatured). And those people reacted to that depiction, some with threats and actual violence.
In this place where the implications of free speech are troubling, that's where. Because if your freely expressed speech offends someone, that someone is going to react, and claiming freedom of speech will not switch that reaction off.

And so I think the lesson here is about consequences and responsibilities. You express yourself, whether via cartoon or protest, you had better be aware of the consequences. Free speech is a great power, but like all great powers, it comes with responsibilities. Protest is just as great a power, but it too comes with responsibilities.

Which means: I will defend a cartoonist's right to draw whatever the hell he wants to. But if he wants to draw something that will profoundly offend someone, I will tell him he should not do it.

Sandeep, wrote recently with regard to the Baroda art exhibition imbroglio

Freedom of expression (artistic or otherwise) can never be absolute. It comes with responsibility. You cannot claim freedom to insult a community’s deeply-held beliefs, symbolism, etc and then, yell murder when the community members protest. When you hold your freedom of expression as sacred, you should be willing to acknowledge, and respect others’ sacred space.
The extreme argument that freedom of expression is supreme denies basic human emotions. It is tyranny in another name: you don’t have a right to be offended because it goes against the principles of free expression. Lest you fire me for being undemocratic, anti-freedom, anti-whatever, I fully support people expressing themselves in whatever acceptable, creative, decent, proper and sedate form they see fit. But there’s a limit to that freedom. Responsibility, as I said earlier.

There’s no absolute right or freedom to cause absolute offence.

Yes, Dilip's post is genteel and measured, while Sandeep is shooting from the hip. Funnily enough though, they are both essentially saying the same thing - underlining the "BUT".

That's the thing about relativism in freedom. It gives debating fodder to those who are being apologists for intolerant attacks on free speech. No matter which ideological camp they are in, these caveat arguments are identical. Which is why whenever I hear words like "implications", "limits", "responsibilities", mentioned in the same line as "freedom", I cringe. Whether the writer is a supporter of hindutva like Sandeep, or critic of hindutva like Dilip, I cringe.

Because they don't realise how fast caveats to freedom can snowball and swallow them up.

So fellas, on behalf of freedom and on behalf of Ben Parker, please! Stop!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Officially Cool

Fellow Cartelian Shruti Rajagopalan is now officially cool.

Yaar => Dude

When was it exactly that "dude" replaced "yaar" in the urban Indian lexicon? Not that I mind. Just curious.

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O Mi Gawd

Dear Sachin

Heard about your century against Bangladesh and immediately said to myself, "Hope he doesn't gloat over this and "answer his critics"". Sadly, you have done just that without realising how pathetic you look doing that. Things have come to such a pass that a man who would stay humble even after exploits against the strongest teams in the world, feels compelled to strut smugly like an ageing peacock when he scores a hundred runs against Bangladesh.

You said you don't have anything to prove to anyone. Could you please act like you mean it? Sure, they say everyone still thinks of you as a 17 year old kid. It is sad to note that you were twice as mature and dignified at 17 as you are at 34.

Seriously, stop tarnishing your own legacy. I am not of the opinion you should retire. You certainly have a few more years of cricket left in you. But I am of the opinion that you should stop acting like a complete twat.

Your Fan


Friday, May 18, 2007

Use Blackle, Save The Planet

Now what do you do when you hear news like this? Some guys apparently calculated that if the google page were black instead of white, it would save 750 MWH of energy every year. This is because displaying white requires more energy as compared to black. Promptly, a customized version of google cropped up called Blackle.

This page lists the energy expended while displaying various colours. As you would notice, red and blue also burn more energy than black. So here's an idea for Robertson et al. to write a follow-up paper. Estimate how much energy was saved (and will be saved) by introducing the black suit plot in Spiderman 3.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

God Be Damned

The Uttar Pradesh elections wrapped up while I was on vacation and Mayawati's BSP stormed to a majority. Having lived in UP under her as well as Mulayam's regime, I welcome the result. I hate the Mulayam and his party more than I hate even the CPM.

But this post is about something else. Mayawati is an atheist and has ranted against god and religion on many occasions. Yet she has been elected Chief Minister once again. It is interesting that even though religion does play a big role in Indian politics, the religiousness of political leaders is not an issue at all. No one knows about how often our leaders go to the temple/church/mosque and no one seems to care. Even though most Indians are deeply religious. I guess because in India it is not religion that is really the issue. It is religious (or caste) identity.

By contrast in America, you can not be a successful politician unless you wear your religiousness on your sleeve. And it is not just the christian right that I am talking about. Even the San Francisco liberal speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, makes a big show of her devout Catholicism. In fact there is apparently only one Congressman who openly says he is an atheist (I forget his name).

The religiousness of politicians is not an issue in most European countries either. Yet it is a big deal in America. And it is a big deal in the Islamic world.

That's funny. The only places where your religiousness is necessary for your political success are the Muslim countries and the United States of America. Heh.

Another Assault on Freedom

I have been travelling for the past week or so, and missed the plight of Chandra Mohan, an art student from Baroda arrested under the medieval Sec 295(a). In a scene straight out of a dystopian novel, VHP goons came and attacked his exhibition, then the police turned up, and instead of arresting the goons, arrested Chandra Mohan.

Chandra, now out on bail, has spoken out for the first time.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mastermind with a Twist

All Mastermind fans, and even non-fans will love this sketch by Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker

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Answers to Another Quiz

Months ago I posted some questions from a quiz I conducted in Pune. I forgot all about it until recently when a reader mailed me demanding I post the answers. So here are the answers. Sorry, but I won't be able to tally everyone's responses and declare who "won". But you are all winners anyway. I am the loser for sitting on the answers so long. So here goes.

1. Martin Speckter, the head of an advertising agency and an advocate of precision in communication, put forth the idea for this punctuation in an article in 1962. It was supposed to convey in print an attitude of curiosity and wonder. The Wall Street journal in an editorial in the same year called the idea exactly right for a statement like "Who forgot to put gas in the car". What name did Speckter give this punctuation?

Interrobang. This question was a reference to the BCQC's quiz blog.

2. What is Hebrew for "one to whom the commandments apply"?

Bar Mitzvah, which is also the name of the Jewish ceremony for coming of age for boys.

3. Who was Jon Stewart talking about when he said - "His first name rhymes with Iraq. His last name rhymes with Osama. And his middle name, believe it or not, is Hussein."

Barack Hussain Obama.

4. While Farhan Akhtar's Don was a badly made and entirely forgettable film in this QM's opinion, it had one nice touch that trivia buffs will like. In the scene where Don goes into his vault, we see a painting on the wall. There is a reason for this specific painting being there, which makes it a nice touch. Which painting is it? Artist and name please.

Edward Munch's 'The Scream'. The painting had been stolen at the time that the film was being shot, though it was recovered a couple of months before the film's release. Akhtar implying that Don stole the painting was a rather nice touch.

5. In the 1984 Lok Sabha election whose campaign catch phrase was “Mere anganay mein tumhara kya kaam hai?”

Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, who was Amitabh Bachchan's opponent.

6. Staying with the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, fearing a complete rout(which did happen), the BJP made a pre-electoral alliance with Charan Singh's Lok Dal. What name did Vajpayee give this alliance?

National Democratic Alliance, a name he later re-used for his ruling coalition.

7. In the 19th century, African-Americans created a satirical mimicking of white ballroom dancing. Couples formed a square with the men on the inside, and strutted around the square to music. Whichever couple was adjudged as the best won a certain food item, giving this dance its name. The name of this dance has given rise to several idioms and phrases. What name?


8. Which movie is this a poster of? (Text blanked out, obviously)

Lord of the Rings, the 1978 animated version.

9. What is the claim to fame of this man?

He was apparently the inspiration of the old man in Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. You can even see Hemingway's picture on the wall behind him.

10. This is from a page of a graphic novel. Which painting and artist is this panel a tribute to??

Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.

11. What is this?
#FFFFFF with a little bit of #000080

The html colour code for the Indian flag.

12. X&Y had in mind a sitcom that would essentially parody the banal formula of the 70s and 80s sitcom. The central character was to be decided on the basis of something that would happen towards the end of 2000, but X&Y were very certain of what would happen so they tentatively titled it "Everybody Loves Al". They were proven wrong, and had to name it "That's My ________". The sitcom's first season had 8 episodes which were telecast in 2001. Though it received critical acclaim and decent ratings, the channel cancelled the show towards the end of 2001. Identify X, Y and fill in the blank.

Trey Parker, Matt Stone, "That's My Bush". Hilarious little series. Get the DVD if you can.

13. A few minutes into the film we are on the sets of Seema Productions' "Pehra". In the scene being shot, Gopal and his girlfriend are meeting in a garden. Gopal says that he wants them to be together, even though he is poor and she is rich, and asks her to come to his arms. She talks about how the society won't let them be together. Gopal disagrees and asks her again to come to his arms. The director shouts "cut" and asks the actor to hold the actress closer. Which film?

Andaz Apna Apna. Remember Govinda saying to Juhi, "aa gale jag jaa" as Aamir fumes on the sidelines.

14. Connect

The only 5 officially communist countries in the world right now.

15. Give the last two names in this series - Aadam, Idris, Nuh, Hud, Saleh, Ibrahim, Lut,...................., ______________ and ______________

Isa and Muhammad. these are Islam's prophets in that order.

16. Though this 9-word phrase must have been around in various forms since before that, it is credited to sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein for use in his 1966 novel 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'. The name of a student-run snack bar in the University of Chicago is the acronym for this phrase.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch

17. Which band connects these three visuals?

Coldplay. The first viual is the book whose title they got their name from. The second is the x and y chromosome. Third is a picture of parachutes. These are references to their album names.

18. In 1391, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II had a dialog with a Persian scholar which he then recorded in a book as 'Twenty-six Dialogues with a Persian'. What was the emperor's last name and why is this important?

Paleologus. Pope Benedict quoted this dude and caused a furore in the Islamic world last year.

19. Which film is this map relevant to?

Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze. the cult favourite in which the Russians land on the American mainland.

20. Connect these 4 films. There is a single funda connecting all four -
You Only Live Twice, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Four Rooms

Roald Dahl. He wrote the screenplays for the first 3, and the last story in Four Rooms, 'The man from Hollywood' is based on a Dahl story.

21. Rusi Dinshaw, Duncan Sharpe, Wallis Mathias and Antao D'souza were the first four names in this list. This list used to have 7 names, but quite unexpectedly, in 2005 it came down to 6. The remaining names are of two people who are related to each other. What list is this?

Non-muslims to play cricket for Pakistan. The remainign two names are Anil Dalpath and his nephew Danish Kaneria. Yousuf Youhana of course, ceased to exist and became Mohammad Yousuf, even the records changed to reflect his new identity.

22. This song, composed and sung by S D Burman was once mentioned by Lata Mangeshkar as the toughest song to sing. In the movie X, for which SDB himself gave music, there is a couplet in the middle of a song which parodies this famous song, right down to imitating SD's nasal twang. The parody couplet became very popular and was later made into a full song by RD Burman for the movie Y. Name the movies X and Y as well as the song and its parody.

the song - Dheere se jaana bagiyan mein, re bhavra dheere se jaana bagiyan mein
X - Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi
Y - Badhti Ka Naam Daadhi
parody song - Dheere se jaana khatiyan mein, re khatmal, dheere se jaan khatiyan mein

23. Connect –
- If equilateral triangles are constructed on the sides of any triangle, either all outward, or all inward, the centroids of those equilateral triangles themselves form an equilateral triangle
- Professor Moriarty
- Elvis Costello
- Joseph Stalin in literature.

Napoleon. First is the Napoleon Theorem. Moriarty was called the Napoleon of crime. Elvis Costello's once used the nickname Napoleon Dynamite. And Stalin in George Orwell's Animal Farm was a pig called Napoleon.

24. John O'Brien's first novel, like most first novel, was semi-autobiographical in nature, and was about an alcoholic writer who loses everything because of his addiction. The book is about the alcoholic writer's relationship with a prostitute, and in the end he dies. O'Brien shocked everyone by making the book a little too autobiographical by committing suicide two weeks after it was announced that the book would be made into a film. The producers considered abandoning the project but went ahead with it, as a memorial to O'Brien. It was a critical as well as commercial success and the lead won the Best Actor Oscar. Name the book/movie.

Leaving Las Vegas

25. As Asterix and the Black Gold was dedicated to him, it was but natural that he would play a ‘cameo’ in it. The character Saul Ben Ephishul, a Jew who guides Asterix and Obelix through the desert was thus modeled on him. Name him.

Goscinny himself. This book was written and drawn by uderzo after Goscinny's death and was dedicated to him.

26. X was an iconic horror film star of the silent era, well known for his portrayal of Dracula, though his arch rival Boris Karloff is more well known, something he was very resentful about. X fell on bad times later on and had to act in B grade films, mostly directed by Y with whom he shared a special relationship. X and Y are like most has-beens would have sunk into oblivion if not for a dubious list that was compiled by a magazine, and a movie. This movie, shot completely in black and white and named after Y was a great critical and commercial success and won Martin Landau an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his moving portrayal of X.

Bela Lugosi and Ed Wood. Do watch the Tim Burton movie, starring Johnny Depp. It's amazing.

27. Give the missing name

31 Robert Karlsson
32 Joe Durant
33 Yang Yong-Eun
34 Ian Poulter
35 Darren Clarke
36 Carl Pettersson
37 _______________
38 Lucas Glover
39 Rory Sabbatini
40 Brett Wetterich

Jeev Milkha Singh. Ranked 37th in the world at the end of 2006.

28. Screenshot from a film. Identify the film, this man, and for no extra points, the man who has been whited out.

Film - Sin City
Man - Frank Miller, who played the role of the priest
Whited out - Micky Rourke who played Marv

29. Connect these visuals

Diogenes, Drones, Ganymede.... names of fictional clubs. First from Sherlock Holmes, the last 2 from Jeeves and Wooster.

30. Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) founded the American federalist Party. He was the first ever Secretary of Treasury, and was avowedly pro-British in his outlook. He is most well-known for his extremely acrimonious disagreement with Aaron Burr
Harry Whittington (1947 - ) is a lawyer from Texas. He is the current chairman of the Texas Funeral Service Commission. He shot to fame in early 2006.
What unique distinction do these two gentlemen share?

Shot by US vice Presidents. :)

31. Connect.
- “A rabbit is the same as a sphere since neither has a hole”
- A Frenchman described as “The Last Universalist” in mathematics who implied the above
- The illustrious company of Pasternak, Brando, Tagore etc

Perelman, who refused the Fields' medal. he was awarded it for proving the poincare Conjecture.

32. X was touring violence-infested regions of the state, holding meetings and trying to find a solution. The victims had a demand which the government was neither able nor willing to meet. At one such evening meeting, X wondered out aloud that if the government was not ready to help the people, isn’t there any other way out. That is when Ram Chandra Reddy got up and surprised everyone by making an announcement. What did this start? Also identify X.

Bhoodan movement. X is Vinoba Bhave.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Let a thousand nutcases bloom

Not a single day goes by without someone finding something to get offended about and running to the courts with it. Sachin's cake making someone's indignance rise, Murthy's anthem decision striking a discordant note, Mandira's sari getting someone's panties in a knot, Gere's kiss leaving a bad taste in someone's mouth and arguably the most ridiculous of them all, someone's beef with Shastri's love for beef.

This has caused frustration among several bloggers and columnists. A lot of them write about growing intolerance in the society. It seems like people are getting crazier by the day. I think the problem lies in a different direction. Shivam Vij, writing about the guy who wants Orkut blocked, writes -

Marlapelle is like the kid who tinkers around in the science lab, mixing chemicals just to see if something happens.

An extremely accurate analogy. In most, if not all of these cases, those offended are in the legal profession or have easy access to someone in the legal profession. Agreed that they are nutcases. They are indeed like the stupid kid who tinkers around with chemicals. And the problem is, such nutcases are going to exist, no matter how tolerant we get as a society. In a country of 1 billion, it is extremely easy to find someone who will get offended by something or the other. And why just India, this could happen anywhere else.

The problem of "growing intolerance in the society" is a very real one. It has caused riots in several parts of the country and led to ghettoisation on several neighbourhoods. But even if the soul of Gandhi rained on the society and led to communal harmony, such cases will still persist. Because no matter how tolerant a society, there are always going to be nutcases.

The problem in this specific case of frivolous lawsuits, is with the laws, which are ambiguous at best and unnecessary at worst. These laws infringe on our fundamental rights, all thanks to the 1st amendment to our constitution, which diametrically opposite to the 1st amendment to the American constitution, gives the state rights to impose "reasonable" restrictions on our freedom of speech. The caveats listed for our fundamental rights take up more than thrice the space than the rights themselves. And they enable the state to come up with oppressive laws in which a person can be arrested for literally anything, as long as you find a judge publicity-hungry enough to find that it "hurts sentiments".

While tolerance in the society is a desirable goal for different reasons, this particular ailment can be solved only by abolishing the ridiculous laws which curb freedom of expression. However there is no constituency which demands abolition of these laws, so they remain on the books.

Brilliant, Einstein, you say? Tell us something we don't know, you say?

In a perverse way, I think maybe all these outrageous cases are a good thing. As their frequency keeps growing, "outrage fatigue" is bound to set in. Right now, the media covers such cases extensively because they lead to interesting news. People like you and me will watch these news reports, even if to shake our heads in disapproval and disgust. But the stupidity of these complaints is rising exponentially along with their number and sooner rather than later, an inflection point will hopefully be reached, leading to a reduction in their newsworthiness. The rising number of such cases is also bound to eventually irk the judiciary once their newsworthiness plummets, especially if one or few of them go up to the Supreme Court. That could lead to a judgement causing at least a change in the law.

In a Utopian society, the people would rise and demand the abrogation or at least defanging of these laws. But since we live in a Dystopianish society, our only hope is the overkill of such cases.

So with an eye on a more sensible future, I say, let a thousand nutcases bloom.