Saturday, May 31, 2008

Money Talks..

Should temples in our country get all the comforts such as Air-Conditioners, Refrigerators, etc? This piece tells us what some people think about the newly installed AC in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. A disclaimer here is necessary that I have neither seen the Golden Temple nor do I know anything about what Sikhism says about such "man-made" comforts within their holy places.

In general, I do not see the installation of modern comforts in temples and other holy places as a big problem. Why not utilize some of the funds that junta pumps into these places than let them go into the pockets of a few? And it is after-all meant to make the darshan more bearable than last it out in the heat. Given that so many old people visit these places of worship, I don't find anything wrong with the idea.

This newspiece reminded me of a debate I had with some of my friends a couple of months back. We were having a discussion on the "VIP queues" and other such monetary schemes you have to manage crowds in temples - atleast the famous ones like Tirupathi, Srirangam, etc. The question really was whether such discrimination should be allowed in a place of worship. Shouldn't temples be above these money matters? Does "God" really see people who are richer and can pay to jump the queue as special cases? Why should anyone be allowed to have a quicker and more convenient darshan just because they can pay more? If one doesn't have the time to
visit the temple and stand in queue, don't bother visiting! When we stress that everyone who comes to pray should be viewed as the same irrespective of caste, gender, community, etc then why should economic status be given preference? The other side to the story was that if I can pay to get a more convenient and quicker darshan, why not! Isn't it just like visiting any other tourist spot where more money should give you better comforts? As it happens with debates, we did not really reach a consensus and simply agreed to disagree on our views.

Incidentally, all this talk was right after we enjoyed VIP status in the Kamakhya temple at Guwahati thanks to one of our friend's fathers! We jumped the queue, did a quicker darshan, and were pestered by each of the pandits inside for a "bhent" to the deities (Can't really blame the pandits, they supposedly make a living out of our donations!). I still wonder how or why people feel they've had a great darshan at such places when they are pushed around and shouted at by every single person including the pujaris. Isn't it a lot better to visit temples which are more peaceful, do not have so much crowd and where the pujari atleast has time to give you some attention! I suppose one has to really be a believer in God and the piety of such holy places to really experience the satisfaction and contentment of having visited them. For lesser mortals like yours truly, it really seems like too much effort for a pointless exercise.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Incredible India Indeed!

In the beginning of March this year, after our alma mater was through with the placement season, six people set off on a journey which will stay in their memory for a long time to come. No, this was not a life-changing journey or anything. If you had walked into IIM Indore and picked six arbit people from my batch, you would be hard pressed to find a similar group of such six seemingly unrelated characters. But what the heck! How does it matter who travels with you so long as you have a good time. With this philosophy, all of us set out to perhaps some of the most unexplored areas in our country – the North East.

The Characters:
1. Vignesh – Better known as Viggy, the accountant in the group who realized the true value of the double entry book keeping during the trip. Also the constant worrier and the biggest question bank imaginable
2. Arun – AKB, doing a lot of free-riding when it came to maintaining accounts, conveniently giving the excuse of alcohol. All he has to say about this is - "Its ok da!"
3. Manas – Mona. It takes him exactly 20 seconds to fall asleep in any moving vehicle no matter how bad the roads are or how uncomfortable the position. Used to wake up once every four hours for status updates!

4. Vijay – Puttasura, easily the most relaxed guy in the group. He makes sure everyone else gets affected with his LOUD snoring. Yes, everyone except the sleeping Mona vouches for that!
5. Vikas – Vicca aka King of Dogs aka Junglorean – as big a coward as any one can imagine and a staunch Bombay-worshipping (err....i should say Mumbai worshipping!) wannabe shiv-sainik. He got the most nicknames during the course of the trip, the best one being “Non-Stop Nonsense” coined by Puttasura
6. Vivek – Iyerru, the planner in the group along with Viggy who left his mark on every single toilet seat in all the places visited during the trip!

For my convenience, I have broken the trip into broadly four different phases mentioned below, the details of which you can read by clicking on the associated links.

Part 1: The journey to the abode of clouds (Meghalaya) - We could have done with some rain in one of the wettest places on planet earth. You can read about the places to visit and click here to get a glimpse of what we saw.
Part 2: Brahmaputra Calling – Every conceivable thing in Assam is associated with Brahmaputra. Every city seems to be within touching distance of the river as well. For more on our experience in Assam, click here.
Part 3: Ola Sho Sho – This local song in Arunachal Pradesh seemed like a perfect blend with the beautiful landscape. Our trip to the north east can even be described in 2 parts – i) Before Bomdila and ii) Bomdila and Afterwards. Click here to read more.
Part 4: The Land of Teesta – Only three among the six characters made their way to the home of Baichung Bhutia. Mr. Iyerru sadly missed out on all the fun we had in the snow capped Himalayas near the Indo-China border in Sikkim. Our snowy experience has been described here in detail.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fairer the better..

Right from the time the Harbhajan-Symonds issue crept up, I have been wanting to write on the topic of racism in our country but somehow never got down to penning it down. Much has been said about the controversy itself and I have no intention of broaching that issue again. It is done and dusted now, and Harbhajan as we all know has already come a long from there.

Soumya Bhattacharya has a nice piece on the inherently racist nature of Indians. Our society's general "preference" for fair skin is fairly obvious to anyone who has come across any matrimonial pages in newspapers. Apart from this, the implicit assumptions about certain communities like people from the north-east is quite revolting as is obvious from this article.

I had a chat with my dad on this topic and outside the numerous examples we could think of within our family, he recounted a story from his bachelor days. Those were the days when Bhilai had a constant inflow of people from Russia who came for short stints at the Steel Plant. There was a separate colony called Russian Complex (the name and the colony still exist) especially for the Russian people. Of course, there were Indians as well as other foreigners who stayed in the colony as well. During one of the summers, a group of Nigerians had also come for a training stint along with the Russians. My dad does not recall any untoward incident as such during their stay. However, on the day of their farewell, one of the Nigerians went on stage to give a farewell speech. After thanking all the people for being nice to them, he mentioned that while there were a lot of managers who invited the Russians to their homes for lunch or dinner, none of the Nigerians received a single invitation to any of the homes. I wonder how many people in the audience really would have got pinched when he said that. Would they have even cared about what the Nigerians think? While there may be no answers to these questions now amd the incident may have happened decades ago, but has the scenario really changed?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

See, I told you...

I was wondering when one of the Aussies was going to start off about Harbhajan, with the 'Turbanator' presenting such a wonderful opportunity for them to look at everyone and say - "Look, we told you so!" Here's what their skipper Ricky Ponting has to say about Bhajji.

Thanks Ricky for leaving the judgment bit to us. I do not wish to imagine a day when people like us start depending on you to form opinions about anyone. And it would definitely suit your cause to focus on your batting. Speaking of which, Australia may be touring the best possible place for any of their batters to strike form again. With Zimbabwe not competing in test cricket, there aren't too many better options than West Indies for any batting side to find some form.

With nearly half the IPL season over, it is fair to say that it has been a welcome timepass for people like me, who have nothing better to do than analyze the matches so far. I hope BCCI has better sense from now on than selling broadcasting rights to Sony Max. Their coverage has been pathetic to say the very least. The cameramen always seem to cover every part of the ground except where the ball has been hit. We are now used to missing one ball per over, thanks to the pup licking stamps and running with a tie. And can someone ask Arun Lal and Ranjith Fernando to retire from the commentary box. I can still tolerate Ravi Shastri's cliched statements but the completely redundant statements from the other two mentioned makes me want to throw the remote. One hopes that the commentators seriously do better home-work and earn their money than just spouting general gyaan which anyone who has followed even two matches of T20 would know.