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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bloody Justice

Saddam Hussein is no more. The outpour of anger and uproar over the manner in which the trial was conducted and his hasty execution is deafening. Heck, even the little known political parties in India are calling for a strike. Joke, really. Yes, I agree that the American forces didn't surrender Saddam to the international war tribunal. His defense lawyers were killed. The judges were replaced. Even before his death sentence was pronounced, the president of Iraq blurted that Saddam won't live long. It was a farcical trial. No doubt. Though the path is faulty, I reckon the destination to be justified.

Saddam Hussein openly admitted in the national television to signing the death warrants of over 100+ men and boys from Dujail who tried to assassinate him. Though the deliverers of justice and the mode of the entire operation is filled with bias, prejudice and corruption, there shouldn't be any moral dilemma over his end. Until a couple of days back, he was one of the atrocious dictators alive responsible for killing thousands of innocents. Hypothetically speaking, if Japan invaded North Korea against the will of the international community and tried Kim Jong II, I won't be crying. What Japan did would be considered unjust, but the death of the dictator is in essence justice.

Bush invaded a sovereign state under false claims trying to loot it's oil resources. He's a very civilized rogue. An oil businessman who lacks guile. A naive president who doesn't understand the value of a life. A remorseless man who seems to occupy one of the poschest seats in the political world. His foreign policies will make good history lessons of how not to maintain relationships. His misadventure in Iraq is turning out to be worse than the Vietnam episode. The governing Shia force relishes it's chance to fry and saute the Sunnis. The Sunni insurgency isn't complaining.. they have an ever-replenishing supply of ammunition. The American troops had no gameplan before and now with the escalating civil war, they just happen to be the secondary targets of car bombs.

The Pentagon has hinted that it may send more troops to Iraq next year. Increased police force only means effective curfue and surveillance. Quelling a civil war needs much more than that. Bush, in one of the parties looked under the dinner tables and remarked jocularly "they must be somewhere around here.." meaning that the nuclear weapons should be just around the corner and it's only a matter of time before his forces find Saddam's secret laboratories and expose him to the world. That day never came. And Bush still hasn't learned to pronouned 'nuclear'. He still plays golf with his buddies. The Fox network is still not portraying the true picture of Iraq. The country is already out of America's hands. Increased military power in Iraq won't achieve anything significant. There's a joke that's been around for sometime in which Bush entertains the idea of bribing the militia. For someone like Bush, I sometimes wonder if that thought seriously passed his mind.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Book Review - 'The Curious Incident of the dog in the Night-Time'

Imagine a book without emotions. Imagine a book without flamboyance. Imagine a book without a central theme. I just finished a book that I thought lacked those elements and as I progressed I found myself nodding, whispering to myself: This book has something in it. Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the dog in the Night-Time' is a first perspective narration of an autistic boy who, because a sudden change in circumstances, is forced to break his living pattern and step out of the circle.

Many times through the course of reading this book I thought of Chris Boone, the central character, as an immature/poorly coded robot that's having a difficult time living with the rest of the humans. Chris is mathematically excellent and socially abysmal. And whatever little civic sense he has is a result of the laws of the society ingrained in him by his father and school teachers. His activities are more like a scheduler executing task, making us wonder if it's possible for him to emote at all.

One night, Chris finds his neighbour's dog killed by a garden fork. He sets out to find the killer and in the course of his investigation, records what transpires in his personal diary - which is the novel we get to read. Chris finds out about his parents' bitter relationships with his neighbours, and who the killer is. Knowing who the killer is frightens him, and he steps out of his home which provides us some in-depth understanding of how every street and corner is information-loaded for an autistic child/adult. Chris' ordeals out of his home are thrilling and exciting, but not in the sense that we are used to reading all the while. It's not nail-biting, but there is a certain degree of curiousity in the reader to know what would happen next.

There's a very compelling scene in the book where a character tells Chris that he is selfish and he doesn't think at all about anybody anytime and all that concerns his life is only himself. Emotions are running high for people around him because of him and he can't understand or reciprocate their feelings. Haddon does a very good job of narrating the events without any attachment to the characters and at the same time allows us to sympathize with some of the characters. In fact, a review by an autistic at amazon.com reveals that the book gets it right in painting the picture of the world from their point of view.

In it's heart, I found the book to be a love story - between the father and the son. The father is not merely tolerant or patient to put up with his son's impairment or quirkinesses. But the father whole-heartedly accepts his son as he is - which to me is the essence of love and intelligence of the highest order.

Originally posted on CP on July 25, 2006.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Looking at the Lake

A blankness engulfs the silent morning. I wake up and sit with no thought crossing my mind. I walk out of the tent... I can hear the birds cooing and feel the sun lazily focussing on this side of the third rock. The mind is so receptive, attentive and willing. There is a crispness in the air and I just feel like taking a walk along with her. She joins me and we start walking towards the lake.

There's a big rock in the middle of the lake. The water is still in spite of a few children playing, splashing the water. The splashes actually are a part of the stillness, just as how the noise they create is a part of the silence. After crossing the half-mark, we stop and look at the lake. Absorb the lake. There are others who have joined us in this journey, who are enjoying this serenity in their own sense... cracking jokes, photographing, talking about life and death, etc.

I wonder how many looked at the lake.

Originally posted on CP on August 24, 2006.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Disappear

You lock your room and start walking down the stairs. A child stumbles upon a step a bit far from you. You would have run down quickly to help the child get to his feet if the mother weren't there. You expect the mother to get to the child quickly, shower sugary words and soothe the pain. No. The mother slowly gets to the child and looks down, without offering any humanitarian assistance. The child looks up at the mother, all set to cry.

The previous night you had a bad day at the office. You kept telling yourself that things are going to fall in place and everything will be alright. You wished for a weekend that would start immediately. You understand that confusions, misunderstandings and bitterness with colleagues are all a part of the ups and downs of office routine and soon you'll be back with a smiling face and be yourself. In an absent-minded moment, you banged your leg into a metal pillar. Though you didn't suffer any serious damage, the pain remained and you had a hard time putting yourself to sleep.

The mother lifts the child by his arm, which itself should have been painful. And gives him a careless slap and tells him:"I've told you a thousand times. How many more times do you plan to slip at this step?" Now you have gotten down the stairs and you're close to the child. You can see tears flowing very silently into his cheeks. Without making a sound, he gathers his bag and slowly, very carefully starts descending. You just want to pull him close to you, run your fingers through his hair and tell him that everything's alright and it's not just kids, even adults fall down often and there's nothing wrong with what had just happened.

You step into the road. Gradually the metropolitan noise fills your eardrum, which you're so accustomed to. You swear to have tonight's dinner without TV in the background. You see an old lady negotiating with a heavy bag, obviously beyond her physical capabilities. You hate this combination of smoke and sun and you wish you had woken up earlier and avoided the crowd. You see the child seriously discussing something with his friend. The tears have gone. It's a busy street. You continue.

Originally posted on BS on August 29, 2006.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hindu Photos

Ethics in media is declining/reshaping/becoming questionable and The Hindu is no exception. With it's minority appeasement content, bias towards the DMK and the tabloid last page, the newspaper I fell in love with might soon become a matter of history to me. A couple of comments on a couple of photographs:

Half of the photo is wasted on a cameraman. Why didn't they edit it out? There's a lot of steam between the two players and we don't have a photo that captures the split between them.

In the past few months, Dayanidhi Maran's photo in the newspaper is a constant, the variable being the page number. Though he's done some commendable things since he became a minister, projecting him as a leader of the future through such photos (take a second to look at the picture) is tiresome.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Desensitized Zone

"I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it" - Shug, Color Purple, Alice Walker.

Walker does not refer to the mankind's inattentive approach to nature's aesthetics. Though true that is - we hardly notice the magnificent optical textures of jasmine or the tenderness of it's touch, or, to simply put it, it's raw audacious beauty. Sophisticated taste even triggers you to be moved or enthralled or awed or touched or sometimes even shocked by the subtleties. My taste, as unrefined as it can get, I can only sense the pleasure involved. The simple pleasure that jasmine provides me is all I know!!

But Walker's purple is not purple. It is sensitivity. It is respectability. It is acknowledgement.

People are Rude. In a manner of speaking, if you're travelling, they react as if you trespassed on their property; if you're a customer, you're intruding someone's work; if you're at work, you're taken for granted. There is proof for a gradient degeneration in our courteousness. Read literary works written a few centuries ago to understand their lifestyle. A loud obscene comment in public, which would've turned heads in that age is hardly noticed today. Generic humour which was only a funny good-natured banter is now sprinkled with lewdness, impoliteness and intentional offense.

So, what trigerred this transformation? How is the present different from the past? Two things popup in my mind - population, and technology. Thinking about population, every major city of any cultural origin is characterized to a certain extent by it's rudeness. Think New York, London, Tokyo, Mumbai. Has over-population desensitized us? Has the increasing number of people/sq.foot irritated us and eroded our courteous faculty? If so, is it going to be a slow descent into barbaric ages?

Modern technology, which has promised independence of many kinds, has remarkably reduced the intensity of an individual's interaction with the society. I think the cave of nextgen gadgets in which most of the younger populace lives today have been numbed for long to 'feel' the beauty or pathos or depth of anything that happens to him/her. Have the iPod's and cellphones and satellites overwhelmed our senses to the extent that we don't even acknowledge the next person as a person?

Originally posted on LJ on May 9th, 2005