Posted in Books

Review: Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

Finally finished this lengthy book, thank god last 40 pages were glossary! Pretty dry, especially for me the regular fiction reader. However, I picked this book as it is critically acclaimed. The book traces the evolution of Homo Sapiens and the proliferation of the species as dominant living organism on Planet Earth before rounding off with wonderment at what lays ahead for these so-called self-made Gods! Much of the thesis though must be predictable to most of us but we have to credit the author for laying it all down in a way we can identify patterns and come clear on fuzzy issues. Some ideas are though a lot like original – or perhaps sound new to us. For instance, treating Communism like a religion. Creating an order. I have never thought of an arrangement like that all these days. A willful political agreement. The book opens with how it all started, how from Cognitive revolution, human beings or homo sapines in the word of the author, advanced to the agricultural revolution and then galloped to the scientific revolution. So far so good. The rambling sets on after this.

I would like to recollect some gems from the book:

Homosapiens killed most other species without merging with them. (Like how mules are born infertile when horse mates with donkey. The genetic mutation plays a part here). This theory clearly proposes how Neanderthals etc., from the same human family could have gone extinct. In my opinion, this is a very valid point, food for thinking.

I wish I really could get back to the hunter-gatherer carefree days, the way the author sounds buoyant about them! The limitations forced by agricultural revolution on such a nomadic species sound pathetic! I liked this about wheat domesticating us and not the other way around!

Domestication of the bovine, canine and the fowl follows. Of the fowl, i would like to draw a point from the last couple of chapters: of how the chicken or poultry of today with slow demeanour and stocky build was probably genetically engineered by the ancient man (from the days of agricultural revolution)! So it is not that all the harm is caused by the current generation of homosapiens. The destructive streak caused by selective breeding of crops and animals and birds has been a part of human evolution.

One more gem that makes you think loud: how a species that may be going extinct like rhinoceros for instance, is still happy and living a good life in the bush, compared to machine-copied like poultry, bred miserably for slaughter, even if the chicken can go on to survive millennia after millennia long after the last of the rhino is gone off the face of earth.

A lot of discussion (hypothetical) on Babylon, Egypt, China, Mexico etc., but a big hole here missing out ancient India and Hindu race. Hinduism is mentioned for caste system nothing more. India/ Hindu culture and civilization could be the only surviving continuous civilization uninterrupted for over 10000 years. Parallel to the Indus valley was the Thamizh culture down south where we had structured grammar and literature penned before the birth of Christ. Such a language as Tamil has not gone out of usage like Latin or even Sanskrit. Tamil is still a spoken language and is touted the world’s oldest language. A big miss by the author here. Or was it deliberate by overstressing isntead on Buddhism, an offshoot from Hindu Dharma. Hinduism also spread to south east Asia without violence. Pretty interesting to be told that the meditation techniques are Buddhist. Of course they are, but after they were and are first Hindu. The first legal perfecter, owner, practitioner of meditation could be Hindus. Yuval tell me who founded Hinduism. You know who founded Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Communism. You know who founded these when. Where exactly. You have written volumes on Sumeria, Greece. Why have you failed to do justice to Hinduism. Realization of self and mind control without a mention of Hindu Dharma sounds hollow.

To Yuval I would say, if for Jews Auschwitz could be holy pilgrimage site, then Taj Mahal could be the image for representing the majority Hindu India by the same logic.

To Yuval I ask: why should God have to come only from Middle East. For Hindus God comes down from the Himalaya.

Ok I get it. Yuval picks up Buddhism, Islam and Christianity for suppositions nothing more.

Discovery of ignorance: This is too good that prompted the scientific revolution when pushing limits became the order of the day for the Homo sapiens.

Some great information from the founding of Peugeot as limited company in France for the first time to launching life insurance by two Presbyterian clergymen in Scotland, Alexander Webster and Robert Wallace in the year 1744.

Masterstroke by Yuval: in one shot he says why we have the adage in the world that the sun never sets in british empire:

“The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines (which could be freely copied or bought). They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalised.” (Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 314). Random House. Kindle Edition.)

I started laughing at this because, that day finally arrived in the 20th century with the chinese turning tables on the west. Looks like, each one of us has a different timeframe when it comes to evolution of our mental faculties.

The conquest of the Americas and Australia are poignant. In this context I want to refer the quote from the author in the book:

Rudyard Kipling’s words, ‘the White Man’s burden’:

Take up the White Man’s burden – Send forth the best ye breed – Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild – Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child. (Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 336). Random House. Kindle Edition.)

This is a gentle reminder to all of us colonials of what return gift we received from our occupiers.

The author conveniently washes his hands off slave trade that he terms an economic enterprise that got nothing to do with politics. Sad. Aren’t the invaders given a similar benefit of doubt with Rudyard Kipling.

I loved the part about the standardization of working times, industrial hours, school days etc., in a structured pattern starting with the arrival of the steam engine pulled passenger trains. The gun powder and the energy-force through distance made the difference. This is a big takeaway from the book for me.

I do agree with the author that perhaps we live in the best of earth’s times: we have lasting peace and a kind of universal empire now. More common interests than glaring differences which are a reason for sustaining peace. It is only in this century that we have running water in our kitchen faucet and women need not have to rush to the river to fetch drinking water in a pot over their head day after day (at least in developed countries of the world).

The book closes with the chapter on bionics and cyborgs which held the potential to transform homo sapiens into organically different species and that the future sapiens could find us the last few generations very much the way we found the neanderthals! Will the tinkering with bio-engineering actually pull the Frankenstein out of thin air? Who knows wonders Yuval on the finishing note.

Worth reading. Old wine in new bottle, but this is good brushing up of facts that were right before your eyes but that you missed making connection with.

Posted in Mylapore Musings

மாதங்களில் அவள் மார்கழி

சின்ன வயசுல ஞாபகம். நாலு மணிக்கே எழுந்து சுட சுட பாட்டி போட்ட பில்டர் காபியும் கையுமா மாடிலேந்து மளமளனு படியிறங்கி குதிச்சு ஓடுவேன் மார்கழி மாசத்துல. கீழ என் தோழி எனக்கும் முன்னமே கூட எழுந்து காத்துண்டு இருப்பா. ரெண்டு பெருமா சேர்ந்து தான் படி படியா அளந்து கோல மாவு வாங்குவோம். மப்ளர் கட்டிண்டு போ. பனி ஆகாதுன்னு பாட்டிகள் ரெண்டு பேரும் தொண்டை கிழிய கத்தினாலும் காதுல வாங்கமாட்டோம். அப்படி ஒரு வெறித்தனமான கோலஆர்வம். அந்த வயசுக்கும் காலத்துக்குமே உரியது. நான் வாசல் பெருக்கி தெருவை கூட்டினா அவ தண்ணி தெளிப்பா. மாறி மாறி செஞ்சுப்போம். அறுபத்தெட்டில் ஒரே மாஸம் ஒரே நாள் பொறந்தவங்களாச்சே. எங்க பக்கத்து வீட்டு அக்காக்கள் அவள் ஒரு தொடர்கதை நாயகி போல. ஆனா அந்த சோகத்திலும் ஒரு அக்கா அப்படி ஒரு கோலம் போடுவா. மை போல கருப்பு. கரு கரு பின்னி முடித்த மயிர் முழங்காலை தாண்டி. வளைஞ்சு வளைஞ்சு அவ போடும் கோலத்தை பாக்கவே காலைல அஞ்சு மணிக்கு கூட ஒரு மாமிகள் கூட்டம் வட்டமிடும். தெரு பூராவும் கோலம் போடுவோம். நான்கிலேந்து ஆறு வர லேடீஸ் கிளப் ஆகிவிடும் எங்க வாசல். காபி பரிமாற்றத்துலேந்து சமையல் குறிப்பு வர எல்லாம் பேசுவோம் வயது வரம்பு இல்லாம. ஆறு மணிக்கு மேல தலைக்கு மேல வேல இருக்கும் ஆனா மார்கழி மாசத்துல லேடீஸ் அடிக்கும் கொட்டம் இருக்கும் பாருங்க. அப்டியே தெரு முழுசா அதி கால காலாற நடந்து ஒவ்வொரு வீட்டு முன்னாடியும் நின்னு அந்த வீட்டு கோலம் டிஸ்கசன் வேற! என் கல்யாணம் ஆகும் வரை நான் ரசிச்சுஅனுபவிச்ச ரம்யமான பனி காலை பொழுது அது. கோலம் போடும்போதே மயிலாப்பூர் கபாலி கோவில் மணியோசை கேக்கும். சிவன் கோவில் காலைல தொறந்துடுவான். பெருமாள் கோவிலும் தான். மார்கழி ஸ்பெஷல். எங்க வீடு வர கோவில் மணி சப்தம் வரும். அந்த கால அமைதி. உடனே ஒரு குளியல் போட மனசே இல்லாம வீட்டுக்குள்ள நுழைவோம். தற்காலத்துல நெனச்சு பாக்க முடியாத ஒரு சுவாரஸ்யமான வாழ்நாள் அது .. பணம் காசு பத்தி யோசிச்சோமா. இல்ல ஜாதி தான் வந்ததா குறுக்க. எங்க தெருல எல்லாரும் உண்டு: அய்யர், அய்யங்கார், முதலியார், நாடார், செட்டியார். ஒரு குடும்பமா தான் இருந்தோம். எல்லாரும் அக்கா அண்ணா மாமி மாமா பாட்டி தாத்தா தான். சின்ன விஷயங்கள்ல சந்தோசம் கண்டோம். ஒண்ணா படத்துக்கு போவோம். பீச்சுக்கு போவோம். மார்கழி கோலம் போடுவோம். தீபாவளி பண்டிகை கொண்டாடுவோம். நடுத்தற வர்கத்துக்கான பாச பந்தா பிணைப்பு அப்டி. மறக்க முடியாத நாட்கள். இதுக்கு நடுல மார்கழில ஆருத்திரா வைகுண்ட ஏகாதசி வரும். தாயக்கட்டையும் பரமபதமும் மணிக்கணக்கா நடக்கும். வைகுண்ட ஏகாதசிக்கு ராப்பூரா கண்முழிச்சு அதிகாலை கோலம் போட்டு தூங்குவோம். .அந்த ஒரு நாள் மட்டும் விமலா மாமிக்கு கோலம் போட எங்க வாசலை விட்டு கொடுப்போம் அந்த கற்பனை கோலம் படி கோலம் போட. மாமி அய்யங்கார். நாங்க நாலு குடித்தனம் அந்த ஒரு வீட்ல. இன்னிக்கும் தாயா மகளா தான் பழகறோம். ஆருத்திரா சாந்தும் உண்டு கோவில்ல. பெருமாள் பிரசாதம் உண்டு. திருப்பாவை திருவெம்பாவை பாடாத நாளே கிடையாது. எல்லாமே கூட்டமா கும்பலா தான். அப்போவெல்லாம் தெருல பஜனை கோஷ்டி கூட வரும். ஆழாக்கு அரிசி கொண்டு வந்து கொடுத்து ரோட்லயே அவா கால்ல விழுந்து சுத்தி வருவோம். கோவிந்தா கோவிந்தா கூட உண்டு. எண்பதுகள்ல டீனேஜ் காரங்களா இருந்தவர்களுக்கு புரியும். நெனச்சாலே இப்போ ஏக்கமா இருக்கு.

டிசம்பர் பூ இல்லாத மார்கழியா. எல்லா கலர் செடியும் வெச்சிருந்தோமே மொட்டைமாடில: வெள்ளை,ஊதா, மஞ்சள். டிசம்பர் பூ வெக்காம ஸ்கூல் போயிருக்கோமா மார்கழில. மார்கழி மாசத்துல எங்க வீட்டு தேங்காய் எண்ணெய் கூட உறையும் அந்த காலத்தில. செப்பு பாய்லர்ல வெந்நீர் போட்டு குளிக்கும் சுகம் தனி.

கல்யாணமான உடனே எல்லாம் மாறி போச்சு. அப்போ மார்கழின்னா எனக்கு அதிகாலை முதல் டிகாக்ஷன் எடுத்து கிச்சன் மேடை மேல யாரும் எழுந்துக்காத பொழுது ஏறி ஒக்காந்து டேப்ரெகார்டர்ல எம் எஸ் குரல்ல வெங்கடேச சுப்ரபாதம் கேட்டுண்டே முதல் தடவை காச்சின பால்ல காப்பிபோட்டு தனியா அஞ்சு நிமிஷம் மௌனமா ரசிச்சு குடிக்கறது அலாதி சுகம். கூட்டு குடும்பம் சில நாள். பின்னாடியே கைல குழந்தை. அப்புறமா தனி குடித்தனம். சமையல் முடிச்சு, குழந்தையை ரெடி பண்ணி மாமியார் கைல கொடுத்துட்டு,லஞ்ச் பேக் பண்ணி ஆபீஸ்க்கு ஓடணும் பஸ் பிடிச்சு. மார்கழி கோலம் நெனச்சு பாக்க முடியாதது ஆச்சு. அந்த அதிகாலை அஞ்சு நிமிஷம் தான் அப்போ மெஷின் வாழ்க்கைல அமைதின்னு கூட தோணும். அஞ்சு மணிக்கு இந்த சேத்துப்பட்டு ஷெனாய் நகர்ல டிசம்பர் மாசம் கிறிஸ்துமஸ் கரோல் தான் தினசரி காதுல விழும். திருப்பாவை எங்க. அதிகாலைல என் சமையல் ரூம் வெளிச்சத்தை பாத்து ஒரு கிறிஸ்டியன் குரூப் டெய்லி எனக்கு கரோல்ஸ் பாடிட்டு போவாங்கன்னா பாத்துக்கோங்க! அமிஞ்சிக்கரை மசூதிலேந்து அப்டியே விடிகாலைல ஆசான் ஒதரத்துக்கு கூப்பிடறது லௌட்ஸ்பீக்கர் மூலமா எங்க வீடு வர கேக்கும். கடவுளை எந்த ரூபத்துல பாத்தா என்ன. அப்போ நெனைச்சுப்பேன் என்ன ஒரு மாற்றம்னு வாழ்கைலன்னு. மார்கழி அப்டியே தலை கீழா ஆச்சு! நாளடைவில் அதையே ரசிக்க பழகிக்கிட்டேன்.

மார்கழின்னா இன்னொரு விஷயம். கர்நாடக சங்கீதம் . சொல்லவே வேண்டாம். எனக்கு மயிலாப்பூர்ல கோவில்ல கர்நாடக இசை கேட்டு தான் வழக்கம். பல வருஷம் கெழச்சு பாட்டி ஆனதுக்கு அப்புறமா இப்போ அதுக்கு நேரம் வந்திருக்கு. வயசுல கிடைக்காதது அது. ஸ்கூல் போற பையன், மாமியார், சாயங்காலம் ஆறு மணிக்குள்ள வீட்ல அடைய வேண்டிய நிர்பந்தம். இதெல்லாம் சேர்ந்து இசைய கொஞ்சம் தள்ளியே வெச்சது. மார்கழின்னாலே ஆனா மொதல்ல நினைவுக்கு வர்றதே கர்நாடக இசை தானே. புள்ளி வெச்சு போடும் கோலம் போல. ஆனாலும் ஜெயா டிவி ல வரும் கச்சேரியை கேக்க தான் செஞ்சிருக்கேன். இவ்ளோ நேரம் அதுக்கு ஒதுக்கியது இல்லையே தவிர. சின்ன வயசுல கொஞ்சம் பாட்டு வீணை கத்துண்டதால லைட்டா இன்டெர்ரெஸ்ட் அவ்ளோ தான். மயலப்பூ ஆச்சே இருக்காதா பின்ன. வருஷத்துக்கு ஒரு பரதநாட்டியமோ இல்ல கச்சேரியோ எப்பிடியும் கேட்டுடுவேன் பட் வாத்திய இசையா இருக்கும்… வாய்ப்பாட்டு அபூர்வம் போய் கேக்கறது. ஸ்டில் கர்நாடக மேடை கச்சேரி இல்லாத மார்கழி நெனச்சு பாக்கவே முடியாது.

மார்கழில இன்னொரு விஷயம் அய்யப்ப வழிபாடு கார்த்திகை தொடங்கி. உச்சகட்ட நிலைல இருக்கும் ஐயப்ப பூஜை. மார்கழில முக்கிய பண்டிகைன்னு கெடையாது. திருவாதிரைக்கு களி கூட்டு பண்றது தான் பெரிய வேலையே. வைகுண்ட ஏகடாஷிக்கு க்யூவில் நின்னு சாமி பாத்து அகத்திகீரை வாங்கி பசுக்கு குடுப்பது தவறினது இல்ல. அமிஞ்சிக்கரை பெருமாள் கோவில்லயும் செஞ்சிருக்கேன் முடிஞ்ச வரை. மார்கழி முடியறதும் திருவையாறு கச்சேரியும் மகர விளக்கும் கிட்டத்தட்ட ஒண்ணா இருக்கும்.

போகி பண்டிகைய ரசிச்சதே இல்ல ஏன்னா, என்னோட விருப்பமான மார்கழி முடிவுக்கு வர்றதே எனக்கு உடன்பாடு இல்ல எப்பவுமே! ஏசியை சுவிட்ச் ஆப் பண்ணற ஒரே மாசம் கூட இந்த மார்கழி மாசம் தான். வருஷத்துல ஒரு மாசமாவது இயற்கை காத சுவாசிப்போம். சுக்கு காபியும் இஞ்சி டீயும் வேரா எப்ப குடிக்க முடியும் சொல்லுங்க! குளிர் காலமே இல்லாம இருக்க நம்மூருக்கு கொஞ்சம் வசந்தமா வர்றது மார்கழி தானே. போகி போட்டு எதுக்கு அதா தொரத்தறது. மார்கழி மாசம் செடியை பாத்திருக்கீங்களா. பூல்லாம் எவ்ளோ பிரெஷ். இலைல எல்லாம் பனித்துளி. நான் ஸ்வெட்டெர்றே போட்டதில்ல நம்மூர்ல மார்கழில. மார்கழி பனியை விட அதிகமான குளிர வெளியில உணர ஆரம்பிச்சேன். இப்பவும் எனக்கு மார்கழி தான் புடிச்ச மாசம். அடுத்தது ஆடி மாசம் – அம்பாளுக்காக. இந்த மார்கழி நாள் தான் எவ்ளோ சுகமானது. இப்போ கோலம் போடல. தனிமைல காபி உறிஞ்சு உறிஞ்சு சுலோகம் கேட்டுண்டே குடிக்கல. ஆனாலும் மார்கழி மார்கழி தான். இன்னும் சொல்ல போனா இப்பெல்லாம் இயர் எண்டு சேல் கூட மார்கழில தானாக்கும்! புது வருஷ பொறப்பும் மார்கழில தான். என்ன தான் தமிழ் வருஷ பொறப்பு கொண்டாடினாலும் நம்மளால ஜனவரி ஒன்னு ஆட்டம் பாட்டத்த நிறுத்த முடியுமா. இல்ல கோவிலுக்கு தான் போகாம இருக்க முடியுமா. வருஷாந்தர டூர் போக கூட ஒத்த நேரம் டிசம்பர் கடைசி.

வருஷா வருஷம் நான் காத்துண்டு இருக்கறதே இந்த டிசம்பர் மாசத்துக்காக தான். மார்கழி போல ஒரு மாசம் உண்டா. அரபு நாட்ல அப்டி இருக்கும் இந்த காலம். கோவிட்டாலே எல்லாம் மாறி போச்சு. இல்லைன்னா எல்லாம் ஒரே பிகினிக் தான் பார்க் பர்கா. பேக் வாட்டர்ல போட்டிங் தான். அந்த பனியை அணுபக்கவே ஒரு கூட்டம். ஸுக் பக்கம் போனா அவன் அவன் ஹூகாஹ் பிடிச்சுண்டே சாயங்காலம் தொட்டு ஒக்காந்து இருப்பான். டைனிங் எல்லாம் அவுட்டோர்ல தான். அமெரிக்காவிலும் டிசம்பர் மாசம் முதல் தடவை போனமோது இருந்தேன். பிளோரிடாவிலும் அரிஸோனாவிலும் எங்க தோஹா மாதிரி பனி உறையாத மிதமான குளிர். மலேசியாவிலும் கூட நம்ம தமிழ் நாட்டு மார்கழி குளிர் தான். ரசிக்க முடியற குளிர். அனுபவிக்க தூண்டற குளிர். நம்மள வீட்டுக்குள்ள அடைக்கற ஐஸ் கட்டி குளிர் இல்ல. இப்போவெல்லாம் ஒரு ஸ்வெட்டரோ ஷால்வோ போட்டுண்டு தோஹால வாக்கிங் போறேன். கோவிட்டாலே கச்சேரி கூட ஆன்லைன் தான். இவ்வளவு வருஷம் இந்த பாக்கியம் அமைஞ்சதே இல்லன்னு சொன்னா என்ன கைல கெடச்சது வெச்சுண்டு அடிக்க வர்றாதீங்க! முதல் முறையா ப்ரொவ்சிங் பண்ணி கோலம் போட்டு பேஸ்புக்ல ஷேர் பண்றேன். கோவிலுக்கு போகாமையே கடவுளை வீட்டுக்குள்ள தேட இங்க தான் கத்துக்கிட்டேன். காலத்துக்கு ஏத்த மாதிரி மாறி தானே ஆகணும். ஏன் நம்ம மயிலாப்பூர் மாறிடலையா. நான் வளர்ந்த ஊரே அது இல்ல. காலமும் வேற. அந்த குடும்பம் எல்லாம் இப்போ எங்கயோ எப்டியோ பிரிஞ்சு சிதறி போச்சு. இப்போ அங்க கூட யார் ஒருத்தருக்கொருத்தர் முகம் கொடுத்து பேசறது. ஓட்டு வீடு எல்லாம் போச்சு எங்க தெருல. இது இல்ல எங்க வீடு. அந்த இனிய இளமை காலத்துக்கும் இப்பத்துக்கும் பாலமா இருக்கறது இந்த மார்கழி நினைவுகளே.

எத்தனை சினிமா பாட்டு மார்கழியை வெச்சு. மார்கழி பூவே மார்கழி போவேன்னு ஒன்னு. மார்கழி திங்கள் அல்லாவான்னு ஒன்னு. ஆனா எனக்கு பிடிச்சது எப்பவுமே மாதங்களில் அவள் மார்கழி தான்!

Posted in Political

What India can learn from Middle East – Part 2: Food & Restaurant Industry

Every meat eater’s dream food is Shawarma, the smoked meat which is common sight everywhere in Middle east whether it is street food stall or star rated hi-end restaurant or food court in a mall. Even in India these days, after Biriyani, shawarma comes a close second for avid connoisseurs of meat as most favourite food. The meat in question here whether chicken or beef or turkey or whatever keeps rolling over pit fire or open lit oven roasted endlessly to deep brown perfection which means, the meat is just as crisp and juicy as the food lovers would want it to be. I have no idea frankly as a vegetarian from birth, but the men in my family simply loved shawarma (although they have left it now for health reasons) !

These days the grilled sliced meat dripping with greasy oil is kind of conspicuous by its absence! Or may be it is there but it is no more that brownish perhaps… Another change in restaurant food, fellow Indians must have noticed is that, not even our tandoori naans are that crispy or browned in recent times. We aren’t eating out much because of covid, but once a while we do dine out at restaurants that aren’t very crowded. So why are the tandoori rotis a bit soft? Have the chefs lost it? Have the chefs switched jobs? Is that the electric tandoor they are using?! This is what flashed in my mind when I saw that my rotis were no more flaky and looked kind of softish, with no browning in middle east. Normally I love the north Indian food here better compared to what is available in Chennai. The cuisine we have in restaurants are authentic with representations from Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai etc., and a few even used to have live music (!) Yeah my top pick used to be a restaurant that got artistes from India to render ghazals and Bollywood numbers! Fine dining thy other name is north India!

Weekend lunch today was at an Indian restaurant for us where we expected a welcome drink. We were told that the serving of punch was removed from menu after covid struck. I further learnt that, tandoori rotis are no more browned or blackened crisp for health reasons. Health inspectors saw to that this does not happen in restaurants, with due vigilance. Overcooking or roasting to deep brown meant carcinogen in our food that is linked to cancer. So now I understood why the shawarma is no more spinning so fancily to that brownish crispness over coal embers or electric oven! We have a meat eater nation in question; meat loving people who cannot do without it. But how such a basically beef consuming country so willingly adapts health safety protocol really impressed me. The locals have no issues. It means the food in the platter will be a little less tasteful than before, but nobody is complaining.

Smoked food linked to cancer for its presence of carcinogen is no latest news. But who would have given thought to stringent enforcements of health safety standards in food industry or restaurants.

In food industry we have something to learn from gulf countries. The discipline with which the residents accept the latest food reforms (i don’t know if ‘reform’ is the right word here) is impressive. A battalion of officers make sure that the health safety standards are adhered to with their thorough checks on restaurant kitchens. Barbeque eating places are admirably coping well sticking to new prescribed standards. One flouting of rules and regulations, and the business could get sealed for ever. No favouritism whatsoever. How every single small issue is accorded significance in arab countries really moves me. Welfare of the population is the government’s highest priority, the way it must be.

I am not averse to drawing the best from anyone or everyone. I think we all have to grow in whichever way possible and wherever and whenever.

Posted in Political

What India can learn from Middle East – Part 1: Economy, Banking & Telecom

When we Indians fueled by our mainstream and social media are gloating over Twitter chief coming from India, among other global CEOs born and schooled in India, it may also be time to point out some brutal facts to which we close our eyes and mind: that these top men are probably picked for the markets they may represent or market share they may help cultivate/retain. This can be simply a matter of management. Clever management. However, our Indian government has a lesson or two to learn from the Arab countries in Middle East who have viable economies outperforming ours. A quick peek here into the Arabian Gulf:

  • Google pay is banned in the richest arab nations. Only proper banking channels can be used for transaction purposes including for funds transfer. The phones assembled in the middle east do not even have access in Google playstore/Apple to download the app. Whereas in poor India, our banks are losing heavily to apps such as Phonepe and Googlepay and now even to Whatsapp pay. There is simply no Wallet concept in middle east. All financial profits belong with the banks that do not share a cent with the Google or any other nonbanking entity. Now you know why Google CEO is Indian.
  • No Whatsapp calls are allowed to go through in the oil rich arab countries. In some gulf countries, whatsapp calls are possible with vpn downloads. But in most arab nations, whatsapp calls don’t work even with vpn. Only whatsapp texting is permitted. Rule applies for Skype/Viber/Google Duo/Facebook Messenger calls or whatever with the telephone departments still staying alive and ploughing back profits. Ban on social media calls also is enforced strictly for security reasons. The encrypted calls are simply a big no-no. Transparency of highest order is followed in telecom sector.
  • No Amazon office is open in Middle east. Only old fashioned courier services like DHL and local ones cater to delivery line. Local businesses flourish not fattening up Jeff Bozos with many more million dollars as India is doing. In case you order something from a Facebook seller, then the delivery happens not via Amazon, that is the point. There is no local Amazon website that I find to be strange, but Amazon India or Amazon US is accessible (although you cannot place order for delivery within middle east).
  • No startup apps in the lines of Dunzo for local delivery or shopping. Orders have to be placed straight in the website addresses or over phone or via whatsapp and the business houses may take to deliver door to door the orders placed/received. Rare exception is the restaurant food delivery app (of Swiggy kind in India) that caters to the tastebuds of the arabs within minutes from multicuisine restaurants!
  • No subsidized broadband connection is possible in middle east. The charges may not be steep but not cheap either as in India. You cannot afford watching pictures in mobile or gamble as big percentage of ignorant Indian population is doing with their smart phones. Quality of internet usage is therefore efficient. Luckily the arab countries do not have an Ambani like from Reliance who their governments have to patrionize.
  • Phone call clarity is too good in middle east. Recently when I flew back to India, I noticed a strange phenomenon. The local calls made from my mobile phone were not clearly audible whereas my whatsapp calls were crystal clear. I inquired on this with my friends who confessed to a similar experience. When the phone calls even from our latest upgraded phones were not as clear as whatsapp calls, we were forced to switch to whatsapp to make our calls. Or was this the idea at all? Our calls are now commercial statistics for businesses. I wonder whether the purpose of muted or inaudible call owing to poor connection is deliberate. Are we Indian citizens discouraged from making regular phone calls from our mobiles? Are we subtly coerced to make whatsapp calls? Are we led to buy data packs from mobile operators? What about our privacy. For a fact I am aware, our local calls are more secure than the calls made through whatsapp.

So in short, all our Modi govt has to do is to boot out Gpay from India alongwith Amazon. Broadband rates need to be revised. Telecom industry is in dire need of a revival for which, the data packs must not be subsidized. Neither should broadband connections through private operators be.

Whether we really do ‘make in India’ or not, we can at least do something not to UNDO India. We can follow the Arab example to protect our local economy and save the domestic business community. Our small and retail traders and cottage industries need our government’s backing. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to multinationals. We cannot sell the interests of our nation for a pittance. China has lived without You Tube and Google for years. Social media and IT companies and multinationals have to work in tandem with out national economy. They must not be allowed to mint money at the cost of our banks profits. They should not be driving out of business our delivery services and small scale industries. Arab leaders are not talking much and giving sermons from the podium like our desi leaders do, but they are doing a wonderful job nevertheless. Here, the multinationals heed to the local laws or get kicked out. Now, that is patriotism to me.

Posted in Women & Family

Miss India Universe 2021

Harnaaz Sandhu of India crowned Miss Universe hardly makes me jubilant. India is a big, big, colossal market and they just know what buttons to push to tap into the resources here, to my reckoning. A series of women have won the Miss World and Miss Universe title from India who have all subsequently become Bollywood heroines chugging the beaten track. So that kind of makes me sick that a fellow Indian must win the title now that can later become her passport to stardom. In fact I was told of this news by a pretty filipino girl in a medical clinic last morning. She congratulated me as if it was I who had won the beauty pageant! She said, Indian girls are beautiful. I was kind of embarrassed. I said, Indian women were beautiful and brainy and she smiled nodding her head. She got her third shot and I had to reschedule my appointment.

After Aishwarya Rai and Sushmitha Sen won the Miss world and Miss universe titles the same year in the early ’90s, it became even more easy for the multinationals to gain access into Indian consumer markets. Up until then, we Indian ladies hardly used to groom so readily. Overnight, every little girl seemed to want to become the next Ash which was kind of insane. I was pretty worried like, what was happening to my country.

Girls in my country today are spending too much on chemical skin and hair care and garish make-up that looks cheap and vulgar on them. The painted faces are like a cruel joke. How can we even try to impersonate the models on catwalk or the Hollywood belles. We just cannot and do not become them. We don’t have to. My friend who was visiting the US told me how she spotted the top models in Miami. Nobody gave a damn! It is the young women in India who are shamelessly mimicking the celluloid stars. The Miss India universe crown is only going to precipitate the matter. A good chunk of our women’s earned income these days is spent on personal grooming. Self care is undeniably important, one has to feel good and even best about oneself. Of course we have to live it up, but never like this! But the obsession of our young ladies with the beauty business is going out of hands. It is totally fake.

Indian govt has to keep a vigil over the cosmetics imported into the country. Most beauty salons in India also use products that are prohibited in many foreign countries. For instance, formaldehyde used in hair straightening in India is proved toxic and directly linked to cancer. Beauty products in India also are sold/used in parlours after the expiry date.

In my experience I have seen that the girls who are engrossed with their academic or career accomplishments hardly pay attention to these trivialities. This kind of beauty business is extremely distracting. I was shocked to see a five year old girl don the lipstick recently. She was already choosy about her clothes, colours and boots. I found that to be extremely unhealthy. Boys of the same age play more and hardly give attention to physical grooming. May be the boys may ask for shoes or denim, but more than that, I have not come across Indian boys of similar age express interest in grooming the way our girls do. Where is the flaw? Does it lie in parenting or with the way our society is evolving. Are we promoting wrong values in our children unconsciously. When as women we seek equality in everything, why do we want to raise our daughters preoccupied with grooming?

To me, self confidence stems from self assurance that we are enough. We need not have to rely on a tube of concocted paste and lip filler and bleach to present to the world a version of us that we are not. A decent cleanup or maintenance keeping with times must do. Anything more than that points to a psychological disorder sorry!

Feeling beautiful inside out comes from maturity and life experiences, something that cannot be bought over for a price.

A friend of mine was recently saying that to distract her teen daughter from grooming, she was advising her to take MPC (math physics chemistry) stream in higher secondary school because, art or commerce could leave the girl with a lot of time in her hands that she may use for banal purposes. Someone with a very balanced outlook on life making this observation is like an eyeopener to the scene we have presently in India.

It is nice to wear good clothes, change your hairstyle once a while, overhaul to look different or take care to be presentable, but all this can be done with a little dignity, without us having to look like B or C grade film artiste. Why should we have to draw our strengths from creams and lotions. There has to be an element of reality in whatever we do. We cannot stay in denial forever of who we are originally. It is time to wash and cleanse off our faces to unearth the raw and natural beauty beneath our skin.

Meanwhile I am waiting for the list of multinationals waiting for their chance to enter India anytime now, if they haven’t already. They just needed this stroke to be played out. With our new Femina Miss India Universe, their prospects look brightest.

Posted in Lateral Thinking

Healthy in Heart & Mind…

Reposting something from Jan 2010 lol. With a little bit of edit, not much.

I am quoting Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel winning verse ‘Where the mind is without fear….’ from ‘Gitanjali’.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.
Where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth.
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by Thee
Into ever-widening thought and action.
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake!

Rabindranath Tagore

Now i add one more (soon -to-be) popular verse 😀

Think the Unthinkable;
Speak the Unspeakable;

Do the Un-doable;
Dare the Undareable

See the Unseeable;
Ponder the imponderable;
Write the un-writable;

Question the unquestionable;

Dream the undreamable;
Envision the invisible;
Challenge the unchallengeable;
Change the unchangeable;

– by (whoelse but?) ME!

Posted in Political

CDS Killed In Chopper Crash

Sad day for the nation as CDS General Bipin Rawal is killed in copter crash in the Nilgiris. Conspiracy theories will play out in this high profile air accident that has taken a heavy toll of 13 Defence personnel (with one military officer fighting for his life in hospital), the top military brass of the nation. Could it have been the joint project of China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans still have not learnt their lessons, for it is not even a week since a Sinhalese man was lynched and burnt in Pakistan. This is the kind of nexus they are seeking, keeping India out of the loop. Submerged in mounting debts against China, Lanka is at the point of breakdown. India has to be wary as China has surrounded us literally: buying out wholly Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and now even the Maldives. But one great advantage with India is that, we are battle-hardened. The chinese can manipulate us and win the battles, yet we shall win the final war if it comes to that. I will not underrate India against China. Neither has China passed the acid test of democracy. Someway along history this has to happen, and when that happens, China will break up. Meanwhile, India has to launch in-depth probe into the accident. Generals can’t die this way. To me, this is war against India. India has seen far worse scenarios: having had PM assassinated when in term, PM dying in office mysteriously in foreign tour, PM hopeful assassinated, director of atomic research station killed in air crash, scientists dropping dead just like that. We have survived every time and we shall, this time as well.

Posted in Political

The Antivaxxers Theory.

I don’t know about the antivaxxer community in the US. I guess, the men and women who refuse to get vaccinated in America are more bothered about violation of their physical body, not wanting unknown foreign substance in their system. The Americans are known for upholding individual rights or freewill. What about India. There seems to be a lobby working even here who are against vaccinations. One religious group in Kerala for instance reportedly have not been administering even polio drops to their infants. It is this group that is the fastest growing population in the entire nation with highest fertility rates. Imagine the damage that is waiting to befall on us should things go wrong. We have been believing, polio has been abolished from Indian soil. The same group could be a reason for unbelievable number of Covid cases in the state (refusing vaccines) although their communist government would like to shift the blame to gulf-returnees. The fact is that, every single expatriate working in middle east has been vaccinated far earlier than resident Indians. We may be going for a booster dose shortly. Chances of NRIs bring the coronavirus from Arab countries to India must be very slim. The ruling state government of Kerala probably would not want to point fingers.

India has had an ambitious immunization drive in the last few decades. There is an interesting angle to antivaxxers case in India. Most Indian adults of voting age have been brought under the tax net by Modi govt with Aadhar and PAN linking. Or in short, a lot of regularizing or streamlining of the Indian economy has been happening ever since the BJP govt took over for the first time in 2014. This means, individual identities can not be easily forged although this is happening in sporadic cases. There have been instances of procuring Aadhar in our north east sister states by illegal insurgents. Barring these isolated cases, there is no scope for hiding in loopholes denying your existence in India anymore. Every single Indian citizen is now brought under one legal umbrella where he/she is accountable for his/her actions. Accountable to every penny. There is still however a small percentage of our population who can escape the trap by filing form 15G etc., or not filing any returns at all. There are housewives (like me even) and small-salaried who do not pay income taxes (for earning nil or minimum untaxable incomes) yet. Then there are the jobless. There are the preteens from who we have a miniscule percent of juvenile delinquents. There are private practitioners of various professions, trades and arts. There is a burgeoning lower middle-class. There is this huge chunk of blue colour population. While all these may have their Aadhar identity, they may not necessarily have a PAN. Apart from Aadhar, India allows for numerous other IDs such as the Driving Licence (DL),Voters ID, Passport etc., for identification and address verification. A second set of IDs of secondary nature are our LPG bills, Phone bills etc., that we may pay for utility.

What the Covid vaccination does is, bringing into record the entire Indian population with their legal IDs. When I first registered for my first Covishield in India, I was asked to produce my Aadhar card. For my second dose, the first used ID was rejected. I had to necessarily flash my second ID for which I used my Voter card. I have now added my passport to my Vaccine certification. So in effect, three of my IDs have been effectively linked to my covid vaccine certificate by our Modi government! Very smart! An irrefutable proof of individual IDs or Indian citizens in this case is established. Illegal residents such as Bangladeshis in India will have to work double hard to sieve through this tight closing net. Any foreign national on the run in India cannot for long disappear. A main reason for anti-vaccine community to gain grounds is supposedly this, although our leftists would like to term it all yet another case of deprivation of individual liberty.

Number of conspiracy theories are doing rounds about covid vaccine records and stats. Sometimes even the skeptical me would wonder whether plans are afoot to depopulate Planet Earth!

Normally, I am opposed to vaccines. As someone born in late 60s, the only vaccine I took was for Small Pox which is long since eradicated from Indian soil. I vaguely recall my school giving me annual Malaria shots when it poured cats and dogs for successive monsoons in the early 80s. I haven’t even taken the anti-hepatitis shots although the men in my family have. Covid vaccine is my first serious vaccine really.

It is also true that not only is it in India, but in entire world the masses will be profiled undoubtedly with the vaccine information we provide to our governments. Our age bracket, our medical history, our indisputable IDs all give our sleuths voluminous material to grade us or track us. I just cannot dismiss the book 1984 by George Orwell out of my mind. I do feel like collared sometimes, tagged, like we radio-collar the wild animals in the bush or the cattle and sheep that graze in grasslands. Someone, our big brother, is watching. However, I relax in the thought that I have nothing to hide or lose. I am transparent and I have no reason to fear my government or law and order. I am not that worried about individual freedom that I wouldn’t want to comply with safety regulations which are for my own physical wellbeing. I have to stay alive to argue about suppression of human rights! Corona has me pinned to the floor. I have no choice but to go with my govenment.

The data that we file such as our vaccination records that carry our ID information and other private details such as previous medical history also is now going global as we fly to our destinations worldwide. We sign documents online and we register in various portals as we have to take off and land in different airports. We have downloaded covid apps in practically every single country and the bluetooth surveillance tracks our every move. We need permit to enter any space. Connecting the dots, I can hazily make out a global consensus on earth’s population. Classified data! Mindblowing stats which may otherwise be impossible to collect! How many inferences to intrapolate and extra-polate with all those jumbled figures! So what are they going to with all these numbers???

Sometimes I am glad that we have someone showing resistance at all to anything and everything. This could be a very small percentage but we need this kind of naysayers for our own benefit. We don’t know what lies ahead. We are instilled with a fear our parents and grandparents never knew in their lifetimes: the fear of the unknown.

As I blog this, the latest variant Omicron is hitting headlines around the world. One more story of negativity and psychological terror. Will we ever know normal times again? When will we achieve the herd immunity.

Many in India and the US criticize anti-vaxxers but covid vaccine is not in the same class as polio drops. There is a world of difference between the two. We need extensive research on certain issues that our media would not deliberately pickup. I am sick of the Indian tv channels that have become the mouthpiece of those in power. Real debates are not happening, what must be discussed is not spoken about.

Not even national security is strong enough reason to collect individual data the way world nations have been piling on since March 2020. Meanwhile covid is still here. How many more booster shots, nobody knows. How many more forms to fill and sign in, who knows. The only thing we haven’t affixed so far in our covid certificate is our right thumb impression.

************

Why are Indian mothers worried. My friend’s healthy daughter in her twenties in India went for double shots spaced out. She was having regular periods until then right from her menarche. Ever since taking her covid shots, the girl is having irregular periods. Her second dose was months back. After 6 months lapse finally her cycle is falling back into regular pattern. First 3 months, nothing. So is there a connectivity at all with covid vaccine and fertility. Research in this area vital with figures collected for conceptions made by couples after administration of both doses of covid vaccine.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: 14 Peaks (documentary)

First of all hats off to Nirmal Purja (Nims) and his Project Possible Nepali team for having scaled the 14 eight thousanders in record 6 months and 6 days. As Nims himself says, he is undoubtedly the Usain Bolt of the eight thousanders! By eight thousander, we refer here to mountain peak over 8000 meters in altitude. The said 14 peaks lie in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet (under Chinese control). Refreshing watch for someone like me who reveres nature and wildlife. Informative and inspiring, to say the least. As an Indian citizen, as a Hindu, i am extremely proud of my Nepali brother Nims. Yes of course Nims, you are spot on! World would have celebrated with such a fanfare, had it been someone from the west who had achieved this Himalayan feat (literally). But it is okay. Take heart that, some of us like me wouldn’t in a million years believe that it was Edmund Hillary who scaled the Everest first. Thousands of brave and unsung heroes, the Nepali sherpas would have done that centuries before. Their victories were just not documented. And yes, every Sherpa goes by a name. It is insulting to refer to these tough-made men as mere Sherpas. The Gorkhas of Nepal are very respected in India. Their tribe has thinned out now, but even today, lakhs of Nepalis work in India including in my hometown Chennai making life easy for us. We wouldn’t trust any other, believe me and we would like to see the back of Bangladeshis from our soil (although I must not talk politics here). With Nepalis I have this soul connection. The sight of bindhi in Nepali women in middle east is hearty. I never miss an opportunity to chat them up. Have had the chance to chat up even a Bhutanese woman. Your world record matters that much Nims. You have not made just Nepal proud, you have made us Indians proud as well. We never see Nepalis as any different.

Coming to the picture, it is crisp and neat, but I wish it is far more elaborate with further reels from the summits of the Himalayan peaks. The film runs for under two hours. Is it possible to lengthen it by any means with some extra footage. This is one damn well made real life story. It underscores the fitness criteria and also the unmitigable human spirit that is possible to nourish and sustain that saw Nims scale the harshest peaks on earth in such a brief interval of time. Human body is capable of such an exertion. Faced with adverse economic, climatic and political conditions, the Project Possible team still weathered the storm in their own way never turning back from their goals and never stopping to believe in themselves.

I was particularly impressed by the K2 conquest. I have watched quite a few films on this one but they are all still reenactments of real life incidents or figments of someone’s imagination (like the Cliff Hanger for instance). I have also watched others like the Everest, K2 etc., but watching the drama unfold in K2 in this one was interesting. What a trendsetter and a leader all the way is our Nims! We need young men like him to lead our masses from the front!

Had it not been for the delay in acquiring the Chinese permit for scaling the last of the 14 in Tibet, Nims and his team would have made it in under 6 months. As such Nims has shattered 6 world mountaineering records on which note the film closes.

The 14 looming eight thousanders are:

From the Nepali side: The Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Mt Everest, Lhotse and Makalu.

From the Pakistani side: The Nangaparbat, Gasherbrum 1 (G1), Gasherbrum 2 G2), K2 and Broad Peak.

From the Tibetan side: Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Shishapangma.

Savoured every single moment of watching this outstanding flick. God bless Nepal and God bless the Himalaya. And God please liberate Tibet from China!

The snowy vistas are intimidating and the avalanches are unpredictable. The drops from the chasms and clefts have our jaws dropped! The bottleneck on K2 gave me goosebumps from here! To say HACE or the High Altitude Cerebral Edema is scary is understatement of the year. Nims with his exceptionally courageous Nepali mountaineer team comprising Mingma David Sherpa and Geljian Sherpa among others took calculated risks. Bravo! Well done team! Perhaps Lord Pashupathinath wanted Nims and his Project Possible to do this for Nepal! You must let nobody steal your thunder Nims! You did right! Go on and on and leave no stone unturned in your wake, lots of love and respects and cheers & best wishes from India Project Possible guys! Sky is your limit!