Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Single Track Life

It is surprising how many people in this world consider life to be a single track lane. Read the first two comments on my previous post. Both these readers have difficulty in connecting religion with science. And perhaps rightly so. That is how these people and even myself have been bred to think.

However life is not a single track road. It does not walk down a fixed lane. Furthermore life is not a binary tree comprising solely of mutually exclusive decisions at each node. Life is a web – inseparably interlinked in all its parts. Perhaps more than we can imagine.

Person one says that religion is a personal matter. I propose a correction. That is how one would like it to be. However, the reality is that it is not merely a personal matter. In all times and ages men have been ready to kill and die for religion. Also, even if it is a personal matter, such personal matters deeply affect what people do in various circumstances. Scientists for example have their own religious beliefs and these beliefs strongly reflect in their scientific beliefs as well. Science like everything else is also a human endeavor. Unlike what most people think science is not all that objective about the reality that it is trying to investigate and the reason is simple. It is men who do science. Men who are never free of their own prejudices and presumption. This is a reality that has yet to be understood by many.

On the same token, the mystic and the scientist are both humans. Both are trying to satisfy their curiosity. The method that they follow is different. However the kinds of questions that they ask are the same. Both are interested in understanding the nature of reality.

One of the worst philosophies that modern science has brought into vogue is that of reduction to essentials. Humans have learnt to make compartments. This is science, this is religion. Economics, politics, sociology, psychology, technology. We go on making compartments. But the truth is that all these things are related both in themselves and in the fact that all of these are human endeavors limited by human limitation.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Children

It is surprising how the perception of children varies between the Hindu culture and the Christian one. In Hinduism, children are godlike. The belief largely stems from the Hindu mythology of the "baal lila" of lord Krishna. Stories of childhood of lord Rama and Hanuman are also popular. Thus the mythology supports the belief of children being godlike.

In Christianity on the other hand, the child is a product of "sin" and therefore inherently sinful. It has to be purified by baptism. Thus John the Baptist was already present to purify baby Jesus although Christianity per se had not been established. There is evry little account about baby Jesus. It is only when he grows up that he goes about doing his godlike stuff.

This difference in the religious background reflects a lot in the culture too. Especially literature and the arts. In Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Chronicles of a Death Foretold" a character thinks that "only children are capable of anything". She is referring to murder and is quite frightened by the fact. It will be hard to find such depiction of children in Indian culture.

The difference in religion also affects science. Most of the western scientists have great trouble in accepting the notion of and endless (and beginning-less) universe. That is why they are constantly is search of a "beginning". Fritjof Capra in his book "The Tao of Physics" says that this attitude comes from the biblical notion of creation. God said "let there be light, and there was light". Thus God "began" the universe.

In Hinduism however we have two views about the creation myth. One of course is the "beginning" camp in which God just came into existence and created everything else. However, Hinduism also subscribes to the view of "sanatana dharma" ie a religion which has been there for ever and the cyclic nature of creation as in the repeated occurings of the four yugas. Thus a Hindu philosopher will have less trouble in accpeting the notion of a cyclic or endless universe.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Indian Food

This is what an outsider, in fact, a Canadian told me about Indian food - The food is so spicy that it is hurting you, but at the same time, its so delicious that you can't stop eating.

I coudn't agree more.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dream Person

I've been tagged by Sindhu. I don't usually do this tag business but at the end of the day Sindhu is a girl and as a matter of principle I don't refuse girls. Besides, the poor damsel was supposed to tag eight guys but could do only three because she knew only four damned bloggers and one of them had already tagged her. Anyhow, the tag goes like this :

1. The tagged victim has to come up with 8 different points of their perfect lover.

2. Need to mention the sex of the target.

3. Tag 8 victims to join this game & leave a comment on their comments saying they’ve been tagged.

4. If tagged the 2nd time, there’s no need to post again.

Target: I'm not really sure about this one anymore. I used to like females at some point of my life, I'm pretty sure about it, although the memory is a bit vague now. Its been a while since I've seen a female (a proper one, the ones over here don't really count) and I'm beginning to wonder about my sexual inclinations. The boy next door isn't so nasty after all (I'm talking about Anubhav, NOT Akshay).

The Traits

1. Shouldn't be too beautiful: (shouldn't be ugly either) People who are too beautiful make me insecure. They look like people who are out of this world - unreachable, ununderstandable. I want someone down to earth. Someone who you can relate to.

2. Should be interested in one or more of these things (otherwise what else would we talk about?) literature, science, philosophy, psychology, arts, politics, technology, economy, writing and STAR TREK.

3. Broad minded.

4. Should be wheatish in complexion (not dark) I have a fetish for wheatish skin.

5. Understanding.

6. Good sense of humour (I don't have any)

7. Loyal and honest. I don't mind truths that hurt but I do mind lies.

8. Heck, can't think of anything! A good cook?

I tag nobody.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's in the Race

According to a recent article in The Hindu, three scholars have published a paper last year which theorises that Jews are more intelligent than other races. The reason given is that their traditional occupation of doing business and making money leads them to develop genes for cleverness. A similar “study” was done in 1994 which stated that African races are dumber than others.

Both these studies have lead to huge controversy and discussion as is to be expected. But the question that I ask is – what difference does it make?

I question the hopeless futility and sheer uselessness of the entire exercise.

Okay fine, maybe Jews are smarter and Africans less so. What difference does it make? Surely, nobody in his sane mind can declare that all Jews are intelligent and that all Africans are dumb. There are always individual variations in such cases.

So when we talk about university admissions, I would certainly have to look at the individuals credentials. Or even when I’m talking about job offers.

I don’t understand when people will start treating people based on personal characteristics and not group traits. Because more often than not, group traits do not even exist. Or even if they do exist they are of no consequence is practical life.

SMS Lingo?

This is a classic example of the kind of crap that people post on email these days in the name of SMS lingo or whatever (whatevha?) Names have been replaced by ##. To add, not only do I find such messages infinitely irritating, I also take them as the indicators of the mental level of the writer. If you can't even type, what else can you do in life?

heya ol!....
wel wel wel....am i excluded from da grp...or da grp
is really dormant!!???....apologies fr nt chipping in
da grp discussions fr a real long tym nw!....

wishing #### and #### a very happy birthday fm ol
dose who dinno as well as who've olready wished
em'(like me!)....m a day late in sending dis e-mail
though!...

#### as many f u must not be knowing had an amazing
NEW YEARS nd BIRTHDAY BASH!!!...hahhaa....guess
wha!!!....his exams were on!!:):).....buh
unfortunately as m writing this e-mail,he is appearing
for his last paper 2day....
......####,wish u hav such enjoyable birthdays every
year!!
....hahhaa...jz cant frget da gloomy voice i heard
yesterday on da phone while talkin ta ya!!...

ugh!!..m in da practical lab in college n da teacher
has come back!...gta start wrking on da assignment
now!!

catchya guyz later!.....
####

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I Doubt It

People often argue that ancient or even pre-medieval India was sexually more liberal than it later became. They often put forth this argument in favour of more sexual freedom in the country today and against moral policing.

While I would agree with their cause of more sexual freedom, I somehow do not agree with the fact that India was some kind of a sexual paradise in the old times. Being a civilization that has preserved its roots for more than three thousand years, it seems highly unlikely that we would take such a one-eighty-degree turn in this respect.

The evidences put forth in support of this argument often comprise of ancient Indian sculpture/paintings like those at Khajuraho, Ajanta and Ellora or even those belonging to the Mughal times. These often depict couples in a variety of sexual positions and even sex with animals and sex in public surrounded by numerous vassals and servants. Literature such as the Kamasutra are cited every now and then. Epics such as the Mahabharat and works of Kalidas also depict relative sexual freedon.

Although I have no doubts that ancient India was more liberal in these matters that we now are, I have my doubts regarding the extent of this liberalism. Even a cursory glance at above examples is enough to show that most of these works were patronized by the ruling class. The actual perpetrators of these sexual acts were also either gods or people of the ruling class. I’m yet to encounter an example were people of the lower strata of the society or even the middle class, such as it were at that time, subscribes to these liberal ideas.

An even more cursory glance at today’s society will reveal that the lifestyle of the rich and elite, the P3P’s in today’s parlance, is far removed from the lifestyle of the masses. Indeed, the amount of sexual promiscuity in the privileged section of the society is far more than that in the less privileged one. I have reason to believe that it was so in the ancient times too. Kings were kings – absolute monarchs – what was to prevent them from breaking the sexual norms of the society – whatever they were.

One of the fundamental natures of the Indian society has been different codes of conduct for different sections of the society. The Kshatriya was allowed to eat meat, hunt, play dice, keep as many wives as possible, drink alcohol – a lot many vices were allowed, in fact, almost all of them. A Brahmin was supposed to lead a more austere life. Eat what is called “satvik” food. Refrain from sexual promiscuity etc etc. Thus, while Kunti can bear a child without marriage and Draupdi can take five husbands at a time, Ahilya was turned to stone for a crime she did not even commit. Indra and Chandra were repeatedly punished for misbehaving with the wives of Brahmins while they could freely watch Apsaras dance in their own court. Clearly the rules of the game were different for different people.

In light of all this, what the evidence merely suggests is that only a certain (upper) strata of the society was sexually liberal rather than the entire society. Even today the upper class in sexually liberal so there hasn’t been much difference. The lower strata are conservative and I believe that it was conservative all along.

Random Pictures From My Life

A budding surveyor - Me!














Root art at Dehradoon. These peices were displayed for sale very near to the place where we had stayed for survey camp.