Monday, February 06, 2006

Is Democracy stupid?

Busy on their snacks at the canteen, people lazily watch the news on the canteen TV announcing the problems due to victory of Hamas in Palestine.

Preethi remarks: "What is this... they allow a terrorist organization to participate in the elections, and then wonder how to solve the problem when they have won."

Mark: "Didn't you hear the other part... Like the reporter said.. it is democratic to allow them run for elections. Its palestine's destiny.. had to happen.. what can anybody do about it."

Preethi: "C'mon Mark.. What destiny... you know they are terrorists, and still will give the country to them like suicide.
Why did people elect terrorists to rule their country ?, Raj."

Raj: "The Hamas is recognized as a militant organization by the US not by the palestinians itself. What Hamas is? and why they have support is something unexplained"

Mark: "But, why is US coming into the picture.. Why are they saying they are the first to be bothered by the results of the elections."

Raj: "US has been funding palestine's efforts for democracy. The Hamas victory has put question marks all-over on US efforts in palestine...

"Also I remember, a few years back a top Hamas leader was assasinated by Israeli attacks, which they say had US help. So this victory could mean more...

"But really we just know the news reporters perception of things... the details of what is happening in Palestine, or Israel or US government interests is unclear.

Mano: "I remember, after the killing of the Hamas leader, the Hamas openly called for a total destruction of Israel"

Raj: "Even today after winning elections they don't have any interests of recognizing Israel as a country and a neighbour. They also are not ready to call-off their terrorist activities."

Preethi: "Have they formed the government? Is a Hamas leader the president of palestine now?"

Raj: "The Hamas leaders are reported to have gone to Egypt where their top leaders are in exile... to discuss how to set up the government in palestine, and make a 'To Do' list. Clearly, hamas is not ready to form government, and has no idea what it has to do now.. probably they didn't expect to win the elections but only be a major opposition like always."

Mano: "Already both neighbours israel and palestine, having a setback, with palestine leader yasser arafat dead, and israel leader ariel sharon unconscious."

Preethi: "Oh!"

Raj: "Palestine now wonders what democracy means, and whether allowing Hamas to participate in the elections because its a democratic election was a mistake."

Jas: "Just like India is wondering yaar...Called the world's largest democracy.. India really, clearly is struggling internally for years, to improve its infrastructure, its population, its other national crisises like unemployment, drought, starvation, poor, etc., "

Mano: " .. except one thing, MONEY atleast seems to be well-managed in India meeting expectations from foreign investors in India."

Preethi: "Ya... when you said infrastructure.. I remembered..
Recently, the long-long due of modernization plan of India's major airports got into rough wind when political interests in the country took opportunity to press the employee unions of Airports Authority of India to go on strike. The result was a good show by the employees not knowing the intentions of their leaders, with all airports becoming dirty overnight, stinking bad"

Jas: "That stink will give a great entry into India for people who come here. Thanks to the stupid government employees.. "

Mark: "Huh.. government employees are always like that."

Raj: "And you know when this modernization thing was started seriously by the government.. Should be three or four years back.. a small 3-year old girl died in New Delhi's 'Palam' airport because her head accidentally got caught by the moving parts of the escalator, and the personnel had no idea how to stop it."

Preethi: "Ya I remember.. yes, all the politicians started actively making statements about modernizing airport, its staff etc., .. in support of the people."

Raj: "From then on, the politicians have been talking.. talking .. they have their own way of making money and making political mileage even out of devastating accidents.

"And, finally.. FINALLY when the modernization project is to kick-off, you have some stupid irresponsible people protesting.. forgeting all about the past, about the country's development, and what not...

"For the protestors, all that matters is, if I protest, I will get money or can demand pay hike, and if not now, not later.. so make use of the opportunity, and shout against the government for keeping me like this for years though I will work only the same way with the same efficiency for years."

"Atleast the airport has been stinking only now, but 50% people and 50% politics is stinking for decades in India.

"All mistakes in India, with the people being irresponsible towards the country, the government and politicians being corrupt on an average, are all attributed to the process of democracy."

Mark: "In India, democracy has a new meaning too, for the people it is: "Do whatever you want.. unless a government authority asks", and for the government it is: "Do whatever you want.. until the people ask".

Preethi: "Oh God!
This leaves me with the question...
"Is being democratic..stupid?.."

Because whatever said, a totally democratic country has problems all the time.

If it were the US, and Hamas an organization there, definitely they wouldn't be allowed to participate in elections making an exception to total democracy.

If it were China, and the airport modernation plan was protested by employees, the communist country would slap sanctions on the employees and the government would take steps to really bother them, because they are bothering the country's improvement.

Mano: "Just because you are democratic, giving everyone a chance, be it the militia, or the proven corrupt politician, etc., is really stupid.

"Don't you beat up criminals using the police, would you talk democracy or the criminals rights there? ofcourse only thing that can democratically be allowed is giving him a chance to defend himself in court. "

Mark: "But that too, in my opinion you should have limitations, because the law is never ever going to be perfect to hold somebody guilty..after all its just in the use of arguments..."

Preethi: "take Saddam Hussein's trial for instance, does it ever seem conclusive?"

Raj: "Democracy like any other rule or law needs stopping points and exceptions, with proper judgement on what's correct on that day with all perceptions given a consideration.

And like any other english word, being democratic can mean different things for different people, based on their culture, their perceptions about things and history. It matters how its implemented. Democracy cannot be blamed for everything."

Mano: "Yes, just like every country has its own constitution, though the objective of the law everywhere is common atleast technically. If not for differences, we could do with something like, all countries in United nations follow a common constitution"

Raj: "There's something like that when you become part of some unions like UN, or SAARC.. etc., I don't know exactly what constitutional rights they agree to follow in common. But an example would be like all countries in UN adhering to Geneva convention on treating war captives of the enemy in a human manner."

Mano: "Oh!"

Preethi: "That's nice.. like Raj said .. Democracy cannot be blamed for everything. Its not the mistake of being democratic itself.. but it matters how its implemented."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The India awakening

Almost finishing up on a college tour to Bangkok, the guys find time for a corner table chat at bangkok's China Town over dinner.

The chat begins.

Jas: "Yaar, whatta place.. I think after college I shouldn't live in India.. We should live in places like this, or UK or Australia. Such developed, clean places, less people, and good climate, yaar.. its so better after being in India. Kya kahte ho."

Preethi: "may be.. "
"Raj what do you think.. when will India become so good like this place bangkok."

Raj: "Firstly, India is not too bad a place like we Indians are making it to be.. We just get so disinterested, so often about our country, that we ignore that its only us Indians who can make our country better. :o)

"We can't actually compare India with the development of any other country I think. because India is a mixture, of people, of languages, of culture, and that too not because of foreign immigrants but by the very citizens of the country.

"People are different here and that is how we formed up into a country. Also India is over populated, and population determines how people live...the more the population in a place, the more resources it consumes, and it develops very slow.

"Further, we are a tropical country, the equator running right through the middle of the country, so we can't really do anything about our sunny temperatures compared to climates of America, or Britain.

"But one interesting fact is, India is economically better than Thailand or Bangkok, and even Japan. We do look bad in our infrastructure compared to these countries, though we are actually economically bigger. Do you know that a japanese yen is only 38 paise in Indian currency. So we have more money, but we aren't using it properly.

Mark: "Yea, most of Indians are middle-class citizens, and middle-class are so conservative about money.. its all in bank savings, or in lockers as gold jewels, or in foreign countries for better multiplicity."

Mano: "Then what should India concentrate on actually.. can there be a step-by-step development."

Mark: "India needs to improve its services in all fields.. not just one place, that is the problem."

Raj: "Right now we are doing it in software alone.. and that too for foreign projects alone I would say."

"India needs to have well-paid and highly-paid teachers, hospital staff who are not doctors, and the likes of ground-level labour who are in the service sector.

"Internal Services is the mantra for development and building. Because when you service well, people get motivated and inspired to be good like you, or, to do better than you.

"For example, when a teacher brings a model of a brain and shows the left, right lobes and things, the student gets motivated to know more about the brain its functions, and sometimes this small thing creates an urge in the student which gets him interested into medicine or similar fields.

"Right now, we have teachers in schools and colleges, but most of them are carelessly recruited as fillers for a vacant position. The principles of recruitment like 'right person .. for the right job' are not kept in mind on these positions.

"Teaching profession is seen as a less important profession in many schools and colleges, except a very few reputed ones. And the reason is because not much good skilled labour opt for this position.. which is again rooted in the fact that teaching is a less attractive option compared to those high-paid technology jobs.

"These days, teachers and proffessors are trying hard to ignore the fact that their student gets a starting salary close to or greater than the teacher's current salary, when the student leaves. And that too, the teacher would have got to the current salary only after atleast 3 yrs of teaching experience.

Preethi: "What do you think is a good payscale for a good teacher at school and then in college."

Raj: "I would say a payscale of around 50,000 to 1,00,000 rupees or 1000-2000$ per month is a nominal amount for a good teacher at college.

"And, a school is actually not less important than a college, or niether is a kindergarden less important than high-school. All stages of a growing person are important, and so we should the same scale to good school teachers also.

"Of course, doing this would not change everything. The teacher should be the first one who needs to be motivated to that he can teach better and motivate his students. A higher pay-scale is only a starting point and an interest driver for the teachers.

"If there are NOT such high paid teachers in a school or college, then I think that place hasn't really understood the value behind education....especially good education.

"Good education can do wonders.. "

"If a good speech by a good manager can do the first step in driving his team to work better and increase efficiency, then why aren't we seeing the same thing at schools and colleges. After all, schools and colleges are also at the bottom-line having the same aspects of work and ethics like a business does...though education institutes aren't best referred by the word 'businesses'.

Mark: "Yes, like Raj says, if we take care of today's teachers, they will take care of tommorrow's humans who will propogate the idea of development and that's the way development can emerge and happen."

Raj: "Exactly."

Mano: "Another thing that we should work on is the present. and the near future. There should be awareness among people to have a responsibility towards their environment, and very importantly, themselves.

"I mean, most people these days aren't first bothered about themself or their future, they make their huts in garbage dumping grounds or inside dry canals which are passage ways when their is a flood. "

Preethi: "Yea, people are not serious about themselves these days. Thye eat unhealthy and irregular, just because they lack the vision to see a problem with their future health, and fitness."

Jas: "Yea, blame it again on education, all through, we kind of have a feeling that these words 'vision', 'forecast', 'future', etc., are only for essays on business development.. whereas its important we visionize a future for 'us', our living space, our lifestyle etc., and work towards that."

Raj: "Yes.. But I strongly disagree about blaming something or somebody. Most often I hear the same things.. either someone blames something for the bad state of the place, or just says "love the place.. or leave the place.. don't complain". That's not going to help.

"Even today, even with well educated people, there are not much awareness towards the future of the country. For example, parents only think about their child's higher studies, or marriage expensese when they think of the child's future.. but not many think like 'my child should live in a better environment, in a better country when he grows up .. or things like that'

Jas: "Wow.. that's a great thought... but too good a future thought for an Indian parent given the things he can control about the country's growth."

Raj: "Why not !!

"What's a country.. its not a marked area of land that you call a country.. its the people living in that area that form the country, the people's economy that makes the country's economy, and so on.

Mark: "yea.. if the people develop, the country develops.. and each person only has to develop himself, his career, his surroundings, not that he has to plan development for the whole, big country."

Preethi: "Correct. and that's possible right. Like you said, just that we have all got to wake up to this and live our life responsibly."

Raj: "Yes. not just earning money, not just saving money for future.. but also take up small small responsibilities about the surroundings like, call the police if there's problem in your locality..rather than going indoors and peeping out of the window and watching the crime next door."

" questioning your city authorities when you see a bump in the road. Imagine if atleast 10% of people using a bad road in India, made just a 1min complaint call to the local authorities about the bad road, there would be enough calls that the authorities would be on their toes to correct the problem.

"Today, we are just ignoring all our responsibilities, tolerating too many small things that happen around us...that the whole number of small things turns out to be huge huge number of problems with the country and our attitude itself.

Preethi: "Exactly. we need to wake up. have awareness. and educate the future with the best possible resources, how much ever it costs or whatever it takes."

Raj: "yea. but but things won't happen like the press of a button, because its a huge huge population to wake up, even if 10% of Indians have to wake up .. so we have to patiently, but optimistically commit our best efforts to make it happen.

"And I personally feel, Indians are good at taking responsibilities, and so just like us discussing it here, many more people are, and India is waking up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Good old Harry potter... but where are the other fairy tales?

Preethi & others join at the canteen for a snack at tea time.

Preethi: "Hey mark, you seem tired! What happened. Was your class really that boring in the morning session"

mark: "Not actually, I didn't sleep much yesterday night. Went for a movie... night show"

manoj: "What movie was it?"

Preethi quickly: "Night show... and you watch only english movies... don't tell me you went to Harry potter and the bloglet of fire... that's the one running in the cinema close to your hostel."

"That's no bloglet.... GOBLET" quips mark quite irritated at the wrong name. (Mark gets irritated at every wrong or bad usage of english.. he is our peter in the gang)

jas: "How was it... I heard this one has more graphics and a not so childish tone, compared to the other harry potter movies"

mark: "yea, it was ok.. but i am not any potter fan.. some guys pulled me to go with them.. "

Preethi: "and sooo you were a group of guys who went for this movie... but all the time you guys keep talking as if its very childish to go to harry potter movies.. and only girls would do that"

Mano and Raj smile agreeably at Preethi for that...

manoj: "But may be there's nothing so childish watching a harry potter movie.. Worldwide all the harry potter stuff is proven to be a big hit. If it were very childish i dont think it would have got to become that popular. Think about our old cindrella stories, egyptian mummy stories, snow white.. where have they gone these days... they still are only in books.."

raj: "Who says that.. all these stories have also been movies.. but not the 1hr 50 min stuff of course.. because they are short stories for children ... best called fairy tales.

Children only like those stories.. because they are easy to understand.. do you think children at the age of 5 -15 go to harry potter movies because they follow the full story.. i dont think so. they must be liking the graphics, the school of magic that makes the story of the film.. and all that.

Preethi: "No raj, i have seen small kids discussing harry potter stories. my niece who is just 8 years old catches up with all the harry potter books as soon as they are released, and her mom says the girl wants to know as much of the story as she could read to tell her friends at school the next day. I think with harry potter, they are really going with the story.. "

jas: "For me.. i feel this harry potter stuff is catching on because its been some time since there were popular stories on witchcraft, magic or fairy tales.. "

manoj: "Also these days, they make the movie version of such stories once the book has completed taking its due popularity. That allows for tempting a reader to see how the story comes alive in a movie... its a good feeling to see things that you read as fancy stuff in books. This happened with lord of the rings also not just harry potter"

jas: "That should be a great marketing mantra of these days... cross promoting and selling the book and the movie.... somebody wants to read the book because the movie was interesting, and somebody wants to see the movie after since the book was interesting.

"But the sad thing is... i wonder.. all those fairy tales that mano was saying really has been forgotten now.. and kids of today probably dont know who is cindrella, or snow white."

Preethi: "True... my niece doesn't know cindrella or snow white and all. ... she doesnt like those small illustrated story books also.. she likes barbie, harry potter.. .. also she likes spiderman and batman only in the movies. She says cartoons are good on TV or movies.. and on books its not interesting. Perceptions have probably changed these days. "

mark: "Don't worry.. with the way these things are catching up... digital movies are great these days... they will make cindrella and snow white also one day with newer additions to the actual old story like it happened in the batman and spiderman movies. And when it comes to cartoons... I just loved that one.. Finding nemo, by pixar Films"

raj: "Yes, that was a very good movie.. with that kind of expressions in the characters of a full graphic film... you would not be any interested if 'Finding nemo' comes in a book.. Pixar also made the next one 'Incredibles' just as entertaining. But, like you(looking at Mark) I also dont have a liking for harry potter movies.. i haven't read the book version of it though.

"But things do look different like Preethi and Jas pointed.. probably perceptions and likings have changed.. and probably the marketing mantra is tempting the changes"

Monday, November 21, 2005

French Riots ...ended

manoj: "Hey, the recent French riots.. I heard its over!!".

raj: "Yes. Fortunately for the french, it ended. I always assumed Europe to be the only continent less into wars/fighting compared to all others... ofcourse excluding the extremes like antartica. But what happened in france with these riots, and some news websites pondering whether it was Jihad, beats the idea of Europe I had in mind".

preeth: "what's it all about.. Why did the riots happen?"

raj: "Like US, UK, France also attracts many foreign students and a lot of immigrants. Having been all the time in India, actually we guys dont understand immigration and its pros or cons much.. because india's immigrants to natives ratio is very very low.. in countries like france its close to 10% of the population. To give us an idea, that means 1 out of 10 people living in france.. is a foreigner.

"Also, greater than 5 million people are muslims in france. Europe and the west has always worried about france and turkey, for their considerably high muslim population in that half of the world.

"That's a considerable alien population to deal with for the french natives, and there are problems of discrimination. You should have heard about protests by immigrants now and then. And you should heard of this... france has a ruling in its constitution that no student would be allowed into colleges if he/she wears a muslim purdah, or a sikh turban".

jas: "Yes, something like our dress code here.. that we are protesting".

"Ah! this dress code we have is nothing.. its obvious.. here we are only being asked to come to college like a proffessional and especially girls not wear something to brand themself 'hot'", says mark looking at preethi's reaction.

"preethi responds angrily, "mark, stop that.. we girls dont wear for becoming 'hot'. you nuts only put your imagination skills to such use rather than studies".

"Now, now.. this is not about it.. stop any fight there", points raj calmly.

raj: "The french ruling on banning the purdah and turban created a wave of protests from muslims and sikh immigrants from India. All said, the ruling still holds.. but I am not sure whether the students are allowed into colleges with turbans, or, is their some kind of warm up time given till the ruling is enforced strictly.

"Now, the recent riots were organized by immigrants, most of them protesting were young men, who feel the french society neglects immigrants in many ways... There are unemployment problems, accomodation problems, racial discrimination, police harrasement, ... and all things that the french natives discriminate immigrants for.

"These riots have happened earlier when discrimination leads to some accident or creates disturbing issues. This time they say the riots would have ended earlier but for the electrocution deaths of two teenagers of African background hiding from police in an electrical sub-station. Then it sparked and became a more serious issue. Its also said that in one night on November 6th around 1400 vehicles were burnt and destroyed.. and since then the government declared a state of emergency.

"The interior minister of france even said that he has never in his life known of such three weeks of such extreme tension. The minister still said that he acknowledged the issues raised by the rioters on discrimination, but he was not happy with the way they are protesting by damaging vehicles and bringing normal life in danger".

"Now the riots have subsided, and the french government has promised addressing the issues raised".

Friday, November 18, 2005

What language is hot?

"Hey guys I have an interesting question for you all... it was hot debate for the day at class.. and i think it will be hot to discuss. Let us see what you have got!", challenged Mark, energizing the group with all that air for a discussion.

"Is it.. what where you compsci guys the great debating on?", asks Preethi in a ignorant tone to tease Mark.

Mark: "What language is hot in the world according to you? .. and Why? That is the topic. Let's hear. Hey Preethi what do you think is the hottest language".

Jas: "Arre yaar... obviously its Hindi. The intellectuals language. Isme puchne ki kya bath hai (what's there to ask)"

Raj: "I think its French. Its the only language I have known, which is spread over continents and countries, even if no french speaking people migrated into some countries. I mean, generally people take to a language only after people speaking that language migrate into their habitat and encourage interest".

"Take English for instance. The english ruled and lived in many parts of the world in the 19th century, then, people started learning english from them and speak the language in all these countries. Probably the language has not much penetration into places like Japan, Russia, France, because english didn't rule these countries."

Preeth: "haan Raj that reminds me... what's that butler english. I have heard people say things like "that guy speaks butler english".

Raj: "Butler english is just bad english.. real bad .. which doesnt make much of a complete sentence. Sometimes people like cab drivers in our cities, who dont know english, try to speak the language to try attract foreign travellers to take their cab. This english they speak will be very broken and is to only convey a message when the recipient doesn't understand any of our languages".

"But I don't know why they pulled a 'butler' for describing it.. making it look like all butlers speak bad english. Might have had something to do like that for that name 'butler english'"

Jas: "English may be popular yaar. But hindi is our national language.. how can you say something in favor of english or french without respecting our own languages".

Raj: "Jas, c'mon! language is a way to communicate.. Look at it this way. dont talk politics by saying i don't respect our languages.. and speaking english or french is unpatriotic".

Jas: "If we don't speak our language, who will.. and how do you think our languages will survive in the future. These days even mothers talk to their new born kids in english. Speaking english is considered the most educated thing to do, and sometimes a status symbol with our people".

"Whatever said, mother tongue is our language.. and not speaking it is kind of unpatriotic to me. Also, its scientifically researched and proved that one is at ease understanding things spoken in their mother tongue rather than a foreign language.. because the brain processes more to understand the foreign language, one has to concentrate more and be attentive when listening to a foreign language speaker, process the accent / style in the language etc., "

"I think the best way to communicate and deal with languages is to strictly use your national languages, and even commit businesses to use the national languages like in Japan, China, Russia, etc., "

Mark: "Yea, people in Japan, China and all have their national language as the business language, and even software operating systems like Microsoft Windows packages a special Japenese or Chinese version for these countries. Also, for studying in countries like Germany or Russia, you first will have to be through a course in German or Russian".

Raj: "True.. we can keep arguing.. but in my opinion the choice of a language should be left with the people rather than forcing it to keep the language alive. There should be many other interesting ways to make the language alive and interesting.. rather than forcing people to use it".

Manoj: "I also agree with Raj that languages are communication means and not to be made an issue to face. But Jas's argument is also correct in a way, that people take up to foreign languages more often for showing off or in expectation of career benefits that their knowledge with foreign languages can bring".

"But Jas isn't this number of people who take to foreign languages for a show or career benefits very low.. Why should a country try to be afraid of losing popularity to a foreign language and force the national language.. look at the efforts in customizing software for chinese, japanese, and then for english, and come to india we have almost 1800 languages. Forcing national languages for business would in turn deprive the businesses of practical advantages with using a more widespread language like english".

Preeth: "Yea, probably this is one of those things where you can't draw a line.. and have to leave it to people for sometime, and to the politicians for sometime to force national language importance against foreign languages. But, like Jas says I feel very very comfortable following my mother tongue rather than english, be it speaking, writing or listening".

"There are days I go for english films with friends, and once out of the theatre each one of us have a different version of the story in the movie. With some english films where you have to pay attention to the dialogues and screenplay, it gets confusing even if you miss something for a few seconds in the movie".

Mark: "Yea, otherwise Preethi would understand stories in movies. Ha ha ha"

Preeth: "Hey Mark I am better than you anyway with english okay."

Manoj: "Whatever said we have to give our exams in english only, and those old lecturers understand very little of our english.. pray god that they understand better... rather than us."

Everyone gets a tight laugh on that comment and disperse for the evening.