Sunday, January 30, 2011
Close on the heels of Tunisians having successfully sent their dictator Ben Ali packing, it seems Egypt is the next country to try street protests to bring about change.
Violent protests have rocked Cairo as the incumbent President Hosni Mubarak, who has kept that post for decades in a typically Arab pseudo-democratic manner. Clearly, the protesters are inspired by the events in Tunisia.
But the question really is whether the protests will lose steam or reach their logical conclusion. Mubarak has responded by overhauling the Cabinet, including firing the Prime Minister. He has also banned Al-Jazeera because of all the global news networks, it has been covering the events in the most in-depth manner. The aim here appears to be to break the organization of the protesters so that the Police - or even the Army - can handle then systematically.
The Arab world is characterized by (semi-) dictatorships, with Saudi Arabia perhaps taking the cake as the least democratic country on Earth (or perhaps the second after North Korea, but certainly first in the Arab world). But staring with Tunisia, change seems to be sweeping this part of the world. Can the people reclaim their sovereignty as their right? Or will dictators effectively hold on to their positions once again? To answer these questions would be immensely difficult, but Egypt is a very good hint.
The biggest problem is that the classes are so very, very boring! Although the elective class IMA-01, always at 8:00 AM, is very interesting, it's all downhill from there. The rotten cherry on the very top goes to either ES-201 or CE-212, both of which are superbly boring classes.
In fact, Thursday is a very comical day indeed, with people showing up for the 8 o'clock CE-212 class as late as 8:45 and the professor just watching helplessly! Then, there's also the fact that our teachers have learned to come at least ten minutes late for each class, because if they came on time, they'd face an empty room!
Of course, I do not believe that we'll be able to keep this up for long. Eventually, the teachers would lose their patience and then we're in for trouble. But, as always, we have numbers to hide behind!
Another problem I've been facing is this desire to sleep: I never had it in first year or the third semester, but I do now. And I have to stop it. I've wasted hours and hours just sleeping in the afternoons. Well, this is a very serious problem and in the next few weeks, I hope to fix it.
The mid-term,s are still a cool two weeks away, but given the amount I've studied so far (negligible), I need to pick myself up. FAST!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
It was like waiting for a giant tsunami and ending up with a timid little wave. The UPA Government's first Cabinet reshuffle since it began its second term in power was nothing short of a travesty, coming at a time when the Congress party is full of proposals and promises and the masses are furious over unabated corruption.
While the key posts - Defense, External Affairs, Home and Finance - were left untouched, just three new faces were inducted while others were promoted (or demoted, depending on how you see it). The only real positive was replacing Murli Deora with Jaipal Reddy in the MoP&NG.
Monday, January 17, 2011
As I had mentioned in an earlier post, this is a rather hectic semester. With four practicals, all of which come with a practical exam, it's not just about books.
The very top of the practicals, coming on Monday afternoon, is CE-222: Principles of Surveying. Now, this is a three-hour long practical, perhaps the only one of its kind (if you don't include the drawing practicals). I thought it'd be boring, but boy, was I wrong or what!
Actually, this practical is the best I've ever had! After all, after spending each and every practical in my life locked up inside a stuffy room, this is the first practical I've ever had that takes place under the open sky. It's a fairly technical subject, but it's also a lot of fun.
For our first assignment, we had to take readings from the benchmark outside the Geomatic Engineering Group building, to an intermediate site outside OPJ and finally to a concrete manhole cover next to the CED Main Building, and back. Next week, it's even better. From Geomatics to the Architecture gate, up the slope, through the road between WRDM and Earth Sciences and back down to Geomatics in CED.
Added to that is the fact that in my first practical, I got an extremely small error. I can't wait for the next!
Sunday, January 16, 2011
The last week, I've been doing some heavy-duty reading. I picked up Indira Gandhi: A Biography by Pupul Jayakar, hoping to discover something new, perhaps even change my rather negative opinion of a woman who could be described as a hero and a villain in the same breath.
Sadly, I hardly discovered anything new in the book. Perhaps it just goes to show what a legend Indira Gandhi has come to be, the fact that she was right when she said that she was making history as she went along.Her well-known friendship with Lyndon Johnson and her infamously hateful relationship with Nixon and his NSA are well-known.
The real treasure of information came from her relationship with two men: her husband and her son. Indira's terrible relationship with her husband, that even reached a point where the two considered divorce, represents the first of Indira's great failures in her life. The constant rumours of Feroze Gandhi's relationship with other women and his criticism of her father all went into the long separation between the two, a separation that was only bridged in Feroze's death.
But her even greater folly was her dependence on her younger son Sanjay. Sanjay Gandhi can be confirmed as the villain of the Emergency. The hatred he created among the masses was the reason why Indira Gandhi was so summarily defeated in the 1977 elections. But while the Emergency had cast a dark cloud on her life, Sanjay's political astuteness kept growing until he was re-elected and Indira eventually re-gained her throne in South Block. Sanjay's death was a mortal blow to her, one that she never truly recovered from. Her deteriorating relationship with Maneka was balanced to some extent by a growing love for Sonia, Rajiv's wife.
From the heady days of the Bangladesh War (or the Indo-Pakistan War in the Eastern Theatre) to the excesses of the Emergency years, from the humiliation of being tried for stealing four chickens and two eggs to the dark days of the Khalistan movement and her eventual assassination: Indira saw it all with a determination possessed by few world leaders. Her understanding of the need to protect nature and maintain the unity and integrity of India were well before her time.
Looking back, the Indira years never seemed to point ahead to what was to come. Never, I think, did she imagine that her elder son would be wiped out brutally by a terrorist force, or that her quiet daughter-in-law Sonia would rise to take the reigns of the Congress (I), or even that her adored grandson Varun would one day fight against that very party. Indra Gandhi lived in her day, she was not concerned about creating a legacy. All that mattered to her was the unity of the nation. Had she not been so sure of India's secularism as to prevent the IB from removing Sikhs from her protection force, perhaps she would have lived on. But then, to even imagine Indira Gandhi questioning India's secularism is a great leap of mind.
Had Indira lived, things might have been different. Rajiv Gandhi was a good man, but he never had the political instincts of his mother or brother. Perhaps India would have been different today, or perhaps not. But certainly her years as Prime Minister (just short of two decades) had a profound impact on India, one that generations beyond will never forget.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Change, they say, in the only constant in life. But the velocity of that change varies. India has always been a changing culture: we changed when the Aryans invaded, when the Guptas took control, when the Mughals came and when the British colonised us.
But the change ran at varying paces. Post-Independence, India began to experience an industrial revolution. Children of the new generation began to see comforts that their parents had not. But even then, the change was not all that much and was slow.
The Indira Gandhi years saw democracy stifled and eventually, victorious. But the years post-1991 were those that saw the greatest shift in society.
Liberalization led to an overwhelming expansion of the Indian middle class and influence of Western culture. It went hand-in-hand with a technological revolution, when computers and mobile phones, to start with, became an increasingly indispensable part of life. So rapid was the new change that the generation gap grew to massive proportions. Parents who were absolutely computer-illiterate or, at best, computer semi-literate, were amazed at the speed with which their children worked on the device.
Then came the Internet revolution and a generation that grew to depend on their parents and the newspaper for information about the world saw the next generation lap up near-infinite information without lifting more than a finger. But that was not the end.
The turn of the new millennium saw some of the fastest globalization in India's history and it was no longer a gap between generations. Now, the new generation is such that it sees its own way of life changing twice or thrice within its lifetime. How we grow up is very different from how we will live our adult lives and that is also very different from how we will grow old. The change is now so rapid that decades are being traversed in years.
Has this been good for society? Well, that depends on what you mean by 'good.' While standard of living has certainly risen for the middle class, materialism has also risen, and that has led to a drastic shrinking in the moral universe. The means no longer matter, just the ends. Tensions between generations has risen and has seen some of the most abhorrent violence on youngsters, in the form on Khap Panchayats.
Where will our society go from here? It's hard to say. We have rediscovered our Indian heritage, yet we seek to modify it. One thing is for sure: our society is changing and that change cannot be stopped by any force on earth.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Tokugawa listened with astonishment. “What do you mean? You cannot leave Edo to Meiji. You have but no choice to make me Shogun. It is not asked of you, it is commanded,” he said.
“I am never commanded by mortals, Tokugawa. I always have a choice,” the Old One said angrily. “And today, the choice is made. The Shogunate has come to an end with the murder of your brother, for no righteous soul carrying his blood exists. As per Divine will, Edo and all her lands shall pass to Meiji, who has agreed to leave his home in Kyoto and make Edo the capital of his new, great Empire. The Shogunate, Yoshinobu, stands for justice. It cannot be taken by treachery.”
Livid with anger, Tokugawa pulled out his sword to slay the Old One. But just as he was about to pounce, the shadows began to tremble. In a blink of the eye, he was surrounded by Samurai who, for the first time in millennia, has been allowed to enter a Shrine meant for the Shogun and daimyo. It was the Samurai who were decreed to oversee the passing of the torch when the Shogun passed away, and in the Confucian Shrine, they were there to do just that.
In a flash, they cut off Tokugawa’s head and truly ended the last line of the Shogunate. The Old One bowed to them, disgusted by their love for the sword. He went into his chambers to pray, even as he heard one of the Samurai ride off to welcome Meiji. With the Shogunate no more, his duty too had come to an end. He pulled out a blade and slit his own throat, thankful that God had allowed him to see to it that Edo would survive beyond the era of the Shogun.
Subsequently, the Meiji Empire was modernized and thus was born Imperial Japan, which went on to take control of Korea and much of East Asia. Kyoto remained an important city, but power was forever cemented in the lanes of Edo – today’s Tokyo.
First, a background check. As per the Institute's standing orders, students are allowed to keep any electric gadget in their room except for a computer/laptop. However, it is a fact that over 70% of all students own heaters, which is absolutely essential for survival in near-zero temperatures.
The notice in question simply notes that electricity consumption has increased sharply in all the Bhawans (surprise, surprise!). It goes on to mention, in a rather threatening manner, that students should conserve electricity.
The notice is simply outrageous. This is the most severe winter in recent history. Every faculty room, faculty home, office, Esst. B homes (those who can afford it, that is) and watchman's cabin in the institute has a heater. It seems that the only people who are completely barred from owing one are students. No Bhawan has a heater installed in the TV Room or any other Common Room. Students are expected to brave the cold themselves by whatever means.
Add to that the inhuman idea of ordering classes at 8 AM - a system that is already showing cracks - and it is amply clearly that the so-called DOSW does not really seem to care much for "Students' Welfare." I would even say that until and unless (God forbid) some students dies, the authorities will simply brandish their outdated Standing Orders and leave students to rot.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
“But, how could you do it, my master? What if the Old One does not accept?” asked Ashinamo, his voice quivering in fear as he dared to differ with his master. Sure enough, his question was answered with a tight slap. “You fool, you dare question me so?” asked Tokugawa Yoshinobu. He had silenced Ashinamo, but sensed that others in his court were not convinced either.
“Do not be in doubt,” he explained. “With the Shogunate in such great peril, and indeed all of Edo, the Old One would care for nothing but to see peace restored, be it by force. What have I done? Slain my incompetent, impotent half-brother who, as Shogun, weakened Edo like never before? Is that such a crime? When I am made Shogun at the Confucian Shrine, I will be able to protect Edo from her enemies and save countless lives. Is one life not worth so many others?”
He had finally managed to convince his court. Having achieved this, he went on to explain his plans. “Tomorrow, at daybreak, I shall leave for the Shrine, where the Old One resides. I shall present myself, without fear, and become the Shogun of Edo. There can be no other way, for the Divine decrees it so. We shall defeat the Commodore; crush Meiji and retake Sakhalin. The Divine decrees it so!” The court cheered and Tokugawa retired to bed, confident that the next day, he would be Shogun.
The Shrine of Confucius is located atop a hill in Nagasaki. It is believed that the tiring journey to the shrine prepares the mind for the tiring spiritual journey ahead. The Shrine was home to the Old One, the highest priest of the Edo Shogunate of the Tokugawa dynasty. It was his duty to ensure that, like the Kamakura, Muromachi and Momoyama before him, the Shogunate passed safely to the next blood of the Shogun so that peace and justice may prevail over Edo.
As the Old One heard the untiring galloping of the horse outside, he knew that the time had come. Ever since he had heard that the Shogun had been murdered by his own brother, he knew that he would be asked to pass on the Shogunate to a murderer.
Tokugawa entered the Shrine without removing his footwear; there was a clear triumph in his eyes, like the hound that finally pounces upon its pray after a tiring chase. “Old man,” he said. “I have come to take what is mine. My brother, for whom I had no love, has finally been slain by these hands. Now, I have come to take Edo: I have come to be made the Shogun. Oblige me.”
The Old One looked upon Tokugawa, his eyes full of pity. What could have driven such an innocent child to kill his brother and then, instead of repenting for his crime, demand that he be rewarded for his injustice?
“What are you waiting for?” demanded Tokugawa. “For Commodore Perry’s canons to bring down Edo? For the Russians to settle their dirty beings on Sakhalin and Hokkaido? For the British and Dutch to annex Nagasaki? Oh, perhaps you wait for your master Meiji to bring down Edo from its glory. If that is what you wish, you fool, you shall die for doing so.”
Finally, the Old One chose to break his silence. “The fall of Edo is not what I seek, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. All I seek is justice for its people. I seek righteousness for the people of this blessed land. I seek a Shogun who, carrying the blood of the former in his veins, shall drive away the invaders and unify our lands. But I do not see that in you, Yoshinobu, for an unmerited man is a poor choice to lead an army of the Divine. He, who has used the most wretched of means to conquer a man who loved him so, cannot be expected to love his people.”
(To be continued)
Naturally, it faced severe resistance. But shrewd and even dirty politics on the part of Prime Minister PVN Rao saw the budget through: and that moment changed India forever. Today, LPG remains firmly a part of our economy and has fundamentally changed it. In addition, it has also changed our society, polity and foreign relations.
In 2011, our country is but a shadow of its past. How has LPG changed the way we live? How has it changed the very definition of "Indian"? These and more will be topics of discussion, in this new series 20 Years of LPG.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
Although they have not withdrawn support - yet - the PPP now funds itself alone. Any mistaken political moves would easily bring down the administaration in a time when Pakistan faces some of its most grave crises since Partition. From a wrecked economy, wrecked further by last year's devastating floods, to insurgency, militancy and the War on Terror, as well as continued strains with India, make it necessary that a stable, democratically-elected Government remain on top.
So desperate is the Gliani Government to save itself that it has appealed to nemesis PML(N) for help: which of course, is not forthcoming. Although nobody is interested in pulling down the Government (as of now), there is always an imminent danger of a crisis erupting: and a good Government cannot be held hostage to that.
Pakistan needs a strong Government right now, one that can concentrate on its duties rather than its political survival. it would be best is the ANP and MQM, in the larger interest of the nation, do not bring regional politics to the National level.