Whenever people have mentioned differences between the youth of 70s and the youth of today, I have maintained a smug cheerfulness as I have never faced a problem understanding their view point or relating to them as a friend. I have often wondered if they are so mature as to relate at my level or whether I stopped growing at somelevel after my 20s. The first time I felt a basic difference was yesterday.

I went out for lunch with a group of friends in their 20s and 30s and after lunch they were planning some other activity while I was getting ready to go back home. So one of them asked me why was I rushing back home and if there was a particular reason. For a minute I did not understand the question at all because for me staying out of the house needs a reason and being home is a natural state.One went out for a purpose and stayed home when there was no need to be out. I think that applies to most people in my generation. When I saw the puzzled look on their faces, I realised that perhaps they would rather be out exploring all that is happening or meeting people when they had no pressing compulsions to be home!No wonder they manage to accomplish so much in a day. Is it also because their working week is so packed and leaves them little time to catch up on their hobbies and socialising and so the weekend is too precious to be wasted at home?

Now that is a huge difference in thinking and a different way of living - when did all this happen? Felt like Rip Van Winkle for a moment!
Smartness is the ability to do things well, to get the best results out of every situation, and derive the maximum benefit to oneself. Does smartness also include ethics, the need to be "good" and get all the above results? or do the ends justify the means? For example if one gave up something for someone else who did not necessarily deserve it but "needed" it is that a "smart" decision? Is it a "good" decision?

What is "good" and who defines it? Religions have traditionally provided a framework for the definition of good and bad. And in many cases, being good does not always fetch you the results in the immediate term unless everyone involved in the transaction is bound by the same definition of good and bad. This is where religions point you to a world "beyond", a world "after" for which this life is supposed to be a preparation and hence they urge you to be "good" and wait to reap the benefits in a place from where no one has returned to confirm its existence.

If a person does not believe in religion, where would they find the motivation to be good? This is where a strong legal system plays a role by defining what is "wrong" and providing punishments for the same. But even the most efficient judiciary can only deter you from doing "wrong" but cannot motivate you to be "good" and kind and go out of your way to help the less advantaged. Humans, by nature, need a reason for being "good" whether it is fear of punishment or Karmic consequences or reward of heaven.If there was no compulsion to exercise restraint, would we be restrained?

It is true that Man has caused as much destruction in the name of religion but is it the fault of religion? Could we ban all religions from the world and yet hope for a good world? At least till all of humanity is "educated" (not just literate) and reaches the level of evolution when it is possible to live in contentment and to live and let live, Can we dispense with concepts like God and heaven and hell? Is it possible to reach that level of contentment and yet have the motivation to progress? If we did not aspire to be "good" and do something positive to make life happier , what would differentiate us from other animals, who come and inhabit this earth, spend their days doing the barest things needed for survival and die? Or should we be different at all?

How do we become good and stay good "anyway"?

Above thoughts were inspired by this mail *from a friend on being "smart" and being "good" and the comment by The Rationalfool on my earlier post and my own negation of all superstitions other than GOd.

* And this is the mail referrred to:

A poem hangs on the wall at Mother Theresa's orphanage in India. For all who are called to lead, it is a great reminder of what we should do:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered (including me). Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the littlest people with the littlest ideas. Think big anyway.

7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

9. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the best you have anyway.
"One for sorrow, two for joy - if you see a single crow, the all black one the ones with a lighter colour around the neck don't count, if you see a single all black one, it will bring you sorrow. But if you see two of them together, it will bring you joy."
Words of wisdom from a 7 year old who went to a fancy school and was generally accepted by all kids in the neighbourhood as someone who was wise about everything in life. For most of my school life, my expectations of a day was totally detemined by the number of crows I saw in the morning.
If a favorite teacher ignored you or your team failed to score a single point in the net ball match - you knew it was coming , the single crow you had seen in the morning had said it all.
The day you were selected for a role in the school play or chosen to carry the homework notebooks to the teacher's room ( that was a huge responsibility and the teacher thought you were worthy of such trust!)- you mentally thanked the two black messengers who had indicated this joy to you in the morning.
Are there greater calamities and joys known to mankind?

On specially important days like examination days and the days exam papers were to be returned, I took special care not to look higher than eye level for fear of seeing a single one and inviting sorrow upon myself. Or looking up only when a friend confirmed that there were two together and I better look up and grab my chance to make my day joyful.

Stupid , silly things that one believed in with so much faith. But then isn't that what innocence is all about? Believing every good thing to be a gift and every bad thing to be a curse, not knowing the extent of control one had on determining these - entirely believing them to be defined by some external forces, and hoping to convert a sorrowful day into a joyful one by just seeing 2 crows together!

I do not know at what age I stopped believing in it - that must have been the beginning of my adulthood, doubts and scepticism.
After a long time I saw two black crows on tree outside my house this morning. It brought a smile and all these old memories. Well, this ought to be a joyful day - will confirm it tomorrow.
"The fact is terror is a threat to Pakistan. And it has been a threat to India for a long time now," said India's high commissioner to Pakistan, Shiv Shankar Menon, soon after the Havana meeting.Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf agreed in Havana to create a joint anti-terrorist "mechanism".
In the aftermath of the recent Mumbai blasts in July we were told that the blasts were carried out by groups from within Pakistan and they could provide evidence of the same.The prime minister broke off Foreign Secretary level talks with Pakistan. But now we seem to be on the same side of the table, both victims of terrorism. What changed? and do we have a right to know?
Referring to the above statement from Havana,G Parthasarathy, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan said:"It constitutes a dilution and a surrender of our position on terrorism."
Commenting on the same Swapan dasgupta says, "Life is at a permanent discount in India" and he calls us a "Nation led by wimps." He adds, "Like the liveried attendant in parliament who slammed the door on the attackers and paid with his life, the victims of terrorism end up as statistics - mourned for the mandatory fortnight and then dumped into the dustbins of history."
Sad, scary!

In another development, veteran criminal lawyer Ram jethmalani decides to defend the prime accused Manu Sharma in the jessica lal case. Now he will use every trick in the book to set his client free even stooping to the extent of casting aspersions on the victim. "I wont do anything, but everything for my client."
The only principle this notoriously "argumentative Indian" will uphold in all this is his loyalty to the client who can afford to pay for his services.
In this country it is possible to engage in criminal activity and bribe the police to destroy evidence, use muscle power to threaten witnesses to turn hostile and employ the best legal brains to get you out!

How safe do you feel living in India today being a honest taxpaying "common man", who shops in crowded malls and commutes by public transport?
She is a still a child at heart closing her eyes in horror during a violent scene in a film and absorbs every word in a film that she can repeat the words when she sees it again. She loves dancing to the tunes of film songs imagining herself to be Aishwarya Rai or kareena kapoor. A child forced to be a woman through marriage and early widowhood. She accepts it passively when society tells her that her life and happiness are over when her husband dies.Her happiness depended on being someone's wife and when that someone disappears he takes all her happiness with her.She would live her life serving the parents of her husband and obeying them and staying away from every happy occasion.It is her bad luck that her husband died. She has to make amends by leading an austere life.It is ok for her because she is scared of the outside world and the uncertainties. She prefers the security of her familiar surroundings, so every decision is made for her and she does not have to make decisions or be responsible for the consequences. Even if it means staying in a dark room clothed in drab clothes and going out just once a day to go to the temple.

And then she meets another woman who tells her that she has a right to be happy. She is not a sinner if she felt happy and danced just two months after her husband's death. She has to take her life in her hands and accept responsibility for her decisions.This friend tells the young widow that her life is not over with her husband and she has a right to live her life and a right to happiness. This is a woman who has no time to wallow when she is confronted with troubles as she has to to solve it in the best possible manner. She will try till the end and if her world still comes crashing down she knows how to pick up the pieces and start all over again and fulfil her responsibility to herself.

It is incidental that the latter is from a religion that we like to believe oppresses women by imposition of the veil. And the former follows a religion that accords Godhood to women.It is also incidental that the latter actually comes seeking the help of the former and ends up becoming her friend and showing her the way to happiness.All that matters is that both are women and both fulfil their roles with strength.

It is about how a liberated woman , a stronger woman can hold the hand of a weaker one and empower her.It is a duty that those who have crosed the traditional lines have towards those that are still confined by the lines.

Wonderful film - DOR.Please watch.Touching performance by Ayesha takia, Gul Panag and a very entertaining role played by Shreyas Talpade. Nagesh has delivered again!
For a more professional review , as always, I direct you to my favorite film critic Baradwaj Rangan here.

And if you are as concerned as I am about socially regressive effect of all the martyrhood being conferred on sufferring women in Tamil serials please vist this site and express your solidarity.
A site has been open for a while now inviting our votes for naming the 7 wonders of the world. The campaign was begun in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations coming in from around the world.You can vote until July 6 2007. To vote you can go here.
The contenders are the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Acropolis, the Great Wall and the Pyramids, the Statue of Liberty; Eiffel Tower; Peru's Machu Picchu; Turkey's Haghia Sophia; the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral; the Colosseum; Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle; Spain's Alhambra; Japan's Kiyomizu Temple; the Sydney Opera House; Cambodia's Angkor; Timbuktu; Petra, Jordan; Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer; Easter Island; and Chichen Itza, Mexico.

I am not voting because I have only seen 4 of the above and hence cannot decide on which of them is better than the other. So while the world busies itslef with its choice of seven here is my list of wonders:

1.Night sky.

2.Bird nests.

3.Communication among frieflies through bioluminiscence.

4.The tunes of music that light and wind play on the leaves of trees - visual music in total silence.

5.Happy, smiling faces among the poor. Living a life of uncertainty from day to day, how do they manage to smile and be so warm to people more fortunate than them without a tinge of jealousy and complete acceptance of the differences?

6. The voice of S.P.Balasubramaniam.How he manages to keep it so good in spite of the fact that he never takes any special care.

7.Dance of Bhirju Maharaj which makes you forget the old man before you and you just see Radha or Krishna or a demure woman he is depicting.

8. Shivmani on his drums.

9. The internet.
I am angry, no may be confused, or perhaps sad. I don't know.
My maid Venkatamma about whom I wrote in an earlier post,lost her husband a few days ago. Yes, he tried his poison gimmick yet again, only this time the poison decided to take control of affairs. It was understandable that Venkatamma took it calmly in any case he was only her husband in name and ever since he left her for another woman she has been managing without him. So you assume that nothing changed in her life and it was business as usual? Wrong! She was made to go through rituals to tell her things were not the same any more. She was treated to the honours available to married women one last time to remind her she could not have them any more. Now she will not be allowed to use haldi, kumkum and bangles. Her son was furious and refused to look at her. So am I.But she tells me that she would be an object of ridicule in her village if she persisted in wearing these.
Who are these people to decide what she can have and can't - the same people who didnt raise their voice when the man left her for another woman and why is she afraid of their opinion? Why is she expected to be the "widow" of a man who failed to be her husband? And even if he had been an ideal husband, who decides how she mourns him?

I remember being angry as a young girl when I heard about my father's aunt who was married at 5 . The boy died a year later and the girl spent the rest of her life,60 years in mourning for a husband she hardly knew never knowing any of the pleasures of a teen ager or a young woman, never wearing a coloured sari all her life.

100 years later, the life for a woman in an indian village has not changed much. Perhaps it is easier for her to defy the customs as her son would support her but she wont as she wants acceptance from her society.
While scanning channels I hear stray dialogues from TV soaps asserting the need for preservation of tradition and culture and how women have a key role in that and I wonder if the above is also a part of a similar sentiment.

I don't know. I can't explain.But I am angry, may be confused or sad.
Did you know the genre of my blog?
Apparently I am into the genre called "mom blogging" and I am a "mom blogger".

The organisation for which my son works has relocated all of its Indian operations to Bangalore recently and my son shifted on monday. He was getting to know some of his new colleagues. One of them who was my husband's student said to my son that he had a famous father. Apparently this is when she added "not only is your father famous, your mom is a famous mom blogger too"

Ha, so I am a mom blogger and I am famous!Yeah right, 70 people visit my blog everyday - I must be extremely famous!!!
A few days ago i wrote a post titled "in defence of freedom of expression" about a cyber protest by the organisation Reporters sans frotières (RSF) on NOv 7th. I had sent an email to all my friends to visit the site during the protest hours and offer their support to the cause if they believed in the fundamental right for freedom of expression.
This was my reaction from one of my friends, which he posted in his blog too.I reproduce it here for your convenience.
"A friend sent me a mail asking as many people as possible to sign in to a particular website ( during certain time windows, to protest human rights abuses in countries with documented records of such abuses. The website in question supposedly belonged to a worldwide coalition of journalists. Their rationale for inviting visitors to click on at their site was to collect electronic signatures in a kind of virtual petition to the regimes of the offending countries.

Now, I know this is an utterly defeatist attitude, especially coming from someone who's going to build a career in public health, which by definition means working against hopeless odds.... but I have serious doubts about the efficacy of gestures like the kind of campaign these journos suggested.

Regimes who use torture as State policy, and execute their own citizens in football stadia, are unlikely to pay attention to a bunch of bleeding heart idiots clicking on internet buttons. And they sure as hell aren't going to feel any "moral pressure".

Shashi Tharoor, in one of his books, argued that Gandhian non-violence as a pressure tactic could work only against an establishment that was vulnerable to "moral" issues, and took international opinion into consideration. Hence, while by using satyagraha as a tool of resistance, Gandhi managed to drive the British Empire out of India, the same tactics wouldn't have done much for Jews in nazi Germany.

And lastly, when the West- the so-called paragon of human rights and democracy, refuses to take its citizens' feelings into consideration while making a profoundly immoral decision (Bush and Blair ignored the largest street protests in the history of mankind to go ahead and invade Iraq), does anyone actually expect banana republics to toe the line because a group of educated liberals spread out all over the world click on internet buttons from their comfortable living rooms?

I think not."

My response to his post was:

Yes I agree it is a defeatist attitude - particularlycoming from a young person. This is the same kind of attitude that drives the creme de la creme of our country pack up and settle down in the west - "oh the politicans, the bureaucracy, nothing works."

When Gandhi proposed the Satyagraha I am sure ithere were many who wondered if he was under the influence of some hallucinogens - "Make peace, Not War" kind of ideaological trip. But he was a far better strategist than that. Believe me if he was heading the Jews he might have found some peaceful way to unnerve Hitler and the nazis too.

All said and done today no country, however totalitarian, can ignore global sentiments today. So it is a good thing to voice protest over something bad happening in these pockets. There are a whole lot of people from these countries living in freer countries who could organise themselves against these atrocities in their countries. Who knows some of them could go back and organise people to bring about a change. This is to tell them that they can count on the support of people around the world.Second and more important is that it is a warning for those countries which may try something similar in their countries - so people in these countries protest this as a fundamental right violation.

The problem with cynics is they wont even try - they defeat the cause even before it has begun. Cynics are bad in any form but in the form of educated, young they are the worst!
Come get up from that warm bed and click that site on NOv 7th. it doesn't take much and who knows something might actually change!

This friend is a very well read person full of youthful passion against felt and perceived injustices in the world.I was slightly worried that if this is the reaction of such people, am I missing something?
Just throwing it open for a debate.
Opening your eyes after a deep slumber, you feel the darkness all around. The phone says it is 4 but the bird sounds are missing. The incessant chatter of the squirrels that start running about the tiles and the birds in furious conversation over seemingly very important decisons. What happened? Have they declared a holiday? And the smells! What happened to the early morning smell of the buds breaking open and filling the air with their scent and the fragrance from the dew filled clouds filling your nostrils along with aching cold air?

By now you are fully awake to all the sounds. Why are there so many vehicles on the road at this time? And why do you hear the workers from the construction site nearby and the noises of their hammers and drills? That is when you realise it is 4 p.m on a rainy afternoon which has sent the Sun running for shelter.

And the rain starts again. You feel sorry for the office goers who have to be in meetings or write programs. What an insult to such a beautiful evening! You make yourself a cup of tea and watch the fine sprays while thunder rumbles on every few minutes. You choose a CD of old melodies to make the evening perfect.

What a beautiful afternoon, you think. But there will be people stuck in traffic jams on the roads 2 hours from now on their way home cursing the same rain.Man made troubles!
Sad but what the heck! It is lovely from the idle comfort of ones own home and you look out of the window and lose yourself in the beauty of the moment watching the rhythmic downpour from a dark room filled with S.P.Balasubramaniam's voice. Who says nothing comes for free? There are people who spend precious dollars to have this in exotic spots and here I have it delivered right at my windowsill!

Thank you GOD! NO THANK YOU man!!
That is 4:30 p.m November 3rd in Bangalore.
"If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging."
~Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"

Note: A friend sent this in response to my earlier post.Posting here to share. And yes if i had my child to raise all over again, THESE are precisely what I'd do!