March 2007

This is a very chotu <tiny> post.

Did you know Vada Pao (yes that on_the_go Mumbaikar snack) is a brilliant example of Globalization in India?

Vada Pao

Vada pao’s pao came from Afghanistan, the Potato first came from Spain, the Gram dals came from Mexico and the Ginger came from China.

Now thats truely a global dish.

Photo courtesy Chriss Brunn

Ram Guha reminisces about the times when being an employee of the Government of India was an honour:

Truth be told, both Bhawani Singh and my father were merely representative of the times. Among Indians of all classes then hung the clean, if somewhat antiseptic, air of the freedom movement. This was especially true of those in public service; whether an unlettered peon or a scientist with a PhD, to be in the employ of the government of India was recognized as an honour that, despite (or perhaps even because of) its lack of material reward, somehow elevated you above your countrymen. With this sense of honour went a sense of duty and responsibility. Hence the respect with which Bhawani Singh treated the laboratory keys placed in his charge; hence also the doggedness with which my father would refuse to allow me to sit in the Dodge that Mahanand drove.

In the latter part of the article, he ties these up with the Mashelkar fiasco. And, he has some more ‘interesting’ information about Mashelkar too:

In his time at the CSIR, Dr Mashelkar had a reputation for dynamism, for infusing life and energy into a somnolent organization. To be sure, he did things scientists were not supposed to do. For example, he was felicitated in a function hosted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Again, Dr Mashelkar joined the board of Reliance Industries very soon after leaving office.

What is more, given Mashelkar’s background, Guha finds the plagiarism accusation the most serious of all:

Breaking bread with the RSS, cosying up to corporate India — these are things we have become accustomed to, from our journalists and social scientists at any rate. We should perhaps not be too judgmental about a scientist following the same route. However, the charges of plagiarism will be harder to wish away. For nothing can be more damaging to a scientist than to be told that his conclusions are stolen from someone or somewhere else.

Finally, Guha touches a raw nerve of the Indian science establishment in the last paragraph:

As I write this, news comes in that Dr Mashelkar has resigned from the Technical Expert Group on Patent Law Issues. Although belated — it comes several weeks after the charges of plagiarism were made public — it is a welcome acknowledgement of error, if not negligence. With this, the controversy in the press will die down. However, Dr Mashelkar has still to withstand the proper scrutiny of his peers. I would be most interested in the reactions of the scientific academies of which he is a member, sometimes a leading member. Will they chastize him for violating the ethical code that mandates scientists always to scrupulously acknowledge the source of their data or analysis? Or, will they instead close ranks and let off the errant member of their community? This will be a test of their integrity, as well as their courage.

And, as Guha should well have known by now, even during the height of the controversy, no Indian science or engineering academy (we have a couple, I guess), as far as I know, made any official pronouncement on the issue. And, personally, I do not think there are going to be any.

I have seen scientists criticising their peers in the letters to the editor pages of the Hindu or sometimes in their interviews in the Frontline; however, in this case, I have not seen a single response. Nor are there any letters to the editor of Current Science, where again, such arguments are common.

Finally, to be fair to Mashelkar, the committee did consist of four more members; there are not any comments from them or about them in the press either, which again is surprising!

When there was another plagiarism complaint against a physicist for example, the physics community did respond to it effectively. So, the silence of the scientific community in this case, coming to think of it, is indeed eloquent, and something to certainly mull about!

It was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Thathachariar says, who regretted the lack of unity among the religious sects and this prompted the Kanchi Sankaracharya to take the initiative in bringing the heads of different Mutts together into a single organisational frame (when the Constituent Assembly was in session) so that they could speak in one voice.

In the event, thanks to such concerted effort and support by sections across the country, the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom became a reality.

From this profile of Agnihotram Ramanuja Thathachariar.

I did not know about this aspect of Patel‘s contribution. In the event there was no representation, what were the constitutionalists planning to do? Not mention religious freedom at all? It would be interesting to see the records of discussion on this issue at the constituent assembly. May be Ram Guha will discuss this aspect too in his forthcoming  Indian history book!

The Supreme court has stayed the implementation of the OBC reservation in its current form.

The Court ruled that the 1931 census could not be a determinative factor for identifying the OBCs for the purpose of providing reservation.

I personally see this as being a good thing in the light of the recent developments. This means that govt will have to first do a study to identify the OBCs and then come up with a proposal. Such a thing is absolutely necessary for a program of this magnitude. As in the past the legislature could have legislated against such a decision and put it in the ninth schedule. But the supreme court recently ruled that anything placed in the ninth schedule is also subject to review.

Difference between reservations for SC/ST and OBCs.

This verdict does not mean that reservations of any kind should be stopped. However there is a huge difference between the reservations for SC/ST and the OBCs. The SC/STs are provided reservation because they have suffered for being SC/ST. Hence they are provided reservations based on the single criteria that they are SC/ST. No other criteria is needed because that one criteria is sufficient. Having said that I believe that even that program can be improved. This program, for all its shortcomings, has worked for SC/STs. It has had its success.

For the OBCs, the reservations are based on the fact that they are socially and educationally backward. If someone needs to get benefited by this program, he needs to be identified and proven that he is backward. For that one needs to collect data. As realitycheck has always pointed out that one needs to identify the beneficiaries in order for a program of this scale to succeed. The Supreme court has basically said the same thing about the data that was collected in 1931. The supreme court has not said NO to reservations. It has asked the govt to prove that the people who will benefit from this are really OBCs. Once the govt. gets into the exercise of identifying the OBCs there will be lot of political repercussions to these. That should be interesting to watch in the coming days.

Verdict like these and proper dealing of the issue of creamy layer would go a long way to ensure that the beneficiaries of this program are the ones that really need it.

There are a few people who sent me some links and articles on religious issues and they mentioned it is the biggest problem that India is facing these days. I know religion is one of the many problems that our country faces, particularly because India is a ‘spiritual‘ country (I believe it’s time that we call India as a ‘religious‘ country than a spiritual one). These fellow readers of my blog have been mostly worried about Christian conversion happening in India. So I thought I would write my views on religion, conversion and related issues here. Read full before you comment here.

I believe in God. My idea of God is Jesus Christ.

Why do I believe in God? There are various reasons. Aethists say it is primarily because man lost confidence in himself and relies on God for anything and everything. Perhaps it is true. I lack self-confidence in many cases and I leave it to God most of the times. I am afraid of doing things without God. I have never tried it. To this date everything in my life happened for good. Many things happened in the right time and in the most needed time. Some call it luck and some say luck is an act of God and I believe in that as of now.

Why do I believe in Jesus Christ?

Because Christianity is the religion I practiced from the childhood. What Christ taught me was to love one another and love even your enemies. I couldn’t do the latter though, I think it is something a person can do only when he/she reaches the highest level of spirituality. It is a state where one goes beyond the limitations of everything worldly, including religion. I am no where close to that spiritual level. But I found that the teachings of Christ is enough to live a good life and be a good man. I didn’t find a need to follow another religious faith.


Let me come to the conversion issue. As a Christian, I think the church should concentrate more on making the Christians live in the ‘Christian’ way than adding more numbers. The church is supposed to stand for the poor and it fails to do so at most of the times. Church is after those who have more money. The rich need not fear the Church. Church fears/obeys the rich most of the times. Church ‘rules‘ only the poor. The rich is excused. As a Christian who was very close to the church being in the Church choir, I have seen this. So it is this thing that the Church needs to work on. So I would say do that first. Save the souls that you thought you had saved, but actually lost. Come out of the obsession of power if you want to preach real Christianity. So as a Christian, I think the conversion is something to put in the least priority in a Christian life.

A friend of mine, who is a movie person, went to a remote tribal area in Tripura for shooting a tele-serial. The producer of this serial is a priest. My friend asked him if there are conversions happening and he answered yes. It was a quick and easy “Yes” as if he was asked “Did you brush your teeth today“. He gives Rs. 10 to each person in that tribal village who attends the Holy Mass every Sunday. My friend found out that the natives go to the church, gets their 10 bucks and comes back home and worship their own tribal gods. It is as simple as that. There is no cultural wipe-off. The father knows it, the natives know it. They just do it to have 10 bucks. They don’t have any problem with it. I would say, this in no way threatening Hinduism. This is actually making Christians fools of themselves. Selling Christianity for 10 bucks or so. Adding numbers like a political party. It is a shame on Christianity and Christians.

But if a Hindu believing in Christian miracles want to turn to Christianity, it is his/her personal choice. If a Christian believing in Hindu Godmen/Godwomen miracles (like of Sai Baba, Amrutanandamayi etc) want to shift to Hinduism, its their personal choice as well. Take thousands of western followers of Amritanandamayi, Sai Baba, ISCKON as an example. I know they are not converted as in the Christian conversion model (like dipping in a pond etc), but it is also conversion. But I do not understand when a Hindu being converted to Christianity is considered as a cultural threat, but a Christian turns to Hinduism is called enlightenment by the right-wing Hindutva brigade.

As a citizen of this country, I believe religion and conversion is a personal choice and no one has the right to block it, UNLESS it is a forced conversion. If a person want to convert to another religion, it is at his will and it is his right to do so.

Conversion and Hindutva Brigade

So who has a problem with conversion? The Hindutva right-wing brigade mainly consisting of high-caste people. Although there are mass conversions of Dalits to Buddhism happening every year in India, the Hindutva brigade tend not to see it because it shows the caste based atrocities in Hinduism. From the early days to the recent Khairlanji incident, there are many examples to show. So they mostly concentrate on the Christian conversion issues.

The interesting thing is most of the tribal people who gets converted or goes to church (like in the case I mentioned above) are not even ‘Hindus‘. They do not practice Hinduism. They have their own tribal Gods. They do not worship Hindu Gods. So this hue and cry over conversion is based on the power. Like Church converts people to have more power, the Hindutva brigade is also after power. That is why they are afraid of losing control over the low-caste Hindus. This shameful fight for power was seen sometimes ago when we saw Uma Bharathi walking out of the meeting hall of fundamentalist Hindutva party BJP, accusing the leaders being discriminative.

Most of the Hindus in India are afraid that conversion is going to wipe-off Hinduism from this country and might make this a Christian majority country. This fear was put into the ordinary Hindus by the Hindutva vaadis consisting mostly high-caste Hindus. My opinion is, if a religion could survive for thousands of years in this world and that too mainly in one country, it will still survive if it has anything good in it.

Evangelists and Conversion

It is of equal importance to stop right-wing Hindu fundamentalism as well as right-wing Christian fundamentalism. If the concern of Hindutva brigade is over losing their hold in the society or gaining social and political power by misusing religious sentiments, my concern is about the national security. A few days back I read an article in Tehelka that discusses about the Evangelical network in India being used by CIA to gather information and their network is widespread. This is really a shocking news. It needs to be addressed and taken care of properly.

At times, I was also fed up with these guys lining up in the streets, praying in loud voice or telling me “You haven’t known Jesus Christ” is really sick. I cannot tolerate if such people ask my Hindu friends who live a normal life and believing in Krishna or Rama or any other Hindu Gods, that they are sinners and they will not be saved. What I believe is as long as a person lives a normal life and doing good deeds, he/she is saved/blessed by God. No matter what name that person calls the God. And these evangelists just make a hell lot of money out of this religion business too. It has become a very profitable business.

Aethism and aethists

I do not like people who pretend to be aethists and have no love or respect to the humankind but only themselves. Aethism, for them, is a fashion and a way to exhibit their ‘liberal‘ view. I don’t find much difference between those people and religious fundamentalists. But I do like and have a great respect towards aethists who are great humanitarians, who cares about humanity and do great services to the humanity. Hardcore religious people might call this stupidity, but I believe these kind of aethists are doing God’s work without the support of religion or God.

PS: Creative criticism on the issues I mentioned above are welcomed.

Cross posted here

Sunday,06-Dec,1992.I was a child of 8 years.I was watching DD News along with my parents.Karsevaks demolishing Babri masjidThere were some images being shown on the TV.A mob going wild,demolishing a structure.I asked my mother what it was, and she said ‘Some foolish people are demolishing a mosque.’I asked why.She had no answer.Neither did millions of Indians.

Babri Masjid haunts our generation.Every 6th of December is a black day.Protests pour out all over the country.The law and order situation becomes fragile.The security forces are put on high alert.Why do we need this?

Hindus and Muslims lived together peacefully for hunderds of years in this country.Agreed,there were a few disturbances.Yet India proved itself to be resilient and the differences were settled amicably.Where is that resilience now?Why do millions of people fall prey to the fancies of stupid politicians?

People say Lord Rama was born there,at the exact place where Babri once stood.I didn’t know that technology has developed to an extent where we can predict the exact birth location of a person.OK,agreed that Rama was born there and later the Muslim rulers built a mosque at the place after demolishing the temple that was there.So the Hindu fanatics demolished the mosque. Now let us assume that a temple has been built at the site.What if a few hundred years down the line a Muslim mob demolishes the temple because a mosque existed before the temple has been built?

We,the Indians,have umpteen number of issues that require a very serious attention from us-Poverty,Hunger,Child Labour,Dowry,AIDS,Corruption..the list goes on.It’s time for us as a nation to get over such petty issues.

Let us have a new beginning.We gave the world the weapon of Non-Violence.Now let us show the world our resilience.Get over Babri.Get over Gujarat.Let us build a monument that buries the centuries of hatred between the communities.Let us build the four lion statue from Sarnath. A massive one.Bigger than the Eiffel tower,bigger than Lady Liberty.

The replica of the statue erected by a Buddhist king,Ashoka,standing on the place where Hindus and Muslims fought each other.The four lions bury the centuries of hatchet under their massive feet.They roar in the four directions,announcing the arrival of India,as a nation.As a nation of single religion,Indianism.

I found this extremely funny and absolutely right …..A lot of these are exactly what I (a person who’s been outside India for 10 years) would do

I do 17 and of course 12 exactly as described. My parents find it hilarious when I constantly do 18 and then blame it on 16 🙂

Enjoy 🙂

21.Tries to use credit cards in a road side hotel.

20. Drinks and carries mineral water and always speaks of being health conscious.

19 .Sprays deodorant so that he doesn’t need to take bath.

18. Sneezes and says ‘Excuse me’.

17. Says “Hey” instead of “Hi”, “Yoghurt” instead of “Curds”, “Cab” instead of “Taxi”, “Trunk” of “Dicky” for a car trunk, “Candy” instead of “Chocolate”,”Cookie” instead of “Biscuit” , “got to go” instead of “Have to go”.

Says “Oh” instead of “Zero”, (for 704, he will say Seven Oh Four Instead of Seven Zero Four)

16. Doesn’t forget to complain about the air pollution. Keeps complaining every time he steps out.

15. Says all the distances in Miles (Not in Kilo Meters), and counts in Millions. (Not in Lakhs)

14. Tries to figure all the prices in Dollars as far as possible (but deep inside multiplies by 44).

13. Tries to see the % of fat on the cover of a milk pocket.

12. When he needs to say Z (zed), he never says Z (Zed), instead repeats “Zee” several times, and if the other person is unable to get it, then says X, Y Zee(but never says Zed)

11 . Writes the date in MM/DD/YYYY. On watching traditional DD/MM/YYYY, says “Oh! British Style!!!!”

10. Makes fun of Indian Standard Time and the Indian Road Conditions.

9. Even after 2 months, complaints about “Jet Lag”.

8 . Avoids eating spicy food.

7. Tries to drink “Diet Coke”, instead of Normal Coke. Eats Pizza instead of Dosa.

6. Tries to complain about any thing in India as if he is experiencing it for the first time. Asks questions etc. about India as though its his first visit to India .

5. Pronounces “schedule” as “skejule”, and “module” as “mojule”.

4. Looks suspiciously towards any Hotel/Dhaba food.

Few more important ones:

3.. From the luggage bag, does not remove the stickers of the Airways by which he traveled back to India , even after 4 months of arrival.

2. Takes the cabin luggage bag to short visits in India and tries to roll the bag on Indian Roads.

1. Tries to begin any conversation with “In US ….” or “When I was in US…”

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