Hindustan Times doesn’t seem to understand Intellectual Property

Hindustan Times, a national newspaper no less, seems to be completely ignorant of the concept of Intellectual Property Rights. Or maybe they don’t care. In today’s edition (or maybe yesterday, I have no idea), it published a photograph that is stolen from Nita’s blog. It was first published on a post titled, “Impact of coaching classes on a nation’s psyche”, on her blog. I say stolen, because they have not bothered to acknowledge the source, nor have they paid her for the use of the photograph. Let me say this, the little regard I had for our “national” media is now gone. They have no business being in the field if they cannot respect other people’s intellectual rights. This stealing is in clear violation of the Creative Commons license under which most bloggers publish their work. We blog because we like to. We receive little or no money for the work we do, and yet we do it because we love to do it. That a reputed newspaper can behave in such a petty manner disgusts me to no end. If you are reading this, do what you can to register your protest against this violation of rights by Hindustan Times.

Valmiki is Russian?

First, check out this phenomenally stupid article from Mint. The author, a former investment and commercial banker argues that the Pandavas and the Kauravas were actually invaders who pushed the original Indus Valley people a.k.a the Dravidians down south. He also states, with the certainty of an eye-witness, that the Dravidian people drank “Jhalam” (water) from a river of the same name. I assume he is talking about Jhelum. But he seems to forget that “jal” in Sanskrit means water too. In fact, the original Tamil word for water is “neer”. Not just that, the letter/sound “j” does not exist in Tamil. Ask any Tamil scholar and they will tell you. The “Jhalam” the author refers too is a brahminical usage, used almost exclusively by the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu.

Also, see this excellent, not-to-mention hilarious retort by Eroteme, who rebuts, point by point, and with great humour all the contentions that Mr. Ramaswami puts forward in his article. Mr. Ramaswami also claims, with the self-assurance of a fool, that historians have brushed this fact under the carpet because it would be tantamount to admitting that our mythical heroes were invaders who displaced an entire civilisation. What the !@#$?? What the hell were you smoking my dear Mr. Ramaswami? As Eroteme points out, there were figurines of horses and camels discovered during excavations in the Indus Valley. But it probably makes sense, as Mr. Ramaswami intelligently contends that these “barbarians” with no culture of their own adopted Vedic culture and civilisation and gave the Indus Valley Civilisation a second innings. So, they must have made those figurines right? Because they had horses!

During the course of my reading, I never understood one thing. The Aryan invasion theory contends that the Aryans came from Central Asia and pushed the indigenous populations out. The Dravidian point of view is that these indigenous peoples were pushed down south to parts of South India and eventually adopted a language that evolved gradually into Tamil. But, Mr. Ramaswami contends that the Kauravas and the Pandavas pushed out the indigenous people and adopted the Vedic culture that already existed as they had no culture of their own. Does that mean that the Dravidians were the original Vedic people? If so, the Dravidian argument takes a beating. Of the two related arguments, one of them must be false.

Among all these stupid arguments, one takes the cake.

“If we don’t accept the invasion theory, then the only other explanation is that both Mahabharat and Ramayan took place outside India, on the Russian steppes, and their stories have come down to us as oral histories through the horse-people, which were then refined to suit cultural and later ethnic, social and political agendas.”

Really, this kind of stupidity only reminds me of the old saying. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

It’s that time of the year!

There! It’s that time of the year again. The annual obsession with marks and ranks has begun. So has the rat race to the state’s top colleges. All this hype and hoopla regarding the marks set me thinking. What exactly do parents want out of their children? Just marks and grades? Are they honestly not bothered about how well they are learning their stuff? In the frenzy of getting marks, are students not forgetting the reason they are going to school? In case nobody remembers, it is to acquire a well-rounded personality. What is the use in getting an unholy 99% if you can’t make yourself a cup of coffee or talk intelligently of the IPL? I honestly believe that the gender of the child notwithstanding, they must be taught some basic survival skills. Making some coffee, going out to a supermarket to pick up provisions, buying their own books and CDs…these are just some of them. Nobody is going to do all this for them all their lives. Versatility is a quality that only gets rarer by the day. It is indeed a sad state of affairs.

That said, on to my next rant. I can’t understand why engineering is considered the only thing “worth” studying. A cousin actually cried three hours after she got her Class XII results because she had not got “good” marks. A Times of India article reported the state second rank holder cried all day because she missed the first rank by a mark instead of rejoicing that she came second. I mean…what the hell? What are we teaching our kids? The afore-mentioned cousin still insists she will only do IT or ECE engineering because they are the only professions that “pay”. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned passion for something? When did education become a low-risk, high-return investment option? It makes me scream when I see sane, healthy 17-year olds behave as if there was no tomorrow on the day of their exam results. Get one mark less than expected and they act as if the sky is going to come tumbling down. My cousin insists her parents must pay a whopping capitation fee to get her into the IT course she wants. If I were a parent, I would tell her to go to hell. I only hope I manage to retain this sanity when I am the mother of a 17-year old.

On religion and superstition

I just came across a two posts talking about religion and superstition. More specifically, they talked about the rituals a woman is forced to go through when she has her period. A third, radically different post, caught my attention for the boldness with which it put forward a not-so-fashionable-any-more point of view. The first two argue that since periods are a natural part of a woman’s life, there must be no difference in her behaviour or treatment during those dreaded days. The third says she actually enjoys being treated like a queen and getting the men to do all the work. These represent diametrically opposed viewpoints. I would prefer to take a middle ground.

First things first, I agree that a woman must be treated with the same dignity whether she has her period or not. I also agree that seclusion or segregation is ridiculous and must not be practised anywhere. Where I beg to differ is on the religion issue. Each of us has a certain belief, or lack of it, in God. If I believe that God’s abode will be defiled by my going there, who the hell are you to force me to go? We are talking about something very basic: the right to freedom of expression. I believe in something. And nobody has any business questioning it. My mother would not let me anywhere near her Puja Room during those three days. So be it. Why should I enter it just to make a point? If you really believe in God, you would worship him, even in toilet if need be. How does your entering a puja room change anything? Your mother, or anyone else for that matter, has a right to believe what they want. Just who are these so-called “educated” and “enlightened” women to call my belief bullshit?

Let’s get one thing straight. Education means accepting another’s beliefs with an open mind. It means being willing to accept that they are entitled to their opinion without having to justify it to you. Why is my belief that I am too impure to enter a temple during those three days being judged on? Imp’s Mom is being extremely uncharitable, not to mention judgemental when she says,

“Just when I had thought that every woman hated these stupid traditions and will not allow it to continue with her daughter, this lady made me sit up. Here is the proof that an educated modern woman enjoys and find no wrong with the isolation.”

I am sorry Imp’s Mom, but you have no business telling me I am behaving in a manner unbecoming of an “educated” woman. What I believe is my business. As long I don’t force my beliefs down your throat, you shouldn’t be complaining. Also, a note to those who complain about their mothers. As long as you live with your parents, in their house, it is their wish that matters. If it is so important to enter the puja room on those days, you are free to do so in your own house, where nobody has any right to stop you. You may dislike the restrictions people, and society place on you. But, remember you are as bad as them the minute you start being judgemental about things as sensitive and personal as religion. Venting one’s feelings is one thing. Launching personal attacks against X, Y or Z for the views they hold is quite another. It’s time “educated” and “modern ” women learnt the real meaning of the word “modern”.

On children and marriage

Here is an excellent post by Nita on the impact children have on a marriage and if they can actually contribute to happiness in a marriage. It is an excellently researched and well-written article and explores different facets of the husband-wife relationship. Personally, I think children play and important role in marriages. As Nita says, much depends on the personal preference of the couple.

But in India, couples face a different kind of problem altogether. First, they really do not have a choice in having children. They are expected to have one, at least within a couple of years of the wedding. Those who don’t have kids, either by choice or otherwise are often stigmatised and humiliated by family, friends and by society at large. It is true that things are changing. But, not to the extent that society quietly accepts and embraces those who choose not to procreate. Even in urban centres, the pressure on a married couple to have children is quite high.

If a couple does have children to shut society up, they end up being resentful of the situation they are in. Such an attitude helps nobody: not the children, who end up feeling unwanted and neglected, not the couple who suffocate within the confines that society has imposed on them, and not the family, which, by extension suffers too. As Nita points out, several surveys have argued that children lead to a decline in marital happiness, but “happiness” is an emotion that cannot be measured on a scale of one to ten.

Children undoubtedly influence marital happiness. But what is more important for a successful marriage, or indeed, any relationship, is the willingness to listen. I find that the better I communicate with people around me, the better my relationship with them becomes. If that is true of friendship or of professional relationships, it should be equally true of marriages. As long as the couple is willing to sit down and sort out any issues they might have, a happy marriage is impossible. Other, equally important factors such as fidelity, compatibility and understanding are essential ingredients for a happy marriage.

To sum up, a happy marriage can only happen if both partners are willing to make it work. Resentment and frustration are the main enemies of a happy marriage. Children will only make an already happy marriage even happier, just as they will worsen the quality of life in an already-bad marriage.

Cheerleaders and the moral police…and Barkha Dutt too

Check out this piece by Barkha Dutt in the Hindustan Times. Frankly, I have never liked Dutt, nor do I find her writing logical and coherent. But, this piece exceeds all expectations. dutt makes a complete fool of herself unlike anytime in the past. Confused is quite justified in asking what exactly the point is. Seriously, what was she thinking. I don’t understand why we need bikini-clad cheerleaders to make cricket viewing more fun, but that’s their job. They have been hired by the team bosses (read Vijay Mallya and Co) to do that job. What is the point in venting our ire on them. If Dutt had the guts, she must have directed her irritation against Mallya. Her comment that white cheerleaders are trashy.

“But even if I think that the cheerleaders are (there’s no polite way to say this) essentially white trash, I find the attempt by sundry politicians to ban them — or dress them up in clothes that cover their knees — farcical and indefensible.”

I find that disgusting, especially since it comes from Dutt, who fancies herself to be a champion of liberal causes. White trash? What the @$%?? These girls show a lot of skin. True. They are all white. True. But, does that justify Dutt casting aspersions on their character or taking the moral high ground? I think not. She likes to call herself liberal. But, her most recent article seems to demonstrate otherwise. To me, she is simply taking refuge under the “liberal” tag to say exactly the same things as the moral police, spineless politicians and religious fundamentalists.

Legal System and criticism

Read this excellent op-ed in The Hindu by V R Krishna Iyer. I am glad someone is questioning what the Supreme Court says. In a recent pronouncement, the Chief Justice of India said that judges were “constitutional authorities” and not public servants, and therefore not covered by the Right to Information Act. In an excellent retort, Iyer explains that the difference between “constitutional authority” and public servant is merely semantic. He argues that constitutional authorities are, in fact, a higher category of pubic servant and are therefore more accountable for their actions. If what Iyer says is true, then why is criticism of the courts or legal procedure considered contempt of court? Must the Supreme Court not be subject to the very laws they seek to uphold? As Iyer puts it,

“The Indian judiciary must accept Frankfurter, that frank and superlative U.S. Judge who wrote: “Judges as persons, or courts as institutions, are entitled to no greater immunity from criticism than other persons or institutions.”

In a recent order on the defamation cases against Tamil actress Khushboo, the Madras High Court refused to dismiss the 29 cases against her on the grounds that she had expressed not-so-flattering opinions against the judiciary, and that she had no reason to be aggrieved. Excuse me, but I thought I lived in a democracy? A person does not enjoy her fundamental right to constitutional remedy because she dared to say something against the courts, which are responsible for providing that remedy? In a democracy, I have an inalienable right to freedom of speech and expression. Nobody can take that away from me. The courts were, until now, the only neutral and non-partisan forum for justice. If the courts put themselves above the law, how can we trust them to protect the rights of normal people like you and me?

To its credit, India’s legal system has managed to remain free from external influences for over 60 years. We cannot afford to let that change. Judges will only be more respected if they agree to subject themselves to the laws they are appointed to uphold. Judges are subject to law, not above it.