Sunday, August 23, 2009

L'il Jassy wrote a BAD book...

Jaswant Singh, a senior political leader in BJP has recently been expelled from the party for writing a book,

This incident sends out some really scary signals. It is one of the most direct contradiction of the freedom of expression, the cornerstone of democracy. It is a well known fact that only the victor writes the history of war. It is thus easy to just take one point of view and stick with it. But the really mature society would be one in which people can calmly go through all evidence and make their own opinions about any incident. But more important, in my opinion, is to have the freedom to agree to disagree maturely and peacefully. Every person brings a different perspective to the same set of evidence and hence sees things in a different way. It is thus impossible to expect people to come to the same conclusion - but if people can hold on to their opinions and conclusions without fear of retribution or without trying to force them upon others, only then can the society be considered to be truly democratically mature.

Of course I'm aware that this is too idealistic a view. Hot heads will always exist. People who scream without understanding will always exist. People with my way or the highway will also always exist.

But removing a senior leader from the party gives out very strong anti-dissent messages. Or more tragically, more anti-independent thinking messages. You should not have any other interests, opinions, thoughts, arguments apart from the one that is the 'party diktat'

It reminds me of the dystopian society that George Orwell wrote in his book 1984 which I'm re-reading currently. It essentially talks about a totalitarian society where dissent is permanently obliterated through the means of fear and suspicion. But very critically the dictatorial regime also focused on 'Thoughtcrime' and one of the ways of removing that was putting together a new language, Newspeak, which would, in it's ultimate form prevent dissent as the language would be such that people would not be able to understand there own dissent as there just wouldn't be words to describe them. Newspeak would narrow the range of thoughts possible where describing concepts like freedom, independent thought, opinions would just not be possible. As a character in the book says: " The revolution will be complete when the language is perfect"

The current expulsion reeks of dark times in the party. If independent thought needs to be curbed then there is definitely something wrong and some serious thinking needs to be done.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Ode to Apps...

Anyone who knows me and has had the pleasure of being driven somewhere by me would know that I'm directionally challenged. I keep cracking this joke that if Delhi was not a circle I'd never reach any place. People politely chuckle on this without actually realizing it's ABSOLUTELY true! The number of times i've taken the wrong turn and ended up swirling around the city looking for any familiar building, tree or shop that could give me some bearing is extremely high.

Delhi, with it's circles, and Bangalore, with it's multiple one ways, conspire together to give me that sinking feeling - " Jeez, I have no clue where I am...again"

And this doesn't happen only when i'm going to a new place. Oh no, that would be too regular. I manage to lose my way even if I am going to the same place almost everyday. B's place in Dwarka is a prime example. I've been there so many times but am still not sure what turn I have to take to reach the house. (In my defense, Dwarka has very similar looking roads and similar buildings.)

But this post is not about one of my numerous flaws. This one is about the Google maps application I have on my phone now. SO useful!

As usual I was lost day before yesterday while going to B's place (ho hum, yawn, tell us something new) and I was at a redlight with two options - left or right (hehe). My instinct and directionsense was urging me vociferously to turn to the right. I was about to follow my instincts, I mean if a guy can't trust his instincts what else can he trust. Then I stopped - (wry grin) really Swapnil? Your instincts have always led to humungous amounts of petrol being burnt up while backtracking or looking for roundabout ways of reaching the destination after taking the wrong turn.

Fortunately I had my phone Google maps on. One look at it's screen showing my current location and I realised I was right. My instinct to distrust my directional instinct was absolutely right. I had to go left.

Google maps ki jai!

Case 2:
I was going to a travel agency to get my visa done (yes, i'm finally going to Singapore on a vacation!). By the way it is unbelievably humid and hot in Delhi. I think living in Bangalore has really spoilt me. The weather here is really getting to me. I just can't seem to get out of the house unless i absolutely have to. There's a friend who's about to return to the US but I haven't been able to put in the effort to drive to Gurgaon to meet her. Crazy.

Anyway I was at the heart of the Delhi circles, Connaught Place trying to find that office. But after 15 minutes of walking around the central park, drinking milkshake at Keventers, lying down prone on the road in the heat and checking out pretty faces I was still as far away from finding that address as when I started. I whipped out my phone and fired up the Google maps app. Lo and behold, it showed where the office was located and also gave an option of dialling them for me. What else did I want? I spoke to them, let them guide me to the office and get my work done.

Really, if you're directionally challenged, if the homing device in your brain didn't really get a chance of developing - THIS is the app for you!

Google maps ki jai!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Relive the Charm...

This thought struck me on my flight to Delhi.

(Yes, ladies and gentlemen (umm particularly Delhi ladies)I am on an extended vacation in Delhi and surrounding areas.)

I still remember the first time I flew in a plane. It was, I think 2002 or 2003, and we were embarking on my legen..wait for it..dary Goa trip with my parents and granny.

Are we all done with the sniggers and lame wisecracks?
not yet?


Good. So the crux is that I was so excited about it. As the engines revved up my heart started beating faster and as the pilot let out the brakes I could feel the power pulsing through me as the plane started lethargically and then accelerated superlatively. I still remember the excitement tinged with a bit of fear as the plane took off at a steep angle and rose unfettered into the clouds above Delhi.

And then the plane banked to the right.

I could feel my heart pumping hard in my mouth as I sent up a prayer to God. But the plane was merely turning towards Goa.

And then being surrounded by the wispy cottonwool clouds turning slowly into thicker banks of clouds through which we pierced and looked on the sun shining benignly on the layers of clouds...


And since that day I've taken a lot of flights. In between I was flying almost every 2-3 weeks for a few months. Very soon I saw myself reading the boring inflight magazine or a book I was carrying instead of looking out the window. Beautiful sunsets across waves of clouds were casually ignored while the urge to get out of the aircraft as soon as it landed started getting a grip.

The charm was driven out of flying by increased frequency.

But this time I was flying after a while (well there was one flight, but I had too much on my mind - anticipation, nervousness, stupidity etc. which prevented enjoyment of the flight.). So I relived the charm of flying again, complete with the buildup on the tarmac, the beautiful takeoff, flying through the clouds and finally looking down at Delhi at night (a smattering of bright jewels laid out in circles in the inky darkness). Brilliant.

I wish all the other charms also come alive - looking across the sea for the first time, the clear stars that you see on the hills at night, the first time you drive....