Abdul Kalam, a true… something.

A bunch of people I know have shared this snippet of a speech APJ Abdul Kalam delivered to the European Parliament at Strasbourg, France in April 2007. Kalam is, for all purposes, India’s Francis Collins – a decent administrator and manager of massive projects, but completely inane in every other respect.

[fatuousness overload]

The speech in question had something to do with enlightened citizens for World peace. The part of the speech that has people fawning all over this video is a quote from a Tamil poet, which the former President of India says (repeatedly) is from ‘in 3000 years back’. It’s ‘ago’! The stupid word you are looking for, Mr. President, is ‘ago’.

The earliest literature in Tamil – Sangam literature – dates from ‘around the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE’ [Wikipedia]. That I quote from Wikipedia isn’t to say that Wikipedia is infallible, of course – here’s Britannica’s page, which says that Tamil literature proper dates earliest from around the 1st century CE – but it does tell me that Abdul Kalam is less concerned with facts than with attempts at profundity. Attempts like this:

Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character.
Where there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the Nation.
When there is order in the Nation, there is peace in the World.
[\end stupid poetry]

Does that sound profound to you? Yoda-ish, perhaps? Compare that to this, from The Phantom Menace, (by when George Lucas had divested himself of all cranial matter): ‘Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.’


The problem with independent things, you see, is that any ordering of them seems to make sense: Fear leads to suffering, suffering leads to anger, anger leads to hate. And so forth.

And so it is with the profundity of Adbul Kalam: Can’t peace in the heart lead to peace in the World, which leads to order in every nation, which leads to harmony in every home? My point, then, is this: What the heck does any of this mean? If we all think beautiful, noble thoughts, the World will become all right? This was the President of India, for crying out loud. Should he not have an ounce of gravitas?

The worst part of it is that he seems to earnestly think that he’s being profound, and that people like listening to this fatuous drivel. Okay, he may not have been too far off on that last count.

I wasn’t going to bother with the senile old fellow and his (well-meaning) senility, but the paper I was reading about facultative ammonotely in certain hummingbirds is taking a bit longer to finish than I expected.

Edit (August 2016): If what I’ve said has angered you, has made you want to tell me to fuck off to hell, as it has several people who’ve commented below, see this.


IIT Roorkee. What the heck are they up to over there?

Apparently, in what is IIT-Roorkee’s version of Saarang was an event where ‘boys holding lipsticks in their mouth applied them on girls’. Ravikanth brought this to my attention in the comments here. Predictably, the saffron monkeys of the ABVP and the Hindu Jagran Manch have started jumping up and down about this, burning the Dean (I assume the DoSA) of IIT-R in effigy, and threatening to close down IIT-R’s gates if there isn’t any action taken:

“We condemn this incident. We will lock the gates of IIT Roorkee if the management does not take any action in this regard,” AVBP secretary Raj Singh Pundir said.

Not so predictably, however, the state government has ordered an ‘inquiry’ into the matter:

“We will not tolerate any obscenity in our state. We have launched an inquiry in this regard,” Uttarakhand Education Minister Govind Singh Bisht said.

Really, now? I wonder what an ‘inquiry’ into an event at a college festival entails. If this festival is like Saarang, somebody proposes an event, the student heads approve it, the Dean approves it and the event is held. There. That’s an ‘inquiry’ into the matter. Why on Earth does this require orders from the education minister?

This ‘event’, to be sure, is about as tasteless as events at college cultural festivals can get. I should add, before I get thrown in the same bin as the thugs of the saffron brigade, that I have no problem with an event getting men and women, in any combination, to kiss on stage. What I do have a problem with is the intellectual cowardice of dressing it up as something else. Using lipstick for this is perhaps particularly stupid.

These attempts at chikanery – dithering at best, contemptible dishonesty at worst – are to me the reason the goons of the ABVP can get away with threatening to close down an institution set up by an act of parliament. Surely it’s time we learnt our lesson. The right wing is going to cry murder (of ‘Hindu culture’ – whatever that might be) in any case. The least we can do is to hold on to our intellectual honesty and have the courage of our convictions.



Hat Tip: Ravikanth

No sleeping at Tapti Hostel, IITM. A letter to the warden.

Please also read the comments. As always, what something  seems like at first glance may not be the whole story.

Ravikanth told me about this new ‘rule’ that had appeared in a note on the Tapti hostel notice board. Seemingly issued by the warden of Tapti hostel, NS Narayanaswamy* from the Computer Science department at IITM, this piece of wardenial fiat (erm, wardenical?) has to be seen to be believed. So, courtesy a student of Tapti hostel, here’s a photograph of the notice:


If the rest of the ‘Attention:- Residents of Tapti Hostel’ notice is silly enough, the one that takes the cake reads:

f) Between 9 am and 4 pm, with the exception of lunch hour 12-1pm, if you are found in your room sleeping in a healthy condition, you will be reported to your Faculty Adviser/ Guide/ HoD/ Dean. Your parents will be informed and your presence in the hostel during the daytime [sic] will invite scrutiny.

I also have a picture of page-2, containing the signature of the warden, of this piece of paper that belongs at the bottom of a heap of vomit induced by all the booze, tobacco and drugs the warden is so intent on eradicating. If you are from IITM, and want to verify that this is indeed from the warden of Tapti, you could walk to Tapti and look at the notice yourself.

I am willing to presume that this is merely a misguided attempt at helping students. The combination, however, of self-righteousness, megalomania, hypocrisy and sheer stupidity that has to have gone into this notice is staggering. What is the warden going to do? Walk around the hostel collecting soiled underwear? If he is, could he please deposit the lot in the washing machine at the end of the corridor? They need a wash.

I’d also like to hear how the warden thinks that the conversation with the FA/Guide/HoD/Dean might go.

‘Mr. Dean Academic Courses, I found this student sleeping in his room at 10 am. I want the strictest action initiated against him.’

Here’s a list of possible responses:

1) ‘How could he? Did god give him two hands and two legs to work or to sleep?’

2) ‘Absolutely. Throw him out of the hostel, out of the institute… Oh, wait. Did you say ‘sleeping’ or ‘murdering’?’

3) ‘Don’t you have that class to teach?’

4) ‘Seriously, dude? Get a life.’



* I have written about this to the warden of Tapti hostel. Here’s the text of the email:

Dear Professor Narayanaswamy,

I am an alumnus of IIT Madras from the Aerospace Engg batch of 2010. Hello. I wish to address this to the warden of Tapti hostel. The webpage for Tapti hostel lists you as warden and says you started your term in July 2010. I hope I have not mistaken you for somebody else.

A notice that was issued by your office and put up on the Tapti Hostel notice board was brought to my attention. I hope, perhaps unreasonably, that it was drawn up by one of your subordinates and that you signed it without really reading it.

I say that because the alternative is saddening. One hears stories about college administrators going overboard with their enforcement of ‘discipline’ in colleges in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. I have always trusted that IITM will not descend into the kind of moral policing that is characteristic of being hit on the head one too many time. Perhaps I shouldn’t.

I see from your webpage that you’ve been a student yourself less than a decade ago. I fail to understand how one can go from that to issuing diktats requiring students to not be asleep, under threat of disciplinary action, past a certain hour.

I write a (somewhat popular) weblog. I’ve written about this notice and what I think about it on the blog. Because it is a blog, the language is perhaps more strident than what I’ve used in this missive. If you do read what I’ve written, I ask that you ignore the language for the message; and that you kindly take this preposterous notice issued by your office down.

Ravichandran S.

Witchcraft. No, really.

…that’s what legislators in Karnataka, and consequently, the sycophants of the police department, are worried about, it turns out. I read about this in the newspaper this morning. They’ve found, on a pavement at the entrance to the secretariat,

…[f]resh meat, eggs (some broken), blood stains, a lemon with a number of nails pierced on it, vermilion and a few bones, all wrapped in a leaf […]

And that’s been enough to make the duffers that run the Karnataka government scamper for cover. The Chief Minister, apparently has had this sort of thing directed at him previously, too. And because he’s the consummate mouse (or rat, more appropriately), he’s even gone on a purification spree.

when Yeddyurappa visited his home town Shikaripur in Shimoga district two days after he took over as Chief Minister, similar articles were found near the helipad, where the chopper carrying the new chief minister was to have landed. Police removed the articles but Yeddyurappa decided to get rid of the “evil effect’’ by visiting a few temples immediately after.

I have utter contempt for the moron of a chief minister of Karnataka. And I stabbed a tub of butter at breakfast this morning. I’m sure that means Yeddy will scurry on to the nearest temple (taking with him the two dozen SUVs, four cars, and two ambulances that seem to be required to accompany the chief minister everywhere).

Of clogged drains and not-so-embarrassed organisers

It seems the Games Village at CWG-2010 has lots of clogged drains. Why? Because athletes have used up and disposed of so many condoms that the drainage system can’t keep up. They’re fucking faster than the speed of sound (the sound of a toilet flushing, that is). They’re screwing faster than a swirling toilet. They’re… you get the point*.

Do you know what the response of the organisers is, to this ‘situation’? They’re happy about it. Why, you ask? ‘Because it’s a positive story that people are practising safe sex’. Because when somebody asks Mike Fennell about condoms clogging toilets in the games village, they are dying to know his stance on the politics of and the implications to social progress of sex and the use of contraception.

Asked about the embarrassing scenes of condoms blocking toilets at the Games Village, the CGF president said: “If that is happening, it shows there is use of condoms and I think that is a very positive story, that athletes are being responsible. This issue was controversial some years back but not now. Promoting safe sex is a responsible thing to do,” he said.

Somebody should tell Mike Fennell that his job as President of the CGF isn’t to ensure that people fuck responsibly. It is to ensure that the drains at the games village are built properly. Somebody should tell Mike Fennell that people don’t need to be condescended to and told that contraception is no longer socially taboo, as if the one thing that is missing from the magic formula that will transform society overnight is the word of the stupid fucking President of a stupid fucking games federation.



Hat Tip: Anubhab Roy.

* In the interest of whatever humour can be drawn from this, I’m going to ask you to feel free to make as many double-entendre references to screwing as you want and/or can come up with, in the comments.

[End. Fini. Kaputski. Fuck!]

Of Conspiracies and Crackpot Theories.

Maybe I should add a subtitle: Did you have to get me started?

This guy I know from high school accused me of being overly pessimistic and of often writing in a way that belittles the country. Or something. He also pointed out that the Indian media tend to do this as well.

Then he sent me this email with a subject line that said:

Who Owns the Indian Media? The ownership explains the control of media in India by foreigners. The result is obvious. Please pass this on to everyone you know.

This collection of distilled nonsense can be found here. Why do I think pretty much everything this article says is brain-meltingly stupid? Here are just the first two claims the article makes:

Let us for a moment see the ownership of different media agencies and their alignments:

NDTV: A very popular TV news media is funded by Gospels of Charity in Spain Supports Communism. Recently it has developed a soft corner towards Pakistan because Pakistan President has allowed only this channel to be aired in Pakistan . Indian CEO Prannoy Roy is co-brother of Prakash Karat, General Secretary of the Communist party of India . His wife and Brinda Karat are sisters.

CNN-IBN: This is 100 percent funded by Southern Baptist Church with its branches in all over the world with HQ in US.. The Church annually allocates $800 million for promotion of its channel. Its Indian head is Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sagarika Ghosh.

Now, anything that says something like ‘this is 100 percent funded by…’ is already suspect. Add to that the paranoia and the raging xenophobia in the article, and one would rather believe a preacher at the pulpit than this nonsense. If you’d rather check that this is indeed dumber-than-wood dumb, here’s a rediff news article reporting that Prannoy Roy has gifted 15% from his 50% share of NDTV to his daughter. And here’s the Wikipedia article for CNN-IBN that says that GBN, an Indian company owns and runs Network 18, with Time-Warner having a 26% share.

Now that I’ve said that two and two are four, I’ll say this about the charge that the Indian media are not below exploiting tragedy to get ratings: I’d rather listen to Anusha Rizvi and Aamir Khan make this point, thanks very much.

More importantly, though, I think the media in this country are much too sheepish and not nearly critical enough of what goes on in this country. Here’s an example:

Did you watch the Commonwealth Games opener? Did you think it was good? It was? How good was it? 70,000 crores worth? Or perhaps a little less than that? Would you be able to tell how good the opening ceremony should have been if we’d spent 10,000 crore rupees on CWG-2010, as opposed to the 70,000 crore rupees we’ve spent? Would any of us?

In the light of this, does it seem surprising to you that Suresh Kalmadi and co. look like they’ll be let off the hook? Are you worried that the media, the people who’ve been covering the mind-altering corruption in the run-up to the games, have stopped saying anything critical of anybody in relation to the games?

I am.

I’m worried that the people running the games seem to be getting away with throwing two lakh families out of Delhi, disallowing places like the Jantar-Mantar from being used for public protests, and “spending” more money on the CWG than London is going to spend on the Olympics (CWG-2010: 70,000 crores = 16 billion USD. London-2012: 9.3 billion GBP = 14 billion USD) .

I’m worried that we, the people, seem to be all right with letting some fuckers get away with robbing the country blind if they can put up a decent show with some part of the money. And even to hail these people as heroes. Even if they think that Princess Diana attended the Commonwealth Games opener. Even if they can’t stop themselves from mixing up APJ Abdul Kalam, a rather popular President of the country, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, one of the biggest leaders of the Independence movement.

Cruelty to Animals? We treat children worse.

I know of many people who can blow the roofs off halls with their music. I even know some of this kind personally. A virtual rule with people of this kind seems to be that they started young, which I guess is true of pretty much everything in the creative arts.

That said, here’s something I saw on TV last week that made me shudder. There are these competitions that judge how well people sing. With the number of TV channels growing every day, the number of these is as well. These competitions are also held for children. That’s bad enough, right? I mean, do ten year-olds need to be told they are good, or worse – no good, at singing? To be fair, there are some programmes that do this gently, and try and explain to the kids the mistakes they make as areas for improvement.

And then there are the programmes of the kind that was blaring on the TV in the hall at JVH. This was on Zee Kannada, on a programme called ‘Sa-ri-ga-ma-pa’, if somebody wants to check the next time they air this crock. This programme actually holds eliminations for the kids on it. With all the theatrics of American Idol, except with creepier music. That, and they’re doing this to kids.

” Now let’s find out who stays and who goes home. We have  contestants A, B, C, and E. D is safe from elimination because she won last week’s round. Okay, then…

The first one to progress to the next round is… E! **Boom! [Cue creepy music]**

The next one to get into the next round is B! **More boom! [Cue creepier music] **

We’re now left with A and C! Out of these two, the judges have gone with the beautiful smile of C!    ** You know **

We’re sorry, A, but we have to send somebody home. You have been eliminated. ** [Cue depressing music, this time] ** “

The above, if you are suspicious, isn’t a caricature. This is actually what the fucking git of a host said to the frikkin’ ten year-olds on the show. Including the suspenseful drumroll ending in a flourish and the creepy music… And the ‘we choose the nicer smile‘ bit. What the heck does a smile have to do with a singing contest? Wait, let me rephrase that. How fucking stupid does somebody have to be to do this to a ten year-old?

Now, like I said, this stupidity may not be representative of every singing programme on TV. But this is what happens when there are fifty of these programmes and each of them tries to outdo the others in ‘excitement’. And the only way these nitwits can drum up excitement is to play Russian roulette with kids to decide who gets to play Russian roulette next week.

[End. Fini. Kaputski.]