Noise in our air

People complain of air pollution. In Delhi, the Sri Lankan cricket players wore masks and played cricket. A sign of protest against the poor quality of air. That affected not just the cricket match and its final results (which were expected to be in BCCI’s/ Virat Kohli team’s favour) – the match ended in a tame draw.

Air pollution is bad enough. Worse is noise pollution .Those of us who live in cities, are accustomed to this high decibel noise. No, I don’t mean this noise. I don’t even mean the Times Now or Republic TV’s noise – both of which were started by Arnab Goswami. We can’t  bother much about too much of boww bowww… After all who cares for that boww wowww? Only the jobless.

I mean the political pitch in Gujarat and also in Karnataka. While Gujarat is going to election this and next week (in two phases), Karnataka is going to elect its next government next year, probably in about four -five months.

But the noise these political netas make disturbs me. While every politician and political party makes noise, the communal BJP’s noise mechanisms are beyond comprehension. It’s when elections come that they remember that there is Ayodhya (Babri Masjid) in Uttar Pradesh, Baba Budangiri in Chikmagaluru (Karnataka) and some temples in Gujarat to be settled. Till then, they have no dum!

And to snatch power, these shameless netas go any extent. Such communal rhetoric! In any democracy, any government would have put these bigots behind bars. But now, these begots themselves are ruling. So no question of demanding justice.

A bigger tragedy is that electorate tolerates all this zilch! No dooubt, in the days of post-truth, people don’t bother about real issues and facts and figures. They are easily fooled by empty promises and dry rhetoric sans values and principles.

It is time we became responsible citizens, and stopped being fooled by populism and dry flattery. Look for ground-level action. Serious commitment to the Constitution and welfare of the state, and absolutely no religious tones.

We all -including these shameless netas- must remember that religion is an absolutely private affair, and should be kept completely out of bounds of the public discourse. Let people practice their religion, but no harm to any. No respect for fictiotious  grouses. Just bare facts and figures.


Vague Reflections on Incompetence and anti- PRO-fessionalism

It’s strange how people over-pitch themselves in  an effort to stay in the business without actually performing. And then, raise their price manifold!

When someone put you in-charge -more as a mark of respect for the retiring non-performer than out of actual respect for your real ability-, you started bragging in public, forgetting every decency, ‘the boss BEGGED me to take it up’! Let’s not speak about the boss’ incompetence! Bosses are meant to be clowns, anyway.

And then started a saga of incompetence: absolute disregard for a culture of work – students did the work – the best way they could : cut-and-paste. And this heavy-weight has the temerity to “appoint” someone to do the work assigned to this incompetent one. Hei, how can you appoint anyone on somebody else’ property? Does anyone listen? Never mind, I don’t expect you to understand. But what you produced behind schedule as the first draft was absolute crap, an insult to the two letters you prefix to your name “dr”, let’s not talk about the dignity of the institution that fed you for three decades for free.

Then someone called mc comes in and takes the initiative to repair the crap, without hurting the big egotist. And everybody knows it, because everyone was asking who was in-charge: mc or the good-for-nothing heavy-weight. That was the height of incapability. Finally, when fruits are gathered, the heavy-weight jumps in to misappropriate the fruits of someone else’ labour.  Is it the genuine ignorance of one’s own cheap tactics or feigned ignorance that makes you so shameless? I am trying to decipher.

And now, when a fellow told me that the heavy-weight has demanded a plum position with a plum office, I was dismayed. That is even after our Indian government considers you useless and forcibly retires you, you still want to force your weight on others. For what? Because you find elsewhere you are unfit, and hence force yourself on the place you have milched shamelessly?

That is the tragedy of some of these feudal kingdoms in modern era: your boot-licking abilities are rewarded, and not your actual performance, much less your value system. What else do you expect when you yourself are catapulted to the top because of your incompetence and bootlicking than for any professional ability?

I must tell you something about somebody else: when you are a chemist, you should do chemistry, and not meddle with electronics or zoology. But since your wife has warned you not to sit at home post-your retirement, you try meddling with things other than your own area, because in your area, your worth is measured by your peers, and you can’t hide your shameless face.

Forget about that one. A third one. Everyone knows you are a brahmin, who would prefer sacrificing any modern thinking to promote astrology. Since you can’t kill scientific, work-culture and modern temper openly, you kill it by getting other, similar, incompetent, lazy donkeys around you. If that be the case, why are you alive? Why are you free – let somebody else decide for you and measure your un-worthiness.  You are from an oppressive caste. And you will never tolerate a group of institutions -which have traditionally fought the inequalities propagated by your caste- to flourish. Then, why are you here bootlicking? Oh, you are also going to retire, and need to find a home-for-the-aged, to keep your wife at peace.

Incompetence everywhere. Height of unprofessionalism at work. Oppressors sleeping with the oppressed. And do you think I am reflecting on our shameless politics in India?

Samudrup Jhongkar

The Indo Bhutan border beyond Baksa in Assam is a clean place. Samudrap Jhonkar is a clean lovely town.

You don’t need visa to enter this town, just have to register yourself. But if you have to go beyond the border, there is an immigration post and they demand visa

On this Tuesday it was a holiday, and the town is a sort of God forsaken

But we did visit the famous Friends restaurant and have our fill.

Two things need to be mentioned- 1) the luscious green scenery. It’s absolutely breathtaking. In fact, the entire stretch of land is verdant green. The other thing is people and their warmth. Be it pedestrians or little school kids- such warmth and spontaneity.

GIFF-1: Meeting Jahnu Barua

It was such a great privilege to meet Jahnu Barua. Barua is an internationally acclaimed film director. He hails from Assam. His works have affirmed the much ignored Assamese cinema. The North East Indian cinema produces some good films. But due to lack of fragmented markets and multiplicity of languages, it has always lived in the shadows of its other illustrious country cousins, notably the communing big brother Bollywood. I have watched a few of his films and jabber become a better student of cinema, learning to appreciate local cultures and the forgotten art of film making. Being in Guahati at a time when the north eastern part of India organises its very first International Film Festival or GIFF, gives me the advantage to benefit from it. Have a look at the pictures to see the celebratory atmosphere

Of dowry, its advantages, and Social Media craze

What to make of this dowry and media coverage?

A prestigious institution in Bengaluru seemed to have given Sociology notes to its students; may be it gave text books to its students. Doesn’t matter, as long as there is something to keep our idle tongues wagging.

The next thing we see is a Facebook post from a VIT student claiming to be in Vellore, and claiming to be member of three different groups. I feel pity for those companies/ groups. (By 21st Oct. the said woman had changed  her profile  of affiliations to “intern at Softgel Healthcare Private Limited; Core Committee Member at Becoming I Foundation;  Outreach and Documentation Head at IETE VIT; Studied VIT University;  Went to National Public SChool, Chennai; Our Own English High School, Dubai; and Lives in Vellore” to just four: “Gulf Inject, Intern at Softgel, NPS, Dubai, and OOEHS, Dubai”. As social scientists and adults, do we read something into this? [By the way, is she really Vellore-based or Bengaluru? Are all those affiliations honest? Is misleading the public deliberate? If so, then it smacks of a deliberate conspiracy?]

Fine for some [engineering] students who have to keep themselves occupied. May be that is the stuff some of us are made up of. You also need to locate it in the context of technology-at-finger-tips contexts. You will visit more of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp than go after what you satisfies your baser instincts.

With brains shrinking day by day -in this lazy technology-driven world-, we don’t like to take the trouble to VERIFY our sacred knowledge. That is the curse of most of us. It gives us cheap power to condemn against every tangible evidence. And who doesn’t enjoy power – power of all sorts -information, gossip-mongering, getting “likes”, being “favourites” of someone wielding power, and of course, uppity!

Look for yourself: this posted page is ONE of the pages; and the page has a number “159”; it means there are 158 pages before that and some more after that. What we are missing is the whole context. Why are other pages not posted online? If you are concerned about an important issue, shouldn’t you post the entire text? Why is this selective highlighting of a page? Such selective posting can’t be innocent. And then the social media audience laps it up uncritically! This is a generation which swallows even poison, if it looks attractive, and then regret the blunder (if they survive to!)

And a glaring blunder on the part of the woman and the misled public is, the page begins with “Generally, though accepted as an evil practice, dowry has its supporters. They want to retain this custom in one or other form. According to them, dowry has some advantages. The important ones are: ”

The College in question says it has no practice of prescribing text books. Definitely not in my department. In the Department of Communication (which houses Masters in Mass Communication and Bachelors in Visual Communication). I know most departments don’t that practice. Many of us are dead against giving notes. Vocally against.

Many of us suggest thought-provoking material for students to debate on. I do that – that is when you see students at their best – discuss and debate. You, as a teacher, provide a framework for that debate. And for me, that framework is always Constitutional, moral and ethical. Students learn the best when they start rubbing shoulders with their classmates and teachers and authors – irrespective of the content.

[By way of distraction, I may say, syllabus is only a rallying point; not the end of all. That -for me- serves and should serve as framework within framework. And that is why we need to update syllabi every year, every semester, and even -why not- everyday – depending on the changing social, political, economic, cultural canvas. Otherwise, the outdated anti-academics will take education the dowry-way. I pity the “teacher”/ university (many of them have a rule NOT to change/ update!) who says, ‘don’t change syllabus for the next three/ six years; you are killing education; stunting growth of generations to come; you are doing disservice to the nation]

I checked the syllabus of the said Sociology course. It is there for all to see. There is no text book prescribed. I found absolutely no reference material in the long list of reference books. Then I contacted a few students who took that course. All of them told me there was not notes given to them. They were given some pages to photocopy, and they forwarded me those pages by WhatsApp – pages on dowry-deaths and wife-battering, and other social evils and violence against women. I asked them specifically if this “viral” text was given. ‘No’, was the answer.

Serves well for the publicity-mongers. After all, when there is cheap social media, and a gossip-crazy audience waiting there, we don’t need to spend anything except our nothing-to-time and not-valued-energy to get that kind of mileage.


The mainline media has lapped up the gossip from the social media. Good for them, they can’t be left out, lest they should be out of business.


One reporter, who identified herself as Meghana, from Deccan Herald called me to clarify.  I gave her some inputs. She agreed to these goals of education, debates, and discussions around issues.


In the next few hours, Deccan Herald website publishes the news. But not a word about the version this perspective. This reporter has gone completely with the flow of the populist sentiment; and, you know that populist sentiment lacks brain. Deccan Herald, a reputed newspaper should have done its job as a public conscious-keeper. Otherwise, how is it different from the high-decibel Arnab and his channels like TimesNow (formerly) and Republic? It only adds to the pollution. Remember, the same Arnab and his erstwhile TimesNow had declared JNU student Umar Khalid a traitor – based on a video doctored by a BJP law-maker. This is the fate of our commercial, mainline media. Cheap!

This type of warped reporting speaks badly for our mainline media, Deccan Herald and its reporter. Don’t be surprised if someone calls into question their brains and ability to comprehend simple situations.


Mainline media and their reporters need eye-balls to survive; but they also need some intelligence, credibility, and respect. And that respect and credibility need to be commanded, not demanded.


Modi makes way for this bete noir!

Congress seems to be back. Who would have thought it possible in 2014 when the grand old party was routed beyond recognition by the so-called Modi-wave?
In fact, after three years, you see plenty of people regretting voting for a man from Gujarat, even after he made a mess of it Gujarat, but succeeded in branding himself with the help of America PR Consultancy (APCO Worldwide) and Oregon-based American Ad Agency Kennedy & Widen?
The charismatic Modi has been on a roll in spite of his blunder after blunder with economy, fostering communal enmity, severe attacks on freedom of the press, abuse of human rights and spreading lies in India and overseas. Yet, Indians have a short term memory; Indians are forgiving. rahul-gandhi-in-gujarat_650x400_71508417617
[Photo courtesy: NDTV website]
Indians love to listen to good orators. Let’s give it to him – Modi is a great orator. Full stop! Great oratory and hollow promises don’t fill your stomach; definitely not the stomachs of the predominantly poorer Indians, when Modi himself flies to the US every other month and goes and hugs every world leader whom he criticised left, right and centre pre-election 2014. He has the best of flights and any number of times when our trains meet with disasters and thousands lose their lives; he has best of food when our billion population starves and queue up for their next meal; Modi changes his designer suits  five times a day when a huge majority of our people are struggling to cover their bodies; Modi has Z+ category of security when most of our dalits, tribals, minorities, women, and artists and thinkers who don’t toe his/ RSS line are attacked day and night or -worse still- killed; Modi’s confidante, BJP national president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah’s wealth rises 16000 times from Rs. 5 thoursand to 80 crores (800 million), and Modi’s friend and major donor in 2014 elections (who now commands every Indian political, economic policy of the country) Mukesh Ambani’s fortunes worth a few lakh crores rise 67%, and Indians in lakhs lose job their jobs, suffer heavy losses due to demonitisation and GST, and, and , and…. the list is endless.
So that is when a much-derided “prince” Rahul Gandhi is seen as the only hope for the country! Thanks to Modi’s extravaganza, anti-people policies, messing up with economy, support to communal elements, gross violation of human rights, corruption and brushing aside the corruption of his colleagues, cheap rhetoric have paved the way for the once ridiculed young from Gandhi family to be the only ray of hope!
Today the social media is full of caricaturing of Modi and his BJP and RSS. There is nothing but cynicism. And Rahul Gandhi, who not too long ago was trolled for everything and written off, is now retweeted  many more times than the king of social media – Modi!
Achche din anewale hain!

Happy Deepavali

Deepavali or Diwali (as it is known in the English world) is a festival of lights.  Deepavali literally means lines/ queues of lights. It is this season of that festival. You can hear a few crackers around (though Delhi has been forbidden to sell crackers, thank God! )deepavali images.png

Many of us celebrate this festival; others believe in the power of light or that Source of all Light. And none of us can simply live without light.

I wish you all a very happy, joyous, light-filled Deepavali. May our lives be lit with the Light Eternal. May our country experience light of peace and communal harmony from the darkness of politicians, communal elements, and violence. And may we be able to spread to our neighbours far and wide!

Happy Diwali!

That’s how Govt intimidates media

If you don’t know yet, Jay Shah is son of BJP National President Amit Shah.

Jay made 16000 times more profit after Modi came to power. How is the entire India loses money after BJP and Modi come to power, but two of staunch Modi supporters make fortunes – Ambani makes 67% & Jay makes 16000 times more from a loss making company? And then, after making miraculous profits, he shuts down the company?

Now Rohini Singh exposes this holy miracle, just as she did it in 2011, the fortunes of Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi’s son in law. Back then, BJP was very happy. Used it to abuse Congress and come to power. But this time, it tries to silence the journalist and the media.

Read this, and support fearless journalism.

Check out @svaradarajan’s Tweet:

How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds

How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds

Research suggests that as the brain grows dependent on phone technology, the intellect weakens

I have been telling my students time and again that we have outsource our brains to cell phones; our memories which used to be near photographic in our childhood, are all jaded, and we find difficult to remember our parents’, spouses, children’s and colleagues’ numbers or emails!

Here is a write-up on my theory!

Illustration: Serge Bloch

The smartphone is unique in the annals of personal technology. We keep the gadget within reach more or less around the clock, and we use it in countless ways, consulting its apps and checking its messages and heeding its alerts scores of times a day. The smartphone has become a repository of the self, recording and dispensing the words, sounds and images that define what we think, what we experience and who we are. In a 2015 Gallup survey, more than half of iPhone owners said that they couldn’t imagine life without the….

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