Archive for the ‘India’ category

Shame, Shame, Puppy Shame

November 14, 2012

Of late, number of pseudo-science nonsense talks on campus, aided and abetted by eminent Profs has increased.  Two samples below.  And, if this is what a premier S&T Institute of our country does, anyone still wonder why our country cannot produce any good science or technology breakthroughs?  Depressing, makes me want to scream.

—-

EML Team 2012-’13, IIT Madras
Presents

An Extra Mural Lecture
By
Dr. A.B. Sudhakara Sastry
 Chairman SRIVT
Vedic Sciences: A Treasure waiting for YOU
Wednesday, 14th November 2012 at 6 PM
IC&SR Main Auditorium
 
Vedic science, based on the Vedas (the oldest holy texts of the Hindu religion) is a great treasure of knowledge. It is a fact that works which can shed light on the ancient treasure troves of technology do not find a due place in the portals of modern mainstream academic and industrial institutions in India. It is heartening to note that during the recent years, there has been a change in this stand and there is a willingness to explore avenues for collaborative effort between the adherents to the paths of Vedic and mainstream sciences. It is only the joint endeavour of Vedic scientists and mainstream intellectuals, willing to work beyond the narrow borders of their own specializations that can help the transmission of ancient knowledge for universal benefit.
Dr. Amanchi Balasudhakara Sastry, is a prolific writer and authored several books on Astrology, Gemology, Scientific meaning totradit ions, rites and rituals, etc. Baradwaja Vymanika Sastra Pariskaram authored by Dr. Sastry is the first literary work in the series of Vedic wisdom. As the Chairman of Srimaharshi Research Institute of Vedic Technologies (SRIVT), his ambition and mission in life is to awaken and enliven the sleeping youth and pass on to them the invaluable heritage of Vedic wisdom and legacy handed down by ancient sages and Vedic gurus and mould this treasure of knowledge for the universal welfare. His work on nano copper using Vedic knowledge has been recognized recently with Indian Innovation Initiative (i3) Award for 2011 by the Department of Science & Technology,Government of India and CII among 850 entries from all over India. More about the scientific research done by SRIVT can be found here

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{Edit, 14/11/12: Removed reference to Dr. CS Yogananda’s talk; on second thought, this doesn’t belong in the same category as the other two}

There was another by Dr. N Gopalakrishnan in August.  His video on Youtube along with rebuttal from Nirmukta:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oPKyeJretI

I Love Isha

October 15, 2010

Not this one (photo from www.realbollywood.com); she seems like the kind that will steal your baby’s pacifier from her mouth.

But, this is the one I am talking about, founded by this guy, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.  I louw you, maan.   

Peddler of all things spiritual and pseudo-scientific, like lingams and inner energy and inner science and chakras and more energies and more lingams and dhyanalingams and divine ellipsoids and solidified mercury and such.  Fascinating person, really. The reason I even came to know about him is because he will be on campus next week to speak to us about ‘Source for Success’. I will have to admit that with all the money he seems to be awash in, he is eminently qualified to talk about success.

Apparently, (according to his own delicious website) he

is a yogi, mystic and spiritual master with a difference. An arresting blend of profundity and pragmatism, his life and work serve as a reminder that inner sciences are not esoteric philosophies from an outdated past, but a contemporary science vitally relevant to our times.

Right!  I love it when descriptions are sufficiently abstract to be completely meaningless, kinda like some descriptions of wine.  Just curious, how do these people qualify to dish out said mixture of profundity and pragmatism?  Do they study for countless years with a master, or they introspect on one leg for decades? Or perhaps a lady of the lake clothed in shimmering samite comes into their dreams and whispers ‘You are the One, you know?’.  And he’s like, ‘What?’ And she’s like ‘Yea-huh, really, we are looking for a guy who can blend fecundity and astigmatism, and we think you are it.  But you will have to grow a beard, … a great big one’. And he’s like, ‘Sweet! I can do that’.

I also totally dig that each of these snake-oil salesmen usually has a catch phrase: here it is ‘inner sciences’, and its bastard-child, ‘inner engineering’.  You, discerning reader, may ask what it is this inner science or engineering; here goes (with some confusing semantics):

As we have physical science to create external well-being there is a whole inner dimension of science to create inner well being. I call it Inner Engineering.

Cho chimple.  Outside, outer engineering; inside, inner engineering.  What happens if your guts spill out?  Never mind.  And why might you be interested in making our rich man richer by taking this course?  Because it will

  • Optimize health and vitality
  • Reduce stress
  • Promote mental clarity and emotional balance
  • Increase and maintain high energy levels throughout the day
  • Reduce sleep & rest quota
  • Prevent chronic diseases like Asthma, Allergies, Sinusitis, Hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity, Rheumatism, Arthritis, Epilepsy, Back pain, Skin and eye ailments, Migraine

How many treasures we find in the website in a mere few minutes!  We come to know that he is the supreme dude, he looks like God, is more compassionate than God, has a turban God wished He had, but is way cooler than God because he rides a Beamer motorbike in the Himalayas wearing just a loincloth.

We also find some really mortal-like things coming from such a highly evolved person.  Check out this page, most of the pictures are of white or foreign-looking people, for some odd reason. Why so?  Where are all the brown-skinned desi-type people?  And Sad Guru’s pics themselves are interesting.  He appears to have actually gone to a studio to pose for the first three pics. Is this consistent with the image of someone who is on such a high spiritual plane?

And it looks like the place is rolling in money. I actually have no problem with this; if suckers want to part with their hard-earned cash, it is their prerogative.  But what I absolutely have a huge problem with is this spewing of scientific terms in random gibberish sentences, designed to appear like rocket science to the layman.  Take for instance this breathtaking passage about ‘The Science of Dhyanalinga’ a.k.a. ‘The Ellipsoid Manifesto’:

“The core of every galaxy is always an ellipsoid. A perfect ellipsoid is what is referred to as a linga. So the first form, from un-manifest to manifest-when it begins to manifest as creation-the first form that it takes is always the form of an ellipsoid.

And from our experience we know if you raise your energies to a certain pitch, the final form that your energy takes before dissolution is also that of an ellipsoid.

So the linga is seen as a doorway to the beyond, from both ends. The first form of manifestation is an ellipsoid. The final form of dissolution is also an ellipsoid. So because the A and Z of creation happen to be the linga, it is seen as a doorway to the beyond.” – Sadhguru

Help, it is raining non-sequiturs here!  And you raise energy (units of Joule) to a certain frequency (units of 1/time), and the energy takes the shape of an ellipsoid now?  How many chemicals and how much of each does one need in the bloodstream before one comes up with this sentence, which makes George W. Bush look like a genius?  Anyway, if the stuff above has left you a tad confused, here comes the deep scientific explanation, which I assume will cost you extra (emphasis below is mine):

A linga is a perfect ellipsoid. It is one form that when energized becomes a perennial storehouse of energy. Although generally associated with Shiva in Indian mythology, scientifically, this shape is the only shape that can serve as a perennial storehouse of energy.

The yogic science of making a Linga is based on this knowledge. In the Dhyanalinga, energies of all the seven chakras in the human system are raised to their very peak and locked to prevent dissipation over time, through an intense process of prana prathistha. Hence there are no poojas or rituals in the Dhyanalinga. It is expected that the energies of the Dhyanalinga will not dissipate for at least 5000 years.

Don’t know if they are taking orders for lingams, but I think I am going to get a few for my Birdday this year.  I would love to see how they convert this human energy into lingam energy, and most importantly, how do they lock it?  Would also be very cool to see the calculations behind the expecation of a 5000-year life for the energy.  Maybe I will just ask him next week when he comes to campus.



Know your Indglish

October 7, 2010

From yesterday’s Indian Express, in a story about a new abattoir for Chennai:

Accommodating the concerns of the locals on slaughtering goat and small-time businessmen involved in the meat trade from the abattoir, Subramanian said, “It has been decided to allow slaughtering of 500 goat per hour against the previously planned 250.”

I am definitely with the locals on this one.  Whatever these small-time businessmen may have done, you can’t just slaughter them in the new abattoir.  Come on, this is not 1984, and these are not Sikhs!  Check out what a seasoned politician (Chennai Mayor) Mr. Subramanian is, though! See how nicely he side-stepped the issue of slaughtering businessmen, unless of course,  goat is a metaphor for a small-time businessman.

I remember seeing a few other shockers in the same paper, but can’t recall many of them now.  There was this gem, though, about a CWG participant having emergency ‘route canal’ surgery! Looks like the correspondents are learning by hearing these days.  BTW, do these papers have editors or are they just a bunch of bloggers texting their stories in? 

And then there was this curious one about someone being ‘enlarged on bail’.  Now whatever the heck this means, I didn’t know, but I could guess that this guy was let out.  I Googled this phrase, and it seems to be everywhere.  Where does this come from?  After bail, these people are perhaps at large, hence ‘enlarged’?  Apparently, Khushboo was enlarged similarly in 2005.  I have to disagree; the bail had nothing to do with the enlargement.  It was all there already.

Just remembered this story (also from the same spectacular day), which I can’t find online on IE, but Deccan Herald to the rescue with almost the same title:

Now, blinds can use computers freely!

I got excited reading the headline in the print version.  First, why would window dressings possibly want to use computers?  And second, what kind of invention has now freed them to do so?   I was eagerly looking for  some answers, but it turns out that these blinds are actually blind people (yeah, suck on that, you politically correct peepills) and this was about a computer they could use.  Talk about a letdown! The whole episode reminds me of the ‘Cubans’ in the ‘English Patient’ Seinfeld episode.

GUILLERMO: Jerry Seinfeld please.
JERRY: Ah, you must be Kramer’s guys. (indicating) Come on in. You got the cigars?

The guys enter.

GUILLERMO: What cigars?
JERRY: Kramer said I was supposed to bring him back some Cubans.
GUILLERMO: (indicating the threesome) We are the Cubans.

Our parents encouraged us to read the papers to improve our English, but seems like dangerous advice to give anyone these days.

And now, for something completely different, check this out.

Things I learn from my barber

July 28, 2010

Why am I able to argue with most people but barbers?  I mean, I am usually not the kind to suffer in silence.  For instance, I was at the grocery store last night. I wanted to take in my old Trader Joe’s cloth bag for my veggies, but no fewer than three attendants told me that I was not allowed to carry veggies in MY bag inside their store.  I could carry it in THEIR plastic basket and then transfer it later to my bag, but for whatever reason, customers are forbidden from bringing in their own bags. Of course, I should know better than to argue with the poor attendants, who are but messengers bringing the stupid message, but argue I did. This resulted in three remarkably similar, almost scripted, ManiRatnam-style exchanges.

‘Saar, you can’t bring that here’

‘What?’

‘Bag’

‘What bag?’

‘Cloth bag’

‘Oh, this?’

‘Yes, that’

‘Why?’

‘Management’

‘Why?’

‘Management’

‘Why?’

‘…’

‘What is the reason?’

‘Don’t know’

‘Why?’

‘…’

‘Don’t you want to ask why?’

‘No’

‘Why?’

‘…’

‘You are so good-looking’

‘What?’

‘Why no bag?”

‘…’

Odi poidalama?’

‘No’

‘Why?’

‘…’

And like that only we whiled the evening away.

Wife, auto-drivers, parents, in-laws,  kids, students, queue-jumpers,  friends, perfect strangers, public urinators … everyone seems to be fair game for arguments.  Except for one group: barbers.

Over many years now, for reasons unknown,  I have simply been unable to put up even a token fight with my barbers.  Not only does this mean that I have to put up with questionable hair-dos, but more importantly for an argumentative person, I have had to accept all manner of dubious statements from men and women with scissors in their hands.  At the time they are made, these assertions usually make a lot of sense.  But,  as soon as I step out of the barbershop, I realize that these are things that I wouldn’t normally be silent about.

For instance, I was told by a lady once that one should never apply a conditioner right after shampooing because,

Shampoos open pores up, but conditioners close them.

I gushingly agreed with her and mother-promised her I would never do that. ‘Only an idiot will grab the conditioner right after the shampoo, damn straight!’, I probably said. Granted that I am no expert on cosmetics and their effects on pores,  but this one seems pretty weak. Yet, the moment it was offered, I accepted with nary a whimper.

More recently, I have been advised against growing my curly hair back because it won’t be good …  for the hair.  You see, when I ride my motorcycle, the hair gets all tangled up, and when I try to untangle, I end up pulling the hair out.  I mean, hard to argue against, no?

What else? Yeah, one of my barbers once convinced me that I would look really cool in a ‘punk-style’ do when I was in 11th Standard.  This came at a time when I was really vulnerable, since a good friend had just then told me how much she hated Physics and how that was the sole reason she had run screaming to the Commerce stream. So cold, how could she! Anyhoo, I took my barber’s advice and sported a curly-haired mullet for a few months before I couldn’t deal with my friends hiding pencils up my neck anymore.

And I have never got a straight answer from them on the ‘step cut’.  Just where exactly is this step supposed to be?

So, what gives with the barbers’ upper hand?

Perhaps it is the toxic mix of yesterday’s sweat and today’s humidity and the endless stream of nightie ads on the 10″ screen that renders me senseless when I am in the barber-shop. But, I think it is really the confidence that these guys and girls have.  Have you  ever seen them hesitate before a snip?  NoNoNever! They just go for it, no?  No doubts, no nothing, total masters of their domain.  They can do no wrong and you better not tick them off with meaningless questions.  After all, they are the ones with scissors in their hands and you are the one with hands tucked inside the apron.

A better man than I am could do it, for sure.  I am thinking Clooney here.  Maybe so, but part of me says that if Clooney were to swagger into my neighbourhood barbershop, they will convince him to ‘konjam black podunga saar, … summa suparaa irukkum’ (dye your hair, saar, it will be supar), and he will be putty in their hands.  Between you and me, the look on Clooney in the first pic is priceless.  I think the barber must have just then given him the shampoo-conditioner bit.

George Clooney before and after a session at Olympic Hair Stylists, Ashok Nagar, Chennai

My luck may be changing a bit now though. During my last visit, my barber did tell me that Udit Narayan has no fucking business singing in Tamizh, and that, contrary to the mullet or the pores or the step cut, I don’t think even I can argue against.

Institute of National Impotence

March 4, 2010

Conversation at a cafeteria on our beautiful campus.

Me (to boy bussing tables):  ‘How old are you?’

Him: ‘Eighteen’

Me: ‘Really?’

Him: ‘Really’

Me: ‘You don’t look eighteen’

Him: Shrug

Me: ‘How long have you been working?’

Him: ‘Two years’

Me: ‘So you were sixteen when you started working?’

Him: ‘   ‘

A few minutes later at my table.

Him: ‘Sir, I am really eighteen’

Me: ‘I believe you, but shouldn’t you be in school?’

Him: ‘I really want to, I will as soon as I quit this place in May’

Me: ‘Where are you from?’

Him: ‘Vellore’

Me:’Why are you here and not in school there?’

Him: ‘Didn’t have money for school’

Me: ‘Doesn’t the government pay for school?’

Him: ‘Yes, but I still need money for notebooks and stuff’

Me: ‘How much do you need?’

Him: ‘Rs. 2000 for a year’

Me: ‘For the whole year?’

Him: ‘Yes, sir, the whole year’

Me: ‘How old are you really?’

Him: ‘Seventeen, sir, and I have been working for only two years’

Me: ‘When did you stop school?’

Him: ‘After class 9’

Me: ‘Brothers and sisters?’

Him: ‘One elder brother, one elder sister, one younger brother.  Only my sister has studied more than me’, anticipating my next question

Me: ‘How much longer are you going to work here?’

Him: ‘I told you I am leaving in May. I want to go back to school’

Me: ‘I teach here’

Him: ‘Can I get your phone number?’

Me: ‘Yes’

Him: ‘See my English is good’, showing me my name on his phone.

Me: ‘Yes, it’s good; when do you finish work tonight?’

Him: ‘At 7’

Me: ‘And you started at …’

Him: ‘9’

Me: ‘Breaks?’

Him: ‘Half an hour at 11 and half an hour at 2, but they want me to stay here till 2 a.m.  Some of my friends stay here till then’

Me: ‘So you will get paid more then, since you will work more?’

Him: ‘No, sir, the pay will be the same’

Me: ‘You better get back to work or they might give you trouble’

Him: ‘I don’t really care, I am leaving soon anyway ‘

Me: ‘Take care’

Him: ‘I did well at school; the best in the family’

Me: ‘How well?’

Him: ‘You know, 35 marks to pass, I got 40 or 45’.

Me: ‘What would you like to be when you finish studying?’

Him: ‘I would like to work at Hero-Honda company’

Me: ‘What would you like to do there? Be a mechanic?’, probably betraying my own prejudice.

Him (irritably):  ‘No, I want to be a manager’

A glimpse of what one might see around here everyday.  On the campus of this ‘Institute of National Importance’, we see children working in all kinds of places: various shops, cafeterias, construction sites and households and I am sure the situation is much worse in the city at large.  Most of the time, we choose to look away simply because we are busy and there are just too many such issues.  But, child labour is a bit too much to bear. Maybe because I am a parent myself.  Or maybe because children are defenseless, although I must say that this kid has a lot of streetsmarts, presumably from having to fend for himself in a big, unfriendly city.  He was so smooth that at several instants I thought he might be taking me for a ride, a feeling that I haven’t been able to completely shake off yet.

For what it’s worth, here is the Indian Embassy’s take on child labour:

While child labor is a complex problem that is basically rooted in poverty, there is unwavering commitment by the Government and the people of India to combat it.

Maybe the government is doing something; they do have some rehabilitation schemes and provide food and shelter for migrant children, many of whom come from the north and northeast.  But, to say that the people of India show ‘unwavering commitment’ to combating child labour is a bit of a joke.