Saturday, February 28, 2009


Finally, I had the chance to watch the 'much-awaited' movie Delhi-6 from the director of 'Rang De Basanti' with music by ARR. A good friend of mine brought this movie to my attention, mainly for ARR's music...and when trailers came about, we were very much convinced that it is a 'must-watch' movie for several reason (partly because of the spoilers too). With great expectations set, my friend watched the movie the very next day of its release and ended up with great disappointments. For example, the 'Rehna Tu' song wasn't expected to be in such a context ;-), though it was nice! Having not lived up to his expectations, he discouraged me from seeing it...which eventually proved to be one of the motivations for me!! I liked the movie.

The story is that of a young man (Abisheak B) bringing his granny (who is dying from cancer) to accompany her spending her last days in the place she lived (which apparently is Delhi with pincode 6). He is welcome by the startling(??!!) news of the black monkey in Delhi (which did really happen in Delhi a few years ago, though, suprisingly, it was never spotted later!!). He comes into India with a mindset that granny didn't have anyone in India. But he is suprised by the love and affection of the people who welcome granny and is relished by these 'connections'. However, as the days pass by, the black monkey issue kindles Hindu-Muslim conflicts in his own area. The young man himself is being caught up and fried up for this issue when he tries to mitigate the conflicts! He becomes vexed. He decides to go back to the US and take granny as well. But then, something stops him from doing it. He realises they are his people and he has to accept them for whatever they are: indeed that is life! The director has beautifully portrayed this transition in the mind of the young man - and I should say I could relate it to myself sometimes,though I don't work up for any mitigations of the Hindu-Muslim conflicts.

In addition, the director has beautifully captured the stupidity of the people in India. The cow giving birth, using black monkey to rescue themselves from pressing situations - making fool of others, the marriage issues are some typical examples. The foolish humiliation of the 'low caste' people is also a nice issue that has been well-handled (particularly with the Ramayan drama). Yet another one I liked was the Gobar characterization. I strongly feel there are lot of people in the society who play to the tunes of others just because that is the only way they can make up a living. This has to stop! The police character is so well portrayed - Indeed Indian policemen are so - shame!

The Ramayan drama set up was extremely good, I should say. I was wondering how they are going to show up the flames when Sita crosses the Lakshman Rekha...and the way the flame was brought in picture was brilliant!

The movie ending could have been different.

All in all, Delhi-6 was a movie that I enjoyed. Though India is filled with stupidity in many places, India is still a beautiful place and is fun to be in India. It would also be nice to have a right balance of stupidity and common sense like the one the young man visualizes in his dream.

Final recommendation - See the movie!

It occurs to me that this movie should have also been to the Oscars. It captures many subtleties of the Indian society.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Science and Religion - A confluence!

I was just going through my research notebook when I happened to see that I had noted two nice quotes - don't know from where...but it was nice and I thought I have to put it down. They reflect that science and religion are different perspectives of the same emotion. Not sure how many are going to agree, but I think I agree to this:

"Science is about finding material explanations of the world - explanations that can inspire those spooky feelings of awe, wonder and reverence in the hyper-evolved brain".

"Religion, on the other hand, is about humans thinking that awe, wonder and reverance are the clue to understanding a God-built universe".

Comments welcome!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and the Oscars

The 81st Oscar Academy Awards is special for Indians. The Indian music maestro AR Rahman has been nominated for Oscars for his music. The music was indeed good. The movie has other nominations as well. Now, what bothers me is: Why would ALL Indians be proud if ARR wins the laurels? True, hez an Indian and his winning an award would put India in the limelight. However, isn't it all because of ARR's own efforts? I just could not accept people just celebrating the victory...shouldn't they get inspired to perform and achieve like him? Well, it is not in only this area I have this lament...but with any field.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

An archeological foray: Mahabalipuram

Following up on a recent visit to Mahabalipuram, Chennai, my friend, Ruban, and myself got intrigued by a number of issues, and more specifically, the Krishna's butter ball! On the persistent insistence of curious Ruban, I landed up lending out a book called 'The Seven Pagodas on the Coromandel Coast' from our library. It was an interesting read.
First of all, let me tell you why we went to Mahabalipuram. It was very much decided before even I planned for vacation that Ruban and I would go out somewhere when I came to India for vacation this year. First we thought we would go to some place near Bangalore, but then he got a job in Chennai. So we decided on Pondicherry. However, little did I realise that Pondicherry was 120 kms from Chennai! So it was finally decided that we would go to Mahabalipuram. That said, we rode on the famous ECR with great cautions from his parents. It was a nice ride with brief stop-overs. Finally on reaching Mahabalipuram, both the curious minds had their own curious questions! Finally, the Krishna's butter ball caught attention of both of us. I couldn't imagine how that piece of rock was hinging on a small area. What was more interesting was that one half of the rock was flat! Would someone have tried to do something with the rock? How is that it is perfectly flat on the other side? Mind boggling questions! So, with these and other curious things the vacation came to an end; I came back to work when I lent the book.

The book was interesting. It was a collection of descriptive and historical papers relating to Mahabalipuram, also called the Seven Pagodas. The archeological significance of this place was discovered by Europeans in the late 1700s. Since then there have been lot of documentation about the place, notable among them is the one by Goldingham. Each historian has documented their own observations of inscriptions, arcitecture, style, legends etc. Some question the interpretations of the earlier, and some admonishing as well. (Well, I understand what it is to do research in archeology!)

So now, the facts that I learn: The Krishna's butter ball is actually Draupadi's butter ball according the sthalapurana, the other half having bitten by a cat which can be found in the Arjuna's penance sculpture! The question now is - Why did Draupadi, Arjuna come down here? Well, we all (atleast I) know Mahabharatha is a perhaps people living around made the story for money (some of the historians tell the same too!). Now the mentioning of the rock in the sthalapurana confirms that the rock was not brought to the place recently. However, it has seemed to have attracted little attention by the historians despite its uniqueness.

Now to learn about the people who might have lived there: The inscriptions are of Pali language - which means people who made the inscriptions were either in constant touch with Palinese or that it was made by Pali people. The sculptures reflect the people of those days. What suprised me was, one of the europeans had mentioned seeing kids in their hips of their mother as suprising! I had, to this day, thought it was common...perhaps it was not - europeans didn't carry babies that way probably. But the other knowledge is that, Indians, or more specifically, South Indians, had been used to carry babies in their hips since long time. In addition, the sculptures also give insights into the clothing habits of people of that time (which time is a question!). Let me put it verbatim:
" Several interesting particulars regarding the ancient Hindus may be gathered from this pastoral scene. The dress of the females resembles that now worn by the Neyris (Nair women) and Tiyyattis (females of the Tiyyar caste) of Malabar, who are uncovered about the waist. The men it appears, wore turbans, and the women very large ear-rings, with bangles on their hands and feet. The peculiar practice of carrying the infant on the hip, which cannot fail to attract the notice of the Europeans at the present day, was then in use; and even the vertical arrangement and method of tying together the three earthen vessels here represented, is recognized by all Hindu visitors as being universally adopted by the modern Gopalas. The execution of this work is coarse, and the design rude; and though particular parts have much merit, yet the limbs of the principal figures are clumsy and ill-proportioned, the attitudes forced, and the countenances without experession"
- Inscriptions at Mahamalaipur - Dr. B. G Babington.

One thing I do notice is that the europeans have tended to refer to the local people as Hindus (or in some places, Brahmans). Two, it is suprising that women are depicted to be uncovered above the waist - probably a fact that we cannot digest today because women are supposed to be fully covered in public. The carrying of earthern pots in the head - is something we might be able to see in the remote villages today. So in all, the scultptures have depicted the then cultures of the people and the localites have since then exploited these with well-woven stories for money.

There are a lot of things we can learn from these ancient sculptures - relics that stand against the fury of Nature to provide the humankind insights about their earlier generations.

Take Home Message: Do visit Mahabalipuram and try to appreciate what it truly means to convey us, apart from the skill display, which is also exemplary.Let us not fall prey to the myths. While appreicating the skills and thoughtfulness of the earlier generations, let us also be thoughtful and do activities with a foresight - a message that we get from our ancestors.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On thinking of the current education scenario in India, I have increasingly come to believe that the education system is lacking perspectives - teachers teach just to cover the syllabus,not help appreciate the beauty and the usefulness of what is being taught/studied. I am not making this claim blindly, but after interaction with a few teachers and with a few students. A recent article in dinamalar wherein Dr. Kalam shares his idea on what the purpose of education has to be is a worthwhile read. A succinct, english version of his points are from the book: Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. In the book, Gardner identifies five different types of minds that education today has to inculcate in the younger generation. They are as follows:
1. The Disciplinary Mind: the mastery of major schools of thought,including science, mathematics, and history, and of at least one rofessional craft.
2. The Synthesizing Mind: the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others.
3. The Creating Mind: the capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena.
4. The Respectful Mind: awareness of and appreciation for differences among human beings and human groups.
5. The Ethical Mind: fulfillment of one's responsibilities as a worker and as a citizen.

Having realised what needs to be done, it is time we act to do what needs to be done! But how?