Wednesday, July 19, 2006

India blocks Blogs. But leaves the mind to wander.

There is probably no better news for companies such as blogger if they are seeking greater participation from Indians! India has blocked blogs. ( or is it better to say Government of India?' or the Indian ISPs? There is confusion about this). Its already an old news and 1000s of blogs covering it. The government wants to block some anti-national blogs and in the process blanked out all blog sites!! Supposed to be a technical error. They say they did not mean to block all blogs, but only specific sites. but the fact is that the blogs are still blocked. Such an error in an 'IT savvy nation'? Sounds odd to me...

So, why do I say its good news for companies like Blogger? Let me tell you there is a good side to this! When this censorship is removed, I promise you the number of Indians who are going to start blogging is going to double. Till day-before more than 50% guys and girls in my office did not know what blogging was all about!! Now, they do.

For the rest 50% who did know about blogging most were not too involved. At least, they did not know that there may exist a few blogs that are about hate, dirty words, anger, communalism - what fun! Now, more and more bloggers will seek such blogs, visit them, leave their own footprints-of-hate behind, ready to come back another day - with more hate. The TV with all its sensation these days may well loose many of its viewers! Now, they know a more exciting place.

Now, hearing this news of censorship more and more foreigners will get involved into Indian problems. Right now, when blogs are blocked out I am sure everyone is busy finding out those sites which have been blocked. Maybe these curious people do not find these particular sites, but surely they are going to find a few other less extreme but neverthless anti-national blogs? Personally, I think the extreme sites are less liable to convert the faithful. Its the subtle sites which are more dangerous. Thats the catch 22 in life and thats well... bad news.

The good news is that bloggers from India are up-in-arms. Just do a blog search for 'blogs india' and you will find all the news and ways to bypass this bans.

All said, this is not as bad is being in a bomb blast. Neither its as bad being in the Tsunami or a earthquake. Its simple a case of mental freedom. Too elitist a request from my hard working, faithful government servants

I mean, I really feel shy complaining to the hard-working government servants about my little problem. I mean what do I expect them to say to me if I asked them if they knew that I exist - among the 1 billion people of the country.

I mean, they are really trying to protect the country, no? The only problem is that I am not certain, if I am included...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

You, the faithless.

Mumbai Blasts. After the blasts that killed close to 150 people upto now. Residents of Mumbai serving shocked passerbys and stranded people with food and water and other support. The spirit will not die!

So, you, the 'so-called terrorists' did it again.
Killing unknown people by will, personally with your own hands.
All I like to tell you guys is that death does not do us in.
Neither do I still hate another human.
All I know is,
you have a long way to evolve,
and the way you guys are working,
your learning process is going to be hard and painful.
And learn you will and so will yours,
for your 'God', which for sure is neither Allah,Ram or any almighty, is certainly dead - no wonder you think you need to take control of other people's lifes?
You. Faithless & faceless.

Should the world be one?

Sabrimala Sree Ayyappa

Sometime ago the Princess of Thailand was refused entry to the Jaganath Temple in Puri, Orissa. There were local protests by some and later all was forgotten. I for one, do not agree with the temple rules as such. The princess is said to be a devout reader of the vedas and a follower and why should someone refuse her the right to seek blessing of the God? Only a born hindu, by race can enter the temple it seems. Not those who have faith necessarily. That I think is not fitting.

So, while I think as above why is that I support the Lord Ayyappa's Sabarimala Temple rules to disallow ladies from the age of 10 to 50?

Well, I am no expert in religion, neither on how it has evolved. I also am noone to judge the condition of women in Hinduism or some of them, as I am not a women facing the situation. I must have to listen to them to know.

So, whats the difference between the Lord Jaganath temple story and the Sabarimala's Lord Ayyappa temple?

The former is a God whose story is related to all human beings and hence I beleieve every one has the right to seek his union. But Lord Ayyappa story, specifically with regard to Sabarimala temple is about celibacy and different. The story is a bout a teenage God, who was born of two male Gods - Lord Vishnu & Lord Shiva - when the formed changed form into a beautiful woman.

Now the temple's story is that the Lord Ayyappa should not connect with a woman because he has taken an oath of celibacy. So, woman between 10 and 50 are not allowed at Sabrimala where Lord Ayyappa's idol is located. That's it. Like someone abstaining.

My point is that this story is one degree of Hinduism. From among 100s of temples all over, this is one has this particular story. And that is the beauty. Now, some few 'women think they should be allowed to access this temple in the name of feminism.

But why? This particular temple's story is defunct if a female enters. Its a catch 22 situation.

Would I insist in entering a temple which was women only, because a Goddess was supposed to have taken a vow of celibacy and it was thought that she should not meet an adult man? No. I would not. I would leave the story and the faith/imagination intact. Because.... that one story and stream of events does not define Hinduism. Its a 1000 streams and that is the beauty - pulled together.

Of course, if someone points to me in general how women have been insulted in Hinduism I am ready to listen and agree. But trying to target Lord Ayyappa's temple solves none of these issues, according to me.

Anyways, this is what I have concluded and I am not the last word in life or religion. So, I will let the wiser people to defend or destroy whatever.

What however hurt me more was a recent chat show on India's leading English News Channel - NDTV.

There were these two 'modern' ladies who were logically tuned to spirituality - yes, very forward thinking. And then there was this young guy who was a follower of Lord Ayyappa and I think from a priest family. Unlike what the audience felt in the show, I found him much more broadminded, patient and easy person. The so called modern ladies, one of them a senior editor from a leading newspapers were rude, sarcastic, insulting, insensitive and without respect for those with different view points. The way they used the name 'Ayyappa' was the first sign of dissrespect. And people clapped. I guess this was an ignorant audience even though Hindu - with little regional sensitivity. No one would dare do that if it was another region. One of the ladies also sought to understand ' What is the whole idea of Lord Ayyappa? Its 800 years and he is a celibate and still averse to women?" Claps!!!

Even a person like Swami Agnivesh, who is a big reformist did little to aceept the difference between Lord Jaganath temple's incident and the Sabrimala incident. Fair enough. But, I felt he used more of his authority to win the discussion of the young guy than benevolence - which I thought should really be the epitome of a Swami.

The young guy did a tactical mistake in the discussion. He tried to say that many a Hindu history has been removed from context and painted ugly. Such as Sati - where a women follows her husband's dead body by jumping into the fire. He said that only 1% women did so and did it out of sheer love for the husband and some others followed the example thereon. But it was not forced upon them as people think and as some began to practise later. Well, he could be right or wrong - I do not know. But I am sure he was not propogating the practise. He was just stretching his imagination and in a kind manner - whatever he said - I could feel so. But the Swami shut him up by telling him that he is commiting a crime by discussing a matter banned by the Indian constitution. Now, true Sati is an ugly phenomenon forced in some parts of the country as I hear in the news. But why cannot people stretch their thoughts and speak? And a Swami asking a young person to shut up does not sound like a postive influence to me...

Now, you ask me if I am a believer in Lord Ayyappa. No, I maybe not. But I am a believer in human emotions, senses, imagination and faith. I do not beleive in religioous practises when it insults human beings whether it is Hinduism or any of the other. But I really love Hinduism's ability to give expression to so many emotions, thoughts, worldviews.

By targetting Lord Ayyappa's story (specifically with regard to Sabrimala temple) what people are trying to do is destroy this diversity. They want everyone and everything to prove their political correctness and in the end everything must look the same. And then Hinduism will not be the same, I think. People have to learn to differentiate between a specific story and the larger picture.

Women must fight it out if Hinduism does insult to them. But they have no right to destroy one set of imagination. Its easy to think that Lord Ayyappa's Sabrimala tradition is to insult women. If so, then women are insulted everytime a Monk anywhere chooses to abstain from sex. But ask any Sabrimala devotee if his choice to go to Sabrimala temple is about hate for women - he will not understand your question.

Of course, there are softer issues. Why is it that its always women who must stay away from men and why not the other way. Well, why not? But again, destroying this specific temple's tradition is not going to solve this issue.

To me it seems that when people today have differing views, especially on these chats, they will never discuss in a simple tone. They must destroy the other person, else they do not win? It hardly seems like there is any benevolence in the discussion. Its so confronting. Its very easy to think that these are two different worlds discussing - in the name of creating 'one world'.

I think otherwise. I think we are different people living in a world of diversity and we must work to maintain it. We must learn to be patient and understand the differences before we demand commonality of thinking. And the last thing we should do is use authority over benevolence to convince the others - just the way the people in the chat did with the guy.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Trauma. destiny and senselessness

7:30 pm and we leave our office 40km out of Bangalore city. Me and a colleague who hitched a ride in my car – on our way back home into the city. Its just getting dark, but not quite. The world cup matches are on, but I think there is none today - the July 3rd. I have been traveling all the month gone and I am eager to reach home and sack out.

15 minutes down the road and the road is kind of blocked and crowded. I slow down the car and my colleague insists we stop. So, I park the car to the edge of the road. It’s a high rise road and I put my car just a few inches away from the fall.

There is a host of villagers crowded around a lorry and as we go closer we see it’s an accident scene. Even closer and we see the Tata Indica car pushed down the side, its front completely smashed. And soon, we see 7 men & women laying on the ground some lying, some sitting - all drenched in blood.

The crowd is merely watching them. The villagers have helped the injured out of the car, but now no one knows what to do. I am not sure what we should do and then my colleague calls for an ambulance from our factory.

5 minutes flat and the ambulance arrives. Just as that happens, the otherwise quiet victims start wailing and murmuring. The trauma has begun.

One old lady is wailing and shouting non-stop. One young man is lying flat on the ground. One old man is all blood on his body. Another old man has a huge gash where his eye should be. Two younger guys seem relatively ok, but still full of blood and fine glass. One old lady is peacefully sleeping it seems to me. She has an injury on her head but very intact otherwise. They are all from a single family except for the driver who is lying down.

The ambulance can take in only 2 people lying down and two sitting. But we have 7. We try asking some cars passing by to stop, but suddenly everyone is going somewhere else but the direction of the hospital. I do not feel angry at them. This is India. There are the police, the doctors, the common man, the rich man and innocent victims. To be good is not easy- the system does not let you. Neither for me.

So, we literally stuff 6 of the victims into the ambulance and 1 into my car. The ambulance is much faster than my car and I suddenly cannot find the hospital. My nose is drenched with the smell of blood and I am getting dizzy. The last time I went to a blood bank I almost lost it. And now, I am busy trying to keep the steering. We finally find the town General Hospital. Quiet place. No big lights. As we enter there is only one doctor, 2 nurses and a compounder. The building is big and I wonder where the rest of the staff.

As we take the injured guy from my car in, now spitting blood non-stop, I see that off the other 6 victims - 3 are laying flat motion less. The doctor seemed rather unsure. "Take them to Nimhans (the head injury hospital)" he says. And my heart takes a fall. That is more than an hour away!!'

I am sorry but 4 of them have head injuries and I cannot help them'.

Now, my friend is running up and down from victim to victim, as if he is the doctor. And I ask the doctor, “But do you not have to administer some medicines and treatment?" They are going to travel a long way?

The nurse and the doctor begin injecting the victims and treat some of the wounds. And then kind of tells us to carry on. We have to remind him there is another victim in the other room and then he rushes with us and administers some treatment and drip. And then again he stops and looks at us. I look at the guy I carried in my car and I see that now he is dripping much more blood from his mouth.

“Should you not drip him? He is loosing blood!" And the doctor looks at the victim and me and then says 'Ok'.

I am quite amazed. Dripping is something I see on TV. The doctor should be more into it. No? I actually feel sorry for him. He must be seeing such incidents everyday and has no resource provided to him. Must be frustrating or what... ?

Suddenly one of the two young guys approaches me. He must be 15-16. And keeps calling me 'Anna, Anna'. Anna means brother. I look at him and I am not sure what to say. He says something and I think he said, 'Anna, it’s my fault.' I look back and say, 'No, it’s not your fault. Do not think like that'. He is really broken. I call my colleague to talk to him and he starts begging my colleague, “please save my brother". I do not know why he specifically says that, but then I see his brother dripping blood from his mouth, but he will survive it seems to me.

Now, we have a problem. Three of the victims are flat out on the ground and no way can we fit them all in the small ambulance.

“listen we need another ambulance I think. Our ambulance will not be enough. Please provide your hospital ambulance too." I tell the doctor.

“No. We do not have one ambulance. The one we have is under repair for a month." he mentions. “Any repair over Rs.500 needs to get approved and that takes time".

I cannot believe what he says. “Ok. Lets get a big taxi and one of your guys can accompany the injured. We will pay." I say.

"Sorry, we are very few and cannot leave".

"What about getting a policeman. He can accompany. No?"He answers nothing.

My colleague tells me, "let’s take them in your car"

I am worried. What if they collapse on the way? How do I explain the police? But I see my colleagues concern and I do not want to give up and say ok.

As we move the injured to my car, a police vehicle comes in and I immediately approach him. Listen there are 4 victims who need an ambulance! 3 have been sent already.Even before I can talk further. He replies, 'Ok. I send you one in 5 minutes. And vanishes"

We have no idea if he is going to actually send an ambulance or not. And I am started feeling bad and nauseated. The blood is getting one me and I need to smoke suddenly.

Now, the doctor, me and my colleague are watching each other. No one saying a thing. My colleague asks me, 'Should we not move in your car? The police is never going to come back"

I wonder. The ambulance will move at least twice as fast as me. But if it only comes.

And then we notice that the old lady lying flat is no longer breathing. The doctor confirms she has passed away. One person less to move.

And then the ambulance arrives. 10 minutes against the 5 promised. Good. The police man actually did his job and was not escaping from the scene.. good.

And we put everyone remaining in. And drive on.

Earlier, I had imagined that we will take the victims to the hospital and that would be it. But now, something has changed. We are almost like owners to the situation. And I and my colleague follow the ambulance to the 'Head injury' hospital inside the city.

It’s good the ambulance came. For it takes us almost 90 minutes to reach there. The ambulance reached much faster. As I drove my colleague kept calling the numbers on the mobile he found in the accident car. It so happens that these people are from his native place, so language is no problem.

As we reach the hospital, I am burdened in my head with the enormity of pain all around. We walk in to check on our group and see them all sprawled around. This hospital is equipped and systematic, even though haphazard.

‘There are 3 serious head injuries and one chest injury.' the doctor tells us. ‘The ones without a head injury must go to another hospital. The one with head injury stay here. The one with chest injury must leave for the chest hospital nearby.

Just as he says that I see the old man with a gash on his eye and head begins aggresively removing his bandages and then pulling out the drip. He is trying to escape a nightmare? The nurses rush to stop him from his decision. Its quite hard to see it happening and I try to see elsewehere.

'Suddenly, word is around that the driver, with a head injury, is in deep trouble. And I watch him gasping from breath even as he is on a respirator, drip and other stuff. He is dying I think. And I feel the saddest for him. Because he never opened his eyes since we found this group. I feel maybe if I touch him, it may help him. But people will wonder if I am crazy. So, I leave the person there.

This is the driver and not part of the family. And his parents come and begin talking to my colleague. “Sir, please tell me who is the doctor. I will pay me extra so he can save my son's life." My colleague says please, "the doctors are already attending him". Frankly, with so much happening around, its hard to decide if a little extra focus may or may not help. I am not a doctor. But he is a parent. Its awful.

I take up the job of moving the person with chest injury. And take him into an ambulance and follow it.

As we reach the hospital, the lady doctor begins to ask me his name and other details. And I say I do not know. She says, so who you are? I explain her what happened and she comments, “Oh! You are doing social work." And I do not know what to say to that.

She gets me to register the person before he can be treated. The guy on the registration computer types with one finger and is so very slow. It must have taken him 15 minutes before he finishes.

Finally, the old man with the chest injury is sent in. He is wailing non-stop and I suddenly realize that I am unable to feel his pain! And I am getting worried about myself.

As I walk out one Muslim lady lying on one of the hospital bed starts asking me about the accident. She does not stop showing her concern, just as everyone around me in the various beds is keenly listening to the story. All of them are hospitalized patients but they speak like they have never seen such disaster. They are so sensitive!!!

And I am real worried about myself. I am not feeling any pain or concern... just doing what has to be done!!!

My colleague arrives in the other ambulance with the 2 guys without head injuries. It seems the relatives have arrived. They are some 7 of them and I found its only one guy who is closely related. he is the son of the lady who died in the small town hospital.

We now shift them to another hospital. As I enter this hospital I notice it’s more crowded. People and families are huddled together in the reception. There is too much darkness and tragedy around. And there are two big TVs and you know what they are playing? WWWF wresting!!! I laugh at this dark humor. Of course, no one else but me notices this... there is too much pain around. But God, what’s happened to me. I am so numb. I cannot feel any pain!!!

The relatives of the family are all running around. My colleague does a good job as they have a common language. Two people have died. And he keeps reminding them 'there is God'. I wonder and am just quiet.

Things kind of just keep moving forward and a lot happens and its now around 2 in the early morning. Now, the entire tragedy has been transferred to the family and for a moment feels a little sad. The son keeps asking us how it all happened. If we know the number plate of the lorry. etc. Its hard to forget his face. He lost his mother and his father has most likely lost his eye.

We left.

Yesterday, my colleague called me. The old man with a chest injury has also passed away. So that's only 4 left out of the 7. All of them were driving to a pilgrimage. They had just bought a new car - just 2 days ago it seems. The young ones were taking there elders to the pilgrimage in Tirupathi. And then this happened.

I am real sorry for all this. God. Death. Pain. Trauma, love. relatives, doctors, ambulances, police, distances, parents, sons and daughters, strangers, passer-bys? I am just so numb.