Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apparent Unequal Endowments

Every person, even those with the least scintilla of empathy, will at some point in time or the other contemplate on the brutality of inequality. Inequalities I am talking of are those such as the wide (and still widening) chasm between the rich and the poor, the intelligent and the dull, the powerful and the oppressed, the ruler and the ruled. It has and still continues to weigh heavily on those with a sharp conscience. Keeping aside the humanitarian aspect of it, I am tempted to ask the smugly rich the following question: “Compared to whom, may I ask, is your richness evident/manifest?”

We need someone who is doing a lot worse than us to hold us in better stead. The conception of richness has with it, by necessity of logic, the conception of poverty. Imagine a situation where all of us could afford a Rolex or a Mercedes. The product would lose its sheen – there would be nobody rich or poor. These differences are badly necessary to have our conceptions of the dual entities – rich and poor, intelligent and dud etc.  The apparent duality is the obverse and reverse of the same coin. What one needs to understand is that his/her well being (in a relative sense) is as much the result of his efforts as it is due to the lack of any efforts from the worse-off. The rich owe their riches as much to themselves as they do to the poor. Despite our conventional wisdom that ‘A person is the creator of his/her own destiny’ (the context of which, I believe is to own up to our faults and not lay blame on outside factors), the dual existences of rich-poor, dull-intelligent, winning side - losing side are dependent on each other. The winner doesn’t exist with-out the loser and the latter without the former.  The 10 pointer should also owe his grade to the mediocre performance of others and not have an air of conceit over his intellectual gift. It is these relative existences which hold the unequal social fabric of our society. To have one of the constituents of the 'dual' pair, and not the other is impossible.

What I am trying to say in the above paragraphs is that rich, poor; good, bad etc are not separate and independent entities but mutually co-existent pairs. I regret having to discuss the utility of such an understanding, but in today’s world everything is qualified by its utility, including relationships. It’s a very sorry state of affairs that knowledge, which is the highest end, needs utility for its pursuit. I have seen it during my B.Tech days. My friends and juniors ask for a course where the grading is lenient, when they have an option. The learning that the course offers seems to be the last on their priority list. Still, understanding the mutual requirement of the poor, the rich can castoff their smugness and empathize with the former. The next time you find your friend struggling with a basic concept, stop scoffing and try to help him out. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Understanding Rehman’s Music

In view of the recent dissatisfaction of the average music lover with CWG theme (so much so that the maestro apologized to the public, such a sorry state of affairs), and in general the apparent newness that Rehman’s albums (Robo, Ravan) have created to superficial listeners, I felt like expressing my reasons for holding the genius’ work in such great regard. As I understand it, people seemed to have absolutely no problems in appreciating albums like Jeans, Roja, etc. A primer for the post is the standard structure of a normal song. 

Standard Structure of a Song:
A song usually has the introductory stanza- called Pallavi in Telugu- followed by a refrain. This refrain is quite catchy and is repeated often in the song with minor changes/tweaks. You might as well call it the USP of the song. Some music directors get off by just focusing on a good refrain with the rest of the tune being mediocre (BYLA BYLAMO from Sainikudu). The combination of the intro stanza and the refrain adds up to 6-8 lines. This is followed by an instrumental interlude which could also be supported by some vocals – individual or chorus. Then comes the intermediate stanza and the sequence is repeated.

This sequencing is to be found in the picture containing lyrics of the song ‘Poovullo Dagunna’ from Jeans: (Ajooba in Hindi). The song essentially has three layers: an intro, a refrain and the intermediate stanzas; there could be minor changes in the pitch/scale. This is how most of the songs are composed and Rehman did follow suit until a while ago.

A new pattern:
Imagine an intro and a refrain adding up to 10-12 lines; followed by a single (and not two/three) longer intermediate stanza; and this further by an intro in a different tune/ with male female voices reversed in case of a duet. What you get is the song ‘Neelo Valupu’ from Robo.

The point of the post:
I totally understand that there cannot be any rationale in a preference; and all those who didn’t like ARR’s previous albums have my full respect for their opinion. But I am afraid that theirs could be a ‘snap’ decision; and the reason for such decisions is the point of this post. For one, the standard structure is very, very easy to absorb. Because there are only three layers in the song which repeat themselves, it hardly takes ten listens to get a hang of it. Contrast this with the second pattern where in there is hardly any repetition in addition to the refrain. Also, the intro itself is double the size of what it normally is. So, it feels as if the song has started out of nowhere. I am inclined to believe that the second pattern takes at least twice as many listens; and that too, mind you, with a good deal of concentration. Nobody is to be blamed; it is just a tendency of the mind to expect uniformity/repetition. In pure logical terms, the permutations and combinations in the second pattern are a little more complex than in the first. All I am saying is that unless you take the time to totally absorb the song, your judgment is half-baked and carries absolutely no weight.  Try listening to the more complex works of Mozart and compare them to Fur Elise. The latter follows a fairly standard tune. I hope the point that I am trying to make will be driven home.   The song “I have been waiting for you” from Jhootha hee Sahi is another case in point for the second pattern.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The tribal premise of Casteism

Before I get going in my quintessential manner, I’d like to get a few things clear. I am definitely not against the caste system of our society. That they existed so long and will continue doing so implies there is some good in them. Besides, the greater the number of sects, the better is the case. This is because people will have a wider choice to choose from (and no one would be left out). What I strive for is a change in the way people choose to attribute their belonging to the community.

I, for one, do not use the word tribe in a condescending manner (just to make few things crystal clear). Though a digression, I believe that the sensitivity and humanitarian levels of tribes these days far exceed that of the competitive, back-stabbing city people.  The tribal premise that I want to write about is this.  It so happens in a tribe that the earned fruits are shared among the entire community. This is without due recognition to the actual bread winner. I have no qualms about this tendency because the tribe doesn’t claim any exclusive privilege for itself.

When the same behavior is replicated in environs with lofty ideals such as equality, liberty, and the like; a problem crops up. That ChandraBabu is responsible for the IT hub in A.P jibes totally well with me. I have no qualms about giving the visionary his due credit. This shouldn’t and cannot be a reason for the entire batch of Khammas to jump on his band wagon and wag their tails about. My simple question is this: “Agreed that the guy has done so much; what did YOU do? What are you even gloating about?” If logic as simple as this sits well in your head, I am all up for casteism.

To further instantiate, that the beautiful temples in South India and prominent Universities (Nalanda) were built by people of Viswa Karma shouldn’t be a reason for a guy from that community to boast about it. It is as much his as any other guy’s. It is precisely this attributing the effort of a few guys from a caste to the entire caste which results in unfounded privileges and brute like behavior (read caste feeling).  YSR might have done something good in his tenure; but this can never ever be a reason for Reddys to claim credit. Ditto with the Brahmins. Agreed their forefathers had great command over the Vedas, what credit should we attribute to them if the principle of all encompassing unity that the Vedas preach is nowhere to be found in their behavior.

The square truth is that caste gloating happens only if the sect is known to enjoy some privileges. Obviously, you don’t see a guy speaking highly of his caste by quoting a notorious failure. But the vantage status is totally unfounded. ( This tribal premise also applies to the place of study. I see pictures of libraries and other facilities of different institutes on facebook with a caption detailing the largeness of that facility. But what good is the facility when you frequent it once in a blue moon?)

To sum things up, Casteism per se is neither good nor bad, like the fire that cooks the meal and burns stuff; like the internet which has helped me post this write up and also exploits the not so tech savvy customers trying to e-bank. If it isn’t for claiming privileges, I think caste maniacs will hardly find casteism attractive. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Doing justice to the URL of my blog.

I started blogging during the third year of my B. Tech. When pondering over an appropriate title and URL for the blog, complaints and compliments about my sarcasm were what came to mind. People change and so do I; and the transition from sarcasm to something less frivolous did occur in me. Hence, the change of the title to ‘Shiva’s take - a mixture of sarcasm, rhetoric and originality’. As you know, you can do little about your URL once you fix it (or maybe you can actually change it, I like it this way); and the fact that there was very little sarcasm, if any, in most of previous posts was weighing heavily on my conscience. I will try to make up for it by pouncing on all those who fell short of my standards.

CWG theme:

I was little late in listening to the CWG theme by ARR. I loved it- the sitar work interspersed with electric guitar, Shivamani’s percussions, Blazee’s Rap bit and the energetic rendition by the maestro- being the reasons. Now the people who didn’t like it have my full respect for their opinion; and also the following: If you were expecting an Indian equivalent of Waka Waka, then you had in the first place no logical grounds for your expectations. Hell! The latter song wouldn’t interest me one little bit, if the video didn’t have Shakira and her moves. And, on youtube, I saw comments like “Is the song worth 5 Cr INR?”; comments only peanut-sized brains are capable of.

I have a simpler question: “Are your NIKE sneakers worth the 3000 INR (or may be more) that you shell out?” For a change, see the underside of the flap reading “MADE IN VIETNAM” in bold letters. FYI, the factories employ children too, for as little as a few cents per hour. Ditto with the sweat shirt factories. If your priced possession standing for nothing but consumerism is worth the market price, then so is the genius’ song. And since when did so many become experts in deciding the price of a song? Don’t dole out this piece of trash again. Dissonance as regards liking the song can be accepted, but not this definitely!

Kaleja’s OST:

As for Mahesh Babu’s batch of fanatics, grow up and accept the fact that the music of a movie may not be top-notch, even though he stars in it. When the thing at the back of head (called brain) works, it will be obvious to you that he does very little in composing the music. Also, there is no implication of his starring in the movie on the OST. So grow up kiddos, and call a spade ‘a spade’; a bad OST, a big waste of money/ time; and a flop, a flop. Again, Mahesh is just one of the ‘many’ components that go into movie making. The director is just as much a component behind the curtain as is Mahesh in front of it. Oh, yeah! the music sucked pretty much, just so that you’d know.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Random yet not that random either.

It so happened that thoughts of mine snow-balled into something bigger than a couple of lines when put on paper, yet not that big, individually, to form a complete blog post. You can expect views on diverse topics as death, Advaitha philosophy, and long distance relationships.

Advaitha Philosophy: What this highest form of Indian religious thought preaches is that the God that you were seeking outwards is with in you. ‘Aham Bramhasmi` meaning “I am Brahma, I am God, I am he”. The only logical way of explaining this, according to me is this: The world that the God created has to be created out of something. It’s obvious to us that something cannot be made out of nothing. It’s absurd to think otherwise. So assuming that the world was not there during the time of creation, God must have created the world from within him. The effect that the world is, is just the same as the cause. (God)

Death: Now, to most mortals, unless pressed upon, the idea of death doesn’t occur to be the other equivalent logical half of birth (its simple because you cannot imagine birth without death; or vice versa). Even otherwise, I wanted to reason out why death shouldn’t be an occasion for mourning or a topic for breaking our heads. For the class of theists – a class which believes in an omniscient, all pervading God. The fact that death of someone ‘HAS’ happened implies that this is how God willed/intended it be. To wish against this is to wish against Gods will from execution. For the nihilist, his birth is just as random an occurrence as any other. Death shouldn’t be a shocker to him, and if it is, I’d only ask the spineless fella to at least believe in what he thinks is true.

Long Distance relationships: For all those with a substantial hearing loss from all those long calls to your special someone far away, for those who have bitten a good deal of the skin covering the nails along with the nails, in paranoia of their being ditched, I have one question. “Why do you want to get into something so superficial and ephemeral?” Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the calls/ constant touch. It just occurs to me that if mere physical presence and joint activity were the props of a relation, is that relation worth the headache?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Degeneracy and taking things for granted.

In any relation, we often hear squabbles, tiffs and altercations over falling short of expectations. At the cost of repetition, the cliché that I am talking about is ‘Taking things for granted’. I tried reasoning out if it were correct/incorrect to take things for granted. In this post, I will try argue against this tendency to take things for granted.

All religions have one commonality – that man, as he is now, is a degenerate form of what he originally was. The Adam and Eve fable in Christianity says the same, the ideal of ‘Brahman’ in Hinduism, and for that matter any other religion says the same thing. By degeneracy, I do not mean immorality. (I have talked of this thin subjective line separating good and bad, and the futile attempt to draw this line in the previous post). By it, I mean, a fall in the level of consciousness. Consider a person learning how to play a piano. The initial key strokes are done with full consciousness. As he slowly masters the beautiful instrument, the actions are more unconsciously done. It doesn’t require focusing all of his mind energy into the action. This is what I mean by degeneracy. 

For the theist, it is only natural to stop being a degenerate because of his faith in the lord. And from the utilitarian atheist is also expected an effort to lessen this degeneracy. Why? Because all human errors and accidents- big and small, frivolous and catastrophic are all because of a casual effort in doing some work. Which in other words is not being totally conscious of the work – degeneracy, if you will.  In other words, irrespective of our religious stance, it is expected that we rise from being a degenerate.

If you think a little, taking things for granted is another form of degeneracy. The foundation for this tendency is the guarantee that the other person will not afford to lose you at any cost. Now, you are totally unconscious of how the other person feels when you are being this callous. And in the process, you are being a degenerate. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t take things for granted because of the degeneracy involved.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Equilibrating societal and moral differences.

I am only amused when people talk of all encompassing equality (be it financial or any other) and actions entailing common good. What I fail to understand is that in the event of financial equality, a scenario where nobody would be willing to do the supposedly ‘menial’ labor work, would the owner of a house under construction carry the bricks himself? Philanthropy, as it is, is limited by constraints; constraints which vary with time and our position.  No strings attached, an average person wouldn’t want anyone to fall sick. Consider the mindset of a pharmacist; this stance would do him no good, since it negates his business prospects. Yet there is no way out of it. The traffic police would love it fewer people were to wear the appropriate gear (money under the desk); yet such a desire increases the susceptibility of a greater damage during accidents. What should the antivirus companies do if the number of hackers plummets to zero?  We talk of strength mental and physical; will a doctor or a psychiatrist think the same way? I don’t think so. The greater the insanity, the happier is the latter. Yet we foolishly bicker with each other over common good. What we fail to realize is that the distinction between good and bad is highly subjective, variable and thin. What is good to me may not be good to some other being. The very fact that my thirst cannot be quenched unless a few thousands or may be more of micro-organisms die is empirical evidence of the displacing effect that our existence has. It is only foolish to think of something narrow in the interest of the entire populace. The equilibrium, the dynamic one that we are in, is buttressed by differences, and to remove this is to disturb this equilibrium.   

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A global paradigm for peaceful existence in the wake of sectarian deficiencies

It is perhaps our natural tendency, as humans, to form sects. Starting with the commonality as humans, the sects spiral down into subtler ones - religion, nation, regionalism, casteism, sub-casteism/gender, family, etc; with us claiming membership in one or more of these as per our need. The more I think of an ideal sect catering to the whole of humanity, the more I am convinced that all existing narrow sects fail in doing so - either from personal or empirical evidence. It’s only a feeling of compassion towards fellow humans that, I believe, will lead to a conflict-free world. Although, I guess I will have most of the readers on board with the deficiencies of casteism, I might have some trouble in proving the deficiencies of a nationalistic outlook. In this post, I will try to systematically present the deficiencies in each of the sub-sects; and elucidate how one arrives at humanity as the only logical super-sect beneficial to everyone
  • Nationalism: In the background of our freedom struggle and the constant overtures played to the tune of patriotism, it is hard to accept this ideal’s shortcoming. If this were the golden paradigm catering to our goal of a peaceful world, why the multitude of conflicts between neighboring countries? And mind you, there are good number of them with religion playing no role – The two Koreas, Our problem with China- the latter constantly encroaching our terrain, the supercilious attitude of USA towards Canada; and the best example-the Cold War between the erstwhile USSR and USA.
  • Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of our heritage; but it’s just that nationalism is not a global solution. One faces the dilemma of when to stop (I mean at what level) raving about other’s accomplishments?  It’s okay for you to speak highly of the Indian cricket team’s accomplishments and not of stalwarts from your caste? That’s not logically consistent, is it? And yet if you were to speak highly of people from your caste, you are bordering on the highly thin line of caste mania. The blue print of nationalism can be used in these apparently wrong ways too.
  •  Religion and Caste: A brief return to the history and you find Shivaites and Vaishnavaites, Shias and Sunnis, Catholics and Protestants etc fighting in the name of the omnipotent.  Ah! The classics of balayya babu portraying the fight between Reddys in Seema, the fight between Viswa Brahmins and Brahmins, etc suffices to demonstrate the incapacity of this sectarian outlook.  Apart from the great probability of internal conflicts in these sects, it gives certain unfounded privileges to the guys from the apparently “superior” castes for no credibility of their own.
The global paradigm:
Considering the hypothetical situation that the global paradigm of fellow compassion is followed, all good that is expected to happen from sub-sectarian ideas will naturally follow. You will do good to your fellow countrymen, men of the same religion, caste, sub-caste as you; and also your family members. This is because of the all encompassing nature of the paradigm. The encompassing nature is only forward; i.e. nationalism cannot work backward to serve the entire human race. Nor can religion, region or any other narrow sect.
This is not fed to the masses because they are more dependent on the adrenaline to effect themselves into action. To achieve good at a local level, thoughtful personalities have manufactured the sub-sects –regionalism, casteism etc. A commonality apparent to the eye and that which works for the case in hand is better; especially if you want quick results.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Acceptable humor to a rational mind

The traditional categorization of humor into sarcastic, farce, etc; and ranking it is not the subject of this post. What is attempted here is to find a subtle, rational norm for judging certain humor as acceptable or not. Now, the former attempt, i.e. ranking the different forms of humor (sarcastic etc) is a futile one. This is mainly due to the subjectivity involved in it – manifest in the form of preferences (I like sarcasm, someone may not), mood (when I am red, a word and you are dead) etc. To instantiate, a guy might take all kinds of imitations of his in the lightest possible vein, and yet fume over a ‘dostana’ kind of joke on his friendship with a close pal (the joke was by a girl!)
I see the deficiencies in man fit into two categories – corrigible and inherited. Inherited ones are those which can’t be helped – color, height, genetic disorders (eyes related, physical disability) etc- things about which the guy can’t do anything. Jokes on these are just cheap shots. There isn’t anything that the guy can do about the manufacturing defects. Such jokes can appear to be not so common place, but alas! I have witnessed them at the Mecca of science and technology-IIT. The corrigible ones are those which can be helped – laziness, overweight, mispronunciation, double standards etc. I find such jokes to be within the limit because mostly they should be meant in the lighter sense. Even if they are coated or drenched in contempt, they give the victim a chance to avoid such jokes in the future (you know, do the needful).

P.S: I know being over-weight can be due to genetic reasons. But I also believe that, to some extent, it can be helped. Let science prove that obesity is entirely genetic and I will push this one in to the inherited deficiencies list.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How being the first to propose benefits the fairer sex

Contrary to the convention that it is the guy who should propose first, I firmly take the opposite stand, in view of Gender Equality and Women Upliftment. Let me explain myself. The fact that women protested their being relegated to the traditional role of a housewife serves me well in explaining my contention. This protest is supported with ideals like financial independence, gender equality etc. The fact of the matter is that women should be allowed to do what they want to. Liberty is the underlying and underpinning ideal. It’s not like the ones who are housewives are blots on the face of women upliftment and the ones who aren’t are paradigms for the same. 
Similarly, tradition is as good/bad a reason (strong or namesake) for women to become housewives as it is for men to propose first. To use tradition when it’s advantageous (proposal) and discard it (housewife fuss) when it’s not is double standards. Thus, women upliftment should be bolstered, in principle, with more and more women taking the initiative to propose; and not wait for men (who, by the way, never reach their expectations) to wish their way into a battle which they never win, a.k.a `a relation’. Another instance of self-contradiction by the fairer sex: the scanty population of theirs at IITs is the reason for enjoying such an elite status. Come a time with more number of girls in the campus and this elite status per girl is lost/reduced. Be careful what you wish for.

P.S : Before the opposite sex starts booing me, I would like to make a few things clear. I am a hardcore feminist in my views.  The current post, I hope will be read with open minds and objective eyes. Any logical inconsistency, if pointed out, will be duly acknowledged, if not appreciated [:)].

Friday, June 11, 2010

Essence of life, Revisited

During one of those intense philosophical discussions that you somehow end up having with friends, I happened to revisit this class one: “What exactly was/is the essence of life?” Now, in Reductio-ad-absurdum, I did answer this question en-route reverse questioning. My contention is that the question cannot be answered whilst living. This is because if you did know the answer, what’d the point of your further life? There wouldn’t be any, and that’s precisely why I believe the question cannot be answered.

The reactions from different blokes to this piece of mental gymnastics varied from ‘Are you crazy?’ to ‘I don’t buy it’. Although most of them were meek resistances to something unconventional, one of my friends did hint at something logical. Metaphorically speaking, what he asked was “ Wouldn't the voyagers know the purpose of their voyage?” That was a pretty good question, I felt. Some thinking reinforced my view, though. This journey called life is an involuntarily initiated one. (The same reason for which caste segregation means a dust speck to me) The fact that we didn’t initiate it renders the parallel to a voyage irrelevant. I hope I made some sense in this post of mine, if not a lot. The point that I am trying to make is that the question is self-contradictory. Bouquets and brickbats, as always are welcome. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An experiment turned sour.

For whatever reason, perhaps the deficiencies in our educational system, mathematics has always been tagged as something artificial, abstruse and impractical.  I won’t try to win over the ones on the other side of the group of math maniacs onto our side. But through this post, I want to share an experiment, which has its underlying ideas in math, and the heartbreaking results that I had gotten from it.

There is this method in statistics called the regression method. The qualitative idea of which is to estimate the effect of a particular parameter on a dependent quantity, by varying this parameter ONLY. Say we wanted to understand why people watch Balayya Babu’s movies: Firstly we need to know the parameters which might be involved. Things which crop up in my mind as prospective parameters are: Caste feeling, joblessness, relatives of the hero, fans of his dialogue rendering capability etc. To quantify the effect of the first parameter, we need to hold the remaining ones constant and see the difference. (How an experiment as subjective as this can be conducted is just as enigmatic to me as how people survive his movies, but just an example none the less to drive home the idea; by the way, the category of people justifying the super human’s (I mean Balayya’s) stardom by his awesome dialogue delivery never fail to amuse me – people with such skills become dubbing artists and NOT actors, try to beat that argument and then we will talk)

So, along these lines, what I do is – come any occasion I call up my close friends and wish them. This made sense because a call was more personal than an online chat. And calls spread over a period of time give us topics to converse upon; lest should we irritate each other with “what else or wassups” if we were to chat daily. All was well, I was calling for a while (2-3 months). On one fine occasion I decide not to call (analogous to checking the effect of one single parameter). And the response! only a couple of them call me back. It’s amazing how this simple idea could be used to segregate the loyal lot out of your friends clutter.  

On a different matter, math if studied in its truest sense enlightens you like no other subject can. If interested, refer to my post “Reductio-ad-absurdum” for applications of another math principle to our daily life.

P.S: My friends with a decent memory might remember my status which read "Apply regression method to life, you will be started by the results". This was the thought process behind it.