Archive for the ‘Arm Chair’ Category

Void marriages and lost sleep

I came across some interesting judgments in the Supreme Court this week:

It took fifty three years for this to surface and that too from the portals of the apex court – marriage between a Hindu and Christian is void under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955.

The Act applies to anyone who is a Hindu by religion including any person who is a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion.

Who is a Hindu (or Sikh, Jain or Buddhist)?

According to the Act the following persons are Hindus, Buddhists, Jain or Sikhs by religion-

  1. Any child, legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jain or Sikhs by religion
  2. Any child, legitimate or illegitimate, one of whose parents is a Hindu, Buddhist Jain or Sikh by religion and who is brought up as a member of tribe, community, group or family to which such parents belongs or belonged
  3. Any person who is a convert or re-convert to the Hindus, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh religion.

It is all right for someone born to Hindu and Christian (or Muslim) parents to be called as Hindu but the same does not apply for marriages.  It is an unusual situation.  There is no law against inter-religious marriage but there is a plurality in law with marriage Acts like Hindu Marriage Act, Muslim Marriage Act, and Christian Marriage Act based on religion.  Sowriaraj and Pavani’s wedding  solemnized under Christian rites would be legal under the Indian Christian Marriage Act 1889, since it clearly states that every marriage between persons one or both of whom are or are a Christian or Christians shall be solemnized under this Act as otherwise, it shall be void.  It is strange that the Hindu Marriage Act came into existence 65 years after the Christian Marriage Act and yet did not include the clause “one or both of whom”.

Religion notwithstanding, I wonder if the courts would grant divorce to a couple where one spouse complains of the other’s snoring. Especially when the snore disturbs one’s sleep! For the Supreme Court has held that “sleep” is a basic necessity and biological need of life! Kudos to the Maharashtra government and court for upholding the citizen’s right being ‘necessity of silence’, ‘necessity of sleep’, ‘process during sleep’ and ‘rest’! It should apply to residential areas,  streets and roads and religious institutions. It should censure all forms of explosive Diwali firecrackers. Finally, the ruling might have the power to close an airport if the residents of Dwarka Sector 12 in Delhi were to approach the apex court!

Getting all chocolatey

For two weeks now, my life was all chocolaty…at work. My team of researchers and I have been doing in depth study of chocolate markets (those reading my Facebook status messages would get the idea).   I read quite a few facts about it everytime I looked up an online chocolate resource. Like, dark chocolates are increasingly becoming the preferred confection in Europe, Asia and Australia. Or that Holland processes 40% of all cocoa produced in the world. The annual per capita consumption of chocolate in Switzerland is 12kg compared to 4kg in Holland and just 400 grams in India!

The Aztecs did not have a Van Houten press to separate cocoa butter from chocolate. Nor did they have the sugars. Instead they brewed their own cocoa drink with spices and peppers! They believed that cocoa  was an aphrodisiac and their king Montezuma always had some before entering his harem. What they did not know was that apart from the flavanoids and anti oxidants, chocolate also had opiods (also found in opium). Opiods dull any pain and generate a feeling of well being in the mind. Combined with phenylethylamine, sugars and caffeine present in chocolate , they increase blood circulation, increase heart beat and refresh the mind – the net effect is the same fuzzy wuzzy feeling of being in love.

The exposue to chocolate market was already doing some ‘chemical ka locha’ in my mind. So I decided to taste my own 400 grams worth – preferably dark chocolate that seemed to be capturing every connoisseur’s imagination these days.  I bought some on my way home from office and deposited it in my refrigerator and later promptly forgot about it. This morning I took out the big bar of Cadbury Bournville Dark Chocolate along with a can of Diet Pepsi. There wasn’t much to do on a Sunday morning except TV and emails as I munched on the bar and sipped the cola. A little later as i was watching TV my train of thoughts led to the conversation I had with my little nephew the previous day as we watched Spiderman on TV at my brother’s home. I felt like calling him and speaking to him. The train of thoughts led me to the memories of my pet and its puppies and how I played with them. I felt like going back in time and cuddling them all over again. It was then I realised that the chocolate was doing its work. Probably the caffeine in the Pepsi added to the rush of warm fuzzy wuzzies I was experiencing. The whole thing lasted a few minutes before I was back to listless channel surfing. So it works!

Chocolate may have long been associated with feminine romanticism but men are equally vulnerable to the feel good thing. Imagine how Montezuma would have felt when he saw his favourite queen in the harem! Dark chocolate is therefore a great way to beat depression. Psychiatrists should be prescribing it as a diet. You should have one before you meet your boss each morning. Probably it is the economic meltdown that is increasing the consumption of dark chocolate than its exclusivity. People are seeking a release from the gloom of these depressing times. But I never get this. With 12 Kg per capita annual consumption, why are the Swiss still a grumpy lot?

Dus Dus ki Daud

I am tagged on the run. With nothing much to do, I complete the tag:

10 things you do not know about me:

1. I am claustrophobic as well as scared of depths and snakes!

2. My ears are pierced

3. I barely passed 12th std maths exam. I still have dreams of sitting for the exam without preparation!

4. I almost became a trainee journalist with Economic Times. The stipend was not enough to sustain me in Bangalore and so I had to give it up.

5. I was slim and handsome once upon a time.

6. I get scared watching horror movies…shit scared watching them at night!

7. I was a Kishore Kumar fan first and then turned into a Mohammed Rafi fan.

8. I am peeved that my parents gave my elder brother a sexy name (Gautam) and me a regressive one (Ranganath!!!). But I like my surname Eunny.

9.  I do not have a four wheeler driving license

10. I used to be crazy about Madhuri Dixit’s navel!

Making a choice

I was digging some old messages on a defunct e-mail id (thanks to spam!). I found a chain-mail amongst the pile up. It was quite dated in circulation. The issue was blogged in rediff already more than a year ago and the matter was even older.  It was a typical one, much like those propoganda exercises started by the right-wingers and probably the BJP-Sangh Parivar kinds, passionately exhorting the masses with typical extreme calls to wake up and act. Except, this one wasn’t on issues dear to the aforementioned group. Rather it was on the treatment meted out to Raju Narayan Swamy, IAS.

This name is familair to me. Years ago my maths teacher had referred to him while indulging in his usual sarcasm. He compared us with Raju, the topper of IAS entrance and yet again dismissed our prospects of succeeding in life.  I had already read about him in Competition Success Review as the IIT entrance and course  topper who also topped IAS Entrance and training evaluations. He was posted as a district collector in Kerala.

I am sure Raju Narayan Swamy harboured no lofty expectations from job. He would have known the perils of being an honest and upright bureaucrat.  Predictably he got the goat of the political class and was asked to go on leave and then later posted to an inferior post (circa 2002). He took the slight as an opportunity to serve the United Nations in Paris. That was when the chain mails and public pleas started. Subsequently, the Achutanandan government reinstated him as district collector and also posted him to the district of Idukki to control revenue encroachments. It was the same Left government under a different leadership that had supsended him earlier.

The public propoganda is always there to support such exemplary persons. Raju might face yet another hurdle, yet another suspension.  History is replete with personalities like him who have constantly swum against the tide all their professional lives. But things hardly change at the political level. The chain mails urged people to wake up to the realities and make good use of their vote. Now who would the people vote to? People like Raju Narayan Swamy are bureaucrats and not politicians. If they stand for office, would they have enough clout and currency to change the administration? Would they be allowed to stand for the highest office?

Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, a former IAS officer of 1980 batch (and a physician by training)  quit the Serivce to start Lok Satta, a movement for democratic reforms in India.  The movement has caught on well in Andhra Pradesh.  It might be viewed as a platform to nurture the desire amongst Indians for meritocracy.  One of the things that Dr. Narayan used effectively was the media to build public opinion.

Probably Dr Jayapraksh Narayan and Raju Narayan (hmmm…quite a coincidence) would stand for office, the day Indians reject conventions of democracy and demand a better choice. In any case, Dr Jayaprakash has already launched the Lok Satta political party in October 2006. One waits to see if he would contest in the next general election.

Mediocrity is a truth we must reluctantly accept. Else the likes of Raju Narayan Swamy and Dr. Jayapraksash would have been our political messiahs long ago. Men of action like Raju Narayan have no place in politics unless the rules of the game are altered drastically. Plato the philospher believed in the rule of the wise. But Emmanuel Kant the professed that intellectuals should stay away from public life – “The possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason.” Well, even Nehru or Lincoln had to make political compromises and avoid intellectual traps of rigid  moral stance. The Mensheviks could never survive with their idea of bourgeios democratic revolution. They were bound to go down to the Bolsheviks lead by Lenin who had made a more political choice of rousing the working class and peasants, the majority.

Would the bureaucrats have such political sense. the answer would probably be yes. But in a nation where only 60% can read and write and even lesser percentage with proper education, would a bureaucrat or intelectual stick out as a credible leader? The vote bank is in the villages not in the cities where intellectuals do not vote.

So what is the choice of future action for the likes of Raju Narayan Swamy?

In the 1960s, Dr. Bhagavathula Parameswara Rao received his PhD in Mineral Extraction from the Pennsylvania State University.  A lot of doors opened for him within the US. But he returned to India, to his native village and started the Bhagavathula Charitable Trust, an NGO for rural development. The man had a simple mission based on a simple idea.  Create opportunities of self improvement without depending on governmental aid.  The idea was that everyone must get together and act. He helped villagers mobilize savings and encouraged thrift, help them take up gainful occupation and develop co-operatives, enable women’s development, rural helath, literacy and vocational training etc. Dr Rao reasoned that rural development hinged on one factor – confidence building and action. he sought to end dependency of the development of poorest of the villagers using his simple philosophy of co-operation within community – self-help groups. Dr. Rao’s vision is to turn the 40 villages he chose as a part of his experiment to be model villages of success.

Dr. Rao reflects Emmanuel Kant’s philosophy in his article (a speech at Aid India ’99) where he says ” All our genius is used to make the system more complex. ” He refers to the bureaucratic set up.

Dr. Rao has been successful in his mission. He has definitely brought a change in the little landscape he has chosen to experiment with. he is not bothered about the scale of his work. He prefers to start small with definite goals. If only his model were replicated, there would be a greater impact.  All without government’s involvement.

Maybe that is the way to go for Raju Narayan Swamy.

A genius who chose to work through the government, a progressive mind that used the power of alternative media and opinion, a gentleman who sought simople confidence building measures. These are the stories of men who made a choice.

What does the HRD Ministry Not Do?

The Ministry of Human Resources has two departments; one for School Education and the other for Higher Education. Together these departments govern vast and diverse educational structure of India. Primary education is already in a dismal situation. Higher education needs a revamp to bridge the gap between the educated and the employable. The Ministry is meant to “provide a common platform for those relevant instruments and agencies which were contributing or responsible for the integrated development of citizens of India.” However apart from budgetary allocations, there is no dedicated annual program or a framework for strategic development of human resource employable skills. Asian economies like Singapore and Malaysia have already established programs and guidelines to facilitate strategic development of their respective workforce. Rather than developing a workforce development system to enable Indians compete globally, the ministry has been reduced to a pacifist when it comes to establishing a meritocratic society.