Tuesday, 23 April 2013

What Would India Look Like With 50 States?

I've been fascinated by this topic for a long time. I do believe smaller states bring power closer to the people and are more responsive, hence lead to faster development. In 2000, the BJP government blessed the creation of three new states (carving Uttarakhand out of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand out of Bihar and Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh).

Since then, the demand for other new states has been raised from time to time, and the loudest voices seem to be for Telangana (from Andhra Pradesh) and Vidarbha (from Maharashtra).

[Update 31/07/2013: Telangana is now a reality. That was quick!]

I then did some further research on all the proposed new states in India, found a good reference here, another one here, a third one here, downloaded an uncoloured district-level map from Wikipedia, a detailed district map from elsewhere, then painstakingly created two maps by colouring and labelling them with The GIMP, one showing the 30 Indian states that exist today and the other showing the 50 states that could exist if all the demanded new states were created.

So without further ado, here's what India will look like with 50 states. Click to expand.

It's possible for India to equal the US in at least one respect...

[Trivia for fans of the Ramayana: Mithila is where Sita is said to have been from, which explains one of her other names (Maithili). And Koshal is where her mother-in-law was from, hence Kaushalya.]

For reference, here's what the country looks like today with 30 states. Click to expand.

After looking at the other map, the current states do seem too big and unwieldy

You can click on one of the maps, then toggle between them with your wheel mouse or by clicking on the thumbnails at the bottom of the popup window. I hope you have as much fun studying the maps as I had creating them.

On a more practical note, how can this ever become reality? The creation of new states always seems to be preceded by violent agitations and loss of life. It's a highly emotive issue for many, and not something to be pushed through by administrative fiat or because of political blackmail by some groups.

I think the idea can be eased into public consciousness (and eventual acceptance) through the creation of sports teams along the lines of those seen in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with its Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals. I can see a lot of scope for a new cricket or other sports code called (say) "India50" with teams like the Bundelkhand Bulls, Vidarbha Warriors and Konkan Conquerors. Once these identities get established in the public consciousness, statehood can follow more easily.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Rape Protests Convulse India Once More - My Haiku

Cold, merciless rapes
Winter of our discontent
Now leaders shiver

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Foolish Behaviour, Fatal Consequences

Author Steve Biddulph, an expert on the raising of boys, says that something strange happens to kids during the teenage years - "We lose a lot of boys". His euphemistic statement refers to countless tragedies playing out all over the world even at this moment, where adolescent males perform dangerous acts away from the watchful eyes of their parents and responsible adults, and come to grievous harm. The teenage years are marked by a testing of boundaries. Unsupervised, many of the boundaries that keep kids safe are then crossed, exposing them to danger and even death.

Betting (or not betting) on other people's foolishness is often a good business model

I should know. I am the lucky survivor of dozens of stunts gone awry. At 13, I was with two other boys of roughly my age, playing in one of their houses. This guy had a "space hopper" or "hop ball", a heavy-duty rubber ball with handles that one could sit and bounce around on. I suddenly had this brilliant idea. I told my other friend to lift this over his head by its handles and bring it down on me. I would block it with my fist, like Superman. I could see the ball bouncing off my fist with a satisfying whump! Being a teenager himself, he was eager to go along with my plan. He swung the heavy rubber object down on me with full force, I met it with my Superman fist, and...

A hop ball, not to be mistaken for a punching bag

My mother maintained an icy silence as we waited in the doctor's office to have my wrist placed in a cast. "How could you be so foolish?" was her unspoken question. Thinking back, I have often asked myself that question. Why couldn't I see the obvious outcome of that act? What makes teenage boys so stupid? 

I remember another time when I took a hairpin bend on my bicycle, leaning over sharply to one side to execute the turn. I was testing boundaries again. Normal turns with a normal degree of leaning no longer satisfied. I had to take this to the limit. Unfortunately, I didn't realise there was some sand on the road. Predictably (in retrospect), the bike's wheels slipped, leaving me with bloody bruises on my left arm and leg.

What makes teenage boys so stupid?

I'm afraid it's not just teenagers. In just the last week, I've read about two tragic deaths that have occurred due to the foolishness of young men - one aged 22, the other 26.

The 22 year old was texting while driving, and drifted from his lane into oncoming traffic, then jerked the wheel so hard that he overcorrected, and his vehicle rolled over and killed him. His unfinished last message, ridiculously cheery, contrasts with the utter pathos of his family's situation. Was it really that important to be sending inconsequential text messages to friends while driving?

The 26 year old was at a stag party before his wedding. He appears to have attempted to slide down a railing backwards after a few drinks. He fell off the railing and down the stairs, hitting his head on the floor. He never recovered consciousness. Was it really that important to slide down that railing?

He wasn't the only one who tried that stunt, apparently. Another young man had done the same thing earlier, had a similar fall and broken his neck, but miraculously survived.

[Update 09/09/2013: A man (age unknown but my guess is "young") tried to make a non-functional grenade functional and unfortunately succeeded. Thankfully, he's alive but minus a few fingers.]

The cynical view, exemplified by the Darwin Awards, is that stupid genes being removed from the human gene pool before they have a chance to propagate themselves, is cause for celebration. That view is itself a typically "young male" attitude. I suspect that dark humour is appreciated best by those who have either experienced too much tragedy or none at all. The former have nothing to lose, and the latter don't know what it means to lose something precious.

What we're facing as a society is in fact an intensely depressing situation. So much needless tragedy, and all because young men are too foolish to realise the danger involved in the things they're doing.

I have no idea what the solution is, but someone had better come up with ideas pretty soon, otherwise we're going to be losing both boys and men.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Justice Denied, Or A Dish Best Served Cold?

When a Delhi court ordered the case against Jagdish Tytler to be reopened, I felt a sense of great relief and vindication. The involvement of Messrs Tytler, HKL Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar in the orchestrated riots of 1984 (in which 3000 Sikhs were targeted and killed) has been talked about for the three decades since that shameful event. Yet nothing has ever been done about these fine gentlemen. HKL Bhagat has died without seeing the inside of a courtroom, much less a jail cell. Tytler and Sajjan Kumar remain at large, but this week has finally provided a ray of hope that perhaps, just perhaps, justice has not been entirely consigned to the scrap heap in India.

Of course, the news is not that of an indictment, merely the reopening of the case, but even such a baby step is big news in a country where the powerful can commit crimes with impunity.

For many of the victims' families, even this news comes too late. In these three decades, many have died resigned to the possibility that justice would never be done.

Yet, when I see photos of Tytler today, I am possessed of a strange glee. For the man has aged. The Young Turk who wanted to impress his feudal master with a bloodbath of his "enemies" is now an old man largely bereft of protection. Even within his Congress party, he is now something of a pariah. The Congress itself is far weaker than it was in the mid-eighties and nineties, far less capable of intimidating witnesses and prosecutors. Civil society is stronger than ever before, and the electronic media is ubiquitous and relentless. It will be hard for Tytler to wriggle out of this jam, I believe.

Jagdish Tytler in 1984 

Jagdish Tytler in 2013 - Nemesis hasn't aged a day in the meantime

I am reminded of the arrest of former Nazi Laszlo Csatary, who sent over 15,000 Hungarian Jews to their deaths during the Second World War.

Laszlo Csatary caught with his pants down when the press calls on him

A doddering old man attending court

Csatary's situation today is worlds away from when he wore his infamous uniform. When the press calls, he answers the door in a shirt and socks, a pathetic figure indeed. He has to be physically supported when he attends court. When most other men his age are in comfortable retirement, attended by a loving family and with a grandchild or two upon their knee, this man is dragged from cell to courtroom as nemesis finally makes its move. I feel a mixture of pity and satisfaction.

There is another man for whom nemesis doubtless lies in wait, a man who is currently the toast of millions. But there will surely come a day when Narendra Modi will have nothing and no one supporting him but a walking stick, and on that day, he will have to answer for the deaths of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat. Today, there is triumphalist talk of Modi as India's next prime minister. Such a coronation may yet come to pass. But 2000 deaths cannot simply be swept under the carpet. The day of reckoning will come, and we can wait for that day.

Narendra Modi - Not too young to start with
"When you finally take off your crown, here's a walking stick and a court summons"

There is a lot to be said for prompt justice. But perhaps the possibility of being arrested when one is infirm and friendless, and having to run from courtroom to courtroom defending oneself at that late stage in life, is just what is needed to drive fear into the heart of every would-be mass-murderer.

Revenge is sweet. It is also, as Khan said, a dish that is best served cold.

I hope Jagdish Tytler is enjoying his ice cream...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Why Adnan Sami's Weight Loss Is Inspirational

Adnan Sami is a man of as many nationalities as talents, it would seem. The singer, pianist, composer and actor is apparently a Canadian national born in the UK to a Pakistani father and Indian mother. He now lives in Mumbai and works in the Bollywood music industry. By all accounts, his talents are prodigious. His Wikipedia entry reads like a glowing résumé.

For those who have been following his career in recent times, one of the most dramatic elements of the man's life surely concerns his almost unbelievable weight loss, taking him from a gargantuan 230 kilos to a much more human 85 kilos.

Adnan Sami at his...apogee (Somehow, nothing but an astronomical term seems appropriate)

Now the man has become so trim and good-looking, he could be mistaken for Robert Downey, Jr.

"Wow, that's amazing!"
"No, you idiot! That is Robert Downey, Jr."

This is Adnan Sami, looking like Robert Downey, Jr.

Lots of people have lost weight dramatically before - celebrities as well as ordinary people. What makes Sami's story particularly inspirational (to me, at least) is the change in his attitude immediately preceding his determination to lose weight. As he relates it,

I was in terrible pain and couldn't bear it any more, so I told my father, 'I have lived my life to the fullest. If I die today, I will have no regrets.' Dad looked at me and said that he couldn't believe he was talking to a fighter. I told him things were beyond my control. He gave me a lecture and said I should think my way out of this instead of giving up. His verbal kick in the butt worked and I went abroad [to begin the weight loss program].

This resonates with me for a reason. One of the core elements of my character, which I think may be a double-edged sword, is that I am constantly and immensely grateful for the life I have. If my life were to end today, any wistful sense of unfinished business would, I suspect, be overshadowed by the feeling of gratitude that I was able to live such a good life at all. Adnan Sami's narrative is a kick in the butt for me too. Great as my life has been, it's up to me to make it even greater. And this goes for every one of us. We must try to live long, stay healthy, and contribute to our utmost potential.

Why should we? Just listen to Adnan Sami's music today and imagine if he hadn't had the will to live again to produce it!

The Magic of "Goodbye To Love"

Who hasn't heard the Carpenters' hit "Goodbye to Love"?

Quick, listen to it here:

"Goodbye to Love" owed its special magic to the combined genius of Richard Carpenter (composer), Karen Carpenter (she of the inimitable dulcet voice) and Tony Peluso (lead guitarist)

There are a couple of historical aspects to this number that are as enthralling as the song itself.

Richard Carpenter got the idea for the song when he watched an old Bing Cosby movie. The movie was about a songwriter, and throughout the movie, they would keep referring to the greatest song that this writer had ever written (called "Goodbye to Love", of course), but the movie's audience never actually got to hear this song. Richard thought "Goodbye to Love" was a great title for a song, and he set about composing it! With his creative genius inspired, the words and the tune flowed forth naturally.

The other interesting aspect was Tony Peluso's bravura guitar performance. He had to fill in a spot between Karen's lines, and what began as a bit of bold improvisation turned out to have started a cultural trend in pop music. Pop songs thereafter began to feature "power ballads" with "raging guitar solos", as he put it in an interview. Peluso was charmingly modest about his role when he said he took "a tiny bit of credit for being there and playing it", but he gave all credit for the idea to Richard Carpenter, calling him "the guy with the great ideas".

This clip has those interviews:

Listen closely to see how Richard's voice melts and dissolves so smoothly into Karen's

As the latest (and hopefully not final) piece of "Goodbye to Love" magic that I have had the pleasure to experience, I came across this work by the famous graffiti artist Banksy:

What else could this be saying?