Am posting some of my Rhode Island pictures here:

Rhode Island

Lessons for Bangaloreans from Aurangazeb, Turkey, Iran and the Taliban

Shah Jahan was one of the prominent Mughal emperors of India – who was known for the extensive architectural marvels which he constructed across his empire.   It was also a time when communal harmony was at its peak in India.  His grandfather Jalaluddin Akbar had laid the foundation of a strong civil society by aboloshing hardline Islamists from his court and by introducing inter-faith dailogues.   That laid the seeds of communal harmony for another 150 years. 

Shah Jahan had four sons who were Dara Shikoh, Murad, Aurangazed and another fourth (whose name I don’t remember).  Dara Shikoh was a scholar who was much ahead of his time when it came to religious dialogues and depth of spiritual knowledge.  He wrote Persian translations of the Bhagvad Gita and the Upanishads.  He is also supposedly the author of the first Sanskrit version of the Koran.  His magnum-opus was the ‘Majma-ul-Bahrain’ (Churning of the oceans) which talks about the meeting of Hinduism and Islam and their common points. 

On the other hand his younger brother Aurangazeb was a hardline Islamist.  There ensued a power struggle and Aurangazed won.  He later began destroying all sings of communal harmony within civil soceity and bought in a hardline Islamist state which subjected its Hindu and Sikh citizenry to a great deal of hardship burdened with extraneous taxes. 

Fast forward to the present century.  Turkey had a huge burden of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the century.  Enter Kemal Ataturk the father of modern Turkey.  He captured power, introduced industrilization and made Turkey a secular nation.  Civil soceity with public institutions of the state would not have any signs of religion.  He so ingrained the secular tradition into the blood of Turkey that it became very difficult for Turkey to become an “Islamist” state …..despite having a majority Islamic population and being in the vicinity of an Arab neighbourhood.

Iran had a proud modernized civil soceity where women could roam the streets of Tehran clad in a t-shirt and jeans.  Then came the revolt of 1979 where the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the ayotullahs took over power.  What followed in Iran was a collapse of modern soceity.  This was the first example in modern history where a soceity went backward.  Women were subject to a lot of public humiliation and things became very very difficult for the common Teheran resident. 

Afghanistan – 1989-90-91 .  Kabul was equally progressive and had women roaming about the streets without a hijab (burqa).  The soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and the mujahideen took over.  Najibullah the ex-president took shelter in the UN compound.  The mujahideen were later defeated by the Taliban who came from Kandahar.  They, with the support of Pakistan, overthrew the Mujahideen – dragged Najibullah out of the UN compound, castrated him and hanged him to death in a public square.  This was the beginning.  What followed later in Kabul was the total collapse of society there …..which I have time and again spoken about in my previous blog postings.

Today’s Karnataka is at a similar point in History.  The BJP have captured power.  The dark forces of conservatism, orthodoxy and slowly and surely flexing their muscles on the streets of Mangalore and Bangalore.  These forces are ably supported by the ruling party who ensure that the police don’t take any action. 

If we the progressive civil soceity dont quell these forces now and defeat them before they gain strength ……………one day we will go the way of Iran and Afghanistan.  Rather let us grow the secular traditions of this great nation to such a force that we become like Turkey ……where no matter who comes in the future …..the nation will still stand still and not crumble. 

We have to vote the BJP out of power and we have to get together to bring the culprits of Mangalore/Bangalore to book.  Beyond that the secular forces should join hands and present a united force rather than being disjointed and ineffective.

Loss of Sovereignty

While the days of the Bush administration being numbered – the US is still going on doing BAD THINGS.  They attacked a village in Syria – which was not involved in the war at all – suspecting Al Qaeda local leaders being there.

The US has no respect for the sovereignty of other nations.  On the pretext of ‘fight-against-terror’ they seem to throw international norms and rules to the dogs and do what they want.

I remember the days of the Iraqi invasion – where I truly believed that the US was right – in its war against Iraq – pursuing WMDs and Al Qaeda terrorists linked to the Saddam Government.  Later we all saw that they were so so wrong.  This US govt. is truly evil.  The world hates them and we all are waiting to see the next US government doing things better.

A precise solution to the current Sri Lanka – Tamil problem

Today’s Hindu editorial has ably enunciated what the precise solution is – in terms of India’s response to the Sri Lankan problem.  Before I elaborate on this: out here in Chennai – I can see a lot of literature which has suddenly exploded ………which supports the LTTE cause.  It is more like the local government is hand in glove with this whole thing.  It is difficult to believe that if the government does not support LTTE as a banned organisation ………….then such literature proliferating so liberally ………is very scary indeed. 

It is more so evident in the small time newspaper stalls.  Although I cannot really read the Tamil headlines ……….the pictures depict a more sympathetic picture of this gruesome organisation. 

I’m just wondering why the local Congress party has not got its reaction together.  Yesterday there was an incidence of vandalism to the statue of Rajiv Gandhi – and a few local congress supporters were protesting about it today.  Beyond that the party needs to get its act together to counter the political wave in favour of the LTTE.  It is only the AIADMK which has taken a strong and firm stand on this issue.  For one thing – those LTTE sympathisers strongly think that Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination was justified and that he deserved it.  This kind of thinking is appalling – and goes against the overall thinking across the country that the assassination was wrong and that the LTTE should be punished for it.  

Now coming to the solution which was laid out in today’s editorial goes as below:

In the first place, no comfort should be given to the LTTE, which is a terrorist organisation banned in 30 countries, including India.

Secondly the Indian commitment must be to finding a solution that envisages devolution of powers to the Tamil regions within a united Sri Lanka, which would mean giving no quarter to the demand for an independent Eelam.

Thirdly, mainstream political parties in Tamil Nadu need to make a sharp disctinction between the current military plight of the LTTE and the displacement and suffering caused by the conflict, affecting an estimated 230,000 Sri Lankan Tamils.

The right response for Government of India and the people of Tamil Nadu would be to offer food, clothing, medicines, fuel and other essential goods as well as other logistical facilities required to reach them to the people through the Sri Lankan government whose President Mahinda Rajapakse has declared his commitment to bring their hardship to an end “in a short time.”

A strong churning against the LTTE

The voice of protest against the support which political parties in Tamil Nadu are giving to the LTTE is growing stronger.  This is RIGHT.  We all know very clearly that the war is against the LTTE and not against innocent Tamil civilians. 

Sane voices like that of N Ram, Malini Parthasarathi etc. are getting louder and more heard.  Yesterday morning there was an attack against The Hindu distribution center in Erode.  This is despicable.  All language chauvinists who support the LTTE – should be contained and punished where they get out of hand.  The fact that politician Jayalalitha – made a statement that political parties here are playing into the hands of the LTTE – is so true.  Although I don’t support the AIADMK – and don’t have too much of sympathy for her – she is right. 

Here are some writings across the internet on happenings in Sri Lanka and the political breastbeating in Tamil Nadu:

Sri Lanka not Karunanidhis property

Politics at Play – Tamil Nadu issues an ultimatum against the Union Government

Political Parties in the Shadow of the LTTE

Sri Lanka says plea for truce looks LTTE orchestrated

LTTE bid to bait India to bail it out

LTTE drives a wedge between DMK and Congress


Another blog!!!

These days – I’m reading the book ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and also doing a great deal of reading on the internet on ‘Sustainable living’, ‘zero energy housing’, ‘off-grid living’, solar energy, advances in feasible photo-voltaics etc.  I’m thinking of starting a new blog where I dump all that information.  Let me see if that would be feasible at all.

The above picture is from their website: which is the online companion of the book by Al Gore

Right to religion

My post on the Managalore communal riots has generated some interesting comments: 

In this context let me tell you all a true story of my college days:

I have all along been educated at Christian institutions.  I studied at St.Josephs Boys High School – which was (and still is) one of the premier educational institutions during my days.  It was run by Jesuits ………who had very liberal views on religion …..and who never discriminated based on religion.  However this does not mean all Christian institutions are like that.  During my pre-university years ……….I came into contact with many boys from different schools.  Some were from St.Josephs – Briand Square (Chamrajpet).  The boys from there ….had very unpleasant experiences about the way their Christian teachers would insult the Hindu Gods and would talk about Christianity the pre-eminence of Christianity over other religions.  Well those boys turned out to be Hindu rightists themself – who went on to support the Ram-Janmabhoomi Babri demolition movement (I did my puc from 1993 – 1995).  Now in retrospect I see that possibly the Christian teachers of their school had some influence in turning them into Hindu rightists.  Some of them were such bigots that they would not even shake hands with people whom they thought were from the lower Hindu casts – and would just do a ‘Namaskaara’.  I came to avoid them and detested them.  It actually made me a Brahmin baiter at that time.  I would hate all things that had to do with Brahmins. 

There was another incident which made me a Brahmin hater at that time.  I grew up in Vasanthnagar (which was a cosmopolitan area).  Vasanthnagar itself was called Uttarahalli earlier and had many Vokkaligas there.  There are some houses/families whom I still know personally in Vasanthnagar – who come from the days of Uttarahalli.  I grew up in 4th cross and usually used to stick to the boys/girls there.  I had plenty of friends in 2nd Cross too.  One day I happened to go there to play.  On that road there is a Tamil Brahmin family.  The boy from that family – also happened to study at my school.  We were all playing close to his house.  At a point we were all thirsty and decided to drink water at his house.  Once we went into his compound ……he told us to come behind his house.  So we all went there.  Water was served to us ……not in glasses ……….but the was dropped from above and we had to drink it – without touching the glass.  That incident had a profound impact on me and I decided never to go to their house.  The boy himself – was very embarassed himself ………..but couldn’t do much as their family was a ‘Madi’ family and we were ‘Mailgeh’ people.  From that day onwards – I hated the word ‘Madi’ and ‘Madi brahmins’.  Do we have ‘Mailgeh brahmins’??? I’d love to meet them.  Well although that sounds a bit sarcastic – I would certainly apologize if that hurts some sentiments.  It would be wrong on my part to say that all Brahmins ar like that.  There are liberal brahmins and there are conservative/narrow-minded brahmins.  Like in life – there are all shades of them.

The Christian teachers who taught me at school ………..inculcated liberal values.  The PUC years at St.Josephs Pre-University College were a culture shock for us as we came from an ICSE background and most of the students at PUC were from SSLC and were from different schools.  They brought in the culture from their schools …….and we found it very difficult to cope.  Besides PUC was very crowded.  We had 110 students in the class and it was extremely difficult to have meaningful interaction at class.  We had people of all shades there.  We had liberal Jains, conservative orothodox jains, liberal muslims, orthodox hindus, liberal hindus ………we had all shades of them.  I generally stuck to those who were liberal.

The traumatic years of PUC quickly got over and we moved over to graduation at St.Josephs Arts and Science College.  The first year was chaotic as we had many students coming in and going out.  Second year was when we built bonds for life.  Our gang was a gang of eight.  There was Chandra, Hemanth, Gopi, Vincent, Waseem, Aftab, Clement and me.  Of all the guys – Vincent, Clement and I were the most studious.   It was here that I saw both the sides of Christianity first hand.  Clement was a brother of the diocese.  After graduation he would join the seminary and go on to become a father.  Clement was born in Ejipura and grew up around the Viveknagar Infant Jesus Church.  In fact their parents were the very first couple who were married at the church there when it was started.  Clement came from a lower middle class devout catholic Tamil family.  Religion was in his veins and he was bought up that way.  But he was a gem of a person.  He never discriminated against other religions and would never claim the pre-eminence of his religion over others.  He would never even preach – despite his disposition.  He would invite us to Christmas to his house.  It would be quite a journey for us to trek all the way from Sultanpalya/Jalahalli to Ejipura/Viveknagar to his house.  But it was worth it.  The beautiful crib, the wonderful goodies, wine and nice food – were all good temptations for us to make ti there.  In fact we in turn would invite Clement to our houses and it was all fun.

Vincent on the other hand came from the Ulsoor area from a lower middle class protestant Tamil family.  He had applied to become a brother of the diocese himself – but they turned him down (fortunately).  He was a Christian fundamentalist – who would criticize Hindu religion and would claim superiority over his religion.  He did not have the caliber to engage in philosophical/theological talk.  He never invited anyone to his house (not even Clement) and became a loner at college.  However he was a terrific book worm – who would mug up his lessons and get good marks at the exams.   Clement was a true academic – who would internalize the concepts and still get good marks.  Clement and Vincent would always compete for the top spot.  I would usually come in third.  I would try to engage Vincent in philosophical arguments and he would always say ‘you don’t understand ….that’s not how it is’ and end it there.  He would never try to answer my queries and questions about some subtler points of christianity.  He was a bigot who thought never rose to a higher level.  I had a major fight with Vincent in my last year at college and stopped speaking to him altogether.  The main reason for me to have a fight with him – was his attitude of condemning others religions and his narrow minded approach.  Clement himself did not like Vincent attitude.  Many time Clement would be the go-between me and Vincent.  Clement tried to moderate me a lot and tried to change my adamant attitude on certain things.  Clement also tried to correct Vincents arrogant-narrow minded attitude on other things. 

After college Clement moved to St.Peters Seminary in Malleshwaram.  Many of us would often visit him there.  He came on top of all the students there and was the top academic there.  He went on to take on many responsible positions.  At a point he was managing the entire St.Peters Church and complex on Residency Road.  He was brilliant and GOOD.  We have still good contact with him.

Vincent went on to work.  He initially joined Bhoruka Gas – where he earned a bad name for this religious attitude of his.  Later he quite Bhoruka Gas and joined ITC.  After that he dropped all contact with all of us.

Aftab was a very religious person – who would do ‘Roza’ every Ramzan.  He was of lean build and travelled to college from Hoskote.  He came from a large family and was the eldest son.  He showed a lot of responsibility in his attitude.  Due to personal reasons he couldn’t pursue his academics a lot – although he tried his best – and we all supported him.  He did complete his graduation – and went onto to start his computer rental business. 

Waseem was a big built guy.  His family came from Hindupura.  He was related to one of the top Chemistry professors of our college.  His cousin, Yohann (the chemistry profs son) was my school mate and a boy of wonderful attitude.  Waseem – did not have a great attitude.  I wouldn’t say he had a bad attitude. He was neither devout nor a great friend to be with. 

Chandra, Gopi and Hemanth – were regular Hindus.  Chandra’s family were followers of the Radha Saomi sect.  Yet all of them had liberal attitude.

When I was in Australia – there was a Mormon missionary who worked with us.  All our colleagues (even Australians) in Australia had a problem with the way he tried to mix religion with work and get converts to the Mormon sect.  They complained to the senior management and they took him to task.  He stopped doing all that after that incident. 

Thus the morals of this whole story are:

1.  There are good christians, bad christians, good hindus, bad hindus, good muslims, bad muslims.   We see them all the time around us. 

2. If we see discrimination – we should not tolerate it.  But at the same time we should not discriminate in return. 

3. Everybody has their right to follow their own religion.

4. Preaching to others about the greatness of ones religion – is wrong and is really not needed.  I quite don’t support missionaries trying to preach their religion.  I see ISKCON missionaries trying to win converts to their Hare Rama movement from other religions.  I don’t support that.  I see christian missionaries trying to preach the Gospel to non-Christians.  I dont’ support that either.  You don’t need to do it.  The Church is not made of numbers – as Christ rightly said. 

5. If one tries to do some research himself/herself and shows interest in a certain religion and gets converted – there is absolutely nothing wrong.  But trying to project that as forced conversion is totally wrong – when the choice is individual.  Attacking a community because another community ‘perceives’ that a certain set of people were ‘forcibly’ converted – is wrong.

6. Giving economic benefits and trying to tempt people into conversion – is wrong.

7. Good/bad Christians/Hindus – will continue to be there for time immemorial.  People should have the maturity to rise above such bigotary and see things from a humane perspective.