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November 24, 2003

 
Topical quote from Ben Franklin, for all the genial folks in Maharashtra and Assam intent on xenophobic mayhem: We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

 

 
MJ Akbar has a great opinion piece on Bihar: where Migration and Poverty go hand-in-hand.

 

 
Of course, the Bihari (to use them as a symbol for all the failings of the BIMARU states of the country) also have problems. The "democratic process" there is a joke, high illiteracy, a submissive people and chronic unemployment has meant that it has been subverted into a process of appealing to voters to vote not for development, but for their caste or community. This has changed somewhat in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, but Bihar has shown not the slightest inclination to come out of its rut, and the lack of charismatic, forward-thinking leaders haven't helped either.

So the answer to the lady who threatened poor Shankar is -- no, there are no jobs. The precious little there are taken away by vicious cycles of reservation, corruption and nepotism. Yes, Shankar and his brethren are probably responsible for this state of affairs -- after all, to this day, the people of Bihar haven't risen against the democratically elected tyrants who have denied them entry into the 21st century so far. That is still no reason why Shankar had to get the welcome he did in more prosperous -- but not more enlightened -- Maharashtra.

 

 
How well does India work as a nation?

A Sena threat to disrupt Sunday’s examinations led the Railway Recruitment Board to put them off, but many like the 22-year-old Shankar, a Bihari from Chhapra, were unaware of this and landed here to appear for the tests.

But as Shankar got off the Lokmanya Tilak-Varanasi Express at Kalyan at 1.30 pm yesterday, he was set upon by a Sena mob lying in wait for him and other Biharis. His small-town-youth excitement on landing in a big city and his bright blue-and-red bag easily marked him out as an `outsider' hoping to find a way out of the poverty of Chhapra.

"[He looks like a Bihari as well]" a woman activist shouted as Sena goons rushed towards Shankar, quickly surrounding him. The youth sensed trouble and abandoning any attempts at bravado, began weeping and tried to fall at the goons’ knees.

But there was no space for Shankar to bend as the activists preferred him on his feet for it made it easier to slap and kick him. Accusing him of "stealing jobs from Maharashtrians", the goons set upon him.

"[Why did you come from Bihar? Are there no jobs there?]" someone taunted as another slapped him across his frightened face.

"Will you go back on your own or should we bundle you into a train to Tamil Nadu?" a woman asked. "I will go back, sir, today itself," a hurt and humiliated Shankar, stripped of his dignity and self-respect, replied his eyes moist with pain and embarrassment.

But Shankar did not scramble into just any train to flee Maharashtra, as countless others have been forced to. Instead, he took shelter in a Rs 100-a-day motel along a dirty yard near the station.

"How can I go back. I thought I will take the exams and see if I get the railways' work," Shankar said. "My father is a tailor running a small shop and my mother cannot work because she has cataract in both eyes. I have two sisters. They have to be married off."

The Constitution of India guarantees equality to all Indians. It guarantees the freedom to move throughout India. What it does not guarantee is rule of law, and more importantly, respect for the law. And stories like Shankar's happen every day across this vast country, gnawing a little more at what our latter days kings democratically elected pols call the `national fabric'.

How much would it take to spiral out of control? Some of the poorest states in the country -- Bihar, Orissa -- with high illiteracy and unemployment rates, are ominous, standing powder-kegs. One of the reasons they have not exploded yet was that there was a safety valve, however slim, of escaping the mire into the relative affluence of places like Gujarat and Maharashtra. But what if those doors were shut in their faces?

Places like Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa also play host to a wealth of natural reserves -- coal, uranium, steel, mica. How long before the cry goes out in the coal and uranium mines -- "no outsiders here!"?

Is it India's destiny to devolve into a set of regional fiefdoms run by chauvinistic hooligans? History would say yes.

 

November 20, 2003

 
When it rains, it pours. After a long time of staying off paper, I have a good reading list to work through:

  Snow Crash (done)
  White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
  Guns, Germs and Steel
  Quicksilver
  The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
  The Machine Crusade

Can't wait to dig in.

 

November 19, 2003

 
More on India's premier trashy tabloid. For some time now, The Times Of India has now stopped giving single-page views of articles. Even for small articles, you now have to click through to a second page. Someone at Indiatimes must've been on a page-view doubling jihad. Compare ToI's approach to the NYT's, which for all its faults doesn't split small articles, and has a clearly visible "Single Page View" link.

Add to this the atrocious writing, and the infernal blinking ads (also guilty: The Hindu, which is a far better newspaper than its crappy website would lead you to believe), and who really wants to visit ToI on the web any more? Certainly not me.

 

 
The Indian Express is the first Indian Newspaper out there with RSS feeds. Updates regularly too. Great! I can now cut down my visits to that trashily written tabloid called The Times of India.

 

November 18, 2003

 
SharpReader's the first aggregator I find I like enough to be using continuously for over a week, after playing (over time) with Radio 7, Radio 8, NewzCrawler, Syndirella, Amphetadesk, RSS Bandit and Bloglines. As a result, I finally have a real, honest-to-gosh OPML blogroll for the sites I like to frequently read.

 

 
Kazaa finds its first legit film: Supari, starring Nandita Das and Rahul Bose.

 

November 14, 2003

 
USA Today: Pioneer Craig Venter announced that his research group created an artificial virus based on a real one in just two weeks' time ... The project was funded in part by the Department of Energy, which hopes to create microbes that would capture carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, produce hydrogen or clean the environment.

 

 
(Via my Referer Log) As you look at it for the first few milliseconds, malixya looks like a perfectly normal, well-designed personal website. Then you realize that this isn't quite your typical weblog. Welcome to the new world of porn spam.

 

November 06, 2003

 
Went and saw The Matrix: Revolutions yesterday night (first day, second screening). Reaction: predictable movie, if you've been following all the hints the Brothers W have been dropping in the Animatrix and Enter the Matrix, but fascinating to watch and a visual (and acoustic) treat nevertheless.

Of course, some critics miss the point of the movie entirely, but the creators of the movie have remained very consistent with their intention of creating a SF messiah movie, even down to disappointing a large percentage of their fanbase with an allegedly weak ending.

Animatrix-watchers, on the other hand, would agree that the trilogy ended very well. In The Second Renaissance (which you can see online: parts one, two), leaders from the machine city, 01, go to humanity's doors -- actually, the UN -- and ask for peace and coexistence. Their pleas are denied, the war soon begins.

At the end of Revolutions, humanity's representative -- Neo -- travels to the machines to ask for peace. If, to a machine, that would not be a satisfyingly symmetrical and fitting note to end the war, I do not know what would be.

 


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