Category Archives: Society

Mithu!

Warning for all the infidels (and not the Taliban kind :) ) across the world. Be very careful if you have to cheat.

A parrot owner was alerted to his girlfriend’s infidelity when his talkative pet let the cat out of the bag by squawking “I love you Gary”. Read the full story here.

Happy Birthday Benjamin!

Today is Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday. If you had asked me about Mr. Franklin about 10 years ago, I would have described him as a scientist who discovered the wonders of static electricity at a substantial personal risk by flying a kite into a thunderstorm. That was of course his most famous experiment. I don’t know where do I put the blame for not knowing more about this brilliant person whose scientific accomplishments are only dwarfed by his social and political achievements? Partially it was me, partially it was the rote learning methodology used in most schools in India and partially it was the tendency of Indian textbooks to downplay American personalities.

In any case, thanks to a great documentary on PBS, I now know that Benjamin Franklin was a person who wore many hats, each one of them with flair. He was an explorer, a scientist (a true geek if ever there was one – while coming back from England on a ship he discovered the Gulf Stream and many times he entertained his friends by showing off his experiments), an audacious flirt (as I read someplace today – geeks everywhere should worship him because he was the geek who got laid) and one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. If you will take a moment to discover this website, you will probably be as amazed as I was in learning about Mr. Franklin’s contributions towards the betterment of everyone’s life.

And of course, as I mentioned in one my earlier posts, in my view Franklin’s role in the American revolution is very much like Sardar Patel’s in India’s state reclamation movement. Crucial, rock solid, workman like and yet not as glorified as the contributions of more charismatic leaders like George Washington (Nehru in India’s case).
Happy Birthday Benjamin!

(image courtesy http://www.benfranklin300.org/)

Mr. Bachchan, Tirupati and Indian Charity

Is anyone else disgusted by the recent news item mentioning that Mr. Amitabh Bachchan will be donating jewelry worth Rs. 1 Crore to the Tirupati Temple thanking the lord for his quick recovery?

Now what Mr. Bachchan does with his money is his own business – but I am entitled to my opinion because it is an indicator of the rot that has set in the moral and religious values of India. In a country like India, where tens of millions are still below the poverty line, it is an abomination that temples like Tirupati keep getting richer. In fact, I did a quick back of the envelope calculation and came up with this:

Money it takes to feed a person/day

Rs. 50

Number of days in a year

365

Cost of food/year

Rs. 18,250

Money donated by Bachchan

1,00,00,000

Number of people who could have been fed for an entire year for that much money

550

Five hundred and fifty people getting food in their stomachs for an entire year? And he chose to get yet another piece of jewelry for a statue that already is decked up to its gills? Look at this picture and tell me if there is any need for any more jewels? I know that the Tirupati Balaji organization runs some charitable organizations. If at all he had to donate money, could he have not donated it to those organizations? Does he think that God will be happier getting a diamond wristband compared to feeding poor people?

India is woefully inadequate when it comes to philanthropy and it is made worse by such donations to temples because it makes people think that donating to temples and donating to charitable organizations is the same.

From my personal experience, temples in India are rarely involved in their communities and rarely take up any kind of social work in their vicinity. There are honorable exceptions to that statement which includes some of the larger temple trusts, though what percentage of the funds that they receive is actually used for social work is anybody’s guess.

But by and large, in towns big and small across the country, how many pundits have you seen who go around teaching the lessons of Gita to disadvantaged people in their communities? Most of the times, they are either busy decking up the statues in their temples or busy doing special Pujas for the privileged to petition God on their behalf to write off their bad deeds. So the money given to temples, more often than not, goes to creating bigger statues or bigger temples or bigger bellies of the pundits.

As for Mr. Bachchan, it just reinforces my belief that he is as bad a human being as good as he is an actor. The entire country was praying for him when he was in the hospital and this is how he repays? By having a tete-a-tete with possibly the most corrupt and rich (don’t they always go hand in hand) temple organization in the country?

Devon Avenue, Chicago

Amrit’s post on the Writing Cave asking if we hate ourselves going by the amount of filth lying around in Indian cities compelled me to dust-off (no pun intended) my own mail on something similar from my previous defunct blog and re-post it here.

Have you ever been to Devon Avenue, Chicago? No? Well, don’t feel bad because you’ve not missed much. If you are in India then just go to your neighborhood market. If you are on the east coast in the US, just go to Jackson Heights. If you are on the west coast in the bay area just step out of your house (well, that maybe an exaggeration – plus I’ve never been to bay area so I have second hand knowledge at best).Well, the point being that what it is about our civic sense as a nation that we just cannot conduct ourselves in an orderly fashion? The entire road called the Devon Avenue (well half of it is called Gandhi Marg and the other half Jinnah Marg) is so dirty and so littered with flying debris and “pan peeks” that is hard to believe that your are still in Chicago. Just about two miles east is the beautiful Lake Shore drive and then there is Devon Avenue. As long as we are in the company of people from other nationalities we maintain a modicum of civic behavior and cleanliness. But the moment we are surrounded by our own-we think that it is alright to break rules, that it is alright to honk, that it is alright to spit on the road.

I’ve been to a few other places in the US that are dominated by people from a particular ethnic background or nationality. There are these small towns in Wisconsin called New Glarus and Monroe that mostly have people from Swiss background. Then there is Holland in Michigan with people from, you guessed it, Holland. And each of these cities is so beautiful and well kept and great tourist spots. The only reason why anyone ever goes to Devon Avenue is for cheap groceries and cheap Indian food and wants to get the hell out of here ASAP. What a sad reflection on our country!