Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Random thoughts

After going through the long winding queue into the packed theater I finally watched the bond movie which is about everything except bond. If you have noticed, since the previous installment the movies seem to be “unbonding” the legendry hero, Bond, James Bond. The producers might have a thousand reasons but for the mature audience it’s like showing the superman who can’t fly. The bond is shown all but unsophisticated. If, not watching a bond movie evolves a kind of guilt, watching these “unbond” movies is a different guilt. It would have been soothing if these movies were for a different hero and not bond. Calling it bond destroys everything.

There is a totally different kind of guilt you feel when you do exercise/not exercise your fundamental right of voting. If you do not cast vote, you feel guilty for not exercising your right and if you do cast your vote, you feel guilty for having voted a hopeless politician to power. It’s a sort of a double whammy. Either way you are helpless. And the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai proved it right. The only thing most politicians did was to give the attack a political twist blaming different parties over it.

Even the insurance companies distanced themselves saying people killed in terrorist attacks are not covered by the insurance. Victims who are rich and well off can at least move on financially but the lower income section of the society suffer. It just reiterates the importance of asset creation for any family.

Have you noticed? The word asset can be broken into ASSET = ASS + E(a)T (pronounce as eat {past tense of eat}. Eat (pronounce as past tense of eat) means slap or beat in Kannada. So unless a person gets an “eat” on his behind, asset is not created. And in unfortunate cases when the insurance company distances and with no asset to bank on, the lower income section of the society have nothing to depend on.

I was watching a TV program on oral hygiene last week. I am not sure if there is any reason behind it or if it was just a coincidence but I noticed that majority of dentistry problems were for the teeth on the lower jaw. Maybe the germs and bacteria are pulled down to the lower jaw due to gravity or maybe its some kind of a fashion which affects teeth of lower jaw.

Actually taking GMAT and TOEFL exams were a sort of fashion statement during my college days. Talking of the GMAT score, 1100, 1250 etc was some sort of conversation starters those days. But college days were good. Bunking classes, going to movies and restaurants, scrambling for notes during the exam time were all simple memorable.

It’s getting late. Have to leave for work now. Looking ahead for yet another eventful day at work!

~Narendra V Joshi

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And life goes on...

If some scientists are to be believed, I should not have been alive to write this blog nor should you be, to read this! The world was supposed to end this very day according to some scientists; September 10, 2008.

For the benefit of the late comers, a group of scientists in Europe have built a “Large Hadron Collider” (LHC) which was scheduled to be fired today. A beam of particles was to be circulated through this LHC which is housed in a 27 kms long underground tunnel. I first read about the protests from some scientists regarding this experiment before I actually read about this experiment. It’s like the driver realizing that the breaks of the car have failed after the accident! Per my understanding, as a part of the experiment, proton beams travelling in opposite directions at the speed of light are made to collide against each other. And this, as per the scientists conducting the experiment, will create the exact conditions after the Big-Bang (theory which explains the birth of our universe). The protests to this experiment was that it might create a huge black hole and will ultimately destroy the earth. (end of the world theory)

As I understand everything here we are talking about is just a theory. Universe was created after Big Bang, is a theory; so are the, 2 protons colliding at high speed to explain “mass”. Amidst all these theories is yet another theory of the world ending just around lunch today (the experiment was to be conducted around 12:30 PM IST). But a striking similarity between all these theories is, all these theories have been in vogue since a long time. I don’t want to deprive a scientist of his job by deciphering and explaining the birth of universe (!!), so I will stick with the comments, of world coming to an end theory, in this blog.

This is not the first time that the world was supposed to come to an end. The world was supposed to come to an end on 31st December, 1999 night. I was in my 4th semester engineering and was delighted that the world will come to an end before I have to take my Machine Drawing exam. My grandfather used to tell me of stories he had heard of the world coming to an end around 31st December, 1900 from his father. Since the world had survived that 1900 scare, he, to my sheer dismay was least bothered about this world coming to an end theory. Nevertheless, so popular was this world coming to an end on 31st December, 1999, that, at that time I remember all local newsletters and magazines had carried this as their first page article. But unfortunately after all this hype the world did not end and I had to study for my exams. This world coming to an end theory became popular yet again when the Tsunami struck some parts of the eastern coast of India in December 2004. Even this time people thronged the temples and prayer halls praying for salvation. Some stanch end of the world theory believers, withdrew all their savings from the banks to buy and enjoy desirables before they were to die. But the world survived the scare yet again.

As in most cases, there are people who actually benefit from such theories. For them, their world will really end on the predicted day (world of opportunities - at least for the time being). The soothsayers and astrologers who suggest prayers and methods to appease God, charging an inflated visitation rate and the retailers and marketers who make use of this God sent opportunity to fill their coffers by selling unwanted products to the clueless customers. And there are scientists and critics who thwart these same clueless customers for falling prey to such stupid theories with the media making fast bucks covering all this. Its back to square one the next morning with the world still alive and kicking the common man, and the benefactors looking forward for the next end of the world theory.

If the world was to really end today, I did not want to die on an empty stomach. So, though I wanted to write and post the blog before the end time, I actually got a chance to write after the lapse of the supposed end time. So, first, let us congratulate ourselves for having made it through and look forward to brace ourselves for the next end of the world day.

~Narendra V Joshi

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Arranged marriage dot not calm

I, my wife and my parents have been searching for a suitable bride for my younger cousin brother and the search has entered the fourth month now. We started on a war footing way back in March but have not tasted success yet. This blog is based on my experience and understanding of the prevailing matrimonial scenario.

To my understanding there are no real accepted guidelines for the arranged marriage process, except that it’s a marriage solemnized after the families of the bride and the groom deem it fit. Since centuries this has been the most common way of marriages. However the newer and the fast growing trend of Love marriage, has made arranged marriage a default kind. Love marriage is a kind where it’s not the families, who decide, but it is the boy and the girl who decide that they should get married. The families might or might not approve of such a union. If the families approve of such a union then it’s deemed a Love Arranged marriage. The obvious part however is that a boy/girl should fall in love before the families can actually approve or disapprove. It is really not the subject matter of this blog as to how can someone fall in love but the point to note here is, arranged marriage is the default if somebody has not fallen in love but still wants to get married. Strong focus on education and career, or shy nature of the individual can be among the thousand different reasons why an individual might have to choose the default route of arranged marriage.

So after having discussed and concluded with my cousin that he too is taking the arranged marriage route, we started the search with the 3 common criterions. The Horoscope of the bride and the groom should perfectly match. If the first one is satisfied, the other two are, the girl should be from a good family and should have decent education. As the first step of the search, my parents and my wife spread the word within our family and friends circle, if anybody knew of a family searching for a groom for their daughter. We also registered my younger brother’s profiles at all matrimonial bureaus we know and got to know of during the search process. The most common items in the marriage profile are the Horoscope, individuals name, Gothara (family tree details), Nakshtra (Star), Rashi (Star sign), education, contact details and his/her requirement of how the girl/boy should be.

We initially started our search in Bangalore and later sent copies of the profile to our relatives in cities outside Bangalore so that they can update it in the local matrimonial bureaus of that city. Whether the information is from matrimonial bureaus or if it’s from internet sites or if it’s simply from relatives and friends, one startling observation we have made is that, there seems to be a shortage of prospective brides. In almost every marriage bureau we searched, we noticed that if there were 10 files containing profiles of boys there were only 6-7 files containing profiles of girls. If we came across a girl’s profile whose horoscope matches with the boy, the chances of girl already married but the profile at the bureau not updated was 20-30%. I initially scratched it off as a mere coincidence but after talking with so many different people at these different bureaus, I am now thinking it actually might be a sad fact. During a recent visit to a matrimonial bureau, I overheard the conversation between a prospective groom and the counselor who was filing a profile. The boy answered all questions related to him, with great detail. When he was asked his requirement, i.e. how he expected the girl to be, he answered “Anything is fine”. A contrast to this becomes clear if you look at a prospective bride’s profile. Most girls seem to require/expect the boy to be a double graduate and the most common one being a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in management. If the girl is in the field of medicine, her expectation is no less than a surgeon or a high profile doctor. I also realized that I know many people who are of the same age as I am or even senior to me who are still bachelors. I am now sometimes forced to think that, maybe they are bachelors because they do not have a choice. However I am still not able to understand the reason for this problem. Is there really a shortage of girls? Or is it that the girls out there do not want to get married? I have read about the increasing gap between the number of boys to number of girls but is this the cause for this problem? I thank God that I am one of those lucky individuals who got arranged married without ever understanding the prevalent perils.

Arranged marriage has always been considered the safest, but now, even finding a bride seems difficult and marriage comes only after that. So one solution I can think is, instead of all this waiting, searching, disappointment in arranged marriages, love marriage seems a better option. Every boy, I think, should give the same importance to marriage as he gives to education and career, if he doesn’t want to take the risk of remaining a bachelor for life. Another potential solution for people who have already zeroed in on arranged marriage is to first select a girl looking for all other items on the list except for horoscope. Since it’s the horoscope which is the real horror, generate a new horoscope using one of those internet sites, synching it with the selected girl’s horoscope. Whatever might be the solution, arranged marriages no more seem to be an attractive process either for the parents or for the grooms themselves.

- Narendra V Joshi

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Crutches

The bus stopped on the barren village road blowing the dirt and dried leaves around. The driver got out and turned around to help the passenger get down. The crutches of the passenger came out first as he put his leg forward and positioned his arms on the crutches thanking the driver. He took a few steps forward as the bus moved, blowing the settled dust all around again.

The crutches seemed to fit him well as his sweaty hands moved them forward and his one leg followed to meet them. The country road lay in front of him with green fields on either side as he started threading the familiar path. He saw many familiar faces but continued without stopping. He finally stopped in front of a depleted structure which was once his home. Some parts of the wall and roof were still there, but the rest of the house lay completely burnt. Pictures and voices of his days in the village crossed his mind.

This was the place he was born and it was his village as he would often say. He worked at a farm which was passed on to him when his father died. He, his wife, his two year old son and his mother now stayed at the old house. His wife and sometimes his mother would help him in the field as any other typical family in the village. The villagers traveled to the city, for selling their produce and procuring resources, which was an hour’s distance from the village.

Though on the surface it looked a sleepy village, there was turbulence beneath. There had been a spike in naxal activity in the area. Rumors of shootings in nearby villages, sightings of armed men in their own village, posters and writings on the walls had all called for a formation of a village defense committee in which he was an active member. The committee members formed small groups, and the groups took turns to patrol the village after dusk. Though there never was an incident in their own village, the rumor was, someone in the village was secretly supporting the naxals and an attack was just around the corner.

On one such patrol, he and his associate had happened to overhear a conversation between a man from their village and some people whom they figured were naxals. They tried to raise an alarm but were spotted by the naxals who followed them into the village. He ran towards his house, shouting all the way trying to alert the villagers. His associate had run away in the other direction. He had managed to reach his house and lock the door behind him. The naxals who were close behind him locked his house from outside and had lit the house on fire.

A single drop of tear flowed down his cheek as he stood in the burnt house recalling the day which had changed his life. A part of the roof and the wall had collapsed on them as he tried to rescue his family from the fire and that was all he remembered of that day. He had regained conscious in the city hospital after 3 days in coma, only to find out that he had lost one leg, his wife and his mother in the fire. His associate who was with him on that fateful day was also killed. Only his son survived and was now looked after by the village headman and this was the reason he was in the village today. He had vowed to himself, never to set foot in the village or talk about what happened that day. He had never told anybody that the village headman was the person who was with the naxals. The very thought of his son, being cared by the same person who had killed his family, sent shivers down his spine. He had spent many sleepless nights in the hospital with nightmares of his son growing into a gun wielding leader of the naxals, setting houses on fire.

He started towards the village headman’s house. “No arguments, no confrontations”, he said to himself. He had planned this whole scene. He will take his son and settle at a place far away from this village. He would never discuss with his son as to how his mother had died. Very soon he reached the headman’s house. Contrary to his own, this house was big and beautiful. He went near the door to call out the headman when he saw his son for the first time in many days. Tears of happiness rolled down his cheeks as he saw the boy crawling around the room. It was a beautiful sight as he stood motionless with only love in his heart, wanting to hold his son, wanting to hold a part of himself. He tried to call out stretching his arms. The whole world blackened on him when he realized crutches were all, his hands could hold. The burden of his heart pulled him to the ground as he wept. He had got everything he wanted, only to lose it all the very next moment. Unaware of all this, the boy happily played with his expensive toys with his baby sounds filling the room. The headman’s wife was behind the boy feeding him with a silver spoon as he crawled all around. It was a beautiful sight from the swollen eyes of his father who lay outside crawling to position his crutches. Maybe the sound of the crutches caught the boy’s attention when he crawled to the door to look at the man with the crutches standing out. The man outside, got up and looked into those beautiful eyes. He just wanted to hold the baby but deep down inside he knew he will do the boy no good by taking him. He could never afford such expensive toys, feed him with a silver spoon or even provide for a decent life for the boy. All his nightmares seemed trivial now as he turned back to thread the dry path again.

~Narendra V Joshi