Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jayamala Vs Sabarimala

Background: The renowned Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala was going through a lot of trials and tribulations. A deva prashnam(astrological inquiry) was done to find out the problem. The astrologers declared that a woman had entered the temple precincts, which was a violation of the temple rules that had resulted in this current state of affairs. Kannada actress, Jayamala, then admitted that she had entered the temple in the late 1980s, praying for her ailing husband.

Poor bachelor Lord Ayyappa is now in the midst of a controversy as to whether a woman visited him or not. The world is aghast as to how could a fertile woman go to Sabarimala and touch the feet of the Lord - a place where one requires undergoing about 40 days of purity before travelling. There are 2 angles to this issue - One, as to how a woman could have gone to the place and touched the idol when women in the age group of 10-50 are not allowed there and two, the larger issue of whether there should be any such discrimination/tradition (depending on which side you represent) in terms of the entry of women into religious places.

Clearly, there are mischief mongers in the background willing to pounce on an opportunity to defame the temple, otherwise why would Karnataka State Assembly get involved in an issue which is of no concern to them. There’s a clearly known rule in Sabarimala that women before menopause are not to be allowed inside the shrine and if Kannada actress, Jayamala had entered it, as she claims, it probably needs to be probed. How could a woman enter the temple and return unnoticed when there would have been so many devotees who would have witnessed this? The head priest claims that even he does not touch the idol during the daily worship and so it is impossible for Jayamala to have done so. The first observations suggest that Jayamala is probably lying but then one wonders what could be the motive to make any such claim, that too after about 15 odd years. This would need to be investigated further to check the veracity of the matter.

However, the larger question that begs discussion is should women be stopped from entering the shrine. I have been arguing with people on this and one explanation given to me is that a woman in menstruation is impure and should not be allowed to desecrate the place. Some others have suggested that people come to pray in temples and that the presence of women could be a major distraction while others have used the familiar excuse of sticking to temple traditions and that the Lord was a bachelor and so women must not be allowed.

Correct me if I am wrong, but does this not affect other places of worship? Is it that only Sabarimala needs to protect itself from the vice called "women”? How can we refer to women as "impure" or "unclean" when we meet the same women in offices, in educational places and other religious places? Men cannot push the blame of lusting at women on women themselves; they need to take responsibility for their actions and not blame them for everything. One wonders why India's most socially forward state is trying to hide male chauvinism in the garb of religious traditions and rituals and shying away from making a potentially significant statement on gender equality.

A religious institution should not be run on the grounds of any discrimination like religion, sex, caste etc. After all, God has no form or features that we discriminate this way. Traditions come into existence due to certain existing social norms and these need to change as times change. Obviously, these cannot change overnight but we need to create an atmosphere where they must be debated. I am thankful that this incident, whatever the merits or demerits, has resulted in focussing the spotlight on the larger picture - Role of Women in Religion.

We may disagree with each other when it comes to this but it’s, nevertheless, important to deliberate on it. But it's important not to mix a genuine gender issue with a religious issue. Attempts have been made to paint this as a Hindu religious problem (like how it happened in the Shah Bano case) but that would communalize the issue and deviate from the true focus required.

P.S. As I write this article, I hear that one of the tantris (priests) in Sabarimala has been suspended for sexual misdemeanours with a prostitute. So much for women desecrating temple sanctity!!!!!

Monday, July 24, 2006

FIFA World Cup 2006 - Analysis

To those interested in football,this may be an interesting read where I,Mahesh and Chandan have done an analysis of the main countries that participated in 2006 FIFA World Cup.


Pradeep:They won unexpectedly, against all odds, especially against the backdrop of the betting scandal. Full Credit to Buffon, Cannavaro, Pirlo and their robust defence. The coach should be given a special mention for the tactics used-a strong defensive strategy with stretches of aggression when required (eg. Germany match). Not exactly everyone's dream team with their style of play- defensive and rough but efficient enough (no better example than Matterazi) and probably not the best team here. Cannavaro should have got the Golden Ball.

Mahesh: I am sorry to disagree with you on this. I though Italians were the better team in the world cup. This is proven by the goals conceded by then in the tournament ( Only 2 and that too one was a penalty and one an own goal). Also they have scored some 7-10 goals in all, which shows that the Italians deserved to win the cup. Also Materrazi was not rough. All defenders are rough and they ought to be. With Forwards of Portuguese falling like trees struck by lighting ( without any contact with the defenders), one cannot expect the defenders to be perfect all times. To give u an example Lucio ( Brazilian Defender) did not commit even a single foul until the match against France where when he saw that Brazil were loosing made a very bad tackle and got an Yellow card for that. I think that was the only foul he committed. Hence Materrazi is not to be blamed. And as far as the exchange of words between Zidane and Materrazi, it always happened in Football and is not a new issue. Zidane should have kept his head. Hence I pronounce Italians and Argentines as the best team in this world cup with special appreciation to Ukraine and Spain.

Chandan:The whole of Europe's betting markets had pinned their hopes on Italy. Surprisingly, even in India, total bet on Italy was to the tune of Rs.200 crore. I am not very sure of the the amount, just heard on the TV. But to me, Italian team was far more flamboyant than Germans. Perhaps its the only European team that demonstrates some amount of artistic approach to the game, rather than the normal mechanical approach of European soccer players. After Roberto Baggio's exit, never heard of an Italian player who can change the face of the game...Del Piero was just about okie, given his age...perhaps time to hand his boots...


Pradeep: Zizou’s brilliance and renaissance took them to the finals after a rather lousy start. He tarnished his image with that one act of idiocy (despite whatever the justification may be) and that was more depressing. Strong tactical game, ably supported by Ribery, Henry, Thuram and Makele helped them to almost pull off an impossible World Cup triumph. It's an end of an era for French football with most of them probably retiring after this.

Mahesh: France is good when Zidane is good. Let us see what happens now as Zidane, Viera, Makelele, Thuram, Gallas are all on the wrong side of 30's and are going to retire within an year to two.

Chandan : My second favourite team after Argentina...After some magical display on the field during the second half, I thought, France would be declared the worthy champions. To have defetaed Brazil so convincingly, I thought for sure that they have the cup in their hands...but as luck would have it...Azzuris lifted it. And by all means Zidane was much better than that...Sunday's match proves onething that there is a thin line that seperates the good from the great...within few seconds Zidane lost all the greatness...proved he was a mere mortal...


Pradeep: Klinsmann changed their style of play from German efficiency to flamboyancy and it brought in crowds. A team sans superstars (sans Ballack), played exciting football but were defeated by the Italian fortress. Klose and Podolski were supported well by Ballack, Lahm and Frings but then Klinsmann's inexperience in handling the opposition when he went defensive in the semis cost them a berth in the finals.

Mahesh: Germans were good with the crowd behind them. With Klinsman resigning let us hope they will still be good. Ballack is now plagued by injuries and the fact that he is going to join Chelsea( the second best club in football now after Barcelona), his chances of being the play maker will be put into real test coz of the all star team Chelsea posses ff.( Lampard, Makelele, Gudjohnsen, Drogba, Robben, Gallas, Carvalho, Del Horno, etc, etc etc)

Chandan : I never expected they would play the Semis...


Pradeep: Full credit to Scolari for taking Portugal to the semis. A hard-nosed approach to the game where only winning matters was his policy and it did not endear him to the connoisseurs of the game. Ronaldo is their best player but Portugal has a long way to go.

Mahesh:Portugal were a very good team. But they chose not to win any hearts after the world cup with their exceptional Diving. They chose to play diving rather than football. even after repeated criticism they were as they were. This makes a very bad impression on the team.I feel sorry for them. With Scolari going to retire and Ronaldo being booed away in any match they play from now they are going to be a sorrow team for the future. Figo, Pauleta, Nuno Gomesare all going to retire. The only bright spot is Deco, Costinha, Ricardo, Carvalho and Ronaldo.

Chandan : Deserved to get defeated. Am a little to harsh on them, I know....but they simply deserved too. Ronaldo is extremely talented, but he, along with some other team mates need to know that they are playing as a team and not individuals...hardly anyone seems willing to sacrifice their balls for the good of the game and the team. The best of all players are known beacuse of their play making skills and not for their goal scoring skills, barring may be Ronaldo, Batistuta, Romario and a few other players..Players like Maradona, Pele, Suker, Platini, Cryuff, Zidane...there have been so many times that they would have fancied their own chances...

On the move I heard that Louis Figo was also in the team! Where?


Pradeep: Probably the best team in the championship but they did not deliver their best when it mattered. Coach Pekerman had all the weapons but choose to hide them in the closet instead of using them. In the QF against Germany , he rested Riquelme, Crespo in the 2nd half and did not play Saviola and Messi (the team's best strikers) and was duly rewarded with a knockout punch by Germany . The defensive approach probably cost them the trophy which was sad considering they scored 2 outstanding goals â the remarkable 24 pass goal by Cambiossa (against Serbia-Montenegro) and the brilliant left foot goal by Rodriguez (against Mexico). They are a very young and talented side and would probably play many of the same guys in the next World Cup.

Mahesh: Argentina have always been the best side in a world cup whenever they play ( Except 2002). They are going to go places and being a very young squad is going o help them I think I will forgive Pekerman for his mistakes and hopes that he strings the team together and lead Argentina to lead to glory in 2010. I am on Argentina for 2010.

Chandan : My all time favourite team...Argentina seems to be heavily inspired by the European football style. Till the times of Maradona, Ortega, Batistuta, football was still an art form...but the current team somehow prefers the 'European Mechanical' approach to the game. Do whatever you do best. If I am putting it correctly, even the way the penalties were taken by the Argentina players some 12-16 year back were different than the way they are taken now...

Oh Maradona!!! Where art thou my lord?


Pradeep: The media made them demi-gods and they played in a way which was a disgrace to the Samba style. Ronaldinho and Kaka were disappointments; Roberto Carlos, Juninho, Cafu were over the hill in terms of age and Ronaldo, well, weâll say he broke the record and leave it to that..A set of great footballers played and partied but never really remembered that there was a World Cup going on and they were rightly shown the door by a resilient France . Hopefully, they will introspect and come back with a bang the next time. World Football needs Brazil .

Mahesh: Like France Brazil were deeply dependent on Ronaldinho. If he performs then Brazil will be glorious again. Brazil have an able replacement in Adriano for Ronaldo. I predict a Quarterfinal for Brazil in 2010 unless an outstanding player develops into he four years who can lead Brazil to glory. Every world cup have produced an outstanding player for Brazil who has become the talisman for the next world cup. Unfortunately there happened to be none in this world cup. I hope good for them.

Chandan : I do not know Pradeep if you have noted,Ronaldinho has some serios issues with Ronaldo. He would put the ball to Ronaldo only when he had no one else to pass the ball...One thing is certain too much of ego on the ground. I wonder how does the team manager manages the team. The only find of the team was Robinho (the young lad who really put his heart and soul...I hope I have got his name correctly)


Pradeep: The media did the best they can to hype them up and they came down crashing. Sven’s tactics were roundly criticized and their defensive game did not bring cheer even to the die-hard English fan. They struggled their way to the quarters and the only time they entertained was when Rooney was sent off against Portugal for blowing his fuse. Owen was injured in a freak accident; Gerrard and Lampard struggled throughout and the poor lad Rooney could not handle it all alone. Sven’s finally gone having burnt English pockets with his exorbitant pay and never tiring libido.

Mahesh: Hope to see Rooney to cool his head and play along well. With Beckham almost certain not to play in Steve Mclaren's Side from August, we will get to see a lot of Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright Philips ( another talent not included in England squad). Also with Owen Hargreaves doing good it will be a stiff competition to Lampard and Gerard. I though Gerard was the outstanding player in the England squad even though he was not near to his performances. Incidentally this was the first match that England lost with Peter Crouch playing in the team. Crouch is going to be real good. With Owen's career almost as good as gone it will be Crouch and Walcott who will be coming up. I give them a semi-final in 2010 world cup and a final in Euro 2008. But if Rooney plays well with Lampard and Gerard then only GOD can stop them from winning.

Chandan : One moment of brilliance...the Beckham goal....Utterly dissapointing perfromance by the Gerrards..the Lampards and the Rooneys (again a selfish player like Cristiano Ronaldo)...Poor guy Owen, after Beckham the only sensible member of the side...or so it seemed

**Crouch should have been born in the Shakespearean era, and acted the motley fool in those plays.

Arun replies:
Thanks for improving my knowledge on Football... It was nice to read, but you guys missed another important team... JAPAN Yes though they did not perform well in the league matches, but the samurai blues definitely require some analysis.. As far i know there are some young talent like Nakamura, Oguru, Tanamada, who if performs well can take the team to higher level... But with the star studded Nakata announcing hi retirement at an age of 29, is definitely a major setback for the Japanese team. I would definitely expect the samurai blue to reach the semi final in 2010... Not an expert in analyzing, but these are the information I see on Japanese TV..

My Favourite Movies

Malayalam(not in order)

1.Thaniya Varthanam (Recurrence)

Starring: Mammooty,Madhavi,Mukesh
Director/Writer:Sibi Malayil/A K Lohithadas
A poignant story of how society,meaningless rituals and superstitions drive a perfectly normal person insane.Quite a disturbing movie.The protaganist is a teacher who hails from a family which suffers from a curse of insanity.Once his uncle dies,he is suspected to be lunatic and slowly bit surely,he becomes insane largely due to the role of the society.

2.Sukrutham (Grace)

Starring: Mammooty,Gautami,Manoj K Jayan,Narendra Prasad
Director/Writer:Hari Kumar/M T Vasudevan Nair
A brilliant movie which questions our attitudes towards life and death.The sympathy that the protaganist attracts when in deathbed is wiped out the moment he comes back fighting death.When most modern medicines fail,he is brought back to his old self by a doctor using Yoga,Pranayama etc.But when he's back,no one wants him-including his wife.It leads him back to what he had fought hard - death.

3.Oru Cheru Punchiri (A Small Smile)

Starring: Oduvvil Unnikrishnan
Director/Writer:M T Vasudevan Nair
A beautiful narrative which portrays a warm relationship between a septuagenarian couple in a small village in Kerala.A romance more lively than the younger ones generally which come across in movies.The theme's simple and humorous and has an ethereal charm to it without resorting to any cliches.

4.Thazhvaram (Valley)
Starring: Mohan Lal,Sumalatha,Salim Ghouse
Director/Writer:Bharathan/M T Vasudevan Nair
A revenge drama but taken in style.MTs script weaves a suspense thriller set in the high ranges and has a very Western craggy look to it,the Clint Eastwood types.The protaganist goes in search of the man who has destroyed his family and business.A tight script which keeps one close to the edge of one's seat and music which adds to the tension.It is reportedly inspired conceptually in parts by Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water; a detailed review provided here.

5.Sadayam (With sympathy)
Starring: Mohan Lal,Mathu
Director/Writer:Sibi Malayil/M T Vasudevan Nair
A tragic tale of helplessness where death is the only solution.A brilliant performance by the protaganist who stays cold and almost emotionless throughout but conveys his angst in his actions.In order to rescue four children from society's lust, he does the only thing he thinks he can do - he kills them.Very little humour but even the humour presented is cruel(like the quality of rope used for hanging etc).

6.Piravi (Birth)

Starring: Premji
Director/Writer:Shaji Karun
Shaji Karun's ode to the Rajan murder case set in the era of Emergency.Shaji as the old man conveys that deep sense of loss but a sense of hope that his son will return one day.Haunting images of the monsoon and the cinematography take the movie to a different plane.Shaji's film was widely accliamed and won awards in many film festivals,including Cannes.

7.Amrutham Gamaya (To Eternity)

Starring: Mohan Lal,Geeta, Parvathy
Director/Writer:Hariharan/M T Vasudevan Nair
A young man is out to make amends for his errors in life.He's responsible for the death of one of his juniors in a ragging session and tries to help out the poor family by educating his junior' s sister.Mohan Lal gives a brilliant performance as a guilt-ridden doctor also torn between his beloved and his conscience, in the backdrop of medical ethics.

8.Panchavadi Paalam (Panchavati Bridge)
Starring: Bharath Gopi,Innocent,Jagadish and others.
Director:K G George
A fantastic political satire which probably never got the due recognition it should have because it was not successful(wonder why).The story of corruption involved in the construction of a bridge in a small village is a minor classic and covers almost every inch of the political spectrum. It has a brilliant ending - the bridge collapses on its inaugration but everyone escapes except Srinivasan,who plays/represents the common man in the movie. Kundan Shah's "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron" may have won much acclaim but it pales in comparision with George's spectacle.

9.Varavelpu (The Reception)

Starring: Mohan Lal,Revathy
Director/Writer:Satyan Anthikad
A tragi-comic look at Trade Unionism in Kerala.The protaganist comes back from Dubai to put all his earnings in a bus transport business.The unionism kills his efforts and he goes back to the Gulf,a broken man.The director uses humour to tone down the tragic undertones of the movie.The movie was referred to by Vajpayee in one of his speeches.

10.Vadakka Nokiya Yanthram (Magnetic Compass)

Starring: Srinivasan,Parvathy
A semi-tragic tale of a person with low self-esteem.He suspects his beautiful wife and goes to all extremes till he finally lands into an asylum.We are left in doubt at the end if he's fully cured as we watch the ending- another directorial touch,probably.A brilliant directorial debut by Srinivasan;a self-deprecating sense of humour to convey a serious situation.

Tackling Corruption in India

Corruption is a very hackneyed topic but then this is always very contemporary and concerns and affects everyone. In one of my groups I was asked to give my views on this, so I thought I should probably get this across through my blog.

I have tried to be as incorruptible as possible till now but then it's easy to do so when you are not in any position to take money. But last month, when I had to get a passport, I had to shell out 200 bucks to the cop. I still feel bad about that but I was told that this is the only way to get it done or I may have to be stuck up with permanent cop problems in life for passport issues. I could have taken this difficult route but I decided to compromise and this is what many of us do - a sad state of affairs I guess.

The best way to reduce corruption (elimination is not possible - one of the seven deadly sins) is probably greater transparency in functioning and elimination of redundant laws/procedures which we have been stuck up with since time immemorial. A simple example - Passport application forms can be now downloaded directly from the website and submitted at any of the e-seva counters in Hyderabad. This has reduced the scope of shady middlemen trying to cut corners in front of the passport office; a classic, simple technology driven initiative in tackling corruption and reducing lead time for the customer. The Right to Information Act is an important right given to us (though many of us are probably unaware of this) to seek clarifications on various matters of public information. Every time you visit a public office, you get caught in a mire of disgusting lethargy and corruption (all in the name of rules and public welfare) aimed to wear you out till you finally part with some money. The Govt. is to be blamed for still following anachronistic rules created in the British era (Eg.Indian Telegraph Act of 1885) and not looking at simpler rules.

Sometimes, we get carried away with the issues involved and look at radical measure like doing away with politicians but hey,the world needs every one and we must look at feasible solutions that can actually help. After all most naxalite movements probably started with all noble aims but now, most of them have become reduced to proxy terrorist organisations funded by unscrupulous elements. They no longer have any nobility attached to them and are guided solely by power and greed.

I would like to give 10 suggestions on how things can improve w.r.t corruption in India.

1. Greater transparency in Govt. rules
2. Decentralization of processes and funds (Reduction of dependency on bureaucrats for everything)
3. Replacement of archaic laws with more contemporary thinking
4. Reduced role of government in market (Privatization and disinvestment)
5. Faster judiciary resolution
6. Greater Technology usage (Reduction of dependency on humans)
7. A performance based appraisal in the bureaucracy (to focus on accountability)
8. Retirement age in politics
9. State Funding of elections with proper accounting norms (Can try to attack business-politicians nexus)
10. Technocrats replacing bureaucrats (Eg. How does an IAS officer judge if a scientific project requires funds?)

We cannot at the same time absolve ourselves of any responsibility. After all, the entire giver is also responsible if not as much as the taker in all corruption cases. Mindsets have become so cynical that we have come to believe that it is not possible to get things to happen without paying. Are we ready to tackle this issue head on and not be party to something that has slowly become a part of our culture? Every time a chowkidar or postman gives that smile asking for a noble donation,we succumb to it.Can we handle this issue even at such a low level before we look at some radical top-down approach? Let's try to reform ourseleves and every example we set may convince someone else that it's possible to live in this manner.

Mumbai Blasts - It hurts

Maybe it's lack of work or a sense of pathos I cannot explain but I have tried to put down my thoughts on the Mumbai tragedy....... This is a heart-felt anguish...

It was 6.30 in the evening as I got down from my company bus and walked back home, thinking on what to write for my article on Zizou and his Golden F(B)all, when I heard the news – bomb blasts rip through Mumbai. Seven blasts ripped through the Western Railway line right from Borivili to Matunga. About 30 were expected dead (initial reports) and all communication lines were jammed. Just for a second, I thanked my stars that I had left Mumbai 2 months back to come back to my home town Hyderabad. But then thoughts went back to the place that I had started my career in and where I put in 2 yrs of my life.

If one has not lived in Mumbai, one cannot imagine the extent to which the city lives in its local trains. The local train is densely populated and people just fight their way through it day in and day out through the teeming millions. Many office goers leave office late just to avoid being caught in the notorious crowds. I always felt that at the end of the day as I reached my house in Powai wading through the masses, I had successfully completed a Mission Impossible Act (without the special effects). Somehow, all this came back very strongly in my mind as I went through the various news items describing the dastardly act executed by a set of lunatics. They struck where it makes the best logistic strike at the nerve centre of the city, causing maximum damage with minimum ammunition. One shudders to think how many more would have died or been injured in the subsequent stampede that resulted.

My heart goes out to Mumbai as it seems forsaken by almost every element under the sun. First, it witnessed the water-logging fiasco and then the Shiv Sena thugs decided to have a party at the expense of others and now this. Ofcourse, every story talks about the spirit of the Mumbaikars in handling all these events but then that’s more a case of making a virtue out of a necessity. Does Mumbai deserve all this? Nature, society, terrorists everyone’s bunny target, it seems. I suddenly feel a sense of being away from home in the midst of all this.

Investigations would, eventually, reveal the hand of some fundamentalist group but we must be careful not to allow the situation to go out of control. Remember, the 93’ Mumbai blasts was a pre-cursor to all the riots that took place. It is imperative not to allow such a situation to develop once again. Any such violent retribution is no solution; it only widens the barricades we have built between communities. This time it's Mumbai; it could be anywhere tomorrow.........

There’s a sense of helplessness, anguish, grief and anger as I see the news. The earlier blasts did not make me realize the extent of damage (physical and psychological) this may have created but having lived in the city now; there is a sense of outrage and grief at having one of my homes attacked so brutally. The only things I could do are to call people, mail them, perform a silent prayer and probably put down my thoughts to paper and that’s what I am doing – pouring at my anguish against the perpetuation of cruelty by the bloody terrorists. It may be taking time out of our schedules and office work but I think it’s worth it; it feels lighter now………