The miles to go before I sleep...

  • Start teaching science at school and incorporate demo
  • Research, design, implement comprehensive teaching module on science, civic sense
  • Interview social change agents working @ ground level
  • Pilot peer-to-peer teaching programme

Friday, November 10, 2006

Two hours worth re-living

Saturday November 4th was a day apart in my life. To see my 3-month long planning, co-ordination, team-work and transform into productive result was a totally new experience. On that day, aided by inputs from all directions and all kinds of people, starting from my brother to a colleague who I have met just five times in my year of service, my team of five, responsible for community relations demonstrated chosen fundamental concepts of physics to students of a local government school called Zilla Parishad High School at Rasoolpura.

Located at the centre of a slum, the school was doomed to serve as a garbage dump yard for sometime, with no government appointed teachers. Then Bhumi, an NGO adopted the "school" to ressurrect the school within. Now, with the classes going on regularly, it presented an apt time for some hands-on experience.

We waited for the regular classes to complete, at the principal's office adorned by the portrait of iconic national leaders like Nehru, Gandhi and Sarvappali Radhakrishnan. We pointed our digital cameras at one another in an attempt to kill time, at the sight of which the Bhumi volunteer who escorted us was visibly disgruntled.

Shortly thereafter, a teacher called us to take the centre stage. We had everything chalked out. Who conducts the demo, who takes care of the logistics, who video tapes the show (that part was mine!), and who aids the person conducting the demo. To conduct the demo was all that was left to be done. For a moment, the whole thing seemed to have come to a standstill. Not too long ago, it was just a distant dream to create awareness, the lack of which, I was totally convinced, is the real handicap of the Indian society. Every other malady is only incidental. Now we are seconds away from turning the dream into a reality.

As the proceedings began with student-introductions wherein they convey their future ambitions, I realised that this is the first and only action of my life a direct and sole of my core belief. Nobody prodding, no peer-pressure, just the purpose. My team is directly addressing the fundamental problem of the society. I remembered the lines from the prayer we used to chant at school without sensitivity to its meaning.

Asato maa satgamaya....
Thamaso maa Jyothirgamaya....
Mrutyour maa amritamgamaya....

(Lead us from untruth to truth...
Lead us from darkness to light...
Lead us from mortality to immortality..)

I was fast losing the grip on myself as a sudden surge of emotion embraced me. It was hard to focus as I watched the proceedings through the LCD of the video camera. The wall opposing the black board had a painting of a map of India, not perfectly drawn to scale, but embedded on to the national flag and topped with "I love my India". I turned my camera on to it and focussed my mind.

As I got back to reality, the modest ambition of one to be a teacher caught my attention. The reason she gave was captivating. She wanted to transfer whatever she had learnt without which, she averred, her knowledge would be of no use. As the focus shifted from introductions to the demonstration of the concepts, some of my long-held specious notions melted away. The intensity with which they focussed on the demonstration, the detail with which they took note of key points and the approving nod when they understood the concept are all the demonstrative of the dream already being slowly fulfilled, the purpose already being served. I experienced the true sense of accomplishment for the first time.

When the demonstration was over after a two hour marathon and the geometry instrument boxes were distributed as an incentive to show interest in such demonstrations. I went up to the the Bhumi volunteer, who was earlier disgruntled at the photo session, with some hopes of mollifying him and said "Thank you very much for the opportunity!"

He said, "I work at an MNC too and I was always disillusioned at the fact that how less MNCs concentrate on social responsibility. What your team has done is very pleasantly surprising. I should be the one who should thank you."

There is a lot of things that I have learned. To name just one, working at the grass-roots level rewards richly, but focuses on very few. Hopefully this effort will gather momentum, grow in stature and address more concerns on awareness (other than science like First-Aid, hygiene, social responsibility to name a few). Then the challenge would be to characterise this team as the institution built by Gandhi. He inspired peoples of different walks in millions. Yet he was accessible to a common man. All his initiatives addressed the grass-roots.

A lot was taught, a lot was learnt and a lot of emotions experienced. Truly, it was two hours worth re-living.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What a Tamilan won't admit to a northie..

Tulip Manohar Hotel, Hyderabad
There was an employees party in our company within weeks of my joining the company. A group of us, all non-Tamil speaking were chatting in Hindi as a few of us waited for our cab to arrive. Another Tamil speaking colleague of mine came over to me with something in mind that clearly bother him. He asked,

"What were you doing before taking up this job?"
"Studying...", I said.
"How did you know Hindi then?" was his immediate reaction.
I said, " I studied Hindi at school and I have a handful of Hindi-speaking friends from my Master's"

Satyam Theatre Complex, Chennai
I was standing in queue to buy tickets for Mask of Zorro II talking with my friend Srivatsan . Two Hindi-speaking guys behind us were hurriedly discussing on deciding a movie.

"Garam Masaala ka ticket miltha hai kya?" said one.
"Patha nahi..age poocho!" said the other.
He patted my shoulder and asked "Bhai saab....Garam Masala they issuing tickets for Garam masala in the counter?"
I scaned the counter for sometime and said "Abhi jo ticket Kharid ke gaya tha, woh wohi tickets kharid raha tha. Tho...shaayad tickets hai" and gave him a smile.
Even as he looked at me as though he just witnessed a day-light murder, the guy in the next queue (with tamilian written all over his face with vibooti) quickly flashed an instinctive surprised look at me before he turned away pretending not to have heard me speak Hindi.

My own close friend says "Hey cool man, you speak such a fluent Hindi though I studied Hindi for longer than you did"

These are just a few of the numerous instances of what tamilians truly feel at the bottom of their heart about Hindi as a language.

A Tamilian envies another Tamilian who can speak fluent Hindi.

A Tamilan has a bad opinion about the Hindi-speaking community. But given a choice (not a compulsion), he is more likely to learn Hindi than not.

These are two facts that no tamilian will admit to during a war-for-self-respect against a hostile hindi-speaking foe.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Innovation in cellular phone

I used to have a classmate at college from the middle-east whose name goes like this...Abdullah-bin-juma-bin-ali-al-mashrufi! Phewwwww (Now I don't know about the spelling, but that is phonetically correct!). Now it is implied that he is one filthy rich fellow. He was the only guy to flaunt a cellular phone. It was way back in the previous century you see..(1999). (God know how many girls he pocketed with that glittering useless piece!).

I still remmeber that day when my professor, in his resplendent oiled, bald head and three parallel lines of vibooti across his fore-head was going about his mathematics like a bullet train speeding towards Tokyo, when all of a sudden there was a deafening "HELLO" from the back of the room brought him to a screeching halt. The whole class skipped a heart-beat on what it saw next. Abdullah walked right across the class towards the exit, one hand holding the cellphone to his ear and the other hand showing a "excuse-me" to my professor without even waiting for his permission.

Its not secret that, since then the growth of cellular phone has been phenomenal! I can only imagine what my poor professor would have gone through after that. If he has not yet retired, I am sure this is a very good reason to hang is old, worn-out boots!

Features like FM radios and built-in cameras are pointed for the increased the price (over those that don't have them). But they are classic examples of nuisance value (thanks to Sadhu Agashe (Ab Tak Chappan). One pays at least a Rs1000 extra to get a built-in camera that takes very low quality pictures that she can't really transfer if she doesn't buy a transfer cable for another thousand and odd rupees. FM radios are not as bad, but pose a serious traffic hazard.

Ask anybody who has headed a meeting or delivered a presentation before "What irritates you the most while you are yelling at the top of your lungs", the answer will be "cell phones". Isn't it time for the cell phone makers to do something about this? Well, cell phones have built in calendars and I am sure people set meeting reminders about 10-15 minutes before the start right. So, it can't be that hard to set an auto-vibrate mode. Isn't it a good marketable feature, and unlike the earlier additional feature, useful?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

கீர்த்தி பெருசு...

1980. வெங்கட்ராகவையா, 56 மற்றும் சிவானந்த், 55. ஊழியர்கள், கனரா வங்கி, பெங்களூர்.

அருகில் இருந்த மின் விசிரி அயராமல் வெங்கட்டின் கரிய, அடர்ந்த தலைமுடியைக் கலைத்துக் கொண்டிருக்க, தன் முன் இருந்த ரெஜிஸ்டரில் அவசரமாக ஏதோ எழுதிக்கொண்டே தன் எடது கையைப் பார்த்தார். 12:30 இருக்கும் என்று தன் வயிறு காட்டிய மணியை 12:38 கை கடிகாரம் சரி செய்தது.

"ஸ்ஸ்ஸ்" என்றப்டியே பேனாவைக் கீழே வைத்துவிட்டு சிவானநத் இருக்கும் இடத்தை நோக்கி "சிவா!" என்றார். சிவா அவர் வழக்கமான அழைப்பின் நோக்கத்தைப் புரிந்து கொண்டு

"இன்னிக்கி நான் lunch எடுத்துட்டு வரலை. ஹோட்டலுக்குப் போய்தான் சாப்பிடணும்" என்று ஒரு புது அரட்டையைத் துவக்கினார் வெங்கட்.

"அட! நானும்தான்! வா போகலாம்"

ஹோட்டலில் இரண்டு "மீல்ஸ்" சொல்லிவிட்டு "அப்ரம்" என்றர்போல் எதிரே உட்கார்ந்து கொண்டு சில நொடிகள் ஒருவரை ஒருவர் பார்த்துக் கொண்டனர்.

"இந்த காலத்துப் பசங்களுக்கு கொஞ்ச்ம் கூட பொருப்பே இல்லை." என்று அமைதியைக் கலைத்தார் சிறிது கவலையாகக் காணப்பட்ட வெங்கட்.

"என்ன விஷயம்?" என்று சிவா நோண்ட,

"எல்லாம் என் பையன் விஷயம்தான்" என்று சலித்துக் கொண்டார்.

"அவனுக்கென்னன? IITல படிப்பை முடிச்சு ஒரு நல்ல வேலைல இருக்கான். கல்யாணமும் ஆகிடுச்சு. பேரன் ஒண்ணுதான் பாக்கி! இன்னும் என்ன கவலை? குழந்தை விஷ்யத்துல எதாவது முரண்டு பிடிக்கரானா?"

"இல்லை அதைப் பத்தியெல்லாம் என் பொண்டாட்டிதான் கவலைப் படுவா. நான் இல்லை"


"நல்ல வேலையில் இருக்கன்னு சொன்னியே, அதுல தான் ப்ரச்சனை! அதை விடப்போரானாம்!"

(ஹோட்டல் "தம்பி" வநது இலையைப் போட தண்ணீர் தளித்து விட்டு சாப்பிடத் தயாரானார்கள்)

"என்னது வேலைய விடப்போரானா? நல்லாதானே சம்பாதிக்கறான்? அப்ரம் என்னவாம்? வேற வேலை கிடைச்சுதா என்ன? (செர்வரிடம்) போரும்பா!"

"சம்பளத்துக்கொண்ணும் குறைச்சல் இல்லை! 5000 ரூபாய். ஆனா என்னமோ computer business பண்ணப்போறானாம்"

"computer business-ஆ? தனியாவா?"

"இல்லை! ஏதோ ஒரு உதவாகரையோட. அவன் மொதல்ல இங்க அஹமதாபாத்ல எதோ computer தட்டிகிட்டுருந்தானாம். அப்ரம் france போய் அங்க கொஞ்ச நாள் குப்பை கொட்டிகிட்டிருந்தான்! இப்போ அதையும் விட்டுட்டு இங்க வநது company start பண்ணப் போறானாம். அதுக்கு நம்ம ஆளு மண்டையாட்டி இருக்கார்."

"(ஏப்பம்) அய்யோ! இப்படி ஒரு இடத்துல நிலையா இல்லாம யாராவது தாண்டுவாங்ளா என்ன? சரி business-கு காசு?"

"அதை ஏன் கேக்கரை? அவன் wife பணம்! வெக்கமில்லாம கடன் வாங்கிருக்கான். கஷ்ட்டம்!"

"அடக் கடவுளே! இது எங்கயாவது பார்த்ததுண்டா?"

"அவனை விடு! என்க்கு என் பையனைப் பத்தி கவலை. இவன் முடிவா இருக்கான். என்ன IIT-ல படிச்சு என்ன ப்ரயோஜனம்? மூளை இல்லயே? இன்னும் கொஞ்ச நாளில் இவன் friend இதையும் விடப்போறான்! இவன் தெருவில் நிக்கப் போறான்! அதுதான் ஆகப் போறது"(தண்ணீர் குடிக்கிறார்)
(செர்வரிடம்) "கொஞ்சம் மோர் ஊத்துப்பா! "

"இந்த காலத்துப் பசங்க.....(யோசிக்கிறார் சிவாநந்த்) "நான் வேணும்னா பேசிப் பாக்கறேனே?!"

"அவன் கேக்கமாட்டான்! எதுக்கு வீணா?" (ஏப்பம்)

Bill வந்தது. நான் pay பண்றேன் என்று சிவானந்த் purse-ஐ எடுத்து பணம் செலுத்தினார்.


வெங்கட் மண்டையையட்ட, ஒருசேர எழுந்தார்கள். ஹோட்டல் வாசலையடைந்ததும், திடீரென்று வெளிச்சம் மார அரைத்தூக்கத்திலிருந்து எழுப்பப் பட்டவன் போல் சட்டென்று பேசத் தொடங்கினார் சிவானந்த்"

"இல்லை நான் பேசறேன் உன் பையனிடம். இந்த sunday வீட்ல இருப்பானா?"


"அப்போ அன்னிக்கே வறேன்!"

"ஏதோ! உன் இஷ்டம்!"

"நீ அந்தப் பையனை பாத்தியா?"

"யாரு அந்த Business idea கொடுத்தவனையா? ம்ம்ம்ம். ஒண்ட்ரை கண்ணும் அதுவுமா, பார்த்தாலே நம்பிக்கையே வரலை!" என்று வெங்கட் அலுத்துக்கொள்ளவும், இருவரும் office உள்ளே நுழையவும் சரியாக இருந்தது. வெங்கட் "சரி! பாப்போம்" என்றார்.

"ம்ம்ம்...." என்று கூறி, பிரியும் தருவாயில் ....

"அந்தப் பைய்யன் பெயர் என்ன கேட்டியா?" என்றார் சிவா.

"ம்ம்ம்ம்....நாராயண மூர்த்தி"

Friday, August 04, 2006

Why should a politician be selfless?

During the last monsoon season, tamil magazines and newspapers carried baffling pictures displaying flood playing havoc all over Tamil Nadu, especially in southern regions. One carried an overflowing Cauvery with a message saying that, the last time it was this full was about 5000 years ago! I to read the number twice or thrice to believe it.

The temple town of Srirangam, sandwitched between the overflowing Cauvery and Kollidam rivers, was in all danger of being submerged fully due to incessent rains and unprecedented flood in Cauvery. The only apart from the eventual subsidence of the rains is Jayalalitha's quick and proactive measure to save the city. That her measures, not just in Trichy, but all over Tamil Nadu was commendable is an undisputed fact substantiated by neutral and reputed news sources like NDTV. Barely six months later, AIADMK bit the dust in the Tamil Nadu Assembly elecitons when its coalation won less the half the number of seats than DMK. For what reasons? Karunanidhi offered TV sets and reduced the price of rice if people voted to him!

There is something to think about. The common man has so much to complain about the government. Corrupt politicians, innefficient administration, lacklusture infrastructure development are common-place in a such discussion. The question is, what about the things that the government does? Are people sensitive enough to appreciate it with the same conviction as they complained? Honestly, I don't say that Jayalalitha is any more righteous than Karunanidhi. I don't say that the people should have brought her back to power. But I can definitely say that when a government does a good job, it can guarantee itself almost nothing.

I can say that Jayalalitha would have learnt her lessons well. She would completely to me when I say that show-biz techniques and impossible assurances a month before the election gets you vote - the incentive for a political party to work for the people - better than genuine, decisive and proactive efforts. More likely than not, DMK's time will come, if they have not learnt that from AIADMK's loss.

People are not only dumb (as exemplified by the fact that they voted for DMK simply because Film Actor Rajinikanth commented against Jayalalitha in an earlier version election), they are also suffer from insensitivity, selective amnesia, and - like the politicians themselves - greed for personal incentives rather than a long-term social vision. Everybody works for an incentive. Everybody works better if the work is appreciated. Why should a politician be any more selfless?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Weighing democracy against autocracy

I am just thinking aloud here. One thing is clear. A country's status (std. of living, economy...etc) almost solely depends on the entity in control. So, hypothetically if a country with a well-educated mass is ruled by a not-so-educated military ruler or an autocratic king, chances are the country will digress, simply because the well-educated simply don't have a say. On the other hand, if the government is democratic, there are more opportunities for the well-educated to participate. One crucial element for good participation is the collective cognizance of the need to participate and the will to take a stand. But when the will is there, the passage is easy in a democracy than dictatorship or autocracy, since the only way for an autocracy to progress is the will of the entity in power and not the mass.

What if the mass is not so well-educated? Here things are going to get messy (like it is in India?). I gather that in a democracy the society finds an equilibrium at a certain level (mostly very low). But if the rule is going to be stable, the society is bound to progress at its own pace. Slow or fast again depends on the will of the mass. But the condition in an autocracy is likely to be worse, because the entity in rule is going to make the most out of the limited resources and, with nobody to oppose (political party or "free" press) will likely just sit pretty. It will take a "revolutionary" like Su Kyi for instance to go through hell and the rest is left to chance.

It looks like I will choose a stinking democracy to a stinking autocracy. What if the country is rich? What would I choose then? Probably democracy. What would happen to Pak. if Musharaf is killed? Scary! Democracy, I think, has the cushion to take the shock.

And communism:
1. My friend who fled Vietnam to US narrated how difficult it was to purchase a TV there. They had to fill out a an application book rather than a form to seek government's permission (and pay the bribe, of course!) and keep your fingers crossed for a month or two for approval. It sounds more like waiting for IIT-JEE results. Well, may be it was the communism of yester-years. How about today?

2. I read a centre-page article in The Hindu today. It basically said, China is aging fast. So, the government is thinking of "allowing" people of certain well-developed cities Shanghai and people above a certain economic status to have a second kid. The government decides on how many kids I can have and is thinking of increasing it by one! How magnanimous!

Democracy is what I will choose. For if the rule is bad, there is still hope. If the rule is good, nothing like it. I doubt if I can say that about an autocracy or communism.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Right To Information

When I saw the movie Mudhalvan (Nayak in Hindi), I loved the movie inspite of me. The elegance of a grim-faced Arjun leaving the place after removing an erring government officer on the spot and the sense of purpose with which he announces the introduction of "complaint box" irresistibly touched my what-if-it-happens-for-real sentiment. But I was under no illusion about the tenacity of the Indian govt. officials and their ability to stick to their strength. They always win and walk away with the money they didn't earn. Our money. I really wished for a Senapathi (Kamal Hassan in Indian) clad INA uniform with a knife on hand to walk in front of them. Movies! They always falter to deceive.

But after being trapped in this dark cave of corruption, Indian people have possibly found a crack through which filters the ray of hope! I got to know about the Right To Information through NDTV and looking at the reports it seems to be working at least for some! Most of the revolutionising changes in the society occur due to evolutionary measures. The key for RTI to succeed in a society full of corrupt officials and submissive citizens like ours is awareness. So, here is my two cents (paisas rather!)

What is RTI? Thanks to the sincere efforts of a fellow blogger
RTI Blog: Reports and success stories influenced by RTI.

What else is left? The only thing that has been left for so long. For us to know our rights and exercise them. This is a good chance to redeem ourselves from our own servants. Oh! Before I forget.... Well done NDTV!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Media Exposed: Rakhi Sawant case

I know! You guys are thinking "As if the media is not enough, here is another blogger who is wasting his time and reader's time to come up with the crap about Justice to Rakhi Sawant". Hey, I am one of you too! Rakhi doesn't deserve the air time or the page-space because she managed to show-off her assets in discotheque-targetting "item songs" and she ended up getting molested. But there is another angle that I am trying to see.

Allow me to start from the beginning. I have a sensation-stuck room-mate who sticks to Star-News and its totally irrelevant and senstionalistic news reports for his worldy no-ledge (thanks to D.N.A.). As a surprise to nobody, Star News dedicated its prime air time to this. It showed footage of Rakhi offering a friendly kiss to Mika on his cheek as a split-screen along with another footage of Mika returning it to her on her cheek in a slow motion to let it sink into the audience. I thought "And she is filing a molestation charge against him?".

But the opinion in equally sensationalistic Outlook magazine along with the pictures published exposes (better than Rakhi herself!) the collective media irresponsibility. As claimed by the article, the media (CNN-IBN, Star News...) neither published the photograph published in Outlook, nor clearly indicated that the footage shown on TV was the one that Rakhi was complaining about.

The reason may be many things, plain want of time dedicated to news, predetermined notion on part of media that Rakhi is after cheap publicity (as claimed by Outlook). But the reasons don't matter. The fact remains that the news report has given a biased angle to viewers.

Again, the specific news report by itself is insignificant since it doesn't affect the greater good of the society. But this fact is only more concerning than relieving. What about all the issues that do concern the society and the public opinion does matter? How am I to expect objective and accurate news.

My hopes are already dampened by The Hindu Group .It abased itself by heaping up tonnes of totally biased pro-reservation views in all its publications, but not finding space for single article on its down-sides.

Media: Shame on you!


Friday, June 09, 2006


It is around 3 O'clock in the afternoon and it is hard to stay awake, let alone focus on work. But this situation occurs so often that everyone knows the remedy to it. Coffee! This is probably the sole reason why people in our site are as active as they are after lunch. Employees in Synopsys, Hyderabad are diverse not only in culture, but also in habituation to coffee. Some totally refrain from coffee, while some practically live on it. Some prefer tea, while some enjoy both alike.

What one prefers is one's choice. But the reasons behind the choice is interesting and worthy of a discussion. An employee of Synopsys Hyderabad who consciously refrains from coffee, says, "I don't want to drink coffee because it is addictive." So, how true are such common notions about coffee? A quick search in the internet shows that coffee is hot! as a topic of discussion, that is. News articles on latest scientific findings, dedicated websites for awareness about coffee, recipes for various purposes like pre-workout nourishment and stress reduction are common search results on coffee. Like any thing famous, controversy and sensationalism afflicts coffee's reputation, but truth emerges quickly with some patient research.


The most widely "known" opinion about coffee is probably coffee's "addictive" nature. After all every one knows that coffee (or the lack of it) causes headache. World Health Organization admits that it happens to "some sensitive individuals" who may "experience such effects when their daily intake is quickly and substantially altered. But any such effect is always overcome by progressively reducing the intake of coffee over a few days." So, moderation, rather than abstinence, will suffice.

Coffee and Cancer:

If research is to be trusted, coffee has a love-hate relations

hip with cancer. One Japanese research published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute says that two to three cups of coffee helps reducing the risk of liver cancer. On the other hand, a research publication in Chronic Diseases in Canada links coffeewith risks in bladder cancer with four cups of coffee per day. For women, the same amount of coffee may increase the risk of breast cancer.

A little effort beyond casual "google-ing" brings out the truth about coffee's relationship with cancer. While certain research studies categorically vindicate coffee from its perceived ill-effects, a few others that eulogize coffee's effects are based on possibilities, rather than scientific proof. For instance, a research article involving researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, (the top ranked cancer institute according to US News) concludes that "consumption of coffee does not influence the incidence of breast cancer."[1] On the other hand, if we consider coffee's "capabilities" on curing liver cancer, according to reports in MSNBC, the Japanese researchers have tested two groups of 100,000 people. One group "never or almost never drank coffee", while the other group drank coffee regularly. They found that the first group had 547 individuals with liver cancer after 11 years of observation. In the same period, the second group produced only about 215 with liver cancer. So, they concluded that, coffee may be responsible for preventing liver cancer. But MSNBC followed the news up with this.

"While the study found a statistically significant relationship between drinking coffee and having less liver cancer, the authors note that it needs to be repeated in other groups. And the reason for the reduction remains unclear."[2]

With no scientific evidence relating coffee to reduction of liver cancer, the conclusions of this research cannot be a convincing proof for coffee's benign effects.

Another angle:

Looking at the issue from a different perspective, coffee's effect on a healthy individual, malign or benign, usually shows up when the consumption is four cups or more. For instance, coffee's possible contribution to bladder cancer is prominent only when an average four cups are consumed per day. Similar observations are made on rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Another research claims that six cups of coffee a day reduces the chance of Type 2 diabetes by 50% (University of Harvard Medical School). So, it may be safely assumed that a moderate coffee consumption of 2 to 3 cups a day will be non-intrusive.

Popular truth:

However, not all the popular notions about coffee are false. Coffee increases mental alertness, but excess coffee causes insomnia and indigestion. If coffee is loaded up with sugar and creamer, over a period of time, it increases the LDL cholesterol level and hence the chances of diabetes. Hypertensive individuals are especially prone to increased blood pressure.

Bottom line:

Most of the research studies linking coffee to a disease don't go beyond establishing a possible statistical correlation. Alternatively, research pointing to coffee's beneficial effects mostly point out that such effects are prominent only if the intake is high. If you avoid coffee thinking that it will shorten you lifespan, you are a victim of media hype and unsubstantiated rumors. A cup or two of coffee per day is non-intrusive to a healthy person, save its mouth-watering aroma and a taste that lives up to the expectation its aroma generates. But to avoid the short-term effects (insomnia etc.) moderation is the key.




Further read:

Monday, May 15, 2006

Of reservation and relevance

A social worker working for the upliftment of SC/ST (who I happened to meet in train from Chennai to Hyderabad) told me how difficult it is bring them to school. We all know about how bad India is in literacy. I think the case is stronger to push mandatory school level education across all social classes. But I don'’t see it being discussed anywhere at all. Reservation should not be handled as a separate issue. It is my opinion that if you get enough people from all across the society into 12th, and bring about reforms so that at 12th pass-out can actually earn his living, reservation based on any parameter (like social or economic status) can be made totally irrelevant.

I have seen this work in the US. If you see the percentage of high school graduates going directly to college, it was close to 18% the last I heard (about a year ago). But there is so many jobs a 12th pass-out can do to earn his living and save for college. A lot of people go back to college education (both bachelors and masters) after working for some time. So, the real question that we should as ourselves (or the govt. to itself) is "What reforms can be done to give jobs to high school grads". I wish I can answer this question. But it is worthier spending time on this issue. Of course, to stop at school level is a taboo today. But once relatively better earning jobs are available after school education this will change, especially if the worth (interms of earnings) of college education is projected, this taboo will fizzle away. Well the idea is arguable. That is precisely why it is brought to discussion OverTea.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Indias Identity

The colour of India is its Identity. It's the religious tolerance and multi cultural characteristics defines it. If you impose Hindi/Hindusim, then you are breaking the foundation of Indian civilization. I don't know Hindi, but I am still able to live happily in India. My muslim friends are able to live happily in India without knowing the concepts of Hinduism. By practising different culture, we are reinforcing its identity. Western nations have just become democratic but we were always democratic. Proud to be an Indian because we know democracy from time immemorial and we are still surviving. Please dont play with the foundation, because one billion people live on top of it.

Guest post by,
Prakash Gomathinayagam

Monday, April 24, 2006

Of liberalism and conservatism

It is now cliche to talk at lengths about Information Technology and how it has turned India's image and lifestyle on its head. So, let's cut it short.

Post-recession era - "India Shining" - Lots of money and spending mood with middle class - we are a big global market.

Indirect gainer of this feel-good factor is the entertainment industry. It has capitalized on the sudden inflow of money and seemingly consequent liberal attitude among people, to come up with tons of sexually explicit Hollywood lift-offs in the name of diversifying into relatively bolder subjects like infidelity (ex: Murder) and homosexuality. Thanks to Mahesh Bhatt and few other copy machines, we have nearly a hundred hot girls who are willing to strip and Emran Hashmi who is kind enough to smooch them at least two at time in every movie.

Ten years ago, the same thing would have raised a few eye-brows. Today, be it the curious kid, the restless teen, the cool collegian or the nostalgic middle-aged, all take it in their stride. If they do mind they don't come up with their objection very publicly. So that brings us to the question of interest in the discussion OverTea. Are we a liberal society?

What is liberalism? The idea that has freedom as its core. A liberal living is a life according to ones own freedom, provided it respects others.

What is conservatism? A idea of discipline and convention. A conservative, leads a life that conforms to specific rules, mostly drawn by religion and to a lesser extent, but still significantly drawn by the society.

If we view the Indian society in the light of the above definitions, the truth becomes evident, especially if we ask ourselves certain questions.

- How prevalent and welcome is inter-caste and inter-religious marriage in our society?
- How are a certain sections of our community like homosexuals, AIDS patients treated? Do they feel important in the society?
- How tolerant are we to ways of living that we don't really understand or agree to?
( A good example is the traditional Tamil Nadu Vs Rest of India cold-war)
- How much freedom does the female community enjoy when compared to the male community?
- How many physically challenged people enjoy the same level of independence and mental well-being as a normal person?
- How many adopted children are adopted by potent couples?

None of the above questions evoke a positive answer. In all the above questions, some one's freedom (inter-religious love-birds, women, homosexuals, etc) is over-ridden by some rule (marriage within community, having an opposite sex partner, "all should know Hindi" or "I wont speak in Hindi even if I know it", "Women should be more disciplined than men").

So, my take is that we are far from a liberal society. If we assume ourselves to be a liberal society based on the increasing number of pubs and modern ways of dressing, I am afraid we lack reasoning. Of course, social drinking and liberal dressing are constituent of a liberal society, but such aspects are not substantive to liberalism. In our case, those are just effects of media-driven fashion trends and half-baked knowledge about the western culture. Such aspects are not necessarily wrong, or as conservative extremists may say, destructive to Indian culture. But it is not very progressive either.

The day when it is common for a totally potent couple wants to adopt a child, and is not opposed by the immediate relatives (thus granting them total freedom) is when the society is liberal. The day when a physically challenged person enjoys the freedom to move around with minimal or no help, and evokes a feeling that his impairment is no real impairment is the day a society becomes liberal. In short, a society achieves liberalism only when it matures to recognize and encourage a progressive trend especially when such a trend opposes a convention.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Gay association in Chennai: A Reflection

CNN-IBN's report on Official Gay Association in Chennai is significant in two ways.

1. For the first time in India, gays have a chance step out of the closet and lead a normal life. Even possibly increase public awareness. Awareness about what?

- about the fact that being gay is not a choice, but a feature imprinted on ones self at birth, as this article in CBS might indicate. Its as plain as saying "Just like you are attracted towards girls, I am attracted towards guys".

- gays are more criminally inclined when suppressed and ill-treated and the only way to avoid this is to recognize them as normal humans.

For the records, I am not gay! To be honest, (at the expense and getting defensive, and inviting criticisms involving the word "hypocrite") if I know that somebody is gay, I WILL feel awkward and insecure. But the support for gay-rights is as much ingrained in me as the insecure feeling itself. An organization to protect a community marginalized for no conscious fault on its part has to be welcome.

2. The second significance is personal. Chennai is considered by many as a conservative, or worse, an intolerant city (primarily with the ancient anti-Hindi sentiments that filled the air in Tamil Nadu a decade or two ago). In all honesty, Chennai is conservative to a large extent. But, this news report clearly vindicates Chennai from the allegiance that it is intolerant. The limited media coverage has turned out to be fortunate and unfortunate at the same time. Fortunate, since the news has gained enough public image to really interest the self-styled guardians of Tamil Culture. Unfortunate, since if it had gained more national attention, it would have done its bit in bring Chennai's true image to light.

Those who disagree with me and quote the Kushbhoo episode and The Park episode as counter, please consider the fact that the "Dharna" against Khusbhoo was wholly by executed by a caste-based political party which linked her comments to Tamil Culture when Kushbhoo said nothing about it. The Park episode was a misadventure by a small time reporter looking for cheap media publicity and a thoughtless and panicky approach by the government to avoid another controversy. The general public did not participate in both the instances and, more importantly, there was no violence.