In favour of Sanskrit education

I have this in common with the RSS-parivar crowd: I favour Sanskrit education and mandatory reading of ancient epics. Because that may be the only way to counter the Hindu moral brigade.

Consider this (via desipundit): these nitwits are protesting the depiction of Krishna in a dating advertisement; they (the nitwits) define “dating” as “a social vice” and “Obscene behaviour indulged by young girls and boys under the pretext of meeting each other”, and say that “those advocating this concept are launching an attack on our culture.” I don’t know what they understand of the Krishna-Radha legend: did they think that Krishna and Radha were married, or even planning to get married?

Consider this hit job on Leela Samson and Kalakshetra, that I recently linked to: the author says “Teachers hand-picked by [Samson] teach Geeta-Govindam in a very vulgar manner”. Is he aware of the nature of the Gita-Govinda, which tries to “combine religious fervour with eroticism”?

The trouble is that most Indians, me included, learned the epics from our grandmothers or from Amar Chitra Katha, and those versions are — to understate things — Bowdlerised. So we imagine that, for example, Vyasa magically made two queens and a maidservant in Vichitravirya’s court bear children merely by staring at them, while the original Mahabharata has him go to their beds and do things the explicitly biological way.

It’s high time we restored our original Sanskrit epics to their full, uninhibited glory and force-fed them to our RSS-brainwashed public.

Mall pall

This news is very interesting — I seem to have missed it, being away.

The court-mandated sealing of shops in Delhi has been upsetting many people, not just the affected traders. (I previously posted on it here.) Moreover, there were several murmurs that it was being done at the behest of mall developers who felt threatened by small shops.

Now Mid-Day has published a report alleging that the sons of former Chief Justice Y. K. Sabharwal (in whose time the sealing orders came) are business partners of “one of the biggest mall builders in the country.”

If this is true, at the very least he should have recused himself citing conflict of interest.

Mid-Day has been slapped, predictably, with a contempt of court notice — in our country, even criticising a judge is contempt, let alone implicitly questioning his motives. But they promise to fight, and interestingly, say they got their information and evidence from a government web site (the official website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs). And on this occasion, they’ll surely have the support of politicians, of all hues.

As for the contempt question — recently Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju has questioned the relevance of contempt laws, while Parliament has recently amended the Contempt of Courts act to permit truth of the allegations as a valid defence. (Link to Abi’s post on this.) So if Mid-Day can prove its allegations, it may unleash quite a storm. And if the court uses its powers to quash Mid-Day without refuting the allegations, it may well become an international incident.

Bye-bye Sify Broadband

I don’t always believe in naming and shaming, but sometimes it is merited. Besides, it really can’t hurt them in this case.

If you search the net for a good internet service provider in India, Sify will always show up near the bottom of customer opinions. Nevertheless, I stuck with them for the past 2 years for a couple of reasons.

First, at that time they were almost the only option where I live. That is no longer true.

Second, most complaints are about their last-mile service or about the intrusive software they install on windows computers. But my last-mile provider was good and their linux client was not intrusive.

That changed this week.


Date: Sat, 26 May 2007 08:16:50 +0530
From: Rahul Siddharthan
To: xxx@sifycorp.com
Cc: yyy@sifycorp.com
Subject: Goodbye Re: linux client installation steps

Dear Mr XXX and Mr YYY,

You have just lost a customer who has been with you for nearly 2
years. I will be moving to another provider as soon as possible
(probably Airtel or BSNL).

In case you care, the reasons are below, but I'm sure customer
satisfaction is the last thing you care about.

1. Sify has a terrible reputation generally because you force clients
to authenticate through your own flaky, broken software. Windows
users are particularly angry because your software completely
messes up their installation. (Take a look at the forums on
http://broadbandforum.in/sify-broadband/ to know how much you are
hated.)

However, being a linux user, I ignored this issue. Moreover, your
software authenticates via the MAC address of the ethernet card,
which is ridiculous -- it only serves to annoy the customer, while
it can be easily spoofed.

2. I lived with the authentication mechanism because, under linux, it
was not intrusive and did not endanger my computer. But that
changed this week.

3. Yesterday, when I returned from vacation, I found that the linux
software I used no longer worked. On contacting Sify, I was told
by Mr XXX (quoted below) to download an updated Linux client. I
find that this client must be run as root, or it doesn't work.
This makes me suspicious -- there is no good reason why Sify should
need root permisssion on my client. Moreover, it is a security
hazard to run any GUI program as root and the GTK developers
specifically warn against it: see http://www.gtk.org/setuid.html

4. The Sify client automatically launches Firefox. Needless to say,
this too is as root and is an even bigger security hazard. (Or
maybe not, since at least Firefox is open-source software whose
code is inspected by others for bugs or malicious code.)

5. Finally, the connection does not stay alive longer than 20 minutes
or so. I need to reconnect at frequent intervals.

As I said, I am abandoning Sify, and I intend also to file a complaint
with TRAI about your intrusive, hazardous and customer-unfriendly
practices. I will also be posting this on my personal website and
blog, and will also post any replies I receive from you. Please do
not reply to this mail unless you are willing to stand by your mail in
public: I will assume that a reply to this mail implicitly gives me
permission to post it publicly. I am uninterested in a pointless
discussion with you, and am uninterested in any solutions you may
offer me unless it is applicable to other Sify users on the internet.

Rahul Siddharthan

(above, XXX is some hapless customer service executive, while YYY is the contact person for Chennai. As promised, I will post any replies I receive. Meanwhile, stay away from these guys — as I would already have done if I had been a windows user.)

Thicker than water, if less substantial

The Hindu — on a good day, one of the more readable newspapers in India — is a family-run enterprise, and on most days you can find a story or two of little news value, that has clearly been inserted because of some connection with someone in The Family. (A minor example in today’s paper is this one.)

But even so, this story seems rather brazen. It’s the most prominent on the back page of today’s Madurai edition, but the web site calls it “Front Page”, which perhaps it is in other editions. And its news value? You’ll have to read to the last paragraph to find out.

(As the astute reader will have divined, I’m away at the moment, so posting is slow. Normal irregular service will resume in a few days.)

Street cred

On NDTV today I saw my favourite Indian band, Indian Ocean, speaking for a cause. The cause is of street food in Delhi.

Apparently the powers that be — which, in Delhi, means the Supreme Court — have decided that street food — even the cooked variety — is Bad and unbefitting of Delhi’s desired future image as a Global City. As bassist Rahul Ram asked on TV, have these people actually been to a city like New York? Or, one could add, Paris or London or Rome or Barcelona or San Francisco.

On the other hand, this report suggests that the proposal is of regularisation, not banning (except of unhygienic practices). To the extent that this reduces the regular outbreaks of cholera and gastroenteritis, it may be a good thing — but ensuring a clean water supply would be a much better thing.

And what about the livelihoods of the affected people? Delhi is already one of the more crime-prone cities in the country; taking away honest jobs hardly seems likely to improve things.

Leela Samson’s response

Following up on my recent post on our friendly neighbourhood fascists harassing Leela Samson for her work at Kalakshetra, here (from the Prakriti Foundation) is Ms Samson’s response. In case you have received the RSS allegations by email, please do circulate this rejoinder. Not that it will help, any more than any amount of good sense helps dispel the myth (that I previously mentioned here) that Tagore wrote the song that became our national anthem in praise of the English king. Ms Samson’s name is probably besmirched for all time.


Now, a curious observation: in my previous post on this, I linked to this article by Sushila Ravindranath, in the New Sunday Express, that paints a clear picture. Ms Ravindranath’s article observes:

Leela, understandably hurt, is maintaining a dignified silence. But we did do our research and found that there is an orchestrated campaign, for whatever reason, to discredit her.

and continues with text that is almost word-for-word identical to that in Ms Samson’s mail, linked above.

I should admit that, when I made my previous post, I had seen Ms Samson’s response on a forwarded email. But I did not comment on the similarity because, first, I wasn’t sure who copied from whom (it certainly looked like Ms Ravindranath copied from Ms Samson, but the mail from Ms Samson had the date stripped, as it is on the webpage linked above); and second, it was in a good cause and I supposed Ms Samson wouldn’t object to any “plagiarism”.

But this page seems to settle the issue: Ms Ravindranath’s article is dated May 11, while Ms Samson’s mail was written on or before May 6.

Even if you’re writing in support of someone who you know will not object, why should a self-respecting journalist claim another’s words as her own? Is it really that hard to rewrite a few lines in your own words?

Gautaman Bhaskaran of the Hindu did it. Subhash K. Jha of the Times of India did it. Many others have done it. Apparently their bosses don’t care. But in this case, Ms Ravindranath is the boss — she’s the editor of the New Sunday Express. Is this now officially sanctioned practice in Indian journalism?

Or was my initial gut reaction — “it’s in a good cause” — correct?

Leela Samson’s response

Following up on my recent post on our friendly neighbourhood fascists harassing Leela Samson for her work at Kalakshetra, here (from the Prakriti Foundation) is Ms Samson’s response. In case you have received the RSS allegations by email, please do circulate this rejoinder. Not that it will help, any more than any amount of good sense helps dispel the myth (that I previously mentioned here) that Tagore wrote the song that became our national anthem in praise of the English king. Ms Samson’s name is probably besmirched for all time.


Now, a curious observation: in my previous post on this, I linked to this article by Sushila Ravindranath, in the New Sunday Express, that paints a clear picture. Ms Ravindranath’s article observes:

Leela, understandably hurt, is maintaining a dignified silence. But we did do our research and found that there is an orchestrated campaign, for whatever reason, to discredit her.

and continues with text that is almost word-for-word identical to that in Ms Samson’s mail, linked above.

I should admit that, when I made my previous post, I had seen Ms Samson’s response on a forwarded email. But I did not comment on the similarity because, first, I wasn’t sure who copied from whom (it certainly looked like Ms Ravindranath copied from Ms Samson, but the mail from Ms Samson had the date stripped, as it is on the webpage linked above); and second, it was in a good cause and I supposed Ms Samson wouldn’t object to any “plagiarism”.

But this page seems to settle the issue: Ms Ravindranath’s article is dated May 11, while Ms Samson’s mail was written on or before May 6.

Even if you’re writing in support of someone who you know will not object, why should a self-respecting journalist claim another’s words as her own? Is it really that hard to rewrite a few lines in your own words?

Gautaman Bhaskaran of the Hindu did it. Subhash K. Jha of the Times of India did it. Many others have done it. Apparently their bosses don’t care. But in this case, Ms Ravindranath is the boss — she’s the editor of the New Sunday Express. Is this now officially sanctioned practice in Indian journalism?

Or was my initial gut reaction — “it’s in a good cause” — correct?

Science is "offensive"

Traditionally, Unix computer systems (including Linux) come with a “fortune” program: type “fortune” at a command prompt, and you are rewarded with a “random, hopefully interesting, adage”, much like opening a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant in the USA. Type “fortune -o” and you get a “potentially offensive aphorism”. The manual page for the fortune program says:

Please, please, please request a potentially offensive fortune if and only if you believe, deep in your heart, that you are willing to be offended. (And that you’ll just quit using -o rather than give us grief about it, okay?)

Being quite willing to be offended, I typed “fortune -o” today on my Linux laptop, and was rewarded with this:

“Creation science” has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage — good teaching — than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?”
[Stephen Jay Gould, "The Skeptical Inquirer"]

Yup, I’m offended. Not at the fortune, but at the fact that the maintainers of the fortune databases — presumably intelligent, educated techies — considered this “potentially offensive”, while they did not consider the following fortune, in the regular database, “potentially offensive”:

We’re fighting against humanism, we’re fighting against liberalism… we are fighting against all the systems of Satan that are destroying our nation today…our battle is with Satan himself.
— Jerry Falwell

But I won’t give them grief about it.

(Click here for more quotes from the recently deceased Falwell.)

Unspeakably evil

The title refers to the Sangh Parivar.

Leela Samson is one of the country’s top dancers. She is also the director of Kalakshetra, an art institution in Chennai that originated with the Theosophical Society and Rukmini Devi Arundale. And she happens to have Jewish-Catholic parents.

That is enough to make the saffron see red. That’s a crowd that has, collectively, not contributed a fraction of a percent of what she has to Indian culture; that’s a writer who exhibits his ignorance of Kalakshetra almost in every sentence, yet says he is “ashamed of the Samsons in our midst”. A previous writer in that rag details her alleged anti-Hindu sins, such as removing the “restrictions on the meeting of boys and girls within the boys’ and girls’ hostels.”

You thought the Taliban were the worst kind of fundamentalists? Just pray our homegrown variety don’t take over our country.

Here‘s a better perspective on the current Kalakshetra fuss.

World gone wrong

A newspaper, run by a member of the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, publishes a survey suggesting that the chief minister’s eldest son is unpopular. Angry “supporters” set the newspaper office ablaze, killing three. Punishment is swiftly meted out by the party — to the brother of the newspaper owner, for publishing that survey.

An art student puts up an exhibit at a well-known university in Vadodara, based on ancient erotic Hindu art, as part of his coursework. Right-wing thugs invade the university and vandalise the exhibition. Retribution is swift: the art student is arrested. The dean, who backed the student, is suspended.

A US-based cult called the Church of Scientology, started on a bet by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, propounds a bizarre mythology about aliens invading human souls, and has long terrorised its critics (such as Keith Henson). The BBC, having made a critical documentary on this “church”, feels obliged to defend itself.

It’s all backwards.

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