Posts Tagged ‘opinions’

The culture of opacity

August 16, 2017

One of the things, I think, that impedes my country in her progress, is our culture of opacity.

As a nation, we do not seem to like sharing information at all. Government offices, political leaders, even small businesses…how many of us like to share, openly, the information that we possess?

The first thing I notice when a business gets going is that the name of the founders are immediately hidden behind a wall of anonymity. Phone numbers are withheld, as are the names of those who run the show.

I find this refusal to share in the world of wildlife, too. When a rare bird, plant or animal is sighted, the threat from others is cited as a reason to make the information secret.

This would be a useful thing to do if the information were genuinely withheld from everyone else. But what actually happens is different. The information and the knowledge become instruments of power.

To know the man at the top, to know where X animal can be seen, to understand the workings and financial dealings of (to take an example) a hospital…these, then, become privileges granted to only a few.

Alas, information can never be kept entirely secret, either. Corruption and the cooking of figures soon becomes known; everyone knows about the place where one can see something special. But the information is not open to all; it remains in the hands of the privileged elite, and always kept a secret from the “mango public” (aam janta).

Even the process of this secret transmission of information vitiates it to some extent; the information is corrupted often.

This lack of transparency, this tendency to keep information to oneself and not share it…we have to overcome this in order that all of us may stride forward on the path to progress.

Post-processing of digital images

July 29, 2017

Post-processing of photographic images: I’d divide this into two broad categories: image enhancement, and image manipulation.

The first is the tweaking of the image to better the colours, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and other effects. The second is the active addition or removal of elements/images to or from the original photograph. The end result obtained, and its success as an image, is, I find, very subjective.

In either category, unless there is a situation where post-processing is specifically forbidden, or the RAW file must be produced, it’s entirely up to the viewer’s sense of aesthetics to rate the photograph as visually appealling, or not. I find, increasingly, images being post-processed to the point where they are more digital paintings than photography.

But as I repeat…this is entirely in the eye of the beholder, and as long as there is no intent to wilfully deceive the viewer, the image enhancement or manipulation is fine. It’s only if those images (like the five-headed snake that’s been doing the rounds for years!) are created to make a false statement, that the word “photoshopped!” (with that exclamation mark at the end) takes on a perjorative meaning.

Here’s a very witty image shared by my friend Vikram Bellur about one of the effects of post-processing:

miracles 290717

However, I do like the fact that post-processing is now in the hands of each and every photographer, instead of some guy dipping film into a stale chemical mix at some photo lab, and delivering images that either look in the pink of health, or are depressed and blue! And if I choose not to post-process, that rests with me, too.

Compare and contrast, 2017

February 2, 2017

Contrasting, in my mind, the tennis match that happened between two men, recently in Australia, and the US Presidential election process over the past year.

One was played fairly, by the rules, both parties were excellent at what they did,and would bring lustre to the title they won. There were no personal attacks, no smears, the process of winning the title was completely transparent.

The other….

In defence of non-excellence

December 21, 2016

I read something, nearly every day, on the desirable quality of excellence. In whatever I do, I am told, I must strive to excel. I must hone my skills at that particular activity until I am excellent at it.

I want to present a heretical point of view. I don’t propound this point of view as applicable to everyone, or indeed, to anyone but myself. But it’s saved me a lot of tears, so sharing it.

I am interested in quite a lot of things, and have been lucky enough, in my life, to pursue many activities. Let me list them…academics, languages, music, art, writing, quizzing, theatre, photography, nature/wildlife, heritage and history, travel, getting groups of people together, teaching…and so the list goes.

Yes, indeed most of my interests are pursuits to which I’ve devoted a long time. I’ve tried to attain a reasonable proficiency in what I do.

But…I don’t feel the need to excel. And here’s why.

The margin between proficiency and excellence may often not be wide…but it can be very time-consuming indeed. And I have found that when I strive for excellence in one particular activity, I have to neglect several others.

So over the years, I’ve decided that I would rather have enough time to pursue these interests instead of setting some aside for excellence…in any case, I will not be able to achieve excellence in more than one or two fields.

Striving for excellence can also often be frustrating, with the sobering realization, after much time and effort has been spent, that my level is that of proficiency,and excellence will be beyond.

So..what is wrong in my being reasonably proficient at many activities, instead of always wanting to be the world’s best in anything? I will never, indeed, top the world in any field, because there are always going to be others who will be far better than I in that field.

More and more, as I age, I see the comfortable joy of being good at several things and enjoying doing all of them, rather than frustrate myself in trying to excel and still find that I am not much further up the ladder.

And I notice this in many people I see around me…that they are good, very good sometimes, in several things that they do…but they need not be earth-shakingly good at it!

I therefore adhere to my happy state of reasonable proficiency (and fairly high ignorance sometimes!) in my several interests, giving thanks for being able to enjoy all of them. Excellence in one field does not give me as much happiness as being good in several.

What are your thoughts on this?

On different orientation…..

November 7, 2014

A thread about cross-dressing, trans-genders and homosexuality prompted a friend to write the following mythological/religious reference on a mailing list:

Just consider the following:
1. Shiva cross-dressed as Ardhanarishwara

2. Arjuna cross-dressed as Bruhannala

3. Vishnu, not only cross-dressed, but actually “crossed over” as Mohini, had an affair with Shiva and produced Hariharaputra/Shaasta/Ayyappa.

4. We have a tradition that Aravaan, who was Arjuna’s son was expected to die in the next day’s battle—-such was the prophecy. Aravaan was asked as to what his last wish was. He wanted to marry. No one wanted to marry a person who was going to die the next day. Finally a transvestite/Hijra volunteered. That is why Hijras are also called Aravaanis. There are Aravaan temples which are visited by Hijras and others.

5. Many male Krishna-worshippers, even today cross-dress as Radha and worship Krishna.

6. In the 1500-year old Jambukeswara Temple at Tiruvanaikovil near Tiruchirapalli, even today, every day at noon, the priest cross-dresses as a young woman and performs the puja to Shiva.

7. Sakhi and Sakha are all traditions with enormous homoerotic content and are considered entirely legitimate.

8. Khajuraho has sculptures depicting both male homosexuality and lesbianism. At least our ancestors did not feel these were “dirty” for the temple atmosphere. If they are dirty, it is only because the dirt arises in the mind of the beholder.

In fact, cross-dressing, pursuit of androgyny, homo-eroticism, transvestite identities etc. are so common and frequent in Hindu traditions that they do not even call for excess comment. Arjuna, who is one of our great heroes, exhibited signs of bisexuality, cross-dressing and a refreshing androgynous personality. He was known as “Sabyasachi” because he was ambidextrous and could shoot arrows from both hands. The term also captures his inherent androgyny. Quite cool, if you ask me.

My take on homosexuality/lesbianism:

How on earth does it matter who we sleep with, or not? The people we are are what matters. I too have several friends of a different orientation; when they told me so, my response was that I was waiting for the day when it would no longer be necessary to make these statements at all.

Especially in our repressed, hypocritical Indian culture, where even heterosexual activity is so frowned upon, just imagine how tough life must be if one has a different orientation (it’s been proved that this is genetic and not a cultivated choice.)

We can be in denial, as we seem to be often in denial of there being child molesters in so many Indian families. Or…we can accept an aspect of humanity that has existed as long as humanity does. Believe me, as a naturalist, I know that such behaviour is common to other species too. If we remove the moral tag from so many things….smoking, drinking, non-vegetarianism, and others…we would, I feel, be happier people ourselves, accepting those whom we meet for what they are.

I have several friends on both sides of the spectrum, and the good friends are good friends NMW…No Matter What!

When D’s uncle and his partner (they’ve been together for 20+ years now) came to attend DnA’s wedding, we were rather apprehensive about whether they would face whispers and sniggers. But on the other hand, my friends seemed to perceive them as people, and everyone got along so well!

One of my gay friends in Bangalore laughs about the fact that landlords are so against letting an apartment out to a young man and a young woman, and unthinkingly let their homes out to two men or two women.

Let’s just meet and interact with people as people, and not go by the bodies they inhabit! And let’s remember…love is so precious and rare to find in this world, let’s not scorn it because it may come in an unusual garb….pun intended!

I must be careful…

November 5, 2014

A lesson I have learnt from the moon.

I may imagine that I am carefully showing only my illuminated, best parts to the world…but my dark side will also show….

IMG_4275

Reflections on Krishna Jayanti (Janmashtami)

September 16, 2014

A friend on a mailing list had talked about Krishna, and said:

Surprisingly, the word Krishna means dark/ black color. However this had not affected his immense popularity.

One point occurs to me, visiting St.Louis at a time when division based on the colour of one’s skin is more pronounced than ever, in this deeply segregated city.

​I personally find the “dark/black colour” of Krishna has been sanitized in Indian folklore (like Rama’s skin colour, too!) to a purple-blue, from the actual dark grey that “megha varNam” is…the rain-bearing monsoon clouds certainly don’t have a hue other than that!

I have heard so many Indian people claim, with righteous pride, “We venerate dark gods.” It is precisely these people, for whom the colour of even a god seems important, who seem more intolerant of darkness of skin in humans.

I think it is the other qualities of Krishna…his romantic allure, his people skills, and indeed, his crafty statesmanship…that account for his popularity.That, and his association with music, and the allied “lalit kala” (fine arts.)

I can never help being impressed by the subtlety by which he ensured that the Pandavas’ representative, Arjuna, got the first choice of his guidance in the war. (He asked one Pandava and one Kaurava to come and sit next to him, and ask their boons when he awoke. Arjuna devotedly sat at his feet as he slept, and Duryodhana proudly sat at his head. This ensured that on waking, Krishna saw Arjuna first, and gave him the first choice. Arjuna chose Krishna, and the Kauravas got Krishna’s armies. It does intrigue me that Krishna, knowing in advance the outcome of the war, so easily sacrificed his loyal soldiers on the battlefield.)

In Anjana’s high school Hindi text book (probably Class 5 or 6, in the early nineties) there was a prose passage which dealt with Krishna, not as a god, but as an excellent statesman and leader of the various tribes which made up the kingdoms around Mathura.

I thought that Rahi Masoom Reza’s characterization of Krishna in the famous TV serial as a mischieviousm impish person, not above the occasional deviousness and political stratagem, is very human, and sticks close to the persona that most of our literature and music talk about.

God or man? The choice is ours to make, based on our faith, or lack of it.

Safety and security, STL, 170814

August 19, 2014

Yesterday I went to

<a href=”http://www.academyofsciencestl.org/calendar/functions/popup.php?ev=2456888&readFile=0&readSQL=1&showCat=&oc=1″&gt; this event </a>

at the St.Louis Zoo auditorium.

I had not read in detail about the extinction of Passenger Pigeons in the US (where a population of several billion birds was wiped out, purely because of human intervention), and it was a revelation to me.

However, I did not want to call on DnA to pick me up from the Zoo auditorium and I walked back. As I did, I mused on safety and security. There was nothing different about my walking back at about 9pm from the Zoo auditorium, across Forest Park, back home, I usually do it during Muny shows, Shakespeare-in-the-Park, or the Royal Philharmonic on Art Hill (it took me about half an hour, you can go to Google maps and look at the St.Louis Zoo, and look for Christ Deliverance Ministry, Enright Ave…you’ll know where I walked) I usually cut across the grass, not always keeping to the roads. I was wondering, yesterday, if walking in the dark was a wise thing to do. Then I told myself that the fears were mostly in my own mind and perception…in fact, it was probably safer now than before the Ferguson incident,
(here’s a video of John Oliver’s take on it:

…actually, with so many police cars on the prowl ! I walked uneventfully back home. (It does help that I am a “black” person, not white, I suppose, in this area!)

So much of our fears are in our own perceptions, coloured by our own prejudices…where should we draw the line between genuine concerns and our own timorousness?

The trouble in the US is the stupid gun culture. I might be walking far away from any know source of trouble, and might get cut down by a stray bullet! Well, at the end of it all, I believe it’s Fate…and I walk briskly, not loitering. And when I’ve got home safely, I like the feeling that I didn’t give in to the feeling of “Oh, what might happen to me!” and just call DnA to leave their hectic chores and come and pick me up!

But IF something had happened, I would have been reviled for my foolhardiness…how to know, in advance, if my fears are well-founded or groundless? No way, alas, but to put it to the test, and walk home!

Human logic

April 2, 2014

We excrete, and then call those who clean the excreta, untouchables.
We rape, and then ostracize the victim.
We sit apathetically, and complain about the state of the nation.
We kill animals, and then pay high prices to see them.
And ….we pride ourselves on being logical and rational beings.

Thoughts about homosexuality

February 27, 2014

Homosexuality has been around for as long as humanity has. Hominids and other primates exhibit it, too. As a naturalist, I find it prevalent in many other species as well. It’s only human beings who see the need to attribute moral values to certain forms of behaviour.

Heterosexual behaviour shades from rape,abuse, and casual sex on one side of the spectrum to committed, loving, long-standing relationships on the other. In my experience…so, too, does homosexual behaviour.

I feel that any behaviour (of any kind) that harms others is morally and ethically repugnant. But any expression of love between two consenting adults (of any kind) cannot be bad. Love is so difficult to find, why abominate any form of its expression?

And if we think that gays or lesbians do not exist in India, we are putting our heads in the sand.

I feel that life would be simpler if we accepted people as they are, without worrying about who they are sleeping with, or judging them for it. It’s always comforting to adopt a moral high ground upon which we stand and condemn others…but life would be simpler if we accepted our fellow human-beings as they are…and condemn only behaviour that harms others.

Well, that’s my opinion, and I understand that there will be many people whose views differ diametrically…or to different degrees.

Thank you for making me think about this, and articulating my thoughts!