Friday, October 24, 2008

Screwing in a light bulb

Yours truly got it in a mail. Hopes you would like it too…

How many Maoists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

1) The light bulb cannot be changed — it has to be smashed.

 2) Forget the light bulb, talk of screwing a country.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Hats off Mr. Krugman

Yours truly had heard of a joke some years back, which goes:

Q – Why did God create Economists?

A – To make weathermen look good.

Of course, forecasts were the key to understand the joke.

But having known about Paul Krugman winning the Nobel for Economics, it was imperative that yours truly would google him. And salute him all the way, for his analysis of trade patterns and where economic activity takes place.

Some people just have it, they possess it and they know how to deliver it. They can spot a paintbrush and do a da Vinci out of it, while people like us, would not imagine beyond whitewashing the backyard with it.

Kudos to Krugman, for he has a sense of satire too (something this weblog tries to achieve)…  

Not because he can analyze trade patterns, but he can spot what has to be spotted. For they know they can visit the past, to learn something that should be averted in future. Yours truly found this post by Krugman, and would like to share it…

Please have a look at how he looks at the present global crisis, through something that happened in 1979. It's just not economics, it's the way you see things, and try to make a difference.

Paul Krugman writes:

In the long run we are all dead

But in the short run some of us can’t get buried because of the credit crunch:

The spectre of the Winter of Discontent threatened to return to haunt Labour last night after funeral directors revealed that the burial of ‘hundreds’ of bodies is being delayed for financial reasons.

In a bleak new sign of the growing economic crisis, hard-up families are having to wait more than two months before receiving Government money for funerals.

Organisations representing undertakers accused the Government of putting them in an ‘impossible’ position by dragging their feet over burial costs for poor families.

Previously, undertakers would pay for the cost of funerals and wait to be reimbursed by the State, but the lack of credit in the banking system means many firms can no longer afford to do so.

HT my wife, who lived in England for a while and still enjoys reading the tabloids.

Thank you Mr. Krugman, for making the weathermen still look bad…


Friday, October 10, 2008

Dashain in Secular Nepal !

Yours truly is amazed. In the midst of animal sacrifices, and recent backdrop of a riot, that ensued when the capital dwellers refused government saying – No free meat, fellas! – somebody reminded him that Nepal was secular. Goodness me, how come? Did we not take pride just a few years ago for being the only Hindu state in the world (mention of Kingdom is not hip these days)?

But it was forced on yours truly that we indeed are in a secular state and from a Hindu Kingdom we became a Himalayan Federal Democratic Republic (you can add People's, if you wish to). And just like so many others in the nation, yours truly had to give in, accepting what was already accepted by those considered lesser humans (no wonder, Nepalis have always been called nimukha janata).

Then began the search of the meaning of secularism.

The term 'secularism' was first used by the British writer George Holyoake in 1846. Holyoake invented the term to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. Later, it grew into meaning that people belonging to different faiths and sections of society are equal before the law, the Constitution and government policy.

We became a secular nation, due to certain parties' pressure and of course without even taking the trouble of asking people for their view. For us, it is okay if so many countries remain Muslim and some remain Jewish state. In their defence, we would always say that people of other faith also live in such and such countries, without problems.

Alas! As if people of other faith had difficulty to survive here, just because they had other faiths, which the state did not endorse.

And then came Dashain, the mother of all festivals in our country, in our secular state. And we relished, in animal sacrifice, in gambling, in guzzling the holy potion, remaining intoxicated yet again. It's amazing how the entire national wisdom goes to sleep for a fortnight every year. Maybe even wisdom goes out boozing. For we, more often than not, take in Dashain as a time 'not to think' but 'drink'. (Not so long ago, this was the time of year, when now deposed monarch imposed crown on his infamous son, making him crown prince)

But this time around, the monarch had already been given a ticket to bungalow in a jungle, and his prince took time out for Singapore. What about Dashain? Dashain would come the way it has done, for centuries. For festivals and seasons do not care who is in power; but maybe festivals do. So it was time that we found a monarch. Otherwise, who would offer tika to people? And in our efforts to find a monarch, we did hit the right button (at least we hit the buttons).

Even in a country where the Prime Minister – given his people oriented orientation – swears by the people, and not god, while taking oath of the office, it was not difficult to find someone gullible.

How could we forget that we had a President? A President that was a product of 'coalitional' compromise; A President who has a clean image (at least cleaner than the rest); A President who would not say no to avoid confrontation; A President, who was not elected by popular vote, but was adopted by the nation without much complain; A President who has a genuine smile; A President who is a genuine people's person.

So the new Head of the State offered tika to everyone interested. And the people attended, right from the Chief Justice to the public (who wanted to have a glimpse of People's son as head of the state) to the Home Minister, who was more worried about cameras not being at his residence. Reminded yours truly of the glory days of the monarch, who would do the same, calm and collected, without talking too much with the people…

At the same time, the deposed monarch was also busy, offering tika to his loyalists, at a private function, at his private residence (and not the one provided by the government), celebrating Bijaya Dashami, the victory of good over evil. Only, the crowd at his celebrations was bigger.

Some say Dashain is cultural and not religious now. Agreed, but yours truly always thought Jamara and tika have religious significance too. Some say the Head of the State was carrying out a cultural tradition (though TVs showed him saying he was carrying out constitutional duties). Agreed, but yours truly always thought the King offered tika because he was considered reincarnation of a Hindu deity.

Philip Pullman, English writer and staunch secularist wrote:

“Religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good”.

But they said Nepal is a secular state!!!


Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Royal Pain

Francis Joseph Charles I, Austrian monarch in early 20th century, said just after ascending the throne," What should I do? I think the best thing is to order a new stamp to be made with my face on it."
To yours truly, this explains what the Royals are. For whom, the most important thing is, of course, themselves. And history proves yours truly right, more often than not. One thing is for sure, the monarchy - world over - was never busy thinking about people. For the Royal bunch, it was always, I, me and myself…
And the people… err... the subjects suffered.
But things have changed, or so, you would hear.
We now have a republican structure, with a President heading the nation (who, like the King, graces festivals, and is felicitated just like his predecessor head of the state, used to… Has he started giving autograph too?).
Officially, the former Royals have been reduced to a civilian status, with the rights only civilians can have (give or take a few luxury vehicles and some escorts).
And the people… err… the subjects still suffer.
The issue in question is the 32nd birthday of the former Princess. Though never considered very Royal by the people, err, subjects, one can't forget that she was 'the next queen'.
She decided to visit a few places, including temples and an old age home near the best loved temple of the Royals (remember the adage 'Pashupatinath le hami sabai ko raksha garun'?). Yours truly is impressed with the gesture shown by the former Princess, to visit a home for the elderly, on her birthday coinciding with the International Day of the Senior Citizens. Impressive stuff…
The issue does not end there. With the former Princess on her way to the Home, paparazzi was sure to follow – a chance to actually get some sound bites, and a picture sans her former Royal husband would be too tempting to forego for the Press.
Press - just like other people - do await, with morbid anticipation, the fall of people, loving every second of it, and the reaction of the person who has fallen. Perhaps we love to see signs of vulnerability in people we once worshipped, made them demigods.
And top of the paparazzi list was Kantipur TV, who spotted the car she was travelling. Kantipur, in its bid to prove that we are no less paparazzi than the rest, had to do something special.
And a special audio visual package was prepared, showcasing the princess', dressed in her most gracious smile, visiting temples and giving away edibles to the elderly, who have been forgotten even by their own family.
Picture perfect, except that there was a minor glitch. The package was aired too. Just that to air it, the program showcasing it was prolonged, killing time of a news bulletin, that yours truly had to appear on. Somebody, who shall here be nameless, and who shall - for his actions should remain jobless - decided that the 11-minute audio visual package was to be shown, even if meant extending the current affairs program by adding bhajans in it. And yours truly, along with the premium air time, was held hostage in the unplanned conspiracy.
 It takes a genius to think the unthinkable but it takes something more to do the un-do-able. And here we surpassed even that. Can you imagine yours truly actually appearing on a news bulletin without a single commercial break (an average Kantipur News break is 5-7 minutes). History was made.
Yours truly was left gasping for breath, while his producer was trying to learn the new tricks of the trade, new rules of the game. We blamed the Royals for all that went wrong, all the while doing the same things that we despised them for. Taking people for granted is just one of those.
And you are left thinking, Who is the King? The mortal who has been cornered, or the immortal ego within us, which loves every chance to resurface.
Yours truly once read these lines, by Lord Byron:
The heart ran o'er
With silent worship of the great of old, -
The dead but sceptred sovereigns, who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.
Guess, it still holds good in modern times.