Monday, September 27, 2010

What happened, honey?

What happened to you? How could you change so much? I always believed that I could blindly trust you, because you were the most pure in the entire world. If anything went wrong with you, it could be easily detected. We would take corrective steps, so that you maintain that pure and pious nature of yours. So pure, I thought, you were that man's best friend stayed away from you and did not dare to cross your path. For the past seven years, my day has begun with you only!!

But then, this greedy and ignorant world overcame you. You got pulled in its drive to derive the maximum benefit in shortest possible time. I was so naive, that I couldn't realise that someone as pure as you could be dragged into this trap. It was a bolt out of the blue for me. A, rude jolt, a wakeup call, that none in this world is untouched by its character.

The Indian society's ecological guardian, Centre for Science and Environment, and its director, Sunita Narain, announced to the nation about your adultery. Yes, my dear honey, their extensive survey and tests declared most of the honey being sold in India is laden with antibiotics. A further jolt was that these antibiotics have been banned in most of the developed world. Those who trade you as a product, injected the innocent bees with such antibiotics, so that they do not fall ill and continue producing.

Sunita Narain says that your downfall began when a few ill-informed people thought that imported bees are a better proposition, as they can produce more of your ilk. But, those imported bees were not familiar with the Indian conditions. They started falling ill and dying. To avoid this, they were injected with antibiotics and over generations they still continue to consume such stuff. Perhaps, not realising that they are spoiling (and have now already spoilt) our relationship. These antibiotics have now percolated into my body and have probably caused irreparable damages. You were supposed to keep me healthy by detoxifying my body. But, you have contaminated it.

Dear honey, with a heavy heart, I would like to tell you that I am ending our relationship with immediate effect. It can only be restored if you restore back to your former self. Pressurise your masters to reform and to restore you back. Only then, come to me. I will welcome you with open arms.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amen: Autobiography of a nun: Dr. Sister Jesme

What happens when the rakshaks (protectors) become bhakshaks (tormentors)? We have to either bear it silently, because no one would believe us, or rebel against the system.

Sr. Jesme's book, is the story of her rebellion against, what she terms as atrocities of the Church against the nuns of the congregation. In her book, she talks about the unexpected activities that go behind the closed walls and doors of the convent and the Church. She talks of the illicit, and many times, forced relations between nuns, physical relations between priests (Father, Brother, etc.) and nuns and how sometimes these relations affect the nun's progress in the congregation.

A place of religious activity should be free from the five enemies- lust, anger, greed, attachment, jealousy and ego. However, the priests and nuns of the Church do not seem to have conquered those. The sadder part is that nuns in the congregation are involved in political one-upmanship and try to plot against one another.  On top of that, there is a class (and caste) conflict within the convent. Sisters coming in from poorer (or less educated) backgrounds are treated as lesser humans and are engaged only in menial and physical activities. The sisters from upper class and those well-educated, keep away from them and encourage the new entrants to behave in the similar manner. All this, when they preach that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. The Church, as expected, has denied all the allegations levelled by Sr. Jesme. They have tried to label her an mentally unstable, and its official publication in Kerala has gone far to call her a prostitute. The Church has constantly stone-walled attempts to investigate the allegations. What is it afraid of? Let the place of religion be cleansed of the deviants.

As a book, the writing is not too much to be talked about. Sr. Jesme doesn't give a time-line of the events. This is perhaps because it would allow a trace-back of all the persons involved in the incidents. What, therefore, happens is that you do not get a feel of the duration for which she suffered a particular incident. The incidents too are written in a manner, their enormity never dawns upon you. You get a feeling that they are written in a haste and hush-hush manner. Only, since you know that these persons are bound by vows of chastity, such acts are entirely unacceptable. Similarly, acts of irregularities in colleges do not seem very dangerous, when you read it, but only when you analyse it, the enormity dawns upon you.

Another problem is that, if your a not a Christian, it is very difficult for you to understand the terminologies involved. Is Mother Superior higher than a Priest in hierarchy or not? Who has to obey whose orders? There should have been a flowchart of the hierarchy of the congregation in the book. This also would allow non-Christians to realise the extent to which unacceptable behaviour has spread within the congregations and priestly orders.

Overall, the book is an eye-opener. Unless the Church openly investigates all the allegations, more such allegations will continue to turn up. It should realise that after all, the nuns and priests are humans and occasionally a few might give in to the temptations. But it doesn't mean that they should treat themselves as above all and infallible. Instead, investigate the causes, rectify the situations so that fewer people repeat the mistakes.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

R.I.P. cyber cafes

The year 1996, saw the internet coming to India. In the initial stages, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) was the only entity allowed to function as an ISP. And like all those things that came from the west, the accessibility of the internet was restricted to a privileged few, as the cost were tremendously high. Then, came competition. With private sector ISPs roped in to provide services, the cost of acquiring an internet connection dropped, but was still very high, compared to today. There was another problem, though. The cost of owning a PC was still prohibitively high. So, penetration of the internet into homes still wasn't that great. To own a PC with an internet connection was a status symbol in those days.

This situation presented a unique opportunity for business. People bought or leased out PCs, got an internet connection and started providing access to others who couldn't afford. These entities were termed as cyber cafes. Depending on the location, speed and ambiance, they charged anywhere between Rs. 20 to Rs. 45/- per hour. They were a boon for the teens (who were the first to latch on to the internet wave), who couldn't afford to own a computer at home. And it was convenient, because you could access the internet from anywhere in the city, without too much worry.

Then, the inevitable happened. Sensing business opportunity, cyber cafes started springing up like mushrooms in the monsoon. There was a time when two or three cyber cafes would be located within a distance of half a kilometre. The good thing was that rates dropped to Rs. 10- Rs. 20 per hour. This caused a reduction in margins and business was more dependent on volumes. Prices of hardware too dropped, thereby allowing scale-up of business easily.

Then came the second inevitable thing. Beginning somewhere in 2003, prices of hardware dropped drastically. Computers were now more affordable to individuals. From 2005, internet connectivity improved, with broadband access becoming available at a very less premium over dial-up access.  In big cities, this dried up the flow of people to cyber cafes. People started accessing the net from the cosiness and security of their homes. Slowly, cyber cafes started closing down, giving way to other booming businesses like mobile phone handsets, restaurants and retail stores. From two-three cafes in half a kilometre radius, the number came down to one every one kilometre or more. They too are struggling for business and have to keep up the revenue by providing other services such as gaming, or selling pre-paid phone refills, computer accessories like CD/DVD pen-drives, etc.

I too didn't seem to miss the cyber cafes too much. Till, the internet at home was down and there was no chance of the technician visiting home for rectification and restoring of the connection, as there were three days of holidays. Grudgingly, I trudged down the familiar lanes around my house, searching for a cyber cafe, so that I could check my e-mail and reply to the ones that needed urgent action. But alas, where there existed five cafes three years ago, only one was left and that too, tucked away to the extreme end of the lane. The cyber cafes have played an important part in familiarising the internet to lakhs of people in the country. In small towns, they still do that. All, we can say is, R.I.P., cyber cafes!
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