The fair-ee tale

The launch

It was 2005 when a news was announced in the mid of June. Emami Ltd had declared the launch of a fairness cream for men, aptly named ‘Fair and Handsome’. In the words of the company’s director, Emami aimed to gain 20 per cent market share of men’s fairness cream in Andhra Pradesh by 2005-2006 and reach out through 30,000 outlets. [news link]

Today

I am sure that six months down the line, Emami is not regretting the launch of Fair and Handsome. We Indians just don’t want to be dark. If we are not fair, we are wheatish, but mind you never call us dark.

Tall, dark and handsome? What’s that?

It’s interesting to wonder, why is it that being Fair is so good and cool and happening? Not just that, what the hell does being fair has to do with being handsome? Look at all these advertisements on TV. The idea that they are propagating is this: it’s important to be fair. The case is extreme with girls. Being fair is a big big deal for girls in India. Why? Ever thought so? Why is that we all want to be fair? The girl wants it, the boy wants it. Every damn Indian wants a damn fair skin. Who said men wanted to be tall dark and handsome? At least not in India! No way!

Why?

There’s one logic behind this mentality and that’s fairly simple. Any human being wants to look like and appear as his/her superior. Right? Keeping this in mind, let’s talk a little about the history of our country. India was ruled by Aryans and the Afghans and then of course the Britishers for so many years. And these rulers were fair, weren’t they? So a fair skin became the symbol of power and prestige and things like that. And that link still holds on.

Who are they today?

The fair rulers are gone but we still have the ad agencies who are keen on convincing us that if we are not fair, we are worth nothing. They are not just the ad agencies. The film industry does the same thing. Most of the film stars do not look like normal people or the common mass. Almost all of them are fairer than an average Indian. But then, these guys who make movies have to sell a product and so they can hardly be blamed. Basically, no one can be blamed. Not even the Emami guys. They are making profits and the Indian Junta are gladly paying for fairness creams and everything is running smoothly. Who the hell has a prblem?

To be fair

Let me be ‘fair’ as well: I myself got this Fair and Handsome pack, not a very long time ago, though I am sure my skin color will hardly be affected by the cream. The question is of course not how effective the cream is. The question is: why aren’t we happy with our skin? And though I can think of an answer and I can write a blog on this, at the end of the day, I do suffer from the same fairness syndrome. Fair enough!

S M O K I N

Amitabh Bachchan is in news again. I read this report in Hindu today which said he has been sent a legal notice for posing with a cigar in his mouth for a promotional poster of a soon to be released film Family.

I wonder at times if rules of this kind can ever prevent youth who want to start smoking, from not doing so. There’s definitely a big question mark!

Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. Most of us who have ever seen a cigarette packet must have had read this. These statutory warnings intend to produce the same effect as the ban on printed advertisements showing anyone smoking. The intended effect is to prevent the Indian youth from taking up smoking and to make those who smoke quit. I read a book recently called The Tipping Point which among other things, discussed the smoking habits of Americans. One point brought about in the book that really makes a lot of sense is: guys start smoking mostly because of one main reason. They think smoking is cool. It’s a case of pure peer effect. Every one wants to be cool. One more great observation by the author was that most of them who smoke are already well aware of the dangers of smoking. Not only that, majority of the smokers in fact over estimated the dangers in one of the surveys conducted. So this whole requirement of a statutory warning on all tobacco product packets is a useless a means to achieve any reduction in the public habit. And I think, the assumption that banning of smoking in print can be any more effective than printing statutory warnings, is hardly true.

One might argue that when the big B himself smokes on screen, isn’t he making smoking appear cool? I say, why do you forget he is a non-smoker in real life at the first place? To some extent stars smoking on screen do influence the youngsters but mind you, just ‘to some extent’. A ban on print is definitely not a good solution. By imposing a ban on a movie-ad showing a character of the movie smoking, too much of a hindrance is offered to the creators of the movie. Let them show what they want to and let the junta decide if its good or bad. Why bound the aritstic creativity of the actors and the directors? Just for that ‘some extent’, for which no stastical data was ever quoted by the government while imposing such a ban? This is not fair.

amitabh bachchan smoking bollywood ban cigar movie family film

Pi, Ray and C

Actual paperback cost:

1. The World is Flat: Rs. 714/-

2. The Monk who sold his Ferrari: Rs. 175/-
3. Tipping point: Rs. 220/-
————————————————————
Total: Rs. 200/- (this is what I had to pay!!!)

Welcome to the world of Book-Piracy! And who said piracy sucks? It rocks! It rocks because it saves me so much of money (earned so dearly by my dad).

The Quality

In general the quality of the pages and the print is decent. But then pirated copies of some hot-n-latest best sellers are so good that you would not even consider the print quality as an issue to be worried about!

The Statistics

An estimated loss of about 400 crore rupees results each year to the 7000 crore legal publishing industry because of book piracy. So what? As a consumer, piracy still rocks!

My Take

Give me a single reason why I should be worried about the publishers and authors who suffer losses. Most of the publishers are are rich people (at least richer than the street side vendors who sell pirated books) and I don’t care about them. They are anyway making profits because there are enough rich buyers around who are ready to buy original copies at whatever we-will-leave-you-with-a-begging-bowl costs they are asked for.

Ethics?

If the publishers can do something to stop their profits form leaking, that’s good. But if they can’t, then I really do not see any reason to be ashamed of purchasing pirated books. Let’s discuss morality.

Is it morally correct to devoid myself from a source of knowledge just because I cannot afford it if I try to get an original copy?

Or is it morally correct to get for me a pirated copy which will make some rich guy lose few bucks (though adding to the source of living of a relatively poor person)?
Go talk about morality to your mom now.

To me getting a pirated book is not the same as purchasing stolen leather jacket. I should attribute such an attitude of mine to the culture that has seen me grow. Culuture…well, let’s peep some more into this ‘culture‘ thing.

What do you have to say about the photo-copying culture prevalent in IIT and for that matter in almost all the Engineering colleges in India (and may be other developing countries as well)? How many of us knew this: Under section 63 of the Copyright Act of India, selling and buying photocopied books is a criminal offence.

Our culture never taught us about this law! The Profs (who frequently lend costly text books to the Class-Reps to get them Xeroxed for junta) never talked about this law! And all the time we continued the offence: the criminal offence.

Personally I think this law is crap (once again that who-cares-about-piracy attitude of mine; go blame the culture). I have the same question to repeat: Is it morally correct to devoid myself from a source of knowledge just because I cannot afford it if I try to get an original copy?

A photo-copy helps creating an Engineer out of me! Piracy helps me in gaining knowledge trapped in costly books. And so I reiterate: Piracy Rocks!

Kiss me baby one more time!

I have crossed the age of marriage, that the law allows in India but have still never kissed a girl on lips (or vice-versa). Welcome to India my dear friend if you aint already here!

But then, this post is neither about me nor about my desire to kiss some female. It’s about coming face to face with a never-heard-about face of a kiss.

A kiss! It feels heavenly to even think about the first kiss that you are going to have, leave alone having one actually. You float there alone in your room, on your warm bed, dressed in the most comfortable robe you have. You are so calm and peaceful. You just lay there, deep in lassitude. With dreamy eyes, you stare at the ceiling and yet do not see the fan; the moving fan. You are there, lost in the garden of red flowers that the mind creates; just too romantic. And when you are completely into the new world, you see things; you feel things. You feel them al, those rubicund lips, that gleam in the eye, the love of a lifetime and those naughty eyes… You step closer to that face that calls you, the lips that invite you and then it happens; the first kiss. So what if that’s not real, and so what if you didn’t even notice the face (or rather avoided)? Those wet-and-cold-and-burning-and-all-at-the-same-time lips! How can you ever forget? That smell, that magic of the moment, that softness, that kiss, that news… Umm well, yes you read it correct only: the NEWS.

So read this: ‘A fifteen-year-old girl with a peanut allergy has died after being kissed by her boyfriend following his snack of peanut butter.’ {news links: [1] [2] }

I was more than shocked to come to know about this. So sad! Just so sad! Why does every damn thing, however sacred and joyful it is supposed to be, almost always have a scary shit side to it as well? And nothing spared, not even a kiss?

It was so beautiful, so pretty a thing and yet it took her life. The killer kiss!

It’s so difficult to imagine what would be going on with her boy friend. The world changed for him; the meaning of kiss changed for him. The meaning; it changed for me as well. Didn’t it change for all of us? The holy feeling got impure today and I am sad. So sad! I came face to face today with such a sad side of such a lovely thing!

Neta-giri with the Net: What the hell is wrong with US?

The Background:

The US Department of Commerce (DoC) had pushed and funded expansion of the internet in its early stages. And when the internet had gone global, it had created a private company, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to run it. Before I explain to you what exactly ‘running’ the internet means here, there are a few basic stuffs you need to be aware of.

Any website has to be present as a file on a computer and each computer connected to the internet has a unique ID (called the Internet Protocol address i.e the IP address). The IP address is nothing but a string of a maximum of 12 digits (eg: 10.195.200.200).

Obviously it is impossible for us to remember so many numbers for accessing so many sites. DNS severs come to our rescue here.

DNS stands for domain name server. The DNS machines store information that lets us get around the net by way of easy-to-remember domain names, such as www.amrit.co.nr, and spare us from having to deal with the numeric addresses that computers understand. They translate the domain names into their IP addresses.

There are many DNS machines, but all of them finally link to only thirteen ROOT servers located in different cities of the world (but most of them are in US). [Click here to see the list]

And now I come back to what running the internet is all about. To quote from ICANN’s website, “ICANN is responsible for coordinating the management of the technical elements of the DNS to ensure universal resolvability so that all users of the Internet can find all valid addresses. It does this by overseeing the distribution of unique technical identifiers used in the Internet’s operations, and delegation of Top-Level Domain names (such as .com, .info, etc.).” The overseeing and delegation is achieved with the aid of those 13 computers I talked about.

The issue and why US sucks:

Everything had been running smoothly till suddenly someone asked this: Why is this overseeing and delegation being done by a company which is directly in control of the US Government? Is it just because the US created the internet?

The Inter-Neta* had been questioned! And everyone including the EU joined the bandwagon. This issue got so much highlighted in the recently held second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) at Tunis that the core issue which was supposed to be discussed (about bridging the gap between the internet-reach between the poor and the rich) was sidelined.

I wonder why US hasn’t given a proper answer till date! Is it so because it simply does not have a ‘proper’ answer? The US is obviously never going to state that greed for power is the only thing it strives for, and so according to it, the rest of the world should stop challenging its undisputed control over the overseeing and delegation act on the internet.

But then the world (and that includes me) is not worried for no reason. I don’t see any point in not letting the running of the internet pass on to an international and independent committee so that no one can politically misuse the power which currently lies solely with the US.

Think of this: today if someone gets a domain name called www.rape-india.com and fills it with rotten stuffs, and then the Indian Government discovers this site and finds it objectionable and tries to remove it from the web, the only way it can do so is by asking ICANN (and that means the US Government) to do so. What a state of affair!

To spread a false impression of an international private company, this is what ICANN writes in its website: ‘ICANN’s Board has included citizens of Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.’ How does this really matter as long as it is evidently clear that no one else but only the US has the power to directly control the company?

If the US doesn’t change its stand soon, we will see the emergence of new ROOT servers and new sets of internet operating in different countries. Each nation will start its OWN thing.

The following example will emphasize the consequence of such an event: if I, sitting here in Chennai would type a domain name, a different webpage would open than what you would get on typing the same domain name, sitting in say Paris. Internet would never remain the same. In fact its power would be reduced to a devastating extent.

It’s high time the Neta of the Net changes its attitude!

*Neta stands for politician in Hindi Language; Neta-giri is the act of playing politics.

Laloo’s Land!

The end-semester exam for a 4 credit course is to happen tomorrow at 9 in the morning (less than 24 hours to go). I have hardly finished even one tenth of the portion that I need to. And yet I jusht could not resist the temptation to put this blog in place. Such a good news from my home has come after so many years: Laloo-Raj is finally over!

[news link 1] [news link 2]


Bihar
? So you come from “Laloo’s Land”? Tell me one thing ‘da’, why do you guys make him win?

I don’t even remember the number of times this question had been thrown over me here in this southern part of India. Each time I had only one answer. Laloo knows how to win and that is it.

Today, I am so happy to hear someone else did learn this art; someone else did win. I sincerely hope that Nitish Kumar as the new chief minister of my state does a better job and sets Bihar rolling in the right direction. My best wishes are with him.

Good bye life! Who were you btw?

Well this one is not set on the same light-n-funny tone as my earlier post ‘What is life’ was. This one starts with a rather sad story of a fourth year IITian. Vijay committed suicide a week ago. He was found hanging in his hostel room, when after a day’s absence, his friends broke open the door. And there he was. Dead! Lifeless! Gone forever. [news link]

Why did he do this? The apparent reason highlighted in the media was that this fourth year EP student of IIT Bombay was short of attendance in some course(s) because of which he was not allowed to sit for the final exams. That meant he would have had to do one more year at the institute. He couldn’t face that, went into depression and finally committed suicide. Dead! Lifeless!

That was the ‘apparent’ reason. The real reason is this. He misjudged reality. And when something happened which he could not face (because he had not dreamt of that; because it was so unreal to him) he couldn’t take it anymore and he took his life. This I should state is the more general reason why people commit suicide.

Most of them who take their lives do it for the same reason. They are the people who never give a thought to ‘all’ that is possible with each passing second. When they step out of their hostel rooms to attend their classes, they only see the class, the short-term goal. They forget that there’s something called probability. And just ‘everything’ in this world has an above-zero probability (however small that may be). That basically means ‘anything’ can happen at anytime because the ‘everything’ includes every damn option. And that does mean that as soon as they step out of their hostel rooms, the probability of a big and sharp peace of metal flying towards them and hitting them on the face and making them blind forever exists. The metal hits they eyes; the eyes are gone. No, they are not dead. But suddenly they are blind. Their life has changed in a second. Is that really unreal? Only if they never thought something like this could ‘ever’ happen. Once you know ‘anything’ can happen, you know ‘anything’ will happen. Should the inability to see the world the way it functions, be a reason enough to end one’s life?

Reality is accepting the fact that you are never going to be the same person all the time. The change within you (or within anyone else) might happen within the blink of an eye, or it might be so slow that you won’t even notice it. The change could be for your good or on the extreme side, it could be the most disastrous thing to have happened with you. Do realize all the time, that you can hardly do anything to ensure either the magnitude or the rate of this bound-to-happen change. Realize the reality.

And then go ahead and ask yourself this: will you really want to live a life even when you are not the same person anymore? even when you have lost all the wealth you had? even when you have lost both of your limbs?

To answer any of these, and answer them ‘logically’, you will have to answer this first: why were you living a life at the first place? And that also means that if you cannot answer this, you cannot actually decide ‘logically’ whether you want to live your ‘new’ life after the ‘change’ or you just don’t want to.

When someone goes into depression, he cannot think logically. So he goes by instincts. Instincts might tell him that he would never like to live anymore. But that might not actually be the correct conclusion. When does logic work in pain? The pain is just too much to tolerate. And there he ends his life. Dead! Permanent end to all his pains. But wait a second. Wasn’t this step a permanent end to a ‘temporary problem’? Don’t you think that if the same person was made to come out of depression by some close friends and then asked to think about the whole issue ‘logically’, he might have had come with a different answer all by himself? Going by the logical way he would have first questioned himself about the real purpose of his life. After getting an answer (if he had been lucky enough), he would have moved to the next question: Could he really achieve what he wanted in life with the changes that had happened in his life? And then finally after getting an answer to this question he would have decided the action to be taken: to live further or to say life a cold good-bye. And then whatever he would have done would have been justified.

I ask you now to name me a single person who committed suicide without getting into depression. And when you fail to find any, you should realize that these people who took such actions failed to think logically. Their actions were based on their instinct which was affected in turn by the pain they felt because of the sudden change in their life. The pain was too much but then it had to recede. All they needed was time. All they needed was some support, some love, some affection and some more time. And then their decision would have had made any sense.

Talking about sense, does it really make any sense to blame the ‘system’? How is it that all others in the same system are still surviving? How valid a question is this: Did the system kill IIT-ian? I will leave the answer to the reader.

What I look for is a solution. Isn’t there any solution to prevent such tragedies? There indeed is. Before that I would like to mention few things. To begin with, one should not conclude that Vijay committed suicide because his Professors did not allow him to sit in the final exam (because of his own fault of course). We should also not conclude that he ended his life because he was upset about his choice between CS at IITG and EP(or whatever branch it was) at IITB (some of his friends did say this could be a reason!). All these explanations are superficial. He committed suicide and so do many others because he went into depression and he failed to think logically.

And now the solution. What is needed is nothing but the help of friends around such people to make them recover from apparent-tragedies, apparent-failures, apparent-misfortunes and any of these sucking feelings. All of us should be sensitive enough to others around us, listen to their problems and let no one take this irrecoverable path.

I grieve the death of a fellow IITian (and a senior to me) and sincerely wish something like this never happens again. But then the damn ‘probability’! Ok, I would rephrase my wish then: I sincerely wish that the probability of tragedies like this goes down and further down and down and…