Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine flew then too

The cover to the album Flying Pigs by Floyd the Pink. Look carefully. Swine flew then too. And if that wasn’t enough, this album – with track names mentioning swine and livestock – also inspired George Orwell to write the immortal allegorical novel called Animal Farm.

Yep. You read right. For more information, why not read ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Pink Floyd: theBekku exclusive’?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Oversimplifying a flaw

Revisiting Plato’s criticisms of democracy just reaffirms my stand that more ‘educated’ people (and not just literate) should vote. Democracy is built around equality, and no where is it more apparent than at the elections. Extreme equality. That’s what it is. And that is precisely one of the many reasons that democracy as a system is flawed. Not to mention its severe susceptibility to be deeply corruptible. No matter what your level of education (or lack of it thereof), your experience (or lack of it thereof), your opinions (or lack of it thereof), you just get one vote. I’m not trying to be elitist, but in the light of the critique that Plato made against democracy , the more-informed, the more-educated person’s vote should carry more weight than one without them. But equality is equality, and when it comes to voting, ain’t no one more equal than the other. It is at this point that the numbers come into play. Imagine there are 100 voters and three candidates. Candidate 1 and Candidate 2 belong to national parties with a clear agenda and vision, or at least some direction. Candidate 3 belongs to some local party fraught with corruption, with no vision but lots of notes. 48 people turn out to vote. Fifteen people vote for candidate 1. Fifteen for Candidate 2, making Candidate 3 a winner with 18 votes. So Candidate 3 is now declared the winner, gets to represent 100 people for 5 years and all because of empty rhetoric and votes for notes. Assuming that the great ‘educated’ masses will not put a price on their votes, and so even if 10 more ‘educated’ people had come out to vote, the result would have been different, and hopefully for the better.
Unfortunately, it is these great educated (and apathetic masses) who don’t come out to vote. And they are the ones who claim the greatest share in the benefits that democracy offers and the loudest to scream and shout and rail at the system given a fraction of a chance. Sad. Where’s that punishment clause for not voting when you need one?

Vote karo, khush raho?

Another weekend gone, but that of a week that saw this city go to the polls. Days later, we’re still looking at each other’s left index fingers to see if the person voted or not. For all the brouhaha about the ‘politically aware youth’, ‘educated and aware first-time voters’, the turn out was on the wrong side of the halfway mark. Pathetic. What this meant is that the people who voted automatically got the right to gloat. Who gave them this right? Democracy baby! I must thinks i should stop scoffing at and scorning those who didn’t vote when they could’ve.

It’s one’s right to vote, irrespective of whether you care about this country or what happens once the results are out. One cannot sit back and say ‘not voting is my form of protest’. It’s a duty that must needs be done like any other. There’s a limit how much you can flog the ‘freedom of expression’ horse. And that’s just the point. People sit around, going about their lives, enjoying all the various freedoms that being a citizen of this country bestow, but won’t lift a finger (no pun intended) when it comes to doing their duty. Voting is one of them. In a country of almost 70 crore voters, it’s mighty difficult, but there should be some form of penalty for those that don’t vote. But first let the machinery be put in place that ensures that no voter’s name gets dropped off the list. And while we cannot blame the dutiful voter for that, we cannot totally fault the system either. It’s still got its flaws, and till they’re ironed out we need to follow up and to ensure that one’s name is on that list. Most would think it not worth their time. But that didn’t stop me from trying to ensure that I did not fall prey to a flaw in the system.

Will one vote make a difference? Maybe not. But stranger things have happened. And anyways, each vote gets pooled into the majority, so you can’t have an ocean without a drop. Even if the party i voted for doesn’t come to power, at least i know i made i didn’t vote for the other party and countered one vote for that other party with a vote for mine. Nincompoops get elected to power because those that can prevent it didn’t vote. If you voted, no can at least accuse you of not doing your bit.

The system is corrupt and inefficient. True. And to vote is to be a part of that system. So i will not. What hogwash! I am the first to agree to the proposition that democracy is a flawed system, and the strain of democracy seen here in these parts by far the worst. It’s done more damage than could any other system (or so i would like to think). But that’s what we are saddled with and till we have it, might as well do our bit to ensure that at least the people we want in power get there. But unfortunately thousands of people didn’t. I would like to think that this does not mean they don’t have an opinion, and the great apathetic masses are perfectly fine living by the policies and under the rule of the government voted into power by the people who did vote. I VOTED! And i think it’s cool that the mark of democracy is the newest status symbol around. Sad but true. What should be the norm is now a lifestyle statement. Sad but true. I am loving it. I VOTED! And i’m not going to give some sad excuse for why i voted. I voted because i wanted to, i’m proud of it. thinks i will still go around gloating for some more time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Return to the Sun

A split second after the awe and splendour hits you like a ton of red sandstone bricks, two blinks after your jaw hits the walkway at the splendour of it all, it is replaced by a sense of regret. That you were not there to see it in all its glory. Regret that slowly turns to anger at all the invaders and conquerors who’ve swept this land demolishing structures (read temples) in their wake and in their territory. The ‘eminent historians’ will tell you it was all political expediency. Nothing personal. But we all know what their motivations were. The anger and the regret never really goes away as you walk through whatever that remains – in awe, wondering about the artisans of a bygone era and marvel at the heights of their achievements, in architecture and engineering. Poetry in stone. The echoes of a lost art and culture.

One such is the Sun Temple at Konark. The mythical magnet of legends may no longer be there, but there is something about the place that makes you want to go back. So i did. And the regret i felt the first time around was still there, amplified even.

If you go by the massive structure that stands today, one can only imagine what the complete temple would’ve looked like. A colossal temple to Arka, the Sun God constructed like a massive chariot on twelve pairs of exquisitely carved wheels pulled by seven pairs of horses. Thankfully many of the wheels still remain with their details intact. But almost all the horses are gone. Just about two broken horses remain of the seven pairs. One pair of each for each side. So when you look at the temple in profile, you see the seven horses pulling a twelve-wheeled chariot. Here’s an image composited from two photos i took this time around that i hope will give a general idea.

Each of the wheels is study in itself. Each an exquisite clock byitself. Each of the spokes carved with intricate details and twelve stages in the wheel of time and life. Take a look at these wheels. Take a close look and you will see that the pictures were taken a shade after twelve noon. The first pic is a personal favourite, the most enduring image that it is of Konark. The main tower, the sanctum – or the Deul as it is known – is gone. Fallen because the archstone was taken away. Or destroyed most likely. Only the Jagamohana remains. And that is what one sees dominating the skyline as you enter. But that’s not all there is to the Sun Temple. Hundreds of carvings, big and small, worldly and spiritual. And of course the highly instructive erotic carvings that ring the Deul’s second level. One could on and on writing about the Sun Temple and the majesty of it all. The stories and legends. The myths and the harsh reality. But seeing is believing, so here are a few random pics that but, hint at what awaits the traveller who makes his way to Konark. As i did. I could go on, but i’d rather speak about in person.

Three visits to the temple in two days. Noon, night and dawn. On my second visit to Konark. I have a feeling my tryst with Konark has still a few chapters more to go. And then will the final word be written. Till then, here a few thousand words in low-res pictures. In the language of stone, spoken by the magnificent men and artisans who make me proud just being born in the land they once trod upon.

There's even a 'tourist toilet' there in case you were looking for more reason to go there.

One the statues of Surya, the Sun God. One of the few still in relatively good shape. Not the idol. Nobody knows for sure where it is or what happened to it. What's an idol without a sanctum. Anyways, to the left is the statue in granite of Arka in his chariot . Top left is a detail from the lower portion of the statue depicting Garuda's brother, Aruna, Surya's charioteer with three of the seven horses whose reins he holds (in the main statue exactly between Surya's feet). Bottom left is a detail from the waistband of Surya. To the right is a detail of one of the attendant dieties you can see at Surya's feet.

Above: The entrance to the jagamohana. Unfortunately, there is nothing to enter into. The inside has been filled up completely to prevent the structure from collapsing in on itself. Many many grateful thanks to The Hon’ble J.A. Bourdillon, C.S.I. Wondering who I’m thanking? Well. The granite plaque you see in the doorway reads, ‘To preserve this superb specimen of old Indian architecture the interior was filled in by order of The Hon’ble J.A. Bourdillon, C.S.I., Lieutenant Governor of Bengal A.D. 1903." Thank you sir.

Above: Another statue of Surya, facing westwards.

Above: The jagamohana, which is the only major structure left. With day trippers in front and at the entrance. Look at the scale and marvel. The deul, or the main tower which would've been behind this was a lot more bigger. But sadly. Below: The Jagamohana just after dawn. The photo above was at about 1pm.
Above: Jubin 'waiting for a class-less state-less world' George, partner in crime this time around in front of one of the wheels. Lest you think that the wheels are small and man-size, here is some scale for perspective. Below: A composite of three images, look closely and you will see Jubin closely studying some detail on the walls to the left of the steps. Can't see him? No matter. Take a look at the composite below this one. That should give you the scale of man to wheel.
Above: The stones seem to change colour depending on what time of the day you are there. Remember that photo above (the personal favourite one). The one on the left. The photo was taken noon-ish. The same wheel a little while later. Below: Another illustration of the same point, this time with two different wheels on the same side of the temple.
Oh. There are many more. Like the words i could write, the visages that the Sun Temple presents you with – multiplied by the number of times you visit it, and what time of day you visit it in – are many. The 'erotic' sculptures. The small details and dieties. The natya mantap. But why overdo it? Go there to really experience it. But before i bid adieu for now, one last view of the the Sun Temple. One last look through the massive lions, across the natyamantap to the jagamohana. Once as the sun just makes his presence felt, the other when he is elsewhere than at Konark.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Catchy but not quite

Everyone seems to be saying One Billion Votes this and One Billion votes that. I get it. It’s catchier than saying 71.5 crore votes. But what’s most irritating is when that Anal Orifice of Indian Journalism, Rajdeep Sardesai, says it (he gets his channel though to insist that he is the Face). Just the way he says it riles me. I must confess, everything he says riles me. But that’s a topic for another day.

So coming to the 70-odd crore voters, in the end how many will really come out on the day and vote? The cool dudes, the hot babes, the party folk, the bleeding heart liberals, and the ‘educated’ youth will take election day as a well deserved holiday, sleep late, most likely hung over from last night’s party. They will take time out, go out of their way to protest petitioning for pubs to be kept open for longer, but won’t come and vote. I might be tarring everyone with the same brush, but sadly that’s the picture i see. I saw it during the assembly elections, and i don’t think things have changed much. I would love to be proved wrong. Or to expect much from these great cool and apathetic masses. There should be some sort of penalty for people who don’t vote.

Speaking of catchy and this time with meaning, here’s Thermal and a Quarter telling you to ‘Shut up and Vote!’ Which is what I think we all should do.

Captain Gopi. Not!

I respect the man. Am sure he means well. Noble, honourable intentions and all. I’m not going to listen to the cynics and their theories, you know them as well as i do. And he is contesting from my constituency!!

We could do with people like him in the great Indian political morass. But really, what is he going to achieve? Will he win? No. Will be making a statement? Yes. But statements never changed anything. All he will end up doing is splitting the votes of certain demographics thus letting and enabling those that should not have won, to win. Knowingly or otherwise. Maybe there is some credence to those theories then.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009