Famous again!!!

There's coverage of NaNoWriMo in the Pune times! And your's truly is featured!!! So are a couple of good friends!!!


Shame on me

Even potted plants are blogging now. A wake up call for me to stop vegetating and neglecting my blog.


Promising the moon

Today, India sent out a successful mission to the moon. I am not in India at the moment and don't have access to the Indian news channels , but I am sure that the airwaves are flooded with self-congratulatory reports. And worse.

I can picture it right now: an NDTV spot where the newscaster is interviewing a "reknowned astrologer" about the effects of such an event. Of a man-made object landing on the moon, an how it will affect astrological conjunctions and so on. It is really fortunate that we haven't sent a man to the moon yet. Or it would be quite a difficult proposition for an astrologer to predict how the man's future would be affected!

It fills me a sense of hopelessness to think that in a country that is successfully able to send probes to the planets, the vast majority of the people still live in terror of what effect those planets have on our fates.


Atheist 13 Meme

Nicked from here. I wasn't nominated, decided to "just do it".

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

Atheism is the lack of belief in gods.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

My parents are Hindu but my upbringing was not very religious, other than my grandma telling me the stories from the Hindu mythologies at bedtime every night. And I went to a Catholic school for the first few years, where I was highly confused at the contradicitions of that faith with what my grandma used to tell me.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

Scientific endeavor in the medical field is really exciting, stem cell research, in medicine and so on.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

I have mostly encountered the "atheist community" on the internet and that itself is sad. In India, atheists are not a very organized bunch and don't have a lot of say. Now that I am in Australia, I find that the atheist community is, naturally, Christian-focussed.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

*Looks around for nonexistent child*

Hypothetically, would be amazed and shocked.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

My favourite theistic argument from India, mostly Hinduism, is that the ancients must have known more than us, and they could not have been wrong about astrology/caste system/rituals. I usually refute it by pointing out that though the "ancients" may have had perfectly good reasons and information about these subjects at the time, those seem to have been lost over the ages by the time it reached us, and in their present form, most of these things have been reduced to mere mumbo-jumbo. And that we should rediscover for ourselves these truths, instead of taking them at face value.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

My most controversial viewpoint is that all "godmen"are charlattans, which offends a lot of people who swear by the "Art of Living" or Baba Ramdev or Sathya Sai Baba.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

Dawkins. I have read only Dawkins and Harris, but Dawkins's science appeals to me.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

My father, because it is sad for me to see an otherwise rational, aware and intelligent man be such a slave to concepts like astrology.

Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:

Hmm... this is tricky. Going with three of my favourite atheists, in no particular order



You're it!


Tram Observations

During the last two months in Melbourne, I have noticed a strange phenomenon in trams. Often, a very crowded tram will have a few empty seats but no one rushing to fill them. Now, coming from Hyderabad, this was a very very strange thing to me. In the beginning, I was suspicious of the seats, wondering if someone had puked there or something (not unlikely, since a lot of drunk folk get on the trams late in the night on weekends). But there would be nothing wrong with the seats and it always puzzled me that no one was rushing to sit there even though there were people standing all around it.

Now that I have started working, which translates to commuting in the rush hour, things are clearing up.

I got onto a very crowded tram the other evening on my way home from work. As usual, there were a crowd of people standing, holding on to handbags, backpacks, PDAs, evening editions of newspapers, coats, and so many other things. Two people got up from a seat and got off at the next stop. Everyone in the immediate vicinity of the the seat looked at each other with mildly questioning looks, wondering if anyone else wanted to sit down. This really amazed me, because back home, I know that people would just shove past and grab the seat as if it were a game of musical chairs. After a few seconds of looking around, one man shuffled forward with a very embarassed expression on his face, and after a couple of "excuse me"'s he sat on one of the seats. Through the rest of the journey, the other seat remained empty, even though there was an elderly lady standing near it, and a whole lot of other people. I realised that people were not taking the seat because they thought someone else may need it more. Or because they were not far from their stops and didn't think it worthwhile to grab a seat for such a short distance.

The whole analysis really fascinated me. When I got off the tram, I realised that even with my painfully sprained ankle and laptop bag, I had remained standing too, watching the drama of the empty seat! I guess this means that I now have the Melbourne spirit.


The Best Medicine

Went to a doctor yesterday, about my sprained ankle. And the doctor prescribed... *** drum rolls*** shoe shopping! Well for those who know my feelings about shoe shopping, you can imagine that it was an all-round pick me up.

Of course, there was a sound reason behind the prescription. The doctor told me to get boots that would support my ankle and prevent it from rolling in case of a misstep. So now I have two new pairs of swank new fashionable boots, which are already making me feel better! Oh, and one more thing that made me feel better. Apparently, my shoe size is "perfect", which means I will get any shoe I want in my size! Well, that definitely makes me feel good. Finally a perfect size, even if it is in shoes!


no more time...

I met her on the bus, I met her in the corridors... a friendly smile, a kind word, and we were friends forever. Of course, it wasn't that easy. Along the way there was a shared love for books, there were hours of gossip, endless chats in cafes, invitations to leisurely lunches. There were day-long shopping sprees and ladies-only club nights. We had all the time in the world, to try on dozens of clothes, to order another sandwich, and for that last bit of gossip on the phone after getting home from an evening out. But all of a sudden, there is no more time. The days are flying by, filled with paperwork and meetings and weekends crammed with chores.

Now, with the hours and minutes slipping out of my fingers like sand, I wish I had made more of the time I had with them, living on the same street, sitting on the same floor, working in the same building, or just across the road. I wish we could have taken that crazy trip to the hills, I wish there would be another release of a Harry Potter book, I wish we could go out for just one more movie together.

In less than a month, we will be separated by an ocean. Those moments we took for granted will be nothing but memories. And I will look at every face I meet and hope for another friend forever.


What time of the day am I?

Good fun.


Three series

From the Harry Potter link in the last post, you can see that the Vatican has done a comparative study of three popular fantasy fiction series: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. Well, I don't think it's necessary to say I don't really agree with their analysis, but here's my own reasoning of why I like the Harry Potter series better than the other two.

First off, let me start by clarifying that by no means do I think that the Harry Potter series is the best that could be. There is a much better series out there, which I think every fan of Harry Potter should read, The Bartimaeus Trilogy. J K Rowling has created an amazing world, which draws from the legends and myths that are well-known to us, but that same world is shown to also interact with our own. However, the last two books of the HP series seemed a bit off to me, but I only realized what the problem was when I was deep into my own NaNoWriMo novel last November. I kept trying to introduce plot twists to keep my story going, which is the feeling I had got from the books 6 and 7. And yes, I have read HP fanfiction that can beat the last two books hands down any day.

But I still like the HP series better than Narnia and LoTR. But please remember, that whatever I write here is about the books and not about the movies at all.

HP v/s Narnia:

I read the Narnia series when I was in Sixth grade. I had devoured the series in about a month's time, all 7(?) books or something, in the order in which they were published (hint, not in choronological order). What struck me about the books, even at that age was that they were very preachy. I had, of course, not read the views of any critics and was not really able to read into the subliminal message of Aslan as Christ and so on, but the preachiness still stuck out. And I guess, even when I was 12, I preferred books that would let the reader think for herself.

In contrast, the HP books are written from the point of view of Harry, and the reader grows with him through the books. There is no real narrating voice which gives commentary.

Another thing that had struck me at that time as not particularly believable, was the whole business with the rings and portals, and having a sort of "Dadar station" where you could switch between portals and worlds. It seemed quite contrived to me at that time, though I hadn't read too many other fantasy works, and now that I have, the whole thing seems very ridiculous.

I know, it's not as if J K Rowling explains the phenomena of apparation or floo travel with hardcore science, but it is still within the realm of imagination that they can be explained by some magical theory which is known to the wizards, if not to us.

The Narnia series is also very age-specific. Because of it's preachiness, it appears to be talking down to the reader, and so, it is not particularly enjoyable for adults (or young adults) to read.

HP v/s LoTR:

I was introduced to the Lord of the Rings series by two friends, one who had a list of 100 best novels to read, and the other who had most of those novels. I started with the Hobbit, which was quite enjoyable and light-hearted. I liked the three remaining books well enough, though I did feel that they were a bit long-winded.

The most important thing about the LoTR series which I didn't like is the extreme portrayal of creatures as black and white. Of course, the human characters traverse the entire spectrum of grays. But is there a single "good" orc? Or a single "fallen" elf? The HP books are a paragon of tolerance in this respect. You have Remus and Grawp to show that not all "dark" creatures are evil, even though the majority of their bretheren may be supporting Voldemort. You have Snape, and to some extent Draco Malfoy, to show that not all Slytherins are Voldemort. There are good and evil (or crazy) house elves, and even Gryffindor house (which is supposed to be full of brave and good people) produces one of the worst traitors.

Another thing which rankled me was that the king had somekind of birthright to rule the world. Just because he was "x son of y son of z son of w" or something. Sort of reminds me of Rahul Gandhi.

However, I would like to add that if you haven't read these three (four, actually; the Bartimaeus trilogy is is a must-read) series, please go out and read them. Each of them, despite the peeves mentioned above, has some great storytelling. Enjoy!


The Exorcist - Redux

More than a year after my post about Harry Potter and the Exorcist, here are two news stories reported on IBN Live, within the space of a month. In one, the Vatican says that Harry Potter is the wrong kind of hero, and in the other the Vatican's chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth (now I finally know the name of the guy I was speculating about in my last post), talks about how exorcism is more and more necessary in today's world.

Apparently, the story of Harry Potter glorifies the knowledge of the occult (read as knowledge, period) . Apparently, intellectuals feel that using knowledge, they can turn dark powers to good. How? By using nuclear power to power cities and factories rather than to blow up the earth, stuff like that maybe. The positive values that we come across in the book are apparently of no use, as the tale is set in the backdrop of witchcraft, which, instead of being shunned and reviled, is actually portrayed in a positive light.

In the previous post I had wondered why the church simply doesn't make DVDs of exorcisms to prove the truth and make a killing at the box-office at the same time. The news clip reveals that the catholic church forbids filming real exorcisms. Hmm... wonder why. Could it be because people will figure out that there is just some crazy mumbo-jumbo happening there, and that there are no levitating beds and priests being flung to the corner of the room by girls regurgitating green vomit?

According to the man in charge of exorcisms in the Vatican, the action of the devil is a lot more widespread now than in the past because the devil is being given more space. For three centuries now, the church has almost totally abandoned exorcisms, and so now there are hardly any priests equipped to handle the possessed. These priests, because of their ignorance, send people to psychiatrists and psychologists instead of exorcising them. "Thank god", the father said, "that there is a pope who wants to fight the devil head on."

I suppose the Vatican will keep issuing statements like these and I will keep writing blogposts to try and show how completely ridiculous they are. Here's to a long and healthy blogging career.