Monday, July 26, 2010

India media

During this India trip, i found a new respect for Indian media. They are actually doing a good job in making the govt. accountable for its actions. It is doing the function of an opposition party.

For example, it brought out issues on Bhopal gas tragedy, honor killings, physical punishments in schools etc. I was very impressed with the local newspaper Prabhat khabar in ranchi which was doing a great job in exposing corruption in ranchi govt. offices. Incidentally its motto is Akhbhar nahin, Aandolan.

The American media, which is either leftist, or right or trying to be both. Often American media has failed to question the govt. decisions, it generally affirms the govt.'s point of view and after reading Manufacturing consent by Noam Chomsky, i agree with him that American media helps the govt. a lot in pushing forward its policies, justifying their actions. So much and so that Jon Stewart's satire show is the source of news for many people here.

Compared to the American media, India media atleast questions the govt. Ofcourse there is a lot more fool hardiness in Indian system but atleast the media is taking a stand. The journalists are risking something for such news. Along with Indian judiciary, i felt grateful for Indian media. Way to go.

But there are many areas for improvisation in Indian media. My main issues is that Indian media is largely driven my middle class issues. It can be understood as most of the journalists and reporters are middle class people and only identify to middle class issues. For example, honor killings is very prevalent in lower sections but it never made headlines until it happened to an industrial family in delhi. The lower class also needs representation at national level media. Ofcourse, the local media does bring up local issues which includes lower sections but it is not enough.

I no longer have any comments on Indian news's idea of sensationalizing every bit of news. Nor do i hate that idolatory attitudes towards celebrities. These are just part of the parcel and they also have to make money. I am sure time will pass and these things will be not a norm.

Life in May 22 - July 25

2 months of my life in one post. Difficult to sum it all up especially if it includes a trip to India.

Starting with what was missed in last life in series.

I attended an American wedding of a colleague (Christine). I was late by 30 mins and i missed the actual ceremony. The event was at Sonomal golf course, a very well organized event. I was in time for the dinner and post-ceremony celebrations. The highlight was the cake which was based on some game theme which had a symbolism running under it. There were speeches, dances, toasts and good food. This happened on May 1st.

Ok, now about this installment's updates:

India trip - June 4 - July 5. Haha! 1 month. Multiple other posts update. Highlights - meeting parents, Aarti, other relatives and few friends; Studying and giving human rights law exam; traveling; books; movies; and ofcourse eating best food ever :)

Pre - India trip:
Went to a hike to Stanford dish with Nikesh, Pramod, Gurshi and Vamsi. Nice small 5 mile hike. It was also very closeby. The highlight of this hike was the company. I organized the group and hence i was responsible for maps and directions etc. Hehe, little they knew how bad i am at it. So, we went to a randomal hill first and then turned back because the grass touched our waists. It is then they described to me my GPS formula - Arvind aankh band kar ke haath ghoomata hai. Jahan haath jata hai wahin pe chalna shuru kar deta hai. Lots of PJs. But a nice morning hike.

India trip planning, H1 B visa status stamping documentation etc.

Post India trip -

Many things have happened post India trip. Life again became first different, then busy and then non-existent until i sat writing this post.

1. On my first knitting night after coming back, i finished my hat. I didn't knew it would be so soon. Pictures will be taken and posted soon.

2. Bought an ipad. This happened on July 10. Why did i buy it? I do not know. It costs freaking 700$. How did it happen? I went to buy an iphone 4 but they didn't had any in stock. So Gurshi said that now we are here, we have to buy something. And convinced me to buy it. A detailed ipad review post will be done soon. But for now, it suffices to say that it was not a bad decision.

3. Bought furniture. Continuing on my impulsive buying streak, i bought a 3 seater sofa and one lazy boy and one small center table. I am feeling good about this purchase. Apartment now feels like a home now. I can sit here and read book now (previously all book reading was done in coffee shops).

4. Some more shopping done - Bought jeans and jacket. Went to a mall second time after coming to US. First time was to buy the coat for a marriage.

5. Next knitting project started. It is to knit an ipad cover. Have bought the yarn and needles. The pattern is taken from here - But my knitting master, a colleague at office has decided to leave his job and join Google. But he is going to continue on knitting nights. So thats good. He was also a very good mentor to me. But overall mixed emotions from my side. Happy for him though.

5. Yash buaji passed away. Sad. Don't know how to react. A few times, whenever i met her, i always loved her. She was so lively all the time. Full of life. Always got a feeling of warmth and happiness from her, as someone who was internally happy. Very few people give that vibe, really very very few people. May she rest in peace!.

6. Pt. reach beach meetup - Over time, i have realized that i knoe very few other Indians in bay area. I joined a meetup group called Bay area india junction but never went to any one their meetups. Then, i came to know that they are organizing it on Drakes beach in point Reyes. Naturally i signed up because i love Pt. Reyes. I also really wanted Pramod to see the place. It is a very beautiful place. I also sogned up for carpool as a volunteer to take my car. Pavani and Anshul went with me and it was great to know them. At Pt. Reyes, first we went to see the lighthouse which was kinda cool. We climbed down and up about 320 stairs for it. At the beach, we played volleyball and antakshari. Made some good friends and overall it looked like a very good group. I made eqiuty waale paneer ke sandwiches. Overall a good fun saturday.

7. Have again started training with Asha as part of their season 2. Ran 3 miles yesterday. Targetting the half marathon in October.

8. Movies -
Inception - The much awaited movie by Christopher Nolan. Quite good, very innovative. Deserves at least one watching if not more.
Sorcerer's apprentice - Very disappointing. Do not even try.
Kisses - Went to this one as part of camera cinema club. I have signed for membership. Liked the movie. Kisses is an Irish indie movie based on the life of two eleven year olds who run from their home to the city and it shows how they survive in city there. Very good camera work and great performance by the young actors. Camera cinema club is awesome!

9. Desktop tower defense - the game on ipad is now my latest addiction.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Indian constitution

Now that i have read the human right law, it makes me an expert on Indian Indian constitution. Doesn't it?

Here is what i think are some issues with Indian constitution -

1. Temporal factor. The only place where time is mentioned in IC is in the context of right to education where it says that GOI should aim to provide free and compulsory education within 10 yrs. It has been 6 decades and yet it remains elusive. My issues is that the IC fails to use temporal factor more often especially in case of preferential treatment. For example in case of reservations, (yes on some level i do understand and even agree on reservations); but i think it has to come with a time plan on when the preferential treatment will cease to exist. Reservation exists solely to promote the under privileged sections which is fine but assume in an ideal world (which is assumed when IC is written as it is an ideal document), if a backward section is given some privileges and assume that the execution is fool proof, because of the special privileges, after some time, the section will no longer be backward because it will get equal standings with other sections. Thus making the preferential treatment a discrimination. So, all preferential treatments must come with a time factor. Moreover, this time factor should also act as a deadline so that organizations strive to deliver before deadlines. Ofcourse for fair play there should be clauses for time extensions but with penalties as well.
So, i claim that it is reservation is okay as long as we say that it will get removed by 2020 by which we believe that it will no longer make sense.

2. Preventive detention - Many have written about it, the fact that in India, you can detain a person under preventive detention even in normal circumstances (meaning in non-emergency situations), this makes this law the most dangerous law. Here is what should happen here - Either this law should be there only in emergency situations, if not then atleast the powers to preventively detain a person should exist with a special body, instead of the normal police. Moreover, this law should come with clauses about Individual responsibility model when individuals responsible to detain others will face harsh punishments if they break the law. Preventive detention does not give anyone the right to torture. The rights of a detainee are sacrosanct and individuals who violate detainees' rights should be punishable. Furthermore, there should be an independent body (such as NHRC) with suo-moto powers and also powers to arrest and judge the perpetrator.

3. Remove Muslim law: India like western nations should bite the bullet and introduce uniform civil law for all religions without any preferential treatments. Special casing has no ends because of India's cultural diversity and moreover Muslim law is a very tricky business. They have chosen to include law as they seem to fit and some of the laws are opposed to the principles of HR.

4. Due process: Although the Supreme court has started to use "Due process" in lot many judgments, i believe that "due process" should be added to the law itself and hence should be formally defined. It will help a lot in future cases.

Overall, many people have many issues with IC and some are debatable. Above are the ones that i feel about quite strongly.

India trip movie review

Well this post was long pending. A trip to home is always accompanied with watching a lot of movies. Here is the list and 2 line reviews.

Raat gayi Baat Gayi
- Written and directed by Saurabh Shukla, it starrs Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak in leads. A very well made small budget indie comedy where the humor is in the story and not in the act. Vinay Pathak is just too good. Movie starts in a morning where no one remembers what happened in the night before. Again these are movies which do not have a strong story but movies which should be made. These should be watched on a casual rainy day evening.

Siddarth the Prisoner - It has Rajat Kapoor in the lead who gives a great performance. An interesting story, again an indie movie made with an exciting idea and nice execution. An author comes out of a prison to write about his prison experience in a book and twists happen when the briefcase containing book manuscript is exchanged by a briefcase containing money.

Ishqiya: Naseeruddin shah and Arshad warsi in leads who fell in love with Vidya Balan. This movie comes from the camp of Vishal Bhardwaj. Good in parts and rest is average. Does not give the feel of an Indian village, has too many cliches. Liked the heist planning part. Decent performances. Average movie overall. One awesome song - Dil to bachha hai

Tera kya hoga Johnny: Directed by Sudhir Mishra. Ok, too much expectations going into the movie. A very strong cast. Story revolves around the life of a teenager named Johnny who dreams to go to Dubai. A disappointment. My main problem is that there are too many sub plots going on and hence become too much to digest. More depth and less variety was required here. Loved the concept of Corporate in underworld. And i have a bigger issue with Kay Kay Menon. Even though Kay Kay is a versatile actor, i think he is best suited for idealist, angry young man type roles (Black friday, HKA etc) But consistently he has played negative roles and even though he is good, he is now appearing to look monotonous in them.

Striker - Left halfway, cant comment.

In theatres -

Rajneeti: The good side: Ajay Devgan is not doing comedy, atleast he acts in this movie. Arjun Rampal looks good in pieces. Average plot. The bad: Bad acting by Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif has no idea how to portray and man the story sucks so bad. It is an intersection of Godfather and Mahabharath. But please take inspiration, not imitation. And that idiotic Karan concept was not needed at all. Overall the movie could have been very realistic but it fells into the ususal bollywood crap.

Raavan: Dir by Mani Ratnam. Starring Abhishek and Aish. So people were disappointed by this movie. I was not. I had no expectations and the movie turned out to be average. Santosh Sivan's cinematography is just brilliant and it stands out. Script is also quite good atleast has some thought provoking points in it on who is correct. But the acting is just bad. Both Ash and abhi are overacting, trying to do too much. Would have liked to see someone in place of Govinda. Dance and makeup is quite bad as per me.

The Karate Kid: Loved it. I have seen all previous 3 karate kids, the plot is known. Standard three structures - Cause, Karate training and karate execution with moral ending. But the execution is quite good. First, acting of that kid is very good. Jackie Chan gives a quite performance and its good to see him in such a role. Overall, a good movie to watch with family.

Millenium trilogy

Stieg Larsson has written a millenium trilogy - 3 novels all based on a girl called Lisbeth Salander. Novels are originally written in Swedish and translated to English by someone.

I saw the movie based on the first novel - Girl with the dragon tattoo. Liked the movie a lot. It was after a long time i had seen a fiction suspense drama movie and i think the movie is quite decent adaptation from the book. I particularly like the acting of Blomkvist (another protagonist) played by Michael Nyqvist. I was hooked. On my way to India i bought the second book - The girl who played with fire and read it in the plane. Loved reading the book. After reading non-fiction for a long time i had a craving to read bourne like fiction drama where there is a certain aura behind the main character (something like harry potter ). The second book is exactly that, it builds on the past and present of Lisbeth salander and it has many twists and turns. At the same time, the writing also does a good job in building characters, going into details etc and creates a very good mental picture while reading the book. I saw the movie based on this one two days ago and almost hated it. The movie makes a 24 like story out of the novel where you just see event A followed by event B and so on without going at all into the characters, the motifs, the environment and mainly there is no way to associate with the protagonist Lisbeth Salander.

On my way back to India i read the third of the trilogy - Girl who kicked Hornet's nest. The problem with trilogies or series that start off well is that there are too many expectations with the ending. And generally books which have gained cult status are all the ones which are able to match up to the expectations. I believe Steig Larsson's trilogy also falls in such a list. The last book is equally fascinating, villians from book 2 are quickly removed and new villians are created, while adding more depth. The pace is quite good and also the final climax is decent, could have been more dramatic though. I saw the movie on third part yesterday and even though it was a lot better than the second movie, it still had its shortcomings. One of things that one has to be careful while adapting a book into a movie is figuring out which details to throw and which ones to keep. Surely all details can not be kept. I think the third movie could have been a lot better had they chosen to focus more on Sapo and less on Niedderman. The movie did a good job by throwing away the SMP section and Berger. But i would have liked the Blomkvist Monica angle.

Overall, these novels are very good page turners. The kind that is addictive once you start reading. I think the first novel would have been a good read too but having seen the movie, i have lost the charm to read through it. I believe that there is a huge opportunity here to remake these movies, mainly in Hollywood style. Swedish cinema lacks the jazziness meaning the crisp editing, fast pace and raw fights (remember Bourne movies). Also, i think these books also make a strong case to make a tv series out of them. I think each book can be equivalent to a season and it would be a good watch.

Human rights law

Back from India, time to blog.

I have now finished my human rights diploma course. I did a Post Graduate Diploma course in Human rights law from National Law school in Bangalore.

About the course:
A very good course. It had 4 subjects namely
(Paper I) History of human rights, and rule of law - It discussed origins, evolution, and philosophy behind human rights law. It also introduces to some key issues such as universalism vs cultural relativism, feminist perspectives etc.
(Paper II) Civil and political rights - What are civil and political rights, international law, indian law, some case studies, emergency, preventive detention etc.
(Paper III) Economic, social and cultural rights - What are these rights, how are they justiciable, indian implementation, judgements etc.
(Paper IV) Access to justice: Mainly focused in Indian context, PILs, Lok adalats, what is legal aid, free legal aid etc.

About the course structure:
Each paper had a book consisting of about 15-20 papers or articles. All articles were very good, it was a great joy to read them. Very carefully selected, these articles were comprehensive, fundamental and thought provoking. My only issues was that the course material was not updated with the developments in law in last decade. Things like RTI, Torture acts etc were missing.
Exams were like typical indian exams - write short notes, or write essays etc. But this can be understood given the nature of subject. But NLSIU had a very good system. Each exam was in afternoon from 2-5 and in morning they used to have a revision class from 10 - 1 where they used to go over the entire course material for that paper. I think it is a great idea. Since we had missed the contact classes, these sessions were a good opportunity to ask questions, clear doubts and a nice concise revision of the course material.

About NLS:
In the outskirts of Blore. Difficult to reach. I used to take a bus and auto. But good school. Decent canteen. I think the best part was the faculty who were giving lectures. They really knew their subject matter quite well. The admin at DED program was also quite helpful.

So overall, a very good experience. Clearly this course was one of the best things that i have done this year so far. Results are still awaited. 50% passing marks out of 100 required. Lets see!