Tuesday, June 20, 2017
On Why I Am A Climate Skeptic Despite Being A Pseudo-Intellectual.
The burden of being a public intellectual, or at least an aspiring one, is that one is expected to have an opinion on everything under the sun. At times this is easy. For example if asked about my opinion on popular Indian writers or at least the over rated ones I would have no hesitation in picking up on the grand-dame of self-delusion and the harridan of uncertain prose-Ms. Arundathi Roy whose only claim to fame is the shrill vehemence in which she complains against everything so much so that I fear that she has internalized the title of her own work “In which Annie gives it to those ones” by turning into “In which Arundathi gives it to everyone almost gleefully”.
I could also show off my sly nature with a tribute to the granddaddy of self-publishing – Mr. David Davidar whose book was self-published by his own firm Penguin where he was the chief editor. This was a fortunate occurrence for David Davidar for that book- the house of blue mangoes, reminded uncannily everyone (else) who read it of a previous and well accepted novel with a similar title leading to loud whispers of plagiarism and would have damaged irretrievably the reputation of anyone else who had done the same except that David Davidar was not only promoted, he was given the prestigious on-site offer of Penguin Canada editor-in-head. Of such strange quirks are the publishing world made.
Now to stretch the analogy a bit further and prove my snobbish intellectual side I would have to be suitably dismissive of minor Indian writers of uncertain provenance who sell a few thousand soft copies to their Facebook and Instagram followers based on their networking skills on social media (and their attractive dp’s)- people like preeti shenoy, amish etc. but I would rather not waste time trashing their books as fluff when everyone else on Quora seem to be doing the same. I would rather tread a different path to burnish my credentials as an intellectual by taking on bigger issues- something like climate change for instance.
Now for the entire week gone past there was a lot of breast beating over the American president trump pulling out of the Paris climate accords. Everyone but everyone including me had an opinion on his act and its aftermath. Although I put up an instant Facebook post, I found it difficult to encapsulate my ideas on such a small platform as Facebook and hence this more explanative blog post. The main fallacy of people with knee jerk reactions and opinions on everything – and here I am talking about the entire Facebook generation- is that they don’t have the intellectual capacity or even the rigor of hard work to read up and analyze anything in depth before positing an opinion. Ask anyone whether the Paris accord was good or bad, they will invariably reply as good. But just ask them what was in the nitty-gritty, the fine details of the Paris accord which made it so good and watch them despair and log out of the internet.
Anyway, I consider the Paris accord as one more con job perpetrated by Trans-national companies on an unsuspecting world population. Their idea of reducing harmful carbon emissions which were increasing the earth’s temperature was to offer carbon credits and offsets to be bought by less polluting countries aka less developed countries and to be traded to more polluting well-developed countries which could use those credits to keep their current levels of emission at status-quo. Now tell me what’s so advantageous about this? To the poor countries which don’t have any emissions? To the rich countries who have to pay through their noses for these trade offsets? And to the earth’s climate in general with the maintainability of current emission levels? I can’t see anyone else benefiting except the middle men who will trade on these carbon credits. So President Trump might have ended up doing the right thing for the wrong reasons- at least let’s give him credit for that.
Now if you ask me about climate change, as an intellectual with a public profile to protect, I would have to say that I am extremely climate-skeptic. I will not dispute the current methodology of working out the heat increase of the planet plotted against the emission levels. But I would argue that the entire science behind the methodology is wrong as is so often seen with respect to long held scientific dogmas based on an initial questionable data collection. The climate change lobby and the earth is in peril give me more money lobby might not agree with me but I consider that our current models of predicting or even studying climate change is flawed because we have so little idea of what sustains our current climate at its level and what the future will hold if emissions continue to rise and the planets core temperature arises by a few more degrees.
Will the earth be able to auto-correct by ushering in another ice age in response to increased temperatures? Will the weather become capricious and unpredictable based on current weather prediction models? Will we be in another era of widespread flooding caused by rising sea levels? Will plants thrive on more heat and better cloud cover- a hot house temperature effect? Will they be releasing more and more oxygen after flourishing in the abundant carbon dioxide levels and in effect changing our planet’s atmosphere into a super oxygenated world? No one has any answers to these and other critical questions on climate change. What we have are beliefs in dogmas and a rigidity in those belief’s which preclude any other point of view contrary.
If at all we are serious about reducing the impact of emissions on our planet the way to go forward is pretty much blindingly obvious to everyone of even average intelligence- to end our dependence on fossil fuels. To stop digging for coal -coal mining/strip mining is one of the biggest eyesores on the earth’s surface. To stop drilling for oil and automatically avoid and undermine all the current religious wars based on abundant oil money financing. To get over the entire damage caused by two hundred years of internal combustion engines which burn parts of the planets dead past aka fossil fuels and just jump into using clean and green fuels- a hydrogen engine’s emission is water vapor for instance, yes pure H2O. Solar, wind, ocean current- there are a whole lot of alternate energy sources available to produce the electric fuel cells necessary for clean energy with zero emissions. And finally to get over our irrational fears of anything nuclear and move on into using nuclear fusion- the cleanest form of energy and used by our sun for instance, to produce everything we use including solar energy. A dyson construct which directly taps into the solar energy near the sun and feeds it to the planet via mirrors might be the stuff of science fiction right now, but so were mobile phones and airplanes at one time. So the future of emission control should be less of control and more of eliminating the necessity of emissions.
And finally to point out the planet Venus as the end effort of climate change and increased emission levels is intellectual dishonesty- for the Venus effect was not caused by Venusian's or their factories emitting greenhouse gases. What caused it was a giant planet sized object- an asteroid smashing into Venus- boiling off its oceans instantaneously, stopping its rotation, making it lose its magnetosphere and the ability to have and retain an atmosphere which will protect against sun flares and cosmic particles. Now when was the last time you heard one of these green warriors talk about extra-planet sources of danger to the earth and its atmosphere, including climate? When will they learn to stop blaming humanity for all the ills of the planet and take a more broad based view on the dangers affecting humanity as a whole?
I have, as a responsible intellectual ( and to burnish my credentials as one) taken a more broad based view on the dangers affecting humanity which no one else seems to care about, consumed as they are in the nitty gritty of working out carbon offsets and who gets to profit out of which greenhouse gas. If the whole of humanity decides to take a similar broad based view on the fate of the planet then I would say good riddance to the Paris accord and you are welcome Mr. Trump.
And if after reading this entire blog post you are still not convinced of my intellectual heft, well, wait till you read my book on this. And, oh yeah, I too can/will put up sexy DP’s to sell my book, so there, you are warned.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
All for the love of Biryani...
Disclaimer- This is a work of fiction (science fiction) and no characters resemble living or ruling persons. That said, it’s the unpleasant task of a writer to highlight things before it happens, as it happens and after it happens. Before it happens- as a warning. As it happens- as a chronicle. After it happens- as a memory. Some of the best writers perished in the fascist concentration camps and the communist gulags, because they did not write before it happened or even as it happened- all around them, to others and themselves. A few survivors wrote after the events- by then it was too late to save the millions who perished because of the pusillanimity of the intellectuals who should have been at the forefront of the resistance. Or that’s what history teaches us as it judges events (and persons) dispassionately.
That morning he woke up at his usual early morning hour without the assistance of the electro-assist alarm thus saving a few volts of electricity and more importantly avoiding the painful early morning electric shock which usually woke him up daily. Once up, he wasted no time in heading to the bathroom to have the regulated two minute shower and then dressed quickly in a white dhoti and long sleeved white shirt, his usual office attire, before heading to the insta-coffee maker to grab his early morning cuppa of fresh chicory brew, his only breakfast on working mornings. As he gulped down the hot and bitter brew he waxed nostalgic on the genuine coffee, from fresh roasted beans, he had enjoyed in his younger days. But those days of luxurious life on earth were long past, the unsustainable population explosion had put paid to luxuries like coffee long ago and only the uber rich were thought to be able to sample such genuine luxuries nowadays. He sighed and put down the mud pot in the recycler and picking up his jute bag, plastics having been banned ages ago, he went off to the station to catch his pod to work.
From his suburban house in the foothills off the chamundi hills to the pod station at Mysore central was a 20 minute commute by uber and a vehicle was automatically re-routed to pick him up by the action of locking his door electronically using his Aadhar key-card. As he hung the card back on his neck using the lanyard he reflected how his apartment was all safe now from unauthorized access as the only two who could open the door without that key were him and the government both with access to his fingerprints and iris prints. In locking his door behind securely he was often considered an anachronism and was made much fun of in the beginning but old habits die hard and despite the government propaganda labelling those who locked their doors as anti-national and paper money hoarders and colleagues questioning his patriotism as “if you have nothing to hide in there then why do you lock the door when you leave the house?” he still preferred to lock the doors in his absence.
This was due to, thought he wouldn’t admit it, a fear that his ex-wife would move back into the empty house in his absence if he left it unlocked. If she, god forbid did that, he would have no recourse legally except to share the apartment again with that treacherous woman who had made him the laughing stock of the Hyderabad office by co-habiting with her supervisor openly and who he could not divorce like in the old/bad times because according to the new constitution, circa 2019, a man and his wife were supposed to stay married for seven lifetimes with no option of divorce even after death and anyone who complained his wife was cheating on him was labelled an anti-national and told to follow the example of the soldiers on the border who lived a life of celibacy. That was the prime reason he had shifted work to Chennai even though he hated to visit the new Chennai, what was left over of the city post the 2020 mega-tsunami.
When he finally reached the pod station at Mysore junction, he was lucky to find a pod just ready to leave for Chennai and so he crawled into it and strapped himself in tightly for the twenty minute commute to Chennai sriperumbudur hyper loop station. The pod whizzed away on its breakneck speed and he felt a slight tinge of nostalgia for all the sights he was missing outside the vacuum tube on which the hyper loop train ran. But then again he remembered that it was all mostly an ugly industrial sprawl – a continuous slum, right from Bangalore to Chennai and that’s why he had moved to live near the chamundi hills rather than stay in some urban coop inside Bangalore city. The extra twenty minutes of commute was worth it in his view. After he got out of his pod at Chennai sriperumbudar station, he hopped into the company van which was waiting to transport a few others like him who commuted daily form Bangalore and soon he was working at his desk in his office.
Hunched over his computer console he checked again the work which had accumulated in his absence- but thankfully it had been a quiet night and the overnight alerts were few. Not many people had made fun of or criticized the government last night so he didn’t need to alert the special riot squad of the cbi to raid their homes and taser them with a 1000 volts charge – to fry their brains and memories- before transporting such anti-national culprits to the Andaman jail for life. He felt dirty doing such work and remembered a time long back when he had done work as a cyber-security consultant who hunted people for releasing torrents of new film releases. But that was before the new constitution which made watching unsanctioned films a crime worthy of being sent to jail for ten years without bail. As most films, make that 90% of the films, didn’t get censor sanction for one reason or the other and no one in their right mind wanted to risk watching a film, any film and then go to jail for ten years the once thriving film industry had gradually died down and been replaced by documentaries on nature which easily passed the censors. Now all cyber security experts worked on government contracts trying to trace anti-nationals who criticized the legitimate government and the supreme leader.
As he was sitting there mulling over the changes in society over the past decade, his co-worker from the next terminal leant over and said “happy birthday sirji, just now saw the alert for your birthday on social media platforms, how come you kept it so quiet?”. He smiled outwards at that greeting but inwardly cringing he said “aww, shucks, we are not kids are we? to be celebrating birthdays?”. His colleague was persistent if anything and said “but sirji you can’t escape so easily, you have to give us all a party next pay day” before turning back to his terminal to continue working. He was suddenly captivated by the word party and started reminiscing on past birthdays, how they had been filled with friends, booze and biryani. Ever since the supreme leader and the party of the pure had come to power he had forgotten the pleasures of both, like all the rest of the citizens and had turned into model subjects- vegetarian and teetotalers. But the reminder of biryani suddenly triggered long dormant memories and cravings inside him.
He thought over his life in those days and compared it with now- a meaningless, routine existence where the government ruled over everything you did, including what you ate and suddenly felt within himself a small spark of defiance. It had been ages since he had eaten biryani, so why not try today? His work as a cyber-security consultant had its advantages, occasionally he came across online posts on contraband availability. He had recently seen one such post on biryani being available at a nearby city called Ambur, clandestinely. The thought of tasting biryani after ten years made him light headed reckless and strangely rebellious. He decided to head out to Ambur in his lunch break and see if it was authentic biriyani made of non-vegetarian mutton.
Once he had made up his mind, he surreptitiously opened up the old post he had flagged with the number of the biryani shop and noting it down walked down to the rest room and made the call. A voice on the other end gave him his instructions to take a cab and be in ambur central by 30 mins. So he went back to his cubicle to wind down his work and filled out the form for his lunch break and forwarded it to his superior who Okayed it and allowed him to go out and eat. Once outside his workplace he flagged down a cab for the ten minute ride to ambur. Once there he stood looking around for five minutes till a shady looking character sidled up to him and said “are you the one who called for the biryani?” when he affirmed that it was indeed him, the shady guy asked “do you have any identification to show you are not from the anti-non veg squad ”? when he had shown the man his aadhar card and had assured him that he was indeed a legitimate customer if a bit kinky who just craved meat suddenly, the tout invited him into a vehicle and said “we will go in this vehicle to the actual place, it’s just a few minutes away in vaniyambadi nearby, we don’t advertise the actual locations for obvious reasons”. Fine, he said and went along with him till they reached what looked like a prosperous little eatery advertising “pure-veg food prepared exclusively by Brahmin hands” as he hesitated on the steps, his contact smiled and said “don’t worry saar, we have a special section upstairs” and hustled him into the eatery and up a small flight of stairs to a dingy little hall upstairs where a small group of people were looking around furtively as they ate the banned biriyani.
As the smell of well-made ambur mutton biryani wafted through his nostrils he leant back his head and sniffed it to his heart’s content. And then a plate of it was placed before him and he rolled up a morsel and popped it into his mouth. It was just the right taste, hot, spicy and a little bit tangy as a proper biryani should be. The accompanying side dish- again a banned item- chicken 65 – was crispy and fresh and he took the time to savour a piece chewing it softly. It was while he was in the midst of satisfying his long suppressed desires and on the way to achieving food-nirvana that the police raided the small hotel and burst into the hitherto secret room upstairs serving non veg food. A few patrons tried to escape but they found that an entire platoon from the anti-non veg squad had surrounded the place with orders to shoot on sight those trying to escape after committing this heinous crime of eating non-vegetarian food in swaach bharat country. The next day all those arrested for the crime of eating meat, a hundred or so daily, were produced before a fast track court especially set up to deal with such capital crimes and were summarily sentenced to death.
As he was strapped to the latest model koodankulam mark-4 type electric chair and the electrodes placed on his chest to transmit the 10, 000 plus volts needed to fry his heart to death instantaneously , he looked up and out at the cameras live telecasting his death to the cowed millions watching the daily death show of anti-nationals who defy the dictates of the supreme leader (and his storm troopers) and smilingly said “tyranny comes in many forms and it’s not easy to recognize it in its initial avatar. I should have protested when they banned rupee notes, I should have protested when they made identity card carrying compulsory, I should have protested when they banned my local language, I should have protested when they made me, an individual, responsible for everything the government should do. But I didn’t, not even when they told me what to do, what to speak, how to live and even what to think. Well, it ends today, one way or the other for me. For, it’s a far far better place I go to, a place where no one will dictate what we should eat and as I go there with the still lingering taste of biryani in my memory, i think my death is worth it” as the lever was pulled and he was fried to death for desiring a biryani.
P.S. if you think this is a bit far-fetched, wait till the election results of the 2019 general elections. A fair warning to all of you- please voluntarily convert yourselves to pure vegetarians by then.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Validating Love And Other Misconceptions.
Ever since the concept of Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated solely to love, started gaining prominence in our conservative society there has been a lot of hue and cry made over love. There have been anti-love groups, the so called Romeo squads roaming around the cities trying to catch people who are making love to each other in public spaces and in quid pro quo, the mushrooming pro-love groups who have been trying to reclaim the public spaces for private acts, in this case kissing in public to cock-a-snook at the guardians of public morality who feel threatened by these lewd acts in public to which children might get accidentally exposed and heaven forbid, grow up believing that snogging in public is not anathema in our day to day life. Much as I sympathize with those who have no immediate access to a private space to conduct private business (I wouldn’t call the marina beach entirely private, although it does offer some space) I am forced to agree with the guardians of our morality and say “get a room guys” for some things are just too icky to be done in public- wet slobbering kisses hidden under dupattas for instance.
Which brings me to the primary point of this post- who was the bright spark who decided that love has to be celebrated with kissing? I would understand if valentine’s day was a day declared as a kissing day and then people celebrated it by kissing each other (and random strangers, if permitted) in public like they supposedly do in Central Park, New York (disclaimer: the farthest I have been to is Nanganallur, so I don’t actually have any evidence they do this in New York, just hearsay from click bait news sites). But for a day dedicated to celebrating love, why do you have to validate love by making kissing as a proof of concept? This and other misconceptions on love are what I am going to discuss in my next few thousand words, so if you are already feeling bored, go take a nap and come back for the climax.
In my humble opinion (there- I said it, even though I believe that my opinion is anything but humble) the crux of this entire problem lies in equating love with marriage. With marriage and its attendant burdens like chastity, fidelity, honesty etc. Love, independent love, is fettered with chains by insisting on it being directed solely with the purpose of gaining or retaining a mate. No longer does our society permit us to love inanimate things (say a Bugatti Veyron) or cross-species love (your favorite pet dog) or even love for nature- when you are captivated by a beautiful sunset and just can’t turn away from the glorious sight of the sun sinking slowly into the sea. But no, those are not claimed as love nowadays, love means solely between man and woman geared towards marriage or sex.
So let me reiterate my point again –love is different, marriage is different and sex is different. There is absolutely no natural link between these three- each can exist quite well independently. Unfortunately our brains have been so brain washed by society that pure love should end in a wedding that the very definition of love has been split into “pure love” and “impure love”. The one which ends up in shackling two people together in lifelong matrimony is exclusively called pure love while others are termed illegal love. You are supposed to fall in love only once in your lifetime. You are supposed to end up marrying the person you fell in love with. And once when you are in love with someone, you are forbidden to fall in or out of love with anyone else, even accidentally. All these restrictions and rules have been framed to make sure that “love stays pure”. Any deviation from these set rules is immediately classified as crime against society.
All this constant moral harassment by society has made large swathes of our population believe that this is indeed love. Love means writing love letters, sending smiley’s on instant messengers, talking nonsense for hours together, hugging each other, kissing each other, having sex with each other and finally marrying each other. That’s the be-all and end-all of love. And this design includes a happy ending- a love marriage. All the above related activities- hugging, kissing, sex are considered the perks of love and hence more and more people believe that this is what love is all about. And that’s why they frown on any deviation from the set template –like loving more than one person at the same time or loving one person while having sex with another person etc. all of which are labeled as not pure love. Those who believe in such drivel -that kissing or sex is equal to love will never ever realize what love is all about.
True love, false love, pure love, impure love, legal love, illegal love- so many labels for what is just a simple emotion- an expression of happiness that someone else brings into our lives. In fact, you don’t even need the presence of anyone else to experience love- just your thoughts and memories will suffice- a smile on your face when you can recall that beautiful stranger you bumped into yesterday at the supermarket is also love if you broaden the definition of love. Its love when your dog rushes up to lick your face when you come home at the end of the day. Its love even when you express your love to someone else and they turn you down flat- that single second of suspense when your heart soars high in anticipation- that too is love. Love is just that- an emotion. Don’t make it into something it is not. Don’t hang too many things on it. Don’t make it mandatory to end up in a wedding for it to be love. Just let it be as it is and leave it to two people to decide how they want it to be.
Finally I would ask you to look up into the sky and tell me what you see- some will see the long dark night sky with its infinite darkness. Some will see the stars twinkling bright- scattered here and there. And some will see the full moon – dominating the dark. Love is like that- for some it’s the darkness, for someone else it’s the stars and for the lucky few it’s the bright silvery moon. Judge not what each person sees- it’s their space so just leave them be. Thanks for a patient reading- that’s if you got up to this point.