Thursday, 8 December 2011

Line Of Control

Very recently Mr. Kapil Sibal used his privilege of speech and suggested screening of content on social networking websites. As we all know by now, this invited many a mixed reactions. While the Gandhi scion partially agreed with him, Mr Sibal garnered solid support from the J&K chief minister who in fact is a victim of offensive content posted about his family sometime in 2010.

A Harvard law graduate, former Additional Solicitor General of India, and current Member of Parliament, Sibal, plainly said, ‘Doing this gives me no pleasure, but the fact is that there’s a problem!’

There certainly is a problem. As a reader of my blog which generally drives most of its traffic from a website called facebook.com, you would know what goes on there! There are hate pages, hate pictures, hate statuses and of course some hateful people. There are many impending questions before the country concurs on a solution. Where do we draw the line? Who draws it? Who monitors the content? Should it be the western laws, the Indian laws, Facebook laws, Twitter laws or an International body of all. And who would provide the man-power for such monitoring? Very recently I read something in jest suggesting Facebook hiring an IIT graduate for Rs 65L p.a. just for screening its content. Yes the mockery is obvious. And we called for it. No matter how much the erudite commentators or the opposition call it a political move, Mr Sibal is right – There is a problem.

There is a problem when I see a picture exhorting profanity. There is a problem if a comment takes jingoism to zealotry. There is certainly a problem when morphed pictures of someone you know does rounds of ‘shares’ or ‘likes’. In fact, there’s a problem even if wrong information virally spreads across facebook which is a regular feature now! You would instantly agree seeing a post of ‘Facebook shutting down in March, Mr. Zuckerberg retires’ with more shares than, well, something more sane. Here’s the bigger question - Have we, the loyal netizens ever reported malicious content? Have we ever requested a ‘friend’ not to publicly ridicule a person, community, religion or a country? Rarely, right? And therefore, I see Mr. Sibal’s concern. He is allowed to assume that an wrongly inciting ‘page’ or ‘post’ will certainly gain momentum with neurologically stunted youth on it.

Let us use social networking more intelligibly. Kill the need to monitor content. Create the line of control for yourself. You, my reader, know what you do not want to see. You, my facebook friend, know what is offensive to your nation or your religion. You also know what is offensive to anyone else too! Adopt zero tolerance (no likes or shares) towards all malicious, defaming and wrong information. Report the same promptly. The web is ours to communicate. Let’s not create a parallel world of hatred and territories and complicated laws out there! The freedom of speech is ours. The responsibility to filter out the unsocial creeps is ours too. 
Sometimes I wish, this were possible in the real world too.

I wonder if this would incite a flurry of Facebook shares. :) 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Dirty Picture

Ms Vidya Balan is quite ok. Mr. Tushaar Kapoor? Not so much. But look at me commenting on an art I know so less about!

Recently, the elected government put some thought into the tobacco consumption in our country. They ought to. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m sure a substantial amount of revenue is collected from this industry and they certainly owe some thought to it. Anyway, here is one of the conclusions. Now the cigarette and other tobacco-containing substances will have an even more obnoxious graphic on their commercial packs. This one has a deformed mouth which should ideally put off any sane man contemplating the bliss of nerve-relaxing, nicotine pumped smoke!

We should appreciate the impetus behind the decision. Here’s another idea. Let’s put up pictures of accumulated fat on all bakery goods. Let’s put up burnt livers on the tags of alcoholic beverages and how about a blocked coronary artery on vegetable oil packs! They all demonstrate a plausible effect. I am not suggesting that vegetable oil can be just as harmful as a pack of cigarettes. But do we need the most disgusting graphics on anything we purchase?

Can we be left alone to decide? If you’re reading this, you can certainly make a call for yourself. But unfortunately, a large percentage of our country cannot. Pictorial representation is a quick-fix solution to reach out to the uneducated to spread the awareness of the ill effects of tobacco. The concord although not without resistance, and largely compelled in nature, from the tobacco brands is laudable. It is unfortunate that we have to resort to graphical methods to communicate with humans who should ideally be able to fend for themselves. It is unfortunate that you and I are only amongst the 6-10% of Indians who complete a Bachelor’s degree. It is unimaginably unfortunate that you and I seem to be unperturbed about it. How long will we depend on a crosscut to communicate? Be it drug abuse, poverty, population explosion or a simpleton spitting on the road communicating diseases he hasn’t even heard of! There’s only so much that can be attained unless we have enlightened minds and not just wide open eyes due to obnoxious graphics. It’s time to stand up, ladies and gentlemen. It’s you who can comprehend this tiny article and it’s only you who can clean the dirty picture. There is no harmony unless all the notes are right.

I’m glad I have a right to comment on this Dirty Picture. Do you?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Two and a half men

No, this is not an episode of Mr. Charlie Sheen’s stupor or the sauntering princesses in the Malibu beach house. How often do you pass beside a paan shop just to hear the most preposterous conversations? I swear I once overheard something which came across as drawing similarities between Ms Sonia Gandhi and Ms Katrina Kaif and how, astrologically speaking, foreign blood is necessary to succeed in India!
But today was different. FDI had effectuated a trader’s bandh, along with the Parliament Bandh, of course. How the former benefits the latter by averting attention from other significant issues like Lokpal Draft and Kishenji’s surreptitious death is not up for debate. May be how the latter hopes to benefit anyone with a bandh is definitely worth arguing. But reflecting my Indian-ism, let me keep this important issue aside and digress to something less important.

I saw a man lighting a cigarette almost as graciously as Mr James Bond would light a cigar before an evening of business. This man felt strongly for the Congress’ predicament. The cigarette he smoked cost him 5 bucks. It was a non-Indian brand and about 15% cheaper than the regular Indian brands. He was obviously happy about it! The paanwaala, in all wisdom, exhorted the fact that FDI in any sector would clearly control the price rise and might even make common items cheaper the same way his Marlboro was cheaper than the Classic. After a few minutes of discussion on how the competition between the Indian and Foreign retail would be a calculated risk with one winner – the Indian consumer, the conclusion was an overall exasperated mood over the saffron invoked unnecessary bandh. After all, the trade union was well aware and consulted before the decision. Surprisingly, the two men also blamed themselves for the current impasse. They felt that their vote would need better discernment next time. For me, there was just one winner! Indian Democracy – A discussion between a bunch of semi-literate men pondering over how important their vote is and how it affects every decision the ruling party makes was a sincere reaffirmation of faith in the system. While some see the scope of participation in improvement, others just hope for the same. Who are you?
Just in case you're wondering, being mere audience to this enlightenment, I'm the half man.

When on the Road

Here’s what happens when we put a bunch of us, in machines controlled only by our feet and hands and not our head (read:cars) and when another machine with three light sources (read:traffic signal) goes off – a chaos with each of those machines finding its way through a ‘transformer-like’ metallic junkyard! The machines might as well have driven themselves, because clearly, the actions seen are bereft of any organic influence whatsoever.
How hard is it? How hard is it to act sane? How hard is it to put some thought to the predicament and devise a way out? How hard is it to behave educated! Quite, apparently!
We often crib about the traffic in our own way – while some resort to blaming the government for the low quality roads and traffic management during the evening cocktail, the others prefer using the not so pleasant gift of gab right there! Unfortunately this ‘Road’ is a litmus test. It defines a demographic around.

It appalls me to see a bunch of us trying to cross each other through a fused traffic light like mad dogs let out of a kennel. One from the left, one from the behind, one on your backdoor and one reflecting light right off your own darn headlights, and there you go, the aforementioned junkyard is painted. I wonder if this reflects our own contemplation which is anyways garbled in the societal rush. You just open the map (read:life), follow a route, look for the shortest route and hit the road. The junctions with breaks in between supposed to control our speed unfortunately now are a pit stop to test the acceleration! A traffic jam is nothing but a jam of thoughts! We all have a destination. We are all on the shortest path. These destinations are our dreams. With no one realizing the importance of using the wonderful ‘Head’ gifted to us instead of the ‘binary-educated’ computer, it exemplifies how strongly woven we are to the road we chose. And when on this road, we miss out on the fact that may be allowing a path to someone else in a jam (ego jam) might open a route not just for us, but for the many following us too. When on road, we prefer using the high beam (pride), instead of the dipper (humility). When on this road, we choose to boost our ego by winning a dangerous race instead of looking out for the smaller vehicles and the pedestrians. When on this road, we never stick to our lane if we see an opportunity of getting ahead of someone! And when on this road, we wish that the journey be pleasant, but still choose to vilify fellow commuters or well, the system itself! How then, is this, the right road? How then, is this, the right journey? How then, will we reach the destination without a tired mind and oozing frustration? How then, will that destination be any different than the exasperating journey?
I hope that our journeys become much more pleasant, harmonious and controlled by human compassion and thought, and each one of us reaches our destination soon without crushing a bunch of pedestrians, jumping the light or creating a jam and well, relishing the pleasure of the journey too!