Saturday, January 29, 2011

The right to die…

With the recent Supreme Court directive to consider the plea to end a life of a woman who is, in medical terms, “brain dead” since 1973 (here’s the news item), the discussions around euthanasia or mercy killing are gaining fresh ground.

Barring three states in the US (Oregon, Washington, Montana), the Netherlands, Belgium, Albania and Luxembourg, euthanasia (active, passive, and assisted) is a criminal offence by law.

Morally speaking, killing or murder in any form – homicide or suicide – is “wrong” – unless it was the last resort in an attempt at self preservation. That is my view. Hypothetically speaking, I would kill someone or myself if my or my loved ones’ existence or personal security was at grave risk.

Taking another point of view, thankfully the law does not recognize the caveat I give to qualify the definition of wrong (whatever be the motive you will be tried in a court); else based on our individual moral convictions we all would be firing (quite literally) each other and human civilization would move back to the Old Stone Age.

And that is what I understand to be the major deterrent in the legalization of euthanasia.

When one reads of terminally ill patients living a vegetative life (as in the news item quoted above) or of patients suffering from incurable painful diseases who would rather donate their organs and choose the option of leaving behind the throbbing of the life support systems (read about it here) – one wonders shouldn't they have the right to decide their fate – shouldn't they have the option to quit?

But then, who decides quits?
What if the patient is not in a state to take the decision – does the physician take a call? Do the family members decide? Would you take such a call for a loved one or would you hold onto the last breath waiting for a miracle that just might happen?
These issues, in a sense, are much larger than the obvious issue of the high probability of misuse of the right to mercy killing by criminals and others for selfish motives.

So, who should have the right to die?
I feel physician assisted euthanasia at the behest of the suffering patient when he/she is in a sound state of mind, and all medical hope is exhausted, should be legalized.
A voice in my head warns that with this each person gets the power to play God.
Is that right? I don’t know.
What are your views on this?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


My review on The Garden of Solitude (here's the post) has been published in Kashmir Observer (the main source of news and information for vast Kashmiri diaspora, intending tourists, business leaders, diplomats, journalists and all those interested in India-Pakistan affairs.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Garden of Solitude

“Years from now, children of your children will return and plant saplings in the backyard of their old houses. Go home now and sleep through the dark nights”

I finished reading the book and the first thought that came to my mind was - with the release of Sridhar’sThe Book of Ancestors”, is it time for the Sufi’s foretelling to come true or is this just a milestone in the journey back home – a journey that might never be fully accomplished – a home that might never be reclaimed? The cherries have started to blossom again but is the long winter really over? And then, the uneasiest question of them all – has the finality of the futility of waiting been so absolute that, in Lasa’s words, “This is our end. We have only the past to seek refuge in.”

The Garden of Solitude by Siddhartha Gigoo traces the personal history of a whole generation of Kashmiris (Pandits and Muslims) caught in the whirlpool of the political tumult and military insurgency that the year 1990 brought to a place that school children are still taught as Heaven on Earth. The central protagonist is Sridhar - who belongs to a Kashmiri pandit family and is forced to leave his “home” in the dead of the night at the age of 15. Through his exile, his quest for self discovery, his yearning for the beauty of a childhood buried in Yarbal, and finally his pilgrimage to his abode after 15 years – comes alive the saga of devastation, betrayal, deaths and alienation.
The language of loss, pain, pathos, nostalgia and solitude – translated beautifully in words that come from a heart that has braved through it all – gives away Sridhar as none other than Siddhartha himself, and in parts, maybe his alter ego.

At one level, the book has been an educating experience for me. I did not know the extent of the horror that the exodus of Kashmiri pandits, from their own valley of magnificence and splendor, was accompanied with.
‘Each truck carried a home and hopelessness.’
The description of the inhuman conditions of the camp sites in Jammu, where the ‘sunsets were hollow’ and every day was a funeral (snakebites and sun strokes excuses to cremate bodies that had left their souls behind), bring out the disturbing details of life as a refugee.
It is surprising that so little is written on this. We have libraries of literature on the HindustanPakistan divide, and most of the upheavals we have been unfortunate to experience, but Kashmir remains shrouded in hushed whispers.
Is it because the unrest is still not history; the time for mourning has not yet come?

The book offers no logical reasoning, no logical resolutions – it talks nothing of the politics of the state – Because no logic seemed to exist? Because it did not matter to the common Kashmiri? Because still no one has been able to untangle the chaos that suddenly changed the face of the valley?

As we learn the tragedy of Kashmir through Sridhar, what is striking is Sridhar’s state of mind – he is at times angry, frustrated, bewildered, disoriented, helpless, and even heartbroken, but he never once comes across as bitter or prejudiced. He has seen pandits and muslims suffer equally – both lost Kashmir – one having left it behind – the other having seen it burn to ashes – and he mourns that loss – his longing for a future that reminisces the past is, alas, in vain, he knows.

“The past was too beautiful to be left behind. The past evoked a longing to be re-lived...The present was just a crippled memory...”

…I can’t yet see the future through the tinted glass that’s still foggy from my memory and my dreams – the garden of solitude I have survived, is there a garden of solace in the offing?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The yardstick for FB addiction...

...just went up a couple of notches :P!

I am fairly square and straight when it comes to talking about my affection (read addiction) for social networking sites, especially, Facebook. I am hooked on to it irreparably and have no qualms about it.
It is rare to find people who are as active or more active than me ... And believe me, I am not ashamed about it, though I do flash my sheepish grin when friends and family go out of their way to point out my hyper active status on FB!

However, it seems, I do have competition. Recently, I was thrilled to come across two dogs' profiles on FB...yes you heard that right!
So there's somebody I know who owns two dogs and each of them have their own profiles. The relationship status reads married (yep, the two dogs are apparently tied in holy matrimony) and they have their respective profile pics, friend lists, etc...
My hubby's first reaction was CRAZY! My first reaction was SUPER CUTE!

I have seen parents who are quick to create FB profiles for their new borns and children (and I will reserve my comment on that), then why leave pets who are such an integral part of your family?

Now c'mon, don't do the "utilitarian" argument with me...just sit back and "awwww...." at it... :D

Thursday, January 13, 2011

No longer young?

Numbers have a way to unnerve the placid quietude that one might hope for as life progresses...

... Concepts of weight, age, and the related associations are baseless and arbitrary I often console myself. Remember 18 til I die?

However, it is a mean and nasty world that we live in. I caught this No Marks (a brand of cosmetics that boasts of Ayurvedic formulations for diverse usage) commercial on TV and was thoroughly pissed off!
The "geniuses" have launched a new range of face washes that are categorized as follows:
- For teens
- For youth
- For 25+

So 25+ is no longer young? Ouch. Somebody convince me I am reading too much into this ad. Am hurting real bad.

Here, check out the commercial yourself. I am, for sure, never going to use No Marks face wash and I don't care if you dismiss me as being petty. Hummpphh...

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I finally succeeding in dragging Vish to Dakshinachitra – quite literally translated as the “picture or vision of the South (India)”, and much against the locals’ quips that the place is not worth the hype – I enjoyed my trip.
Dakshinachitra, DC for short, is promoted as a heritage village site with the objective of recreating the rural life of the four states of Southern India – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
For Bollywood fans out there, this is the place where Shilpa Shetty and Salman Khan spent “the two days” in the movie Phir Milenge :).

Situated on the east coast road (ECR), DC is a perfect family getaway on a weekend/holiday morning with not only sight seeing to do, but fun activities such as basket weaving, pottery, puppet making etc., and ofcourse shopping that add to the tourist value of the place.
The best part is that it does not get too crowded; though being in the open, a hot summer day may not be the ideal time for a visit.

DC endeavors to preserve the traditional art, craft and architecture forms by providing a platform to the artisans to showcase their talent in the form of demo booths (sari weaving, glass blowing among others) and exhibitions.
Pitched as a cultural odyssey of the South, DC does try to live up to the buzz around it – The Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh sections are still under construction whereas the Tamil Nadu and Kerala sections are complete and offer a fairly detailed insight into the various aspects of the village life.

So, I would recommend that if you are in Chennai or visiting Chennai, take a half day out for a trip to Dakshinachita and you won’t regret it.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.

A view of the craft bazaar that greets you right at the entrance…

The structures of village houses…

A peak inside the houses…

Now for some demo and fun stuff…
Silk sari weaving…

Pottery (A statutory warning: The potter thatha is one impatient guy – he was screaming at me in tamil that I was not doing it properly without even teaching me how to mould the clay first :(.

You can also take a shot at grinding rice :D...

Kili jyoshiyam or the parrot fortune teller is another interesting stop over. Following instructions, the parrot comes out of its cage, randomly selects one card from the pile of cards, takes it to the god’s picture and the gives it to the guy sitting there – who then reads out your fortune.

And finally, some shots, which I think were in Phir Milenge

If you have seen the movie, you couldn’t have missed the amphitheater…

Here's the song from Phir Milenge, shot at Dakshinchitra (Thanks a ton Aastha!!!)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

If this is any indication…

No, am not really superstitious but don’t they generally say well begun is half done?!?

Now, not that I have an ambitious list of new year resolutions – mine remains little changed year on year (and here it is for posterity) – but I’d rather have the “firsts” of the new year spent well as a good omen for times to come…However, how do I deny destiny its self-assumed right to come in my way :D?

So here is the list of things already gone wrong in 2011:
  • My first meal of 2011 consisted of a comforting quantity of chocolate – snickers to be precise! Cutting down on carbs and staying in shape has been my resolution every year since teenage! Alas!
  • I decided to cook for hubby and myself on the first day of the year. If that does not sound disastrous enough…I burnt the pressure cooker so badly. The only positive I see in this is I was able to do some damage control and most of the biryani could be salvaged from total burn down – and I learnt a new kitchen tip – soaking the burnt cooker in baking soda and hot water overnight removes the black residue completely!
  • Containing avarice could have been on my wish list had I not gone shopping on the very first weekend and reduced my bank balance by a considerable margin.
  • Let’s come to the first working day for the year – I reach office late because the PM decides to travel the same route as mine around the same time as I do.
  • As if reaching office late on a day I wanted to leave early is not reason enough to make me feel guilty, I have to approach my manager for 3 days’ leave this week!
  • And did I mention that I forgot my ID card at home today!

Phew! Compare this to the rather placid new year beginnings I have had in the previous years. I wonder what kind of a roller coaster 2011 is going to be!

Leaving with you a new year greeting that has remained very close to my heart...

“How beautiful the turning of the year!
A moment artificial yet profound:
Point upon an arbitrary chart
Passing like a breath upon the heart,
Yearning with anticipation wound,
New hope new harbored in old-fashioned cheer.
Even when the boundary line is clear,
We recognize the oneness of the ground.
Years, like circles, do not end or start
Except we lay across their truth our art,
Adjusting dates as they go round and round
Revolving to a tune long sung and dear.”

Happy New Year folks!


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