Saturday, April 28, 2007

A judicial stupidity

This must be judicial stupidity of highest order. A Jaipur city court has issued arrest warrant against Richard Gere for public kiss with Shilpa Shetty. I dont know if commenting on court orders amount to contempt of court or something like this, but the (mis) judgement by a juvenile sounding judge is highly ridiculous and laughable. The judge said that demeanour of the two actors was ``highly sexually erotic'' and ``transgressed all limits of decency with the potential to corrupt society.'' Excuse me my lord, did you say highly sexual erotic!! Where have you been all this while! If Kiss on cheek by two consenting individuals is judged as highly erotic, then you must have been in Afganistan all this while. Have you seen any bollywood movie recently or switched on your TV ! And what is this nonsense of "corrupting society". How can a public kiss on cheek corrupt society? Does law say anything about it! On what facts and evidences did you reach this conclusion? Untill now we had lunatic groups, out of work politicians and out of shape policemen doing moral policing by harassing young couples in public places, and now even judiciary seems to have joined the bandwagon.
In a country where court cases keep piled up for years waiting to be heard, where cases sometime run for decades, where judges have huge backlog of cases to clear, it is criminal for a judge to entertain a ludicurous PIL filed by a attention seeking man, and then proclaim a judgement as if Indian society has been defiled and a serious crime has been committed. As if entire indian culture is under grave danger by Richard Gere and he must be apprehended immediately. Only crime in this case is done by the man who filed PIL and the judge himself. They have wasted enormous time of country by starting a circus which would make people all over the world laugh at us. The man who filed the PIL should be tried for misusing as powerful as instrument as PIL. We can not have people like him wasting court's time on irrelevant issue like one person kissing another, this is hardly in public interest. It is also high time that fuzzy laws around so called public obscenity are made sensible and in keeping with modern times. One worrying thing is that if we have judges who possess such under- developed reasoning and discriminatory powers, then is it an indication of setting rot in judiciary which for long as been precieved as the only bastion which reasonable men of our society have some trust.!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Trek To Harishchandragad

This weekend was wonderful. After a long time, I went on a trek to Harishchandragad, about 2.5 hours drive from Mumbai. Start of trek was horrible as we took wrong route from Mumbai to Malshej Ghat, had tyre puncture and all sort of other problems on the way, but all was forgotten once we started the trek from Khireshwar, a tiny hamlet situated near the foot of hills. Our guide and friend, a professional , no-nonsense, boring and extremely serious trekker, had planned night trek, but due to wrong route we took to reach Malshej Ghat, we could only start trek, early morning around 5 am. In hindsight, may be it was good since we could see the panoramic view of hills unfolding around us as dawn was descending form heavens. The air was cooler and morning sun treacherously hid the fact that in few hours it was to become a hot headed and unrelenting monster. The amateurs trekkers in us started the climb stumbling and struggling initially, fighting internally the inertia gathered by months if not years of sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle. Like a car not raced for some time, it takes body sometime to adjust, heat up and get into the rhythm of trek.

To our surprise and to consternation of one of guys, who hates dogs with same intensity as dogs hate him, we were suddenly joined by two uninvited dogs who became our guides on their own will. They jumped, pranced and climbed the rocky terrain with ease, surefootedness and grace which only they are capable . Only the professional trekker between us could give them any semblance of competition. Later we were to find out that these two dogs are constant on this trek. They live in the Khireshwar village and accompany trekkers who come from outside, taking the cue from back packs they carry. They never accompany local villagers. Undoubtedly, we had a great time with these two animal friends and I would personally any day prefer a friendly and understanding dog trekker guide than a serious, boring human guide. Atleast dogs can be cajoled into resting by inciting them with little scratching under their neck.

The first halt was at Tolar Khind, where rocky but shady paths ends and steepest climb on a virtually vertical rock face starts. This is most interesting and enjoyable part of entire trek. The view after reaching the peak is breathtaking and one is tempted to shout for no apparent reason to hear the echo from surrounding hills. A little inane fun doesn’t do any harm I guess. Trek through the Harishchandra Kalsubai wildlife sanctuary is rather easy but enjoyable. The spectacle on reaching Harishchandreshwar is awesome with old temple ruins and caves carved in mountains suddenly becoming visible. Imagine, many thousand years back, some people climbed these hills and built temples and caves and lived there to meditate and seek Gods. I preferred to stop there for a while and soak in the ambience of the place as others went on onto scale Taramati peak to test their endurance and fitness. The place has its origin around 6th century with caves built around 11th century. The temple, dedicated to lord shiva is beautiful. I don’t understand architecture but I like those intricate sculptures on the ancient temples. They tell you a story if you are willing to listen. And you can feel the people who built them there many thousands of years ago. The caves are etched in the rock face on Taramati hills and like any other historical place in India are defaced by insane graffiti. Some trekkers stay in the caves overnight, the curator of site, a old man from local village told me.

From Harishchandreshwar, we walked to the Konkan Kada, a breathtakingly beautiful place and a nice culmination of trek. Konkan kada is a sheer rocky cliff, vertical and concave in shape overlooking Konkan region. Rock climbers must get a adrenaline rush from it. As I read on wikipedia about it "it is an overhang, almost like a cobra's hood. It has been climbed twice so far". We spent some time here and soon decided to start the trek back to Khireshwar as afternoon soon was beating down heavily and rocks were getting mercilessly hotter. On way back, I parted away from the group, something which professional trekkers never do and I am not one. The trek back to village was wonderful. It gave me some time alone with my own thoughts, to feel the heat, the silence and wildness of the place and to get into a rhythm I enjoy the most during treks. Rythem is essence of life, like music, like working, walking. I had run out of water and was dehydrated but the rhythm got me going. There is a strange satisfaction one gets when one is pitted against elements. It is then that you find the hidden strength and resolve from within you. Nothing has ever tasted as good as water I drank when I reached the village. Priceless Moments.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Miscarriage of Justice

Alistair Pereira , the man who killed 7 construction workers, crushing them under his vehicle in south Mumbai was acquitted of culpabale homicide and was given jail punishment for mere 6 months. Somebody needs to ask the question that why such incidents keep happening in Mumbai! Where Rich kids driving after drinking ram into pavements killing people! One of the the resasons is that Mumbai has large number of homeless who sleep on pavements and large number of poor laborers who have no place but to build their shacks along the pavements. In other parts of the world also, people, have accidents and ram into pavements, but in Mumbai if you lose control of your vehicle and swerve to the side of road, you might end up killing at least half a dozen people. In case of Alistair Pereira, he obviously lied that axle of his car broke and it went out of control and hit the huts along the road, but it is a genuine possibility that such things can happen with vehicles. A lot needs to be done to make our city roads and pavements safer. But this is beside the point. The fact is that there were 7 people killed and 8 injured when a man driving rashly under the influence of alcohol, lost control of his vehicle and rammed into the huts of poor laborers who were perhaps sound asleep after back breaking day's work. He knew that driving with few drinks under your throat is risky and that it can casue harm to others on the road And all this man has to go through is mere 6 month of imprisonment and pay a meager fine of 5 lakhs. The judge while delivering the judgment castigated city Police of doing a shoddy job with investigations and making a weak case against the accused. How many times have we heard it, before!

Corrupt System: The fact that there is something rotten with our judicial system is hardly a secret. Poor who can't afford lawyers for themselves, keep lodged in jails for years for petty crimes, as their court cases keep piled up for years, waiting to he heard. Rich who do wrong "by mistake" easily buy their way out of legal system. Witnesses turn hostiles, or are bought, important evidences can be misplaced and entire case weakened. ”At almost every point where citizens are governed, at every transaction where they are noted, registered, taxed, stamped, licensed, authorized or assessed, the impressions of being open for negotiation is given" Pratap Bhanu Mehta, India's political scientist has noted in his book "The burden of democracy". We can easily include the whole machinery of justice dispensing in this list of "open for negotiations" label. In a city where majority of police force is over worked and under paid, and where bribe and hafta have become almost a legitimate source of income for policemen, it wouldn't be very difficult for a rich man to buy few policemen to weaken the case by deliberately ignoring vital evidences. Investigations could easily be made perfunctory and persecution could be slack as perhaps happened in Pereira’s case also. Why is it that some cases involving rich are put on so called "fast tracks" when other poor accused keep languishing in jails for years awaiting their cases to be heard, is a question which needed to be asked. Do we have different yardsticks for poor and rich when dispensing justice! Must it be that every case where rich and privileged are involved, justice can only be safeguarded and ensured when there is constant media attention and public outcry! Is it now required for public to constantly do a Rang de Basanti! May be yes, the reason is that corruption is not rotting the system, but it has become a system itself. Most of us from middle class who work in private sector and live their life mostly outside the sphere of governmental controls are not affected by corruption but that is not true for most of Indians who are at mercy of "the System".

Is Judiciary also to be blamed: In case of Alistair Pereira, fingers can be pointed at the judiciary as well. The judge convicted Pereira, of rash and negligent driving and handed him over just 6 months of prison. Was it of no significance that his "rash driving" had killed 7 people? Judge said that chemical analysis report mentioned alcohol levels in blood of the accused but no witness was produced to prove that accused had consumed alcohol! Wasn't the report itself proof enough that Alistair was driving under the influence of alcohol! RTO inspector had testified that car didn't have any mechanical failure and judge himself noted that if a car as sturdy as Toyota corolla had suffered such extensive damage where its engine was ejected due to impact, then it must have been driven at very high speed! Pereira was also accused of acquiring forged papers to obtain license when he as just 15 years old. People who were killed were not walking on the road but were sleeping in their huts along the pavement. Is punishment for driving drunk and rash and killing 7 people, mere 6 months? I don’t understand law in its nitty gritty, but the judgment defies the common sense and logic. This is a travesty of law and justice.

Media Trials: While speaking to DNA after the verdict, Pereira did not express any remorse about what he had done and almost blamed media for his 6 months prison term. "I will have to go in for six months, all thanks to the media." He said. It has been debated for quite a while that there has been a rise in cases where accused are tried by media and public and opinions are made about guilt even before cases are deliberated by court of law. This is obviously a wrong course for law and justice. Accused is innocent unless proven guilty, but the way so called justice seems to be dispensed when it comes to rich and mighty, it is quite easy to understand why media has to take up the cudgels and why punlic at large feels cheated. In Jessica Lall case, the accused was almost but hanged by public opinion and media outcry. Ram Jethmalani, one of topmost criminal lawyers of country fought his case in high court and was highly critical of media's role in the entire case. His point was that it is only law which can decide whether a person is guilty of a crime or not, not the media. But his arguments stood on tenuous ground by the very fact that he almost ended up showing how well this law functions and how law has been hijacked by black coats who use every trick possible to win a case. Where is the truth! Who fights for truth! Truth it seems can easily be fabricated by arguments. See what Pereira's lawyer told to the media after the verdict:

Pereira’s lawyers feel that the six-month imprisonment is too harsh and have decided to appeal against the order in the Bombay High Court. “He is a 21-year-old boy and an accident like this could have happened to anyone,” Majula Rao, his lead lawyer, told reporters.

Bollywood movies for all of their flaws, can be taken as indictor of reflection of our society. In decades of 80 and 90s it was a common theme in various movies where hero of the movie had to take law in his own hands and deliver the justice himself because courtrooms couldn't do that or justice was compromised by scheming lawyers and compromising Police. The images still linger on.

Justice for laborers :Are we going to see "Justice for poor laborers" campaign as we saw it for "justice for Jessica Lall"?. Hardly seem likely but I would be pleasantly surprised if it happens. Jessica Lall had her family fighting for her justice. In present case, poor and perhaps illiterate families of killed laborers were most likely already brought for few thousands of rupees. "Jo hona tha ho gaya, ye sab to unke karm the" They must have said. As for Pereira, his family would stand by him as he is a nice guy and whatever happened was just a mistake. "He is a nice guy, a gem of a person." Some of his neighbors have said in media. Unbelievable, but we do seem to have this logic where if a person is good and perceived as nice guy, we are tempted to pardon him for "mistake". Even if that mistake had caused death of 7 innocent people! As for family, family always stands behind you regardless how severe your crime be. In great epic of Mahabharata, King Dhritrashtra knew that his son Duryodhna was wrong and had caused the battle by insulting wife of his brother, but he opted to be silent.

bk_keywords:India books, The burden of Democracy

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Global Warming - A looming Danger

This summer is unusually hot in Mumbai. In my 6 years of living in Mumbai, I have never found it so hot. May be I am just getting older and I still don’t have an AC installed in my house. But even if I do install an AC, it can not run for 5 hours a day due to power cuts in Mumbai. And perhaps not installing an AC saves me from being guilty of contributing to next summer's more heat. In past few days whatever publications I have read from newspapers to magazines, I noticed reports on global warming, tucked somewhere, if not on front page. When I could convince myself that these reports were really not about extended April fools day, I found out that the sudden focus on global warming was due to the release of UN's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. The report accesses the likely outcomes of global warming, causes of which were examined in last report. In our daily banal lives, we hardly have time to think about abstract things like global warming, specially when you have deadline approaching at work, or when you have just broken off with your girlfriend or when you are struggling to decide where to buy your new house. Somehow we know that there is a problem with environment but we don’t have to worry about it just yet and that somebody else will take care of it.

The report says "unequivocally" that globe is indeed warming and that its cause is largely "man made". As per report, half of species on planet were already altering their behavior or changing their range in response to global warming by 2003 itself. Around 26% of coral reefs have already died as a result of warming waters and rest would disappear if water temperature rises by as little as another degree. How does matters, one might wonder, if coral reefs disappear just because they are bit sensitive to the water temperature! The thing is that these coral reefs support various kinds of fish and other ocean species and with coral reefs dead, these species would also be endangered. Global warming is a dangerous scenario since its affects, scientists say are non-linear. What it means is that even one degree of average rise in temperature has drastic affects. Around 25% of species might face extinction by year 2010. What is more worrisome is rise in minimum temperature of globe which is rising twice as high as average temperature. This is leading to faster climate change in poles where large deposit of ice stay. Many mountaineers have reported that some of ice bodies they have climbed have simply disappeared melted away in excessive heat. What do few degrees of temperature rise mean for human civilization? In few words, it means heading towards a catastrophe, an exaggerated version of which was shown in a Hollywood movie, The Day After Tomorrow. With minimum temperature rising, the winters are not cold enough to kill off different pests and diseases. Noxious species of ants and bees are migrating northwards; tropical highlands are witnessing an invasion of mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever. The effect of warm climate would amplify on agriculture and forestry. The agriculture yield would fall as crop killing fungi would increase their range and breed faster and tree killing beetles would also not stay behind. This would lead to failure in crops creating a food deficit. Due to warm climate, glaciers would melt brinning floods to the plains destroying crops and endangering human life. Climate change would lead to unpredictable effects, with some places facing constant floods and some places suffering from draught.
(Source: IPCC and The Economist)

The purpose of the report is to jolt the governments of the world into taking a serious note of global warming and take policy decisions to reverse it. Whether it is going to happen is a debatable question. Most of poorer countries are already paying a price due to climate change which is largely caused by developed countries. Devloped countries have over the years invested money into fonding ways of greener tehcnologies which they dont share with other developing countries. It is a high time that developed countries start transferring green technologies to developing countries. It is for everybody’s benefit since climate does not know any man made boundaries and degraded environment would affect all of us, wheather if is America or Congo. There are evidences that the Ozone layer, which was ruptured due to excessive use if CFC gases, is slowly recovering after Montreal Protocol was adopted by countries to curb on use of CFC. Would governments of the world wake up to the grave danger facing our climate and our life due to global warming, remains to be seen.

What does Global warming mean to India? Well, since India is just about started to modernize, our consumption and production of goods would increase and in race of doing things faster, there is bound to be damage to the climate. The Great Himalayas would melt into dessert; Chinese would attack us without any protection from daunting snow clad mountains. The floods due to melting ice would destroy most of Gangetic plains, wiping out miseries of some of poorest people living there, along with settling the issue over temples and mosques forever. “Garibi hatao” slogan would eventually be fructified. Further south, the seasonal rivers would dry up as there would not be any monsoons and draught would kill many people living there. As for me, I will soon, like the other migrating species, would migrate to north and hole up in some place where there would still be some water and air and food. I think I can manage without the Air conditioner.
(Cartoon Courtsey: Monsing)

What Can an Individual Do About Global Warming
Individual Action about Global warming

Monday, April 9, 2007

Uttar Pradesh - Pulling India Down

The biggest state of India in terms of population, Uttar Pradesh , UP is going to poll with first phase of voting already over, and the great circus of democracy is on display yet again. UP perhaps remains to be politically most important state in India, not only be shear number of MPs it provides but also by the huge and varied political leadership which it keep churning out with regularity, though quality of its leadership has gone downhill as has State’ s economic and social profile. It is generally said that one should avoid stereotypes, but they provide an indicator of larger trends which give us a vital understanding of our societies and cultures. During my college days, I used to be astounded by few of batch mates from UP, who had some kind of built in political awareness and which I later came to know was also pretty much the same with an ordinary, common men from UP, including taxi drivers and security men and paanwalas one meet in Mumbai .

Its Politics: UP is a cauldron of amazing array of intricately fragmented identities making it a virtual quagmire of divisive politics. If politics can be equated to a business, which to certain extent it is, then customers (voters) of UP are so much sensitive to their complex spectrum of sometime overlapping identities, that politicians do nothing more than catering to their identities and raising emotive issues to keep voters in good mood . State is polarized in various communities to such an extent that its political equations are made up of very intricate arithmetic where numbers of voters based on what social groups they belong, play most vital role. A miscalculation of this arithmetic can cost a party dearly. One has to know which assembly has how much percentage of voters belonging to a caste, sub caste, religion before deciding and tailoring the agenda for that constituency. To get the airthmetic right, alliances are struck and sometime they can be struck between parties who are ideologically at different poles In this year's elections, BSP has been wooing upper caste voters which could have been unimaginable till few years back as BSP has been vehemently anti-upper caste party. Votes are openly asked in name of caste and religion and most of voters see it as a form of social or political power. In state, social justice often means, deepening the caste based identities instead of making them redundant. If parties like SP (Samajwadi Party) and BSP (Bahujan Samajwadi Party) can be condemned for playing politics based on caste and minority appeasement in name of secularism and social justice, party like BJP has done no good by targeting majority Hindu upper caste votes by raising specters of Muslim dominance. Just before elections were to start, BJP had released an inflammatory CD as per media reports which were subsequently disowned when EC threatened it with disqualification. Congress is confused and has been since it lost its ground in the state. It was perhaps Congress's failure which led to emergence of regional and smaller parties which now influence national politics so heavily. Perhaps congress failed as a true national party and could not represent all segments of society who felt politically powerless and that then culminated in form of regional parties and quite understandably too. In case of UP, the political history of BSP is interesting as regardless of kind of politics it plays now, it can be credited with actually making a marginalized community's voice heard and making it realize how much political power they could wield. This is something which even leader like Ambedkar could not do but today he would be annoyed seeing what BSP is doing with the power it has now. Instead of using the power in uplifting the castes which were suppressed for many centuries, its leaders are merely looking backwards and in past and have done very little in terms of changing economic ground realities. Castism is a social evil and it will not go away unless there is a social change. A political party like BSP can atleast starts this social change from somewhere and not fiddle with emotive and regressive agendas like creating Ambedkar villages. Such ill placed policies don’t lead to any social justice and merely encourage ghettoisation.

Crime in UP: UP is also one of India's BIMAROU state and is a huge burden and concern in way of India becoming a modern, developed country. Most of UP is caught in a time wrap with some parts of it almost resembling Wild West, virtual badlands. Most of mainstream media has time and again run stories of virtual lawlessness in parts of UP. There is rampant gun culture, kidnappings and rapes. Ordinary people are afraid to even approach police because mostly it is police which is hand in glove with perpetrators of the crime, as was proved during Nithari killings also. Opposition has been constantly saying that there is unwritten dictate from government about not filling the complaints so as to fudge the crime members form state. In one of the funniest spectacle if it can be so termed, recently, ruling party in state used none other than Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan for showcasing how safe and progressive UP was. Amitabh Bachaan was seen saying that "UP main hain dum, kyonki jurm yahan hai kam". Ostensibly he was not paid for it as SP's "leader" (it is not a joke) Amar Singh is like Bachchan's younger brother. Bachchan who might not be spending even 2 weeks in state in entire year, says in the ad that he would like to be born again on the ghats of Ganges in the state. Obviously Bachchan has shot himself on foot for taking a wrong side and he should think hard about how much of his credibility he is going to put on stake for supporting his friends who happen to be on wrong side of argument. In a country where police is seen with fear by ordinary people, one would wonder how many people would have courage to go and approach police to register cases in a state where police has almost no credibility, as was also indicated by statement of one of retired senior officers of state police recently. There can never be any economic progress when there is crime and fear in a society and when large number of elected politicians are known criminals (24 out of 80 MPs from state have criminal records, 110 out of 400 MLA have police cases against them).

UP will pull India Down: What does UP stand for? Does it belong to new India which is trying to go towards modernity? UP has all the problems which will stop India from progressing both socially and economically. It is deeply divided based on caste, it is divided based on religion, divisions run deep and wide, democracy is extremely fragile as strong arm tactics are part of its politics, there are virtually no industries in the state and nobody wants to go there because of high crime rate, most of government institutions hardly function anymore and it is hotbed of corruption with even its legislatures being caught on camera , openly taking bribes and even willing to kill for money. Dismal politics in state has led to dismal economical performance. UP is economic battleground. The per capita income of the state has been declining over the years with the result that the gap between its per capita income and that of other states has widened. Its rate of urbanisation is dismal (20% urban population as compared to 44% in Tamilnadu). Bibek Debroy , an economist states that if India grows at 8 percent, in 2020 UP will have per capita income roughly at the level where Azerbijan is today, marginally ahead of Zimbabwe. Considering that UP has such a large population, (Larger population than UK, Germnay and France put together) if it does not do well, it would constantly pull India down and decelerate our country's march towards economically better future. If India has to do well, it is utmost important that UP does well. It is so much important to free UP from a medieval state it has fallen to. It is so much important for its badlands and bahubalis to be eradicated. It is so much important to de-polarize its masses who are always dissected based on caste and religion for political gains. But all of this can only happen when its people realize this fact. Unless there is a genuine awakening in its people, its politics would not change much and unless that happen its people of state would keep rolling in poverty. Election commission’s moral code of conduct, central government's policies, World bank assistance and NGOs can only be catalysts, but the real change has to come from within.

Monday, April 2, 2007

No Sex for us please - Ban on Sex education

An old debate of implementing sex education in Indian schools has raised its head again with couple of state government banning sex education in schools even before it could be implemented. We Indian have a strange connection to this topic of sex. On one hand we have produced masterpiece like Kamasutra, on other hand, we squirm in our seats at the very mention of word sex. The debate as such is not new and has been happening for quite sometime even in liberal western countries where topic of sex is not a taboo and where sex education has been implemented for quite sometime. Even after that, they have had their own problems with teen pregnancies and unwed young mothers and this is something we need to learn from. On the contrary, in our Indian society, which is largely conservative, we tend to take a very moralistic and idealistic approach even though we know that we hardly live in ideal conditions and that man by nature is fallible. As always, the solution could be somewhere in middle, but for that to happen there needs to be a healthy open minded discussion based on facts and reality and not on just moral and high sounding cultural arguments and preconcieved notions which are are set in distant past. We can not teach kids in school that go have sex and produce babies but we can not keep pretending that they think that it is really about birds and bees and that babies fall from sky. In the whole debate on whether sex education in Indian schools is needed or not, there are couple of arguments which are extremely annoying. Those who vehemently argue against implementing sex education in schools usually say that:

  1. It is against Indian culture
  2. We need to implement yoga education and not sex education.

1. My reservation against first argument is that it is a big debate killer. The moment we don't want to confront a subject or even want to talk about it, we hurriedly term it as against Indian culture and want everybody to keep quite. It could be anything. It could be a movie showing an ugly slice from our past or it could be a festival celebrated by young couples. And nobody, I mean really nobody can perhaps substantiate what this Indian culture is, especially those who use it at drop of their hat. Has this so called Indian culture documented anywhere, engraved anywhere? Is this Indian culture a solidified object which has not changed since it was created, whenever it was created! What is the starting point of this culture? 5000 year back or 100 years back? Has this culture not changed since then! I believe that culture is like a flowing river and not like a pond where water stagnates and starts stinking. If there is anything which is part of Indian culture, it is that we are argumentative. We induge in arguments, we question, reason and try to understand things. This is how our ancestors were able to create some magnificent piece of philosophical literature many thousands of years back. Why do we now don’t deal with the questions just because they are little uncomfortable to our sensibilities? Is khajurao not part of Indian culture! Is kamasutra not part of Indian culture? If Indian culture is about beating young couples who are merely holding hands in public, if it is about vandalizing shops which are selling cards and flowers because young couple wants to buy them, if it is about honor killings where daughters are killed by their own fathers in full view and support of village because they married guys from lower or other caste, if it is about dowry killings, if it is about wanting to have sons and killing unborn daughters, if it is about a being piously hypocritical, if it is about trying to be a saint and not being a human, if it is about being poor yogi sitting in Himalya then I will happily say that I would prefer to be a westerner.

2. What makes us think that Yoga education and sex education are complimentary! Do we think that yoga education in schools would turn all children into spiritual gurus and sex education would turn them into sexual perverts! One of self acclaimed protectors and flag bearers of Indian culture, Ashok Shingal of VHS said on TV, on debate on same subject that "In Indian culture, we should remain celibate (brahamchari) for first 25 years of life, The Virya (semen) needs to be saved and not wasted and through yoga this Virya can then be transported internally to the mind converting it into spiritual energy". Fantastic as his views might sound to anyone, and without commenting whether there is really a truth in what he says about power of Virya, as I am sure he himself hasn't never tried that, I would have asked him if this is really what Indian culture is about, then how is that we are culture of 1 billion people! Obviously these many people could not have been born without Virya doing its bit. In fact on the contrary, it seems that we are in such large number because of over-active groins and juices that flow from there. In Hinduism, we have 33 million gods in the pantheon and some of them were sexually quite active. If one reads some of religious books, one soon gets confused about who was whose sons, like God A married God B and they had 4 children (they were also Gods obviously), A also had children from Z but A never slept with Z and used his spiritual force to make Z pregnant, like Lord Surya (sun) made Kunti pregnant in Mahabharata and she gave birth to a son called Karna. I am not trying to belittle our mythology which for most part is about allegorical stories and rely heavily upon symbolism with deeper meanings. The whole notion of Virya being needed to be conserved and abstinence might be good for those who decide to tread on the path of Indian yogic traditions (sanyas) but it is a choice made by an adult at a stage in life when he/she has understanding of such abstract things as God, religion, nirvana etc. Not everybody in this country is trying to become sadhu and sanyasi. We can not expect that by teaching yoga to children in school, they will grow up into sexless spiritual beings. It is like saying that if we teach math to all the children in school, they will grow up to become mathematicians. There is no reason why children can not be taught both sex education and yoga education. Purpose of Sex education is to teach scientific facts about sex to children who are otherwise prone to acquiring false notions and impressions about sex in the world where (mis)information is available at drop of hat. Yoga education teaches them how to keep physical fit and control their mind. Later when they grow up to be adults, they would be equipped to make better, informed decisions. May be some of them would grow up to become Swami Vivekanandas and rest of them would be happier being lawyers, engineers, doctors and enjoying a healthy sex life.

In a way, this whole topic of sex education is intersting from another perspective, in the sense that it is perhaps only topic which unites people who are otherwise always at loggerheads. For example from the mullahs to padri to pundits, all three of them would speak vociferously against implementing sex education. In thier eyes, somewhere, sex is a sinful activity which takes a man away form path of God, and hence it is not to be spoken about or indulged in and certainly not to be taught in schools. The unity of all religions on matter of sex raises a very interesting question...Why is that? For a later post.