Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harping about Harry

A ‘leaked original edition’ of the final Harry Potter adventure ‘The Deathly Hallows’ may be available on the net. Even if its content is legitimate, an e-book cannot replace the charm of paper

The release date of the last book in the Harry Potter series looms large in our collective media space and the hysteria of appropriating a copy for oneself has reached its pinnacle. Last I checked in the news about a million copies, and still counting, of Potter books are booked in advance.

Amidst this madness, original copies of the last edition are doing the rounds of shareware programs and even via zipped email files. The ‘originality’ of the e-book is a contentious issue. The author may not invariably remain J.K. Rowling in all those editions, contrary to what is printed. A talented person with an active imagination and well versed with words may have filled in the chasm left behind by Miss Rowling.

A person fairly acquainted with the internet can avail of these ‘leaked original version’ of the book with minimal effort. A search on google or any popular shareware sites will satiate the lust to know and be the first one to read the hallowed final account, if not in the world then in one’s own clique.

But is it worth it? The experience of reading a well written book is much more than internalizing information in the presented sequence. The medium in which it is offered is the very characteristic that defines that experience.

A book to me more than just a collection of black ink lines on a white paper. An e-book cannot emulate it. The feel of paper is distinct. The rustling sound made while exploring the depths of a plot. The sweet smell of a new print or the damp musty fragrance of an old edition. It all adds to the enigma of reading.

The journey that one undertakes with the turn of a page and the gradual progression of a mesmerizing narrative revels in the ordinary and yet charming demeanor of an innocuous book. The same cannot be said of an e-book. The strain of staring at the ubiquitous glow is disturbing at best. It is like staring at a bulb and trying to read the fine print on it.

In matters of academics, communication and even small prose, the computer can be very a simple and inclusive instrument. But while reading a novel or any work of fiction the characters are lost in translation amongst the embedded binary and the drone of processing. It just doesn’t feel right.

The techies might call me a hypocrite for turning on the very medium that empowers and I don’t blame them either. I love reading blogs online and the elusive International Herald Tribune web edition. But in matters of fiction my heart craves paper.

I will wait my turn and lay my hands on the copy when I am assured of time on hand. With the rains lashing out at the frenzy in which we exist, I long to curl up on my favourite couch, tucked away in the warmth of a blanket. Away from the madness, immersed in a beautiful world the memories of a journey will linger on.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Taj Conspiracy

Excerpts from fellow blogger modred1980’s detailed blog Conspiracy theories (My world):

Note: The blogger states facts as they are known and clarifies that “the right to believe it or treat it as a hoax is your purview”. The post speaks of the commonly held knowledge that Taj was built by Shah Jahan, a Mogul Emperor, in memory of his lady love. It is the other theory that is interesting and not often heard. Read on. (Also see, further reading)

Story behind Taj Mahal: Fact or Fiction

The Taj's Other Story

If you have ever visited the Taj Mahal then your guide probably told you that it was designed by Ustad Isa of Iran, and built by the Moghul Emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Indian children are taught that it was built in 22 years (1631 to 1653) by 20,000 artisans brought to India from all over the world.

This story has been challenged by Professor P.N. Oak, author of Taj Mahal: The True Story, who believes that the whole world has been duped. He claims that the Taj Mahal is not Queen Mumtaz Mahal's tomb, but an ancient Hindu temple palace of Lord Shiva (then known as Tejo Mahalaya), worshipped by the Rajputs of Agra city.

In the course of his research, Oak discovered that the Shiva temple palace had been usurped by Shah Jahan from then Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai Singh. Shah Jahan then remodelled the palace into his wife's memorial. In his own court chronicle, Badshahnama, Shah Jahan admits that an exceptionally beautiful grand mansion in Agra was taken from Jai Singh for Mumtaz's burial. The ex-Maharaja of Jaipur is said to retain in his secret collection two orders from Shah Jahan for the surrender of the Taj building.

For the complete article follow link.

Further reading:

Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple: Professor P.N. Oak

Was Taj Mahal a Hindu Temple? : The Photographic evidence

Taj Mahal or Tejo-Mahalaya – Media Monitors Network, Faisal Kutty

Just wondering...?

Taj Mahal was inducted into the ‘New7Wonders’ list on 07/07/07 via internet and SMS polls, an initiative undertaken by a Zurich based firm. On the subsequent day, Times Now informed its viewers of the inclusion in a Top Story ticker which read:

‘Taj retains its place amongst the new seven wonders of the world’

The word ‘retains’ may as well be a scripting error, but this is highly unlikely. It reflects and in its connotation perpetuates a long held myth that Taj Mahal was ever a part of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The original seven wonders were listed by the Greeks millennia ago which consisted of only Greek monuments. (see IE link below) Since then no such comprehensive list has been drawn which has global consensus. Neither does the latest poll which has come under harsh criticism by experts for not being democratic or scientific in its methodology.

They, read Times Now channel and other media outlets, need be careful of getting their facts right and not create history in topics where none exists. This casual acceptance of long held beliefs and its subsequent apotheosis exemplifies the tendency to reiterate the most convenient discourse.

In a profession which prides on its relentless pursuit of cold facts the current trend leaves a lot to be desired.


People hail laurel for Taj – The Hindu 09/07/07

Don’t feel guilty if you did not vote for Taj. It does not matter. - Indian Express 07/07/07:

I didn't vote for Taj and I am proud of it

The Indian Express front page dated 07/07/2007 carried a box asking us not to feel guilty if we did not vote for Taj to be included in the new 7 wonders list. It informs us that the poll is carried out by a private Zurich based firm called New7wonders “with no sanction from any international body.”

It suggests that the firm would want us to believe that the poll is about “awareness and monument appreciation” It further goes on to inform that the firm takes home one-fifth of the revenue earned from SMS voting and phone calls of which 50% is pledged for conservation marked with the tag “spin-off”.

Also, Times Now does a volte face and asks its viewers whether the Taj Mahal need be endorsed via SMS polls to be considered one of the wonders of the world. Ironically, it asks us to SMS our views whether an SMS poll is required to endorse Taj. One is tempted to ask if any of the SMS polls on news channels are relevant altogether.

The intentions behind these news stories seem noble but once the surface is scratched the warts are exposed. It is the final day and the results will be announced in the evening. It was common knowledge, as to who the promoters of the event were, namely a private firm. It just was not given enough prominence.

So, why did it take so long to uncover the murky underbelly? Because then the SMS polls could not be validated otherwise which would lead to a loss of revenue for these prolific media outlets. After about a week of promotion the Taj fever reached its crescendo due to constant campaigning and “in national interest” messages from mobile and internet companies. Not once did they bother to emphasize the fact that it would not matter.

UNESCO was asked by the firm for its backing, but it genially refused. So the fervor with which the media promoted this ‘hoax’ is an alarming reading of the market dominated mainstream Indian media. Some may argue that it isn’t a lie, the polling is real and New 7 wonders will be announced (and they may have been by the time this is written).

But it wasn’t the complete truth either. A lie of omission is nevertheless a lie. How many people would have voted for Taj if they knew the complete facts? The polls do not have an international standing, neither are they democratic nor scientific in methodology. Taj may not receive any funds per se for its upkeep nor assistance in planning the urban sprawl surrounding it. As for the awareness bit, most of the people are not even aware of the other contenders in the run up to the last seven.

By tomorrow the verdict will be out and we will have our “SMS wonders”. Taj may or may not be one of them. The media will be either jubilant in its inclusion or defiant and defensive questioning the necessity of third party endorsement to acknowledge the beauty of the monument.

Once again the media, across the spectrum, chose to toe the line when it could have put forth the complete facts. Think WMD and US media and the future suddenly seems bleak. Now, in its efforts to score perceived brownie points the media will leave their viewers/ readers dumfounded as to why they voted in the first place. And once again, the media won’t have any answers.

Indian Express: Don’t feel guilty if you did not vote for Taj. It does not matter.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Why supporting the ULFA makes you smart

At the onset, I would like to clarify that I do not support ULFA or the brutal murders that they have carried out in recent times. Also, I feel that they need to rethink their rhetoric and refine it to reflect present realities and not merely dwell on demonizing the capitalist as they have so often done in the past.

Now, getting back to my theory that ‘if you support ULFA it makes you smarter’. This may sound absurd and even sensationalistic but I assure you my intentions are not to convert or influence your thinking towards radicalism. It should be understood that this is a theory I propose and you may vehemently disagree. I encourage it. There are a few considerations before I get into the meat of the matter.

Firstly, ULFA or United Liberation Front of Asom is a symbol that I choose to represent radical groups or peoples movements backed by rational ideology. It is not specific to the left or right of centre political thought. I chose ULFA as I thought of this when I was reading about their history and because I am free as an individual to make that choice.

Secondly, by support I do not mean blind faith or unquestioning reverence. In fact, I intend to suggest just the opposite, critical thinking being one of the necessary attribute which justify the support.

Finally, supporting such an organization will not ‘make’ you smarter but is a pre-requisite as stated in the earlier point. By smart I do not mean a person with a very high IQ but someone with reasonable grasp of economic and political realities and the willingness to think beyond his or her preformed notions.

I think that a person inclined towards such movements has the will and the curiosity to know more about his or her social surroundings. This compels them to move beyond the structure created by parenting and institutionalized thinking. The very fact that a person is willing to explore rather than accept his realities is a testament to independent thought.

It would require a person to forgo the comforts ensured by the system if he or she follows the path laid out in front of them. I do not wish to insinuate that it is an easy task which requires no skill, intelligence or hard work. But yes, it is relatively easier to internalize and implement those values as the systems to do so already exist.

As most prevalent opinions discourage such leanings the task of understanding the motives and objectives of such movements is difficult. It is a constant battle to understand and if at all accept the principles or necessity of such activities. Far more difficult than what is generally heralded as a universal truth. For instance, western countries are far more developed as civilizations in present times. To refute this generally accepted notion, one has to delve into the finer nuances of the claim which is an arduous task, than to accept it as it seems obvious.

Also, mainstream media and key opinionators where mass media is not all pervasive like in India, although this scenario is rapidly changing, do not represent such causes and movements, ideologically or in action, in equitable proportions as compared to accepted views. So it is difficult to know about them without initiative, effort or interest which again is a trait likely to indicate critical thought.

A majority of breakthroughs in human thought have been possibly only by flaunting the conventional wisdom of the time. Without penetrating the mould we would still grapple with the imperfections of Newtonian physics, a non-traditional view in itself, and be oblivious to Einstein’s theory of relativity which is also now being challenged.

It is a trait that we all posses to question and evolve from our closely held beliefs and perceived facts. In this context, a person inclined to support radical movements and subjects established notions to an intense scrutiny before aligning with it. The process that one must goes through imbibes a real world-view formed by self determination and critical thought.

So, supporting ULFA will make you smarter as much as watching football will make you an athlete. But yes, it does prove to be a valid indicator of individuality and independent thought. One can argue that these values in themselves are not worthy of imbibing and rightly so as per their perception. But I choose to disagree on this one and of course with regards to this piece so may you...