A freak thunderstorm hit Cologne last Sunday and this is how it all began.
This is a photo shot about a month back. I did not post this until now as I wasn’t very sure if it worked or not. You can say that I’ve changed my mind a little. Of course, it is not a perfect macro being as it was my first and only try so far of an insect macro. With hindsight, using a tripod and increasing the dof would have made the photo better imo.
There was a lec-dem yesterday at the Centre for Drug Research Institute. CDRI is a premier government funded research institute for biomedical research located in Lucknow. CDRI is located in Chattar Manzil Palace, where the regal nawabs of Lucknow once lived the good life. It is a huge magnificent building. If Nehru called dams the “temples of modern India” then surely research institutes like CDRI would be the reigning deities of the nation; strech the analogy further and you could imagine scientists as the “priests of modern India.”
The striking irony: A product of scientific rationalism like CDRI located in a palace that was built for a pre-modern way of life.
The lec-dem was by a distnguished scientist from the National Physical Laboratory (another government lab) who had just returned from Antarctica. This gentleman is the coordinator of India’s Antarctica project and has visited the icy continent twice! The lec-dem was organised with a view to share his experiences about his journey. But the subtext was to also introduce the audience to the potential to exploit Antarctica’s resources. More on that later.
The scientist showed us pictures he took at the Indian station and narrated anecdotes about his visit. Also, interesting facts about the white continent. But, I felt that the underlying message of the talk was “This is a continent that is lying unexplored and unexploited. Something has to be done.”
He kept harping on the fact that there is no tourism to Antarctica from India. The fact that 10,000 tourists, mainly from S. Africa, Australia, N. Zealand, visit Antarctica made it all the more regrettable. The terms in which he framed it, it was like the nation was getting left behind in the scramble to “exploit” Antarctica.
There was one moment during the slide show that was particularly revealing. There was a ‘science cartoon’ of a penguin talking to a scientist (presumably an Indian) set against the icy, frigid landscape. The penguin says, “Looking at you I feel I have wasted my life here. No job, no money, no comforts. When you next go home to New Delhi take my son along with you so that he can become a scientist.”
There are several narratives that can be interpolated from this cartoon: science as the ultimate aim of society, looking at the things outside the realm of science as essentially “wasted”, scientific research or achievement as the desired goal, looking at a “non-scientific” way of living, and all the imagined attributes that accompany it like ‘sloth’, ‘carefree’, ‘easygoing’, as undesirable and a desire to correct this.
There was another revealing moment. Giving the reasons for harmony in the Indian station, as compared to other countries’ stations, he said that “the great women of the Indian nation hold together the family bonds for the progress of the nation.” Harmonious social relations and infact even the progress of the nation has been yoked to the women of the nation, like a cart is hitched to a bullock for its physical progress.
Science is supposed to be liberating; it was born in the crucible of enlightenment values and opposition to religious dogma. But has science now itself become a dogmatic religion which sees the world lying outside its realm with disdain, to be colonised, for the purpose of progress, progress of the nation?
Antarctica is the last wilderness on Earth, a land untouched by man or science. The icy, bleak landscape is threatening and exhilarating at the same time. Is this one reason that Science wants to colonise this continent? Why can’t penguins live their boring, unscientific lives? Why can’t the mountains and moss and seals live in peace? Why does progress of the nation depend on women performing a particular kind of role; that of holding the bonds of family togeher and civilizing the brute man?
I’m not a very big fan of the Brazilian football team. Not because they are bad, on the contrary the best moments of their football are sheer poetry. But it is a little boring to see them win year after year. And judging by the way they are are playing now they stand a very good chance of lifting the World Cup for a record sixth time. So here’s to (arguably) the best football team in the world today. Inspite of all I’ve said I hope they go all the way. Viva Brazil!
(I have no idea what happened on the lower right edge of the photo. I doubt it is vignetting. Any ideas?)
The smiles, they
In my heart
Like blooming flowers
I wrapped them in
And gave them
To the wind
To whisper in
And dissolve the
Sadness of distance
The FIFA World Cup is being shown in Cologn on huge screens in 3-4 fan zones. Before and between games there are various cultural shows from the various countries playing in the championship. This is from one such show at the fan zone next to the Dom.
As some of you may have noticed Visual Obscurity was down for almost a day due to some error with the sql database. After a day spent in aimless frustration, I finally managed to overcome the problem now. So here is today’s photo without furthur ado.
This is a friend of a friend of a friend! I hope I got her name right. A bunch of us had gone to see the match between Germany and Sweden on a giant screen next to the Rhine. Although, we all got roasted in the (pretty hot) sun the match and the atmosphere were great! Today’s photo is from there. After processing the photo came out a little darker than I wanted but I kinda like the way it looks now, has a slightly oldish film feel to it.
Nothing much to say here. This was taken in Heidelberg.
Reading a recent news report about the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu ordering officials to stop the screening of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in theaters makes me wonder if religious appeasement is not scaling new heights in India. Apparently, some Christian and other minority group’s religious sentiments are hurt by the film. This is strange considering that predominantly Catholic countries such as Italy, Brazil etc. have not banned the film. And even the Vatican did not call for a ban but has only asked Catholics to avoid the film. So I wonder if Christians in India have stronger feelings or do not agree with the Vatican over this issue? Or is it a perfect excuse to gain some political mileage by both the Catholic organizations and political parties rushing to please the former’s demands. After all, the book has been in print, has sold like hot cakes, and has been discussed to death for more than a year now. Why didn’t these people protest so strongly then?
I think these government orders set a dangerous precedent. Now the door is open for any group to demand a ban on anything based on the highly ambiguous argument that it hurts/offends their sentiments.
This also raises the issue of free expression. If we stifle dissenting views then how can new ideas arise? Whatever happened to freedom of speech enshrined in our constitution?
As I write this there have been fresh protests in Hyderabad by a Christian organization outside a movie theater, which was showing the film after a High Court judge quashed the government order banning the film, terming the order “as extravagant, arbitrary and wholly irrational.” Need I say more?
Cyclerickshaws are one of the modes of transport in Lucknow.
You can’t be very finicky about transport here because the public transportation system is so bad. Public buses were introduced a year ago and are still infrequent. There are no bus stops, so to board a bus you just wave your hand when you see one approaching and the driver stops just enough for you to hop in. Similarly to get off you yell at the driver to stop and jump off when he slows down.
Then there are the ‘vikrams’, basically motorised three wheelers that pack humans in like sardines. The Sumo SUV jeeps are even worse in this regard. You can barely breathe in one, let alone move. The stench of human sweat is nauseating.
There are ‘share’ autorickshaws, but these ply only on the major routes. So, despite personal misgivings and morals, you cannot afford to be too choosy about your transport. It is mix and match that gets you from point A to point B.
I first encountered the cyclerickshaws and felt a personal aversion to riding in one. A cyclerickshaw is basically a three wheeled contraption which resembles a bicycle with a large carriage at the back to carry people. The rickshaw is peddled by the driver who is thin and emaciated from the physical toil. There are thousands of cyclerickshaws on Lucknow’s streets.
Now this is the problem I had: There was an odd sense of guilt in riding one. The rickshaw driver cycles all day and late into the night in all seasons. And in Lucknow the seasons can get pretty extreme with brutal bone jarring summers and frigid mind numbing winters. Moreover, the rickshaw driver gets paid pittance for the amount of physical work he does. One rickshawallah told me he earns Rs 100 a day.
I am not being overly moralistic. I can’t afford to because I don’t have the complete picture yet. But the issue of human dignity keeps cropping up in my mind. Riding on someone else’s toil, sweat and, dare I say it, tears. But as I said I don’t have much choice, so I end up rickshawing quite a bit.
Before getting onto a rickshaw, I negotiate with the driver, which basically means haggling over the price. When he demands 10 Rs I am willing to pay 8 and when he pleads for 6 I say 4. The price fixing is not in his favour because there are so many of them willing to undercut each other. If this on demands 2 rs more there is always the next one eagerly waiting to poach customers.
The rickshawallahs have little bargaining power. They know it, I know it and they know I know it. People like me ride these rickshaws and haggle for every rupee like this is our last ride. And yet, when we walk into a store, showroom or mall, like the ones that increasingly dot the urban Indian landscape, we look at the ‘Fixed Price’ notice on the saffron walls and pay up without questioning.
That then is the dichotomy.