Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The absence of free will and astrology

Another bit that has been doing the rounds in my head that is more a question, a thought experiment, rather than a conclusion.

Sometime ago, I wondered if ‘free will’ existed at all and the answer veered more towards to ‘No’ rather than the ‘Yes’. But, what about the choices that we make? I decided to do computer engineering rather than mechanical, or I decided to buy this stock, versus that, or I decided to play cricket versus football etc. These were some of the most intellectual examples of the presence of choice (and hence free will) that were offered to me. But the lack of apparent sophistication of this justification cannot hide its inherent elegance, its simplicity, in convincing us that ‘we’ are in control.

My own logic for arguing otherwise (i.e. choice being an illusion) is even more simpler and thus (in my view, anyway) elegant in its own right: Our decisions/ choice/ will is based on our past experiences, since our past experiences aren’t in our control, the choice we make based off them can hardly be called ‘free’. Yes we are ‘free’ to choose to study computer engineering, but if you were born in the 1960-70s in India, chances are you were so exposed to the wealth and power of the young computer wizards everywhere (not the mention a fast track to the coveted green card), that when the time came to chose, if you had the necessary qualification, the choice was basically already made.

In my reading of some of Swami Vivekananda’s works (this is one person I greatly admire and hope to share more about some day), I came across his observations that were in the ball park of: In this universe of time, space and causality free will doesn’t exist. He went on to elaborate on this, but currently locked out of my house and access to my books (and not possessing a photographic memory) I will refrain on commenting further on Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts on this issue. But the gist as I remember is this, every action in this universe bound by space and time is the result of a previous action usually in the past and the cause for further action sometime in the future. As such, there is very little chance of any act in itself to be independent, hence free.

This line of thought, finds resonance in the Bhagwad Gita (another topic on which I would love to comment, but when I know enough). The Gita begins with Arjuna, the warrior, refusing to do battle against his kith and kin. To convince him of the need to do his duty without worrying about the results, his friend, philosopher and guide (…and God, for those given to simple terms) first rebukes him, taunts him, dares him, tells him of the benefits of winning but finding Arjuna obstinate the discussions go deeper and deeper into the nature of reality. At the first glance, this appears as a discussion that can go either way, Arjuna has a choice: he can either fight or flee and he and Krishna are out there on the battlefield (which also I find symbolic, that your biggest questions about the nature of truth will not necessarily come while meditating peacefully in a beautiful forest or in an Ashram, they will come when it is their time to come and you must be prepared to still your mind for them) debating the pros and cons of each option. My line of thought was different…if Arjuna had a choice (i.e. to fight or not) why don’t his enemies? Did they not have a choice, especially when I knew that some of them did not want this fight? This apparent injustice was sorted out for me towards the end of the Gita (when Arjuna is convinced to fight and takes up arms) when Krishna tells him that he was always destined to fight this war and win it, but he was also destined to have doubts which would result in Krishna delving into the nature of reality that is the Gita. So basically, no one in this story had a choice at all, which brings me again to the question, that existence of free will is not a ‘given’.

While I agree that basing this alone on what is given by religious thinkers is not the proof one would like, I am not a physicist to come up with the proof. I do have my logic for questioning the existence of ‘free will’ which I outline before commenting on Swami Vivekananda and the Gita.

An interesting off shoot of this ‘logic’, is then if there is no free will, then is it possible to predict the future with stunning accuracy? Leaving all vestiges of logic completely, I think yes. Having personally witnessed some really good astrologers at work has increased my interest in that science or art or whatever. Again, I am only stating my thoughts here, as uninformed as they are: The emotive classification of planets and constellations as they are nowadays done in Vedic astrology as ‘good’ or ‘harmful’ is in my view wrong. The sages who gave us astrology recognised the ‘’inevitability’ in the universe and created astrology to predict where it would go. After all, they may have reasoned, if a comet’s path, time of re-appearing etc can be determined with pinpoint accuracy why cant human lives be so predicted as well?

In my thought experiment I imagine the universe as a big mechanical structure where every object that moves has a constant, cyclical relation with every other object in the universe. So the rishis that invested astrological charts decided to find out where the universe was going, How did they do that, by using markers. The markers where the nine biggest things they could see in the sky for most of the year. They could have done it with one object but then the predictions would not have been very accurate as that one object would have varying relations with varying other objects (but a constant, cyclical relation with each of them). Having nine markers improves the ‘hit rate’. So Saturn is not ‘bad’ as is thought of in India today, but only a marker. If the planet were to be replaced by a large enough stone to be a marker, the prediction would not change. It is where the universe is going, if that is a tough place for some people, so be it! Which is also why I find astrologers who keep harping on how the moon affects tides on Earth as ‘proof’ of the effectiveness of astrology, stupid. They clearly don’t know the logic of their work in the first place. In any case the obvious disconnect of a physical effect versus predictive quality is clearly lost on these village idiots.

There have been thinkers like Krishna Murti who have devised the Krishnamurti Paddhati (K.P.) for even more accurate chart and predictions. But overall, if what I say were to be correct, astrologers can incorporate more markers, with super computers today, they can possibly use like a million markers rather than nine to make birth charts deadly accurate in forecasting. Unfortunately, apart from some like K.P. today’s astrologers may lack the understanding of the impact of where the universe is moving to improve on their craft. They have become mere repeaters, and mediocre ones at that

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Peace about War

War is an ugly word and conjures up disgusting images. Not because any of us has seen the horrors of war, but because Steven Spielberg tells us so. I am in no way defending or advocating war or war crimes here but asking what I think is a pertinent question, is war a necessary evil?

A short, un-researched opinion is yes, war, or more specifically a credible threat of imminent conflict gives us a lot of intangible benefits that can only be perceived in their absence. Let me put it this way, in a world that saw war as ‘acceptable’, (say 100 years back) India and Pakistan would have gone to a bloody war, several casualties on either side, one of the sides would have won, captured the losing ruler and his/her family and had them drawn and quartered. The existence of this threat to life, made the rulers throne a difficult chair to sit upon. It is not out of nothing that the saying “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” took hold.

In this scenario it is in the rulers interest that the population remains loyal to him, remains physically and mentally fit, becomes aware of ground realities and most importantly doesn’t turn cynical about who rules the country. This meant the ruler would provide for good education, a relatively corruption free structure and generally treat the population as family and not as someone who puts him in power to do what he likes for five years. He could not afford to be a bad ruler as that would weaken his kingdom and encourage attacks from other rulers which his population had become too cynical/ weak to defend. The result: not good for the ruler’s health.

What has happened today is the bogey of war as being pure evil raised by ‘intellectuals’ has taken the risk out of being a ruler. Merely to give an example, assume Pakistan attacks India and wins the war, is the PM (and allegedly super PM) going to face any threat to their lives? No. They will negotiate a treaty and continue to rule the country at best or move to Switzerland with a generous privy purse at worst. So, why should the current political system be interested in having a strong army and a fit and aware population? In fact quite the opposite is in their interest i.e. the population becomes so cynical that it never votes the incumbents out of power (isn’t that India today?). In short, the removal of war and the removal of this threat to life has resulted in the ‘politician’ taking over the ‘leadership’ role as there is no downside associated with being a bad ruler. The leader is concerned about what is best for his people, the politician is concerned about staying in power to milk the system. In fact, it is in the current system’s interest that ‘war’ remains a bad word and that it is considered glorious and not cowardly to be afraid of it. They want us to fear a war because they don’t have the physical or the mental capacity to fight it and face the consequences. It is a vicious cycle really, no threat of war, politicians become rulers, no incentive to have a strong population, results in a weak, amoral, emasculated populace, makes it easier to create fear and hatred for war, weaker people provide a good crop for politicians to select jokers (usually from within their family) to keep the farce going for another generation.

Unless the system evolves in some way to bring back some credible threat (war-like, not necessarily war) to the ruling classes and again make the ‘chair’ something that a weak person doesn’t aspire to be on, the present rot will continue. Unfortunately, nuclear weapons have made the threat of war negligible. Nukes are probably the only weapons that will never be used, but by their presence will ensure that a cathartic war never takes places. The small time conflict that we see in Kashmir etc will remain and in the longer run cause more damage than a war (even a nuclear war) can. Lets face it, the only reason that India will not attack Pakistan is because it doesn’t want to risk some mad mullah pulling the nuke trigger. This allows Pakistan to continue to kill Indian soldiers and civilians with impunity in the name of religion.

While not an elite-ist argument, this fictional conversation between Jim Hacker and his scientific advisor, in the BBC series (Yes, Prime Minister) is one of the most sophisticated discourses on how nuclear weapons are not really a deterrent as they will never be used. The only thing that they do deter is not war, but only a nuclear conflict (if that). They also prevent the system for cleaning itself up, the way nature would have wanted it.

After all I don’t think Thomas Jefferson was an idiot when he said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

yoga logic, the way I perceived it then...

This is an extract of an email I sent to a good friend from Finland on the logic of 'yoga'. There probably is nothing 'logical' about it and even if there is, I am probably the least qualified to discuss it. But I think, for me, this was a good point to begin my personal, insignificant inquiry into the nature of reality. This was in response to her email asking me about my first kriya yoga class that I had attended...

It was good. Very tiring. The first day was a three hour orientation session, the next day was about 11 hours of discussions and teaching of a few yoga postures both physical and breathing. The last day was a marathon 13 hour session of putting together what we have learned. 
We used to start every day with the prayer:
Asatoma sadhgamaya,
tamasoma jyotirgamaya,
mrityorma amritamgamaya.
It means:
From untruth, take me to the truth,
From darkness, take me to light,
From death, take me to immortality.
I quite like the prayer as it is not to any specific third person and is so fundamental to what we all want but not selfish at the same time, since it is not asking for something that we do not already possess.
I cannot teach you the practice since you need to learn from a qualified source. But I can give you the underlying logic which will follow. I have added what I have learned from my study of scriptures earlier as the condensed version of the ast 27 hours will not give you a full picture.
The underlying truth espoused in Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas is that everything that exists is made of a single matter (its called Akasha in the scriptures). In fact it asks the question “what is that by knowing which we can know everything?” and then goes on to answer it. The idea is that the same matter vibrating at different frequencies creates the world around us. In that, the world is considered to be false and the underlying matter is the one and only truth. This matter is the Creator in that sense, but is devoid of all attributes such as sex, emotion and even sin and virtue. Hence evil, as much as good, is its creation. That is the ultimate reality. Hence the duality between good and bad, night and day, this object and that object, even the difference you and me, for example, is falsehood and is referred to as “maya”.
By means of clarification (and not related to the current email), all the other Gods and saints whose worship is prevalent, are actually beings who have come closest to this realisation and thus exert a higher extent of command over the nature we see around us. This would be the equivalent of a Christ or a Ahura Mazda or Allah or Brahma or Vishnu or Mahesh. So prayers are addressed to these secondary beings as the real “God” is quality-less. So to ask it for money (e.g.) when no difference between rich and poor exists for it, is meaningless.
An interesting offshoot of this logic is that morality appears to be a cheap, unsophisticated substitute for consciousness. To explain, instead of one saying I should not hurt you or steal from you because its ‘bad’ or a higher being doesn’t want me to, does indeed appear unsophisticated in front of a much more elegant and yet simple logic: Do not hurt anyone else, because there is no “anyone else” it is all just you. Hence if you hurt someone else, you are actually hurting yourself…therein lies the law of karma. An action comes back upon you later or even in the next lifetime (or the next, or the next…) not through some mystical means but because you have inflicted it upon yourself. 
Yoga literally means anything that takes you to a higher plane of realisation. To take an extreme example, lets say you committed a sin…but the realisation of that sin took you to a higher plane of realisation, then that sin along with its realisation will be considered as yoga. In fact, in the Gita, a warrior (Arjun) refuses to fight on a battlefield overcome with grief that he would be killing his family members. To counter this, Krishna recites the Gita. While a warrior hesitating to battle is considered to be extremely sinful, Arjun’s reluctance is classified as yoga by the Gita itself. Since the reluctance led to the Gita and that led to Arjun seeing what reality is.
The course talked about how a layperson goes about realising the truth. The guru said, we have four things at our disposal: a body, a mind (intellect), emotions and prana (force that powers this body). My understanding of prana is ‘kinetic’ to put it in modern physical terms. The scriptures say that it is prana that modifies Akasha to create duality or this illusory world. It makes sense from logic…if there is matter, which when vibrated, leads to this creation…then obviously kinetic energy is involved here. So force acting on matter creates stuff.
With four things at our disposal, we can see the truth only with these. Hence the Gita prescribes four ways to achieve realisation: Karma yoga (yoga of work) for the body, Gyana yoga (yoga of intellect) for the brain (recommended for atheists), bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion) for emotions and kriya yoga (yoga of energy) to harness each persons ‘force’. Though, no one is all body or all brain hence everyone has a combination of two or more of these methods. I, for example, am not a man of faith hence I am naturally drawn to read the scriptures to see if they make any sense (gyana yoga). Along with this I have now learned kriya yoga. So a combination of atleast two yogas is seen here.
Now the course was on kriya yoga conducted by Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev who runs the Isha Yoga Centre (you can look it up it probably has a branch in UAE or Finland). The particular process he taught is Shambhavi Kriya (it literally means technique of the twilight). 

Indian state declares war against mathematics

In a fiery press conference, the U.P. Chief Minister came down hard on mathematics as being party to a Brahmanical conspiracy. Welfare of the backward classes has been the cornerstone of her victories in six consecutive state elections. While an average of 57% of the state budget goes into construction of Mayawati statues and landmarks dedicated to her (the remaining 43% going towards funding the states’ massive civil service force) her popularity stems from steadily increasing the reservation levels for the backward classes. 
With reservations in all sectors having reached the apparently logical limit of 100% in the state, sources closed to the C.M. informed fakingnews of her grave disappointment of pursuing her agenda further. Mayawati put down the limitation of 100% of an ages old brahmanical conspiracy to limit the growth of Dalit power. In her press conference she cited the presence of two units of zero, which was invented by a Brahmin centuries ago, in 100%, as definitive proof of this artificial limitation. She has called for a nationwide stir to protest her inability to reserve more than a 100% of seats in the police, army, the judiciary, private and public jobs and in schools and colleges.
While some civil servants privately questioned the logic of the stir which could only lead to rioting they fear making public their view on this issue. Opposition politicians have been gobsmacked with the choice between making reservations that are beyond 100% or then appearing to be anti-backward class. But the C.M. has no dearth of followers with politicians in Delhi echoing her decision. Sonia Gandhi, after a long silence has come out in favour of this move saying “This is exactly the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that will take our country forward after the precipitous fall in the GDP over the last decade”. Her son, who is also the Prime Minister, also supported the move saying that this was a subject that he has often discussed with the poor dalits at whose homes he spent several nights in when he was a youth leader.
Intellectuals have also supported this move with Arundhati Roy joining issue on the concept on brahmanical conspiracy and cited everything from movies, to cricket, to the butterfly style of swimming as other examples of this wide-spread threat.  Most members of the so-called upper classes that are now living in abject poverty in India or affluent lives abroad were indifferent to the outcome of the controversy.
In the meanwhile, we hear that the issue of reserving over 100% has now become a hot potato that is being passed between the Department of Science and technology, Department of Personnel, the Law Department and the PMO amongst others on its implementation.

Nature magazine to study Digvijay Singh’s digestive system

Digvijay Singh’s amazing ability to excrete simultaneously through the oral as well as the anal cavity has finally caught the attention of the international scientific community. The 141 year old venerable scientific journal, Nature, deputed Dr. Ottavio Maino to investigate Mr. Singh’s anatomy to fully explain what the journal called one of the ‘missing links’ in human evolution. A release from Nature’s offices in London explained the interest that the scientific community has in this matter: 

“Put simply, the human digestive system consists of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and the large intestine through which food passes sequentially before solid waste is stored in the rectum until excretion via the anus. Mr. Singh seems to have a unique network of internal pipes and trapdoors that somehow links the excreta storage area back near the trachea. This causes Mr. Singh to push his faeces in both directions when customary pressure is applied and on which he has no control. As the trachea opens immediately below the larynx, which is the voice box, many a times Mr. Singh’s verbal diarrhoea is confused for speech. Also, as a consequence of this reverse movement; Mr. Singh’s digestive system is considerably longer than the usual nine meters resulting in faeces taking up to two years to reach the mouth instead of the usual 24-72 hour excretion via the anal opening. This causes his facial excretions to be particularly putrid with high levels of toxicity. In this Mr. Singh bears a close resemblance to the Hydra, which is a multi-headed, underwater parasite that also excretes through its mouth. While humans have evolved much beyond the tiny hydra, Digvijay Singh is its closest relative and may be a goldmine of information for evolutionary biologists.” 

This news has caught the buzz of the nation with the Congress President honouring Mr. Singh with the Bharat Ratna for putting India on the world’s scientific map. Mr. Singh however remained humble as ever and said that this was not new and he has always maintained that he can excrete from his mouth for the past several years. He even claimed to have proof of the same though none seems to be needed with his nearest aides vouching his constitution. Journalists however are faced with the biggest quandary as they will have to distinguish between his statements (as the Congress general secretary) and his excretions. Mr. Singh seemed unperturbed that a section of the media has been unable to distinguish between the two for the past 40 years that he has been in public life. Digvijay Singh has also reportedly refused to undertake treatment for his condition if any is discovered during the course of the study saying that he is perfectly happy with shitting from his mouth.

Congress faces a bigger gas crisis

In what would have been dismissed as being at worst a mildly humorous situation has rapidly escalated into what a senior Congressman described as “a hundred times worse than the Bhopal incident”. The incident occurred during a post rally meeting during which Rahul Gandhi (fondly known as Rahul-baba by his admirers) was scheduled to mingle with students of an up-market city college. 

Matters went south when what sources present describe as a sour, foul smell permeated the room. The smell, allegedly of a fart, overpowered many-a-resolve in the crowded room, causing a young girl to faint and a journalist to throw up. Matters got out of hand when a student afterwards suggested that it was Rahul Gandhi himself who was the perpetrator as “he seemed to actually enjoy the smell”. 

This unplanned development completely threw the State and Central Congress machinery out of gear with six different members (including one ex-minister who was not present at the time of the incident) accepting responsibility for the smell. Abhishek Manu Singhvi alleged in a late-night call to NDTV that it was actually the BJP who was responsible for the smell and threatened a defamation case against the student who has wrongly accused Rahul-baba. Jayanthi Natrajan categorically denied Rahul-baba’s involvement stating that he seldom farts and when he does “it smells of jasmines”. “He has excellent bowel movements”, Jayanthi stressed before calling a close to hastily called press meet. Digvijay Singh put the blame squarely on Arjun Singh though it is felt that this was an error caused due to his frantic attempts to regain the trust of his party’s leadership. 

The seemingly conflicting and at times bizarre statements from various leaders to protect Rahul have attracted media attention the world over resulting in the chief whip issuing a gag order on this issue. “All queries will be addressed directly to the PMO and speaking out of turn on this issue will be dealt with severely”, he added. Dr. Manmohan Singh has reportedly lost sleep worrying about this issue.

India takes the war on terror to the next level

In what is seen as a monumental counter-attack on terror groups across the border, the Indian government today issued an ordinance declaring India an ‘Islamic Republic’. Home minister P Chidambaram (now Maulana Abdul Aziz) said this bold move was designed to take the wind out of terrorist’s sails. "This will make their war with India meaningless and leave them with no option but to lay down arms and take part in the democratic political process", he added with a wide grin.

The move is also being supported by the law & order establishment with ATS chief Raghuvanshi (now Rehmaan Mehfooz) coming out in support. Given the ability of terrorists to strike at will, Mr. Mehfooz hailed this Gandhian move as the best way forward. 

Mani Iyer (Gani Bhai) lavished praise on Sonia Gandhi (Sania Ghandy) and Rahul (Rahil Ghandy) for devising this fool-proof plan to tackle terror once and for all with minimal bloodshed. Gani bhai rubbished charges of the move being akin to ‘giving up’ by making a very pointed argument "…this is hardly a laying down of arms. This is in fact a fresh salvo on terror that more developed nations have been unable to make. This will force terrorists to dig deeper to come up with reasons to continue with this mindless violence and make them introspect. After all we don’t really want to get rid of these people. If we did then why would we take such good care of Mohammed Afzal, Ajmal Kasab and the others? We just want them to better adjust…and what better way for their adjustment than to completely change ourselves. After all Gandhiji had said that we have to be the change that we want to see in the world". 

The ordinance highlighted some very interesting social dynamics, most of them completely unexpected by even the most seasoned experts. The foremost among which have been protests by Muslims, contrary to expectations that they would welcome the move. “Earlier, we used to be the favoured children of the country; we got Hajj subsidies that even Pakistan does not offer to its citizens. We got reservations, preference, money for our votes during elections and general all-round sympathy for our misguided youth. If the entire population becomes Muslim, then how do we remain special?! After all if everyone is special, then no one is. We will move the Supreme Court to consider reservations for original Muslims versus these neo-converts” shrieked a religious leader. 

While protests from a very small section of the erstwhile majority Hindu population has been successfully and swiftly crushed, the government was also taken aback by the overwhelming welcome to the Bill by the vast majority of upper-caste Hindus. “With virtually a handful of seats available for our education, general discrimination against us in the media, in jobs and in the government we were living under pitiful conditions. What this Ordinance offers us really is a way out!” a relieved neo-convert gushed thanking the first family of the country for their foresight.

However, the neo-converts may be in for a nasty surprise. The ruling Congress in a bid to protect its original vote bank is considering the introduction of a caste system within the new single religion country. The caste-system will be on the lines specified in the Manusmriti, often mistakenly taken for the Hindu lawbook, to segregate the population for a more correct usage of limited resources of the state. There is talk of differing taxation and reservation policy for the different castes within the wider community. While this is strictly against the core tenets of Islam which recognises all Muslims as equal, these moves have suspiciously not found opposition even in the most orthodox clerics.

The BJP that has been unable to block the ordinance due to constant internal bickering concluded that it is best to adjust to the new reality instead of resisting the government. The Ordinance is expected to come into effect in the next thirty days.

All terrorists to be identified as Hindu in secularism bid

A new bill brought to the parliament seeks to identify all alleged terrorists with made-up Hindu names in a giant step forward for secularism. The bill was introduced today by law minister Prithviraj Chouhan to thunderous applause from the ruling benches even as non BJP members of the NDA looked zapped at the sudden development and were unsure how to react.

The Bill seeks to address concerns raised by several NGOs and the international community at large on the unusually high concentration of minorities in the lists of wanted terrorists released by various security agencies. “If India is 70% Hindu, then how is it possible that 95% of all alleged terrorists belong to minority community. Statistically it is impossible”, a visibly pleased member of the communist block said to the media waiting outside the Lok Sabha and pledged support to the UPA on this ‘much delayed’ amendment to the IPC. 

The Bill also requires intelligence agencies to use photoshop to remove any visible religious markings such as beards, ceremonial markings, headgear etc from the pictures of wanted terrorists to ensure that only secular photographs were circulated to investigating officers. The addition of specifically hindu markings such as a 'tilak' are considered acceptable to lend authenticity to the photograph. Several retired judges and police officers pointed out that this would make on-the-ground identification of suspects impossible, especially now since the police would not even know their real names. Abhishek Singhvi, the Congress spokesperson, came down heavily on such criticism as ‘baseless and not grounded in reason’. Mayawati too denounced such views as being motivated by manuvadi tendencies in a bid to placate the ruling party after her recent garland-gate scandal.
BJP, the main opposition party, tried to stage a walk-out in protest but the high average age of its members made the walk-out a slow affair and took the intended sting out of the bite. The party is expected to call a chintan baithak in a few weeks to discuss this development with the Bill virtually assured of being passed with an overwhelming majority. Shiv Sena and MNS that were initially opposed to this Bill came out in support after a closed door meeting with Sharad Pawar assured them that no Maharashtrian names would be used. 

The media and film industry largely welcomed this move with the Times Group extending the ‘Aman Ki Aasha’ to within India as well. Emraan Hashmi said that this Bill will now help him buy a flat in Bombay where he had alleged that religious discrimination had prevented him from staying. Azharuddin, the ex-captain of the Indian cricket team, welcomed the Bill as well only adding “Only if this would have come a few years earlier, some hindu sounding cricketer would have been dismissed for my match fixing activities and I could have been playing till today. The IPL is a real money spinner, even if you take the fixing part out of it”. Only Shah Rukh Khan looked uncomfortable with this development as he and Karan Johar were seen rushing new posters of his film "My name is Khan" with the title changed to "My name is Kumar" and significant portions are expected to require re-dubbing.

The UN General Assembly welcomed this step forward by India with several countries walking up to Sashi Tharoor to shake his hand even as he was busy tweeting. Pakistan hailed the move but added that in their country they have been blaming problems on Hindus for the past six decades. "India is well behind the curve on this front" the Pakistani ambassador was overheard commenting to his counterpart from Bangladesh. The Indian PM, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the Congress chief are already set to be contenders for the current year's Nobel peace prize.

India to outlaw all forms of exercise

Moves are afoot in Delhi to outlaw all forms of exercise. The plan was mooted after ruckus raised in recent Lok Sabha debates on the disparity in the health standards of those who exercised and those who did not. After several rounds of discussions it was decided that since a larger proportion of Indians chose not to exercise it was only fair that the active ones cut down to bring about equality in physical fitness. “Equality is more important than excellence” was the cry raised by RJD chief Lalu Yadav who has been desperately seeking issues after his fall from grace in the past elections. The Left parties quickly joined in but not without pointing out that it was their comrades in Russia and North Korea that had originally shown the path to be equally pathetic. The issue also found resonance among the ruling benches with the health minister even claiming support of the pharmaceutical lobby in the bid to outlaw all forms of exercise. “Who better than the pharmaceutical companies to advice on health reforms?” the politician quipped rhetorically. 

In a reaction completely unexpected by the media, the proposed law has found ample support in the young school and college going population in cities and villages alike. “I used to feel very weak and inferior to those from my college who took up sports and represented the institution in competitions. Sure they work out in the gym before coming into college and play sports on weekends, sure they stick to health food and stay away from alcohol and cigarettes, but does that give them the right to look better than me or be healthier than me?”, a 22 year old boy asked while crying profusely. Support also came from younger quarters that said that such a law was needed to give a moral backing to playing computer games indoor and effectively stymie parent’s efforts to push children outside the house.

Given the overwhelming positive response to the proposed law, the opposition parties are wary of questioning the move. Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the opposition, said that in a mature democracy like India “the minority usually has to go with the majority’s will and it is necessary to do what people demand of us”. Several psychologists have also come out in support of the legislation. “Exercise is a matter of personal choice and should not be forced down anybody’s throat. There are examples in the animal kingdom of complete lack of exercise, the sloth, the tortoise, the hibernating polar bear are all very sedentary animals and still live a full and a long life. The feeling that one has to exercise is due a warped sense of normalcy that has roots in culture but is without scientific backing. We need to challenge the set norms to grow as a society and be more broad-minded. I fully endorse the stand taken by the government on this issue” said Dr AR Kavi in an exclusive interview to our journalist.

The only opposition has come from gym owners, dieticians and fitness trainers but has been summarily dismissed by the government citing “vested interests” and “foreign hand”, when referring to several global fitness franchises. A street protest by some was swiftly broken up and the fitness conscious miscreants were marched, very slowly, to the nearest police station. NRI doctors and other professionals abroad that opposed the move were also swiftly dismissed as “being elitist”. 

The government will be setting up a cabinet level committee in a fortnight to look into exploring all aspects of the law and coming out with a draft for adoption as soon as possible. There are clear indications that the armed forces will be brought under the purview of the bill and training grounds belonging to them are already being valued for possible auction in the near future. While the police force will also form part of the Act it is widely believed that this would only be a formality as officers across the country already conform to the new standards likely to be specified.

There is also a murmur that the level of difficulty in academics will be brought down to the level of the lowest common denominator. The education minister said with a proud grin that this would render the answer papers of the most intelligent student virtually indistinguishable from that of the rest of students and bring about democracy in academics as well. “There is no reason why only intelligent students should be allowed to become doctors. In a democracy all professions are equal, be it a doctor or a municipal clerk” the education secretary said in a press briefing 

In the meanwhile, India’s neighbours have welcomed this move. China recognised the pressure the Indian government is under due to the opposition from bourgeoisie health groups to scrap this act. The Chinese foreign minister pledged all support to the Indian PM Manmohan Singh saying “India has always been a teacher to the world. Some of its ideas in the past too may have been seen with equal suspicion, but we urge the Indian government to persist with its ideals and are confident that great results in just a few decades will prove the detractors wrong”. The law is expected to be adopted without discussion and without opposition in the Lok Sabha in the next twelve months.

Ajmal Kasab to contest 2014 elections

In a new development, Ajmal Kasab the alleged terrorist implicated in the 26/11 strike on India has expressed his desire to contest the 2014 elections from a South Mumbai constituency. A letter containing this wish, written in Marathi by Kasab’s hand, was handed over by Kasab’s lawyer to the presiding judge Tahliyani, whose expression is best described as dumb founded. 

The media went into a tizzy with several questions being raised on the nationality of the Kasab and, to a lesser extent, the heinous crime he is alleged to have committed. While most political parties have refrained from supporting or condemning this move given that Kasab has not yet decided under which emblem he will contest, the Samajwadi Party extended its full and unconditional support to his proposal.

The SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav argued that the court had not yet ruled on his nationality or on his culpability in the 26/11 case. “How can we hold him guilty then?” he quipped before adding that he had full faith in the justice system of India. He also pointed out that if his party began rejecting candidates based on accusations alone then he would be unable to field anyone, anywhere in the country. He went on to cite examples of leaders such as Advani and Sonia Gandhi who were born outside the country but were seen as acceptable candidates by the intelligentsia. He quoted examples of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Mother Teresa as proof that one does not have to be born in India to work for her welfare. When it was suggested that a large chunk of Mumbaikars considered Kasab to be guilty, Mr. Yadav uncharacteristically flared up challenging them to then vote him out in the next elections before simmering down and asking people to “let the law take its own course”. He is confident that Kasab would consider SP as the ideal platform for his political career and has even deputed Abu Azmi to negotiate on the Party’s behalf. 

The Shiv Sena and MNS went on a rampage as the news broke and attacked and maimed several butchers in various part of the city. Fisherwomen selling their goods on the roadside also faced their wrath as the saffron parties vowed to wreck havoc on anything to do with fishing boats and butchery. “If Kasab is allowed to contest elections, then we will not spare a single butcher in the whole state” a MNS leader said to the media amidst the mayhem though was unable to give the exact reason for targeting butchers. 

Shabana Azmi welcomed Kasab’s move and called him “one of our own” and reminded the country that Gandhiji has asked us to destroy the evil inside the man and not the man. She said that if Kasab won the election it would be a matter of pride and would be the proof of the strength of India’s democrazy and the “spirit of Mumbai”. 
In the meanwhile, Kasab has requested jail authorities to supply him with an Urdu copy of the Indian constitution and is often seen practising speeches in the lonely confines of his cell. A policeman on condition of anonymity told our bureau that all investigations against Kasab have been discontinued as officers fear retribution should he get elected to the august house.