Friday, August 08, 2008

The Bride wore Botox and so did the Groom

These are interesting times. We are not easily satisfied anymore. Our expectations have grown to such a level that we take the initiative to better ourselves and this is not limited anymore to just our financial situation or our surroundings.

A visit to the doctor used to be dreaded and was undertaken only when one was seriously ill. But then came preventive medicine. We started visiting doctors for our vaccinations and our flu-shots. As well as regular checkups for managing a host of illnesses like diabetes or hypertension; or for preventing the risk of future maladies to which we may be genetically predisposed.

The twentieth century saw the rise of plastic surgery, which was targeted largely at women wishing to improve their appearance, and was generally classified as vanity surgery. But this is not limited to women anymore.

How would you classify someone who wishes to improve his vision by taking advantage of the advances in ophthalmic surgical techniques and equipment? I have been heavily dependent on my glasses for the last 41 years and visited a couple of specialists to find out my options. The specialist initially suggested multifocal IOL implants, but I was not happy with that, so it is going to be C-Lasik. This will correct my distant vision but will not help with my age-induced presbyopia, so I will still need reading glasses. The IOL implants would have given me perfect vision according to the doctor, but it is a much more invasive procedure and I guess I will wait a few more years and let the quality of the implants and the surgical techniques improve and become more common.

Am I being vain? Someone who has been in a similar predicament would perhaps say no and support me in my quest to reduce my dependence on glasses which verges on the border of disability. Others would say I should just accept what fate has given me and not undertake the risk of surgery. But I have already made the decision and am going for the procedure tomorrow.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Who am I, revisited.

I just found out Bush thinks I am up to no good. And so does Joe Lieberman.

I consider myself to be of the weak atheist variety, because so far I have no compelling reason to believe that there is no God.

According to our scriptures, there are three paths to salvation, Gnana, Karma and Bhakti. And I try to consciously follow the path of Karma because Bhakti is not my cup of tea, while the path to attaining Gnana is beyond my limited capabilities.

Perhaps I have never felt the need for a deep faith so far. There have been times when I trembled within, but I did not try to find solace in submission to a higher power. Perhaps I knew in my heart that I could find a way out of my predicament on my own by trying harder. Or I just might have been on a roll. Life might have missed dealing me the really bad cards.

I have never subscribed to the idea of a superior power passing judgment and sending us to heaven or hell. But this is one instance where I would prefer to be wrong. Because even if I am wrong and there is a God who might be sending me to hell, it means that my existence would extend beyond this world. In that sense, hell does not terrify me. And if I end up in heaven, isn't that a sweet bonus?

Again, I believe that there is no compelling reason for me to believe in the non-existence of God . I respect people who have faith. And i respect all religions because perhaps one of them might actually be the true path.

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong. - Bertrand Russel

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Singh Is Kinng!

Manmohan Singh has been a reluctant prime minister from the very beginning. He has never been a politician, in fact he has never won a popular election in his life. But he is an economist with vision. When he joined the Indian government in the nineties, the Indian economy was one of the worst performing in South Asia. It was under his stint as Finance Minister that India's economy started slowly breathing new life. And today, if Indians are enjoying the economic fruits of globalisation, thanks are partly due to the course that he had charted for India, then. He was thrust into the role of Prime Minister when it became clear that Sonia Gandhi would not be acceptable as Prime Minister to the Indian political establishment and would lead to agitations across the country. And it was clear that he was just a caretaker and who was actually doing the backseat driving.

History will remember ManMohan Singh not as the caretaker Prime Minister, but as the steward of the India-US nuclear deal. Because, nuclear energy is going to be vital for India's economic progress and he had the vision to realise that. He put his own and convinced his party to put its fortunes on the line and face a trust vote in parliament. To visualize beyond momentary political considerations and rise to the occasion when needed, is what makes your place in history.

The icing on the cake would be if India actually is able to gain advantage from the deal without compromising its strategic long-term interests, as is being alleged by the Left parties.

India should be treated as it is and it is a Nuclear Weapon State, whether anyone likes that or not. After clearing the IAEA hurdle, Indian negotiators are now hopeful of getting past the NSG with an unconditional waiver, which shall bring the Indo-US pact nearer to its conclusion.

In a few decades time, when nuclear energy infrastructure is developed in India and it is established as a reliable source of India's ever growing energy requirements, the nation will look back and appreciate ManMohan Singh for his contribution in ensuring India's progress.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Faith and religion

I envy people who have faith. They have most of life's questions answered for them by their particular set of beliefs and have a support system to fall back on in times of crises or doubt.

Because faith is not related to reason, it is something which you either have or you don't. You can not prove to someone that what they believe in is wrong and expect them to change their belief system. They will just dig in their heels and try to find arguments, no matter how convoluted, in support of their faith.

Cultural beliefs grow out of indoctrination, whether intentional or unintentional. Parents passing on their belief systems to their children, or the kids learning from their peers or from someone else they admire and wish to emulate. I am not criticizing the parents here, because I believe that it is their inalienable right to do so. Kids growing up in a culture will naturally be affected by it and have questions and it is the parents' right and duty to explain to the kids the reasons or thinking behind the particular rituals or acts. They have to do that to ensure that their children grow up as well-adjusted adults in their culture.

But if that is so, how come people convert from one religion to another? Exchanging one belief system for another is not easy. Perhaps those who convert do not have a strong belief system to start with. In the developing world, people dissatisfied with their social status in their own culture, convert to another religion where they believe they will be treated more equally. Because most of the time, religion equates culture. When you leave one religion and convert to another, you are actually leaving one culture and embracing another.

There are some free-thinking individuals who actually question their religion and eventually become dissatisfied with the answers and leave it to become hardliner critics. Most of them end up as atheists. Some are branded as apostates.

And what about shopping for religion? 40 million Americans each year move from one religion to another, according to that report, which is an astounding number, if it is true. But it should be good fishing for all those various sects and religions trying to increase their numbers. And then, if someone is shopping for a religion, it means that they do have some sort of faith to begin with. All that they need is a convenient coat-hook to hang it on.

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