Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Why do such things happen?

HoustonChronicle.com - Hindu killed while meditating in park honored

Akhil Chopra was killed when he was apparently meditating in a Houston park. His boss at work said that Akhil Chopra was quite deep in meditation; so deep as to not even hear a robber. The robber shot him at point blank range.

I really find it difficult to understand how someone could shoot an innocent person and that too when he was meditating peacefully. What sort of a crazed person could this be?

But the deed has been done. I don't know if the perpetrator of the crime has any remorse or not. But I feel a deep sense of sorrow at this incident, though I don't know Akhil Chopra.

What has humankind come to? On one hand we have senseless violence like this whereas you have such spontaneous outpouring of concern from the other end. But even one act like this tarnishes the entire society as society is partly, if not wholly, responsible for the creation of such criminals.

All I can do is to pray for the peace of the departed soul. But questions remain. Why did this happen? What sort of a person could have done this? How can we prevent such things?

History has known tyrants and sadists of an even worse nature. One example I read about in an Amar Chitra Katha book is that of the Huna tyrant Mihirakula. When his army was navigating a mountain pass, an elephant accidentally slipped and plunged to its death. This man, instead of expressing concern, was intoxicated. He then began pushing more elephants so that he could have his 'high'. What kind of a man could that be? There have been many tyrants throughout history in Attila, Genghiz Khan, Idi Amin, Hitler, Stalin and even in Mahmud Ghazni, Ghauri and so on.

An article I read on redherring.com talks about recent research that people are not happy just because of their material possessions but are so because of their relative affluence over other people they know. If this is true, isn't this a sad commentary on human condition? If their happiness can be made "higher" by making someone less happier, people end up doing that. Is that not the seed of sadism?

Humans endowed with their so-called intellects need more avenues to feel happy and engaged. Their intellects give them new ways too. Drugs are one way. Torturing fellow beings is another. But animals indulge in violence only when they need food or are defending themselves. Aren't animals better than such humans? So isn't calling a particularly cruel man an animal wrong?

The perpetrator could probably be just a stupid teenager, getting his highs on video games or from violent movies. In video games one can kill and die without any real side-effects. In America, it is pretty easy to get a gun (at least much easier than in India). So a gun-toting teenager is walking in a Houston park. He sees this poor guy meditating; he decides in an impulse to show his power (to himself or to his accompanying friend) over Akhil Chopra by killing him with his gun. He presses the trigger a couple of times and the act is done. A video game or a movie could have caused the mind of the perpetrator to be so numb to reality that Akhil Chopra's death might not even have registered in his mind. He probably got a small "high" from this. All this for a small "high"? Akhil's family devastated because of one man's high?

Violent movies and video games are partly to blame. They are only partly to blame because they wouldn't have been made if there was no demand. But crime has existed even before movies and video games. Did not these tyrants exist before these technical advancements? As I think and write through this, I am more and more reminded of the analysis that I read in Freakonomics. The factors that make a person are first and foremost genetic. Upbringing is secondary. But then there are the unknowns. In Freakonomics especially, we see a teen gang member becoming a professor, whereas someone from a "better" family turned out to be the Unabomber! It becomes an increasingly difficult problem to solve intellectually. It looks like we can seek refuge only in Karma and adRShTa for an explanation.

Akhil's episode reminds me of Lord Krishna's departure. When Krishna was meditating in a forest, a hunter shoots an arrow at Krishna's foot taking it to be the mouth of a deer. Krishna died a slow death from the wound, but not before consoling the hunter. While the whole episode is immensely saddening, Akhil's departure from the world shows how great a soul he must be (not must have been because the soul is immortal).

May Almighty grant peace to the departed soul!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sampada | Sampada

Sampada | Sampada

ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಈ ರೀತಿಯ ತಾಣ ಎಂದಾದರೂ ಕಾಣಸಿಗುವುದೇ ಎಂದು ಹಾತೊರೆಯುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. ಹರಿಪ್ರಸಾದ್ ನಾಡಿಗ್ (ಮತ್ತು ಸಂಗಡಿಗರು?) ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಕೆಲಸವನ್ನೇ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ನಾನೂ ಒಬ್ಬ ಸದಸ್ಯನಾಗಿದ್ದೇನೆ ಈಗ. ಕನ್ನಡಪ್ರೇಮಿಗಳೆಲ್ಲರೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಹೆಸರುಗಳನ್ನು ನೋಂದಾಯಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲೇಬೇಕು.

ಹಿತವಾಗಿ, ಕಣ್ಣಿಗೆ ಹೊಡೆಯದ ರೀತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪುಟದ ವಿನ್ಯಾಸ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ.

ನನಗೆ ಅತ್ಯಂತ ಸಂತೋಷವಾಗುತ್ತಿರುವುದು ನಮ್ಮ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗರೊಡನೆ ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಚರ್ಚೆ ಮಾಡುವುದರಿಂದ. ಬೇರೆಡೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಇಂಗ್ಲೀಷಿಗೇ ಮೊರೆ ಹೋಗಬೇಕಿತ್ತು. ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಹಾಗಲ್ಲ. ಅಂತೂ ಕನ್ನಡ ತಾಯಿ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗರ ಕಣ್ತೆರೆಸಿದ್ದಾಳೆ.

ಏನು ಮಾಡದೇ ಇದ್ದಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡ ಬೇಗನೆ ನಾಶವಾಗುವುದು ಎಂದು ಒಬ್ಬರು ವಿಶಾದದೊಂದಿಗೆ ಎಚ್ಚರಿಸಿದ್ದರು. ಸಂಪದದಂಥ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನಗಳು ಆ ಮಾತನ್ನು ಸುಳ್ಳುಮಾಡಲು ಹೊರಟಿವೆ. ಆ ನಾಶದ ಮಾತು ಸುಳ್ಳಾಗಲಿ. ಸಂಪದ ಕನ್ನಡದೊಂದಿಗೆ ಉಳಿಯಲಿ. ಉಳಿದು ಬಾಳಲಿ. ಬಾಳಿ ಬೆಳೆಯಲಿ. ಬೆಳೆದು ಹೆಮ್ಮರವಾಗಿ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗರೆಂಬ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳ ಕನ್ನಡತನಕ್ಕೆ ಆಶ್ರಯ ನೀಡಲಿ.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Wardriving in Bangalore

For the uninitiated you can find a link to wardriving here

Yesterday I was in my car reading a presentation on my laptop. Suddenly I had the bright idea of switching my Wireless radio on and see what would happen. As I travel via MG Road everyday, that was where I did some harmless checking. Well, I shouldn't be calling it wardriving as I just wanted to see how many WiFi networks were in Bangalore.

As I switched on my wireless radio near Trinity Circle (Ulsoor road to be precise), I caught at least 4-5 networks. Most of them didn't have a WEP lock icon next to them. I even tried getting in a couple and I would have succeeded in browsing had my car not continued to move. Some have just the usual NETGEAR and Linksys SSIDs without bothering to do anything.

Some however did have WEP and I couldn't get on some because of some problem. There was a service provider whose wireless portal I was able to access.

The Capitol hotel on Raj Bhavan road has a free for all network. If anybody needs to get some free browsing done, sip a coffee at the India Coffee House next door and I am sure you will be able to get on the internet. I didn't even try and I know I could have succeeded easily here.

Even near older areas like Malleswaram, I could find one or two networks.

I for one was glad to see that there were a lot of people gone WiFi in Bangalore. I will probably try this again in a couple of days and see what has changed. Also, I should try this in a couple of other areas of Bangalore to estimate how tech-savvy Bangalore really is.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Big Gulp from Wired

Wired 13.08: The Big Gulp

"Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink"

rues the Ancient Mariner. If he had this system, he probably wouldn't have that much of a problem. This system was tested on water from an open ditch in Jakarta and it produced water deemed drinkable by the Environmental Protection Agency. NASA is thinking of using this in their missions as this will eliminate a lot of the water carrying problem. I wonder how this system will cope with Bangalore's notorious VrishabhAvati !

Anyway, one thing that was not mentioned by Water Security, the company that makes this system, is how much the system costs. The cost of clean water is apparently 3c per gallon but what about the chemicals used in it ? Does their manufacturing involve toxic chemicals/byproducts? That should have also been commented on by the piece's author.

Nevertheless, this looks like it will be a boon to parts of the world where an acute shortage of drinking water persists whether it rains or not!

Looking at the growth in population and the depletion of water resources to such an extent, it seems to me that the next big conflict will be for water. Right now it is just about oil. But fifty years from now, with the population at an unprecedented level, there is bound to be competition for water. A big problem in addition to the increase in population is a corresponding decrease in the groundwater levels - which is really alarming.

In Bangalore, especially, I personally know that we could hit water at 100ft from the surface less than 10 years ago. Now I've seen people dig close to 1000 ft unsuccessfully. Digging to that extent is definitely illegal - but who seems to care? A person owning a plot of land needs water and can't depend on the city water company. What does he do ? He drills into the earth. This greed across all sections of society has depleted the water levels.

Even in villages, farmers now grow cash crops that are not all natural to the climate. So what do they do ? They dig borewells and pump out water like it is nobody's business. And when the wells go dry, well - what else? How do you blend human need with concern for the environment?

Rainwater harvesting is a great solution to this problem. To its credit, the Karnataka government is making it mandatory for all the new houses to have a rainwater harvesting scheme in place. Villages also get this with assistance from the government. But people should feel that this problem is theirs. Only then can a real solution be implemented.

Research on systems such as the one from Water Security should be carried on across the world's labs. For nothing is more necessary for our existence than air and water.