A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Word Clouds of AAP, BJP, and Congress Manifestos April 20, 2014

Filed under: India,politics — gurdas @ :

The 2014 General Elections (aka 16th Lok Sabha Elections) in India will be the world’s largest democratic exercise ever with approximately 814 million registered voters. I ran a word cloud analysis of the manifestos of the three most talked about political partys in this election – Aam Aadmi Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, and Indian National Congress. This post presents the word clouds but no analysis. A subsequent post will analyze the “message” from the clouds and the message from subjective aspects of each manifesto, such as cover design and chapter headings. Finally, if time is available, I hope to write a post (or a series of posts) on key sentences in each manifesto. The links to the manifesto from each party immediately precede the word cloud of that manifesto.

In each word cloud presented below, the font size for a word or phrase represents the RELATIVE occurrence frequency of the word or phrase in the manifesto of its origin. That is, the word that occurs most frequently in the manifesto has the largest font size in the cloud. Thus, when comparing between clouds, any two words having the same font size, have the same, or nearly same, relative frequency in their respective manifestos. The absolute occurrence count follows each entry in parentheses.


Aam Aadmi Party Manifesto


Bharatiya Janata Party Manifesto


Indian National Congress Manifesto


By the way, this is the first political post on this blog. I did not realize that until I found I did not have a category tag called politics (and thus created one especially for this post).


2013 in review December 31, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — gurdas @ :

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Hello Stranger October 12, 2013

Filed under: conversations,Inspiration,Travel — gurdas @ :

A couple weeks ago we had our second couchsurfing experience and just like the first one, it left behind positive vibes. However, unlike the first one, this time we were the hosts. For the uninitiated, couchsurfing is a social network where you get a couch and give a couch. A couch implying a place to park your belongings and sleep. So, basically, you’d either end up sleeping in a stranger’s house or have a stranger sleep in yours.


Are you CRAZY !!??

The idea sounds a bit crazy given the *mad about security* times that we live in. On a closer look, it isn’t as mad as it sounds. Couch surfers have profiles, they get recommendations, and give recommendations. And thus, there is a system of trust built around your history as a couchsurfer. Other obvious rules apply, such as, it is better to have a well written profile with reassuring descriptions and pictures.

The first time we couchsurfed was during our visit to Washington, DC in 2011. Recall, I am a PhD student with a family. That is just a sophisticated way of saying I cannot afford a vacation without collateral damage to other monthly necessities. In comes couchsurfing, where I’ve been a member for years but never really participated. Within no time we found a “couch” which was actually a small apartment all to ourselves. Our host, George, gave us the keys to his apartment and went to live in his mother’s home a couple blocks away. His mother was on vacation in Europe. Unbelievable. We’ve only known George during our search for a couch. So, here’s a guy who is ready to trust not just his space, but his complete house to strangers. The risk is not always monetary, but it is there. A more real challenge is having to cope with the idea that you have to share your space with strangers. What if they are untidy but you are a clean freak. How about loud versus quiet? George underlined my believe that humans have a lot to celebrate for. And it is okay to trust.

Which we did when we hosted The Wilhelm Brothers, a two member folk rock band based out of Ashvelle, NC. It was a short one night stay and we wish they could have stayed for another day. I hardly got half as many stories out of them as I wanted to 🙂 But they were on tour for their new album, Lay Your burden Down. Both Cristoff and Chris were easy going, polite, and clean. We hope they had a comfortable stay and will visit us again.

The benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The stories you hear and the experiences you collect can be transformational, create lasting memories, or at least make good coffee table cpnversations. If you enjoy human connections, seek strangers. I am inclined to say we’ve tasted both sides of the couchsurfing cake and “We’r Lovin’ It”.


The rape of India December 29, 2012

Filed under: Ethics and Values,India,women — gurdas @ :

“In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men.

Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”

Quotation: Captain G. M. Gilbert, the prison psychologist assigned to the defendants at the Nuremberg Trials


The victim of the brutal rape case in Delhi passed away. Like millions of my fellow countrymen I am seething with anger. I had little hope she will survive. My worry now is that nothing substantial will come out of this episode. Sure, the perpetrators of the crime will receive quick and severe punishment. The government will do that since it needs to escape the public anger. The decision to send the victim to Singapore was an outcome of careful thinking – a calculated move to avoid her death in a Delhi hospital. Or, any place in India. In the past 12 days many a careless politician has spoken their true self. The President’s son called the protestors dented and painted, while other leaders have asked for skirts to be banned in schools or girls to be married at a younger age to prevent assaults. I had to stop my wife calling them animals because I do not know of any animal that stoops so low. The ruling class in India is nothing but evil. They have no empathy for fellow humans. Another candle light vigil will bring nothing except smirks from the rulers. I may sound overly dystopian, but to me, India as it is today reflects Orwell’s Animal Farm.

I have little hope from the Indian on the street. Some are plain uncivilized, most think of issues and solutions in dangerously simple terms. Even the protests were not clean. Women were teased by the protestors. Many were simply furthering a political agenda. Which brings me back to the words of G.M.Gilbert. Other protestors are imbecile. They have suddenly woken up from their slumber and are enraged at this horrendous crime. “How could this happen in Delhi?” they ask. As if it is okay for this to happen in a far flung village.

And it does happen by the millions in India. Yes, I said millions. However, if you look at the reported statistics, India appears to be safer for women than USA. Or, for that matter safer than Germany and UK. This is a sign of an even deeper problem. Rape is the most under-reported crime given the taboo attached to it. It is comparatively less taboo to be a rape victim in USA and thus far greater percentage of cases get reported. Of the few that get reported, an abysmal number get convicted and even that can take years. Over the last four decades, reports of rape cases in India have increased from under 3,000 to over 20,000. The procedure of interrogation is undignified, with the victim often treated as a social outcast and subject to humiliation. Often, the victim faces character assassination and is made to appear promiscuous. As you move away from the urban centers, these numbers get worse. I do not have the references but it would not be too far from the truth to say that less than 5% of rape victims in India see justice. This is unforgivable. This is a sign of a corroded moral core. This is a sign of lack of empathy in people who wield power. This is a sign that we are not dealing with an incapable government machinery, but rather an evil one.

This particular rape may be singularly brutal in the physical sense, however it was no different in the moral sense from the hundreds of rapes that happen in India every day. Many are raped in plain sight of their family. Others are raped and paraded naked to teach them a lesson. Almost none of these are reported and far fewer catch the public’s attention. I cringe at the headlines that call for the latest victim as India’s daughter. If they really meant it such, in their hearts, they’d have awaken to the plight of the thousands of daughters who get raped every day.

Knee jerk reactions are the hallmark of both politicians and the public. Baying for the blood of the guilty in this one case will solve nothing. Saying that rapists will be castrated will do little. If only 5% get convicted, how does it matter what you do with them? Humans respond as they think. The political class has long believed and cultivated the practice of bribery. So deep is the internalization that they believe even the sorrow of death can be calmed with a bribe. Announcements of monetary relief for the Delhi rape case victim are coming in. I’d understand if the rulers gave some of their personal wealth. But they are only hurrying to give away public wealth. There is nothing wrong in monetary compensation, per se. But not all rape victims get this compensation. Heck, most don’t even get a decent hearing. The same politicians have their hands tainted with the blood of countless victims because they failed in their primary duty of enforcing law. What moral right do they have to distribute money now? And if they do, let the same compensation be given to each victim. But that will not happen because other victims do not bring political mileage.

What we are seeing is the hypocrisy of a nation – its rulers and its subjects – making a mockery of goodness. The question is: will this rape change the course of history as the rape of Lucretia?


The ransom Sikh’s pay August 13, 2012

Repeated below is an email I sent to my local Sikh community today. I’ve made a couple edits but nothing significant.

Yesterday, in India, my Sikh friend from 30 years (which is almost all my life) got married to his long time Hindu girl friend. Part of my family attended the wedding and so did common friends from college days. Today, I learn from them that my turbaned Sikh friend is now clean shaven; “perhaps as part of the deal he removed his turban and shaved his beard”. It first came as a shock and then a throbbing sadness, like that from a deep personal loss.

A friend who attended the wedding, found some resonance between the wedding yesterday and this story about Punjabi Americans from the early 1900s. And the words “perhaps as part of the deal he removed his turban and shaved his beard” are from the story.

So, now, I have no friend from the first 20 years of my life who wears a turban. There is a vacuum which cannot be filled. And the sadness of this loss pervades my heart. Yes, it is a personal loss. Yes, I am being selfish.

Countless Sikhs, specially in Punjab, have chosen to give away the beloved symbols of their faith. Some for prosperity, some to avoid looking different, some to avoid the daily duty to maintain long hair, and some for a wife. While we (the Sikh community) mourn the shootings in Wisconsin and work hard to educate the world about our turbans; while people from other faiths stand beside us and come to our “temple” to wear turbans; we, the Sikh community, have an internal threat that is even more urgent. And it is more urgent because of its hidden nature and its numbers. It is rare to see a non-Sikh become a Sikh for any reason other than having discovered a faith they fell in love with. And that should be the only reason for faith conversion. I am perfectly fine if a Sikh were to choose another faith of his own free will, under no greed or duress. But to negotiate, to pay one’s faith as a ransom to acquire another thing, is not okay. That is true for any person of any faith.

Where does the love for faith begin? Not a blind, mindless attachment. But, rather, a firm, righteous, yet kind love. It begins in the lap of your mother. In the stories and actions of your father. Sikh women, when they marry a non-Sikh rarely bring up Sikh kids. On the other hand, when non-Sikh women marry Sikh men, the story is no different. Again, the kids are often brought up as non-Sikhs.

A week ago, a white supremacist gunned down 6 Sikhs but could not make a dent to the Sikh faith. In fact, sensing danger, the community responded with more faith. Because we sensed danger and we sensed we were wronged. When Sikhs give up their faith everyday, we do not sense that same danger. It is a slow poison but one that claims thousands. One could argue it is a personal choice. But is it really a free choice? Would that Sikh give up the symbols of his faith had he got what he wanted (prosperity or spouse) without having to sacrifice his beliefs? Or was he given a either this or that choice? To me that is not a free choice. It is a ransom.