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).


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?


Bollywood Sperm (book review) July 13, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,friends,India — gurdas @ :

What should I expect from a novella titled Bollywood Sperm? Anything Bollywood by itself is packed with controversy, spice, and silliness. Add Sperm and it becomes potent, ready to re-produce within you. Nikhil Tripathi’s first published work is good storytelling. An easy read that does not fail to raise uneasy questions. That said, this is not great writing. The dialogues are witty and entertaining, but there is nothing here, in terms of mechanism that has not already been done to death before. This is a clever book, not a classic. And maybe that is what the author meant it to be. Reason demands the question, “Is this far-fetched and almost fantastical?” Something tells me that if the sperm of a Bollywood mega-star were to become available, there will be takers. Sad, but true.

Nikhil packed a lot of re-readable sequences into this novella. I enjoyed the many shades and swings of the character of Farrukh Khan. I would prefer to see more layers in other characters but did not find any. Everyone else in the story is painted in monotone. They are either always greedy, always sad, always scheming or something along those lines. Maybe I am expecting too much within these few pages. A few other reviewers find Sumit to be a champion. I see him as a disaster. A loser who is clinging to a baby to find redemption. He marries a woman he lusts for when she is having a weak moment. Not much is said about his professional life but it seems it isn’t going anywhere. He then agrees to have his wife bear Farrukh’s baby. Okay, he does not see the baby as ugly. Unfortunately, that may not be because he is an evolved soul but simply because the baby is not demanding him to man up. He evokes pity in me and that, I know for myself, is not a positive. Sumit’s wife, Priya Kumar, Star Seed employees, and the Judge are all villains thrown in to further the plot.

The real hero here is Farrukh. Complex and charismatic, I find his character to be fascinating. He is more honest than anyone else in the story. Also enjoyable are the passages where Farrukh duels with his son, Salim.

I would rate this first novella at 3.5 / 5

Certain features/passages of the novella delighted me while some others were disappointing. Spoiler alert!

The delights

  • The pilot program description left me with some very industrial images. A nicely ‘engineered’ delight  J
  • The lab scene in the commercial is pulp fiction taking a satirical jab at real life.
  • “As you all know, babies conceived in cold weather are likely to be fair and attractive.” Wait, is that true? LOL
  • The conception sequence left me smiling.
  • “Sir, all the brands endorsed by you,” said Sumit. “Please take something.” Oh, how I’d love to see this put to film so that I can see Sumit’s and Farrukh’s expression.
  • Sumit’s reason for not having sex with his beautiful wife was like seeing a beautiful flower along an evening walk. A moment of stillness, pondering, grief, and wisdom.
  • The cover, by editor Sonal Gupta, does complete justice to what is inside.

The disappointments:

  • The use of “Idiot” by the judge is not a true representation. Indian judicial system is known to be many things not good, but I doubt a judge can get away with such language. This kind of put me off. Is the author falling into the trap of providing too much spice?
  • Twice is the “…err…” trick used to depict humor. An easy device that left me cringing.
  • Description of Sumit’s house is overly pulled down. Make everything look bleak and gain some sympathy device? Did not go well with me; need more realism here.
  • Why would Farrukh say “Shall we go for a walk?” when he is going to such lengths to hide his identity? Seems like the author wanted us to draw the image of Farrukh and Sumit taking a walk.
  • Sumit’s use of flat out party style English does not blend with his character. I simple cannot imagine this person blurting out sentences like: (1) “Of course,” said Sumit. “Just holler when you’re done talking.” and (2) “And the toolbox is in perfect working order.”
  • “The baby chewed on the stem of the sunglasses that he had been given, wondering what the fuss was about.” Too Bollywoodish and needless.

The leftovers

  • A dramatic Scene I. Maybe a little too dramatic for my taste, but entertaining nonetheless.
  • Inexplicably, the description of Farrukh Khan reminds me of Elvis. The Shahrukh connection is not lost thought.


Nikhil and I go back a long way, some 19 odd years now. While Bollywood Sperm is his first published work, I have had the pleasure of reading him for many years now. For a first novella, Bollywood Sperm is very good. But I am not going to let him off easily, am I? 🙂  I have found his short stories to be extremely well written. In my opinion, they leave this novella looking ordinary.


the joy of darkness November 18, 2010

Filed under: Children,India,Me,nostalgia — gurdas @ :

Mann Hall, third floor

Mann Hall, which houses the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering was plunged into “darkness” for a few hours today due to a transformer failure. In the two and a half years I have been here this is the first such incident. And it was tons of fun! No internet and spooky corridors. There was enough light in the corridors and rooms with windows while some of the inner rooms, like my office, did not. During my stay here, I have experienced Mann Hall every possible hour of the day. Some day I was here at 9 pm, another day at 1 am, and yet another day at 5 am. Yes, every one of those 24 hours. And I have never ever seen the corridors without man made light. Until today. It felt eerie for a moment, as if the building had been killed. But within no time, I was having fun, working in the dark, experiencing the corridors, or just chit chatting with fellow researchers about this “event”.

And my mind wandered to younger days in India when load shedding was a commonly heard phrase. It would be 8 pm and the young me would be reluctantly struggling with boring history texts when suddenly, poof!, we’d be thrown into darkness. In that split second following power outage, I know for sure, every child’s face was lit with joy. If our teeth had any irradiance it might have blinded our families, such was the total number of teeth flashing across the neighbourhood. With peals of laughter we’d spill into the streets outside and start playing. History was history and the present was running amok or hiding, depending on the game. We’d continue till power was restored and our mothers would call for us to come home. Exams were an exception because it meant studying under the flickering light of a lamp or a candle; we had battery operated electric lights only later.

City life is mostly artificial and insulates us from relishing the natural joys abound around us . So much so that we are bereft of the amazement that comes from looking at a star studded sky. “Lights out” restored some of that balance. And in those hours of darkness I had some of my brightest moments.


The Constant Ambassador January 19, 2010

Filed under: ego,Ethics and Values,India,Inspiration,Me — gurdas @ :

That is what we are. Constant Ambassadors to what is outside of us. From what is inside of us – our self, genders, faiths, nationalities, and race to name a few. When you talk to the barista, or the waitress, or the bus driver, do not take your words or actions lightly. Because you represent not just a stranger. You represent yourself. Your smile and kind words would be remembered. Your heartfelt “thank you” would make somebody’s day. The Universe is keeping score, even if you are not.

And it always comes back. Yes, you reap what you sow. So keep your seeds top class. And water faithfully.

So I am from India. And I am a Sikh. And I am a man. That is three full time jobs. And I take each responsibility very seriously. And the ambition is sky high. Every person I cross paths with, must remember me as a gentleman, a thinking, loving, compassionate, and respectful human. And when they see any of my kind, may they proclaim welcome with a smile because I left them with one.

Too often we are consumed by petty short sightedness. How easy it is to be rude thinking the other person does not matter because you do not expect to run into them ever again. And then we wonder why someone was rude to us without reason. It is simple. Most of the time strangers are rude because someone like us was rude to them in the past. Imagine this; you meet a Mexican (or Indian or American or Chinese, whatever) woman who was very kind to you. She helped you with directions or offered to jump start your car or let you cross the road first with a smiling wave. What will you feel when you see a similar person again? Can you feel anger or hatred? NO! Your mind will race back to the pleasant experience from the past and you will at least make an effort to be nice.

I occasionally encounter stereotyping. Oh, so you are an Indian, so you must be so and so. Why? Partly because of the ignorance of the other person, the danger of a single story (from this talk by Chimamanda Adichie), and partly because they may have had one or two experiences that confirmed their stereotype image of an Indian. But what if every single Indian they meet breaks that stereotype? How long before they correct their image? Not very I’d say.

Our actions are what we bequeath to our children. I’d say we strive to leave them a world full of loving strangers.