Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wikileaks : A critical Look....

The past few months have witnessed an elaborate media focus on the Wikileaks exposure of some diplomatic cables sent from US Embassies to US Department of Defense. I will not debate on the good or evil of this action. It is completely an issue is subjective to the people reviewing it. While some people have hailed Julian Assange as a hero, other have labeled him as a criminal who has thwarted international peace and security.

However the action that deserves a rebuttal is the fact that various global organizations have reacted to this website very negatively. Amazon Web Distribution services have withdrawn its DNS services for the site making it difficult to access (though the above problem has been circumvented by using their direct IP and also via various mirror sites over the internet). PayPal has withdrawn its services to the said organization citing “violation of its usages”. And this is where that we must stop and ponder.

If the same thing would have been done for a website which violates the moral fiber of the society, then perhaps a treatment as grave as above would have been justified. But at this juncture for a website that simply publishes (and I emphasize here the word publishes) “confidential information”, the treatment meted out to Assange and his tribe seems a tad too unfair.

Often in life we have to make a lot of choices between What’s right and What’s easy. And the choice is not an easy one. Concerns such as Amazon and PayPal may have their own professional, social and financial reasons for their conduct towards Assange. (I am of course not going into the treatment given to Assange himself as I feel it is out of scope of the discussion). When the internet was first conceptualized, its foundations were based on the principles of reliable and secure communications. But over the years, Internet has gone from the meek data ether to a gigantic roaring entity-an entity which shapes the very structure and function of some of the biggest economies of the world. It has transcended its scope from the usage of the educational elite and has become integrated in the daily lives of every literate human being in the world.

And that is where the paradox occurs. The internet has come to symbolize the free world. It represents the voice of the people who are allowed to speak up – a form of democracy hitherto unseen. People could post pictures and have them scooped up by journalists all over the world in seconds. It had become the champion of the rights of oppressed people all over the world. Countries like Burma, China and North Korea choked this new voice of freedom using censorship. And people in the West would feel pity for the people of this county when they contrasted their fate with that of these people. Any county which truly and completely supported the people’s voice would never dream of throttling it. As Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address: Democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people”

Having strongly and correctly established the role of internet as the voice of people, then we must ask ourselves the question, “Why are the backbone providers of internet so eager to snuff out Wikileaks from the internet map?” Is it because Wikileaks has transgressed an invisible line of some inexplicable and illegible social conduct that guides the internet. If that is the case then why is it that so many websites which features human rights abuse worse than some “boring” diplomatic cables are allowed to prosper over the web. Or is it because the Government is afraid of truly granting transparency to the people. If that is so, then the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln are rendered ironic in the truest sense of the word.

When Kevin D Mitnick was incarcerated on many counts of computer hacking related offense, the internet community was shocked and offended but no one questioned the verdict. Yes information is a intellectual property and gaining unlawful access of the same is nothing but theft. For record, I would like to state that the diplomatic cables of a county are the secret property of a country and unlawfully stealing them falls under the purview of a crime. But for Wikileaks, which simply publishes information that it receives via people (who are probably disillusioned with the working of the machinery so much so that they take this drastic step), we cannot but agree that they are not committing any offense doing the same. People may argue about the semantics of my previous sentences as the impacts of the nature of these leaks are yet to be seen. But till something drastic happens as a consequence of these leaks, we have to give Wikileaks the benefit of doubt.

And this is where the internet giants are at fault. You cannot simply boot out a client because of pressure of the government. When we enter into a business deal, there is an implied covenant that must be honored by both parties. As long as Wikileaks doesn’t publish any information that is offensive or deemed harmful to the society, it cannot be denied the rights of hosting and usage. This is where I think that Amazon and PayPal and bank of America has wronged Wikileaks.

We are the future of the world. People passing out from the hallowed halls of this department will go on to become the architects and craftsmen of the future of the internet and computing. But even then, at some point of our lives, we may have to face this ethical dilemma. Whether to face the unpleasant truth or to simply dust it off under the carpet to let posterity handle it. But being students of Jadavpur University, we mustn’t let our peers and bosses dominate over our sense of what is right and what is wrong. We should exert our best moral judgment and ensure that the truth sees the light of the day. This may be easier said than done as the path of truth is never the pleasant one exhibit A being Wikileaks. But even so, we should never allow ourselves to make a easy choice that will be a thorn in our conscience for all eternity.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." – John 8:32 The Holy Bible

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Incarceration of Truth : CWG

I remember when I had visited Delhi sometime back in January 2009, I was visibly offended by the “MEN AT WORK” boards everywhere. In those times, Delhi was a whirlwind of under construction metros, semi-asphalted roads and a crowded international airport. But when I stepped into the IGI International Terminal 3 on August 1st roughly 2 months before the start of the XIX Commonwealth Games, I was taken aback by the change. Was this India? The same place, where Immigration staffs speak to German tourists in Benglish with entreaties like “Take out Passport dada”. No, it was the march of a much stronger confident India whose vision is globalization, who aim is to enter the Security Council as a permanent member; an India which has the 2nd fastest growing economy; an India which is so intimidating in its wealth, natural resources and human capital that developed nations are stopping outsourcing just to be on the safe side. Yes this was truly India shining…Incredible India.

And then the inevitable started. Yes, we all know that Indian politicians are corrupt as hell. They were corrupt, they are corrupt and they will be corrupt. It is what drives their Mercedes while they strut around in 20 INR/metres khadi dresses. But anyways my focus of discussion is not that. I would simply like to point out the headlines that a certain Mr. Suresh Kalmadi made by virtue of his position as the president of IOA and Delhi CWG Organization committee. Yes, we all know of your ridiculous antics and your high priced treadmills are kind of a rip off on the Indian Taxpayers money. But then, what was alarming was how this corruption charges were snowballed into a lot more by the media. A media, which I must remind, loves to make breaking News when Rakhi Sawants pet cat gives birth to a litter. We read about the “appalling” conditions of housing, we read about how poorly constructed the stadium was. What we didn’t read about was how the entire Indian politician scenario was piecing up block by block to maintain India’s face in the highly critical international circle. While India tried hard to maintain the image of a modernized global city with infrastructure and transport comparable to any world city of its stature such as Istanbul, Bangkok, Malaysia or Madrid, our beloved media did all the mud slinging. The incarceration of truth had started.

We received SMS jokes about CWG. People hungry for a few “likes” on their Facebook, put them up as their Status Message as a sort of cheap publicity. Then came the few glimpses of the non media outlook of CWG. TLC started broadcasting the arrangements of CWG. The Canadian field Hockey team put up pictures of the CommonWealth Village which had the looks and figure of any 4 star hotel, Ok it may not be Ritz Carlton but it was comfortable and had all the modern amenities required and then some more. Yet all we read in our beloved media was how there was snakes in one of the rooms and somebody’s bed had collapsed. Yet not one picture was carried which showed the world class food stalls, the beautifully finished living quarters or the glistening TT arena- all custom made for the games. The incarceration of truth was on in full swing.

Yes sir, we are a poor country. We have lots of problems-political, social economical. We defecate openly, plenty of our people live below the poverty lines and our health care infrastructure still requires some polishing. But we are a country of hardworking people. We have thrown off the yokes of colonialism to come to this point that we are now. We are like that 10th place boy in school to whom the teachers should encourage to perform better by pointing out the mistakes and praising the good work. We shouldn’t be shunned in the everlasting loop of criticism driving a stake through the enthusiasm that is the pulse of this vibrant country.

Unfortunately, our media forgot the praising part. They only made good the razor sharp criticism. They made our head hung in shame at the thought. They made us think every time as we read about some minor fiasco at CWG-“So we are still a country of uneducated incapable of hosting an international event”. The young India was dejected, the old India was pensive.

But today as I saw the CWG opening ceremony being telecast in DD HD(I bet you didn’t even know that this existed), I was elated. No I was beyond elated, I had a feeling of relaxation and euphoria simultaneously. Everything was perfect. The aerodrome didn’t come plunging down; the lights didn’t go off, the performers danced in perfect sync to the tunes of a thousand drummers. Yes certain elements of the opening ceremony were reminiscent of the Beijing Olympics with Keshav the child prodigy on Tabla and the Air Balloon etc.

But the event was quintessentially a microcosm of India. And what is India to the world. Its colors. The green of Chilli, the red of the Gulal, the painted face of the Kuchipudi Dancer, the white of Taj Mahal, the rainbow hue of the peacock. It was all there- drummers from every part of the subcontinent playing their esoteric music, folk dancers dancing in perfect communion to the rhythm of their accompanying flutes. It was essentially a portrayal of India Diversity. And I must say that it was beautiful. Every performer, ranging from Bharatnatyam to Kuchipudi, to the tribal drummers, to the talented A.R.Rahman; performed their art with perfection, grace and elan. Generally such diversity is limited to the Independecne and Republic day floats but today as India took center stage to the stage of the world, we showed the world how even despite the colonial rule and the political problem, we the people of India stand strong, united and proudly watch as our flag flutters high on the bastion of Globalization and Progress.

Next Stop – Olympic Games….

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Germany, a Remembrance !!

The kid came to Munich on a rainy day, with a lot of hopes, dreams and palpitations. The first time out of my house, from the shelter of my parents, onto a land 7500kms away from his native place. A warm smiling face greeted me at the station and in that next 45 minutes journey from airport (flughafen) to my apartment in Olympiazentrum gave me my first crash course in Germany. Then, when my pickup left me at my dorm, i looked around at the empty room and my packed suitcase and realized that I had to unpack, cook , clean all for myself. The growing up began in that small 5 minutes.

As the days progressed, Munich became more like my home and less like an alien. Yearned for home, its comforts, the food , the ambience, the general sense of security...but at the same time was relishing this new found source of freedom. Could run down anytime to the market, open a bottle of beer or cook some delicious Currywurst all at the same time.

It was the 17th of July, the night we had an hellacious experience on the cold menacing streets of Paris, and someone said, “man cant wait to get back home !” and I remarked, “Yeah Munich is way better than this....”. That short casual slip of remark, and it dawned on me that instant that somewhere Munich has crept into my veins as my niche, my cubbyhole, no longer a strange white cold city filled with white people but something much more substantial, something which provided solace and comfort at the heart of the bitter unfriendly streets of Paris.

And then slowly, the circle grew. Made friends with my fellow dorm members, cooked Indo-German food, which sometimes tasted weird, but nevertheless everyone gulped down with a lot of gusto. Then gradually, the microcosmic view of the Indian family in Olydorf seemed to be the part of a bigger picture- one where we all functioned as one unit to preserve the dredges of the Indian culture that everyone had left 7500 kms behind but earned to bring back through curries, bollywood stores, pulaos and public screening of Rajneeti on the tiny screen of a laptop.

The process of the so called growing up was not revolutionary but totally evolutionary. Little facts that clothes don’t wash themselves or fridges that don’t refill themselves or food that don’t cook themselves came with some delay – some hesitation when staring at piles of unwashed clothes or looking at the raw rice. But unconsciously they gradually found a way into my persona.

The euro trips were a lotta fun. Saw an amazing amount of diverse beauties – modernized cities, picturesque countryside, houses with picket white fences, architectures of the Bohemian kind, the mysterious smile of Monalisa, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the overwhelming beauty of the Swiss alps, the sinful streets of Amsterdam, the choco-smell of Brussels, the power lined streets of Berlin. My thoughts were matured, the dimensions of my thinking grew new bounds and most importantly the fervour of new discovery acted like the fuel to ease the stress of hectic journeys. Every moment of those trips, right from learning to use the DB Automats correctly to running through the crowded platforms to catch a connecting trains, or long hours of sleeping on night metros just so we can rest our weary feet was a moment of discovery, small steps in the long journey of appreciating the beauty of the world that we live in.

Not all is obviously right with this. Sometimes we are checked unnecessarily by the Polizei and our passports are scanned with forgery detectors just because we are “dark” or the fact that most places, the interaction among dorm mates are very very minimum. But withal, I realized that no where in the world we can reach Utopia. Back in India, even corrupt police officers try to hackle our identities for material gains and even members of the same joint family bitch about the others for petty rivalry. No it’s not about the small cracks, but learning to live with them that makes all the difference.

Tonight as I gradually make my preparations for my departure from this city onto my home in Kolkata, I look out of my window and see the cloudcast skies and the mild drizzle. That part is same. Everything else is not. The two unfamiliar buildings that I had seen on my first day back are now my home; the huge stretch of greenery is the Olympiapark. Nothing about this place is alien but an extension of my home. Home where you ask ? The dusty streets of Howrah, the tranquil lanes of Kasba....I cannot pinpoint to any single place but I would just say this HOME....a place in our lifelong journey where at the end of the day we seek refuge to wash off the tiredness and grime of the bygone day and rest for the next one. The universality of this idea will probably stretch to anywhere and everywhere the next few important years of our life will take us, in a whirlwind of MS, MBA or Jobs. But eve in all this, i will look back upon these 60 days as a time which shaped a very specific but inexplicable part of my persona from a nameless entity to something with a concrete shape structure and behaviour and for that I say, “Danke Deutschland !”

The child is grown. The dream is gone -- Floyd

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Music-A Monologue

Noise(noun): sound, esp. of a loud, harsh, or confused kind

Music(noun): an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color

What is it that distinguishes the two? The more nerdy souls will harp on parameters like waveform, frequency and amplitude. Yes well in that case why do our mothers find Mettalica jarring to the ears ! Without going into physics all I can say is that music is a communion of the mind and the creativity of the artist- a perfect blend of the few subtle emotions that the artist conveys with those that our mind can associate themselves to. Imagine those guitar chords of the Summer of 69 which made you actually feel the pangs of nostalgia the artist has when he left all those memorable years behind. It is a sublime connection, establishes instantly but persistent throughout the lifetime as a thin thread in the brain, a thread that is pulled whenever you hear the song even after a long time, and somewhere in the sand of time it is resurrected and you feel the same emotions of joy and happiness or pain and nostalgia that you experienced when you had first heard that song.

Some connections are psychology-bound, some connections are time bound, and some connections are circumstantial. But whatever be the motive, the bond is everlasting. I remember that during my childhood growing up years when I had my first “crush” (aheemm….) and I seem to remember the song “pehla nasha” being played a lot on the TV (Superhit Muqabla hosted by Baba Sehgal). And the funny part is even 10 years later when I hear that song on youtube or on FM and I can fondly remember the palpitations, the rush of endorphins and the sweet somethings that I had felt when I used to catch a glimpse of her in the canteen or in the corridor.

Or take for instance the Bon Jovi classic “Its my Life”…Heard this song in 2001 when it was broadcasted over some channel ( cant remember which). At the outset of adolescence, my mind was then steering clear of Cartoon Network on to the realities of rock and roll and pop and MTV and the occasional sneak of cleavage and navel that used to arouse a primal instinct. At that time, this rebellious catchy no holds barred song really became the mantra of growing up-it had the inherent promise of a adventurious and an exciting life ahead of me.

The cycle of creativity is a vicious one. It makes you a pawn in someone else’s game and then when you realize it, you also realize that in the process it has morphed some of your own. Such is the thing with the human mind and music. It will entice you, entrap you and then gift you a song of your own. It may not have any melody, it may not have any rhythm but as you go on in life it becomes a part of your own persona. And when it does, you will subconsciously hum onto it for the rest of your life………