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3eanuts

By on Mar 29, 2011 in Food For Thought | 1 comment

If can’t get enough of Garfield minus Garfield, you’ll surely love the existential angst of 3eanuts – Peanuts comic strips with the fourth panel left out. (The size of the comic strips is kept small – and this is only a conjecture – to stay in compliance with fair use laws.) (via venomous porridge)

“I didn’t think of Iraqis as humans”

By on Mar 27, 2011 in Food For Thought | 0 comments

…Abeer’s mother told her relatives before the murders that, whenever she caught the soldiers staring at Abeer, they would give her the thumbs-up sign, point to her daughter and say “Very good, very good.” …On March 12, 2006, the soldiers (from the 502nd Infantry Regiment) at the checkpoint had been drinking alcohol and discussing plans to rape Abeer. In broad daylight they walked to the house (not wearing their uniforms) and separated Abeer and her family into two different rooms. Steven Green then murdered her parents and younger sister, while two other soldiers raped Abeer. He then emerged from the room saying “I just killed them, all are dead”. He then raped Abeer, shot her in the head and proceeded (along with the other soldiers) to set fire to the house and bodies. – From the Wikipedia entry on 2006 Mahmudiyah killings in Iraq Steve Green, the primary accused in the case, later said, “I didn’t think of Iraqis as humans.” I came to know about this horrific incident on Reddit, as the whistleblower who brought this to the attention of the media – Justin Watt – is holding an ask-me-anything session there. Looking through the flak Watt is receiving on Reddit (and elsewhere) – he mentions numerous death threats so far – I continue to be baffled how human beings, even when faced with such a heinous crime as this, can even think of labelling him as ‘a traitor’ who ‘outed his brotherhood’. Higher-ups in the US Army tried to cover up the incident – and it’s these things that make people hate America in the Middle East. **** Three weeks ago I posted a link to another Reddit ask-me-anything thread, purportedly by a cancer patient who was going to be euthanised. A lot of vitriol has flown online since then, as it turns out that the thread was probably a hoax. Many have said that even though the premise might not have been true, they were touched by the words of a stranger online and that’s all that matters. But then by asking to do that and ignore that it might be a lie, this becomes a question of faith whether you want to believe it or not – and whether it ‘touches’ you if you find out it’s a lie. Like believing in God, for...

“51 hours left to live. Ask me anything.”

By on Mar 7, 2011 in Food For Thought | 6 comments

…nothing we have is worth hurting anyone else for. It’s all fleeting people. Stop seeing race, color, sex, religion, etc…. Theyre all just people, and if you try to love them you won’t lose anything. – Lucidending Lucidending is a reddit.com user who has been suffering from cancer for the last six years and is going to euthanised within the next 51 hours. In his last hours, he holds an ‘ask me anything’ thread on reddit. I am lost for words. Not just at Lucidending’s words, but dozens of others like him who have suffered / are suffering / have someone who suffered from cancer come out and talk about their experiences. Update: This is possibly a...

A change of perspective. A dialogue in the dark.

By on Feb 24, 2011 in Food For Thought | 5 comments

No, I didn’t get so exhausted by my first (mammoth) post of the year that I have stopped writing. I have a couple of draft blog posts that I need to edit and refine before I publish them. So much to say, so little time to do so due to ten academic courses, learning a new language, job applications / interviews, a TV studio director role, and a new pillow cover. Life, I tell you. ‘Tis like a grapefruit. But you know what? It’s curious how a difference of a few weeks can bring about a change of perspective. :) How things remain the same and yet not the same. Now, I feel glad to have opted for a full-year on study exchange. I have even more faith that the decision I took in 2009 to do this is worthwhile. I could speak now – or I could wait till the end of my stay in Singapore and speak wiser with added hindsight. You can figure out what I’m going to do, can’t you? You smart cookie! **** Fourteen storeys below my cosy and warm room, the noise from the traffic lights was incessant. Tick tick tick tick beep beep beep beep tick tick tick tick beep beep beep beep. I couldn’t sleep! Was it because of the part of town I was staying in? Should I have coughed up cash for a costlier hostel somewhere else? I went to Hong Kong a month ago, and while I will be writing about those adventures when I get time, I wanted to talk about an eye-opening (you’ll soon realize the significance of these choice of words) experience I had on the trip. I was looking up things to do in Hong Kong on Wikitravel from my hostel room there, when I stumbled across Dialogue In The Dark. It’s a one-of-a-kind of series of ‘experiential exhibitions’ across the world with the aim of increasing public awareness on issues surrounding visually impaired people in society. Intrigued, I put it on my HK itinerary. Let me state what the concept of Dialogue in the Dark is. Essentially, its purpose is to bring about a change of perspective. A sighted person is led to pitch black rooms where locations that a person might encounter in daily life are recreated – a clothing store, a theatre, a cafĂ©, a garden, a busy road intersection, a street market – and guided around by a visually impaired guide. The roles are reversed; here, it is the sighted person who is out of his/her element. Dialogue In The Dark’s (DiD) Hong Kong chapter is in a shopping mall called The Household Center in Mei Foo, Kowloon district. It’s off the beaten track for most tourists. The mall itself is so different from the ones catering to tourists in Hong Kong (or Singapore for that matter) as it sells mostly Chinese goods; it is worth a whistlestop to see where residents go for shopping. All the while I was flitting about in the mall, never once did I see a tourist. Anyway, I hadn’t made a booking online as I couldn’t use my Singaporean debit card in Hong Kong, so I showed up at the DiD office and enquired whether they had any tour slots for the day. At first, I was told that there were no tours being conducted in English for the day. I was disappointed that I would have to miss this as wouldn’t have any other chance to do this (at least on that trip), and to my surprise the staff called me a quarter-hour later telling they’d organized one for me. At the start of the tour, I was handed a walking cane and introduced to my tour guide William. Over an hour-and-half he egged me on to explore my environment through my sense of touch, hearing, smell. It’s amazing how the human brain starts paying more attention to the other senses when sight is taken out of the equation. I felt leaves with my hands, trying to figure out what plant it was. I sat down on a park bench, feeling the smooth grain of the wood. “This one must be green in colour,” I told William. That was the first thing to came to mind when I thought of that texture. Almost silly, isn’t it. Above all, I felt guilty and embarrassed about saying that. How could I barge in and ‘definitely’ settle the look of an object with a person who couldn’t argue otherwise? I remember throughout the tour of being paranoid that there would be a staircase in our path and I’d fall. (There were none.) Nevertheless, I couldn’t just let go of that feeling of fear. I crossed a narrow walkway surrounded by water. I crossed a street – and then I realized what the tick tick tick beep beep beep sounds that the traffic lights in Hong Kong make were for. Even when I was crossing the road, I feared the traffic light would change, or I’d trip, or I wouldn’t know when to stop (you’ve to figure out when to stop by feeling the texture of the road/pavement through your shoes). There weren’t any cars to hit me there, which only drove home the point how much more challenging this is in real life. I tried to figure out what clothes were at a clothing store. Tried...

The scourge of ceiling fans

By on Dec 3, 2010 in Food For Thought | 13 comments

You might have heard the news story of a final year student at IIT Kanpur who committed suicide recently (the eighth such incident in the past five years). To the credit of the university’s administration, a panel was formed to investigate the tragedy and the root cause has been identified – ceiling fans. The reason they’ve come up with such a solution is that if a student is depressed, his suicidal tendencies are aggravated looking at the fan hanging from the ceiling, as now he finds a ready setup to execute his idea. – Anonymous Internet commenter The plan – which reeks of genius – is to replace all ceiling fans with pedestal fans so that students cannot commit suicide any more. This, of course, is a problem if you want to commit suicide and don’t have ceiling fans. It seems to me, however, that there are a few loopholes: ‘Suicidee’ might chew the wire of the pedestal fan, ingest hazardous plastics initially followed by an incredibly painful electrocution. Suicidee might unscrew cover of pedestal fan and stick their face into the rotating blades, dismembering their face and causing an eventual, slow death due to massive blood loss. Suicidee might eat rat poison / overdose on sleeping pills / smoke cigarettes for 5-6 decades. Suicidee might jump out of a window, as demonstrated in the video below. I stand by the finding of the panel that the most logical conclusion as to the cause of this tragedy is, indeed, ceiling fans. However, I believe that further steps are needed. In the best interests of the safety of students at IIT Kanpur, all of them should be straitjacketed and imprisoned in solitary confinement. These measures might seem drastic but what has to be done has to be done – in the best interests of the students. And now, a message for the slow-witted diplodocuses in the audience. (Hi y’all at the back, chewing cud! Glad you could make it here!) **** It pains and angers me deeply (I don’t want to discuss ‘why’) when someone dismisses depression as ‘just feeling sad’. Depression is not that time when you really wanted to go to the cinema with your friends on your birthday and couldn’t because of heavy rains. There’s no way to “man up” and brush off depression by listening to a couple of jokes. Depression is a certified medical condition; the onset might be triggered by social or other factors but once it sets in it causes physical reactions in your body such as hormonal imbalances. More importantly, depression is a treatable medical condition – given proper medical care and rehabilitation time. Frankly, I am appalled by the state of psychiatric care in India. Psychiatrists are rarely found in hospitals except for the select few private ones, thus beyond the reach of anyone not fortunate enough to be a part of India’s rich or upwardly mobile middle class. Even then, Indian society does not accept that psychological disorders are valid medical conditions. The tendency is to equate any psychological condition to ‘insane’ or ‘retarded’, often exquisitely summed up as “How could my son/daughter be ‘mental’?” Most Indian – showing an astounding level of stupidity and reckless disregard – turn any suggestion of a loved one needing psychological help into an ego issue. This same reckless disregard seeps through in the decision take by the IIT Kanpur administration. “These are the best and brightest students in the country! How dare you suggest they ‘might need help’?”, the thinking goes. And so, the blame must lie in something else. Maybe ceiling fans. Maybe Internet access. Maybe parents staying too frequently in touch with students through increased usage of cellphones. That’s it! Block cellphones! Setting up a counselling centre and expecting students to self-evaluate and seek help is patently ridiculous. It takes a lot of personal courage admit that one needs to consult a psychiatrist, and the social stigma attached with taking that step doesn’t help matters at all. A person who’s depressed (or suffering from any other disorder) might not even realize they need to seek help. At my university, for instance, we had students who volunteered to work with the Care Services department. I was a senior resident myself, and thus a part of this team. Each student volunteer was ‘assigned’ to 10-20 residents living in accommodations on campus. Our job was to meet with the residents weekly and proactively seek out whether everything was okay with them. This could be anything – academic pressure, financial trouble, health problems, psychological problems, roommates stealing food from kitchens – what have you, and we would refer this to the relevant department within the university. Residents could reach out to us not just in weekly meeting, but any time they wanted – by calling us directly or a student mentor helpline. It works. Residents are more likely to open up to peers – who are bound to keep any interactions confidential – than their own friend or straight-away approaching a counsellor. All this is in addition to the existing 24/7 distress helpline and a member of teaching staff assigned as your personal mentor for the length of your university life. Steps such as this is just an illustrative example; universities abroad actively engage in such measures to care for their student population. The hardest thing for a depressed person is to find someone to...