Sunday, March 26, 2006

Still More Freedom of Speech and Expression

Today, NDTV carried a story on how the moral police in Tamil Nadu were running amok, with the latest incident being that of a warden in a government hostel who actually asked the girls in the hostel to maintain a public record of their monthly cycles. This is ostensibly so that the warden can make sure that none of them were involved in pre-marital sexual activities. Of course, the warden wasn't concerned that the hostel had only one bathroom which was reserved for him, and the girls actually had to bathe in the open after dark.

Can you believe it!?

I can't begin to say how wrong this whole thing is. But I'll let that pass. However, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I'll only say what I had said earlier. This is just another symptom of the underlying malaise where societal moores get higher precedence than the legitimate privacy of an individual. People like this warden get the guts to do something like this because the way society reacts to an individual's freedom, because of the kind of support the 'moral police' got during the Khusboo or Suhasini incidents, and because of the whole assumption that wierd concepts of societal honour are more important than individual rights.

God save this country.

C++ Static blocks

Ok, this isn't rocket science. But every now and then I should post something technical, if only to remind myself of my primary profession.

This time it is about static blocks in C++. Now what are static blocks? They are a cool feature in Java that lets you write code that executes when a class is loaded. For example:

class InitializedVariable
private static Vector data;
public static void main (String args[] )
for ( int i = 0; i < data.size(); i++ )
System.out.println(data.elementAt(i) );

static {
data.insert (new Integer(10));

So, how would you do this in C++? Ofcourse, you have static variables that can be initialized before the program starts (or the library loads). But how will you insert values into a map, or a vector?

Well, the answer is simple. Use another static object. In its constructor, perform the initialization that you want. :)

using namespace std;
class Static
static vector values;
Static ( )
vector::iterator b = values.begin();
for ( ; b != values.end(); b++ )
cout << *b << endl;

class VectorInitializer
VectorInitializer ( )
Static::values.push_back (20);
Static::values.push_back (40);
Static::values.push_back (60);

friend class Static::VectorInitializer;

vector Static::values;
static Static::VectorInitializer initalizer; //initializes the vector.

int main ( void )
Static x;

While on this, can someone tell me how I can get code into HTML without the associated struggle? Thanks! :)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

More Freedom of Speech and Expression

Time and again, I've ranted and ranted on my blog about why individual freedom is the most important aspect of a true democracy. For those who came in late, what I mean is that creating an environment where the freedom of an individual to rise to their potential - irrespective of gender, caste, race, financial status or religion, and one where polite dissent is encouraged, is the most fundamental aspect of a democracy.

On both these aspects, India fails quite miserably at times. For an instance of what I mean, see this story:

A young Muslim girl from one of Kerala's districts is learning classical dance. And is pretty good at it too. Her parents support it as well. But meanwhile, we have the local demagogues who have ostracized her family because of this.

So, what we have is a classic example of the conflict between the right of an individual to lead their lives and the power wielded by society. Fortunately, this time, the right of the individual seems to have the upper hand, but it is anyone's guess as to how long that'll last. And where are the 'guardians of public interest' now? Why are they silent? Why is Brinda Karat, who frets and fumes on women's rights, silent when faced with a real-life issue?

Before you think I am a different kind of (anti-Muslim) demagogue, let me clarify that I feel the same way when young friends are beaten up in UP parks, or when couples taking a walk in a park are harassed by the police, or when girls are killed to 'defend family honour'. My point is simply this - if the right of the individual is subjugated to the brute force of society, that society is not democratic.

Which, unfortunately, still holds for our dear own India.

The 'Average Curse'

Regular readers of my blog would probably have already realized that I have many interests in life. At the risk of sounding very pompous - I read a little, love to write, enjoy listening to music and singing, play the violin, play cricket, table tennis, badminton, and many other games/sports, follow politics/current affairs and try to keep up with the happenings on the economic front. Ofcourse, my chosen field is software development, and I am decent at what I am supposed to do.

However, in all of this, I suffer from what I call the "Average curse". While I may not suck at any of these, I am not exactly an expert in any of them. There is always someone in my friends' circle who can thrash me in each one of these. For example, for everything technical, my good friend Balbir is head and shoulders above me. If you take cricket, there are at least three or four of my close friends who can whack my bowling for over 20 runs in an over, and prevent me from scoring any when they come on to bowl. And then there is TT, where again, I am an also ran. If it comes to music/singing, even my nephews can do better! My brother may not have had formal training in music, but he can recognize raagas even before I can hear them!

In fact, like fractals for which the part is a reflection of the whole, my average curse takes effect both at macro and at micro levels. In computers, for example, I am supposed to have done a Masters' degree with specialization in compiler concepts, but I know atleast two people with no formal background in the field who can run rings around me in the subject. The same applies to networking or security - two fields on which I've worked earlier. Or for that matter, C++ - my favourite language.

So, essentially, you get the bane of my life - being average. An also ran. Now, don't get me wrong. It is not that I am frustrated with what I have. I mean, there is a wholely positive side to this - I do have some amazing friends who can keep me on my toes all the time. But still, there is one side of me that wishes I had something of my own - where I could be a Vijayan, if not a Stroustrup.

Anyways, had to get that off my chest.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Role modeling

My good friend Balbir once wrote an excellent post about role models in which he mentioned how people might be looking up to us without us realizing it. While I thought it was possible, I didn't think it would happen in my own life.

A few days back, I was talking to my Mom about my nephews (see them here) and she mentioned that my younger nephew, Vikas used to spray himself with my deo (oh yes, I use one) before going out to play. Then, she mentioned how he wanted to do everything I did - and then it struck me - I was a role model for my nephews. Not that it is surprising, after all, we all look up to the uncles, aunties and siblings who can bridge the gap between our parents and ourselves. Most of us have had the cool aunt, cool uncle or cool elder brother/sister who gave us our initial goals in life. However, in my case, my nephews and I are more friends than uncle/nephews. I never expected them to imitate any of what I did - so this came as a kind of a surprise. Now on, I've got to be more careful about what I say or do - I now have two pairs of eyes that'll be watching me.

This reminds me, I've got a lot to write about my role models. Let me start with my parents. They are probably the most honest, tough and yet nice people I've seen in my life. Both came from extremely poor backgrounds, starting their lives in a village called Nambihalli - in Kolar district. Both knew the value of education when they were very young - my mom having fought with my grandparents to be the first person in her family to pass 10th, and my dad having lived on "vaaranna/bhikshanna" to finish his BSc at Bangalore's Central College. I won't pretend that they've had the perfect marriage - but their commitment to each other and to my family has been nothing but marvelous. They displayed the true meaning of sacrifice - giving up their chance at a good life for my uncles and aunts (on both sides of the family) - spending more than 80% of 'our' income on their education. In all this, did I mention that my mom sings and my dad writes!? Not to mention, both have a keen sense of what is happening in the world around them.

Anyways, this post is starting to go beyond the lengths of reasonable comprehension. I'll stop here - feel free to post your comments and your role model experiences!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The first blooms of Spring

The thing I miss the most about not being in the US is the change of weather. I simply loved the change of colours in the fall, the dreary dry branches of January, and most of all, the first leaves and grass sprouts in Spring. It was as if the Earth was renewing herself, in all her magnificence. Of course, this also had other consequences - which my friend jokingly called "Spring fever", but let's not go there now :)

All of which is something I never got to see in Bangalore. This year however, thanks to the unprecendented rainfall and cold during last winter, many trees near my place had shed their leaves - and when I returned from Kansas City, all that greeted me were dry twigs. And after the rains the day before, the tree has sprouted leaves again - renewal greeting me in the morning! What a spectacular sight!

While on the topic, some of my friends have remarked that I am all logic and no feeling. Boy! has _that_ hurt!? Why is it that if you appreciate the fact it is chlorophyll that gives leaves their colour, you are branded as someone who can't appreciate the One's talent in creating it? I guess I simply can't get over my typecasting issues!!! :D

Anyway, read this for some old opinions on a similar topic.


Regular readers of my blog (and there aren't too many of them, I'm afraid), will recognize that one of my favorite blogging topics is Freedom. Not the kind propagated by President Bush - freedom to bomb countries - but the kind propagated by the rest of the US - freedom to do your thing as long as it is within the parameters of the law. I was looking for something on the web and came across this poem by Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

That "heaven of freedom". Indeed. Funny how far away we've come from these ideals! But that is beside the point. Along with Nehru, whose "Tryst with destiny" speech, in my opinion, sets out the Indian dream, Tagore is one of those thinkers who knew the real meaning of freedom.