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I am not smarter than a fourth grader

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I shot off a letter to the editors of Hindustan Times, Asian Age, Deccan herald, Times of India, Indian Express, The Hindu, India West and India Abroad asking the Prime Minister of India to intervene swiftly and smartly to provide complete justice to the survivors of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, a cause with which I stand in solidarity and volunteered for the last 5 years. I shall publish the letter in my blog after I have made sure that these outlets do not publish my letter. My other letters on the same topic have not been published and I am 99.99% sure that they will not publish my letter but in the year of Obama, hope lingers :-). For the other letters and op-eds 🙂 on this subject, you can search my posts.

In the meanwhile, here is a letter that is published on the campaign website bhopal.net and it has been written by a fourth grader. I can assure you that my letter is not as powerful as this one.
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In an other succinctly crafted letter, artists and writers across the world including Arundhati Roy, Suketu Mehta, Anand Patwardhan and Indra Sinha, have urged the PM to exactly do the same thing that the 4 grader is asking them to do. Here is an excerpt from Indra’s blog
Footnotes · An open letter to the Prime Minister and government of India

Dear Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,

Nearly a quarter of a century after the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, the company’s factory remains uncleaned while chemicals leaking from the site continue to poison the drinking water of tens of thousands. Children in the affected communities are being born with deformities so severe that their pictures could not be published in the media. The Union Carbide Corporation, now wholly owned by Dow Chemical, disclaims responsibility for the factory and for the last 16 years has refused to appear in the Indian court where it faces serious criminal charges. In these circumstances, we urge you and your ministers to honour your promises made two years ago in relation to proper health care and monitoring for those affected by the gas and poisoned water, to obey the Indian Supreme Court’s 2004 order to provide safe drinking water for communities whose water is poisoned and not to have business dealings with Union Carbide Corporation or its legal owners while the contempt of court continues.

If you really care to do something more to the cause of these survivors, please visit www.bhopal.net

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

April 16, 2008 at 1:09 pm

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Tibet activists “Gere” up for the D-Day – Pictures

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My wife and I was in San Francisco tonight to stand in a solidarity candlelight vigil with the freedom movement in Tibet.

Pictures (courtesy my wife) are available at http://picasaweb.google.com/sudarshan.suresh/TibetAction/

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

April 8, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Can an engineer kiss a frog?

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Shashi Tharoor who could have been the UN Secretary General has an interesting article in this week’s Times of India

Why some engineers become terrorists-SHASHI ON SUNDAY

An IIT graduate — so the story goes — is walking near a pond one day when a frog speaks to him. “Kiss me,” it says, “and i will turn into a beautiful princess.” The IITian does a double-take, turns back to check if he has heard right, and sure enough, the frog repeats itself: “Kiss me and i will turn into a beautiful princess.” He looks thoughtfully at the frog, picks it up and puts it into his pocket. A plaintive wail soon emerges: “Kiss me and i will turn into a beautiful princess.” He ignores it and walks on. Soon the frog asks, “Aren’t you going to kiss me?” The IIT guy stops, pulls the frog out of his pocket, and replies matter-of-factly: “I’m an engineer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend. But a talking frog is cool.”

I agree with Tharoor that people in streams like Engineering and Medicine need to take a few classes in humanities because it would help them gain some critical insight into the “end-value” of the engineering/medical work thus making them a more rounded and grounded individual. But Tharoor’s connection between Engineering and Terrorism is like a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq that Bush and his cohorts gave when they invaded Iraq in 2002.

Engineering students especially IITians come in for a lot of flak for their non-participation in social activism. I bash them regularly but I was pleasantly surprised when the IIT’s raised a middle finger to a killer corporation like Dow.

IITs, academics snub Dow for Bhopal tragedy link

On October 25, IIT-Madras cancelled pre-placement talks by Dow Chemicals. IIT-Bombay followed suit on October 28.
Dow did not get an invite for placements at IIT-Kharagpur and even their sponsorship for a college festival stands cancelled. And in IIT Kanpur, students are demanding that the institute refuse Dow sponsorship for a big international seminar in December.

IIT Delhi rejects Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship offer – India

Responding to calls from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) alumni, students and supporters of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy victims’ families, the IIT Delhi has rejected Dow Chemicals’ offer to sponsor an international event in its campus.

It is laudable because these are college going kids who are rejecting potential “first” job offers just for the sake of doing the right thing and all of us know how much we can use the “money” when we get out of college. This is something that people stinking in money like Aamir Khan hesitate to do. Yesterday, he slammed China for the treatment of Tibet but still wants to carry the Olympic torch. Clearly, Aamir doesn’t want to loose his endorsement dollars(which are really his secondary and additional income) as he endorses Coke and Coke is the official soft drink of the Olympics.

By the way, if Shashi thinks engineers or IITians no longer kiss a frog then he has to lay his hands on Five Point Someone.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

April 2, 2008 at 3:49 pm

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Baichung has a backbone….

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I don’t care if the Indian soccer team doesn’t make it to the World Cup Finals at all because its skipper has shown he has the heart. I welcome Baichung’s decision. I hope it is not a April Fool’s joke.

Bhutia’s red card to China: Won’t carry Olympic torch

Bhutia, a Buddhist, said this was his way to show support and solidarity for the people of Tibet and their struggle.He is not the first public personality to have distanced himself from the Beijing Olympics.

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had indicated France might boycott the games if the situation in Tibet worsened while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will not attend the Olympics in Beijing.

In February, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic adviser to the Olympics over China’s support to the Sudanese government at a time when the regime had been charged with massacres in the country’s Darfur region.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

March 31, 2008 at 8:18 pm

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Paani – Shekar Kapur’s next film and more….

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2.6 Billion With No Place to Go (to the Toilet) – Dot Earth – Climate Change and Sustainability – New York Times Blog

Indian film director Sheikhar Kapur is making a feature film now in India about the future, 20 years from now, where there are two Mumbai’s– one is upper Mumbai where the wealthy live and have ample supplies of CLEAN water for drinking and bathing, and lower Mumbai is a vast slum where the water is dirty and contaminated. Movie should be released late this year or early 2009, and might be Indian’s first international hit. Just heard him talking about the movie on CNN.http://www.bollywoodsargam.com/bollywood_news.php?newss tory=54728498–0-latest-Shekhar_Kapur_shooting_slums_for _Paani_bollywood_news.html

Director Shekhar Kapur’s new passion is shooting the slums of Mumbai with a still camera. Researching for his new epic “Paani”, Kapur is shooting the skyscrapers and the slums of India’s business capital, which is home also to Asia’s largest shantytown, Dharavi. Kapur is taking 180-degree shots, sweeping his camera from the swank neighbourhoods to the slums to see the yawning difference between the areas. “‘Paani’ is going to be about the stark differences,” Kapur told IANS. He is in Delhi at the moment, taking care of his ill father. Kapur has joined hands with “The Lord of the Rings” producer Barrie Osbourne to make the $20 million epic set in a Mumbai 20 years hence, when the water wars are beginning. “Barrie was telling me that we should work on a project together and I wanted to get over with ‘Paani’ first,” said Kapur. “He asked me about ‘Paani’ and I told him the concept. He said why not work on this. So here we are.” In the film, Mumbai is divided into the upper city and the lower city.

A few years ago, people would not have found money and takers for such projects. I sometimes wonder whether Al Gore must be thanked partly for making people accept this inconvenient truth. Anyways, more importantly, try, cutting and pasting that link in the article. You will be surprised. Just for the record, the whole article above was cutted and pasted from the comments section of the ny times blog. So, when you cut and paste that link and see what is there, it is not my doing.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

March 27, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Smoking Crack

Coming out swinging….

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I cannot believe my eyes. Someone please push a lit-up cigarette up my nose and prove to me that I am not dreaming. Is Jesus coming back really on Sunday? What else would explain a stellar column in Times of India. Hats off, Jug Suraiya.

From Taslima to Tibet, India proves chicken-Jug Suraiya-Columnists-Opinion-The Times of India

Ramadoss who is so busy fighting the evils of tobacco and liquor – by putting ‘gory’ pictures on tobacco products, and banning surrogate liquor ads – that he has no time to address the much larger ills that plague our practically non-existent public health system.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

March 21, 2008 at 9:42 am

Tibet should be free….

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Tibetans in India Enraged by Details of Crackdown – New York Times

Throughout the day on Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered near the gates of the temple of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, chanting, “We want freedom!”

Come on, India. We need to support the Tibetans in their quest for freedom. The easiest thing India can do is make a statement by boycotting the Olympics. It is a win-win situation because anyway even if we went would hardly trouble the scorers and finish 22nd out of 21 competitors in most sports. Give the athletes and officials (sometimes we have sent an equal number of officials and athletes) who want to go 15 free lunches to chinese restaurants and a four year supply of fortune cookies. Thus solidarity with the movement and saving ourself from ignominy can become bedfellows.

Jokes apart, shall we do something to get this march going and at least give some space for dissent. I do not understand why we are trying to tango with China. Are we worried because our kids cannot play with cheap toxic toys? I would not be surprised if the Govt. is pissing in the pants that the politburo would withdraw its support to the center for acting against their comrades in China.

Tibetan Marchers Arrested in India – New York Times

India’s attitude toward Tibetans who protest China’s control of their birthplace has been slowly shifting from support toward repression, some human rights advocates say. Arresting peaceful marchers, some carrying photographs of Gandhi, “signifies a toughness that does not seem legitimate,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, a South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“It was probably done because India did not want to displease China,” Ms. Ganguly said.

The Tibetans are not alone in their fight and they have found support from all corners of the world.

RFA: China Detains Six For Tibet Great Wall Protest

China has detained a group of activists after they unfurled a banner calling for a Free Tibet from China’s Great Wall ahead of a countdown ceremony for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a U.S.-based campaign group said.

“There was a team of six that went to Great Wall of China and hung a banner off the wall with two climbers,” Lhadon Tethong, head of the Students for Free Tibet group told RFA’s Tibetan service.

The 20-foot (six meter) long banner was emblazoned with the words: “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008”.

The six protesters were: Climbers Melanie Raoul and Sam Price from Vancouver, Canada, U.S. citizens Leslie Kaup of St Paul, Minnesota, Nupur Modi of Oakland, California and Duane Martinez of Sausalito, California, and Pete Speller of Cambridge, UK.

It is a choice of decency whether you recognize and support a “non-violent” freedom struggle or not.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

March 18, 2008 at 7:26 pm

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H2O tales

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When you listen more to Al Gore and less to Ann Coulter, this is exactly what happens. Small but big step

Seattle giving bottled water the boot | Seattle Times Newspaper

To cut down on trash and help the environment, the city of Seattle will stop buying bottled water, Mayor Greg Nickels announced Thursday.

I am wondering what was in their water that might have pushed Nickels and his congressmen towards such an useful decision.

Was it this

Message in a Bottle | Fast Company

Bottled water is often simply an indulgence, and despite the stories we tell ourselves, it is not a benign indulgence.

or this

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

March 17, 2008 at 10:46 pm

A moment of epiphany

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Is it just me or there are others who see these three news items published on the same page in the same issue as related….

The Hindu : Front Page : Advani pillories Nehru-Gandhi family

Mr. Advani alleged that 10, Janpath (residence of Ms. Gandhi) has become more important than 7 Race Course (Prime Minister’s house)

The Hindu : Front Page : Al Gore, Manmohan discuss climate change

The former United States Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore on Friday called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The two leaders are reported to have discussed climate change and sustainable development.

The Hindu : Front Page : Air travel not elitist any more: Sonia

She said air travel was not elitist any more. With the entry of private airlines, fares had dropped and it had become easy for common people to travel by air.

Here is what I thought somewhat proves what Advani is saying – She encourages more people to travel by air which essential means a bigger carbon footprint and a huge impact on climate change which means he is having a meaningless meeting with Mr. Gore on reducing the footprint. By the way, I have a movie suggestion for Advani’s, Singhs and every old politician in Indian politics not wanting to retire from power – “No Country for Old Men”

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

March 16, 2008 at 10:56 pm

A different view….

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I did not want to write about Elliot Spitzer because I am tired of his face. I have flipped news channel after news channel just to see this guy biting his lips and feeling (or feigning) sorry.

He paid $4300 per session with you-know-who and got caught. There were guys in talk shows who said that is a lot of money for you-know-who but Sudhir Venkatesh reveals some interesting and thoroughly researched facts in his piece about the you-know-who trade.  Sudhir is a Professor of Sociology in Columbia University.

Did Eliot Spitzer get caught because he didn’t spend enough on prostitutes? – By Sudhir Venkatesh – Slate Magazine

Spitzer was paying for “Tier 1” sex workers: Fees usually range from $2,000 to $5,000 per session; women come in all ages and ethnic stripes;

Tier 2″ includes women who charge up to $7,500 for a session. These women tend to be white, they may have a college degree (or be actively enrolled in school), and they usually require a referral before they will take on a new john.

Finally, there are the “Tier 3” sex workers, who can charge in excess of $10,000 per rendezvous. They may have only four or five clients, and they typically charge their clients an additional monthly surcharge for their various needs—rent, clothing, medicine.

Sudhir will be on Colbert Report tonight. I am sure I will be in splits. But jokes from the Report aside, the article in Slate about prostitution presents a very rosy picture about the trade except for a brief mention of physical abuse. The rights of sex workers are often sabotaged and they are left severely exploited.  Here is another piece which talks about decriminalizing sex work and the need to heed to their rights.

The silence around sex work – 13 December 2005

“Over the years, we have become ‘commercial sex workers’ from ‘common prostitutes’. Debates are held about us and we are discussed in documents, covenants and declarations. The problem, however, is that when we try to inform the arguments, our stories are disbelieved and we are treated as if we cannot comprehend our own lives. Thus we are romanticised, victimised, or worse. And our reality gets buried and distorted.”

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

March 13, 2008 at 10:17 pm