While Barack Obama proclaims White House support to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to which India is a signatory, the Indian Supreme Court has delivered a landmark judgment in a unique case of young woman in India. My apologies, but the subject necessitates a lengthy post.
Born in 1991, this woman was abandoned by her family in ‘98, when she was just seven years old. After a few years with the Missionaries of Charity, she went to her new home: the state-run Nari Niketan in Chandigarh, India. Though she is 18 years old today, she is said to have the IQ equivalent of a 9 year old. In this state-run institution, she was repeatedly raped by the staff, four of whom have been arrested. All this came to light only when she was shifted from there to another state-run institution Ashreya. The latest unsubstantiated evidence casts further doubt on where exactly she was raped, and on the entire police investigation so far.
When medical investigation revealed that the woman was pregnant, the Chandigarh Administration decided that it was in her best interests to abort the pregnancy. The girl expressed an unambiguous and unequivocal desire to keep the child. Responding to the state’s petition, the state High Court ordered an immediate termination of pregnancy.
A Delhi based lawyer Suchita Srivastava challenged the order, filing a petition in the Supreme Court. After several days of intense debate in the media as well as the public, the Supreme Court refused to allow termination of pregnancy, and stayed the High Court order.
Advocate Tanu Bedi who had earlier assisted the High Court as amicus curiae, argued for the woman, against Administration counsel Anupam Gupta. The highlights of the debate in court as reported in the press offer the gist of the arguments and the court’s judgment.
- “Consent of the victim cannot be decisive. The so-called consent of the girl is no assent either in law or fact.”
- Reacting to the statement that mild mentally challenged people have the capability to take a decision for themselves, Gupta said: “This is a myth, which is completely belied by present scientific knowledge. It is a structural edifice of myth built on a foundation of highly wishful postulates of mental retardation. The argument is underlied by sincerity and overload of commitment, yet it is mere euphoria.”
- Dismissing the emphasis that the girl’s desire to give birth was ultimate, Gupta said: “If this expression of desire is taken as consent, it will be a complete travesty of consent in moral, philosophical and legal category. How can one question her regarding termination of pregnancy when she does not even understand what pregnancy is? She is blissfully oblivious of her pregnancy and unaware of the sexual act.”
- Reacting to the argument that children of mentally challenged rape victims can be taken care by institutes like Nari Niketan and Ashreya, Gupta said: “It’s easier said than done. We seem to be living in a realm of imagination. I am not trying to run down the argument by calling it a fantasy but such change, although welcome, is yet an illusion in our society.”
- Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for a social worker in favor of abortion, cited medical reports and said the continuation of pregnancy could result in complications, considering the girl’s age, mental status, and previous surgery. He said she was not aware that there was a child inside her, and hence could not mother a child.
- “It would be a travesty of justice if a mother has to come to the highest court of the land to seek permission to give birth to her own child”.
- Consent of the victim matters most. “She is not mentally incompetent to give consent. Despite her communication problems, she has expressed her desire to give birth to the child. She has immense strength and resilience. We don’t even know our destiny, how can we script the future of someone else?” concluded Bedi.
- Ms. Bedi argued that doctors did not form the opinion that termination of pregnancy was in the best interests of the girl, and that the medical report suggested that she required support and supervision to help her raise the child.
- Counsel argued that termination of pregnancy against the mother’s wish was against the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, and the Rights of the Disabled.
- If her mental age is a consideration for the judiciary to think that she cannot take care of her baby, why should poor women, who are found lacking in bringing up their children, be allowed to become mothers?
- Ms. Bedi said India was a party to international conventions that uphold and preserve the rights of the disabled, which had been given the go-by in the impugned order. “We have to respect the girl’s right to life”, she said.
- Ms. Bedi argued that the victim had a right to give birth to her child. She said the National Trust constituted under the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999, had agreed to provide her social and financial support and take care of the child after delivery. Counsel for the Trust said it was funding several institutions and would support the girl.
- Before the judgment: “What you say is right if she is not a mentally retarded person,” Chief Justice Balakrishnan told Ms. Bedi. “We are worried about her future also because she is an orphan. No NGO is going to look after her. It is a difficult decision for us.”
- “We are not in favor of termination of pregnancy. If there are no further complications to the woman in continuation of her pregnancy, then why abort a life?”
- “We are sure that somebody will be in a position to give protection to the child. Our anxiety is the fetus is already 19 weeks. The second medical opinion says her physical condition is good to bear the child. The child is not suffering from any deformity. Nature will give her biological protection. If somebody is ready to take care of the child, should we even then order medical termination of pregnancy? Nature will take care on its own.”
- Justice Sathasivam told Gupta: “Is it not possible for the Chandigarh administration to take care of the child? Is it not your responsibility to protect her?”
- “We know as a natural mother she will not be able to take care of the child. But if somebody is ready to look after the child, then there would not be any problem.”
- After being satisfied that several national-level NGOs had come forward to take responsibility of the child, the 3-member bench was reluctant to accept any other arguments supporting her abortion.
- Acknowledging that if a baby is aborted against her wishes, it would cause further trauma to the woman, the court ordered that the baby should be born with “mother under constant care and supervision”.
I have no way of assessing general public opinion, but in my experience, the opinion regarding the court’s judgment has been largely negative. See this blog post by Aditi Ray on Sulekha. Prerna’s post has a slew of comments criticizing the judgment.
The Bioethics Discussion Blog asks readers’ opinion regarding permanent sterilization of mentally disabled women, and asks if disability rights groups should ever sacrifice the disabled individual to the group’s agenda. I also found an interesting student paper at the University of Kentucky’s Dept. of Philosophy, Health Care Ethics on mentally retarded women and forced contraceptives. Finally, the UN’s Women with Disabilities page is a gateway to much more information and links.
One of the most powerful anti-establishment movies I’ve seen, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the story of a criminal McMurphy who prefers an insane asylum to prison, and leads a sustained revolt against the suffocating and stultifying atmosphere and practices of the barbaric asylum. Unlike mainstream movies, here the anti-hero does not win, in fact the establishment wins in the most brutal fashion, leaving us shattered.
I find it shocking that some people see this movie as a comedy of the revolt led by McMurphy with the fishing trip, the orgy at night, and the caricatured inmates. These people are lucky souls who have never experienced the vice-like grip of a cruel establishment and are so blissfully ignorant that they can view this film as a comedy. For the less fortunate among us, Forman uses our intellectual and emotional sensitivity to deal a severe blow that is devastating. I have written before about this film being one of the most intense cinematic experiences for me.
The film’s success – it bagged 5 Oscars and was a box-office hit – was completely unanticipated. It beat Jaws and Nashville at the Oscars. Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando had turned down the lead role, and co-producer Michael Douglas chose not to act himself. Five other actresses turned down the role of the domineering Nurse Ratched. Finally, Louise Fletcher won the Best Actress Oscar for her stunning portrayal of the Nurse, accepting the role just a week before filming began, and turning what was arguably a supporting role, into a lead one. Jack Nicholson, as McMurphy, won his first Oscar and the film catapulted him to super-stardom.
Jack Nicholson lives and breathes McMurphy, a wisecrack who loves to break the rule, is prone to violence, and like any sane person, can have insane impulses when trapped in an insane asylum. While Nicholson’s performance is universally and frequently appreciated, Fletcher’s Nurse is often overshadowed. Observe that Fletcher does not make the Nurse a typical monster, or witch. Rather, the Nurse is a sexually and emotionally repressed authoritative figure, who plays by the rule book, and actually believes that what she is doing is good for the patients.
Western critics believe the treatment of mental illness shown in the film is dated, and modern practices are not as brutal. While it is true that practices such as lobotomy are discontinued, electro-convulsive therapy is still widely used, especially in developing countries. Forman, a Czech, has likened the asylum to communist Russia, and the film doesn’t let viewers escape its grim reality. The escape of the Indian Chief was meant to offer a cathartic end, but for me, McMurphy’s end was simply too devastating.
I once composed a poem inspired by this film:
I was flying on a quest
With a great deal of zest
When I fell down
Into a cuckoo’s nest
Thus I had a fracture
And lost all my rapture
While I kept pondering
The reasons for my capture
All my friends told me
The nest was the best for me
And as the days went by
I forgot how to fly
As my mind reeled
My lips were sealed
My fracture healed
But my fate was sealed
A personal favorite that must be watched on the big screen. Pollack’s best picture. Streep, Redford, and Brandauer’s performances. David Watkin’s eye-popping on-location cinematography. John Barry’s soul-stirring background score. A dollop of Mozart – the K136 Divertimento in D, K331 Piano Sonata in A, Clarinet Concerto. The complex characterizations of the baroness Karen Blixen and Denys. The story of a woman who never accepted defeat in any way.
The apes playing with the phonograph. The big game hunting scene with lions. The Masai tribe in the desert. The English school for the natives. The owl gifted to her. The view of the world through god’s eyes. The flight sequence followed by the love-making scene in bed. Ah, what cinema!
On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando are a tour de force that make powerful films.
Once Upon A Time In America, Sergio Leone’s explosive saga of gangland America.
[I may write a paragraph or two at the beginning of each post about some aspect of film-making, sharing thoughts, facts, or experiences, etc. This may or may not be related to the films I write about.
Do feel free to comment on the films, my writing, as well as recommend and discuss other films. The more you participate, the more meaningful and enjoyable this would be! Lastly, I plan to adopt the widely-accepted technique of reformatting titles beginning with ‘A’ and ‘The’.]
I always think that editors are one of the most under-appreciated folks in film-making. How far we have come from the old days when editors used to be exclusively women! Editing was considered no more than a cut and paste job, and since women sewed and tailored, editing was treated as a menial job relegated to women. Today, what would Spielberg be without Michael Kahn, or Scorcese without Thelma Schoonmaker?
Many Indian film-makers aspiring for Academy Awards need a primer on editing. A Slumdog Millionaire’s editing makes it appear as if Lagaan’s editor was stricken with diarrhea and thus was unable to work.
When I was young, one of my best friends became a paranoid schizophrenic. In the years since, I have seen schizophrenia up close – its impact on patient and family, its treatment, and its social stigma. Not many movies treat mental illness simply as a disease. It is usually sensationalized, or trivialized, or turned into tragedy or melodrama. A Beautiful Mind sensitively portrays John Nash Jr., a mathematical genius who fought paranoid schizophrenia, and successfully achieved global recognition. This is Ron Howard’s masterpiece after the earlier Apollo 13.
Russell Crowe is astonishing as the mild-mannered, socially handicapped genius. He metamorphoses into a Gladiator of the mind, fighting demons of insanity. The film deals with complex mathematical theories to just the right extent, keeping it understandable to laymen. It shows what true love is all about – not passion and romance, but hard work and commitment. It touched me very deeply, without insulting my intelligence, and without offending me by trying to manipulate my emotions.
Thoughts about insanity and genius lingered afterwards. In his Nobel auto-biography, Nash reveals that his recovery is not entirely a matter of joy. “One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation to the cosmos”, he says. I wonder if apart from his groundbreaking work in mathematics, this revelation will turn out to be his most significant lesson for mankind.
The germ of four different interlocking stories causing chaos reminded me of the butterfly effect in chaos theory. Despite big-ticket stars like Pitt and Blanchett, they are not given any preferential treatment, as required by the plot. This integrity is rare in Hollywood. Superb cinematography, strong character development, and deeply thought-provoking. We can easily identify with all the characters, none of whom are villains, and do not intentionally act wrongly, yet the situation spirals out of control. It is also an intriguing look at how cultural barriers have unintended consequences.
Such a powerful film shot in different locations of the world with numerous actors cannot be weaved into a compelling yet easy to grasp drama without supreme editorial work. In retrospect, I was mesmerized by how the director and editor managed to weave this thrilling complex drama and piece together disparate clips into an integrated whole.
Bandit Queen – a film I saw once and do not wish to see again. A film that made me feel ashamed of being an Indian, with its caste system and patriarchal society. A film with that scene of repeated sounds of a door creaking – a sound I do not wish to hear again.
I am amused by people who say they have no dreams. When even animals dream, how can people not? An evil thought comes about subjecting such people to dream deprivation, if only to advance scientific understanding.
I dream both in color as well as in black and white. As with most people, I have recurrent dream topics – school/college journal submission/examination, flying, fast trains, accidents/disaster, etc. But most of my dreams are pretty straightforward and predictable. A college friend of mine had dreams with distorted metaphysics. Once he lived in a world where consciousness and physical bodies were randomly exchanged and he spent dreaming that his body was searching for his consciousness and vice versa.
I have often dreamt of my blogger friends. I once received Krish Ashok at Chennai when he was about to arrive from abroad. After he came, we had some interesting experiences negotiating with rickshaw drivers in Chennai. In another one, Ashok and I were at a conference-cum-exhibition, and we were discussing the latest software web trends. I and Nita have once received a group of tourists from China, and we were their tour guides in the Mumbai-Pune region. I remember being amazed by how Nita was impressing them with statistic after statistic, fact after fact, about Indians. More recently, I was explaining to my wife how Rambodoc is going to monetize his SixPackDoc blog by adding ads and selling services. See? Straightforward and predictable.
Nita had once commented, ‘Born to fly – these words seem to be entrenched in your heart’, and that shows. I have come very close to fulfilling this dream when I para-glided in the Himalayas. In my dreams, I don’t need no paraglider! An interesting observation in my numerous flying dreams is that if I hesitate and doubt my ability to fly, I can’t take off. It is only when I do so with full conviction, that I am able to successfully take off. I have flew several times over several areas of Mumbai, Pune, San Diego, and San Francisco.
As dreams are connected with long-term memory, my ‘home’ in my dreams is still the place I grew up in Mumbai, even though I left it 12 years back. Dream incorporation is also pretty common with me, where doorbells or ringtones become assimilated in the dream sequence. I’m a déjà vu addict – I always try to predict what’s going to happen next, but I fail every time. I used to talk a lot in my sleep when young, and there is only one reported incident when I went sleepwalking!
A couple of unusual dreams come to mind. One was a nightmare. During an examination, my fountain pen began to leak. And surprisingly, it began to leak in red (I always wrote in black)! Aghast, I got up and the red trail began following me all around. I ran out of the classroom, outside on the roads, where I realized that the trail of red was not ink but blood. Gasping for water, I reached for my water bottle, only to find it contained blood. Panicked, I decided to rush home, managed to reach VT station in Mumbai (it will always remain VT for me), where there were many other people all drenched in blood to varying degree.
In an other recent dream, I was telling my wife that I thought that I was not really myself. Me, as I am today, was just a concoction, an illusion, role-playing a script written by someone else, Matrix-style. And being aware of this made me feel very lighter, since there was nothing I needed to take seriously in life. I was waiting for the day when the director says “Cut”, and I snap back to my real, original, self.
But the best part of my dreaming is that I am fortunate to be a lucid dreamer. Though not as successfully as in my younger days, I am still able to do it sometimes. Controlling your dream script is a fantasy come true. Now don’t ask me what I write in that script!
How much can Artificial Intelligence learn from your writing? Your gender? Your MBTI personality type? Can someone find out such things about you from your writing?
GenderAnalyzer tries to guess the gender of the author. From over 6000+ votes on the site, it appears to have correctly guessed the gender 58% of the time. An Unquiet Mind’s homepage rated almost gender neutral:
Since these services do not crawl web pages, they only use the page you specify as their input. So, to get more credible results, use larger sources for input. An easy way to do this with your WordPress blogs is to specify your favorite tag/category URL. So since a lot of my posts have the ‘India’ tag, giving http://mahendrap.wordpress.com/tag/india gave a lot more content to analyze, and hence came up with a more accurate assessment.
Typealyzer takes the text from a URL you specify and classifies it according to MBTI personality types. It can be fun! Here are An Unquiet Mind’s results:
It is important to remember that this purports to classify the writing style of the author, not the author’s personality type (ignore the marketing byline). Thus, even if my personality type is iNTJ, my writing style is iNTP.
This is a classification based on Carl Jung’s archetypes.
I guess the above two are for those who want to date or make friends with other bloggers!
Some of the other classifiers at uClassify are interesting too – find out the mood of the writer, the tonality (formal/informal) of the writing, similarity with authors of famous classics, etc.
I am not a graphic designer and do not have the dedication required to learn complex graphic applications like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. However, I do have an artistic itch. Hence when my wife endeavored to set up a business partnership for a corporate psychological training service firm, I endeavored to design their logo. It was a perfect opportunity for me to scour the graphic design application landscape on Windows for amateurs like me (or like myself?).
Paint.net is sometimes positioned as a free and better replacement to built-in Windows Paintbrush, but it is really something like Photoshop Lite. Packed in a tiny 1.6 MB package, this is truly great software considering that it is completely freeware. Check the screenshots here for a sample of what it can do.
Using its support for layers, unlimited undo, some special effects, and some great tutorials in their forum, this is what I came up with:
I know it’s not that good-looking, but hey, I’m an amateur!
Professional designers will tell you that logos should be designed as vector graphics, not as raster images like with Paint.net. This is so that they can be easily manipulated and scaled to suit different applications like web, print, etc. Adobe Illustrator and Coreldraw for example, are vector graphic imaging software. So how do you start without spending a penny on such expensive software?
Inkscape is a great open-source vector graphics application that was originally designed for Linux, but now runs on Windows too. Most of the digital graphics you see on Wikipedia are designed in Inkscape by volunteers. It takes some time getting used to working with vector graphics – for example, there is no ‘Eraser’ tool to quickly obliterate your mistakes and tweak your pixels, because there are no pixels here, only lines and curves – but it’s not difficult at all.
I also decided to get a bit creative on the logo concept. U Turn’s services all have their base in psychology. Now, the Greek letter Psi (Y) is the symbol of everything ‘psy’ – psychology, psychiatry, etc. So I wondered if I could make up Psi using U and T of U Turn:
So above are examples of some of the designs I’m proposing to the entrepreneurs. Would love to hear your feedback and suggestions as well.
If you do not want to install or learn any software, but are simply looking for a quick and dirty way to come up with some text-based logos primarily for use on the web, the following sites may interest you:
Note that logo design is a profound and complex subject. I have only focused on easy to use logo creation tools here. The design concepts, art, philosophy, and marketing strategy behind logo design is a fascinating topic by itself, and is out of bounds for this post.
I made a new friend when I was about 14 years old. We liked the same music. We read the same books and shared our Phantom and Mandrake comics. I used to be fascinated by his collection of Life magazine, with the stunning photographs of Apollo moon landings. He used to be fascinated by my home-made telescope. At a time when we were struggling with our English, he was studying Russian on his own – not from books, but by listening to Radio Moscow over short-wave radio. We spent our academically important 10th grade of schooling by studying long hours together, late into the night. We were ‘different’ in a way, from the rest of the crowd in our area.
We then went our separate ways in college. Our meetings became less frequent as my world expanded in many dimensions. It was after a year or so, that I first began noticing changes in him during our infrequent meetings. He seemed diffident and unsure of himself. After a couple of months, a common friend said something was really the matter with my friend. I went to his home and met his mom. She was in tears. She said he almost never left his room, and sat by the window the whole day, his hands gripping the window bars. Even children had started making fun of him. I went in his room. He saw me out of the corner of his eye and looked away. He was clearly afraid. Afraid of something, I didn’t know what. I decided to act normal, and asked him if he would come with me for a walk. We walked for about 15 minutes, during which I made general conversation while he seemed terrified.
When I came home later that day, and thought about my friend, I realized he was sick. Mentally ill. He needed to see a psychiatrist. I did not know anyone who knew a psychiatrist, or even anyone who knew anyone who knew a psychiatrist. I myself was barely 16. I knew my family wouldn’t help; they’d rather take him to some miracle worker or recommend him to an astrologer. I then remembered that the clinic where my dentist practiced had a psychiatrist too. The next day, I again went to his home, met his parents, and tried to explain that their son needed to see a doctor.
My friend was Punjabi, a North Indian family. His mom was perennially in tears. His dad, who was almost double my size looked menacing, and couldn’t understand. He simply wanted to shake his son out of whatever he was going through and ‘be a man’. After much persuasion, they agreed to let me try and help, so the next day, we were off to see the doctor. The doctor spoke a few minutes with all of us and prescribed some medicines, after which I spoke with him alone. He said it was schizophrenia, and the medication would help only to a certain extent. He didn’t seem hopeful about my friend.
I was busy dealing with the vicissitudes in my own life for the next few months, after which I once happened to meet my friend. I took him to the terrace of my apartment building, where we used to spend time together. He would never look at me, and start to leave the moment I looked directly at him. I tried my best to make him comfortable, and he began talking slowly. He told me he spoke to Lee Falk every day. Lee Falk spoke to him for hours together, telling him what’s happening and what he should do. He had even shown him his own private luxurious bedroom in his rich mansion, something he never showed anyone – my friend gleefully revealed.
In our next meeting, he told me why he was afraid. He was being pursued and followed day and night by LTTE terrorists, who were out to assassinate him. He narrated detailed experiences of how Lee Falk gave him advance intimation of where they were going to kill him and how he had cleverly foiled five such attempts on his life.
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig writes:
He was insane. And when you look directly at an insane man all you see is a reflection of your own knowledge that he’s insane, which is not to see him at all. To see him you must see what he saw and when you are trying to see the vision of an insane man, an oblique route is the only way to come at it. Otherwise your own opinions block the way.
The far side of the moon is never seen from earth. Humans first directly observed it only when Apollo 8 orbited the Moon. Is that why insane people are called lunatics? When there is Brain Damage, why does there have to be an Eclipse? Why is it Us and Them, and not We? Today, I feel a complex web of emotions. There is a feeling of guilt that I didn’t help as much as I could have. There is also the realization that even if I knew about mental illness at that young age, it was only from an academic perspective. I didn’t have the psychological or real-world wherewithal to effectively help. At the end of it all, there is a sense of loss.
And if the cloud bursts thunder in your ear,
You shout and no one seems to hear,
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon
(In remembrance of World Mental Health Day, 10th October 2007, and my friend.)
I decided to add this prologue after the first few comments to this post. This post uses an incident in India, but is actually universal in nature and focuses on the moral, philosophical, and ethical decision-making involved in an emergency.
Imagine you’re traveling from Mumbai to Pune by train, which is full to capacity, as usual in India. An additional engine is added to the train to climb the ascent of the Western Ghats from Karjat at sea-level to Lonavala at a height of 2000 ft. above sea level. Your train trudges laboriously upwards and reaches Lonavala after 1.5 – 2 hours. You enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Sahyadri ghats. It stops at Lonavala for a while and everyone gets back on board, ready to proceed.
Suddenly the train starts inching backwards. There are smiles, giggles, and wisecracks about what antics the drivers are up to. Some wonder if they’re simply changing tracks or if some engine replacement or something had to be done. The ‘inching’ turns into ‘crawling’, and soon enough, ominously, the train is now really ‘moving’ backwards. There is puzzlement all around and you are amused as to what’s happening.
There is no let up however, as the train starts getting momentum, accelerates further, and starts gaining speed. Amusement disappears as you and everyone else realize that something is seriously wrong. The train gains further acceleration and you’re already cruising at a reasonable speed. Everyone is peering out the compartment doors and windows only to find people from other compartments doing the same. “Has the driver lost his mind?” you wonder, as people start voicing obscenities at the train staff.
“But, was the staff (driver and guard at opposite ends), on the train when it started off at Lonavala?” someone asks and nobody really knows. The worst possibility comes to your mind – you’re on a runaway train, downhill, with no one at the controls.
By this time, the train is so fast that it would be dangerous to jump off. Panic and confusion all around you. You calm yourself and start thinking rapidly. You visualize the laborious twists and turns of the track as it winds down the mountains. You imagine a full-speed, no holds barred, runaway train hurtling across those tracks and overturning into the picturesque Sahyadri valleys. Is this how you were destined to die?
Point A: Question 1
At this point, if you jumped off, you assess your chances. Let’s say there’s a 70-80% probability that you’ll get seriously hurt, and a 20-30% possibility that you might die in the process. Will you jump off?
Point A: Question 2
Assume you don’t, and cling on to hope, that there will be some miraculous intervention and that you will be saved. After all, when one lives in a civilized and moderately developed society, it is a rational expectation that there will be systems and processes in place to deal with such emergencies.
Some people are seriously doubtful however. They’re contemplating jumping off. Will you discourage and/or prevent people from doing so?
Meanwhile, the train has reached a breakneck speed. The sparks from the wheels are now of alarming proportions and reaching the windows. People from another compartment come rushing into yours as their compartment catches fire. The ghat section, where the real twists and turns begin, is just around the corner. People are screaming, women are crying in hysteria.
Point B: Question 1
At this point, there’s an almost 100% probability of serious injury, including permanent handicap, and a 70% probability of death. Will you jump?
Point B: Question 2
Assume you don’t, and still have hope that you will be saved. However, there are people who are getting ready to jump. Will you discourage/prevent them, just because you have hope even if they haven’t?
The above situation is not hypothetical. This is what happened to the Indrayani Express in the 1990s, when my cousin brother was on the train. During a normal return journey from Pune to Mumbai (downhill), the train used to descend the height of the ghat section in approximately an hour. That day, it ran the same track downhill in 11 minutes. The train did not overturn. Few people who jumped off were seriously injured. There were no major casualties. My brother urged dozens of people not to jump and ended up saving them in the process.
I’ve written before about what I call the Superlative Style of Composition with regards to writing - where a writer blends conceptual and perceptual styles into the most persuasive style of writing. Let us take an example to illustrate this. I’m referring to Ergo talking about why India is not a tourist brochure.
The goal of the writer is to convey: “the predominant ethos of the Indian culture is not that of benevolence, friendliness, or rationality but the opposite of these.”
If one had chosen to write conceptually about this, it would probably have resulted in a dry essay on a purely “intellectual” level, to which many readers may not have responded at all. (If you’re wondering about the quotes around “intellectual”, I think it is an unfairly derided term. For more, read this).
Instead, observe the style of the composition: the writer intersperses perceptual experiences (in other words – what one experiences in a day-to-day life) with the conceptual inferences he draws from it.
This helps the reader understand and appreciate why the writer is drawing these conceptual conclusions from his experiences.
I’ve read tons of blog posts that either deal only with the perceptual (experience) level, or just simply conceptual ramblings, but very few that synthesize and harmonize the two. That is what I mean by the Superlative Style of Composition.
No surprises here, as Ergo gets the Intellectual Blogger Award from me!
- I am not saying one should agree with what is being said in this superlative style. My posts are about the styles of composition being used, not the content in them.
- Ergo has probably not read my posts about Styles of Composition, and is completely oblivious to what I’ve written about. This is good in terms of objectively assessing what I’ve written!
The Washington Post reports:
It started about midnight on June 16 when a group of friends was finishing a dinner of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp on the back patio of a District of Columbia home. That’s when a hooded man slid through an open gate and pointed a handgun at the head of a 14-year-old girl.
“Give me your money, or I’ll start shooting,” he said. Everyone froze, including the girl’s parents. Then one guest spoke.
“We were just finishing dinner,” Cristina Rowan, 43, told the man. “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?” The intruder had a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupery and said, “Damn, that’s good wine.”
The girl’s father, Michael Rabdau, 51, told the intruder to take the whole glass, and Rowan offered him the whole bottle. The robber, with his hood down, took another sip and a bite of Camembert cheese. He put the gun in his sweatpants.
The story then turns even more bizarre.
“I think I may have come to the wrong house,” he said before apologizing. “Can I get a hug?”
Rowan stood up and wrapped her arms around the armed man. The four other guests followed.
“Can we have a group hug?” the man asked. The five adults complied.
The man walked away a few moments later with the crystal wine glass in hand. Nothing was stolen, and no one was hurt.
Once he was gone, the group walked into the house, locked the door and stared at each other - speechless. Police classified the case as strange but true.
Bollywood is not so much “fantasy-world” after all!