A brilliant piece highlighting why Hindus are saying enough is enough.


Is there such a thing as ‘Hindu terrorism’, as Home Minister Shinde is heavily hinting at? Well, I am one of that rare breed of foreign correspondents — a lover of Hindus! A born Frenchman, Catholic-educated and non-Hindu, I do hope I’ll be given some credit for my opinions, which are not the product of my parents’ ideas, my education or my atavism, but garnered from 25 years of reporting in South Asia (for Le Journal de Geneve and Le Figaro).

In the early 1980s, when I started freelancing in south India, doing photo features on Kalaripayattu, the Ayyappa festival, or the Ayyanars, I slowly realised that the genius of this country lies in its Hindu ethos, in the true spirituality behind Hinduism. The average Hindu you meet in a million villages possesses this simple, innate spirituality and accepts your  diversity, whether you are Christian or Muslim, Jain or Arab…

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Why India’s next leader is not like Ronald Reagan


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All of the comparisons of the BJP to the GOP and our next PM Narendra Modi to Ronald Reagan are flawed. Here are just two reasons why:
A. The religious aspect
If you look at what ‘secularism’ means in India(1), you will notice that it really means a politically motivated ‘minority appeasement’. Muslims are given subsidies to travel to Mecca, their own laws and ‘reservations’ in jobs whereas Hindus get nothing. In fact, temples are controlled by the government (2), that sets salaries as low as Rs. 8000($130)/month for priests (3). Mosques and Churches are untouched by the government, who fear a minority backlash. Hindus think that minorities are being given preference by a ‘secular’ government. Rarely will a Hindu say that his religion is being attacked by the government. He will say that the government is being unconstitutional. Compare that to a conservative Republican who thinks that government is attacking Christianity and actively wants the bible to be taught in public schools as science.
B. The socio-economic aspect
While Republicans practice trickle down economics and do not believe in government ‘handouts’ to the working poor, or bolstering education, Modi has actively promoted education as a means to eradicate poverty (4). His party is also making removal of ‘absolute poverty’ a top priority (5). Albeit, yes, Modi’s own state has not fared well in alleviating poverty. But that has been argued to be a result of poor migrants entering his home state.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secularism_in_India#Views
(2) http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-control-of-hindu-temples-questioned/article4916982.ece
(3) http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/Better-pay-living-standards-a-big-lure-for-priests/2013/07/21/article1693659.ece
(4) http://mysrm.srmuniv.ac.in/pressroom/content/education-will-help-eradicate-poverty-narendra-modi-0
(5) http://www.firstbiz.com/economy/modinomics-live-my-economic-philosophy-can-be-said-in-1-word-trusteeship-77825.html

How does one control anger


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Background (if you care to know):
I find myself frequently angry nowadays.

1.My boss is critical of me. Although I know the criticism is constructive, it is very personal in nature also. It can be quite upsetting since I try my best.

2. I am debating an atheist on HuffPost. I control myself to the best I can. However, atheists can become extremely disrespectful and rude. For example, I was called ‘insane’, indoctrinated’ and that religious ideas ‘should not be shown respect’. The funny thing is, it is not just the ideas that are disrespected, it is also the people holding those ideas. Also, using the word ‘insane’ as an insult is extremely offensive to people who actually do suffer from a mental illness.

So, what does Vedanta (or any spiritual path) say about controlling anger and not being hurt by other people’s comments?

Anti-Hinduism in the guise of secularism


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An recent article on HuffPost reports that Sharia Laws are being applied by Indian Muslim women in local communities and that such laws are now even being taken up to the level of the Central Parliament. 

As I commented on HuffPost, this is absolutely unconstitutional. It brings into question whether India really is a ‘secular’ country or more of a religious ‘appeasement’ country.

Ronald Inden, a historian, has observed that “the Indian government is not really “secular”, but one that selectively discriminates against Hindu communities while superficially appeasing Muslim leaders (without actually providing any community or theological benefits to regular Muslims in India).” 

Additionally, Sadanand Dhume of the WSJ noted that secularism in India even has elements of anti-Hinduism.

Is it any wonder that Narendra Modi has become a favorite for the majority Hindu country?


Facing ridicule as a doctoral student


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In previous posts I have mentioned how frustrating graduate student life can be. We face criticism from our mentor and committee members on almost a daily basis. But there is another aspect to grad student life that often goes untold – ridicule from friends who are not in Ph.D. programs.

I have often encountered questions and comments immersed in vitriolic, judgmental and offensive rhetoric

“Why do people do a Ph.D.? It must be because you couldn’t find a job.” [Ph.D. programs are extremely selective, and the other way around probably makes more sense meaning people couldn’t get into grad school so they decided to do a job]

“You have been studying for the past XYZ years and you still haven’t graduated?” [Ph.D. programs are not designed to be finished in a particular time frame]

“You’re not working, you might be getting paid, but you are not really working” – [Actually, Ph.D. students are also considered employees]

“You still don’t have a paper?” [well how many have YOU published exactly?]

“So what discoveries have you made in the last 5 years” [followed by ill-concealed giggling]


It’s bad enough that we get slave wages, for seven years, and work 60 hour weeks (often more) but such insensitive comments make grad school very upsetting. It often makes me not want to have friends outside of science or academia anymore.

Let me be fair and not place all the blame on outsiders. As grad students we have ourselves made it seem OK to be the butt of hurtful jokes, thanks to the popularity of PhD Comics. I used to enjoy PhD comics until I realized the content hit too close to home. It also seems to make grad students think it is OK to think their life is shit and for others to mock us. No, it isn’t.

After all of this, people have no shame in using products that are a result of selfless service to science and academic scholarship. Consider the vaccines, cell phones, modern drugs, genetic testing, meteorology, high-yield crops, LASER based technologies… the list goes on and on highlighting important contributions made just by scientists with Ph.D.s, let alone economists and engineers. Nobody appreciates the training in grad school that made these discoveries and inventions possible.

You would think by the 21st century people would appreciate science and scientists. Yet it seems that unless you are Richard Dawkins and have to mock religion, you cannot be recognized as a scientist.

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem be sure that you are not first, in fact, surrounded by assholes.

In the midst of my gloominess, I was encouraged by a FB post that said “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem be sure that you are not first, in fact, surrounded by assholes.”

I think I am surrounded by assholes and I need to cut a few people off from my life altogether.

Misplaced satire


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The case of Megan Huntsman, a woman who allegedly took the life of six of her children, is indeed tragic. She was (rightfully) arrested and her mental health should be monitored closely. No one is really on her side. Oh, wait. Except for this guy…


Nah… he’s just messing with ya, you dope. Can’t you see the satire? It’s really funny. You see, he took the Megan Huntsman case, turned it into a conversation on abortion rights and then totally misrepresented the views of people who are pro-choice! That’s just hilariously funny…

In case Mr. Walsh doesn’t publish my comment on his blog, I thought I would paste it here

Hi Matt,

Have you ever heard of a ‘strawman argument’? Well, that is what you are guilty of here. I must admit that you are quite the satirist, but you are also misleading people to a great extent. From the number of likes and shares of your article, it is clear that you are popular. That means you should be a little bit more responsible with your blogs.

Let me ask you (and let’s see if you have the answer), how many pro-choice advocates have really come out in support of this woman? The last time I checked, the only ‘Free Megan Huntsman campaigns’ around on the web are actually satirical. The case in question has nothing to do with abortion, you know that very well. Yet, you decided to fallaciously twist the story to a different issue (abortion), misrepresent the views of people on the opposite side of the abortion debate and came out looking cool to all of the so-called ‘pro-life’ individuals here (and probably got people clicking on those ads on your page making you some good money in the process – well played, sir).

While we are on the topic of abortion, here’s a thought. Do you even understand what pro-choice means? If you are pro-life, how come you think a woman should die while giving birth without giving a choice about her own life? Ever heard of the Savita Halapannavar case? You know, the woman who was denied abortion despite the fact that her life was under serious threat? What happened there? An innocent woman and her unborn baby both died. For what? Oh right, it must have been god’s will to kill the woman and her child, who are we to question?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Savita_Halappanavar

Did it ever occur to you that women get pregnant when they are raped, out of no fault of their own. You expect them to carry that child to birth, don’t you? What about mentally retarded women that are raped? Oh, right – god’s will.

Did it ever occur to you what it means to hold your postion? If your mom’s life had been put in jeopardy because of you when you were in her womb, you demand that it is morally upright that your mother should die and that you should be allowed to live. Think about that for a moment and tell me that is not self-serving. Oh, oops. Forgot again – the whole god’s will thing again.

Good for you Matt. I hope the convictions of your followers are re-affirmed with this brilliant article you have written here. It would probably make you feel good about yourself, because all of those progressive lunatics are converting to ‘pro-life’ in droves because of your one article. Catch the satire in that.

Is a feminist really the ‘best man to date’?

Male feminists are a growing bunch. I bet they are a genuine bunch too and good for them. So does that make the rest of us non-feminist men chauvinist pigs? Or does that mean that women don’t find non-feminist males as chauvinists, it’s just that they find male feminists more appealing?

A recent article on HuffPost blatantly says that male feminists are the best type of men to date. Now, if I’m not mistaken, there are probably millions of women out there who are happily married to men that do not consider themselves feminists. Obviously these men must have done something right. I personally think one can be respectful to a woman without having to be a feminist.

Women should have equal rights, I totally agree. We should be considered equals at the workplace, but this does not mean that we are the same. There are differences. If there were no differences between men and women, paternity leaves would be just as long as maternity leaves. Silly example, but you get my point.

I also find that feminism adds a confusing aspect regarding how men should treat women. All women want equal rights as men, but then why are there those that want special treatment from men?

Indeed, feminists actually do not think highly of chivalry. Yet, they don’t have to be jerks when they are afforded such courtesies. It gets even more confusing when courteous men are confused with perverts as this forum shows about a man who offered his seat to able-bodied women on public transport (comment three).  How are we supposed to know what a particular woman thinks about chivalry given the confusing opinions regarding it? I would think that if you consider yourselves as equals then you probably shouldn’t want these courtesies from men. I would also think that if you want me to stand up when you come into a room, you should do the same for people who also deserve respect like the elderly or our teachers.

I digressed somewhat from the point – is a male feminist the best man to date? Well, I think the answer is a clear no. That is because women are different and any woman who thinks there is a ‘best’ man to date is kidding herself. After all, the ‘ladies’ out there who want some kind gentleman to open the door for her and stand up when she walks into a room will  be unpleasantly surprised that her feminist boyfriend wants her to act like a fellow equal, not a lady.

Saudi A-crazia


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So Saudi Arabia, the wonderful freedom-loving country that it is, seems to be in a mood to ban stuff. First they ban people from giving their kids certain names including Rama (because that is the name of a Hindu deity), Benjamin (because that is the name of Israel’s PM) and Alice (don’t even ask). Now a cleric there has issued a fatwa against eating in buffets too.

Funny – you can’t name your kid Alice or eat at a buffet, but you can deny migrant workers their salaries while making them work like slaves and beat up your wife without facing any serious punishment.

Man, am I glad I don’t live there.


Poverty and education in India


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A recent NYT article highlighted how farmers in India who commit suicide leave a great deal of financial burden on their families. The article blames the market reforms of 1991 for the current situation of farmers. Indeed, multi-national corporations like Monsanto have found themselves in the cross-hairs of the debate over to what extent GM crops result in farmer indebtedness. My post is actually not meant to cover that in great detail here, although I do want to write about that in the future.

What struck me about the NYT article, other than the brutally insensitive way the widow of a farmer who committed suicide was treated (like being called a whore, being blackmailed into paying debt immediately after becoming widowed), was the suggestion by a local official that the deceased farmer’s family ‘overspent on their children’s education’ by sending them to private schools. 

Now, the quality of government schools in India is pathetic. Check out this video to see for yourself 

So to suggest that the poor should send their children to incompetent government schools is like telling a person to go to Bernie Madoff to learn how  to make secure investments for themselves. It is of no value to send children to schools that offer poor quality of education. Granted, all government schools do not have such low standards, but without a doubt, private schools do offer better education.

The other fact is that private education in India is really not that expensive as compared to the West, where schools can cost thousands of dollars a month in tuition. In India, we’re talking more like $2/month for some private schools. In fact, growing numbers of India’s poor are sending their kids to private schools. So to suggest that these farmers are overspending on their children’s education is outright ignorance. 

Education is the only way to get these people out of poverty. Either the government needs to improve the quality of public education or they should think about partnering with private schools. In any case, no one should have to feel guilty about spending on their children’s education, especially not the poor.

WTF NYT? Did you let a tea-bagger write a column for you?


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This is regarding the New York Times article published on Feb 15th titled ‘Yes, the Wealthy Can Be Deserving’. 

The author is a Harvard Economics professor so I am assuming he is hard-working and smart to have reached that position. Nonetheless, he rarely makes any argument from Economics to support his view.

Dr. Mankiw (the author) starts off talking about how Robert Downey Jr. made ‘only’ 3% of the revenue of his blockbuster movie ‘The Avengers’ meaning that for every $8 movie ticket purchased, Downey Jr. would make 25 cents and that the general public would be willing to pay him that much for his performance. This, the author argues is not perturbing to the general public. Well, he probably hasn’t heard everyone’s opinion on this, because I for one actually am perturbed that Downey Jr. makes that much. Not because I dislike Downey Jr., or even because I think he should not deserve 3% royalties from his movie. It is rather because his pay is representative of social priorities as a whole. 

Consider how much money Americans spend on entertainment, alcohol and smoking products and compare that to how much Americans spend on, say, education and you will notice why I get grumpy when someone tells me a multi-millionaire actor deserves his paycheck. Priorities are wrong. In the period between 2000 and 2006 Americans managed to increase their annual spending on entertainment by 50%! 50 f—ing%! The next time somebody asks for lower taxes, maybe they should be asked how much money they are blowing away on getting drunk while watching Miley Cyrus twerking at a concert. It took a recession for Americans to wake up and cut back on Entertainment spending. Although I bet that number has gone up again now that we are recovering from the recession. At the same time, the US government budget for Education, Science research and welfare programs for the homeless have actually SHRUNK adjusted for inflation and remained flat otherwise over the last 5 years. This is despicable.

Coming back to the article, another tiff I had with the author is his constant defense of CEO salaries (even though the data says CEO salary is not linked to productivity or even integrity). I was particularly angered by this statement “Greater risk requires greater reward.” 

Really Dr. Mankiw. Then why is it that police officers, fire fighters, combatants, miners and construction workers are given pitiable rewards considering that their jobs put them at the greatest risk of all – losing their life? To people like Dr. Mankiw, a billionaire wall street banker losing a few million is a big risk, but a police officer losing his life trying to protect people just like him doesn’t seem to be a big risk. That statement is an insult, not a good argument.

To end the article, the usual rhetoric of the tax dollars from the rich helping fund schools, the police blah blah is made (he did include military though, surprise surprise).  But really – how much of the budget goes into this? How much money goes into education vs. waging wars? Public welfare vs. corporate tax breaks? Who is he kidding? The super-rich associate with politicians to get their way with the tax money that they (and all Americans) have put in. He forgot to mention that key point.

Most surprising is actually that NY Times let this guy write a piece for them. Didn’t realize NYT is leaning towards the right-wing ideology now.