Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Friday, September 30, 2005

Quote of the day 9/30/05

Max Reger to a critic, after a scathing review:
"I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. Your review is before me. Soon it will be behind me."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A saintly lady

Rabi'a -al- Adawiyya, often called Rabia Basri, since she was from Basra, Iraq was probably the first female saint of Islam. She lived a few decades after the passing of Prophet Muhammad. She was firmly against rituals, and believed in cleansing oneself of egoistic thought. She was also a vegetarian.

Said she:
I carry a torch in one hand
And a bucket of water in the other:
With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
And put out the flames of Hell
So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
And see the real goal.
She was very Meera-like in her absolute love for the creator.
O my Lord,
if I worship you
from fear of hell, burn me in hell.
If I worship you
from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.
But if I worship you
for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.
Also see 1, 2 and 3. There's also a book on her on Amazon, and a much cheaper version in Overstock.

Incidentally, while digging up info on Rabia Basri, I came across a site for Muslim vegetarians.

Francis Xavier - bigot

This is an excerpt from "The letter from India, to the society of Jesus at Rome, 1543". The author is Francis Xavier. The indoctrination and bigotry exhibited by this gent reminds one of the Taliban.

These children, I trust heartily, by the grace of God, will be much better than their fathers. They show an ardent love for the Divine law, and an extraordinary zeal for learning our holy religion and imparting it to others. Their hatred for idolatry is marvellous. They get into feuds with the heathen about it, and whenever their own parents practise it, they reproach them and come off to tell me at once. Whenever I hear of any act of idolatrous worship, I go to the place with a large band of these children, who very soon load the devil with a greater amount of insult and abuse than he has lately received of honor and worship from their parents, relations, and acquaintances. The children run at the idols, upset them, dash them down, break them to pieces, spit on them, trample on them, kick them about, and in short heap on them every possible outrage.
And there's more
The heathen inhabitants of the country are commonly ignorant of letters, but by no means ignorant of wickedness.
And again, whether God was black or white? For as there is so great a variety of color among men, and the Indians being black themselves, consider their own color the best, they believe that their gods are black. On this account the great majority of their idols are as black as black can be, and moreover are generally so rubbed over with oil as to smell detestably, and seem to be as dirty as they are ugly and horrible to look at.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A spiritual ghazal

I've been listening to a very spiritual ghazal by Hasrat Mohani. You can listen to Abida Parveen's excellent version here (music by Muzaffar Ali), Mehdi Hassan's (very famous) version here, and Jagjit Singh's version here

Raushan jamaal-e-yaar se hai anjuman tamaam
by Hasrat Mohani

raushan jamaal-e-yaar se hai anjuman tamaam
dahakaa huaa hai aatish-e-gul se chaman tamaam

hairat Guruur-e-husn se shoKhii se iztaraab
dil ne bhii tere siikh liye hai.n chalan tamaam

allaah re jism-e-yaar kii Khuubii ke Khud-ba-Khud
ra.ngiiniyo.n me.n Duub gayaa pairahan tamaam

dekho to chasm-e-yaar kii jaaduu nigaahiyaa.N ++
behosh ik nazar me.n hu_ii anjuman tamaam

Shirini-e-Naseem hai soz-o-gudaz-e-Meer **
Hasrat tere sukhan pe hai lutf-e-sukhan tamaam

++ Mehdi Hasan sings it as "husn-e-yaar". I've transcribed Abida's version above.
** Thanks to Sepoy for his comments

Translations of words (from Platts)
raushan = Light, lighted up, alight, illuminated; bright, shining, splendid, luminous
jamaal = Beauty, comeliness
anjuman = Assembly, meeting, company
tamaam = Complete, finished; perfect, entire, whole, full
dahakna = To burn, to blaze; to be burnt;
aatish = Fire, flame; anger, passion, rage
chaman = A bed (in a garden), flower-bed, a flower-garden

Gurur = pride, haughtiness, vanity, vainglory
husn = Goodness, goodliness; comeliness, beauty, pleasingness
shoKhii = Playfulness, fun, mischief; pertness, sauciness; coquetry, wantonness
iztarab = Agitation, perturbation, restlessness, distraction, anxiety

pairahan = Covering, mantle; a long robe; a kind of loose vest
chasm = The eye -- hope, expectation

Shirin = sweetness
Naseem = Naseem Dehlvi, poet, Hasrat Mohani's ustad [Apparently, Abida's CD cover translates the word 'Naseem' literally. I was told by my Urdu teacher that the misra refers to Mohani's ustad]
soz-gudâz= Burning and melting
Meer = Meer Taqi Mir
Hasrat = Hasrat Mohani - takhallus
lutf = delicacy; refinement; elegance, grace, beauty; the beauty or best
sukhan = Speech, language, discourse, word, words

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hinduism and liberalism?

Manushi takes an interesting look into the birth of Bhagiratha.

Religious intolerance in Iraq

There was an interesting discussion on the Iraqi Constitution at WaPo. The participants were, Preeta Bansal , attorney and a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Robert Blitt , international law specialist and senior policy adviser for Iraq at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The situation in Iraq is quite troubling. I've cut and pasted some highlights of the discussion, below.

[..] The drafts have Islamic law principles pervade numerous aspects of the Bill of Rights, and even make the individual rights guarantees in the constitution subject to (and able to be superseded by) Islamic law -- and so the rights guarantees for non-Muslims and non-believers (and even for Muslim believers who do not subscribe to the majority sect or the state-imposed version of Islam) could be impaired by official interpretations of Islam. This is contrary to the requirements of international law, and certainly would undermine a successful democracy in Iraq by chilling rights of expression, political debate and dissent, individual thought, and full participation in political and public life by all Iraqis.

[..] I think it's a decent sign both of the security issues plaguing Iraqis in general, as well as a sign that religious tension and conflict indeed have exacerbated. We such rising religious tension also in the flight of the non-Muslim communities from Iraq (e.g., Chaldo Assyrians, Mandaeans, and others), the bombing of ancient Christian churches in Iraq, and the ever-widening chasm and violence between Sunni and Shi'a Muslim communities.

[..]I would just add to Preeta's comments that the warning signs of religious intolerance run deeper than the shuttering of liquor stores: there have been numerous reports that women - Muslim as well as non-Muslim -- are being compelled to wear the veil against their will, some university campuses are being forced to use separate entrances for men and women, non-Muslims are being forced to renounce their faith, and even barbers are being targeted for assassination as a consequence of offering to shave beards or give "western" haircuts.

The drafts of the constitution currently circulating reject religious freedom in a number of ways: (1) they make Islam not only "a source" of law, but the "basic source of legislation" -- and do not mention other possible sources, such as international human rights obligations (as do many other Muslim countries' constitutions), or the bill of rights guarantees in the constitution itself; (2) they provide that several members of the constitutional court may be shari'a jurists, with no training in civil law -- thus putting the Iraqi judiciary in the company of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan; (3) they provide that no law may be enacted which opposes the principles and rules of Islam, thus putting in the hands of the constitutional court (shari'a) jurists the final authority of determining whether legislation may be enacted; and(4) they provide that most of the bill of rights guarantees -- such as the freedom of religion or the freedom of speech -- may be curtailed by ordinary law.

Read the whole thing here or here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Organized Chaos

From a desi Dr's blog.:
we recieved patients from hospitals, schools, homes, the entire remaining population of new orleans funneled through our doors. our little civilian team along with a couple of other dmat teams set up and ran THE biggest evacuation this country has ever seen

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Salman Rushdie interview

Interview in WaPo.

Montreal, Canada: What are your thoughts on the current inter-faith relations in India and on the usage of Sharia courts instead of constitutional courts in a secular country?

Salman Rushdie: I think the Canadian idea of allowing in the Sharia is very, very dumb indeed. India has been plagued by the existence of a parallel civil code for Muslims, which essentially delivers women into the power of the mullahs.

Master Madan 1927-1942

Master Madan was a young singer who, in his all too brief life, left us some semi-classical gems. A short bio is here. You can listen to Master Madan's songs here.

He died at the age of 14.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Plagiarism Inc

Mr. Ardheshir Cowasjee, of Dawn, lifts an article on Zheng He from a Wikipedia entry, which took major parts from the National Geographic. Shocking that it comes from such a senior and respected journo.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Race, class and natural disasters

Slate finally gives voice to what I have been thinking about.
To be sure, some reporters sidled up to the race and class issue. I heard them ask the storm's New Orleans victims why they hadn't left town when the evacuation call came. Many said they were broke—"I live from paycheck to paycheck," explained one woman. Others said they didn't own a car with which to escape and that they hadn't understood the importance of evacuation.

Storm trivia

In the aftermath of Katrina, trivia buffs may be asking themselves a lot of questions regarding storms. - for example, why and how are storms named? The information below, is cut and pasted from various sources.

The answers to most of these questions can be found in the National Hurricane Center website. First, their reason for naming hurricanes:

Why are hurricanes named after people?
The use of easily remembered names greatly reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms occur at the same time. For example, one hurricane can be moving slowly westward in the Gulf of Mexico , while at exactly the same time anothe hurricane can be moving rapidly Northward along the Atlantic coast. In the past, confusion and false rumors have arisen when storm advisories broadcast from radio statio were mistaken for warning concerning an entirely different storm located hundreds of miles away.

How are hurricanes named?
For several hundred years many hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint's day on which the hurricane occurred. [..] Tannehill also tells of Clement Wragge, an Australian meteorologist who began giving women's names to tropical storms before the end of the l9th century. An early example of the use of a woman's name for a storm was in the novel "Storm" by George R . Stewart, published by Random House in 1941, and since filmed by Walt Disney. During World War II this practice became widespread in weather map discussions among forecasters, especially Air Force and Navy meteorologists who plotted the movements of storms over the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean.In 1953, the United States abandoned as confusing a two-year old plan to name storms by a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie) when a new, international phonetic alphabet was introduced. That year, this Nation's weather services began using female names for storms.

The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men's and women's names were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists. In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

When are hurricane names retired?
Whenever a hurricane has had a major impact, any country affected by the storm can request that the name of the hurricane be “retired” by agreement of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Where can I find the names of storms occurring across the world?
Here. The ones to follow Katrina are : Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rita, Stan, Tammy
Vince, Wilma.

Only the Fijian storms have Hindu-sounding names: Meena, Nisha, Mona, and Gita.

Related site: Hurricane Hunters.