It has been exactly three months since my last post. I need to write more but being a student is so hard!! Who cares!
So I need to update. One important update that comes first to my mind is that Loudspeaker has gone back to India.
So his bicycle was outside his laboratory and me and my roomie were walking towards the library. When I got to know that the lone bike was loudspeaker’s my mind raced. I had to get the message across ‘loud’ and clear. So whipped out a pen and stuck a not on his bike that said ‘You speak so loudly’. I happened to hear his reaction first-hand on phone when I had called my PhD roomie who works with him in his lab. He was saying (loudly) “Someone has played a prank on me…. ” Some people never learn do they!
Today my close friend must have got married. Wish her the choicest blessings and warm wishes for the new beginning in her life!
“A U.S. human rights activist trying to raise global attention about the suffering of the North Korean people has crossed into the reclusive state, other activists and South Korean media said on Saturday.
There has been no comment from North Korea, which usually arrests foreign border crossers on site, or from U.S. officials.
– Excerpt from Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BP06R20091226
Watch these clips (***Some of them could be disturbing***)
North Korea Daily Life http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITBqRSMBWaM (4:09)
North Korean Camps - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FZMwoY7DyM (19:30) (Viewer Discretion advised!)
Escape from North Korea http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0EeXTG4mWw This report follows one family’s escape from North Korea
A Documentary - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ6E3cShcVU (53:16)
Why is this activist trying to cross into North Korea illegally trying to raise global attention. Global attention for what? Why is North Korea reclusive and why are people suffering? This post deals with these questions.
Here is a little Wiki on North Korean History:
North Korea is a self-described Juche (self-reliant) state with a pronounced cult of personality organized around Kim Il-sung (the founder of North Korea and the country’s first and only president) and his son and heir, Kim Jong-il. Following Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, he was not replaced but instead received the designation of “Eternal President”, and was entombed in the vast Kumsusan Memorial Palace in central Pyongyang.
Although the active position of president has been abolished in deference to the memory of Kim Il-sung, the de facto head of state is Kim Jong-il, who is Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea. The legislature of North Korea is the Supreme People’s Assembly, currently led by President Kim Yong-nam. The other senior government figure isPremier Kim Yong-il.
North Korea is a single-party state. The governing party is the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, a coalition of the Workers’ Party of Korea and two other smaller parties, the Korean Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party. These parties nominate all candidates for office and hold all seats in the Supreme People’s Assembly.
Here’s an image of both North and South Korea at night. It’s said that the difference in the illumination levels is due to the difference in development levels between both states.
Well that does say lot about North Korea. Here’s something about religion in North Korea.
According to Human Rights Watch, free religious activities no longer exist in North Korea as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom. According to Religious Intelligence the situation of religion in North Korea is the following:
- Irreligion: 15,460,000 adherents (64.31% of population, the vast majority of which are adherents of the Juche philosophy)
- Korean shamanism: 3,846,000 adherents (16% of population)
- Cheondoism: 3,245,000 adherents (13.50% of population)
- Buddhism: 1,082,000 adherents (4.50% of population)
- Christianity: 406,000 adherents (1.69% of population)
According to Kim Jong-il’s On the Juche Idea, the application of Juche in state policy entails the following:
- The people must have independence in thought and politics, economic self-sufficiency, and self-reliance in defense.
- Policy must reflect the will and aspirations of the masses and employ them fully in revolution and construction.
- Methods of revolution and construction must be suitable to the situation of the country.
- The most important work of revolution and construction is molding people ideologically as communists and mobilizing them to constructive action.
The Juche outlook requires absolute loyalty to the revolutionary party and leader. In North Korea, these are the Workers’ Party of Korea and Kim Jong-il, respectively.
What is happening within North Korea? Let’s find out.
People following any other religion other than the Juche philosophy are persecuted. People are brainwashed from the the very beginning of their life saying how great their leader is, including school textbooks. Christianity which is a big threat to the Juche philosophy is portrayed as evil and people openly religious are arrested and tortured. Public executions are common occurrences.
Tens of thousands of people are dying of hunger and children grab food wherever they can find them. Anyone suspected can be arrested and thrown in torture cells, irrespective of being women or children. People are brainwashed to that extent that they believe this is how life is, starving, grabbing food and dying. But realization is dawning slowly. Thousands of people are fleeing from the torture. If anyone fleeing is caught the entire family is thrown into a prison camp and tortured. Pregnant women are beaten mercilessly. Most of them end up with miscarriages. People are generally of stunted growth due to being malnourished. The sad story doesn’t end here. Even if they are successful in fleeing the country to China, they still have to be hiding from the Chinese officials. China hands over illegal refugees back to North Korea. Fate of those captured as you may guess is bleak! Those successful in making it to Thailand are handed over by Thai officials to South Korea after imprisonment of some months.
No amount of writing can give you an idea of the torture going on in this place. I know we have our own problems, personal and national, but this is plain human cruelty!!
We need to join hands to spread message about these inhuman acts so as to put pressure on the merciless government of North Korea. Please pass this message on. It is a small way of helping those people who are dying daily of starvation and torture.
Here is an article from the local newspaper here:
A TRULY FREE SOCIETY
Imagine a world of total personal freedom.
While laws would still be enforced, you’d be free to speak your mind at all times, regardless of the social consequences. Whatever was on your mind, whatever you liked, disliked, or were indifferent to, could be spoken without irreparable social retribution.
Let me offer simple parameters, however;personal freedom does not give you license to be a jerk. Being free does not entail interfering with another’s ability to be free. You cannot bully or domineer.Freedom simply requires speaking your mind and acting as you please(within legal limits).
How different would your life be from what it is now?
Would you dress the same way? Men: Would you wear the same faded black t-shirts and loose jeans? Women: Would you wear whats fashionable that year, or would you opt for something more unique?
Consider the role of honesty also. Whatever you think, you could say with total impunity. What would you say to the people you know? What would you say to strangers?
Such freedom comes universally, however. Remember, everyone else has the same personal freedom to do as they please. Honesty comes back into play again. Whatever someone might be thinking about you(or anyone/anything else) they’ll have no problem with sharing it.
Think of the larger social implications, as well. How different would your job be if everyone were suddenly given the opportunity to tell the boss exactly what they thought about “the company good?”
Speaking of jobs, in a world of maximized personal freedom, would anyone work at all?
Living in such a society would require solid security in one’s own perspective and identity. The sheer amount of truth would be overwhelming for anyone else save for the socially ignorant or the sublimely patient.
So would you be able to live in a world where a person’s truth is so prominently displayed?
For better or for worse, our society won’t have to confront the phenomenon en masse. But personal freedom, even in our reality, presents an interesting thought experiment on the human condition. Who considers themselves personally free? Where does personal freedom come from?
Personal freedom stems from two seemingly opposite places; ignorance and perspective. We either act as we please because we don’t know any better, or act as we please because we know our actions are ultimately insignificant in the grander scheme of life. The comparative risk of saying what you think/feel is outweighed by the benefit of being true to our own perspective.
While the hypothetical world I outlined above may sound implausible, I offer this; there are already people who live whole lives maximizing their personal freedom. Now, I don’t know if they’re any happier than the rest of us, but the ones I’ve met rarely carry the weight of the world on their faces.
They usually look… free.
I would like to address two points from this article. Who considers themselves personally free? Where does personal freedom come from?
When do I feel free? Take the case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia. She was a victim of domestic violence in England. One day she could take it no more after years of being subjected to torture and she burnt her husband to death. While that is not the point of discussion here, the first words that she said when she went to prison was this: ” I’ve never felt this free before”. How can someone feel free even in prison?
The other day we were rating our tendency to feel free on a scale of 1 -10 and one of us said 10! She chose it to look at it that way and that’s why she feels free! Interestingly, we talked about being bound as well. Case in point, we compared being single (and ready to mingle) and being married. Getting committed into a marriage is being bounded for the rest of your life, but when you have found your soulmate, the one who you pour out your love to, even though in a way it is like being bound, it is still being free. In a way, I feel that is because the search has ended or you know this is the person you are sharing and caring for for the rest of your life and that sets you free. Same is the case with the purpose of life. If you have found it you know that is your being and your call and that is freedom from aimless travelling without a destination. You know where you are heading towards and that is all you need! It is all in the attitude. Like the article says it is in the perspective!
Where does this freedom stem from?
I read this somewhere:“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.” ~Thucydides
True! When you pursue your life’s purpose, you derive joy. For the freedom to do it, you need courage! There is fear of failure, success, fear of change and reaction to that change. But ultimately overcoming these fears gives the freedom to be the person who you really are. I feel that is where personal freedom comes from, from courage to change and to pursue your dreams!
The question is how to overcome these fears? Quoting John Bunyan (I found this here, kind of related from a different angle (again in a different perspective!) : http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2010/02/01/on-the-importance-of-“no”-2/)
“For all that I have suffered, I do not regret the problems that I have faced – because they are what brought me to where I wanted to arrive. Now that I am close to death, all that I have is this sword, and I hand it over to whoever wants to follow their pilgrimage.
“I carry with me all the marks and scars of the combats – they are the witnesses of what I have lived through, and the rewards for what I have conquered. It is these cherished marks and scars that will open for me the gates of Heaven.
“There was a time when I was always hearing stories of bravery. There was a time when I lived only because I needed to live. But now I live because I am a warrior, and because one day I want to be in the company of Him in whose name I have fought so hard.”
That attitude does help to overcome fear!
We got acquainted through our PhD roommate to a character we all have named ‘Loudspeaker’. I’ve never seen or met someone like him before, in my life. From what my roomie describes, he is loud(once he came to collect his bike that he had left at our place early in the morning… we all lost sleep due to the decibel level), he is so full of himself and completely condescending in every which way possible! He says his parents are ‘peculiar people! and has numerous conditions to be satisfied for his wife-to-be which I don’t think any human can fulfill. If you go to him with a problem, you are sure to forget about it, because he creates other new ones for you!
Me and PhD guy were getting ready for a formal event. PhD guy doesn’t want to wear his formals that have shrunk, but has to. So he squeezes himself into his shabby trousers and is hardly able to breathe. We are almost just half an hour away from when the event ends and so we are unforgivably late already. Midway he realizes that his ‘fly’ is open. But the zipper has gone crazy so it doesn’t close.He decides he’ll manage the situation by using his file as a ‘shield’.
Tragedy strikes when we come face to face with ‘loudspeaker’ soon. He says he’s not attending the event and that it is useless. Then he sees the trousers and says ” Are you going with that on?” PhD roomie gives a ‘deer caught in the headlights’ expression and is petrified that his secret zipper has been opened wide. And he looks down, to see the file. He had been talking about his shabby trousers.
We both head back home and decide to change into jeans and make whatever possible out of the event. 15 minutes later roomie emerges out of the bathroom. Never try to wear something that doesn’t fit you especially if it is smaller. Pressure!
Last week the ISA held its Freshers’ ‘party’. The name is a misnomer though. it is not like a party as such, but a ‘cultural fest’ so to say. Well we in the band had 5 songs lined up and I was in four of them (which is why it took up so much of my time..). I had auditioned for singing remember? Well I was selected as (drumroll please .. pun totally unintended!) percussionist. I have learnt to play the mridangam for seven years ( keeping in account the various places through out India I’ve been to, and every teacher would teach in his ‘style’ making me a beginner even after 7 years.. long story!), which was qualification enough for them to induct me! I got to play what is called a ‘Naal’ (similar to a dholak), the octopad, and the drums. (None of these which I have ever touched before in my life, well maybe except for the drums at the church!). We had four consecutive songs in which I had to play. The first one was a medley of hindi songs from the 50s to the 90s (in which the dholak found place in two songs), followed by Beedi from Omkara. The next one ‘Saiyaan’ by kailash Kher required of me to play ‘the pad’. And lastly ‘Veerapandi Koattaiyilae’ from Thiruda Thiruda where I had to handle THE drums!
The stage was set and lights on. And the name of the band was announced. And the musicians went on stage. behind all this was an investment in time, effort and energy by everybody for the previous two weeks. For me it was a learning experience and a not so easy one too, because although I may have a rhythm sense due to my previous tryst with the mridangam, I had no idea of how those beat formations were actually played on the dholak or the pads. It took me just upto the last day of practice to get my beats right for the oldies ‘tu ganga ki mauj mein’ and ‘Dekha ek khwab’ from Silsilay, both of these songs which I’ve never ever heard before in my lifetime!
Then came the bomb in the second week that I had another song to play. ‘Saiyaan’ by kailash Kher, and that too on pads, because it requires the tabla too which the main percussionist would play. Oh and to get the hand foot co-ordination was really hard. But it did come out well in the end. Towards the end of this performance on stage, power went out and the pads were useless! But thankfully something happened inside me and I actually jumped on stage from the pads to the drums and continued the song, like a monkey sprinting from one tree to another! Memorable moment!
And then the tamil song. Pretty much simple beats on the drums. And it proved to be a superhit with the junta.
And so the band was called out on to stage for the first performance. I had always assumed ‘Beedi’ was the first song. A small detail I had overlooked. There was to be a sound check ‘song’ before that. And I had completely forgotten about that. And I too got on stage , and sat down with the naal for Beedi. And they start with “Here I am’!!. Half a sentence into song, it makes sense, that I look stupid on stage with a dholak, for a western song, I couldn’t even fake beat the dholak! Well I smile and hope the song is over quickly. After what seemed like an eternity, it did get over. And I managed to keep a straight face. However, I am sure, the more observant from the audience must have wondered what the dholak guy was doing on stage for that song! I never felt that embarrassed in public before. It is so much fun to laugh at yourself!
It has been 6 months since I came here to Tempe,AZ. The sun, cactus, the light rail and annoying mexican trumpety music in the Food City, all have become part of life ( Can’t figure why the Food City guys can’t change the music for a bit at least, not the mexican part, but the trumpety thing. So annoying when you are trying to find out which option is the cheapest, easiest to cook and of good quality all at the same time. Such a pain!!)
Cooking has become an integral part of all our lives now. I say all our lives because we have got used to each other’s dishes in addition to our own. This is a busy semester for me at school with so much going around. Two very tough courses, Indian Student Association activities, music practice and what not.
Initially it was so nerve wrecking getting used to living upside down. Different traffic rules, different lanes for driving (I haven’t started driving yet, but for the bike), even different switches (up for ‘on’ and down for ‘off’!) So different. And of course, embarassingly, no water in the restrooms (err.. lets not talk about that!)
By the way, who watches movies like Final Destination. Good God! I saw that in 3D for crying out loud and I was really crying out loud by the end of it! and these other people in the theatre were laughing at those gory scenes. Ugh!
By the way this time name problem got solved for a bit, because the Border Protection Officer at NY airport knew of the ‘NoLastName’ business thankfully! And now I’ve no surname in my I-94 too, yay!!! (Does that sound weird!)
September 19 is going to be the big Indian music/dance night so waiting for it! Practice on for several days now. Countdown on..
School has started. One of my professors, talks exactly like David, the ex-boy friend of Phoebe from friends. It’s quite funny, attending that class. These days I’ve started wrapping lunches for me, as I have become a hungry bookworm, because I go to the library. Most of the time there is spent in checking for incoming mails, which are so scarce or other stuff on facebook. Reading in the library is to a hazardous minimum. As a result my stomach is upset now, as I made homemade burritos from yesterday’s leftovers. It was yum when I ate it hungrily and now it feels yuck.
Yesterday we talked about leading and following. I realized I couldn’t think of things that I didn’t lead well. Social interaction experiment proved successful. The Ice Breaker event was a huge success. I was supposed to be one of the organisers who gets into the team to hype up the participants. And I was in my element. Shouting, encouraging, bringing up girsl and boys to shed the shyness and jump onto the stage. And I spoke to a lot of new people. Turns out one of my juniors from my undergrad is here too. Looking forward to take part in the fresher’s talent hunt. Planning to sing, I dunno how many plan on hearing me though! . Looking forward for the auditions.
Speaking of auditions, you should check out the X factor auditions by Danyl Johnson. He owned the stage totally for a first audition. Today I met a new guy from the same place I am from. Sometimes i don’t know why i get negative vibes from someone. In the long run my gut speaks the truth! Nevertheless, I did give him my e-mail id and told him to ask for any kind of assistance he needed. It felt weird!
Past few days have been getting on to my nerves. Whew.. Today’s post is a neutral one. Not funny, neither serious!
Phew.. Long gap. I would say I have been keeping busy, most wont believe that! I mean this is the place where I force apparently ‘funny’ posts almost daily! That is enough evidence.
5 days and I leave India back to Arizona. I remember that ‘eye-sobber’ post when I left Arizona for India. This is nothing of that sorts. This is much worse. But lets not make it a pity-me-party fest! Now that my sister is gone, and time to go is much nearer, all I needed was a bad birthday. Top that with a loss of another friend from my ‘count on the fingers of one hand’ number. Gee, that sounds really pathetic! Soon I will lose all my fingers (Hey I mean the count not my fingers really!) and will be a lonely soul left to fend for himself (erm., don’t imagine me on the streets!)
Well it is always entertaining to read such stories because they seem funny always! So yesterday I learn I lose this person. (Probably there is some problem with me, that I have always known! What that is , don’t ask me!) and so I plan to go to bed early, but sleep doesn’t come so easy. So I sleep at 5 a.m (or sometime later,’ coz that was the time I last saw the clock). But blundering me had asked mom to wake me up at 10 a.m (that is pretty early if you wake up at 2 p.m!) today. But it was 2 a.m when I told her this ( No I didn’t wake her up to tell this, she jus happened to be coughing in sleep when I squeezed in the request!). ( Re read this part, mighty confusing with a lot of times!). The last thought when I dozed off was, I hope mom’s ’waking-my-dozing-son- in -vain’ attempts fail like they always do.
Next day 10 a.m. Mom was on the dot. Today she is commited to the request made by me, with ultimate determination. The usual wake up call (That’s just calling two times ‘XYZ get up. You told me to wake you up!’ in the sweetest of motherly voices) It didn’t work like always. Curtains thrown open, bringing in annoying chirps of thousands of birds, flodding sunlight and shouting vegetable vendors. And she forgets to close the door. The television with extra bass and surround on feature (both of which are turned on by her today forgetfully and regrettably!) blares outside and the bump-thump-thumpety thump of some irritating tamil film music from a 24 hour music channel fills my ears. The noise is much more irritating when you try to sleep. Soon my mind is uncontrollably trying to figure out what song it is.
I discovered that pillows covering your ears just enhance the bass sound, and also filter in the much reduced vocal audio. So I finally guess the song, and my mind plays it along. Then miraculously power fails. Ah! Then I hear swich swash, the annoyingly loud filling of water from the bathroom where mother is cleaning it.
This is it! I cleanch my teeth, switch off the fan and start the day!