Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dharma for Dhamra

Here's a comment published from my post on Olive Ridley. I find it surprising that it still remains my most popular post. I wonder why?

Says Meghna, "Tata Steel has always maintained a strong focus on environment sustainability and environment management in all its operations. We have seen that in the issues regarding the construction of a deep-sea port at Dhamra in Orissa, the Company has been forthcoming in sharing the concerns of activists and ever willing to implement practical means of mitigating any adverse impact of port construction on the marine eco-system in that area. The Company has held at least eight to nine sessions of meetings with Greenpeace and other environmental organizations in the matter of Dhamra Port. Tata Steel has made it abundantly clear that it is willing to have further discussions in order to alleviate any unnecessary doubts that the dissenters may yet nurture against the project.

Here is an outline of events as they happened till date.

The JV agreement with L&T to build a port at Dhamra was signed by Tata Steel in 2004. At the very onset, discussions were initiated with WWF- India, BNHS, Mr Kartik Shankar, Mr Bittu Sehagal and others.

The company was duly concerned with the objections raised by different environmental organizations and agreed not to begin construction work till a detailed study was complete. Responding wholeheartedly to the demands of activists, Tata Steel agreed for a proposal for a further study of the impact of the port on turtles and on the marine and island eco-system.

In 2005, BNHS and WWF-India, with an unprecedented suddenness, reversed their stand and refused to conduct the assessment study as they had promised. However, the organisations did not provide any reasons for their turncoat attitude.

In March 06, in an address to ED, Greenpeace India, the Chairman of TATA Sons made it clear that commitments were meant to be honoured at both ends. The Company had fulfilled their promise by withholding construction work for the proposed study, which never actually took off. The MD of Tata Steel also met Greenpeace officials in their Bangalore office.

In January 2008 a meeting was subsequently conducted between Greenpeace and Tata Steel and a list of concerns was presented by Greenpeace with regard to Dhamra Port. DPCL on 8th March 2008, gave a detailed and comprehensive explanation to all the points raised by Greenpeace. Subsequent objections were allayed on 3rd May 2008.

Further on 23rd October 2008, MD, Tata Steel along with senior executives of Tata Steel, L&T and DPCL met Greenpeace, BNHS, WPSI, Wild Society of Orissa, Sanctuary Asia and other environmental organizations to discuss the concerns and the way forward on the subject with regard to Dhamra Port.

A team of Company Executives and environment experts visited Bhitarakanika National Park, Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and the Dhamra Port site on February 2009, supervising the ongoing dredging operations.

On fourth meeting on 20th Feb 2009 in Kolkata, Tata Steel, L&T and DPCL agreed to conduct the additional biological impact assessment in close collaboration with NGOs’ of environmental organizations team led by a mutually agreed upon Scientists team. However the NGOs’ in a further instance of unreasonableness, insisted upon complete cessation of on-going dredging operation of Dhamra Port even before the commencement of study. However DPCL, Tata Steel and L&T team showed it preparedness to adjust the schedule of works including dredging to facilitate the study after due recommendation by the Scientists team.

The 102nd AGM of Tata Steel had been attended by a number of Greenpeace activists who happen to be shareholders of the Company as well. The AGM highlighted Tata Steel’s interests in further conference with Greenpeace in the matter of the port in addition to an invitation to activists to visit the port site yet again.

From the sequence of events, it is absolutely clear that the only thing that Greenpeace wants is to prolong the situation of deadlock in the matter of Dhamra Port. Perhaps, due to a lack of other valid issues on their agenda, Greenpeace is carrying on with a stance of stiffness, lest they have to give in to valid scientific reasoning. The only deduction that may be drawn from Greenpeace’s lack of willingness in discussion is that they have lost their own conviction long before and fear that they will have to admit it as such in an open forum. It is indeed a very sorry state of affairs in which progress is kept at stake and the environment is being used as a pawn by people who profess themselves to be friends of the environment. "

Wow!! That's easily the longest comment posted on my blog. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taking Case: A sign of aggression?

Thanks to Mr. Gurudutt Mundkur, I read this interesting piece on sense of humour, published in the Journal of Pragmatics.

Helga Kotthoff, of the Frieburg University of Education, claims that dominant people exploit the ability to make others laugh as a degree of control to show that they are in charge.

When I look back, I wonder if that was what case-taking was all about. To me, it was what people with sense of humour had indulged in. And it was exclusively mutual (as opposed to mutually exclusive? Well. Sheepish smile.) If anything, it was a defense mechanism. It was to conceal the demons in your life. Your sense of humour is like those hummer wheels, which could help you overcome the obstacle-laden path that is life. As a popular humourist once said, it is with humour that you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.

"Those 'on top' are more free to make others laugh. They are also at more liberty to be more aggressive. A lot of what is funny is making jokes at someone else's expense," the Telegraph quoted her as saying.

"Displaying humour means taking control of the situation from those higher up the hierarchy and this is risky for people of lower status, which before the 1960s meant women rarely made other people laugh -- they couldn't afford to."

Interesting thoughts, I must admit. Have you ever experienced a situation when you were forced to laugh at a superior’s joke? Even when you thought it wasn’t remotely funny. Or choose to laugh only because you mean no offence.

According to Kotthoff, the differences between men's and women's ability to become comedians starts very young. She supports this by pointing out that boys as young as four can be seen telling more jokes, frolicking, and clowning about, whereas the girls tend to be the ones doing the laughing.

However, she adds, women tend to become funnier at a later age because they feel freer to not be seen as ladylike. Kotthoff thinks that humour, including teasing, is a mix of "bonding and biting", which is often used by women to form social bonds with their friends.

Men, on the other hand, often use humour to vent frustration, she says. However, Kotthoff says, both sexes use comedy as a means of controlling others.
But Helga’s last claim really blew my head off. "A study in the late 1980s showed that men use sexual jokes as a way of verbally undressing a woman who rebuts his advances; his humour was aggressive in essence," she said. I’m sure that’s not true, if the audience is well acquainted with the, for the lack of a better word, speaker or performer. For instance, I’d really like to know if this is how it is interpreted between friends.

To my relief, nothing was mentioned about punsters, or those who indulge in harmless wordplay. But then, there is definitely a case of one-upmanship, or if I’m allowed to say so, pun-upmanship. It’s certainly an ego-boost, much like deciphering a cryptic clue in The Hindu crossword, or working out a quiz question. And then, there’s a tacit understanding among punsters. To always acknowledge another’s attempt at word play. Since we all know those who do not enjoy a pun are those who believe, "Even I could’ve thought of that one!"

So, what do think? Humour me. Please!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Air Guitar Tips – No Strings Attached!

Here’s talent that’s hardly taken seriously. Ask connoisseurs of this art form, and they’ll have you believe that Air Guitaring, far from being tongue in cheek, is about the tongue being brandished openly and unabashedly, Kiss-style. Suffice it to say, it is an art form whose time is yet to come.

Air guitars, though never seen, are believed to be quite similar to an electric guitar, the notable difference being that it is indeed, made entirely of air. And while it certainly seems easier to master than the conventional one, Air Guitaring has just about one... no, make that two prerequisites – observation and imagination.

When a great 6-year old philosopher once said, “Why bother with years of hard work in pursuit of knowledge, when ignorance is instantaneous?”, he was certainly not talking about air guitaring. Yours truly, having watched several maestros and their air guitars (figuratively speaking) since his days of doing-absolutely-nothing in Manipal, will say that there is more to it than what meets the eye.

The first, and only rule is to overcome your inhibitions. Just as it is with singing, writing, dancing, or even … errr… how do I put it… being great in bed.

Begin by watching others around you. And you’ll easily separate the wheat from the chaff. Most pseudo air guitarists feel conscious, give up playing once they see you observing them, and just relegate themselves to that absolute ‘pain-in-the-neck’ – headbanging! The virtuoso air guitarist is completely oblivious of the people around. Either he’s too engrossed in his performance, or he’s too sloshed to be conscious of his activities.

Air Guitaring is more about understanding the song than the audience. If a song doesn’t inspire you enough or send you on an ‘interstellar overdrive’ in your mind, it’ll never get you to ‘pick up’ your air guitar.

The trick is in choosing the right song. You cannot Air Guitar to N sync, or to 50 cent, not unless you have just consumed Columbia’s gross domestic product by the truckloads.

So start with a good ol’ AC/DC. Or Metallica. Just avoid singing while you are air guitaring. Afterall, Bob Dylan would never cover a Jessica Simpson chartbuster, right?

And once you begin, even if you do screw up, you’ll only stand a good chance of becoming as glamorous as the corner barstool in your favourite watering hole. So, Don’t fret! Just wake up the Pete Townshend in you!