Tuesday, January 31, 2006

koff koff

tis time for another big beaming smile, because i just can't be fashionably nonchalant and calm about this.... ples to see sthreeling when you have time.*

* that was only to sound polite: its more like NOW!! ;-)


Friday, January 27, 2006

singing from rooftops!

i am beaming happily.

last night two friends and i went out for dinner. and in the parking lot, one of the attendants looked remarkably like the guy who abused me when i was 15. i saw him, got ready to fight.... and realised it wasnt that dude after all and walked away. we had a perfectly pleasant dinner, chatted and joked. slow reactions as ever, but for the last two hours its been hitting me in waves of happiness that i was able to do that :-)

my god, it feels so stunning to be so unconcerned about him! it was a big jolt actually - i hadnt seen anyone who looked like him in years. and then plonk! this specimen landed before me : and-i-wasnt--sick! yipee! (excuse me while i prance around my room :D)

sure, there will probably be lots more work to do, probably many more lousy patches when i all want to do is drop dead, but oh wow. these bonuses keep me going through those! im so thrilled that too, that i managed to feel furious seeing him. much wonderfulness! tis quite different person from the totally non-confrontational being i used to be...

last year's revelation was being able to be completely expressionless and in control when some dumbasses were joking about csa. two months earlier i wouldve flown at their throats but by then - it was cool. none of the dumb, crude, insensitive jokes brought me down.

and this years is even better! :-) why am i telling you all this? hell - i just feel like yelling from rooftops that im ok. that im so happy!

indeed, i rise, i rise, i rise. oh yes. its a very bearable lightness of being, mr kundera!


Friday, January 20, 2006

i dont really consider myself a flowersy person but this one sets my heart singing! arent gerbaras gorgeous?!

life is beautiful! ... have a lovely weekend you folks :)


Monday, January 16, 2006

woes of a wildlife biologist

ive just heard a diatribe against "silly clunches who think that animals are going to do one bloody catwalk before their goggling eyes... BAH!", and figured... why just me? you hear all about it too. i know... im a darling at times! :D

G. is what is called a field person. if youve ever done any footwork, youll appreciate all the little squiggles of nuances that are attached to that word. and youll probably join us in saying "oh. (s)he's an admin" in a meaningful way, the very neutrality of your voice underscoring the unspoken contempt for that lowly species!

so anyway, G. spent 2 years in the jungles of the western ghats, clambering first after each of her study animals. shes lived the typical dedicated wildlife biologists life: gloried in the pristine forests of bioreserves, watched wild animals stalk their prey, scooted out of the way of a stealthily approaching elephant, bathed in rivers, carried buckets of water to her field station, lived in tribal settlements and learnt to speak their musical sounding tongue, been bitten by ticks and leeches, walked up to 30 kms a day to reach her field site each day, and returned home each time with the most gorgeous tan and a big happy grin.

she is quite cuckoo, but harmless - not your violent sort of lunatic. until you ask her a certain set of questions that is ....

*excitedly* ohhh! have you seen a gorilla in the forest?

*through clenched teeth* no.

*hopefully* at least an orangutan?

(hmm. this specimen's days are numbered)


*disappointed* chimpanzee?


at which point, though im no beauty pageant contestant, i anyway work for world peace and hold G. back from mauling the interrogator on the spot.

its stunning how many people watch nat geo or discovery or animal planet, and think all that african wildlife they see is omnipresent. or even worse, think that all you have to do is walk into the nearest jungle and announce your presence for all the animals to come out tripping over themselves to parade before you and shove their muzzles under your nose so youll get a satisfactorily close look at them.

while im for kids watching these (much maligned by G.!) channels, i do also share her opinion of these Types. (yes, you have to carefully suppress a rising BP and say that long sufferingly!) probably if, as she keeps saying, indian film-makers shot more documentaries, we would have equally well flaunted (im tempted to say marketed) fauna. no its not important to the animals ego that you are able to identify it, but good conservation effort requires community involvement, and is based on a degree of awareness.

see, you cannot do anything with specimens who come up to you demanding “where are the cheetahsleopardsjaguarslionstigers?” as soon as they come to the forest site. yes, it really happens – tis the woe of all the forest officials, rangers, trackers, biologists etc. just when they draw a deep breath to explain that cheetahs are extinct in India, they will be silenced by the final demand for a glimpse of that mythical beast, the black panther. at that point, probably a couple of these long suffering folks go bungee jumping without a rope.

for an example of absolutely mind blowing biodiversity, but terribly ignored by the locals, look at us. its a consuming experience watching the animals in our forests*
* youre consumed by the ticks and mites, and there's an incredible lot of stuff to see, smell and hear

for an example of wildlife becoming an absolute brand - africa. (yes, i speak with much envy!) they just need to have a piddly two birds (oh alright, and a rhino or three) and voila! the areas fenced off, there are "Affffrican Safaaari!"s for you to get fleeced on, and you can "kom buy your Safaaari souveniers!" while youre there. (might as well get ripped off in style).

there's this huge park in the outer reaches of johannesburg, dedicated to indigenous varieties. they imaginatively have a lottery thingy, where the prize is "give your garden a free makeover! exotic indigenous plants to make your garden look gorgeous!". the government has (smartly) cottoned on to the threat of introduced species contaminating the local gene pool, sucking up all the water in the land and choking off the local plants, and so has been pulling out the younger firang varieties to substitute em. the old trees stay of course. (ahem ahem. India … rice varieties.. when will we listen to them?)

anyway, this park happened to also be the home of a nesting black eagle. these people promptly cordoned off the area, set up cameras near the nest, and kept the city aware of the eggs cracking, the state of the young birds and so on,until the whole community was as enthralled and involved with the birds welfare as the biologists! did i mention theyre now seeing generations of the black eagles nesting there? - fantastic eh! while im not for all of africas practices in promoting their wildlife, certainly a good number are worth adopting.

until we do, people like G. will be seen climbing trees (um, out of frustration this time, not for honey!)…

ps: I need the entertainment – if anyone would like to ask her where you can see a gorilla, please do leave a request here!! :D


Monday, January 09, 2006

yoni worship

The Series:

feminism in indian culture
the origins of a tradition
shakthi worship and philosophy
yoni worship

* * *
in a culture of such reverence for the feminine, you bet you can find at least a small cult to salute the yoni!

the yoni yantra, basically a triangle, represents the mother goddess, and indicates the cosmic womb, and hence the source of life. the yoni is considered the doorway to understanding the mysteries of the universe. in ritualism, this gets represented as sculptures of the goddess lying with her legs spread, or standing with her feet apart so that worshippers may stand at the yonic entrance and symbolically drink the yoni tattva (her menstrual blood) to assimilate it as the sublime essence of the world.

the goddess with her yoni shown for worship, and a lotus budding from her neck to signify creation

the yoni tantra divides the yoni into 10 parts, each of which is considered a manifestation of the divine feminine (devi). also, (interestingly!) in shaktha philosophy, menstrual blood is considered sacred, and menstruating women are revered. during her periods, a woman's body consciousness being keener, she experiences a drawing in of energy and feelings to a deeper level of consciousness. it is believed that during her periods, the different rhythms that set in in her body are more closely related to those of nature. since the body is considered a microcosm of the universe, understanding and praying to the feminine is a way of understanding and revering the divine.

the yoni is often compared to a lotus. just as the flower remains pristine despite the water and mosses surrounding it, the yoni is believed to be pure, no matter how many times it menstruates or engages in intercourse. also, as water represents consciousness, and the flower (yoni) is rooted in consciousness, it is said to support all life and creation. while this is a slightly off-beat view, popular religion also depicts several gods and goddesses as being seated on lotuses.

radha and krishna seated on a lotus

* * *

what ive written of the tantric and shaktha schools is the bare essentials of their philosophy. imho, they started out with a good concept but later got carried away, so im sticking to what appeals and makes sense to me!

also since i dont want to get into religion proper, fascinating as they are, im skipping the kali and durga female archetypes and the fantastic tales about them (with much regret!). but please do read that mookerjee book - 'tis the nicest ive come across so far on this subject... especially if youre a woman, gosh, its awesome reading! :D


shakthi worship & philosophy

The Series:

feminism in indian culture
the origins of a tradition
shakthi worship and philosophy
yoni worship

* * *
the sanskrit word shakthi means force, the feminine energy. it is regarded as the primordial creative principle that underlies the cosmos, and as the energising force behind all divinity, creatures and beings.

in several scriptures, the personification of shakthi - kali - was said to be the source of the three aspects in divinity,ie creation, protection and transformation. (for example the niravana tantra narrates how brahma, vishnu and shiva were all born of kali; in the kamanda tantra kali is considered to be brahman personified.)

the ritualistic aspects of shaktha philosophy is marked by the pantheon of female deities, each created to worship a different aspect of feminine power. the breasts, bellies, and yonic* entrances of the goddesses are worshipped and touched reverentially as symbols of the source of all life and the focus of cosmic energy. several vessels are used in worship, signifying the shaping of life, and rebirth. the vessels are also a symbol for the idea that the human body is as a vessel for spiritual transformation.

ritual vessel shaped like a yoni

mainstream hinduism retains traces of shaktha philosophy and rituals as well. even now, the main chambers of temples are built as wombs (garba graha - the womb chamber), the overall structure signifying the yonic passage. (emerging from the chamber thus denotes the "reborn" person.) and all our gods and goddesses have bodies which emphasise their feminine nature - wide hips and thighs and so on.

shiva as natraja with feminine thighs and hips

* yoni - (sanskrit) vagina


the origins of a tradition

The Series:

feminism in indian culture
the origins of a tradition
shakthi worship and philosophy
yoni worship

* * *

feminism is usually associated with the movement that started in the west (especially in america). however, all of the old cultures in the world have feminist orientations in that they have all (at least in the beginning) worshipped mother goddesses and celebrated the feminine as divine. patriarchy eventually distorted the cultures and traditions, but nonetheless, these roots do exist. indian culture has a whole school of thought that traces back to a couple of centuries BC. *three cheers for nice ancestors! :D*

pre vedic religion was female - oriented. Aditi was the main goddess, who personified the great womb in which the whole universe was said to be contained. she holds agni in her womb as a mother contains a foetus. the feminine, being regarded as the wellspring of life, almost all the primary gods of the vedic pantheon were born of Aditi.

the vedic period seems to have marked a distinct shift to patriarchy. prithvi and surya, initially goddesses, were cast as male gods in vedic times. several of the goddesses were relegated to the background. however they made a reappearance in post vedic literature and regained their primacy in classical and medieval hinduism. puranic literature gives various names to the universal feminine power. these, and the hundreds of treatises written since 200 AD form the structural body of the philosophy and traditions of shakthi worship. hardly any of these earlier works have survived, but they are discussed in several philosophical and religious works of the shaktha system from post buddhic times to 1200 AD. this knowledge is also the basis of the tantric thought.

medieval hinduism considered women to be feminine divinity manifest. the female consorts of gods were considered the source of the gods' powers, and were often regarded as being more powerful. in several songs, epics and poems, the gods (shiva downwards) voice their inability to manifest or create without the consorts, who however, can exist and manifest without them.

kali dances on a prostrate shiva

(nb: i was thoroughly muddled at first, but this is how it seems to work - the shakthi here, is different from shiva's consort. the nature of the sum of the cosmic force is considered feminine, and this is called shakthi. she thus contains prakrithi and purush.)

in tantrik and shaktha doctrines, the feminine power continues to be held supreme. archetypal women are celebrated in different goddesses, and womanhood is the essence that raises the human being to semi divine status, freeing the mortal from the bonds of stereotypes of beauty and docility.

yashodha suckling krishna.
(far from being taboo, breasts were revered - goddesses were bare breasted,
depicted only with jewellery for adornment)

shaktha philosophy also includes male shakthas (worshippers). for them, the worship activates the feminine qualities in the male. there is sometimes even a ritual tranvestism practised (literally unman-ing), so that the male destructive ego may be shed to allow the feminine to be assumed. vaishnavism still follows this quite strictly. even in the mainstream hinduism we see today, the equal activation and harmonious fusion of male and female qualities is emphasised, using gods like ardhnarishwar.


feminism in indian culture.

The Series:

feminism in indian culture
the origins of a tradition
shakthi worship and philosophy
yoni worship

* * *

i happened to read some interesting snippets about the yonic tradition, and was ab-so-lootly riveted. on further digging around, i found :

1). any real literature on the subject is nearly impossible to find.... how much i had to search! *pant pant*

2). one very nice book - an absolute treasure - on shakthi worship. *yahoo!*

it goes under the deceptively meek name of "kali, the feminine force" and is quite a kick in the pants. highly recommended buy. author, ajit mookerjee. so what follows is basically from this book, with afore mentioned snippet reading, and much grandmother- and other-people-grilling! :d

this is a highly ambitious undertaking i know, but i still have to try! im not going into the interesting depths of the philosophies or symbols, but am sort of merely planting markers to say "oh look, here's this neat thing"..... (and maybe also "whee! isnt this exciting?!" hehe...).

and so, the next three posts are little potlums of feminism in our culture :D

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

m. speaks

hmm. another controversy it would seem, and much vehemence and anger.. and ironically, i seem to be the cause of it, not wikipedia! life is certainly unpredictable :) well, ive heard what youve all had to say.

there has been much talk about whether wikipedia is biased, whether the management is concerned about their being biased, and so forth. whether you choose to heed it or not, wikipedia says “we have a duty to write our articles from a frank and unbiased perspective” (will someone pass me a paper bag please? I think im going to be very sick!)

"Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination." - Andrea Dworkin

calling a woman a member of the "weaker sex" is biased.

calling her a cunt or whore is just purely offensive and hostile no matter where you stand in the spectrum of gender politics.

so while i dont expect wikipedia to be able to control "bias" (despite their assertion) i would - and do - expect them to treat people with respect. maybe it is difficult for them to keep track of their data updation - that doesnt speak too highly for their quality control process, and frankly, im not bleeding sympathy.

to each man who magnanimously overlooks the insult and agrees that it is all for the Glory of (Totally Dubious) Knowledge – not so fast batman: you didn’t lose anything, and weren’t affected by that statement. the privilege of granting forgiveness or ignoring the injury is not yours.

"Women are repeatedly accused of taking things personally. I cannot see any other honest way of taking them." - Marya Mannes

the idea of a body of knowledge, freely available to everyone is indisputably a fantastic one. it may also be only that: an idea, with very real implementation glitches. as a concerned individual i wrote wiki a polite mail showing them the article.

I wrote about it here, when by the way, the same old boring tactic of suppression by trying to be demeaning – “you’re raving”, “you’re ranting” - was tried. if we speak we rave, if we don’t – well, the women aren’t saying anything, so its no big shit, right? ho hum.

you saw the mail I received from them. to still support the use of obscene language employed for no convceivable purpose is discriminatory, sexist behaviour. it says nothing for the encyclopaedia’s professionalism, ethics or integrity. the article does no justice to women, or to the concept of wikipedia.

merely changing one article doesn’t change anything. what could possibly make a difference would be making a vehement enough objection to such sexism, that wikipedia actually bothers to check what its putting up. it has to be a policy level decision. the people behind the show have to make a serious effort. otherwise, you and I can take turns changing and rewriting articles every second day until our senescence – it doesn’t matter a damn.

I understand there are several people out there who seem to think challenging wikipedia amounts to challenging open source, something that shouldn’t (according to them) be allowed at any cost. one, it isn’t about “wikipedia versus feminism” or “wikipedia the last stand of free source”. nobody can force that kind of trade off, and even if they do, as much as I support free source, damned if ill continue to do so when the project abuses me.

and as a parting shot – how would a man like to be defined as a “dickhead” in a free, open source of “knowledge” ?

nothing condones vicious sexism, least of all the cause of spreading awareness.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

tell me another one!

this is in (rather slow) response to something i read about wikipedia and the integrity of the information it presents.

this is a topic of discussion that seems to come up every few months, and when even he was pro wiki, I thought ok, if so many people are so hotly in its favour, let me check again – maybe it has improved. (yes I know, it surprises me too how foolishly optimistic I can be!)

call me cynical, but i don’t think there is such a thing as a neutral source of information in mainstream media. a system like wikipedia that is declared neutral, but without a powerful enough verification system to keep up with the data being entered is bound to be dangerous - take the seigenthaler incident for simple example. (sorry, you'll have to look it up yourself. i refuse to link to that site.)

i dislike wiki. other than when im pulsing, i do not open their links or use wikipedia as a source of information on subjects that involve any possibility of opinion or perspective bias. when it comes to something like semiconductors or circuitry, no doubt wikipedia is competent. beyond that, no thanks. this judgement was based on the sort of stuff that was up for technocracy, feminism and other subjects that i initially explored for on wikipedia.

now i was giving wiki a genuine second chance, see, so i typed a search for something id never looked up before: “woman”.


* 1 Etymology
* 2 Biology and sex
* 3 Legal rights of women historically
o 3.1 Biblical law
* 4 Culture and gender roles
* 5 Terms
o 5.1 Slang
o 5.2 Vulgar terms
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 External links

i beg your pardon? vulgar terms….?! since when did that become the trademark of a good encyclopaedia article on anything? “ho, bitch, cunt” … nice, wholesome education for our fifth graders, no doubt. (“where did you pick up that filthy abusive language?” “why, I read it on wiki ma”)

was this just someone’s idea of presenting “full” information or was it simply yet another instance of women bashing? I searched for “man”. the headings –


* 1 Etymology
* 2 Age
* 3 Biology and sex
* 4 Gender roles
* 5 Further reading
* 6 See also

integrity of information, my foot! like hell ill use that sexist encyclopaedia for anything.


why did i not merely change the article? because it wouldn't address the problem. editing the article changes nothing. what are the politics behind authorising such an article?

i had written to the wikipedia information team about this article. this is what they had to say.

"Thank you for your mail.

In producing an encylcopaedia, we have a duty to write our articles from a frank and unbiased perspective. This means that our articles may contain material that some readers consider objectionable or offensive.

While obviously inappropriate content (such as inappropriate links to 'shock' websites) is usually removed immediately, except from an article directly concerning the content (such as the article about pornography), our policy is that articles may include potentially objectionable text, images, or links, provided they do not violate any of our existing policies, nor the law of the
state of Florida in the United States, where the servers are hosted.

We are up-front about this, and it is clearly stated in our general and content disclaimers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:General_disclaimer and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Content_disclaimer) that Wikipeda is not censored for the protection of minors.

It is unfortunate that Wikipeda contains content that some readers find offensive. However, we are (ambitiously) trying to document all human knowledge, and that means there will always be some material included that individuals may object to."

mighty interesting isn't it. wikipedia cannot now claim mere oversight. the article has the board's approval and backing.

so to sum it up:

1. it's a "frank and unbiased perspective" to teach people to associate "whore"," bitch" and "cunt" synonymously with the word "woman".

2. "our articles may contain material that some readers consider objectionable or offensive"... who cares if the "some readers" are merely those aforesaid "bitches" / "cunts"?

3. "While obviously inappropriate content (such as inappropriate links to 'shock' websites) is usually removed immediately". true. swear words sexualising women are a-ok. so is the picture of a nude woman striking a pose, which was painted on a space craft. that's all in good taste and very appropriate.

"except from an article directly concerning the content (such as the article about pornography)". i dont have the stomach to see if they've linked to a porn site for this.

4. "we are (ambitiously) trying to document all human knowledge, and that means there will always be some material included that individuals may object to." true. i should shut up because this is for the Glory of Knowledge.

we live in interesting times.

technocracy and the media
technocracy and the media - II


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