My First Blog Award: And The Award Goes To

It was a pleasant surprise to receive The Versatile Blogger Award from Rahul of Cognitive Amalgamation last week. This is the first time I have received anything like this so, quite naturally, I am even more not all there.

When one receives this viral peer review kind of award, this is what one is expected to do with it

1. Add a picture of the award in your post.
2. Thank the award giver.
3. Share 7 random facts about you.
4. Choose 15 other bloggers to pass the award to and let them know that they’ve been nominated.

Today’s special on my learning disability menu is following instructions. If I were to be reading this post, the first thing I would have wanted to see is whether my blog is on the list. So without taxing your patience any further, the last task first. And this list comes with my personal assurance that these are some of the finest and most versatile bloggers out there, and it would be well worth your time to check each of these blogs out.

A five, six, seven, eight. The award goes on to

Blogspot Redirects to Your Country Domain

This one is for the bloggers who use blogspot to host their blogs, like me. Looks like Google and Blogger have decided that in a world divided about what is permissible and what is not, it is safer to redirect all pages to their respective country code top level domains. To a lay user like me, this comes with a whole lot of issues, and this post is about finding perfect answers for them by raising questions. I am hoping that the technically more knowledgeable readers of Subho's Jejune Diet will come forward to help all of us answer these questions.

From this month, all blogspot blogs will be redirecting to country specific URLs. This means that if you are in India, and you are looking at a blog, you will get to see the page. The same page if viewed from Australia will show you a page. This also impacts page ranks and stats for the blog. For example, this blog has an Alexa rank of 340,000 and a Google Pagerank of 2. But the page for this blog is not recognized at all by Alexa (it gives stats for only) and shows a N/A in Google Pagerank as of now. 

Blogger support has this to say about the reason for doing this:  "Migrating to localized domains will allow us to continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law. By utilizing ccTLDs, content removals can be managed on a per country basis, which will limit their impact to the smallest number of readers. Content removed due to a specific country’s law will only be removed from the relevant ccTLD."

The recent update to their Privacy Policy has already made it clear that if users do not like the fact that Google will use all the information it has about you uniformly across all its services, they are free to take their patronage elsewhere. In my opinion, for a service that brings the world together like the open web, this comes both as a solution and a let down in times of increased censorship and regulation of free speech.

Google's New Privacy Policy: The Story Behind It

Greetings on the occasion of India’s 63rd Republic Day!

If you are a Google service user you are already in receipt of the notification from Google announcing its new privacy policy. This development has set the web afire with all shades of reactions. Larry Dignan at ZDNet believes that Google now knows more about you than your wife does. Others are convinced that this will strengthen the hands of regulators who are already miffed with Google’s monopolistic vision. This comes bang on the heels of last week’s failure to meet quarterly earning prediction, and the fact that user adoption of Google Plus, the social media platform that it hoped would be a gamechanger is still at about an eighth of Facebook. Not a great press time for the guys at Google, this one.

What is the new privacy policy? 
The bottomline of the new policy is that Google will now replace all its privacy policies across almost all its (more than 70) products and services with one single policy that will treat the user as one entity on all its services. This policy comes without an opt-out, and is going to be in force from March 1, 2012. What this means for the user is that Google will now be able to integrate all the information (which, incidentally, you have already given them permission to acquire in the individual terms of agreements whenever you registered for a Google service) and use it to offer a better and more intuitive experience as well as use it to generate more targeted advertising on its sites. For more details about the new policy, head over to the policy page on Google, or take a look at Alma Whitten’s (Director, Privacy for Product and Engineering, Google) official blog post on this subject. In this post, we take a look at exit options, the impact of this policy, and the story behind how Google got to this point.

Chiranjeevi and Balakrishna: Tollywood Star Wars

The recent war of words between the two Titans of Tollywood, Chiranjeevi and Nandamuri Balakrishna has brought some light relief to the sensation starved masses.  These two stars are huge draws at the box office and have filled the coffers of many a producer. Though there might have been some rivalry between them when both of them were competing, it was never overt. Both of them comported themselves with dignity and decorum and were often cited as examples for more unruly stars. These giants of the silver screen have not had a single scandal attached to them and that is saying something in these days where even a one-film wonder will have ten scandals behind him. These two have more than 250 films between them and not to have a single scandal tells us of their sincerity to their craft. The less charitable might say that they might have been much better at ‘hiding’ than the rest and they might even be right, for there have been a few whispers against one of them.

If it was just a fight for silver screen supremacy, no one would have bothered. But this war of words has political undertones and tempers are rising. What started as mild political posturing has now turned a little ugly with personal remarks and film dialogues thrown in. While this spectacle might provide some amusement to the masses the long term consequences will not be great as it will mask the real issues that need to be debated. Dr. Ramesh Grandhi, a popular guest blogger on Subho's Jejune Diet, explores the phenomenon.

Warming up for Yoga

One reads a lot about yoga these days. On one hand there is the ruckus about yoga being a religious pursuit. On the other there are ads that promise weight loss and hot butts through yoga. In between there are scholarly studies that indicate that practice of yoga can cause more harm than good. There are blogs that put out a yoga posture a day in something resembling the English language. There is a whole range of hybrid yoga that is promoted on television channels and print ads by spandex-clad and photoshopped yoga instructors. Yoga, through these attempts to label it as a physical fitness regime or a weight loss solution, seems to be on the verge of being turned into something altogether different from what it truly is.

For those not familiar with the Sanskrit root of the word "yoga," it means union, communion, binding, using, applying, and directing one’s attention to. Yoga is the entire philosophy of dedicating one’s being to seek union with one’s highest life state. Different people use terms like god, the divine, the creator, and the universe instead of “highest life state,” but at the end of the day they all mean the same thing.

First things first. What is commonly promoted as yoga and comes to mind first when one mentions yoga is yoga asanas or yogic postures. However, yoga is not just about postures, body contortions and breathing exercises. That is only one aspect of yoga, known as asanas and pranayama that make up what is commonly known as hatha yoga (the way to union through determined effort), or as Patanjali called it, ashtanga yoga (the eight limbed path to union). Hence an understanding of yoga based on the physical postures or yoga asanas is an extremely limited understanding of yoga.

Dirty Picture, Sunny Leone, and Crimes Against Women: The Real Dirt

Update: This post is a high traffic page. Most of it is from searches that are totally unrelated to the subject of this blog. For those who did not come here by mistake, here is a quick look at what this blog is all about, so that you do not feel cheated as you read this post that you searched for.

Now, on to the post you came looking for.


Three things happened over the last couple of month’s that led up to this post. The first was the release of the movie Dirty Picture. The second was the entry of Sunny Leone into the “house of the big boss.” The third was a series of blog posts and television talk shows about the safety of Indian women in our metropolitan cities. It triggered several lines of thinking that I felt are worth reflecting upon. What message does the use of the word dirty in Dirty Picture pass on to the generation who are not yet old enough to be allowed into the theater to watch it? How does the average Indian family explain the concept of an adult entertainer over prime time television dinner on the weekend? Why do we as a society feel so surprised at rape and other gender crimes against women?

The morality and values of a society are passed on from generation to generation, and each generation accepts what it finds relevant and discards what no longer works and then passes it on.  Even though we are from the land of Vatsayana, we have perpetuated a culture of sexual repression. There are two aspects to this repression – the first is a denial of female sexuality and the second is a don’t-speak rule about sex as a natural healthy urge. As a result, most Indians grow up learning about sex from their peers, from pornography, or from abuse, either as a victim or as a perpetrator. Much of this learning is erroneous and based on myths and stereotypes.

Silk Smitha was not the first Indian woman to openly flaunt her sexuality. Screen goddesses from the early days of cinema have done it, but with due deference to the menfolk, knowing that their sexuality was only to please or placate the male. Silk was the first to be openly sexual for the pleasure it brought her, often with what bordered on disregard or contempt for the male. While the moral police will be quick to point out that it does not make her a cultural role model, her cult status cannot be explained away to large percentages of submissive males alone. In many ways, she, along with other actresses and celebrities, freed the Indian woman to express herself as a person with intimacy needs and a right to sexual expression. This is in direct contradiction to the jejune diet our male-dominated society would have us on, and hence, in order to get the masses into the theaters without raising anybody’s hackles, the film is named Dirty Picture.

Commenting on Blog Posts: The Art and the Science

One of the more dynamic aspects of the blogging world is the comment thread. The emergence of the blog as more than just a platform for personal expression into a potential tool for marketing of ideas, products, and services has brought with it a desperate need for traffic and followers. The “worth” of a blog no longer lies in the value of the content; instead, the value of the content is now measured in terms of hits, bounce rates, and time on site. Content is now created keeping keywords and SEO in mind, and creativity often is forced to play second fiddle to them. To this end, the blog comment has also undergone a revolution of sorts and the art of commenting is slowly losing out to the onslaught of social media marketing and promotion.

In the early 2000’s, one hardly bothered about the market-ability of what one wrote, and the blog posts and the discussions that followed were profound yet informal. Comments would be few, but relevant and insightful, often adding greater value to the post itself. Nowadays, popular blog posts attracts hundreds of comments. These start flowing in and getting approved and published as soon as the post goes live, more as an indicator of the quantity of readers and popularity of the blog than as reflection on the content of the post itself.

The Search for Happiness: Guest Post at Elevation Life

Happiness is our natural birthright, but we often get confused about what it truly means. Happiness is not a life without struggle or a state in which nothing undesirable happens. It is the ability to see the wholeness of things, to accept humbly that which instructs us through pain and to respond to the call of life to participate in it. It is in the ability to cleanse your perception so that you see with your heart, the ability to follow your heart even when it might seem that you will be the only one on your journey, and the ability to be grateful even at times of great adversity. Happiness is being a student, a teacher, a mate, a child, a lover and a parent, and honoring the multitudes that we are all made of.

I am honored to have one of my posts featured on Bryan Thompson's life-changing blog Elevation Life. Do head over to read the rest of the post there.

Sankranti Subhakankshalu

Greetings to all my readers on the occasion of  Sankranti 2012!  May your lives be filled with love, light and laughter! May your storms always be wary of the strength of your faith!

Sankranti, which is celebrated across the land in various forms on January 14, is a harvest festival as the Sun moves into Capricorn (Makar, hence the name Makar Sankranti) and ends the so-called inauspicious phase and heralds the onset of auspicious times as per the Hindu calendar. Across India, it is known variously as Makar Sankranti, Magh Bihu, Pongal, Uttarayan, Maghi, and Poush Sankranti. The celebrations vary too, but the theme is the same, thanksgiving to the protective forces of the environment, letting go of the past and making fresh determinations for the future, inviting wisdom and purity into life, strengthening social ties with family and friends, and having a good time together.

Sankranti, for me, is when the the sky start to shed its wintry grey and turns clearer and bluer each passing day, when the eight winds change direction (three days after Sankranti according to popular wisdom) and becomes warmer, when the streets of Hyderabad suddenly open up as people head out out of the city and homeward for the four days of festivities, when homes welcome you with bright and intricate rangoli, when the house is filled with the rich smell of traditional ghee fried goodies, when the womenfolk dress up in bright new clothes and wear jewelry and put flowers in their hair and go visiting each other in the evenings, when the sky is speckled with kites of all hues, and the terraces are filled with men and children putting out their best manja to prove their kite flying prowess.

Sankranti is a reminder that while I am the one who flies the kite of my life, the path it takes is governed by my respect for the forces of nature, and that I need to exercise courage, prudence, and wisdom along with firm faith if I want my kite to convey the greatness of all life. My Sankranti is a reminder that it is not necessary to carry the clutter of ignorance and attachment, and that the fire of knowledge can dispel the darkness of false beliefs. Sankranti is about the rice powder in the rangoli that feeds ants, birds and insects when you are not looking, and the complex mandalas or designs that prevent negativities from entering into our lives. And at the end of the day, Sankranti is about letting your hair down and breathing easy and having a good time, enjoying the sights and sounds (and tastes) of a people celebrating their oneness with the environment.

As the result of the journey of my life, I have developed my own understanding of much of my culture, and I am extremely glad for my understanding, though it often contradicts what our culture is commonly understood as. This post was triggered by an inspiring article I read on Sankranti by one of the more thoughtful bloggers that I follow, Sowmya Swaminathan.

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