Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Book Review: Waiting for the Mahatma

RK Narayan is best known for putting life into the small town that is Malgudi. And within its perimeters he is a master.He could dissect the daily details to nuanced perfection and (if you are a South Indian) you are transported right into the small household on Kabir street. Such is his narration and attention to (otherwise neglected) details. But, that is when he is talking about Swami and his friends. Or say about small town people and their daily chores.

Here, the canvas he has chosen is much wider. The characters he tries to sketch are itching to take a form much larger than routine. The circumstances are such. The backdrop is political. And he tries to set a love story in it.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Movie Review: Fashion

It was Page 3 revisited sans the powerhouse performance and the punches packed in. Nothing special in this 'trying to be gritty' tale about how a Chandigarh di Kudi becomes a diva and after seeing the 'highs' falls hard to the lows - and how!


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ab 'Bus' bhi karo...

OK! I just can't get enough of the MNS saga.

Enough said and written about the 'Spirit of Mumbai'. Now it's time to show the Spirit of Malegaon. Just wondering...where the spirit was on September 8, 2006.

Bachao! Help!

Ironical. I plan to visit Bombay (my home) in December and as there seems to be a vacancy; does anyone know how do I apply for Z-security?

IT Capital?

So much for being the IT capital of the world ...

Ranked 48th out of the 66 participating countries - In other words, we are still considered a 'cost-effective' center rather than any of the 'value partner' centric proposition that every SWITCH company is claiming to be..

Round sourcing?

Now this is interesting... round-sourcing, eh?! Just when we think the exploitation-raj of off-shoring is over, here comes a new term... 'Round-Sourcing' ... "Enna koduma saar idhu"

Anyway - the good news is this. We are now not being seen by the United States as offshore vendors, but also as placement partners. We are moving up the value chain, I would say!

Oil Price set to rise again...

Due to some reason, oil prices are set to shoot up!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back to Movies

Yes! Have been so out of movie watching ever since Chennai happened. A total of only 5 movies in the past 25 days! Anyway. Signed up with BIG Flix. They are super cool - quite a few firsts on offer. For starters:

1. They offer free pick-up and drop services - no conditions apply!
2. There is NO* time limit on CDs/ DVDs <* - except for new releases which are in high demand; that I guess is only fair>
3. They have a very comprehensive collection - and they promise to keep growing

You could queue your movies online or walk into any of their outlets and drop and pick a movie. And did I forget that users of ICICI credit/ debit card are getting a good 40% off for the next 3 months! Now THAT was a buy in for me!

I have already gone 2 up in two days. Khuda Kay Liye - long in waiting. Very nice movie. Kabuliwalai - yes the 1961, Balraj Sahni starrer. If you haven't seen it - you are probably missing something. Awesome performance by the protagonist and mind blowing songs from Salil Choudhary!

Anyway. Have queued up some 20 odd movies which I plan to sweep up before end of next month. I am on a roll!


Monday, August 11, 2008

It's time to Clean-up, Marshal!

Now this is a 'neat' idea! A friend and I had discussed about this 7 or 8 years ago, when the Ghatkopar police had collected heavy fines for smoking/ tobacco chewing in public places. Apparently, the campaign died an eventual death as bribery reared its ugly head. It was then, as young lads of 15 that we had discussed about delegating this job to volunteer kids for two reasons.
1. Most do not have to shoulder familial responsibilities; they aren't the primary earning members anyway
2. They would actually do it in the right spirit and take pride in the job they do

What better, the BMC is finally doing it! The article says...

Next time you litter, do not be surprised if a youth walks up to you and slaps a fine on you. And if you act tough and refuse to pay up, you might just end up doing community service. If you refuse that too, be prepared to cool your hoity-toity heels behind bars.

The BMC on Friday gave around 2,000 student volunteers the powers of a clean-up marshal. It means that they too can fine litterbugs.

They have even been given cool names: 'Clean-up Marshals'. They move in groups - for safety, of course. And add to that an authorized security personnel. Students get to earn their own pocket money - a social responsibility is bred and a huge amount of civic sense incorporated. Extend this to other areas. Pay for performance. And see how the world changes.

On this note - Pune, you flaunt arguably the country's biggest student density - my bets are on it being an immaculate success if launched in Pune. Whatsay, Pune?

Caw Caw Black Crows

This link, linked me to this link. Both the links essentially talks about how other intelligent creatures are seldom respected for what they are. Crows. They have been traditionally loathed for being black and having a really irritating voice, second only to Himesh-bhai some say.

Actually, traditionally we have acknowledged its intelligence. Really. Have you ever wondered why the Jataka tale should have had a crow dropping stone to drink water from the pot? I mean - we could have had the enviably adored peacock. The nosy parrot or even the other overly eulogized black bird - the mynah. But no - our 'thathas' and 'paatis' chose the crow. And I will tell you what, after watching this video I feel the crow and the water-stone story is based on 'real life incidents'.

Crow on.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My wife would be the luckiest girl...

No! I am not married - and my current stance of no marriage for me, stands. But the above is what a 'kili joshiyar' (parrot-astrologer, to be literal) told me!

Kili-joshiyars (explained before, KJ from now on) are people who sit by the roadside (or in beaches as was the case) with a couple of parrots generally named Meenakshi/ Lakshmi or such-like. They have a set of cards, with a divine photo on one side and then some (coded) stuff on the other, which would shortly read out what your near future holds in store. They then call out the parrot and ask it to pick up a card for us. They keep talking to the parrot, while smartly signaling with his hands to the parrot to get a card. (Shhh! They don't know that we know about this - so in case you go to the KJ anytime please don't spoil the fun!)

Anyway. A friend and I were walking on the beach by my residence here in Chennai, and we saw this dude on the beach. Another guy was already hearing this man out as he was reading out from a book. After knowing that he is going to be filthy rich in some years, and that he shouldn't wed another woman in the near future - he mocked at the exercise and left. So, I rolled my sleeves, and totally geared up for my turn.

'What's your name?'




Then he calls out the parrot and does the routine! Then opens the card, opens the relevant page and says stuff in Tamil which is almost beyond my comprehending ability. But, the gist was this -

1. I would be traveling abroad soon. It would be immensely profitable and I should not miss the chance.
2. I am a good boy and would make my parents proud.
3. Of course! My wife would be the luckiest girl.

Doesn't sound too bad, eh?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Is it justified?

"So, will you accompany us to hunt tomorrow?", he asks her extending the invitation given to Saket Ram.

"No. No! I am a vegetarian.", she says reminding her husband Saket who retorts saying he is vegetarian too.

"We do not hunt to necessarily eat. Just for fun. Entertainment for us humans.", says Shriram Abhyankar entering into the car.

"So, if animals hunt us down for their entertainment, is that acceptable?", she asks Shriram. Saket interrupts saying, "For that, the animals need to 'invent' guns first."

Almost ignoring what Saket said, she asks Shriram "So, if a wolf takes your child away for fun, is it justified?"

With a passive aggression in his eyes, he replies "That, one could say only if he were a wolf."

The moral correctness of it would depend whether you are the human or the wolf. Does it not?

For this and more, do watch Hey Ram, one of my all time favorites directed and performed by Kamal Hassan. The movie has been cut, slit and taken to parts for analysis here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bachao! Bachao!

Oh man! It is proving an awesome entertainment means for me - the daily newspaper. I never thought reading news was so much fun! In metros like Mumbai, where the media coverage is so wide and almost exhaustive, all you have to do to get your share of fame is to be there - right place, right time! Believe me, if a lizard can, you can too! Now if you are done laughing - does it not occur to you that we are hopelessly helpless when panic strikes.

I believe, fear, second only to smile, is the most contagious human behavior on earth. But, it also needs people who are calm and composed to think things out. And when a woman is screaming for help - all the commuters deserting the station, the past bomb blasts notwithstanding, baffles me. Would it not be instinctive to offer help to a woman screaming for help? Oh damn! I forgot - people have better things to do than saving a woman. If she is saved, how could we possibly showcase the Spirit of Mumbai, right?!

Amma - you will have to wait

Arrgh - I thought I would buy my mom the new iPhone, with its oh-so-affordable pricing. With the manufacturing cost of the handset was quoted at less than USD 170, Steve Jobs in his Keynote had surprised the world with the piece's pricing. But it seems, the USD 199 price tag was the subsidized (by AT & T) rate in the US. Both Vodafone and Airtel (partners of iPhone in India) declined quoting the price or offering subsidies. And that of course is understandable, ARPU of telecom companies in India is already the lowest; so no margins there for both Vodafone and Airtel. Whatever be the case, it looks like it is not going to be USD 199 anymore! [:(]

And for anything more than that, amma will have to wait until August at least - for by then I would have saved enough! [:)]

Why would they...?

No, seriously! Does anyone know why exactly are they doing this? No mockery. No sarcasm. I am very serious. Almost innocent. Reservation - just for the heck of it? Guess now, caste is a given. Post is the new debate!

Whatever! It doesn't seem to be vote bank politics anymore. More of an obsession I guess. So, the HRD minister wakes up in the morning - 'So, what's for reservation?!'. Anyway, if someone does have a sound reasoning, theory, story - please do let me in on it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I am only a child...

A child, only 13 years of age, silenced many a UN representatives with her short 5 minute speech at the UN summit.

While the speech clearly (?) seems to be written by some one else and read out loud by the child - it does make a couple of honest appeals. Opening the speech with a mock at governments and corporates across the globe - as also the UN Summit itself - the child says on fear of losing its future
Losing my future is not like losing the elections or losing a few points in the stock market.

Going further the girl appeals to all asking them to stop polluting. 'I am only a child; but...' is what makes the speech so effective. Children are not knowledgeable about the various problems and their solutions. But the children do know that there are problems. And it is becoming increasingly apparent to them that we adults have no solution. Though contradictorily, it is we who seem to believe that there is (will be) a solution to everything. Then why aren't we able to stop the black hole, why aren't we able to do anything about the animals that are now extinct?
If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!
begs the little girl in front of a now intently listening UN audience.

The speech even tackles the topic of increasing disparity between the poor and the rich - not at an individual level but globally. The North American countries which have so much in abundance seem to share so little or nothing with those starving in the South. They interviewed street children in Brazil where one of the boy of around the same age said that one day he wishes to be rich and buy food, clothing, shelter and education for all the children living in the street. Then the girl asks -
Why is that the child in the street who has nothing ready to share everything, whereas we who have everything are ready to share nothing! It makes a tremendous difference where you are born!

Little does she realize that it is because we have everything that we share nothing. Anyone, almost every person if asked would be ready to share a car which he doesn't own but not part with a shirt he owns! 'I am ready to share everything that I do not have!' said someone!

There are things that make 'human development' seem a farce.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh My God!

Would you book a house in a building built by someone who is not an architect by profession? No? If the 'architect' is from Italy? No? And what if the building were in Dubai? Still, no? The Tax holiday doesn't help? Ok - now what if it is an 80 floor skyscraper? Before you say another NO - let me add this - every floor of this giant can rotate.

I know, I know! You are now sitting mouth-wide-open and thinking of reasons to cover up the fact that you wouldn't be able to afford even a square foot in that tower; let alone buying an apartment. I will help you on to it. Power - the world is facing a power crisis and these guys want power to drive the whole turn the whole building around? Argh! Bad boys - money wielding bad boys! How could you ever buy an apartment which wastes so much power when people in villages of India do not get light in the night to change clothes? Right? Wrong - first get up and switch the light off - it is broad daylight and you don't need tube-lights - the entire mechanism is to be driven by giant wind turbines placed in between floors. Sounds crazy, but that is what the article says.

A couple of other crazy facts, in case you aren't planning to read the article:
1. Penthouses can make their house twirl around at their wish and (voice) command. They also have access to lifts, which can help them park their cars - inside their apartment garage!
2. Each floor is going to be built in Italy and shipped to Dubai - to save on labor, construction cost and time.

Phew! Well - the entire building is to cost USD 700 million as against Mukesh Ambani's 27 storeyed mansion which would cost USD 2 billion! SO much for India being a low cost center!

Yawn! Are we there yet?

Yes. Yawn it is. It is 04:09 am and just as I was planning to shut my laptop and going off to my cozy little bed - the Times of India reported some (nearly) dangerous consequences of sleeping! Apparently, the Air India flight from Dubai via Jaipur bound towards Mumbai crossed Mumbai and was well on the way towards Goa, when the ATC (finally) managed to wake the pilots up! In their defense, they worked overnight and long enough to have deserved the nap.

With India needing hundreds of pilots in the immediate future, pilots from all over the world are pouring in. Of course, they opt for the private sector basically because of the pay and also the unavoidable shame that they might have to face on mentioning 'I work with Air India!'. So if anyone asks you for a reason you prefer not to travel by Air India - you can give them three:
1. The Air-Hostesses send their grandmothers to work
2. The food is brought in a couple of days too late
3. The pilots get to sleep, and I don't

In case they aren't sleepy; there are chances that they are indeed drunk.

So, next time you are flying in to Bombay from anywhere north on an Air India/ Indian Airlines flight - you might as well reserve that trip to Goa that you had your missus waiting on - just in case the pilot is asleep. Or, to Hyderabad for some pearl shopping - in case he is drunk. Oh! Wait! Or is it Vishakapatnam?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hio ha ha!

Seems, Thackerays are no Bombay Mumbai-ites themselves. They had come in for the lure of job and money. Just like the thousands of north Indians are today. Wow! Now this makes me wait. All you moms out there - this might prove way too interesting! Yes, yes, better than all those 'K'-soaps!

Wonder what the Thackerays would say about this.

Bombay, Cosmopolitan (?)

Seems, the Bombay (Now, Brihanmumbai) Municipal Corporation will now converse in Marathi, only! And what if I do not know Marathi? I have just one question - Why?

If this is in any way an effort to revive Marathi as a language then I pity the meager imaginative abilities of those involved. If this is politically backed - then Ha! If this is (yet) another MNS folly, then God save Bombay!

Oh! India!

So, this is India for you. You have the popular 'Bade Miyan' dishing out Biryanis and Bhurjis late at the night right behind the super expensive Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Bombay. And then you have the famous road-side stalls of Bhel Puris and Pav Bhajis of the Juhu Chowpatty less than half a mile from the oh-so-happening JW Marriot, again in Bombay.

Not just Bombay, but even the expensive Connaught Place in Delhi is fraught with chana-bhatura stalls as also is the famous India Gate a couple of miles from the Parliament House. So, is the case with Chennai's Mount Road and Hyderabad's Banjara Hills. In fact, this is one reason I believe which makes India (the urban one) so live-able in spite of the otherwise inexplicable cost of living - which seems to be purely dictated by the supply-demand curve rather than any value for the money involved.

But to take pride and enjoy in such extremities is one thing. And living in a country which mints millionaires at the same time when more than 60 million children in the live without basic health-care, is quite another. And the government mulls over N-deal and its effects on elections!

Monday, June 23, 2008

I think ...

Just yesterday my Amma was, keeping in character with the typical Indian, complaining about the bad roads while not even knowing whom (exactly) to blame. Then, of course, there is the One who is at the receiving end of all agonies - the one word without a definite, fleeting if at all, face - the Government (state or central, no one's really sure). Stating that if at all we as citizens think of setting one aspect of the life right, there is something (else) going wrong (elsewhere). And she ended the complaint with a rhetoric sigh, 'When will all this be set right?!'

'25 years hence!' I said almost surprising myself. She looked at me, with the looks she generally preserves for highly respected swamis in her circles, with wonderment as if I just spelled out a prophecy of some kind. I knew it was upon me to react - lest she go claiming 'Bete ke shareer mein baba-ji aaye!'

So, for the betterment of humanity and also to save myself the embarrassment I continued - 'See amma, the current crop of politicians and general government 'servants' are those who had their youths in the 60s or 70s, much like you and dad. And then, the environment wasn't too good. These guys in the admin now are from the much distraught Nehruvian and post-Nehruvian era. I mean, the independence just been gained. The economy still socialist in nature. A lot of red-tapism. Bureaucracy. None of them - almost - are inherently open to capitalism or the new global economy. If there are any, there are a whopping number who have their doubts about this. The thoughts in the society are not liberal enough. In 25 years, it will be our (generation's) turn. I think (secretly pray and hope) it would be much different then.

We (the 'now' generation) are more open to IT systems, understand the importance of a corruption free society. Understand the importance of time and more importantly speed.' And such (over) optimist suggestions which would suit either hypothetical situations or give a new (?) movie script for Shankar to make!

Note: Of course, the human need for 'POWER' can not ever be satiated but the means to the end would improve for the better, is what I imply. After all, in a broad sense, has not humankind 'graduated' from wars and (world) conquerors, (debate deferred to a different space, please) for manifestation of power?

Celebrating Failure (?)

Only 3 days ago I had drafted a post on how I would like education to be. And it was heart warming to read this article in Times of India.

The article starts with:
Me and my students do not bother ourselves with reservations and such-like.

says Kantibhai Visava, a tribe who runs a school of a different kind. He says
Kids here don't even get an entry into school, the question of colleges doesn't arise at all!

I am not sure to what extent this would work; but am confident as hell this would make the kids a whole lot better than what the traditional system produces anyway.

The most heartening portion is where Visava quotes with a sense of joy that the cut-off for entering school for a certain grade was 60% and one of his students made it up to 59%!
In fact, its singular success is a narrow failure. This April, 35 students sat for the 6th-standard entrance exam to the government-run Eklayva model residential schools. "Their cut-off percentage was 60 and one of our students almost made it with 59 per cent... after only two years of schooling," says Devy. "And when I prove that our children can compete equally with state-level students, I will go to the ministry of education, campaign for this model and demand that the number of school years be reduced as well. My aim, after all, is not just to educate a small number of tribals but to improve the education system on the whole.

Only hoping that the sincerity in his last sentence stays on! All the best!

Note: I had drafted the previous post and published it just today after reading the article in ToI, so here you go - Education, as I would like

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And who is to curb this Terrorism...

Going by the definition here and a Canadian scholar's view, what else can you possibly call the Sikh community's actions in Mulund and some other areas of Thane? Or what, for that matter, would we call the Sena's - both the one which defames Shivaji (Shiv Sena) and Maharashtra (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) - actions in the past! Guess it is time to wake the ATS up.

And on this same note I wonder, if any Muslim community has done this so regularly in India - and if at all they did - would they be tolerated as much as the aforementioned!

And we are a secular state nonetheless. Oh! The undoings of a democracy.

Disclaimer: This post is not for or against any religion or community as am I not for or against any community. In most cases it is the foolhardiness of an insignificant portion of the community involved. And it ends up defaming the community as a whole at times. And it is these very people against whom sterner action, if at all, has to be taken. In any case I can't see a reason why my life should be at risk; or anyone person or a group be disrupting my routine life in general.

Ab Tak 6

Pardon the hmmpf-that-was-cheesy title to the blog! But you would see that the relation warrants the cheesiness - at least serves as a decent excuse!

Yes! I was shown the White Gloved hand to the side of the road yet again the other day. And that took the count to 6 (Hence the title. See I told you I had a decent excuse). This time, it wasn't my fault (Yes. Yes. I know. I know. Har khooni yehi kehta hai ke usne khoon nahi kiya and all that). Anyway.

It so happened that my centuries-old Maruti 800 decided to conk off. No no. That was not the problem. The problem was that it took this decision right in the middle of a chauraha (crossroads) and off went the signal. So, Mr. Pandu dutifully signaled me, once my car started, with his White Gloved hand and showed me the side of the road.

Pandu: What were you doing?
Innocent Me: (Oh! This is something I always wanted to do. I was feeling too left out, so what better way to attract some attention.) Car conked off.
P: (Showing much concern. At his empathizing best...whilst taking my license) Tchh...tch! Hard luck!
IM: Sir, seriously. It wouldn't start. I can show that again. Some problem that developed just a few minutes ago. (Truth sometimes seems so unbelievable)
P: Tch. Hard luck!
IM: Sir, Promise! (Ya right! No mother-promise? Ok! God-promise?! Who am I kidding?!)
P: (Eyes me, from head to toe - and smirks. I have no clue what he is thinking though)
IM: (Makes the innocent-most face possible)
P:Ok! Pay and Go!
IM: But sir... (Oh! Forget it. Guess, hard lunk it is!) Ok! How much do I pay?
P: How much ever...
IM: But sir, receipt would be for?
P: (Hmmph... incorrigible fellow!)Go! Get your papers.
IM: (Oh! $#@#$) Sure.
IM: (Went to the glove box. Took the pouch that neatly holds all the papers.) Here you go, Sir!
P: What would I do with these?
IM: But sir...
P: Take out the insurance and PUC papers.
IM: (Oh! $#@#$) Sure. Here you go.
P: What is this?
IM: Sir, insurance, right?! (Freak! I had it.)
P: Yes. But it is expired.
IM: (I am not a bad actor, but it looks really cheesy saying...) What???!!! Oh! I did not know sir. Actually I wasn't in India for the past year. (Allow me to repeat - Truth sometimes seems so unbelievable.)
P: So - I now pardon your Rs. 100 for crossing the signal.
IM: Thank you, Sir!
P: And gift you this ticket worth Rs. 1100
IM: What???!!!
P: Rs. 600 for insurance and Rs. 500 for PUC, both expired
IM: Oh! Damn...
P: Unless...
IM: (Freak - there he goes again.) Unless?
P: (Handing over my license to me...Oh! Yes!) You could pay less and get away, you know?
IM: Oh! Thanks a lot, sir.
P: So...
IM: So...?
P: How much are you going to pay?
IM: How much am I supposed to pay?
P: Hmmpf. How much can you pay?
IM: How much am I going to get a ticket for?
P: (Under his breathe) $#@#$!
IM: Sir?
P: Give me your license for a minute!
IM: (Oh! No.) Here sir.
P: Don't you understand?
IM: Sir?
Bystander: Hey mister! Give him whatever you have; and be set free - Rs. 100 at least!
IM: Oh! Sir! (As if it just dawned upon me) Actually, I have only Rs. 150 and I have to get some medicines for my mother (Yes! I actually said that - hee hee - life's fun!) Anyway, I wouldn't part with a penny without the receipt! (And I said it out loud!)
P: Wait a minute - I guess I have had enough! (Scribbled something on the receipt; when I interrupted and asked...)
IM: Sir, have they not given you readers to read these smart card licenses? Do we have to submit them?
P: Reader?
IM: Yes Sir. You could actually...
P: Ok. Ok! Here you go. Go to the RTO - after taking PUC. I have not charged you for insurance! Pay Rs. 200 and make way!
IM: Thank You sir!

Next morning! I religiously checked for PUC. Went to the RTO and surprise. Surprise.

P2: (Not of the Pentium fame!) That would be Rs. 600!
IM: (With an open mouth!) But Mr. P told me Rs. 200.
P2: Ok! Give me Rs. 200! Here take your license!
IM: (Wow! That was easy! But... wait a minute!) Uhmmm... the receipt?
P2: That is for Rs. 600.
IM: But...
P2: I can't help what he said. He might have said I owuld pay you even! Rules are rules. We have to live by it!
IM: I don't have that much. Wait till I call home.

And I continue to stand there when I see a big black board with all the fines written with chalk. It read: No PUC - Rs. 100! So, I proceeded to ask him about this. In the mean time, he was watching me closely. As soon as I approached him, he asked for a minute and was gone. Then he had some one call me. I went. Then he tells me that if I get the PUC photocopied and submitted, I would have to pay only Rs. 200! Rs. 100 for PUC and Rs.100 for the signal!

And so ends yet another kahani of 'encounter' with the traffic police making it (Drums rolling. Audience applause, cheers and whistles. Music rising to a rich crescendo!)Ab Tak 6.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Education as I would like

I would love to open up an educational institution some day.

Where people learn; not study. For all you know, it might not have teachers! Certainly no reservations. No degrees or certificates either. No syllabi, to start with. No age limits, no classrooms. We shall learn the art of living (oh! that's a pun), children would not litter, they would plant a lot. They shall have a lot of options to choose from - sports, music, drama, religion, science, maths, languages, etc. Politics, civic sense and General Knowledge would be encouraged. There would be no Sunday. In fact, it wouldn't matter. One may or may not attend courses. All have to impart education to some other - there would be trips to areas of the under privileged. Life wouldn't be a luxury - but they would live as they want to - it would be one's choice.

There will be no dress code; or any code for that matter. Intellect and thought would replace influence and processes. Innovation would be back. Of course, no one would give us any work. We all would be entrepreneurs in our own right. And then one day, we shall become so big - the system around us would change. Will change. They simply would have to.

Damn the rest!

All for a Pound

Or five. Or fifty! And we complain that the IT industry is not geographically diversified! Outsourcing redefined! Cheat your way to the banks! Go India go...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh No! Not again...

That Indians (on an average) are blatant hypocrites is now a generally accepted characteristic. As long as it is not mentioned to demean a person explicitly, it doesn't even seem to be a bad word. There are countless traditions/ rituals which would make this opinion much more evident. To bring one to the forefront is the case of reservations. Just when we thought that the topic has been discussed to death MNS comes up with reservations for Maharashtrians!

I believe, that reservations itself is demeaning in the first place unless of course it is 'justified' by biological disadvantage, natural (as in case of ladies compartment in the local trains) or afflicted/ accidental (say, a compartment for the disabled). In fact, it seems so perfectly acceptable for the financially unfortunate too, until of course the vote bank politics rears its ugly head! In fact, such actions are rightly (?) opposed by student bodies all over, girls and guys alike. Though the point to be noted is such opposition stems from communities who are NOT benefitted. Sounds obvious right! But therein lies the hypocrisy!

For instance, if reservations for the classes backward and, pardon the usage, below are not merit based and hence unfair and if this is the point in argument then why do not the very girls (and their parents and family) protest against reservation for women in the first place! That not being done, becomes a clear indication of hypocrisy in the sense evil is good as long as it favors me! In the same sense, I wonder how many of the Marathi Brahmans would rise to this occasion to fight against a so-called pro-Maharashtrian party demeaning, literally abusing the Marathi student's ability to compete against say a Sindhi student or a Gujarati student! So, in short if the fight from the student side is for banning reservations, I guess starting with raising the voice (by girls, forward and backward alike) against the women's reservations (a whopping 33% - in the name of encouraging women to study) first would give a lot of weight to the argument rather than fighting the vote-bank driven reservations for OBC/ ST/ SC/ NT and the likes.

While this might be washed off mundanely as yet another ridiculous effort by MNS, it does make us, me for one, to sit up and think!

Do not fight so that you win. Fight so that the case at hand wins!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Power of Four

The photo above may not be all that clear; at least not in distinctly revealing 4 of my most priced items - A jean shorts, specs, a cell phone and floaters. But such has been the presence and utility of these that they warrant this, in the least.

Year of Purchase: 1997
Brand: Huh! Bought it from a roadside shop.
Price: Rs. 250/-
Victim Of: Treks (read slides down mountain slopes), football, and a friend who is, to put it euphemistically, fat! (And, I am being considerate here!)

Oh! This piece of clothing has been serving like nothing else can. Helped by the fact that I have literally not put on any thing around my waistline (and also that the shorts has a fantastic elastic!) there has been a mending required not once. Until recently, that is when my maid servant (who, being with us much before the shorts was bought is pretty much family now) had enough. So, the classic jean slit that you see is no more! It has been stitched to extinction (The slit only; the shorts is still pretty much in use!)! Sob sob...

Year of Purchase: 2001
Brand: Huh! Bought it from a roadside shop.
Price: Rs. 650/-
Victim Of: Volleyball smashes, football shots, many a throw here and there (Yes! I show it off!), another hefty friend who rolled over it in his sleep and of course the eventful fall from a bike (just the specs). It simply dismantled itself on the highway! (My heart skipped a beat as trucks whooshed by, and after some 7.3 minutes of searching and waiting for vehicles to pass by on the highway, I put it together - intact!)

I could drop it right now - from the fourth floor you say! Well, be my guest. If there were an award for being the most tortured soul(?) it would win it every year. Its scratched glasses give away nothing of what it has withstood. I rate a volleyball smash (I was on the net) from a really strong opponent as the worst. It was a head on hit on the specs! Of course it fell down leaving a little scar on my nose - but that was it! It disfigured beyond immediate use. I later spent some 3 minutes to set it right with my own hands. Well, that I think is the best part - the specs has never seen the maker for any repair/ adjustment! Long live specy...

Year of Purchase: 2005
Brand: Nokia (Model: 1600)
Price: Rs. 2600/- (approx.)
Victim Of: Countless falls, sunk into a sink full of shaving-cream mixed water, thrown down from a first floor balcony and from a moving auto-rickshaw.

So, after much persuasion by my parents I gave in to buying a cell phone at last! I stuck to buying the most basic and am thankful to date with this decision (even more fortunate that lesser models weren't available!) With an enviable battery (which hasn't been changed even once) life, and being treated almost like you would treat the stress reliever balls after your appraisal, this one has endeared itself to me like no other! It has got three features which not many models boast of. The loudspeaker (excellent), a talking clock (on the press of '*' for 2 seconds) and of course unbreakability* (*Be reasonable - refer 'Victim of:') I am not sure how I would react if this device were to, you know, one day conk off! It is a device after all. I am not sure, if I would buy a cell phone ever again!

Year of Purchase: 2005
Brand: Gliders (Huh! Never heard of them anyway!)
Price: Rs. 350/-
Victim Of: Treks - quite a few; including a night trek, innumerable tours, football and cricket

Oh, this might seem to be the least, but only in terms of probable life remaining! It has had the toughest time, what with being under my feet all the time, quite literally. Such is its loyalty that it once went along a really strong stream of water in Bushy dam in Lonavla, only to be retrieved a good 250 meters down the flow by a group of guys and returned back! It was bought only because its poorer cousin (a wholly black slipper pair from Sri Lanka, they say) wasn't allowed on my company campus! Anyway, of the four - it has received the maximum treatment. It is stitched in some 5-6 places. It is the only one to have been mended abroad. Yes, I chose to have it stitched for $3 in Singapore as against buying a new pair for $5! Such is my love for it. It is now old and has a grip as much as you hand on an overly oiled hair strand would have! It has served its purpose for much longer than I expected. Ideally, it deserves to RIP, but I couldn't part with it. Not yet!

And people tell me that I should buy branded stuff! Guys, it is not just emotional - but it is about what matters most to a customer - value for money!

PS: There was a jean which was given to me by a family friend. I wore it for more than 6-7 years, he had worn it before that for a good 5-6 years and what more; he had started using it only after some 8 years since having bought! It is no longer in service, courtesy mom!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ah! Finally...

Sense prevails. The INC took a decision, arguably forced into it, to hike fuel prices in the country. That decisions such as these are marred by the coalition party itself rather than the opposition defeats the whole purpose of a democracy! The CPI(M) in all its concern for the common man said -

The move provoked an angry reaction from India’s left parties, on which the Congress party-led ruling coalition depends for its parliamentary majority.

They vowed to stage national protests against any hike in oil prices beginning Thursday and said that the climbing prices of commodities and food is becoming “unbearable” for common people.

Raising oil prices will have a “cascading effect and heap further burdens on the people.

And the continuous government funding of the loss making Oil companies won't? The demand which was kept artificially and unreasonably high would now regain some sanity. And, does the INC always need to be pushed into the detestable corner before literally giving into a decision?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Nepali is Indian

I was sort of taken by surprise recently by a blog which made me realize two things; that I am pathetically ill-informed about India and thereby did not know that Nepali is one of India's 23 official languages! So, calling someone who speaks the language Nepali is in effect as politically safe, and in theory a lot more safer than the most generously liberally used 'Madrasi', which is used by those north of the Vindhyas to address those south of it! The citizens of the country that co-hosts the Mt. Everest are called Nepalese; much (un)like Sinhalese which is a language and/ or refers to the people of Sri Lanka! Oh! So confusing...

So; a 'shame on you' to me! And, a good lesson learned.

Friday, May 30, 2008

'AIDS Jaago' waalon... Jaago

Read this interview by Mira Nair, the brains behind the Aids Jaago campaign! Aids Jaago campaign is a set of four short films directed by four Indian directors and funded by the Gates Foundation. But what intrigues me is the audience for such movies and the channel though which the target audience is reached.

Indeed all four films talk very real-life like about the human side of things moving from Pankaj Kapur making a passing comment on the difference between having AIDS and eing HIV positive to Arjun Mehta screaming at his dad saying 'You just didn't care. Protection toh use kar lete.' And then there are scenes which explicitly mention the importance of using condoms, where Vijay Raaz is shown doing a road show with a blown up condom tied to his hands! So, per se amongst all the four movies, the message is quite well covered.

However, it is appalling that I had to search it on the net to view these videos. Would it be an overstatement to say that most people who surf the net, which is a paltry 3% in India, and actually search for these videos surely do not need a movie to raise this awareness? And by this, I do not intend to demean the quality of the movies or intent of the makers in any way! Nor am I trying to say that only the ones who are less educated need to get the message. The movies, though might not suit the less educated, who IMHO certainly need more explicit messages to be passed across. I might be underestimating the intelligence of the average movie goer, but I am only basing my arguments on the kind of 'mainstream films' that top Box Office charts nowadays.

Anyway, I heard from my sis that she saw this movie on National Geographic! Now, in my accordance, what good can this possibly achieve! Shouldn't these movies be screened on the National DD network (which is the most extensive network in the country) or at least on the Star/ Sony/ Zee/ Sun network during prime time. I mean, I think, that would be the right way to target the mass. With the kind of following the 'Saas-Bahu' epics have, it would only be too appreciated if a certain 'Saas-bahu' pair come on screen and give a short 30-second speech on the importance of the awareness and dedicate one day a week for one of the short films! A month and all four are done!

Secondly, why aren't these movies been screened in movie halls. A mere 20 mins...! For a dying man's sake, can not the movie hall screen this short film before the movie begins? It has certainly be done before for a certain short film which starred Vivek Oberoi, I guess! I sincerely hope that a chain like the PVR or Adlabs (BIG, yet?) shuold take this up and let not such movies be 'relegated' to Cannes and Toronto.

Anyway, right now, all I can say is that perhaps this is too early and the Aids Jaago team is working on these. Well, I certainly hope and pray that they do! Otherwise it would be a job well done; yet futile! All the best...!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Surely, You must be joking Mr. FinMin!

This is ridiculous! Why the hell should I pay a 1% cess to fund the bleeding PSU's? If oil price is rising, LET IT RISE! For crying out loud, Mr. PC you are simply ridiculing the common man's common sense. Going by the audacity of this move, there will be a day when I am sure there would be a 'tax-cess', simply because there aren't enough people paying taxes and then it would be the I-T department's turn to save face! Sounds far-fetched? We pay a 'cess' because we pay tax!

Education cess (whether or not it is being used and furthermore rightly so is another line of argument) is still understandable and by and far acceptable. But why, pray I, should I pay for those who are using their vehicles! I shall, present a couple of points which would make it obviously apparent to the reader why rising the price of petrol would help matters
a. Only those with vehicles, presumably middle and higher class, are charged and rightly so
b. At best, people will stop using their vehicles and use public transport instead; thus reducing congestion on city roads and also helping reduce pollution - sounds like a government should be pro-this?!

Anyway... let's wait, watch and hope the FinMin's just joking about this.

AIDS Jaago

I have long been wanting to catch these short films by 4 really radical Indian directors - Mira Nair, Vishal Bharadwaj, Farhan Akhtar and Santosh Sivan. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, these films were released as a part of the AIDS awareness program, AIDS Jaago. All 4 stories, of about 15 minutes (give or take 3) in length each are brilliantly shot and performed. Do watch all the four movies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

There sure was a 'Foreign' hand in this one...

In a situation like that, I can't bowl a wide; not even if I badly wanted to! With 3 needed of the last ball, Fernando does it. No no, it doesn't end there... what should have been a regulation fielding off his own bowling goes through him for what you think is a regulation single. The Rajasthan Royals, quite obviously, go for the utterly non-existent second and Jayasuriya makes sure they make it...!

Shane Warne should be gifting away the MoM award to those two...! Kudos, I say! Mumbai Indians rock...

Slicky Situation...

If the prices are rising, why the hell not let it rise? The petroleum ministry has recommended at least Rs. 10 rise in the petrol price. Congress' stand of not letting the price rise, seems is totally unimaginative and only too imaginable, besides of course blatantly ridiculing the classic economic theories of supply-demand equilibrium. They are only making it shamelessly apparent that this is 'khursi' politics, what with elections round the corner! However, the underlying principle of this entire line of argument seems so flawed, that I fail to see how else the Congress is going to make it their vantage point other than retreating to the overtly abused socialist discourse. I call this flawed because of quite a number of reasons.

1. The ruling govt. at the center is currently popularly perceived as an impotent one, which does not have the audacity of taking decisions of any substance. (Read the 123 nuke deal with the US!) Petrol, as a commodity, mainly serves the middle class upwards section. Seriously, does the Govt. think that petrol prices are going to help them garner socialist votes?!
2. And, not acting, yet again, on the upward pressure of fuel prices as a measure to temper inflation is not helping matters either. All of IOC, HPCL, BPCL are bleeding and the deficit funding that is now obligated would do no good.

Read this. This not only makes it bogus, but IMHO, entirely ridiculous! I am no keen follower of politics or the parties thereof, but the continued lethargy of the center is now amusing me. It thus comes as no surprise that the Congress lost out to the BJP which will now rule any constituency in the South for the very first time!

Of course, the way inflation is rising truly sends shudders... but, this is no way to react(?) or is a 'ration' card for petrol next on the agenda?!

Yeh Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai...

"Yeh Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai...toothega nahi..." And that's the kind of impact great advertisements have on you! Amazing recall value, even years down the line...! On my way back from Daman this weekend, this sight on the highway reminded me, instantly, of an old Fevicol ad... Oh! Those good ol' days... used to love the Fevicol ads...!

Watch the original advertisement here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Simple! Isn't it...?!

We don't pay; we bribe them!
They don't mind; they are not paid anyway!

This vicious cycle, even for the least keen, should be apparent! I think I have a solution; Oh yes! Just like the billion others...!

Raise the fine; make it inhuman!
Pay a part of the fine collected to the one who collects it!

In other words, what the corporates would say - tie the pay to the performance!

To elaborate: As of today fines for breaking traffic rules vary from Rs. 100 for parking related charges (towing charges extra) to about Rs. 1000 for license related issues. However, the problem is that about 70-80% (figure not reliable; it is simply heuristic) of us do not pay those fines! And, when offered the poorly paid constable has to be really stupid or fairy-tale good to not accept it! No challans; free for half the charges!

Now, I suggest set the fines at a flat rate of Rs. 2500 for any and every offense committed (revised upwards for repeat offense). Further still, the constable gets 20% or Rs. 500 for every collection he makes and submits! This measure would be two pronged...
1. The constable is now keen to look out for smart-asses in the traffic
2. No smart-ass dares to break the rule!

Of course, one could argue that the offender could still bribe off the constable. Well, let him! But now, his wallet would have to be lighter by Rs. 500 (at least). This by Indian standards is high; very high. So, either ways people are now doubly disciplined. To start with, at least...

Simple! Isn't it...?!

Can't be a Gandhi...

"A century from now..and Mr. M.K. Gandhi would be fiction." - said Einstein, not verbatim, somewhere in the mid 1930s...

And along with his other inventions and discoveries goes one of his predictions towards achieving universal acceptance.!

Come to think of it; would it even be a century before this happens...if we are to go by the present rate, i doubt it.! Yeah... this blog is a result of my reading his autobiography and then having a long-ish serious discussion with a few of my friends. This blog was originally written a long time before, around 2 years ago! Anyway...

Its really amusing how people form impressions about one Mr. Gandhi who apart from giving us a National holiday seems to be remembered only as a cause for the partition. To speak against Mr. Gandhi seems to be totally in fad and fashion. Or worse still, people fear being mocked if they believed in Gandhi. Some think he was no more than a traitor, some think he was a fool who got his ways, some feel he was right for most part of his 'political career' and then later faltered, some think he was a selfish goose, some think he 'hypnotized' lakhs of Indians to adhering to his ways, and I for one believe that he did the best anyone could have done.!

I believe in him. I did before I read his book, I do even more now. I mean... that guy was just too much stuffed in one. He is an idol, at least to me, in all aspects. The thought of living a life as he did, is a challenge so great in itself that one would shudder if he were to give it a serious thought. To gauge him on his personal life becomes too much to digest. He has stretched determination to the extent of being called stubborn. Stretched faith to the extent of being called ridiculous. Stretched love for human life to the extent of being called a 'traitor'!!!

I mean look at this guy. Started off as a young, married at 13, responsible(?) bloke, who did all the miscreants that we would; smoked cigarettes, took alcohol (both w/o parents knowledge and consent) and further still, indulged himself in carnal pleasures even before he was a major.! With a background as his, he starts off to England, all alone, not even able to speak their tongue wholly and then 40 years later, more than 75% of a nation that is struggling under a foreign rule follows his word in letter and spirit. Such was his command on human feelings. If experience were a teacher, Mr. Gandhi would undoubtedly be its favourite student. So great were his abilities to learn; not only that but to enrich his own experiments with all the lessons learnt.

India would have achieved Independence without Gandhi, no doubt, but then he aimed to do it without shedding a single drop of blood.! And it is also true that we would have got ndependence even by his ways, with no disrespect, without Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose. The argument that seems to dominate, though, is that the way this nation has shaped, "because of Mr. Gandhi". "If he had not called of the Civil Disobedience movement...", "If he hadnt called off the Non-Co-operation movement...", "If he had not agreed to the partition..." ... and so on... but then ... if he hadnt called it off... would we ever had a bhagat Singh in the first place..??!! Well...it is another issue to ponder upon..!! Coming back...if we hadnt stuck to his ways of ahimsa...we might have got Independence at least a decade earlier, but at what cost? The lives of thousands? (Arguments regarding 1000s died anyways are duly, and in my opinion rightly deferred to another space.!)

All easier said than done! Just as everything in this world is... easier said than done.

This is getting too assorted, and lacks focus ... but basically ... a discussion the other night warranted this blog..!!!

If you were to look at his picture now, with the current definitions of success and failure, Mr. Gandhi, was one heck of a failure. I mean what did he achieve...he was a failure as a husband, as a child, as a father, and as far as being the bearer of a title of Father of The Nation is concerned, thats about what he is achieved, a title.

And yet... he was the gutsiest soul this world has ever seen ... by far.! As people say, his ways aren't feasible today, I couldn't agree more, for, people today are too feeble for it. Men of great strength and enormous stature are a thing of past; fiction.

In the end, people and young kids still believe that Lord Krishna lifted an entire hill by His li'l finger, but laugh when told a Man once tried winning independence by loving his enemy...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thoda hai... Thode ki Zaroorat Hai...!

With the telecom players drawing a trump every time they come up with a new service, you expect that they have just about exhausted all options available to mankind! However, surely the game is turning out to become a price war! Well, as much as it benefits the end consumer, it is simply not a way the industry gives the best to offer. So, as long as the price war is on, it is simply inevitable that the revenue stream keeps flowing through some channel; given the ever falling ARPU in the Indian market at least.

In this very vein, just a few words of suggestion to the mobile network operators and the now-booming Value Added Services (VAS) industry. There are some very simplistic services which arise out of a daily need to attend calls; not of the natural kind, of course; given that the cellular thingy has now become indisposable... So, here goes...

More Ad space....
Ha! Ads, ads and more ads. Even football player's jersey (the back-side) space is now officially ad space, the most sought after now-a-days! This; advertisements, not the footballers' butt space, seems to be the elixir for industries where service/ product differentiation no longer exists. In fact, the fight now has shifted to another arena; that of ad revenue generation. Keeping in line with the most lucrative trend, this might prove to be a revenue generator. How about this, "Offer advertisements as CBRTs".
- Users who choose this option will not have to pay for the CBRT, and
- Tariffs be waivered for those who use advertisements as CBRTs, which would, I believe be more than compensated by the Advertising revenue

Convey my Message...
Anything common to meetings, movies and driving? No mobile phones! And guess what?! I have no clue why people call time and again if you cut the ring or don't pick the phone the first time...! I mean, the second time is still acceptable! But 4-5 times... dude, I am in a movie hall and I could possibly not pick the call without righteous looking aunties giving strange glares or louder taunts, their 2 yr old crying kid notwithstanding! So, all you Vodafones and Airtels, there is a suggestion! In place of CRBT, user should be given an option (or a mode) to set a tone which says that the 'user is in a meeting' or 'watching a movie' or 'driving a car' or 'simply that the user is currently busy and will call some time later'. Of course more interesting options like 'user doesn't want to talk to you' can be explored! So, if I am driving and someone calls me, I could be rest assured that the caller has got the message and would promptly cut the phone and wait for the call instead of repeatedly trying to call me. This, I believe would save you bandwidth and channel usage. In fact, you could use this as a CSR step even as cell-phone related motor accidents is on the rise. Imagine an ad saying 'Ab Vodafone users ka accident nahi hoga!' or something like that...!

And I am quite serious about these...I have mailed Vodafone and Airtel in this regard too... Just suggestions, I don't know how feasible this would be. Do comment on why this would or would not be feasible. Well, interestingly Airtel has a 'Mind to Market' link under their 'contact us' tab! It encourages ideas from users and corporates alike... Nice going I would say!

* For the uninitiated
CBRT - Call Back Ring Tones i.e. when you call some one, you hear film songs, bhajans, etc. This is the single largest revenue earner for network operators. This music market has equaled the sales of traditional music i.e. cassettes and CDs.

ARPU - Average Revenue Per User

VAS - Value Added Services. Services like music downloads, games, caller tunes, etc. are provided by 3rd party providers