Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tale of Two Cities

Tweets this afternoon have gone on a creative overdrive. Sample these:

sunayana Great. Now searching for #bandh gives both #hyderabad and #bangalore bandh updates. How convenient

aksh_effect: I hope #Bangalore stops honoring the ancient Egyptian custom of burying prominent actors with some of their admirers.

anand_bala #wtf #Bangalore The art of rumour mongering TimesNow style: "which reportedly could have lead to death of few"

impiyush #vishnuvardhan died, office off, m confused m happy or sad :( as i cant utilize the time outside...

We are sitting in the office, focussing less on Windows7 and more on the windows that over look the street. So far the road seems peaceful, traffic seems normal, buses and autos are plying... but the sense of dread builds up every time one peeks at the TV news playing in the lobby. Those who could leave have gone, the others are packing for a long night at work. Or maybe a comfortable ride home at 6PM. We don't know yet.

All this fear and anxiety because an actor died a natural death. No bombs, no assassination, no conspiracy.


If you watch TV, you'd think Bangalore is already up in flames. Unheard of channels like the local TV9 are leading with sensational headlines, hoping this is to them what Gulf War meant to CNN. Established channels like Times Now are reporting deaths in police firing, without even a hint of proof. In the most irresponsible manner, they are fuelling rumor instead of quelling it.

In the absence of any genuine terror attacks, creepy serial killers or bomb blasts, the TV News people are clutching at every straw to exceed last-minute targets for 2009. So every rumor is announced as fact, only to be retracted later; every fly-swat is the next big crisis to hit humanity. The death of Vishnuvardhan, a popular actor in Bangalore, brings back memories of the riots that followed Dr.Rajkumar's death. Both were natural deaths, so naturally, people expected their fans to react by turning the city into a funeral pyre.

Some are even calling for all New Year celebrations to be called off. Already all shows of '3 Idiots' have been cancelled across the city (along with couple of screens that bothered showing any other film).

But the situation is hardly cataclysmic yet. At least not until we grant the 24X7 News guys their New Year wish.

Nowadays, seems like there is no difference whether it is Al-Qaeda or the local actor's Fan Club. Either one of them can come between you and your family, without the least bit of provocation.

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On a related note, it hurts to see how Hyderabad, a most beautiful and bubbly city, is being raped by the ones who profess to love it the most. I pray they leave her in peace soon.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Weekend Getaway: Galibore is anything but a bore

On Gandhi Jayanti, our team decided to celebrate the end of recession with a team outing. In keeping with Gandhiji's focus on simplicity, we opted to camp under the stars in the jungles around Bangalore. Also to save money, just in case the recession was not over. After weeks of market research (ah! home ground for we are, after all, the marketing team), we zeroed in on Galibore fishing camp on the banks of river Cauvery.

The camp itself is a beautiful array of 12 cottages nestled among huge, green trees. There is nothing for miles around—no plastic, no vehicles, no food, not even roads. There’s no better venue for a reunion with Mother Nature.

We hired an outfit called Outback adventurers to help us in the wilderness. These guys were quite good although for some reason or other, 50% of the planned activities were scrapped. We did get our money back, so I'll try them again. They were ready for us with the first activity of the day—rafting—as soon as we hopped off the bus.

Getting into the life-jackets we felt adventurous already. After a brief safety speech by Sanjeev, our expert navigator, the real thrills began. A couple of rapids tested our synchronization and strength. No one fell overboard, which was kind of disappointing! A good memory was the 30 minutes we spent dunked (Swimming is too sporty a word for it) in the river, just relaxing. It was also useful practice in case we did go overboard. Drenched and happy, we completed the trip in about 90 minutes.

Back at the camp, the aroma of delicious chicken curry, spicy chhole and piping hot rasam beckoned us. Still in our wet clothes, we attacked the yummiest food we have had in a long time. Stuffed to the gills, we hung ourselves out on the hammocks to dry. After a brief rest, we took off on a short hike into the woods. Unfortunately, they couldn’t fix the mountain bikes so that activity was canceled. Went on a coracle ride instead, during which we scared a crocodile (yeah, right!). The crooner in our group filled the evening air with John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” while the rest of us croaked “Row row row your boat, gently down the stream…”

The rest of the evening we lolled on the banks of the river, enjoying some barbequed chicken and salads, sat around a bonfire playing juvenile games from college. A round of “Truth and Dare” and “Two Truths and a Lie” revealed some dark and disturbing secrets. A blood oath prevents me from revealing the juicy bits here. Soon the frivolous banter turned into heated discussions about love, life and everything in between, which went on late into the night. We gained a lot of new perspectives and probably examined a few beliefs we had never questioned before. Basically, we were drunk.

By midnight, we crawled into our small tent and were off to Snoreville in 5 minutes. The weather was cool but not cold, cloudy but not rainy. They said generally the heat at the camp is sweltering, so I guess we were just lucky. After a peaceful sleep in the tents, woke up only at 6 to the sound of “Trekking at 7, saar. Please have tea and be ready!”.

This time we went up a short hill. We struggled in our Nikes and Reeboks while our guide leapt like a mountain goat in Hawai chappals. The top gave a breathtaking view of the meandering river. It was so calm and peaceful, we felt like staying up forever (also to avoid ambling down those slippery rocks again!). The official lens-men took this time to capture some artistic shots on their digital SLRs, especially one of us being led down the hill by none other than MG him-(err.. her) self. See the pic.

After all this exertion (especially for someone, uh… healthier, like me), breakfast never tasted better.They had the freshest bread and monster omelletes and to-die-for chutneys and... you get the picture, yeah!

Then it was time to leave. We bid a sad goodbye to the river, promising to return with our families soon. We thanked the staff (in cash AND kind) for the excellent service. The return journey was noisier, now that we were better friends than before. Singing and chatting, Bangalore came sooner than expected. Except for the final no-road stretch (about 10KM), the other 90KM has good road. Just the mad truckers and village-routes on Kanakapura Road keep you from relaxing.

We put ourselves back into managing release deadlines and top-lines, bottom-lines, knowing that the only "water-droplet on a leaf" we'd see for a long time now would be the Windows 7 desktop wallpaper. We said a silent prayer for the good people who dedicate their lives to maintaining such oasis of sanity and nature, away from barren information super-highways where Robotomized IT-wallahs like us journey without a destination.

As with every escape to nature, it's the getting back that feels like being 'recaptured' by prison guards.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

High-Cost Flying and DG (no-see) A

I remember appreciating the DGCA a few years ago for a rare attempt to show it is not owned by Prafool Patel, who is owned by You-Know-Who. It forced airlines to state the all-inclusive tariff on their web pages and ads. Otherwise, it had become a nightmare to compare Rs.1 tickets against Rs.0 tickets with varying levels of "fees and taxes". Sadly, now DGCA seems to have its hands full with lecherous pilots and runaway VIPs. The cartels work so transparently in the airline industry that a first-year economics student could write a paper on it. Yet, the regulator is unable, unwilling or uninterested in calling their bluff. Instead the Minister doles out a new package to these 'loss making' companies every few weeks, waiving off fuel arrears or infusing interest-free loans. In return, airlines continue to show more losses after paying for free VIP tickets, executive perks and poor-pilots strikes.

A list of the creative ways in which low-cost airlines get money that rightfully belongs to us, shedding tears while they do it:

1. No refunds if you cancel a ticket. The money stays with them. If you don't travel with THEM again within a SHORT period (like 6 months), you lose it. If you are someone old who travels just once a year, or a foreigner, too bad.

2. If you want clear instructions on how to re-use the balance, go rub a lamp. The website won't help. Spend half an hour on the phone, providing all sorts of verification, and then pay transaction charge for booking the new route (which is free in case of web booking). Fail one verification query, and lose it.

3. All this is on top of the cancellation fee which is often double or more the "base price" of the ticket (they claim the rest just goes to the fuel company or the government, anyway).

4. Even on a normal ticket, they have a paradoxical charge. There's the airport congestion fee (that implies LACK of airport infrastructure) as well as an airport development fee (that implies a GREAT new airport infrastructure) on the same ticket. Aren't these two conditions mutually exclusive?

5. Finally, of course, is the stale sandwich at airport cafes that somehow deserves to priced at Rs.150. By what logic, man?

I am all for paying a premium to get great service. Paying for services not used or exaggerated is plain disgusting.

It would be nice to see DGCA demand to know what percentage of the airlines' cash-flow comes from such unaccounted monies. It doesn't take a finance-whiz kid for them to park it safely in the "liabilities" column. Sure, it's a liability to carry someone else's money for 6 months and earn free interest on it, until it lapses and you can finally sieze it.

Liberalisation has opened a new can of worms for Indian consumers. Now that private sector has the flexibility to create confusing and complex packages and plans for most services, a regulator is required on top of them to ensure consumer rights. Somehow we feel this is an acceptable compromise in the absence of a consumer-forum with teeth.

So we have the IRDA for Insurance, TRAI for telecom, DGH for petroleum, SEBI for stocks, God-Knows-Who for cards and loans (that's a separate post) and DGCA for airlines. As scams in all these sectors have shown, the regulators have been as effective as the 70 year old watchman we have to guard our building gate. Unlike the old guard, who is a result of budgetary constraints, the sleepy regulators appear to be deliberate. It gives the appearance of control while allowing everyone to profit, usually at the expense of the consumer or worse, the exchequer (Hail Raja!).

The beauty of the scams lie in the fact that each unit of misdeed is too small to show up on the radar. It's the sheer volume in these sectors that bloats the sum total into a wet-dream for everyone involved. For example, the whole RIL-RNRL brouhaha is only about Rs.2 difference in price of the gas. The mutual funds have only been unfairly loading funds by 1% for so many years. Personally, the loss to me by the UDF-Congestion Fee oxymoron is no more than a piddly 200 bucks or so. Multiply that by 13 million travelers passing through Bangalore's airport alone. Now, stop drooling.

This "indifference" (of regulators and public opinion) has driven crores of unearned Rupees into the balance sheets of these perennially struggling service companies. Thankfully, we know their books are audited so all the losses must be real. Isn't that so, PwC?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The 7th Deadly Win

I know this is one of those oh-yawn-not-again ad efforts from Apple. But I just can't help but agree that they echo the exact way I feel right now. The only difference is, after months of gloom and depression, people WANT to believe that something is going to change their life for the better. Even if its only a brighter, more colorful default wallpaper. Which explains this.

Come, take a bite of the newest temptation from Microssssssoft.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Airtel mChek: Convenient but Confusing

Online security is a completely different ball-game. Indian regulators haven't even begun to understand what it means. I am very confident that it won't take too long for a semi-smart hacker to enter and steal information from banks, telecom operators and public utilities. Every once in a while, I notice how many websites have extremely complex processes to hide very basic holes in their security policies.


I registered for the mChek facility of Airtel. This allows you to link all your credit card details to the cellphone number. Paying for services is as easy as sending an sms. The shocking part is that after I canceled my Airtel phone number, the credit card details continued to exist in their database. My linked mChek account is not deleted automatically when the Airtel account itself is deleted. I know this because on my new Airtel number, I get an error stating the credit card is already in use by another mChek account (2 months after that number is discontinued).

When I contacted Airtel, they asked me to contact my bank and get the credit card number changed. So every time I use a lousy service provider, I must get a new card? Wow!

To quote from their reply:

Please be informed that you need to register in your bank if you want to change the number for your card after registering in mchek. Hence we request you to change the number in bank by calling to bank call center and try to use mchek for your new mobile number.

This is unsafe because it reveals that Airtel as a service provider does not really understand how mChek works and how it is used (or misused). Any financial instrument must have the same checks and balances as a regular bank instrument-- online systems requiring MORE so. Why have so many checks on banks but none on a telecom company? In the absence of regulatory understanding, non-traditional financial offerings put too much onus on the user and too little responsibility on the provider.

This is just one example. I have seen similar security gaffes for banks like HDFC and broking houses like NJ Invest. Some time ago, I found all my personal details on a BSNL website while Googling. An application I sent them was available on their customer support server. A direct URL with NO login required! Luckily they took it off after I complained.

Mobile Commerce is new to India and a great technology evolution. These services must take special efforts to appear secure and belie the worries of tech-phobic users. Hiding behind opaque helpdesks and living in denial of breaches already made, is a dis-service to their own cause. The mChek page on Airtel does not even have a link to report bugs, errors or disputed payments. Your only option is the standard Airtel 121 helpdesk which is rather ill-equipped to handle these specialised (and sometimes, more urgent) cases.

Making the customer pay with either his time or money is preferable to securing systems and places where THEY must take an effort. After all, if all comes crashing down, the government is always standing by for a bail-out.

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Next Day Update:
The process is actually as simple as reporting the change of phone number to support@mchek.com and they delink the accounts. Someone at mChek with a knack for thwacking kulhadis on their own feet found this blog and offered to help. Very impressive in an era where they could have easily allowed brick-headed call-centers to play ping-pong with me. Thanks, Nidhi! Next up, try to convince Airtel to add some useful FAQ on their website and educate their L1 engineers about VAS support :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Watch Youtube in Gold Class


Noticed this cool feature on Youtube. At the top right corner, they have a bulb labeled: "Turn off the lights". Clicking this icon darkens the screen area next to the Youtube video being played. Clicking it again restores the normal screen.

While this offers a neat theatre-like experience, especially when watching longer videos, it is also a quasi-environmental friendly initiative. Mad scientists have often attacked Google searches as being bad for the planet. Part of the attacks related to Google's love for the white clutter-free screens on most of their apps.

I love the way Google responds to every nutcase, whether it is Bing or Blackle. Tharoor should learn a few tips from them ;-)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ganpati Bappa.... More... Yeah!!

This huge banner near our house made us do a double-take. Looks like even Playboys need all the luck they can get, eh?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Theatre Review: The Great Lalula

Wifey decided to make Cubby part of a historical moment in Rangashankara's history. The first time that they allowed 20 month olds to enter their hallowed halls-- a space normally reserved for 96 month olds and above. The promise was something special, only for infants and toddlers, in a language they'd understand-- Gibberish. We went to see "The Great Lalula".

It was a disappointment.

To be fair, Cubby did enjoy parts of the performance. He stood and clapped and waved his hands in glee. Some kids chanted along with the artists, some completed the rhymes before the artists could and others merely walked up on the stage, mesmerized. Everything you'd expect from a motley crew of 20 to 30 month olds. There was also some talking on the phones, some flashing of digicams and some running up the aisles: stuff you've come to expect from the yuppie, 'adult' Indian audience.

Despite the success of the play in getting li'l children to enjoy some theatre, I came away disappointed. Probably more for how they squandered a wonderful opportunity, rather than the performance itself.

Here are my reasons:

The artists took themselves too seriously. The focus was on technique. Their 'subtle manoeuvres' really didn't engage the "attention" of the young audience. It was a humorless performance.

Then, there was no music. Children respond best to 3 things: music, physical comedy and surprise. Surprisingly, all of these were lacking. The first half of the performance was too silent, broken only by utterances from the "poem". The actions were slow and deliberate, opera-like. It wasn't until they started clanging some utensils (10 minutes into the show of 20-25 minutes) that most children even looked away from their fidgeting to watch.

Secondly, I wish they kept bright lights on and had something cheerful happen on stage (peppy music, funny cartoons, maybe a clown/juggler?) right when the kids entered. The dark theatre intimated the kids and no child let go of their parents. I remember a performance of "Sleuth" at RS where they had "Tom n Jerry" on TV while people walked in and took their seats, just to set the tone for the "cat and mouse games" to follow.

"The Great Lalula" is acknowledged as a precursor to the Dada-ism movement in Germany. It is supposed to reflect the imaginary world of a child, where he can communicate and cook and drive and dress, all in his own way, in his own language (hence, the Gibberish). The thorn in this beautiful concept was playing it subtle. The priority should have been to connect with the children, even if it meant letting down your guard and engage in some goofy humor!

You think I should've gone to a circus, instead? Maybe.

Let the last word belong to the synopsis of this play on the RS webpage:

Imagine bringing your 20-month young into a theatre only to find a party is being organized – a party for children! And then a lady comes on stage and begins to entertain your children with song and dance, all in a language that only children understand! A mesmerizing world where words skip and dance, move, laugh, jabber, murmur, rustle, rhyme and sing.

Yes! That is what I went in expecting. A carnival of music, dancing, juggling. I wanted my kid to come back with stories and memories of that hour inside RangaShankara. I wanted him to enjoy the exhilaration of a live performance (not just TV), to feel at home in the theatre...

Just 10 minutes later, he had no excitement, no stories, nothing to repeat. That's my rant.

........


Trust me, we really loved this initiative by Arundhati Nag, to have a festival only for children. We have been big fans of Prithvi Theatre while growing up and while RS is yet to grow beyond its very local vision, we want this haven available to Cubby-- even as an iPod toting teenager. We will continue to be part of Aha! next year and every year it happens. With only a prayer that next year, they find some real performances, instead of being happy because a "troupe came all the way from Germany!"...

:-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why is Master Bates sulking?

Every time a movie comes out in India, the Ban-chauves (a new term I coined for chauvinists always looking to ban something) come out in droves. The best ones are where the sulking party has no clue about the offending art in question. Remember the Slum-dog law-suit? Now the priests in Orissa have their panties in a ball over (what they assume to be a) "religious" slur in "Kaminey (2009)".

TOI Article

The glory for Lord Juggernaut from this jihaad? Maybe, a few lakh more "donations". And the look on the priest-faces when they discover it was actually about Lord Jack-on-nut all along? Priceless.

Only in India, man. Hyuk hyuk!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Growing up wasn't half as fun as WATCHING this guy grow up!


Just dropping a line to say you must read the brilliant re-cap of Cubby's two years on the planet, over at his mom's blog

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A radio taxi service in Pune

Living in India's Autorickshaw-Hell, also known as Bangalore, I was surprised to note that another city could inspire the same dread of being stranded without transport in the middle of nowhere. Unless, of course, you enjoy daylight robberies in which case there are rickshaws aplenty.

We were recently in Pune and realized that going from the airport at Lohegaon to a destination 15-20KM away can easily cost Rs.600 or more. This is from a pre-paid taxi counter (which is just a farce run by the taxi lobby; it is neither regulated nor reasonable). Going to the airport is another nightmare: apart from a higher price, you can never be sure of simply hailing a taxi or auto. For early morning or late night flights, be prepared to pay a King's ransom!

Delhi and Bangalore suffer from similar woes when it comes to rude, cheating rickshaw drivers. Luckily, both cities now have excellent radio taxi networks that assure a reliable, cost-effective and stress-free ride from anywhere to anywhere. All you do is call a local helpline, they track the nearest taxi on a satellite-system and usually send you a taxi within 15-30 minutes. Surprisingly, none of the major companies like Cel Cabs or Meru Cabs have a presence in Pune. That is when we discovered Wings Radio Taxi. Even the locals seemed unaware of their presence and it was only repeated searching on Google that helped us find them.

They seem to have a small but well-run operation in Pune. We have not used them extensively to comment on their service. However, what impressed us was that they took the effort of following up with us after we made a complaint regarding their service. The executive, Ms.Sneha, called us numerous times to ensure that we were satisfied and that the experience would be pleasant. The driver was also very polite and cheerful, although he kept chattering on the phone the entire time. Can't blame him, since even so-called educated people don't think twice nowadays about talking while driving-- putting everyone else at extreme risk, while they sit safely behind airbags. The vehicle was clean and well-maintained from inside. The exteriors were muddy but that could be just the famous Pune rains... The billing was metered and the driver was happy to return the change. We let him keep it, which he was happier to do :-)

A city with large student and senior-citizen population like Pune needs more such services. One hopes they maintain punctuality and discipline. Reliability and affordability are the #1 expectations from a radio taxi service. Good companies like Spot Taxi in Bangalore have died once their taxis started to come late or not at all. So far, it looks like Wings Taxis are on the right track. We wish them luck!

Bookings are made on a single central number +91 20 40100100 (14 lines)and this is a24X7 service

You can also make bookings (or complaints) at their website

The charges are a bit high at Rs.16 per Km (in most cities the average is Rs.12/Km) but that will come down with more competition. Minimum fare is Rs.50 (for 3KM) which seems fair. Given the low cost of running taxis on LPG, the high taxi fares are nothing but extortion in all cities. Until now, we even got rickety unsafe vehicles for that price but at least that is changing now.

PS: Atul's blog seems to echo most of these views. Have a look!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Office 2010: The Movie

Not generally a big fan of Microsoft, but this trailer.. ermmm.. advertisement for the Office 2010 suite hits the spot. Plus, let's face it, they did cleanse a lot of their sins with Office 2007. Right?

Pump up the volume and watch!

PS: Here's more from the creator of this movie.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Microfinance. Beyond empty slogans?

Saw this banner ad on Parul's blog and clicked lazily. Was surprised to see something that looked worthwhile, for a change. Kiva appears to be an organization that helps online lenders provide small (or big) loans to poor entrepreneurs. These are semi-skilled people who will not get loans from traditional institutions (that are too busy paying hefty bonuses to care). All they need is a few dollars and some basic hand-holding to cross the bridge between destitution and dignity. Kiva does not guarantee that the money will be repaid but they do have a system to track the repayment. If you wish, the money can be re-lent or donated to Kiva for covering their opex. Click here for more

The reason I post about this is two-fold. One is that I found the simplicity of the idea marvelous. All you need to do is browse through profiles (just like say, on Facebook) and click a button to lend measly amounts starting from $25 to an entrepreneur you like. A progress meter shows how much the entrepreneur needs and how far they have succeeded. Often the principal required is as low as $500!

Considering how we end up spending $50 on just a weekend outing to the movies, imagine how the same "disposable" money could fuel the engine of growth for a poor family! Kiva, and others like them, are part of a humbling and direct effort.

The other reason I decided to express this post is that I am not sure how real this organization is. I only found this through a banner ad. On the Internet, how does one know whether the people behind the style-sheets are genuine, worthy individuals or merely scamsters out to squeeze the emotions (and dollars) from a blog-loving public? Look at the Fake Mommy fiasco, that fooled a lot of people for a lot of time.

Then, how does one validate that those stories of need and enterprise are true, that the money will reach them and that they will use that money productively? Skeptics wonder the same about established, non-transparent organizations like Cry and Concern as well. However, I was drawn to the simplicity and power of the change that microfinance seems to promise. "Garibi Hatao" with an agenda, not just with slogans.

I hesitate only because the Internet that makes things so simple, also obfuscates the truth.

Is there a way to ensure good intentions come with KPIs? Does it help to have other websites like this one tracking the myriad microfinance sites? Or is it even worth thinking so much about it? After all, when it comes to spending that same $50 on first day show of some new YashRaj Films trash, we prefer to leap before we look, don't we?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The "All Dressed Up But Nowhere To Go" Look


I just couldn't get this picture from today's edition of Deccan Herald out of my head. The article was about a new "Breathe Fresh" campaign led by homemakers in Bangalore. Read more about it here

What captured me about the accompanying photo was not just the fact that they cropped the lady they were talking about. That part was funny! Notice the posse of auto-rickshaw drivers she is addressing? The way they stand, their doped eyes, the aggressive hand-postures, the leery expression... why, the Great Wall of Incomprehension that seems to separates them from her! No?

To experience one such look, when one is desperately seeking a ride home, is excrutiating. This frame full of those faces felt no less than gang-rape.

Anyone that has faced the misfortune of being at the mercy of auto-rickshaws in Bangalore will recognize that "i'm only here for a joyride" look. Whether at a lazy 3PM or anxious post-movie midnight, no logic drives the Bangalore auto-guy's refusal to ply. Whether one is pregnant, disabled, elderly or soaked, neither money nor pleading can move that inert soul slumped over a rickety handle-bar. In many cases, they grimace as if you just revealed your address as "39, Hell Street", before put-putting away... 300 metres to the next sideways nod. Sometimes it looks like they roam the streets only to score the highest Nos.

When one does agree to go, the meter is rigged (often, by just a rupee per KM). That translates into about Rs.50 extra for a cross-city return-trip. If caught, the robin-hood excuse is: "What saar, you are IT. So much you are earning. What is one rupee extra faar you?"

After my five year battle in the city, the auto unions have won. I pay them whatever they want, I go wherever they wish and simply walk the rest of the way. For I have seen, even the police is shit scared of their unions. They fail to enforce something as basic as the mandatory PUC check, while cutting down trees in Lalbag to ostensibly reduce pollution! Trucks, buses and autos spewing thick black smoke can pass under the running nose of traffic constables with not a whistle of alarm or protest.

To see a bevy of sweet brave hearts do something about the menace, instead of arm-chair blogging, is indeed news of the day. Extremely heartening! This huge population of commercial vehicle drivers and owners will steer us into or away from the gas chambers that they continue to create. If we can reach out to them, whether through education or torture, the time to do it is now before Bangalore turns into Bombay.

For all our sakes, I wish the "Breathe Fresh" ladies good luck.

Monday, June 15, 2009

America is back: Recession ends at least for CEOs


After a long time, a Dilbert cartoon that I just loved. Succinct take on the "we are in it together, but YOU get laid off" attitude of CEOs and top management during the recent crisis. Sounds even funnier when read with this article, in Business Standard Weekend. To quote the author:

What these masters of the government rescue need now is a shopping list — a 10-step programme to restore their remorseless, reptilian souls and help them rediscover the unique thrill that can come only from being paid millions of dollars to provide services that are of no value to greater mankind.
More here

Monday, June 08, 2009

News Analysis: "Daggering" with Kim Jong Il

Heard the sad news about 2 American TV journalists sentenced by North Korea to 12 years hard-labor. Their alleged crime was illegal entry into N Korea, which basically means they were conducting interviews at the border when the N Korean guards saw them, went over to the other side and forced them to come with them. This other news about 2 Kashmiri women, on the same day, only amplifies how secure people in border areas may feel with the runaway security guards all around them. In the latter case, the charismatic new Chief Minister, young Omar Abdullah, even dismissed the local allegation of rape and refused to entertain any investigations until the valley boiled for 7 days!

Coming back to the first news, these 2 reporters, in their 30s, have been charged with espionage and found guilty in a 'show trial'. US media, of course, is requesting that the innocent journalists not be used as pawns in what is actually a diplomatic stand-off. Their case is no more than North Korea dipping its toes in the Obama waters. They will tailor future provokations to US based on how the new administration tackles this negotiation and crisis. Neither the US nor North Korea have anything to lose, but the winner gains powerful credibility in the region.

What surprised me, though, was that these 2 ladies who risked their life to collect some politically sensitive, award-worthy news do not work for any news organization (like BBC or Reuters) at all. Their employer is a Silicon Valley start-up known as Current TV.

The Current TV home page is full of fluffy, sex-and-sensationalism type "news". They call it mash-ups and claim to offer some sort of "user defined" criteria of what qualifies as news. Whatever that may be, I did not see where a serious reportage about refugees from North Korea (that the 2 ladies were allegedly investigating) would find a place anywhere on this site.


Sample a few headlines:
Flavored Lube Tasting
So Where is ET Anyway?
'Apprentice' Results
'Big Brother' Entrants Revealed

What could have motivated two young, female journalists working for a web-tabloid to cross the border (or even venture close enough) into known hostile country during a known period of hostilities? Even if they got out of there OK, there's no way their 'serious' report would make it past the sub-editor at Current TV. Hell, I had a hard time finding even the story of their own plight on that site! Makes me wonder, what were the little ladies reeaallllly up to? Hmmm.

Search results for the term "Korea" on Current TV do not mention the incident

To cherry the cake, Current TV is founded by the man who invented the Internet itself-- Mr. Al Gore. Wow.

Is it just me, or is there an inconvenient truth lurking out there.... somewhere...?

PS: For a context of what the title of my post refers to, read this (be warned, though)

D'oh Kkknight and other Punxx

I am a huge Simpsons fan. More in the hero-worship, role-model kind of way. Just discovered this artist who takes the 'worship" to a whole new level. This guy called Dean Fraser has kidnapped icons from TV, movies, comics and basically everywhere to make them live in the Simpson universe.

Have a look here

For the too lazy to click-through types, a sample is provided below.
...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cool new website - Planet RadioCity

Discovered this new initiative by one of India's leading music stations. An interactive video and music website called Planet RadioCity, along the lines of Channel V's vIndia and MTV. For a company not known for its online presence, this was a pleasant surprise. It has good features and looks promising. If only they'd reduce the intrusive ads until they have attracted a significant following. Unlike the MTV site, this one seems to have its heart in the right place (music!) and could become a better source of old and new music than shady sites like Raaga.com

Of course, seeing how they destroyed their wonderful brand in Bangalore one hopes they do not repeat the mistake with the website. From being the ONLY place for music in Bangalore about 3 years ago, they have come to a point where even cabbies don't listen to them anymore. All thanks to their absurd fetish for discarding brilliant programming like current topic discussions, movie spoofs, jokes, campus banter and good blend of regional/bollywood/english music in favor of only playing the latest Kannada songs. Even local friends who know the language cannot relate to their music anymore!

In my opinion, the blame lies more with the flawed government policy than with the station itself. By allowing a production company to run no more than one station per city, the government restricts them to playing whatever gets the maximum revenue. All stations end up playing safe and playing the same kind of music. Creativity, differentation and building taste becomes a casualty of petty culture policing. The next round of auction for radio frequencies must allow the market to decide who plays what music on how many channels per city. By making it cheaper to run radio stations, the government can truly allow them to enrich our lives.

Until then, this new venture by one of my favorite radio people will be keenly watched for some old-fashioned entertainment. The fact that I landed on their page after seeing a banner ad on some unrelated website means that at least their marketing guys are doing it right!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Movie Review: 99

Cricket is a Religion in India. Meet the Fundamentalists.


The first question I have for Krishna DK, Raj Nidimoru and Anupam Mittal after watching "99 (2009)" is: "Why did you starve us for 6 long years since your last epic "Flavors (2003)"?".

Like their previous work, "99" is pure brilliance with a tight plot, jokes that work and pop-culture references that make you go "A-ha!". In other words, a MUST WATCH. The packed house at PVR on a weekday late-night show is testimony to that.

Kunal Khemu is an under-rated actor in the mould of Abhay Deol. Luckily, the latter has found his groove with the last couple of releases. Kunal is still stuck at 99 (pun intended), despite excellent nuanced performances in some excellent but forgotten films like "SuperStar (2008)". He has an easy charm and superb comic timing. At the same time, his vulnerable eyes poke through your heart during the tragic scenes. I really hope he breaks the jinx of successful child actors (like Urmila Matondkar, probably the only success so far).

This movie also enjoys the acting talent of powerhouses like Boman Irani (who started in similar Indy films like "Let's Talk (2002)" but now needs no introduction), Mahesh Manjrekar, Amit Mistry (a bonafide superstar at Bombay's Prithvi Theatres) and Cyrus Broacha. All these guys have significant theatre experience and it shows in their comic timing, body language and diction. In smaller roles, the bhojpuri actor and the sidekick provide many laughs with their natural presence. Among the ladies, Soha and Simone are important to the plot but don't have any spectacular scenes where they get to shine.

So here is my second question to Krishna DK, Raj Nidimoru and Anupam Mittal: "Why didn't you repeat the ravishing and very funny Pooja Kumar from Flavors, in the role of (who else?) Pooja?". She'd be so purrrfect-- and a treat to watch.

The production is very well designed. The movie is set in 99-2000 and it almost feels as if that is when it was shot. Be it the film hoardings across the city (imagine "Kaho Na Pyar Hai (2000)" blocking the skyline, for chrissakes!), the mobile phone models they use, the cars they drive or their amazement at the advent of "cyber cafes"--- this could well be one of India's first period films (NOT about the Freedom Struggle)! If anything, that's one award it deserves for sure. The background score is also well used and adds to the tension/fun of the chase.

As for the story itself, this is a chase/heist movie in the genre of what Guy Ritchie does. The two losers are on the run from everyone, with their IOUs adding up faster than Sachin's centuries. Their misfortunes and bravado makes for some very comic situations, without resorting to any toilet humor (well, almost) or Priyadarshan style confusion-climax. The audience kept laughing and clapping all through. Especially loved were the Bombay versus Delhi references (the cities are known for their cultural rivalry and chauvinism).

Some examples:
1. Juxtaposing the Bambaiyya abuse "Ticha Maaiiii Laa...." with the very Delhi "Teri Pennnn Di..." at 2 ends of a phone call
2. "Coffee? Is waqt? Yeh Delhi hai, tumhari Bambai nahi. Yahaan raat raat ko hi hoti hai"
3. "Dilli mein sab ladkiyon ke sirf 2 naam hote hain-- Pooja ya Neha" (that's SO true!)


The movie is peppered with cricket metaphors, delivered in Cyrus's inimitable style. Cricket forms an important part of the plot and it is made by true lovers of the game.

99 is two hours of pure fun. Yes, it reminds you of many a Hollywood films, but not as a copy. It faithfully follows the caper genre. This slight difference sets it apart from the 99% junk that Bollywood ends up celebrating annually, with the likes of Anees Bazmee, Priyadarshan, David Dhawan and Hansal Mehta.

So here's my third question for Krishna DK, Raj Nidimoru and Anupam Mittal: "Agli picture kab bana rahe ho?"

----------

Epilogue

Some hilarious "prophecies that came true" made by the characters in the year 2000:
1. "Na daud sakte hain, na maar sakte hain. 50 0vers khelne ki aukaat nahi hai. 20 overs ka match rakho, usmein world champions ban jayenge!"
2. "Main kehta hoon yeh cyber cafe, email, internet sab 2 din ke shauq hain. Zyada din nahi chalenge"
3. "I want to open a coffee shop". "You mean like a tea stall?"
4. "Ek din hum Amitji ko bhi le ayenge, Bhojpuri filmon mein..."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How to find a new tech job

I must link to this post by Phil Montgomery, Marketing Guru and Tech Enthusiast.

An excerpt:

How to find a new tech job

Once you know what you are looking for, here are some suggestions, based on my own recent experience:
  1. Don't let your ego dictate that you need the job with the biggest salary or biggest title. Choose the role based on your career roadmap and best fit - the happier you are, with the best fit, will produce the best long term opportunities.
  2. Linkedin is easily the best job and contact finding service. Change your profile to show that you are now looking - insert a dummy company that says "looking for the next opportunity". Search the jobs available regularly, and apply for anything that looks promising. Recruiters regularly scan linked in looking for candidates.
  3. Make sure you have Linkedin recommendations, and ask for them before you need them.
  4. Always reply to recruiters, and build a relationship - even if you are happily employed. Recruiters remember people who helped them fill positions by recommendations.
  5. Update your resume to two pages maximum. Remember that the aim of the resume is to get an interview, not the job. Be as results focused as possible, and have friends and colleagues critique the document.
Some of the most fantastic (and common sense) tips I have ever read about job interviews and job hunting. I agree with almost everything he says, including the part about using LinkedIn well and presenting non-confidential material to demonstrate past success.


"Brijj", a LinkedIn like feature on Indian job portal Naukri.com


Big salaries and big titles (even big companies) can be the biggest seduction, especially early on in the career. Fresh out of college, you generally have no clue about what you want to do or what technology excites you (but for a lucky few who know at the age of 12!). In my experience, I just waddled till the right breaks came through.

As a 10 year veteran now (ahem!), this is the advise I'd generally give to freshers:

Join a big, branded company for the first 2-3 years. With the credibility behind you, spend the next 3-4 years in a small company or start-up. No place lets you learn as much about diverse things, as a small company. Use that opportunity, at every turn. By the 6th year or so, you'd have a fairly good idea what you want to do next. Depending on that goal, let your 3rd company be a big player or an exciting start-up. Try and stay there for the next 10-12 years or more....

If you happen to fall into Plan B, do not despair. Join a smaller firm out of college, the best thing to do is slog it out as much as you can in the initial 2-3 years. Take on every task, related and unrelated. This experience usually gets you into the established companies that need the "grass root" skills only you have. By the 6th year, you should be able to get back to Plan A.

Do not let petty thoughts of politics and exploitation distract you. I don't know if its ambition or just too much TV, I see more young people now than before worry about that at the start of their career. Believe me, at that level you are too insignificant to be picked on. Everyone gets equally ragged, no discrimination there, and in many cases it actually helps you 'evolve'. If they make you work 14 hours a day and reuse your skills as a delivery-boy, that's just a perk of the job. Bet you heard that "builds character" speech already, eh? It's true :-)

For the remaining tips, I encourage you to head over to that article now.

The Economy Goes Bust -- Sales Need a Push Up

Just came across this company called Systancia, based in France. This is a snapshot of their eye-catching website. The company touts itself as an alternative to the market-leader Citrix in thin-clients and application delivery software.

I am sure sales are slow and they must do what they can to grab some attention. No doubt they will be very successful with this sort of branding-- assuming their target audience is adolescent system administrators. Hyuk Hyuk

To be fair, one of the product-lines they develop happens to be called "Load Balancers". That might explain the visual theme!

:-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Separated at Birth?




Is it just me, or does Robert Pattinson (he played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter films) look like the firang version of Imran Khan (our own Rats from Jaane Tu...)? Especially the determined jawline, the bushy eyebrows and the curling lips.

They share more than just an eerie resemblance: both were born on the 13th day of the month! Different months and years, though.

Would be nice to see Imran play the charming Vampire in the Indian version of "Twilight (2008)", eh?

Monday, April 06, 2009

"Main" Hoon Na


Men's wretchedness in soothe I so deplore,
Not even I would plague the sorry creatures more.
Mephistopheles

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No Right to Information = Wrong Information

India now has a Credit Information Bureau. These things existed for years in US and look how they saved THEIR economy from bad credit! CIBIL, apparently, knows all about any loans, credit cards and outstanding debts that you have ever taken. This information helps banks to weed out habitual offenders while disbursing new loans. The CIBIL system can detect 'smart people' that try changing their address or birth year while re-applying, to create a report with patterns and histories. This is an important and much needed part of an organized financial sector.

While I completely support this move, my problem is with their lack of transparency. The information is only available to banks (members) and not to the concerned individuals. Their FAQ proudly states they are also beyond the RTI Act.

I believe there is no reason for agencies like CIBIL to hide their data. Knowing that I have a positive or negative credit score will not allow me to 'game' the system. If it does, the system needs to become stronger. Hiding the information does little to deter the rogues but could play havoc with the innocent.

Any system that pretends to be holier-than-thou and shies away from transparency in the name of 'security' is merely a ticking time bomb. Whether it was the great Indian bureaucracy or the WMD-hunting Bush regime, a 'closed' system was always rotting from within while failing to be effective in the stated, noble goals of larger good.

Unlike the West, India has no laws to regulate such agencies. While they are free to collect data on us, they are not required to send free credit reports. We must have a right to know what information they possess and also, the right to contest that information before it is too late. Our financial existence in this connected world depends on it.

A couple of personal "helpdesk" experiences with stock-reply happy banks have made me wary of such noble initiatives, if not supported by an equally noble redress mechanism.

When I started my career, HDFC sent me a free card and promptly levied some faltu charge on it. I got the card cancelled and never had or needed a credit card after that. Five years later, I started traveling international for work and needed a card with some decent limits. Applied to HDFC (which remains a trusted bank, otherwise) and was told that I am ineligible for a card since the system shows me with an open, defaulted card. They wanted me to find the old card and submit it for cancelation with a written letter. Five years after I cancelled the card. I was stunned. Luckily, this happened before CIBIL existed. I quickly got a card from another bank.

A second instance, more recently, was when Kingfisher Airlines decided to debit me twice for a flight ticket. The first debit shows up on my card, the second debit is merely "blocked". The result is my credit limit is exceeded until they "release" the funds. The card company and the airline are passing the buck, the former threatening to levy "over credit" charges and the latter saying they never blocked any funds. In the absence of a credible consumer court, what stops these agencies from giving us the run around?

Most people may not even notice such errors on the complicated statements. Not many in India (including me) possess the knowledge to detect, understand or follow-up on such financial jiggery-pokery. Faced with the daunting follow-up required, some may even elect to ignore this given the small amount.

In the CIBIL era, this goof might come back to haunt five or ten years later. Refusal to pay for the airline's mistake could cause us dear. The only way to prevent future shocks is to periodically know your credit score in an open, consumer-friendly manner.

By now, I am sure the powers-that-be have enough proof about the failure of self-regulation among financial insitutions. An overhaul of these hallowed institutions is overdue, before it hurts India worse than our friends in US.

--------

An excerpt from their FAQ, more here.



Access To CIBIL Information

Q.15 Who can access CIRs?

Reports can be accessed by Members on the principle of reciprocity ie only those Members who have provided all their data to CIBIL are permitted to access CIRs. Members can do so only to take valid credit decisions. Disclosure to any other person or entity is prohibited.

Q.16 Can the borrower obtain his own CIR from CIBIL?

No. However, if a Member has drawn a report on that borrower, a copy of the same can be obtained from the Member.

Q.18 Whether Right to Information Act, 2005 is applicable to CIBIL?

No. The reason being that the CIBIL is not a “Public Authority” as defined under Sec 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Basic Car Audio

I have a less than fancy car at the moment and did not want to spend too much on the in-car audio. While good music on the road is a necessity, I somehow did not feel comfortable spending upwards of 15-20K on this accessory. Recently, I managed to outfit the car with a basic car audio under Rs.10,000 that seems good enough for city driving and easy listening.

In case anyone is interested, the dents in the pocket were as follows:

Kenwood KDC-MP342U headunit (USB input, iPod, MP3 and WMA compatible) = Rs.7500

JBL GT5-S204 4" coaxial speakers (including installation) = Rs.1500

Total = Rs.9000

Headunits without the USB connector were available for a thousand bucks less. Now that I think about it, maybe I could have saved that money and burned cheap CDs instead.

I got it installed from Dinesh at Junction for Car Accessories at 4th Block Jayangar (close to the Jain Temple, opposite RV College of Nursing). He is a pleasant chap and completed the job in less than an hour.

Anyone here knows more about car audio and how to get a good one without blowing the pockets? Lots of info on high end systems but nothing for the rest of us on the audiophile websites :-)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Open Source Mehbooba

Probably one of the worst kep secrets of Hindi cinema is the blatant and rampant music plagiarism even by the most talented composers. This one was a slight shocker because "Mehbooba" remains one of India's catchiest dance tunes, even 25 years after its release. I was over awed at the efforts Burman da took in the days before Internet and iPod, to actually find obscure music and turn it into a national anthem. 

Now I am kind of sure a little digging will reveal even the other tunes in Sholay were "inspired" (apart from the obvious Sergio Leone theme music)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Flames from the Bush Fire


AIG 'forced' to give $450 million bonus to those responsible for the financial crisis.

Apparently, the commitment to pay was made before AIG collapsed, so they are legally bound to honor it. A different matter that without the bailout, there would be no AIG, no job and no contracts left to honor. Ed Libby seems to be a firm believer in Marie's policy of "letting them eat cake". With a little help from the no-strings package deviously devised by Henry Paulson (Treasury Secretary in Bush administration)

In related news, a large part of the bailout money to AIG, organized by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (ex Goldman Sachs), ended up in the hands of Goldman Sachs. A friend in deed...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yediyurappa and his Victorian Secret

Bangalore Police raided a party on Sunday but failed to find any drugs. These
youngsters have been booked for hosting a party without permission and also
for obscene dancing. The party was organized by sons of Mr.Ramakrishnaiah,
an official attached to primary education minister Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri.
The sons were not arrested due to pressure from senior police officials.
This qualifies as "Skimpily Clad" in Bangalore's definition.


By this standard, the cops should stand at the Immigration counter in BIAL. They will be able to arrest twice this number every hour for few more millimeters of leg seen on arriving foreign (and Indian) passengers.





I do not support rave parties and indecent behaviour. As a parent now, I want a safe and comfortable social life for my son once he goes to college. However, as the same parent, I do not want to live in a society where the rule of fear is passed off as the rule of law. Where I am more afraid of self-appointed moral cops in the garb of state cops picking up youngsters for "crimes" like dancing, singing and wearing knee-length skirts...




Victorian prudery is one matter. Talibanization of India is a whole another worry. Don't we have enough to put up with already, without sacrificing one of the best qualities that still redeems India over many developed nations? The freedom to "be".



Read the news item here and here

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dancing to Slumdog Millionaire - Jai Ho

It *is* a phenomenon. Admit it.

(This is not my son, just a random video I found online. But it is so cute!)

Monday, March 02, 2009

After Shock

Dev and Frieda have succeeded where Anil Kapoor and Madhuri failed. This video makes the hype totally worth it. Pretty good, I say!

For the rest of us, there's no forgetting the original Bollywood jhatkas that made this music video a classic.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Get a taste of Indian Oscurry

I am not a big Oscar fan. The last time I woke up early to watch a telecast, I was maybe 13. Awards in general have lost their meaning for me over time (My last post mentions one reason; not counting how awards have generally eluded me since I was 13). Yet, as I watched the Oscar telecast this evening from my hotel room in Santa Clara, I had a lump-in-the-throat moment. For all our posturing that our self-esteem does not depend on validation from the firangs, boy! it felt great to hear Bachchan's immortal dialogue on the Oscar stage-- "Mere paas maa hai".

I mean, Rah! Rah! Rahman! That was Wow!

The real lump-moment, though, came when they announced the award for best documentary to "Smile Pinki (2008)". I have obviously not seen it, nor heard of it, given how marketing-dependant we are. Yet, I have never prayed harder for any movie to win. It is extremely heartening to see India colonize the Oscar stage, even small films with no frantic lobbying efforts. I believe Pinki was there at Kodak theatre this evening, although they did not show her. I hope this award gives her happiness. And an audience.

For India's first Oscar glory to be named after Pinki, too, is a fitting tribute to our artistic "history" (wink wink).

That said, I did a little jig and squealed in delight, as the camera panned from apna Lakkhan (Anil Kapoor) to the ravishing Frida Pinto and then to AR Rahman, as he framed the dedication in 3 languages-- hindi, english and tamil! It was a great feeling and not something to be savoured alone in a hotel room; wish I was hooting together with the chavanni crowd in front-stall at Gaiety-Galaxy.

Anyway, the Oscars tonight may do for Indian cinema what "Crouching Tiger" did for China. Of course, I fear this will also lead to many more Hollywoodized offerings from Bombay. For starters, the musical that followed Rahman's award was as Indian as the "chicken curry" served in desi restaurants along El Camino Real in Santa Clara. Why didn't they just call Farah Khan or Ganesh Acharya to hhelp with the choreography?!!

(On a related note, "Lagaan (2001)", in my opinion, had a better presentation, better performances and waaay better music-- everything that represented true Bollywood. Rahman and Aamir deserved to be up there in 2002!)

Here's hoping Bollywood continues to "be itself" and produce the wacky, unique movies only it can. Dances, songs, logic (or lack of) and Gulshan Grover intact. Please don't make Bollywood bland just because the sophisticated firang palette can't take it. They will get used to it, just like they got used to Chicken Curry ;-)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jai Ho, Mangte Chungneijang Merykom

I almost felt like copying the whole post. It deserves to be all over Bloggywood. But I am just going to give a link to it. I must admit, I had never heard of this female. Do read Pseudo Intellectual's brilliant reminder here, then come back here.

I am in awe of people who have the guts to do something about their status in life and actually pursue their happiness -- juggling career, kids and community on the way. They learn to take the knocks that life sends their way in their stride. What they are not prepared for, though, is to see the very colors they proudly wear turn their back on them. The colors of India.

As a nation we seem to celebrate mediocrity in Ash, crudity in Bhajji and even criminal celebrity in Raju... but we allow true heroism to be lost in the fires of domesticity. I am sure Mary will go on to greater glory in Boxing. Maybe even play for a different country.

That is the day we will proclaim her as "Indian" and scramble over each other to shower awards on her petite 46Kg frame.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When every drop counts...

The economic downturn has given such a beautiful veil to incompetent managers to hide their own flaws and mistakes. Any and every mistake can be quickly blamed on the "bottom 5%" and wash your hands off it. In some cases, they can take this corporate cleansing to rather extreme levels.

Take the case of this Filipino worker, had his ass fired for.. well.. not ass-imilating well into the Australian culture. Philippines is one of my favorite countries (not counting Europe). The reason is they are closest to India in terms of their food habits, zest for life and "kindly adjust maadi" attitude.

It appears that they are closer to India than I previously thought. This news article may well apply to any of us. 'fess up, people, did you never do this in firang land yourself?

Corporate 'culture' going down the drain-- the Australian Way :-P

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kya Aap Montessori Pass Se Tez Hain?

An office bearer of a slum dwellers’ body has filed a defamation case against music director A.R. Rahman and actor Anil Kapoor alleging that the award winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” calls Indians dogs and slum dwellers slum dogs.

Meanwhile, the Thackeray's are contemplating action against film director Kevin Smith for calling all mothers Dog, in his controversial 1999 movie -- Dogma!
(In this case, they may even get the Vatican's support!)

This can happen only in India! More here

Come, let's bomb them!

"We were in our office when hundreds of people barged into the hotel and started ransacking the lobby. We locked ourselves inside a room," said a staff member.

Nope, this isn't a news report about 26/11. Although, to my mind, the staff of this hotel must have experienced the same fear and helplessness in those 60 seconds, that their colleagues at Taj and Oberoi endured for 60 hours. This was a news item about Shiv Sena launching its election campaign in Mumbai by attacking a 5-star hotel. For all our outrage against Pakistan, we are helpless when the bouncers of Mumbai follow in their footsteps.

With elections around the corner, both MNS and original Sena have decided to go for some top-of-mind recall campaigns. On their next pit-stop, in Pune, they decided to vandalize a movie theatre. It's crime? They were exhibiting a movie in Kannada, a language recognized by the Indian constitution but not by Supremo (as the Sena party leader is called).

If some of you, lost in the haze of blaming the 'foreign hand' at every drop, care to remember, our fight with Pakistan is over a piece of land. We refuse to concede territory that we believe is ours, they believe is theirs. We are ready to bomb them, scar them and ban them for their assault against Indian pride.

The aforementioned vandalization is also over a piece of land. Karnataka refuses to concede Belgaum, a town it believes to be hers, Maharashtra believes is theirs. Whether JeM or KRV or MNS, the ideology is the same, the actions are the same. The intellectuals, willingly or unwillingly, refuse to acknowledge the "divide and rule" ruse. Linguists and activists on both sides of the border fuel the fire with support and justifications, ignoring the fact that terrorism must be shunned whether it is commited by non-state actors or own-state actors.

The hurt, in the latter case, is deeper. Who do you bomb when it's your own brothers assaulting the Indian pride? Or isn't their anything called "Indian" left anymore?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Up next: Anti Greed Act?

Read this interesting article on WSJ.

Echoes my thoughts on the mindlessness of the new buzzword: "Bailout". Like the other American export-- "lay offs" -- this policy celebrates and perpetuates incompetence while kicking the "worker" in the balls. I do not believe all that Ayn Rand wrote was gospel, but I do like the way this WSJ analysis compares her vision to today's greed-infested times. As if "1984" wasn't bad enough...

An excerpt from the article:

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"

"Implicitly!"

"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Fire your government employees."

"Oh, no!"

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.



The irony is that the current economic chaos was spawned by greed. The generous, free money being given to the same greedy corporates is turning "bailout" into a cottage-industry. It's come to a point where if you are not asking for bailout and ordering lay-offs, your reputation as a CEO is at stake. Once the dust settles, we will have large companies where the best talent has been lost or demoralized during the "cleansing". All that would remain are sharp-clawed senior executives with the wily to hang on, engorged on all the free food.

The top down approach to tackle this economy fails to appreciate that it is the collective hunger of individuals that drives "growth". The lop-sided actions today focus on the corporation while continuing to render the individuals jobless, homeless and helpless.

It has been proven time and again that the "Government has no business to be in business". Instead, they can do a world of good if they focused their energies on providing the infrastructure and security for "small people" to keep working without fear. In any case, the average Joe does not depend on any bailout to keep himself and his family afloat in this flood.