Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ladies go for older men - N D Tiwari is an example!

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N D Tiwari what's next? A closeted Indian politician?
There are no undisputed kings as long as politics is concerned but the man of the moment, Mr. N D Tiwari, certainly is a contender for a top spot. There are not many 80+ years old politicians who can stir the politico-sex scandals jar easily but this man who has his roots in the beautiful mountains of the north of India (Uttarakhand) has undoubtedly achieved a feat most men (even the common man of India) can only dream of!
Is it the charged libido of the old politician or just the news making capability of Andra for the moment is a tough question to answer but this has been the perfect scandal to wrap up the (oh so eventful!) year 2009.
N D Tiwari (before this incident) has been considered a politician with a 'clean' image, a congress veteran and a really charming personality. Now, with the backdrop of this scandal, things might change completely for him. Incidents like these are potential killers when it comes to political careers, especially in India! I don't know what's with India and her apetite for sex-scandals! Almost everyone enjoys taking a pick at them, almost all tabloids give them preference over major issues of national importance yet there is a very delicately defined list of people who are allowed to run away with it and those who are not! Indian glamour people (read movie stars, models, people in the entertainment business) are almost never frowned upon, in fact a glamour celebrity without a sex scandal is almost a goner. People of the sports fraternity are allowed a few but not more (help me with examples please!), most Indian cricketers are appreciated for being good with ladies and their affairs with the flick-chicks are closely monitored but once they take their marriage vows any further 'cross-talk' is dealt with strictly. Then come the politicians (known for their appetite for almost all things evil!), they are never trusted with anything in India but are expected to keep only their tongues dangling out uncontrollably (though they often show good skills with their hands and the microphones in the Parliament too at times!). Any scandal involving the carnal pleasures is totally taboo and marks the end of a political career, even if it is a rather famed one.
But all said and done, with Mr. N D Tiwari showing such talents, the thing said about girls going for older men gets bolstered beyond doubts!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Indian Education System needs a rethink - BIG TIME!

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The root cause of almost all problems in India is the absence of a dependable education system. The presence of State boards is a damper to a dream of imparting quality education. The whole idea of State boards is to decentralize the mighty task of providing good education. But, the purpose is totally defeated when the quality of education is deplorable. Another impossible task is finding a way to align all these different standards into a common framework so that a comparative analysis can be done which is used in centralized examinations, etc.
Like most Indian firms, the focus of all the Governments in India (be it state or the centre) has been to highlight the achievements. The targets have to be met and in the process of meeting the targets the whole idea behind that target is forgotten. Take for instance the Prime Minister Rozgar Yojna (PMRY), under the PMRY scheme all educated unemployed youth are eligible for a loan amount of upto 1 lakh rupees. This is to help them become self employed and join the economy bandwagon. Like almost all policies the PMRY's focus is to be able to have numbers in the end of the year (rather 5 years) to show. The result of this number game is that the taxpayer's money is spent like water, there is no proper recovery mechanism followed in almost all states and no risk analysis is done whatsoever on the money given. Half the money given goes back to the babu's pockets and the rest in buying booze, paying debts incurred while gambling, marring off a sister or (in very rare cases) starting a business which has guaranteed no returns! Instead of just giving a loan the government needs to set up counselling board which can guide an individual on starting a small business which is honest, humble, manageable by the individual, realistic and at the same time adds value to the surroundings of the person applying for a loan (an example would be starting up as a guide if you are in a place like Nagaland - a state which has beautiful places to visit and one of the least recovery rates for PMRY loans!)

Currently, the focus of the government is to increase the number of 'educated' people across the country and trying to create jobs for them (one classic way of doing it has been sighted by CSR - create a new state by disrupting the Universities, promise government jobs to these 'educated' men and women!). The right thing to do perhaps would be to create a sense of purpose in the minds and hearts of these young people and give them pride in what they really want to do and are blessed to do! Even simple things like being a Librarian or something out of the box like a Stunt director, a Radio Jockey, etc. should be projected as viable career options and the education in the case of the student should then be focussed in this direction.
And above all the way the country works, how the various departments operate/function, how the state and the centre collaborate and yet have a separate identity should be 'taught' to each individual of the county. I would like to see this kind of an education being imparted in schools being run in slums, etc. instead of trying to feed the young minds some gibberish in a language their tongues can't pronounce and their eyes are not comfortable reading (mind you, I'm not against teaching English or any other language in particular - there are places in India where Hindi is taught (though completely unnecessary!) when the kids are more comfortable with English as a script!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ASHAMED

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It took me almost six months and a slap from Babar Ali to get back to CnC. Completing my MBA from Pune, I am currently working in Mumbai. Life has taken a complete change ever since I moved to the city of dreams. The work load and traveling, hardly leaves any time for oneself. What ever little time I get on Sundays goes in unwinding with friends and watching movies and sports.
There were a number of things l did like to talk about but couldn't post. I wished to tell you about the new Mumbaikar, the IPL season 2, Rakhi’s Swayamvar, Chandrayaan, Rajshekar Reddy, Drought, Floods and what not.. Now it all looks history. Anyways thanks to the holiday declared by EC, people like me who are yet to get their names enrolled on voters’ list can take a break from checking and reply official mails and log on to social networking forums.
A tweet from Shashi Tharoor, linked me to an article on BBC title “Tour of the school set up by 16-year-old Babar Ali”. It reads –
“Round the world millions of children are not getting a proper education because their families are too poor to afford to send them to school. In India, one schoolboy is trying change that. In the first report in the BBC's Hunger to Learn series, Damian Grammaticas meets Babar Ali, whose remarkable education project is transforming the lives of hundreds of poor children.
At 16 years old, Babar Ali must be the youngest headmaster in the world. He's a teenager who is in charge of teaching hundreds of students in his family's backyard, where he runs classes for poor children from his village.
The story of this young man from Murshidabad in West Bengal is a remarkable tale of the desire to learn amid the direst poverty.
Babar Ali's day starts early. He wakes, pitches in with the household chores, then jumps on an auto-rickshaw which takes him part of the 10km (six mile) ride to the Raj Govinda school. The last couple of kilometres he has to walk.
The school is the best in this part of West Bengal. There are hundreds of students, boys and girls. The classrooms are neat, if bare. But there are desks, chairs, a blackboard, and the teachers are all dedicated and well-qualified.
As the class 12 roll-call is taken, Babar Ali is seated in the middle in the front row. He's a tall, slim, gangly teenager, studious and smart in his blue and white uniform. He takes his notes carefully. He is the model student.
Babar Ali is the first member of his family ever to get a proper education.

Raj Govinda school is government-run so it is free, all Babar Ali has to pay for is his uniform, his books and the rickshaw ride to get there. But still that means his family has to find around 1,800 rupees a year ($40, £25) to send him to school. In this part of West Bengal that is a lot of money. Many poor families simply can't afford to send their children to school, even when it is free.
Chumki Hajra is one who has never been to school. She is 14 years old and lives in a tiny shack with her grandmother. Their home is simple A-frame supporting a thatched roof next to the rice paddies and coconut palms at the edge of the village. Inside the hut there is just room for a bed and a few possessions.
Chumki Hajra, a pupil at Babar Ali's school, describes her day
Every morning, instead of going to school, she scrubs the dishes and cleans the homes of her neighbours. She's done this ever since she was five. For her work she earns just 200 rupees a month ($5, £3). It's not much, but it's money her family desperately needs. And it means that she has to work as a servant everyday in the village.
"My father is handicapped and can't work," Chumki tells me as she scrubs a pot. "We need the money. If I don't work, we can't survive as a family. So I have no choice but to do this job."
But Chumki is now getting an education, thanks to Babar Ali. The 16-year-old has made it his mission to help Chumki and hundreds of other poor children in his village. The minute his lessons are over at Raj Govinda school, Babar Ali doesn't stop to play, he heads off to share what he's learnt with other children from his village.
At four o'clock every afternoon after Babar Ali gets back to his family home a bell summons children to his house. They flood through the gate into the yard behind his house, where Babar Ali now acts as headmaster of his own, unofficial school.
Lined up in his back yard the children sing the national anthem. Standing on a podium, Babar Ali lectures them about discipline, then study begins.
Babar Ali gives lessons just the way he has heard them from his teachers. Some children are seated in the mud, others on rickety benches under a rough, homemade shelter. The family chickens scratch around nearby. In every corner of the yard are groups of children studying hard.

Babar Ali was just nine when he began teaching a few friends as a game. They were all eager to know what he learnt in school every morning and he liked playing at being their teacher.
Now his afternoon school has 800 students, all from poor families, all taught for free. Most of the girls come here after working, like Chumki, as domestic helps in the village, and the boys after they have finished their day's work labouring in the fields.
"In the beginning I was just play-acting, teaching my friends," Babar Ali says, "but then I realised these children will never learn to read and write if they don't have proper lessons. It's my duty to educate them, to help our country build a better future."
Including Babar Ali there are now 10 teachers at the school, all, like him are students at school or college, who give their time voluntarily. Babar Ali doesn't charge for anything, even books and food are given free, funded by donations. It means even the poorest can come here.
"Our area is economically deprived," he says. "Without this school many kids wouldn't get an education, they'd never even be literate."
Seated on a rough bench squeezed in with about a dozen other girls, Chumki Hajra is busy scribbling notes.
Her dedication to learning is incredible to see. Every day she works in homes in the village from six in the morning until half past two in the afternoon, then she heads to Babar Ali's school. At seven every evening she heads back to do more cleaning work.
Chumki's dream is to one day become a nurse, and Babar Ali's classes might just make it possible.
The school has been recognised by the local authorities, it has helped increase literacy rates in the area, and Babar Ali has won awards for his work.
The youngest children are just four or five, and they are all squeezed in to a tiny veranda. There are just a couple of bare electric bulbs to give light as lessons stretch into the evening, and only if there is electricity.
And then the monsoon rain begins. Huge big drops fall as the children scurry for cover, slipping in the mud. They crowd under a piece of plastic sheeting. Babar Ali shouts an order. Lessons are cancelled for the afternoon otherwise everyone will be soaked. Having no classrooms means lessons are at the mercy of the elements.
The children climb onto the porch of a nearby shop as the rain pours down. Then they hurry home through the downpour. Tomorrow they'll be back though. Eight hundred poor children, unable to afford an education, but hungry for anything they can learn at Babar Ali's school.”

Reading this I am left ashamed of myself. Am I really so busy that I can do ANYTHING for the society? I keep criticizing the government and all politicians, bureaucrats about the sorry state of the country but I neither want to enter the space and least I don’t even have a voter ID, sitting on a comfortable couch I curse everytime our cricketers lose matches, the sport authorities when I see the medals tally at any major sports event, but I wonder if I had ever tried to do anything out of my schedule for the society.
Now by the time my heart and mind try to find a way out, I thought I should first pass this article to all readers of CnC so that we get inspired by Babar Alis, not Ranbir Kapoor in “Wake Up Sid” to get awaken.

Before I end, here are people’s comments for the above article and for the first time I agree to each of them -

Babar Ali is a hero (and I don't use that word often). He, and his loyal pupils, deserve not only our total respect, but our support and encouragement too.
Rob Baker, Newport, S. Wales

"Be the change you want to see in others"- Babar leads by example- such a humbling story that encourages everyone. Thank you!
Mari, London

The news is really an eye-opener. We always blame others including Government, but Babar Ali proves that we can return back to the society if we want.
Pradosh Debnath, Kolkata, India

If there are saints in this world, Babar Ali is one of them. He sees the problems of others. If the corrupt officials could learn from this young boy, they would not waste huge public funds that could educate millions.
JK, DSM, Tanzania

In world were you are measured by the materials you own, (house, cars, clothes etc) it's amazing to see a young making the most of what resource there is. Trying to improve not only the quality of his life, but others around him. A truly magnificent story about a remarkable young man.
Andrew Anastasi, London

Babar Ali is indeed a rare soul, who at such a young age is filled with a sense of duty, direction and patriotism. Maybe if more youths of today were like him, the world would be a better place. After reading the hardship these children go through, I cannot help but think how lucky Malaysian children are. It's human nature to take things for granted, some say. But I will share this story with my students. In hope that more will be inspired to be like someone like Babar Ali.
Teacher Jason, Penang, Malaysia

I too read this story with my mouth open and with tears in my eyes. What an inspiration this young boy is. This article should be read by teenagers in the western world who take their education for granted and think that they are entitled to whatever they want without lifting their little fingers. I'll definitely read this article to my teenage daughter.
Fayrouz, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Every student in every senior school in the UK should be given a copy of this at the beginning of each school year; to remind them of how privileged they are living in this country.
Ian Redding, Burscough, Lancashire, England

What BABAR ALI is doing is unquantifiable. I wish the local authority could give him a helping hand in order to take this 'school' to where he has in mind. He is a young man of vision and the whole world should stand up to help the guy. It's high time we stopped wasting our resources on things that doesn't have a good end result. This is a project that could go a long way in alleviating illiteracy if given the necessary support. Say me well to him and tell him we are praying for his success.
Agboola Olawale, Ilorin, Nigeria

Very inspiring! it takes me back 30 years as my uncle used to do exactly the same in my native village which had one school where he used to work and had his informal classes for poor students at home. Mr. Baber Ali, I salute you.
Srinivas Patnala, Grahamstown, South Africa

What a truly remarkable chap ! But hold on, isn't this India, the world's largest democracy? Doesn't anyone there want to legislate to make education state funded and available for all? What about abandoning their nuclear weapons and space programme to allow this to be funded.
Tim Stokes, Sittingbourne, Kent

A powerful example set by Mr. Babar Ali. After reading this article, I feel like going back home to my village in India and do something like this.
Shiv Sharma, Vermont, USA

Just Phenomenal! Stories like Babar Ali's are inspirational and life-changing. If the smallest percentage of readers the world over get inspired to give back in some form to further education in such villages, the Indian story will be one of enlightenment.
Rahul S, New York, NY

It's young people like this who really make the world turn and people stand up and realise that there is more outside of our little corners that is far more remarkable than we could ever achieve.
Donna, Milton Keynes

This is a great story. I come from Calcutta, W Bengal near to the place Babar Ali is doing this great job. I am going to Calcutta in November. I will positively visit the school, meet Babar Ali and will donate anything my resources will permit to support his mission.
Amit Ray, River Hills, USA

To influence one life is itself amazing, and here is Babar, at 16, influencing and changing 800 lives for their betterment. Hats off to him and I hope somebody from the West Bengal Education department read this story and hopefully reacts soon!!
Rakzeen, Detroit, Michigan, USA

A little ray of light in all that darkness. I reckon this guy deserves the Nobel prize for peace right now. Obama could have waited a year.
Reinhard Adolf, Yokohama, Japan

I have no words. It just makes me think that I should not complain about anything and take things for granted.
Florence Nesamani, Pune, India

Quite Amazing! Does this happen here in our planet? Ali is doing something which many other could think to be fictitious.
Wondwossen, Adds Ababa

The United States and all other other 1st world countries should support this young person give him the nobel peace prize, more education more peace I believe.
YTFD I can't believe this, what a remarkable young man! I read this article with my mouth open. Thanks for this article BBC it makes me truly, truly humbled.
Olu, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Babar Ali is a great soul. He will change lot of young lives. This is truly a remarkable story. The higher education system in Great Britain USA and should recognize Babar Ali and help him all the way in his noble cause.
Sunil Parikh, Davie, Florida

This article is like a cold shower that woke me up. my parents pay thousands of euros to my uni every year to give me an education. Realising that with the same amount of money all these children could much easily get education hurts. It hurts realising i have the chance and the means to learn, but I'm even complaining for having "too much to study". To see i have Facebook open instead of a book. We do need articles like this, we do need to wake up.
Melisa, Rome

No doubt, wherever Mr Babar Ali goes, even highly educated and positioned people will stand and respect him. I salute Babar Ali and pray for the future to be bright and prosperous for 'The Head Master' and his 'Pupil'. May God, through the Government, fulfil their desire.
S.Vijayan, Chennai, India

What an extraordinary story!! It nearly brought tears to my eyes. What dedication and commitment in such dire poverty from all these people. I personally never had any such problems and quite frankly could never dream of any as I was blessed to be in free state schooling in the UK. However, when I read the story of Babar Ali and his students, it makes me feel tiny. Thank you for bringing this story BBC.
Sajjid Abbasi, Saudi Arabia

What a wonderful kid, if only we can get his type within our community, we could be better off. Instead of our graduates to be sitting down under trees to argue unnecessarily they can borrow a leaf from Babar Ali.
Ahmad Ibrahim, Kano, Nigeria

The world needs people like these with the conviction to make a CHANGE in others lives.
Syed, Muscat

This boy deserves the highest recognition by the world's highest human rights institutions. He should be awarded a price in form of a school built near his home and named after it. He should be assisted to train as an educator in order for him to carry on his noble duties to his community
German Lungu, Lusaka, Zambia

I was deeply humbled by Babar Ali's story. So many people so many parts of the country take education funded by the government for granted. Deliberately missing lessons etc. And here are some 800 kids who'll do anything to get educated, to be better, thanks to this extremely remarkable teenager. We should be ashamed with our selves if we at some point took things for granted.
Farah, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It's cost over $50K for my education as a primary school teacher. I wish I could have sent it to them instead!
Kimberly Luedke, Milwaukee, WI United States

India is in the process of a social change and it is the youths like Babar Ali who are trying to bring this change. It is people like him who are trying their bits and they have kept alive the hopes of numerous people in India whose lives are not rosy but every night they sleep in the hope that tomorrow will bring something good.
Bhavna Karki, Delhi, India

No comment. It's just wonderful.
Sally, Algeria

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

When will Indial Universities become as progressive as the world's best?

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Many loved it, many hated it, many are apprehensive. The progressive change in the education system of India, making the 10th class board exam optional for CBSE students, has had all sorts of reactions from the people. The decision itself is difficult to judge, only time can tell us what good it can bring, but the intention and the will behind it is commendable. Trying to bring a change in the education system of the country is a good move from the government. It reflects flexibility on the part of a system which has often been criticized for being too rigid to accommodate new principles and ideas. The government which enjoys a good majority has shown that it is not afraid to take decisions which may challenge the norms and age old authoritative ideals (remember the government's support to the HC's ruling on Section 377?).
While the government is supporting progressive ideas across all sectors there are many sections of the Indian society that oppose these changes. Something as fundamental as the education system cannot be changed by changing the rules and regulations alone, it has to be incorporated into the social structure of the country as well. As long as money, job and a 'settled' life are the only motivations for a student in India there can be no ruling which can provide a change in the education system of this country. The force has to come from within the society and not from the bunch of people sitting in high offices behind tall pillars.
I say that the society has to drive the education system (and other 'systems' of importance) because it is impossible for a 'system' to change the society or even to provide a stable inspiration to drive that change. A progressive system can only sustain itself in a progressive society! I came across an interesting course offered by NUS (Singapore), 'Communications and New Media'. Consider the fact that 'New Media' has come to the mainstream very recently and most of the civilized world is yet to realize the real potential of this phenomenon and it has already found place in the course list of the university, has experienced professors guiding the students and has companies who are takers of the students graduating with that degree. This kind of progressive system can only exist in a progressive society, India, sadly, is far from it!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BJP murdered by her own!

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A very common ailment when someone grows old is that of joint pains, caused by lack of flexibility and continuous friction between the interacting tissues, it not just announces the onset of old age, it also tells one that it is probably time to either get the aerobics classes rolling or to sit back and enjoy the scenery on TV!
BJP, one of the most progressive parties of India, has aged faster than anyone could have imagined. The receding hairline of her leaders also uncovered deficiency of agendas for the changing India and the defeat in the general elections was impossible for these old shoulders to carry, expectantly, they balked!
A number of analysis would be done, experts would be called to carefully do the postmortem but a few things are probably as clear as they could ever be. One, BJP completely failed to bring up new, young leaders to take up the positions occupied by the old. Every time a senior member of BJP left or retired, it always created a void which was not filled up by anyone who would look equally promising if not better. Two, not just the people but the ideology and the philosophy of the party was only aging by the hour. The top level leadership showed no maturity to adapt new ways, new agendas and new policies for the rapidly changing political scene. The old hindutva mantra still works in a lot of parts of India, but if BJP was not just after these 'parts' it was advisable to create a new holistic approach towards the sentiments of people and bring in new ideas and thoughts! Three, BJP suffered from a 'neglect-the-capable' syndrome since long! Right from Mr. Rajnath Singh (one of the worst CMs that Uttar Pradesh has ever seen!) to Yedurappa (the hindutva crusader of Karnataka) BJP has, somehow, always been able to reward the rogue while the real stars and gems like Arun Jately, MM Joshi (oh! there are so few of them!) were kept nicely hidden inside the closet!
Add to all these voes the troubles that Varun Gandhi and the likes brought to the party (and surprisingly, BJP just kept mum on the issue because it was already walking a tight rope and lacked conviction that forms the sanjeevani for any political party in such situations). Mr. Jaswant Singh is not an exception in BJP, he is the norm! Everyone in BJP is very self-centric, and as long as his 'story' is selling they don't mind selling the party off! BJP has been murdered by its own, stabbed right at the heart and now the same people are crying at the sight of blood!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

3 power punch posts!

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Patrick the happiness researcher
Sunday night, tired after speaking to some 50 students for 4 hours I stepped into a bar in Trichy. Alienated, sitting silently on the bar stool, sipping my beer, I was greeted by a gentleman. A white guy; smile, curiosity, skepticism on his face. He sat next to me and greeted me with a hello. Thick Italian accent. I nodded my head and reached out my hand and shook his.
We started talking about the usual stuff that an Indian talks about to a 'firangi'.
"Where are you from?"
"How did you like this place?"
"Where all have you been to in India?"
Patrick, was from Italy and had been to many countries, USA, UK, etc. and before arriving in India he had been to Germany. He found the people there rather rude and was happy with the way India was treating him. When I asked him about his purpose in India I expected a regular answer like a business trip (but then he would've been in a place like Mumbai or Bangalore not in Trichy) or visiting some ashram or things like that, the answer that came from him excited me! He was an author researching on 'Happiness'!
He had been to many places of the world and before he arrived at any conclusion he wanted to discover this mystic land properly.
I asked him if he was happy. He said it didn't matter, and he had never given it a thought if he was happy or not. Interestingly, as long as you don't give it a thought you can neither be happy nor sad, you would just exist! He was exactly that, he just existed, neither happy nor sad, just going to places observing things, writing them down in his diary and then moving on to some other place and observing some more ...
Thought he said he was not sure if he was happy or not because he had never given it a thought, being with him make me change my attitude and I was considerably very happy after that!
Peace.

Guns in the field and the forbidden biscuit
Lalu is known to create a buzz with everything that he says, and this master 'spokesperson' knows how to strike the right cords! Bihar (and the rest of Uttar Bharat) is facing a severe water shortage. Rains have failed the farmers who are now forced to guard the little water that they have with guns! Everyday they pack guns and ammunition with the farming equipments to 'protect' the water from other hungry farmers who are a little more unfortunate than they are. Violence has become the norm of the day for these hard bread earners even when a good crop seems unlikely.
In the midst of all this pain that the State is going through, Mr.Lalu has come up with a statement which may sound like a typical 'movers and shakers Lalu joke' to you but is potent enought to instigate bitter feelings in this drought struck land.
His remarks about Nitish, the CM, that the current drought situation is provoked by the CM's act of eating buiscuits during the recent solar eclipse is starting to be taken seriously at the village level.

When there's nothing else to be blamed, the poor and hopeless people are putting the blame for their misery on this 'forbidden biscuit'. Mr. Nitish has put aside the comment as a joke and an attempt to mislead the ignorant people of the state but even he knows that Lalu needs to be taken seriously even when he comes across to you as a naive populist preacher.
The 'Swine flu' is yet to hit these states in a big way yet but frenzy promotions in the media are bringing people under the fear cloud already. No doubt, the PM's independence day speech included both these issues. The media has already delivered the impact on both these issues which makes up for the light-toned, non-impact speach of our PM on 15th of August!

Swine flu masks, condoms and helmets!
Walk past any commercial street in cities like Bangalore, Pune or Mumbai and you cannot but notice 'swine flu masks' being sold everywhere. People (scared and helpless) want to do everything to protect themselves and their families from H1N1 virus and don't mind putting themselves in a little discomfort in the form of this mask. It is amazing to know how everyone has accepted this discomfort so comfortably! Barring the occasional outrage at how illequipped our medical facilities are people seem to have accepted the fact that swine flu has entered India and they should do everything in their power to keep being safe, even if that means tolerating a stupid piece of cloth around the face every minute of the day! All the medical agencies and government dossiers have clearly said that a 'mask' would be unnecessary if you are not a victim yourself or are tending to someone infected with H1N1. But, people don't want to take any chances; it is a matter of life and death after all! Let's compare this situation with a few other threats that exist in our country - AIDS/HIV, road accidents. The figures for the number of cases reported of AIDS is alarming and even when the disease is much more deadlier than 'swine flu', people (even the educated ones) neglect the use of a condom which could act as a wall between life and death. The cost of a condom (if you are not satisfied with the ones that the government gives for free) is nothing as compared to the money that the people are paying for these masks. The effectiveness of these masks is also not quite proven while the faithful condom is known to protect even in the toughest of conditions and trials! Similarly, the importance of a helmet has been emphasized so many times that it has now become a cliche. One of the oldest ads by Union Public Service Commission that I remember was the one in which a hammer crashes a coconut which is unprotected by a helmet ("Marzi hai aapki, aakhir sir hai aapka")! The only reason that most people wear a helmet is to avoid the traffic police guy who would demand a minimum of a Rs.100 bill. Compare this with the cost of life. The facts are that in any city (not just Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai), more people die of AIDS and road accidents than swine flu every month. The concern of people towards H1N1 is reasonable but the overwhelming frenzy that this flu has commanded is a little uncalled for. If safety is the only concern of the people, then condoms and helmets should be given a similar status as a swine flu mask by everyone!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Independence for an IT guy in India

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Me and my friends decided to celebrate our Independence day the same way we celebrate all the days that instill a spirited attitude. We clinked the glasses together and said cheers to a bright independent year ahead. A lot that a drunk man says makes sense if you are a type of person who gives importance to the things that come from the heart! I'm including as much of the discussion that happened as I can remember now:

Nair: "I was traveling on a train today and an old woman pointed out to me that this train infrastructure was brought to India by the British!"

PJ: "And what was your answer to it?"

Nair: "I started thinking and it occurred to me that almost all dependable structures that we have today were made by the British!"

PJ: "That is because those were things (like Railways) who's time had come and as they were responsible for doing things in India at that time, they had to build them. If India had been independent we would have done those ourselves!"

Nair: "But it was them who did it, if they were not here those things would not have come at all ..."

Mayank: "A man doesn't bring in an idea; an idea who's time has come makes a man an instrument to arrive into the world."

PJ: "Exactly, and those were ideas (things) that made the British an instrument to arrive 'cuz they were here at this time"

Nair: "If they were not here we would have been 50 different states fighting with each other all the time!"

PJ: "NO! If they were not here we would have been like the Europe; fights would have been there but ultimately an equilibrium would have been reached and all would have realized that progress is in mutual collaboration!"

Nair: "But we would have always been dependent on the 'white guy'. Even today our jobs are all because of the 'white guy', we work in Indian companies but our focus is to make them happy, lick their ass!"

PJ: "We work for them 'cuz they need us! No one's licking asses here buddy, its a win-win for both the parties."

Nair: "Then why do we have to stretch beyond our times and work even on weekends while they come and go according to their timings?"

PJ: "It all depends on their working culture versus our working culture!"

Nair: "HOW?"

PJ: "Their working culture involves parties, celebrations, short work hours, etc. while for us, we have a thing for hard work in our culture, right from the times when our forefathers tilled the land, we have always appreciated people who can work harder than expected. It is not a good/bad attitude, it's just how we are, that's all!"

Nair: "Then why don't I feel good about working my ass off even on weekends sometimes? I am patriotic too, what's the problem?"

PJ: "We complain and balk under heavy work and pressure 'cuz we are the 'golden children on India'!"

Gopi: "What? We are the golden children and I didn't know it till now!!!"

PJ: "See all I want to say is that we are somewhere in a transition. Our fathers were still the people who worked really hard (though they were not tilling the land) and we were comforted and cared for all the time, it has made us believe that life is supposed to be like that! When someone presses us for more we start to curse not just the 'white guy' but even our work itself!"

Nair: "How would things improve then?"

PJ: "Things are already improving by the minute. Our children (insahallah!) would be giving work to the 'white guy' soon. We're already acquiring companies in other countries, people from other countries are starting to work in Indian firms. And Indian models are becoming fairer, hopefully the irresistible charm of the 'white skin' would go away soon too!"

It's a happy day for India today! Lets celebrate our freedom and live it each minute, and discover a new meaning to freedom! Happy Independence day India!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swine flu in Indian package!

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With Swine Flu growing bullish in India (more than 15 deaths reported already) and many major cities like Pune, Bangalore on high alert, an ecosystem is also starting to develop around this ailment! If one monitors her mailbox in a day for mails which deal with H1N1 and actually tries to put things together a very clear message comes out:
Swine Flu has hit India in a big way and while people are concerned about it they are also capitalizing on the fear that it has generated.

The first set of mails are the ones that aim to educate the recipient. They talk about how the H1N1 is spreading across our country, what measures need to be taken to protect yourself and your family; friendly mails from people who either care about you very much or are in the habit of forwarding all types of mails to everyone in their list! Then there are the mails that are hurled at you to make you sit at the edge of your seat, sweat, get scared and make you uneasy even when you are not yet under the cloud of Swine flu. They talk about how miserable our condition is, how illequipped we are as a nation to handle such a disease, how the impossibility of you not contacting H1N1 is inversely proportional to your resistance. All these facts stare at your face on the backdrop of the under-developed medical infrastructure of our country even after more than 60 years of health planning in the independent nation! The next lot of mails are from people who want a recognition in the crowd that they are in (aren't we all!) and write mails to the President (of India? why?) that end up in our mailboxes, telling people not to worry because Swine flu is nothing new, it is a very old disease! Even earthquakes are very ancient phenomenon but when they suddenly become 'active' and start killing people imagine the state of mind of a person who shouts at the fleeing people to call them back telling them, "there's no need to panic, this used to happen years before we were here, its nothing new!" Then come the really interesting ones! These are mails that sell you the miracle drug! From eucalyptus oil, to tulasi paste, everyone is trying to sell you the plant that grows in their backyand! These things do help, I know, but they help more the 'Baba Ramdev's' behind them (I love you Ramdevji, and being opportunist is not an offence anyways!) Since swine flu messages have become the norm of the day, even CnC should leave you with one! So, here it goes,
Be safe and protect yourself and your family but at the same time don't forget to live these next few months worring about things that may go wrong. The perils of the world will not cease to exist once the drug for H1N1 is found, you will always have new things to worry about; if things are going to be the same after swine flu you can relax even while the virus is in the air of your city!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Is EVM tampering possible?

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Bujji Phanikiran (a good friend and inspiration) had the privilege of being the Presiding Officer (probably the youngest in history) in this general election. He is an Electronics and Communication Engineer with ICs in his head and heart. He sent me a mail recently about his experience and comments on working with EVMs.

Q) Is tampering of EVM's possible?
A) Theoretically Yes, but Practically near impossible.

Q) You say theoretically yes. How do we do it?
A) Every automated electronic device has its own processor/controller embedded in itself. So, if you want it to work in a different way all you need to do is just change the program in it as per your needs. Just take out the processor, reprogram it and place it back. As simple as that.

Q) If its as simple as that then why do you say its practically near impossible?
A) Thats because all the Presiding Officers (P.O) conduct a mock poll before the start of an election on the EVMs in their respective polling booth to ensure that the EVM is working properly and seal it using two seals (Green Paper seals & White paper seals) along with special tags placed near the "Close" button. So if you have to reprogram the EVM, you will have to remove those seals (damage) and replace them with the seals of the same numbers and have to forger the signatures of the Presiding Officer along with the Polling Agents. And above all these things they need to bribe a whole lot of people who are involved in maintaining the voting machines after the elections starting from police constables to Collectors. And that as per my personal view is near impossible.
I mean just think about how much man power is used in protecting the machines day in and day out. Think of forgering the signatures and seals of all the Presiding Officers and polling agents, duplicating the paper seals with the numbers and all.
Finally it all boils down to FAITH, faith in your system, your government (the one chosen using ballot boxes), faith in people around you(Cause it is them the lecturers, the teachers, the bank officials, many other government servants who are like me, like you, like your mom or dad or aunt or uncle or... you know people around you).

TRUST YOURSELVES, TRUST EVM!

Friday, June 26, 2009

MJ is dead! Music's one of the biggest (and most controversial) chaper is closed. He will always be remembered.

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CnC Top 5!

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  1. Pak SC rejects Sarabjit's mercy plea (but will Pak use him to trade off with Kasab?? )
  2. Ministry of HRD looks for major reforms, especially in school education - proposes scrapping Class X board exams
  3. Swat cleared of Taliban says Pak
  4. Bangladesh introduces SMS cyclone alert system (Bangladesh hits Top 5 for all right reasons!)
  5. Dr Verghese Kurien's dream of India exporting dairy products to New Zealand comes true

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bangalore deserves a night life!

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As much as I think about it, I can never fathom a reason for shutting down a city like Bangalore at 10/11 PM! I am told that Bangalore used to be a happening place with a vibrant night life a few years back. Then 'IT' happened, and then the people started flooding this peaceful city irking the localities, then we had the 'ausi-behavior' in 'Namma Bangalooru' and the people from Karnataka started turning hostile towards people not-from-karnataka (this sadly continues till date and random (unreported) incidents of violence dot the city).
Somehow, during all this turmoil that was happening in this over-burdened city the people up the civil ladder decided that the solution to Bangalore's problems was banning the night life (as if the night life was responsible for the narrow, unplanned roads, the disappearing lakes and gardens, the rising levels of pollution)!
Now, most of the shops, pubs and other places to hang around close before 11:00 PM. The interesting things to consider are:
  • This city has the most number of companies operating at night (remember the BPO and other outsourcing?)
  • The vibe of the city is predominantly young!
  • Tourism/hospitality is also a flourishing industry in Bangalore as many companies have clients coming in from around the world.

A few high profile (and mostly private) parties do happen till late in the night but for most common people all the fun just ends at page#3. Last year Mr.Mallya also protested the ban on the night life calling the 'cindrella rule' 'dictatorial and utter rubbish'. What is even more stupid is the 'no-dancing-rule' imposed across all party places. Contrast this with the fact that Bangalore is also the operational centre of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who promises to give one a better way of life and dancing is a major mechanism in his teachings!
All work and no party would soon make Bangalore a pretty dull place!

5 'Hatke' news of the day!

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Your daily dose of 'hatke' news, CnC style!

  1. Though healthcare didn't sound to be an important agenda for the common man before the elections (unlike in US), the UPA government is now serious about extending the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) or the National Health Insurance scheme to cover all households below poverty line.
  2. Indian largest private bank, ICICI is looking to restructure to save around Rs. 1300 crores.
  3. Bangladesh shifts from GMT +6 to GMT +7. The reason being, the 1 hour gain would help the nation use sunlight more effectively and save electricity (What an idea sirji! )
  4. Reading the PWC report on Indian sports, I wondered if sports in India would reach greater level so soon, but Saina Nehwal brings in new hope after wining the Indonesian Open.
  5. A Sikh lawmaker is among the contenders for the Speaker of British Parliament.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Raping a boy is allowed by IPC!

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The rape of a 'near-minor' household help by an established actor in Bollywood, Shiney Ahuja, has opened up quite a few debates in India. The 'reckless' behavior of 'guys' is being questioned all over again and stricter laws are being invited.
While there are a few criterion which are taken into account to convict a man of raping a girl more than 16 years old, any kind of sexual interaction with a girl of 16 or less is considered rape (even if it happens with full consent of the girl involved). Such an act of sexual nature involving a girl less than 16 years of age can involve very severe punishment and is fairly easy establish.
There is, however, no law that talks about the rape of a boy (minor or otherwise!). There have been many cases recorded in the past which involve a young boy being sexually harassed but they come under much milder offenses and often are never officially filed nor investigated. A report by WHO said that close to 50% of Indian children are unsafe (it includes acts of sexual nature against minor children of both the sexes). This is a classic case of the law of the land encouraging gender bias and discrimination based on the sex of an individual!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Harsha's pick for the day: Top 5

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The top 5 pics from the desk of CnC for you:
  1. Finally the Indian Prime Minister talks tough and delivers an impact on Zardari.
  2. Two Japanese men were detained by Italian authorities last week, in an attempt to smuggle US bond worth whooping $134 billion (not sure, if its a true story or work of fiction, $134billion can put dollar on the edge and create a huge impact on world economy)
  3. After the week long unrest, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to address the nation today.
  4. Protests around the world to mark Aung Suu Kyi's 64th birthday.
  5. Inflation turns negative after three decades (ask the reality to any Indian common man)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Harsha's Top 5 News of the Day!

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Harsha's affair with the newspaper is legendary! And so is his infliction with 'electronic gadgets' (interestingly, he holds a B.Tech. degree in Electronics & Communication and spent most part of his college life building robots for competitions!). We don't get to read any of his posts lately on CnC because his system has crashed many a times in the last weeks, his cell phone has gone bonkers and his office policies don't allow him to post stuff on Blogger!
Starting today, we're going to go the 'John Naisbitt way' and pull out news from the newspapers that are interesting enough to make an impact in the future, we've decided to call them 'Harsha's Top 5 News of the Day!'. Here are today's top 5 (not in order of importance):
  1. Japanese media reports a possibility of North Korean attack on Hawaii.
  2. Indian Army personnel asked not to post information on Facebook, Orkut and other networking sites.
  3. Anupam Ahuja says Shiney was raped.
  4. SRK fires John Buchanan (finally!).
  5. Its official now - NO CHINESE mobiles in India.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What foreign nationals feel about India and her beggars!

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Ron (a friend of mine from the US working in India for over a year now), like any other guest in India thinks that beggars are one of the worst things about this country! He did see 'Slumdog Millionaire' and was offended by the sequences involving the beggars (and how they are 'made'). But, now that he has been in this country for quite sometime, he has stopped being 'nice' to the beggars (even the small children) and has in fact pretty strong reasons for not being charitable. I will write them down for you here:
  • He has seen a number of beggars 'getting ready for work' early morning when he goes for a jog. One beggar helping his colleague tie bandages around his head, making sure the color looks like fresh blood, etc.
  • He has observed a 'strategy' that these beggars adopt, specially for foreign nationals. One small kid would target one particular foreigner in a day and then follow him/her/group everywhere they go. Into the park, out of the restaurant, near the parking lot, outside his gym, near her spa; everywhere the person goes they would follow them with a face expression full of hunger, pain and helplessness. This particular strategy actually works wonders for them as this day's investment often results in a couple of hundred (and sometimes more) bucks at the end of the day.

My grandfather used to say, "Never say no to a beggar! But, always give a pinch of flour so that he/she gets to eat half a meal after working hard the whole day!" Forced beggary, forced prostitution are two big evils of Indian society. Often hidden (and ignored), these dark alleys of India need to be exposed to eradicate this evil which associates itself with a number of other crimes in our society!
Say no to beggars! Don't be 'nice' be practical and considerate about our nation and her pride!

Related posts:
  1. The land of the poor.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why did Shiny Ahuja rape a domestic help?

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According to me, there could be 3 reasons (none can be justified by any means!) for rape:

  1. An insatiable hunger for sex (either because of sex starvation or an ugly-huge appetite)

  2. As a form of revenge/defiance (mostly associated with immaturity and/or youth)

  3. An act of a reckless mind (mostly under the influence of a chemical substance, etc.)


For an actor like Shiny Ahuja, (happily?) married and with a 2 year old daughter, committing such an act is not just shameless but intriguing as well. What circumstances can probably drive this booming actor to such a reckless behavior? It is not a hidden fact that most bollowood actors have access to a lot of 'casual' sex (from both the sexes). In such a case rape could not possibly be an outcome of a starved sex drive!
Revenge? Most probably not! Why would anyone in his position want to take revenge from a domestic help!
This act of rape (if and when proven) is then probably carried out under the influence of some chemical substance which is worrisome! There are so many young females exposed to such reckless people in various parties, pubs, discos, etc. And such acts do happen but often go unreported for reasons like bribed officers, humiliation and shame (on the part of the female).
Just a few days back 100kg of 'rape drug' was seized by the Bangalore police which is worth thousands of dollars in the international market. The horrifying fact is how common the use of such drugs is and how easy it could be to procure such a drug. This particular 'rape drug' leaves the victim unconscious and unable to recall anything that happened to her. Devastatingly, she cannot bear children after consuming this particular drug!
Sex, the violation of it, the lack of it, the discrimination based on it, and all the other evils associated with it have been often covered on CnC. I will leave you with the links of the same now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Technology penitration!

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They say, a picture speaks a thousand words!

Global Warming or Global Cooling?

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Some decades back, the world, according to the many scientists and researchers, was going to come to an end very soon or at the least revert back to an 'ice-age' as the temperatures were going to fall drastically and as they always say, 'the end of human existence'! Books were written, movies were made, lectures were delivered (even small girls addressed gatherings to intellectuals asking them to save their future!).
Now those small girls have become young (or old may be!) and gradually the opinion of the whole world has swung a full 180 degrees! The world apparently is growing hotter now! From a 'global cooling' its become a 'global warming'; almost everything else remains the same though! Its the same sense of warning, caution, fear and an alarm to the human race to 'do your stuff with sensitivity towards environment.'
I found an interesting link. Not an official website but a lot of links that give a good read.

So is there going to be global warming or cooling? I can't tell you! But there are couple of things which I can:

  • Protect the environment. It is your own.

  • Do not pollute.

  • Give attention to your health and that of your kids.

  • Start to fall in love with the color green.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hamid Ansari on WolframAlpha

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With the launch of Wolfram alpha the Internet search industry is surely stirred if not shaken. The pioneering product from Wolfram Research and its flagship product Mathematica has promised a new dimension to the way search is handled in the websphere currently. I had missed to check Google on its Day 1 so I grabed this opportunity to check out WolframAlpha on its first official day! The results were satisfactory if not spectacular. It is built around a niche which was missed by Google; it provides answers to questions that are sometimes better than a chunk of links that you get in the search result set of Google, brisk answers to questions, no skimming through a huge pile of information for a tiny piece of information!
I tried with a few basic questions like "Who is the Prime Minister of India" and got perfect answers. Then I tried a twist, I asked WolframAlpha this question, "Who is the Vice President of India"! Whoa, it got stuck!!!
Either the Wolfram still needs a lot of work or we need to ask our Vice President to work a little bit more!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good luck to UPA

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india development
Vijitha occupies the cubicle next to mine in office. A lady with a good years of experience in the IT industry, a mother, a responsible citizen of the country and recently a very happy person too. While there may be a number of reasons for her happiness one significant contribution is from the UPA!
"My long time dream came true. Finally, we have a party with majority to give a stable government at the centre!", she said.

What does a stable government mean for a common man living in this country? First, it means that the tax payer will not have to share the burden of an early election this time (people like Mulayam Singh, Devegauda, Mayawati, Left who are known for trying to shake the governments in power, move away!).
Moreover, a stable government and one which would be running a second consecutive term at the office would be high on confidence and would take decisions swiftly and decisively. Mr. Manmohan, while still may not have a perfect 'wave' for the supporters, sure has got guts now to influence the decision making in a significant way. The press buzz that Montek Singh Ahluwalia is being hinted by the PM as the next FM is a bold step, something that shows the resolve that Manmohan has this time around.
The next five years should bring about changes that would be significant from an international stand point too. Dr. Singh has already shared a good relationship with the US prez and with positive developments happening in Pakistan with regard to the Taliban issue, things may improve for India.
Rahul Gandhi could be a big factor! He is young, dynamic, has a legacy to back him up and he has proved that he is not a premature political enthusiast by swinging the faith of UP towards congress in this general elections (it was amazing to see him sit in the post-victory meeting of the UPA composed and poised as the next big thing that would happen to India).
Post recession, India has emerged as a stable economy. The economic policies of India have been applauded and the faith of foreign investor would be bolstered with this political stability in India even more (The first Monday after the election results when the market opened the new trust in India Inc. was evident).
Overall, I think, India in the next 5 years should be able to achieve big things and bring about a change that everyone has been wishing for since decades now! Good luck to the UPA government from the CnC team!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Indian elections: Anticlimax but a perfect result

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Most political enthusiasts often look at elections and politics as more than a significant event for their country, its also a source of entertainment for them! This year's general election provided enough 'masala' to the Indian folks. From Varun Gandhi's snobbish comments to Rahul Gandhi's incessant rhetoric that he would not be a PM candidate to Mayawati being touted as a PM candidate to Advani's election campaign on the lines of Obama's, everything was overwhelming. People expected a hung parliament at the best and had already made up their minds to get glued to the TV (there are no movies at the multiplexes anyways!) for the next one week at the least. However, the 'intelligent' Indian voter decided the other way round, gave a very clear mandate to UPA and even in my home the TV is playing 'Dhoom-2' and not CNN-IBN, Aaj Tak or NDTV!
This election result is spectacular in more than one ways. The way in which regional parties have been rooted out, the 'Left' left out, Congress gaining a stronghold in UP, Manmohan favoured over Advani for PM, Lalu wiped out of Bihar, everything has been unexpected and refreshingly pleasing (my personal opinion!).
I captured a few reactions for the readers of CnC, here they are:
Jadhvekar (before the counting began), "... last year the exit polls favoured us and UPA formed a government, we're hoping for the same twist this year ..."
Rajdeep Sardesai, " ... Indian voter seems to be getting far more intelligent than we could ever expect ..."
Some political expert, " ... Samajwadi Party and Congress was more than a one night stand ..."
Shashi Tharoor, " ... Left has to stop attacking other party candidates and start to work ..."
Guha, "...decline of the identity politics in Uttar Pradesh ..."
Someone, "...the Bengali voter always wakes up later..."
BBC correspondent, " ... BJP, the opposition Hindu party, is disappointed ..."
"What's your drink Mr. Patnaik?" "I'm very forgetful ..."
A reporter asked Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, "Madam would Rahul be a minister?" She says, "That is for the PM to decide" and looks at Manmohan Singh who turns the other side as if trying to find someone else who could answer that question!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Now 'green software'

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Even software is trying to go green now! I downloaded the Notepad++ editor today and was reading the 'About' page on its site, http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net/uk/site.htm. Here's what I found there:
" By optimizing as many routines as possible without losing user friendliness, Notepad++ is trying to reduce the world carbon dioxide emissions. When using less CPU power, the PC can throttle down and reduce power consumption, resulting in a greener environment."
I know, its a geeky way of saying things but I think all the author of the software really wanted to say was that he is concerned. If we can show such a concern in every little (of big) thing that we do, it would make a lot of difference in bringing down the global temperatures and improving conditions for the generations to follow.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Bangalore on the brink of destruction?

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bangalore electric pole
Bangalore has many strategic advantages as a place in India which can be used for establishing important industries and offices. It is one of India's fastest growing cities, already expanded beyond its limits and now almost about to explode. The IT hub, India's silicon valley, Bangalore has been favoured over many other cities in the past when it comes to investing in mainstream industries and infrastructure.
The social structure, economic standard and awareness of Bangalore is much above many cities in India (and the world). Bangalore has emerged as the city with the highest standard of living in India (its rank is 150th in the world).
Bangalore is also the seat of a very sensitive institution of our country, the Air Force. It was primarily established in Bangalore as the place enjoys a distance from Pakistan, China, Bangaladesh and Sri Lanka which at that time was beyond the striking range of these countries. Arabian Sea to its other side makes it a perfect city to enable all other places by serving as a central powerhouse.
The weather in Bangalore made it one of the most favourable cities for the growth of important industries like the Information and Technology, BPO, etc. There were other places with cooler climate but they were not quite as connected as Bangalore was.
Even many sages and spiritual gurus have found Bangalore a perfect city to settle down in. It is a perfect mix of good weather and comfort (amenities, facilities, connectivity, etc.) for these spiritual leaders who find (for good reasons) that sitting at Himalayas and meditating is not as good as connecting with people, improving their lives (and making a big empire in the long run).
All these wonderful things are coming to an end for Bangalore soon! The city is not blessed with good weather anymore. The sun has the mercury rising and a new record is being made each day. The felling of trees and the exponentially growing traffic is making things worse. The population of the city has grown out of bounds now, the city is on the brink of exploding. The infrastructure is not enough to support the growth rates of the city and with a few very important projects, like the flyover to the Electronic City, being stalled as Maytas was behind them, the situation is going to go from bad to worse.
A lot of government attention is indeed needed. A good infra and a reliable public transport would make things better drastically. On an individual level, people need to become more environment friendly in their daily life activities. Practices like car pooling, using more public transport, saving electricity, fuel, would go a long way in improving things in Bangalore.
PS: The pic is something interesting I saw being done in a nearby street (in a place called BTM layout, quite popular amongst the IT folks as they start their career), the people from the electricity department are installing an electric pole with the help of the common men on the streets :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yet another 'slumdog' moment!

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I came across this ad in the Telegraph's Indian e-edition. Don't wish to say much on it as we've got Oscars for Slumdog now but the way the west sees us is amazingly captured in this pic. This pic alternates between an accident site lined up with mumbai taxies and a pic of 3 really cute kids. Accidents do happen everywhere in the world, don't they? Just a thought!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

India's Heros didn't vote!

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ipl cricket
The people of India are deciding the future of its land by getting involved in one of the biggest (and most intriguing) genaral elections ever. Perhaps for the first time many sections of the society which were otherwise indifferent to anything involving politics are coming together and are gearing up to vote for a change in the way our country is run. Youth are participating in large numbers and are infact inspiring thier elders as well.
I have been a keen follower of politics always and have encouraged the people around me to vote and make a difference. However, 23rd of April, when Bangalore came out en masse to make one of the most important choice of thier life, I was sitting in my home, watching the election saga on TV! Though I feel embarrassed and angry about this fact there is nothing that I could've done to change the fact that I can't cast a vote as I'm very new to this place and there is no way my name can be included in the electoral rolls and since life at office is hectic I can't travel 2000 km to cast a vote in my hometown (Allahabad, one of the Mecca of politics in India!).
There are many youngsters like me who have a strong political will and understanding of the situation prevailing in the country but are forced out of participating in the celebration of democracy.
Interestingly, while I (and thousands like me, recently displaced from their hometowns and thus unable to cast their vote) may be an insignificant individual as far as the list of my followers (on CnC, twitter, facebook and life) goes, even the heros of India did not vote! Our heros who are fighting hard in foreign land (read South Africa) to prove to the rest of the country that their city has the biggest cricketing talent (and cricket is one of the few common religions on India) are missing out the general elections 2009!
If someone takes the pain (I think the EC already does that, not sure) of producing the stats on how many people missed out their chance to vote as they are currently not in their hometown (for work or other reasons) the numbers would be startling.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Global Guilt is not helping the under-developed societies like Africa

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africa poor
How and why the US and the other 'white powers' help the black of the southern hemisphere! A global 'white' guilt is being exploited by the political powers of the west with vested interests in the resource rich land known for its diamonds and yet to be exploited oil. The pre-recession era of the west was a place which had more money and less happ'y'ness. It is mostly a 'persuit' of this happiness that has been driving the white upperclass of rich nations to do charity in godforsaken lands like Africa (and India, recently even more after the success of Slumdog Millionare) and when charity comes so easy everyone joins hands to contribute. Giving away a day's burger can buy education for a girl in Africa some say. The charity is good but the problem is that the effort ends just there. No follow ups are made by most people, they trust their govenments which shows them impoverished faces with smiles and a bright colored flag on their favorite TV channels.
Movies like 'Black Diamond' are rare and though appreciated they fail miserably to excite the fancies of most. The west has been able to get to what it wants on most occasions. Many African governments are formed by the consensus of a 'white board' mostly populated by US and UK diplomats. If a couple of 'talks' and a donation of the surplus money of its nation can buy a land rich in resources, who would say no? The situation in a few other countries was similar. The west had an overwhelming interest in their resources and what followed was Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, etc. In these places the society had a tougher political structure and a resilient army to involve in a fight-back. Africa, sadly, has been slow to evolve to be a strong resistance (or terrorists as they are mosty referred to by the west for most other cultures) and centuries of oppression and slavery could be blamed for this.
How is India and the subcontinent different, now? Drastically! We have emerged as important players in the economic scene of the world, have an intimidating armed force and a global presence (even a couple of Indians helping Obama frame laws for America!). It is another thing that most important resource of India is 'Human' and it is in the best interest of the west to reap the benifits of the human resource that is reared by the Indian Government and works for them! A colony (or colony like establishment like in Iraq and many parts of Africa) would result in weakening this important resource. The 'Slumdog' is infact bailing out the west out of these tough times in many ways.
Post recession things have changed. The west is no longer happy and no longer rich (like it was before). Most charities have dried up as even the big corporates who wanted to gain some SRI (Socially Responsible Index) points are now shying away from donating to the poorer continents.
So, the big question is, "Can money relieve the situation or is something else needed?" The answer is not simple but a number of measures like political influence, physical engagement, representation of these countries in the world forums/culture, development of industries inside Africa and a genuine support for the existing ones can make a big difference to the current situation.
How would Obama be different? Being a black and all he's expected to bring about a sea change to the situation not just in America but in the world (or the 'world' of America at least!). But, quite frankly, how black he really is? Obama is, first, an American citizen who has lived his life like one. His political career is not motivated by the evils against the blacks (something that motivated Martin Luther King) but rather the equality that he's enjoyed for major part of his life. A comparison which is often drawn is that of Mayawati aka Behenji. The parallel, unfortunately, lies just in the heads of a few media folks and is far from being a ground reality. A dalit, girl child in rural parts of India suffers much more than the 'black American citizen' of modern times can even imagine. She has been a champion of equality and life for the dalits in India and if continents like Africa have to come up with the modern society they need many more leaders like her rather than a philanthropic monetary effort as an outcome of a guilt which has always pressed the white population of the world pre-recession.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

5 Observations

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I went to Mumbai today for some work, and here are some interesting observations:
* 2 blind beggars in a Mumbai local singing "Darshan do Ghamshyaam.. "; 1 of whom was wearing a "digital" wrist watch
* A piece of newspaper or magazine with a shoe polish wala at CST station read - "India Shinning"
* The series of hoardings at Fame Cinemas, at Raghuleela Mall were as follows - 8x10 Tasveer, Barah Aana, Confessions of a Shopoholic, International, Fast & Furious 4, and "LK Advani". (wonder if BJP has even come up with a movie as a part of their election campaign)
* There were Streetlights lit on a particular locality at 6 pm, when there was sufficient sunlight and no lights at another at 8 pm when it was pitch dark.
* At one of the traffic junctions, a kid came up with a small bowl covered with a Obama's pic and the heading "Obama for Change" and the only thing that came to my mouth is "No Change".

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Competition drives innovation for auto rickshaw in Mumbai.

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Mumbai is probably the most competitive place to do business. Irrespective of what you do, a million little management principles go into your everyday activity. Time management, priority handling, regular financial checks, advertizing, are part and parcel of every individual. Even a slub dweller knows that survival needs the best utilization of resources and time. Unlike in many other major Indian cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, etc. Mumbai's professional ethics and management are strikingly high. Mumbai has seen sleek business models evolve out of simple things like delivering food 'dabbas' to people who need them (the 'dabba walas', by the way are a six sigma establishment). There is an unsaid, un-documented code of conduct for all business (even the illegal ones) which makes this city a joy to live in (even with the presence of a number of goons and criminals who call themselves the protagonist of the story of Mumbai, the likes of Raj Thakre!).
mumbai auto rickshaw innovative
I came across a few pictures of a particular auto-rikshaw driver (along with his rickshaw!) who has found a way to cut through competition by innovating in the small space and scope that a rickshaw gives you. His is no ordinary rickshaw! If the other rickshaws provide you the usability of a DOS this clearly is very close to a 'Vista'!
mumbai innovative rickshaw driver
A first aid box would catch your attention first (not that you would need it when the ride promises to be so comfortable). A newspaper stand with news in 4 different languages spread across pages of popular dailys offers a splendid time-pass if you get stuck in traffic (which is inevitable for any major city). A small TV engages the customers while they sit comfortably enjoying the breeze blowing from the small fan installed inside the rickshaw! If the breeze of the fan is not able to beat the heat of Mumbai you have tissues that can wipe your brow.25% discount for disabled in auto rickshaw
The 'paint-perfect' rickshaw is clad with interesting quotes but the best one reads, "25% discount for handicap"! ('Only gandhigiri" comes a close second!).

PS: I just wish that as perfect as this appears his meter is working right! (At least in Bangalore its very difficult to find one that shows the right billing.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

India's best take to politics to fight it !

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Its less than a fortnight to go, before India goes for poll and decides the party and its men who would form the next government.
There are those who are flooding blogs like CnC with 'vote-for-me' ads and getting mention in the national media mainly for pre-poll controversies and law disobeying rally. There are a few in the election arena this year who are already 'leaders' in their fields and are now in the fray to become 'politicians'. Here is a CnC exclusive of a few favourites:

1. Sashi Tharoor:

A writer and former U.N. under-secretary general, is rolling up his sleeves to contest as Congress candidate from Thiruvananthapuram in Left-ruled Kerala state.

Profile:
In 2006, he was the official candidate of India for the office of United Nations Secretary-General, and came second out of seven official candidates in the race. Tharoor served as the UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information between June 2002 and February 2007, during the term of Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The author, journalist, and fellow of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, has had his eye on a more local political role since his return to his home state.

Education:
Born in London, he studied at Montfort School in Yercaud and Campion School in Mumbai, attended High School at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School in Kolkata and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi where he stood first in the University, graduating with a record score in History (Honours).
While at St. Stephen’s Tharoor was actively involved in the Debating Society, where he won every single debating prize available, the Quiz Club, which he founded, and the Students’ Union, of which he was the elected President. He then completed a Ph.D. at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Massachusetts, where he also earned two Master’s degrees. His Ph.D. was awarded when he was 22, a Fletcher record.
Tharoor will be contesting against P. Ramachandran Nair of CPI and P. K. Krishna Das of Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP).

Click here to reach Shashi Tharoor

2. Meera Sanyal:

Profile:
Meera is currently the Chairperson and Country Executive for ABN AMRO Bank (now RBS) in India, responsible for over 9,500 staff in 40 locations across 24 cities. Prior to this, she was the Chief Operations Officer for the Asia Pacific region responsible for the IT, Operations and Property services for 16 countries in the region. As an Investment banker she has worked both in India and within the Asian region on a number of Project finance, Advisory and M&A mandates.

Education:
· AMP Advanced Management Program, Harvard Business School, Class Valedictorian October 2006
· FCIB: Fellow Chartered Institute of Bankers, UK, February 1996
· ACIB: Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, UK, February 1989
· MBA: INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France; Graduated with Honors on the Deans List December 1983

She will contest from South Mumbai, an upmarket locality and the main business district, as an independent candidate.
On a month’s leave of absence as she dabbles in politics, Sanyal will go toe-to-toe with Congress incumbent Milind Deora, the son of the oil minister, with Facebook groups and her husband speaheading her campaign. She said she found it difficult to align herself with the ideologies of the big parties.
She was apparently inspired to do so by the strong reaction of the general population after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, when the people poured out into the streets to protest the fact that they had been taken for granted for the longest time, demanding answers from the powers that be.

Click here to reach Meera Sanyal


3. Mallika Sarabhai

That thought is echoed also by Mallika Sarabhai, a reputed dancer, who is contesting as an independent in Gandhinagar in Gujarat state, taking on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani. Daughter of classical danseuse Mrinalini Sarabhai and the renonwned space scientist, Vikram Sarabhai, Mallika Sarabhai is a renowned Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer.

Profile:
Winner of several national and international awards and accolades, popular being –
· Crystal Award by World Economic Forum, 2008 for recognition of her contribution in art and culture to promote global peace.
· Theatre Pasta Theatre Awards,2007
· Nominated as one among 1000 women for Nobel Peace Prize ,2005
· Indian for Collective Actions Honour Award,, 2004
· Kala Shiromani Purskar , Institute of Economic Studies,2004
· Woman of the Year , Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC),2003
· Knight of the Order of Arts & Letters, French Government 2002
amongst many others.

She studied at St Xaviers College in her home town of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state.
The multi-faceted Mallika holds an MBA and a doctorate from IIM Ahmedabad and has experience in acting, film-making, editing, and television anchoring.
She has worked with victims of the 2002 communal riots in which about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were hacked and burned to death. She has been vocal in her opposition to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, said she was against criminalisation of politics and wanted to bring the common man back into focus.
She also has support groups on Facebook, and a website, and while she is not expected to win, she has promised to fight.

Click here to reach Mallika Sarabhai

4. Capt. Gopinath

Profile:
The Managing Director of Air Deccan is a graduate of the National Defence Academy and has served the Indian Army. He is considered the father of low cost air travel in India. He created a whole new market when he launched India's first low cost airline, Air Deccan.
Gopinath, who made the common man fly, is taking off as a politician again. In 1994, Gopinath contested the assembly elections from Gandasi in Hassan district on a BJP ticket, but lost.
He feels, “None of the political parties represent the aspirations of a new, young and emerging India, who are frustrated with what they have.”
Many support groups have come up in Bangalore for Gopinath. Young citizens and professionals can be seen distributing 'tokens' and pamphlets in front of popular shopping malls with a smile on their faces and hope in their hearts.

Click here to reach Capt. Gopinath

Sunday, April 05, 2009

70 lakh crores rupees of India in Swiss Bank ??

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Yesterday morning, I received an sms which, like most service messages, I was about to delete, by then don't know what made me read it. The message read -
"Hamari koshish rahegi videshi tijoriyon mein bund takriban 25 lakh Cr kala dhan bharat lakar garibo ki unnati tatha desh ki pragati mein lagaya jaye. LK Advani"

when I was telling my friends about it, I found out that most of them had received the same.


Today, I received an interesting forward-

"Dear All,

Our Indians' Money - 70,00,000 Crores Rupees In Swiss Bank
1) Yes, 70 lakhs crores rupees of India are lying in Switzerland banks.This is the highest amount lying outside any country, from amongst 180 countries of the world, as if India is the champion of Black Money.
2) German Government has officially written to Indian Government that they (German Government) are willing to inform the details of holders of 70 lakh crore rupees in their Banks, if Indian Government officially asks them.
3) On 22-5-08, this news has already been published in The Times of India and other Newspapers based on German Government's official letter to Indian Government.
4) But the Indian Government has not sent any official enquiry to Germany for details of money which has been sent outside India between 1947 to 2008. The opposition party is also equally not interested in doing so because most of the amount is owned by politicians and it is every Indian's money.
5) This money belongs to our country. From these funds we can repay 13 times of our country's foreign debt. The interest alone can take care of the Centre's yearly budget. People need not pay any taxes and we can pay Rs. 1 lakh to each of 45 crore poor families.
6) Let us imagine, if Swiss Bank is holding Rs. 70 lakh crores, then how much money is lying in other 69 Banks? How much they have deprived the Indian people? Just think, if the Account holder dies, the bank becomes the owner of the funds in his account.
7) Are these people totally ignorant about the philosophy of Karma? What will this ill-gotten wealth do to them and their families when they own/use such money, generated out of corruption and exploitation?
8) Indian people have read and have known about these facts. But the helpless people have neither time nor inclination to do anything in the matter. This is like "a new freedom struggle" and we will have to fight this.
9) This money is the result of our sweat and blood. The wealth generated and earned after putting in lots of mental and physical efforts by Indian people must be brought back to our country.
10) As a service to our motherland and your contribution to this struggle, please circulate at least 10 copies of this note amongst your friends and relatives and convert it into a mass movement.


Col R R Joshi,
Commanding Officer
178 MH
PIN 903178
C/O 99 APO
Mob 09800046041"


After, reading both, I checked the May 22, 2008 e-paper of TOI, but sadly there wasn't any such article, atleast not on Mumbai edition. Yes, I am sure that we would have had many international black money accounts and bringing these back to our country and investing in various needs would help us a lot. But, do you think any of our politicians would be able do it, as they themselves would have been one of the biggest participants in such crimes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Behenji-the queen of India?

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The question has been raised many a times. “What if Mrs. Mayawati became the Prime Minister of India?” We all have our versions of answers to it. When I raise the question on CnC, I know that my readers are mostly above the poverty line, have access to the essential resources that are needed to sustain a healthy-happy life (the access to internet gladly a recent addition to the ‘essentials’ list) and can read and write English (which is still a ‘phoren’ language for most of India.
I want to ask another question here, “Why can’t ‘Behenji’ become the Prime Minister of India?”
A friend I was talking to suggests that it is a matter of shame. It is hard for the educated Indian to accept someone like Mayawati as the Prime Minister. I’m trying to explore the reasons that this ‘shame’ constitutes.
English: She has not been able to exhibit her command on the English language. Some argue that the Indian PM would need to convince a global audience on a number of issues and English is the language of the world. On the contrary, many ‘world’ leaders do not speak (or understand properly) the English language. The fact that Behenji addressing election rallies in Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh is testimony to the fact that she has indeed evolved into a leader of national caliber and language has not been a bar.
Vision: Many feel that Mayawati lacks a vision that may be needed for a person before she dons such a post. She has in fact shown a tremendous vision and has been able to unite the ‘dalit’ of India across the borders of states. And unlike the previous ‘dalit leaders’ she has slowly incorporated even the higher classes into BSP’s voting class and the contestants.
Corruption: Mayawati has been in the midst of all sorts of controversies related to issues of corruption. The Taj corridor, the expensive birthday parties, the personal wealth are all pointers of how funds have been mishandled by BSP in Uttar Pradesh. There are very few political parties or politicians who have a clean record in India. I’m not justifying her wrong with the wrong of someone else but it would be interesting to see how she reacts when she’s the queen of India!
‘Dalit beti’: The story of Mayawati is amazing. A girl child in a dalit family in Uttar Pradesh dreaming to become the PM of India is amazing in itself! But what adds to her achievements is how she has tried to evolve after each little step. The way she commands respect from all the regions of India (be it only ‘dalit respect’) is commendable. There are very few leaders who have been able to do such a thing. The ‘Behenji’ who spoke of ‘Tilak, tarazu aur talwar; inko maaro joote chaar’ is now talking of a political party which has broken the barriers of caste and creed in India. ‘Brahmin’ voters voting for the ‘dalit’ candidate and dalit candidate winning on upper caste populated constituencies is quite a feat.
Whether Mayawati does manage to become the PM of India in this election or not is something all of us would watch out for, but her emergence as a political authority across India is undeniable. It may take an ‘MGR’ to become an ‘Amma’ but it certainly takes much more than ‘Kanshiram’ to become a ‘Behenji’.