destination india

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

for a few coins more

The sinking of the Egyptian ship in the Red Sea that claimed nearly 1000 lives is an example of how man’s greed leads to avoidable catastrophes. From accounts of the survivors who have had miraculous escapes, it is understood that a fire had broken out and explosions were heard. Parallels are being drawn with the sinking of the pleasure ship Titanic which hit an iceberg. The only similarity between the two is the fact that both ended in watery graves for the passengers on board.

In our own country we have faced accidents of this nature – like the one in which several bogies of the Mumbai-Howrah train were gutted in a fire that broke out in one of the compartments when breakfast was being prepared. It seems a travel agent was responsible – he wanted to cut corners in expenses and, hence, carried along with his team of tourists, his own kitchen complete with gas cylinders, cooks etc. Then there are road accidents involving overcrowded buses that believe speeding is the best way to reach the terminus – unfortunately, sometimes the terminus works to be the last one.

Such accidents will continue as long as the greed factor takes precedence over factors of safety. Whether it is on land or in the water, lives lost result in hardships for those who are left behind. Unless they are covered by insurance, the organizations suffer financial losses. Overcrowding and carriage of inflammable articles in public modes of transport are risky; notes of caution are sounded from time to time. Invariably, the culprits are the persons who are directly in contact with the passengers – packing the passengers like sardines in cans tempts them to earn a quick buck. Usually, they get away with such practices but, when calamity strikes, they themselves might become the first victims.

The responsibility finally rests with the organizers. It is for them to ensure that the traveler reaches his destination safely.

pace war in peshawar

The interactive program on TV after the loss of the first ODI in Lahore to Peshawar by virtue of the D/L system was an eye opener of sorts. The mantra of the home team was simple – ‘it is a pace war in Peshawar, if you survive, you win’. There were four culprits on view and the major part of the blame went to the Nawab and the Wall.

Yes, the Nawab of Najafgarh should have scored runs. He is a part of the Indian team and has an important role to play. He earns crores of rupees through his endorsements of a wide range of products. It is not enough to present an once-in-a-lifetime knock to justify his retention in the team. That is why the phrase has been aptly coined – ‘yeh dil mange more’. It is fine to sing along with the group and go into huddles for promotional ads but, the end result of failures leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. His fans want continuity, especially when he nurtures hopes of leading the team in future.

The Wall crumbled because of excessive experimentation. Sending Irfan one drop was a good decision but then sending Dhoni and Yuvraj in quick succession was poor strategy. It has been proved repeatedly that we lack the killer instinct – the last ten crucial overs leave us helpless. If we are batting, we struggle to put bat to ball; if we are fielding, we delight in no-balls, wides and loose deliveries. And then, we wring our hands in misery which, in the ultimate reckoning, is of our making.

Singling out individual players for criticism will never help in achieving Vision 2007. If new blood needs to be groomed, so be it. Throwing players like Murali Karthik to the wolves result in avoidable extra runs. With an off-side field, the poor fellow loves to pitch the ball on the batsman’s leg – the ball naturally races to the ropes without any hindrance. Even our so-called fast bowlers have to be disciplined to bowl in the ‘channel’ – if suitable punishment is meted out to the erring ones, the trend could be rectified. It is needless to mention that the nagging line and length of newcomer Asif and his wonderful ability to bowl wicket to wicket was one of the main reasons for the downfall of our celebrated batting lineup.

All said and done, the invaluable experiences that we are gaining in our sojourn in Pakistan must be viewed as a golden opportunity to build a powerful team for 2007.

weekly news round up 5

This is the 5th set of News involving India and Indians as reported in some leading newspapers during the period 29th January to 4th February 2006 -

City can be world-class in 10 years

NEW DELHI: The Delhiite may have some concerns about the city but envisions a very bright future for it, especially in comparison with the other metros of India. ….. The TNS survey was conducted with 301 respondents in the age-group of 15-55 who reside in Delhi to gauge their impression of Delhi vis-a-vis Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata as well as various aspects of Delhi as a city and their vision of its future. …. While Delhi was perceived to have made the most progress over the past five years in terms of transport facilities, education, job opportunities and lifestyle, the respondents believed that Mumbai and Bangalore had done better in terms of providing basic amenities. …..

Indian journalist bags Mahboob ul Haq award

NEW DELHI: Pradeep Dutta, a reporter of 'Times Now' news channel, on Monday bagged the Mahboob ul Haq award instituted by the Colombo-based Regional Council of Strategic Studies, the first journalist from India to win the honour. ….. Dutta was awarded for his work on Indo-Pak Water Politics and Cooperative Security in South Asia. …….

Bengal launches IIT-designed rickshaw

KOLKATA, JANUARY 31: The West Bengal Government today officially adopted a sophisticated, aerodynamic tricycle rickshaw developed by a professor from IIT-Guwahati at Dinhata near Cooch Behar. Over the next few years, the new vehicle is all set to replace over-6,000 hand-pulled rickshaws that ply Kolkata’s streets…… IE Archives 1/2/2006

Benfish tourist lodge opens in MurshidabadBEHRAMPORE, Jan. 29. — With an aim to develop the tourism potential of Murshidabad, the state fisheries ministry today opened a tourist lodge complex comprising of AC and non-AC cottages, restaurant, conference hall at Behrampore……

Vindhyagiri beckons even at night!

Digambara Jain Mutt pontiff Sri Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji has convened a meeting of Government officials on Monday to review the preparedness in Shravanabelagola, especially in the areas of sanitation and medical emergency, with only nine days left for the biggest draw of the celebrations, the Mahamastakabhisheka of Bhagwan Bahubali beginning February 8. ……..

International status for Calicut airport

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal to declare the Calicut airport as an international airport, thereby paving the way for the improvement of the infrastructure there for handling international flights…….

Ceramic hip in place, woman on feet again

Burdwan, Jan. 29: Doctors in a state-run hospital have broken convention by reconstructing a 40-year-old woman’s hip with a ceramic replacement, which scales down the cost of surgery by a whopping 80 per cent. ….. The surgery, beamed live to audiences in a packed hall, mostly doctors, was conducted at Burdwan Medical College and Hospital about a fortnight ago …… Archives, 30/1/2006

Saturday, February 04, 2006

2006 boi mela highlights

The fair was inaugurated by the Spanish author Dr. Maria Fernanda Santiago Bolanos. Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharji and the Ambassador of Spain were also present on the dais. One of the renowned authors commented that – ‘this fair is the heart of Kolkata, this should not be shifted. Why do the authorities not consider it as the lungs of the city?’ The Mayor also joined in and added – ‘this fair is only of 12 days duration. How can a fair here for such a short period create imbalance in the environment?’ The obvious references were to the ongoing struggle to allow the fair to remain in its present location and not be shifted to the proposed new location in the bypass. The CM responded in his usual tongue-in-cheek manner with – ‘I am one of you. I will do what is necessary by considering the legal and environmental aspects.’


One of the characteristics of this annual fair are the forums where professionals interact with the audience to discuss important subjects. One such was ‘whether IT is the only key to success in West Bengal’. One of the speakers said – ‘there cannot be a single master key to unlock all vaults – there has to be separate keys for each.’ Another person said – ‘there are 50 lakh unemployed in the state out of which 20 lakhs are illiterate. Four out of five persons stay in villages. It is, therefore, important to think of IT as one of the means of development.’ Yet another person opined that ‘to fulfill the aspirations of 60 percent of the people, a political will is equally important.’


It is a bit strange that the electronic media seems not too very enthusiastic this year as compared to last year. Especially missing are visuals of the youth brigade of musicians, painters and artists. The coverage of Boi mela 2006 has been done as a matter of routine by Doordarshan with not much variety. Even the newspapers have not devoted much space to this annual event.


The official website has no information on ‘glimpses of 2006’; also, the ‘site map’ is too tiny for any meaningful purpose to be served.

Also read -

Thursday, February 02, 2006

pollution free environment

Pollution free environment is a dream that becomes a reality only in the video footages of Natgeo – we would love to have clean, fresh air to breathe, fruits and vegetables that taste as they should taste, peace and happiness in every home devoid of anger, irritation or misery. We would love to listen to the chirping of the birds and see the butterflies as they flit from one flower to another. We yearn for Utopia. Our leaders keep promising to lead us into that dreamland but, we end up in hospitals and nursing homes with cough, cold, asthma and other similar diseases that are the legacies of pollution. Some TV channels show the levels of pollution in leading cities – the concern ends there. The information comes at the end of the news and does not mean much to the viewer who is more interested in the program that follows. Those lucky few who are blessed with wealth try to lose themselves in the pollution free environment of foreign shores. They are usually accompanied by those whose primary duty is to ensure that he enjoys his holiday. But, escape is no easy – he continues to worry whether his last investment is giving results.

In order to boast of a pollution free environment, we have to analyze the reasons, identify and isolate them and take corrective action. The largest culprit is the automobiles that spew fumes. Plenty of measures have been laid out to arrest such pollution but ensuring their implementation is difficult. A solution could be to encourage the use of bicycles or solar powered or electrical vehicles till tele-transportation Star Wars style becomes a reality. Organizations could consider introducing incentive schemes to promote projects of this nature – it will revive the tramways. Employees who declare that they commute to work by metro rail or by the tram would be eligible for bonus marks at the time of the annual performance review.

Such thoughts have a gloomy side – the automobile manufacturers would feel threatened while the bi-cycle and battery manufacturers would be elated. Also, professionals of the medical fraternity would nurse ill will against those who support the drive for a pollution free environment because it will imply less risk of falling sick, hence fears of loss in earnings. If only some one could work out a compromise …..

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

gear up for d day

Yes, D-day has come in all our lives at some time or the other. No, it is not Doom’s day when Pearl Harbor was bombed but the Deciding day – the day when you take the first step in whatever you plan to do. The first tentative steps are always fraught with fear, the fear of the unknown, the fear of defeat, the fear of mockery. It takes tremendous mental strength to come out of the crisis. Those who emerge with flying colors instinctively learn the basics of crisis management – never say die.

One such D-day is the examination day. Remember when we were kids and would come to the exam hall with palpitating hearts. We would be accompanied by our parents and, we would have flowers in our pockets, flowers that were blessed by the local pujari. Our mothers would have prostrated themselves in front of the deity and prayed that their children come out with flying colors. Those were the days when a ‘pass’ was considered to be an achievement of sorts. As we slogged it out in the confines of the torture chambers racking our brains to unearth the replies from memory, our parents would wait patiently outside in the school grounds, under the shade of trees. Once we submitted our answer papers, we would meet them and proceed to share a few moments of peace along with our lunch. There would be some special item in the menu – just to encourage us and egg us on to achieve the target. The last day of the exams, all of us would heave a sigh of relief and proceed to celebrate with, probably, a cinema show. The cinema distributors knew and were ready with their fare of cinemas that the whole family could enjoy.

Today, the examinees are under constant tension to perform – they have to ensure marks in the nineties. Everyone’s energies are diverted towards that end. While the mothers keep awake with glasses of nourishing drinks for the kids, the TV remains dead, relatives do not drop in and the fathers try to lay hands on authentic suggestions. Once the last of the exams are over, the poor kids have to move on to the next stage – prepare for the competitive exams that pave the way for the future. It is no wonder that many of these kids succumb to the pressure and resort to actions that leave all concerned helpless.

identity crisis

Until recently, a person was identified as the son of so-and-so. The reason was simple – the son was the obedient offspring who did what his parents wanted him to do. He did not enjoy the freedom to do what he liked to do; a profession was forced upon him. In all probability it would be the profession of his father because, in that case, he could benefit from the vast knowledge and experience that his father had acquired from his father and so on and so forth. The trend continues even today in certain areas, the most important one being in politics where it is in the interest of all concerned to ensure that the work of serving the people does not grind to a halt. In other areas, times are not the same any longer – the parents of today want their son to make a mark for himself in his chosen profession. As a result, the son usually always outshines his father and an identity crisis of sorts emerges. The father is now known with respect to his son – like, he is the father of Doctor So-and-so.

With every passing day, the identity crisis keeps getting more and more unmanageable. Since I am a salaried person, I am the proud possessor of a PAN – the identity for the Income Tax men. I have to quote it in all my business transactions so that, if ever the IT folks want to pin the charge of assets greater than known source of income, I can wriggle out by lining the pockets of the lawyer. Sometimes, paying the IT may work out to be cheaper than falling in the trap of the black coats.

My identity in the bank is as customer account number so-and-so – the bank is computerized and the tiny four digit account number has expanded to a 12 digit one. Then there is the credit card with its unique password – I am supposed to remember it and not keep it written down somewhere. On top of these mandatory numbers are the 10 digit numbers of mobile telephones and the twelve plus digits of landline telephones.

Each of these numbers identifies us in different ways to different sections of society. Once you juggle the digits, you land yourself in an identity crisis.

save in grace

Saving is an art that very few have mastered. It was an attribute inbuilt in the growing up periods of the girls and a legacy they carried into their married lives. They learnt it from their mothers and grandmothers – keeping aside a handful of rice in a separate container every day or carefully hiding the leftover coins in an earthen pot under the cot or behind those large jars of pickles. These handfuls of rice and the loose coins were assets they could latch on to in case of extreme emergencies. These were the traditions in villages when banks had not invaded the interior heartlands.

Later, as people moved out of villages and settled in cities, they came to know of banks. They also learnt that locking up money is not a wise move; money has to move for it to multiply. Opening a savings bank account was the first step in this direction. People were encouraged to deposit those small coins and notes in the bank rather than keep them hidden from prying eyes – the incentive was an automatic addition to the kitty in the form of the annual interest. There were accounts for school children also and it was a novel method of propagating the message of ‘save for a rainy day’. Along with the regular savings bank there were recurring deposits and fixed deposits. All these were voluntary schemes. However, the provident scheme was a forced saving thrust upon all salaried persons. The intention was to ensure that at the end of his service period or in case of untimely death, there were adequate funds to fall back upon. A modified version of the provident scheme was the public provident scheme where both the salaried and the non-salaried could deposit money. The returns were attractive when the saving in income tax is also taken into account.

However, over a period of time, the concept of saving has changed. In the age of plastic money, when swiping the credit card to record transactions is more fashionable, hardly any one saves for the rainy day. They become members of groups and these groups take care of sudden needs of finance – the repayments are spread over a period of time. Whether it is hospitalization or holiday travel, the tendency now is to have it, then pay. Not like when the philosophy was – first have the money, then spend it.

all for a room

Getting a room to stay is a problem all of us have faced. Even if you do manage to get one, you may not like it because of uncompromising neighbors who expect you to follow all norms of society but will ensure that they themselves break all of them. Those who have the advantage of accommodation provided by the company are comparatively better off than those who have to make their own arrangements. The options of change of allotted accommodation could be availed of but then, you may very well land from the frying pan into the fire.

The problems are perennial and are attributable to the inherent desire of man to be independent. When people began to venture out from their homes in search of employment in distant places, they longed for a home away from home. Some were happy with the Paying Guest accommodation they managed; others entered into local matrimonial alliances to solve the problem. As they say, to get something, you have to sacrifice something. That is what happened, to be independent and lead your own life you ultimately became dependant on the system itself where the roof above your head was always in doubt. There was a time when rented accommodation would be available only to a family man – that was a reason why freshers would get married in the first instance. With a wife in tow, the accommodation problem would go. However, the fear of eviction remained. If your landlord felt you to be, in his opinion, a nuisance, he would make your life miserable. Your nuisance value could very well be the rent you shell out. When the landlord feels he is not getting his worth, he will cut off your light or put on hold your water supply or resort to various other tactics to compel you to look elsewhere.

Therefore, the safest bet is to go in for ownership basis accommodation – in large metros, the costs are prohibitive. But, in spite of that, the existing advantages of claiming relief from Income Tax based on the loan repayment amounts have influenced decisions to go in for such accommodation. Only, if you desire to be near to your place of work, you have to pay through your nose. Hence you move out to the suburbs and make do with everything in their abridged editions – the sofa set doubles up as a bed at night, the dining table folds into the wall to make way for the kids to play, two tier beds ensure that the floor space in the kids bedroom is utilized to the maximum extent possible. The only problem is when near and dear ones drop in. With every square inch accounted for, entertaining others overnight sends shivers down your spine. Your unwillingness in these matters sour relationships and, you have no other alternative but to grin and bear it.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

crime and criminals

Crime is today just another profession – small time cheats roam the streets of Mumbai in the hope of making it big. The news report of people being taken for a ride by buying bars of soap molded to resemble mobile phone hand sets was funny. One of the pair arrested was a knife sharpener and the other a painter – both in their early twenties! The story of the shoe shine boy who never accepted coins thrown at him and who made it real big in the underworld must have had a tremendous influence on these persons.

Bollywood is creating ripples with the news that a film director is on the lookout for real life criminals to act in his forthcoming venture and impart authenticity to the modus operandi. This will reduce our so-called muscled strong men heroes to lollypop heroes – real life gangsters and their molls will usurp the hot spots. That night would not be far off when the glittering awards functions will have these most wanted men occupying the front row seats. They might also share the dais with celebrities and climb the steps amidst applause of the assembled cream of society to accept the memento. Once the function comes to a close, they will be escorted back to their cells and put behind bars. Of course, today also the scenes are quite similar – only, the camouflaged criminals have ensured that the tag of ‘most wanted’ is not attached to them.

And, from the capital comes the news that common robbers took a group of commandoes by surprise. It is a sad state of affairs. Commandoes are supposed to be the swiftest, the smartest, the most observant ones – they shoulder the responsibility of the safety of our leaders. They are meant to be reincarnations of James Bond, they must always be one step ahead of the criminals, they are there to pre-empt attacks. If a couple of ordinary thieves can pull the rug from under their feet, we need to have a relook at our selection procedures and training methods. Such instances could probably be the result of an injudicious quota system that exists somewhere and lies in wait to sabotage honest intentions.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

weekly news round up no. 4

This is the 4th set of News involving India and Indians as reported in five leading newspapers during the period 22nd January to 28st January 2006 -

The Times of India - Bhel to set up 500 MW power plant in Sudan - NEW DELHI: India on Monday okayed a loan of $392 million in two Lines of Credit through Export-Import Bank (EXIM) for setting up a 500 MW power plant and a transmission line project in Sudan. ….. This would make India’s second largest investment in Sudan after ONGC Videsh Ltd's (OVL) $1 billion plans in Sudan. …. (read more)

The Times of India - UK babus feel Indian job takeaway pinch - LONDON: British civil servants and their government are in conflict over plans to off-shore a sizeable chunk of official work to India, in the first large-scale government operation of its kind. ….. The plans, leaked by the Public and Commercial Services Union, the UK's largest civil servant union, are aimed at saving the British exchequer one-billion pounds …. (read more)

The Hindu - India ranks low in environment performance - New York: India ranked among the 20 lowest-scoring countries in meeting a set of critical environmental goals such as clean drinking water and low greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a study by two U.S. universities. ….. The pilot study `2006 Environmental Performance Index' jointly produced by the Yale and the Columbia Universities, shows that just six nations — led by New Zealand, followed by five from northern Europe — have achieved 85 per cent success in achieving such goals. ….. (read more)

The Daily Telegraph - Mission to Mars goes 3D - Museum SET TO UNVEIL 25-SEATER THEATRE - Bees fly by so close that you fear they will sting you. Rocks explode and you duck instinctively, only to realise it’s just a movie. …… “True 3D” is coming to the city next week — not at a theatre near you, but at a museum. Birla Industrial and Technology Museum (BITM) is set to unveil its three-dimensional theatre with a mission to Mars.
“This will be the first of its kind, high-resolution 3D theatre in the country,” said Jayanta Sthanapati, director of BITM. While Science City also has a 3D viewing system, the quality is not comparable in any way, Sthanapati added. …. (read more)

The Indian Express - ‘India Everywhere’ at Davos - NEW DELHI, JANUARY 22: No one would be able to miss the Indian presence at the World Economic Forum’s annual summit at Davos this year. The Indian economic community has come together under a initiative, spearheaded by the CII, the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) and Ministry of Tourism. The initiative stresses on a focused communication campaign to enhance the Brand India ‘‘touch points’’ through special events and promotions. This includes an advertising campaign to position India as the ‘‘fastest growing free market democracy’’. …. (read more)

The Deccan Herald - Flower power at Lalbagh! - There is no better time to step into Lalbagh than right now, thanks to the glass house that is bursting with blooms of myriad hues. ….. The Republic Day Horticultural Show, organised by Mysore Horticultural Society kickstarted on Friday, with the floral carpet of the pink cassias, golden acacias, purple jacarandas and flame-orange gulmohars beckoning visitors in hordes ….. (read more)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

net bowlers to enhance net worth

One more exercise in futility has come to an end with the second Test in Faislabad going the way of the first one at Lahore. When the pitch is prepared to ensure a draw, it means that the host team management is apprehensive of the outcome. Such tactics can be interpreted to be abject surrender to the better team, instead of proving in the field which is the better team. The visiting team, obviously, scores the psychological advantage. It speaks volumes for the management of the Indian team.

Cricket is one of the most attractive of outdoor games today. It is enjoyed by the young and the old alike from Chandigarh to Chennai, from Vadodara to Visakhapatnam, from Kolkata to Kanyakumari – whether it is an ODI or a Test match is immaterial. The longer version was written off by some, but it is regaining ground and is inching up the popularity chart thanks to the induction of youngsters who love to dazzle with both the bat and the ball. Today, it is becoming a team of 11 all-rounders. The electronic media has played a major role in this aspect – all the major TV channels like Aaj-Tak, NDTV, Star News, and Sahara News rope in specialists of the game who present their versions of the forecasts before the start of play and the analysis at the end. The time slots are also staggered to allow greater participation. Gone are the days when a score of 125 for a full day’s play was passé – today scores are accounted as the number of runs versus the number of balls faced. Also, RPO has become an important index to judge the effectiveness of either the bowler of the batsman – if the RPO is small, credit goes to the bowler; else, to the batsman.

In such a changing scenario, the thought of allowing ‘spare’ bowlers into the team throws up immense possibilities. Apart from the regulars, whose numbers are restricted, this option of carrying ‘net bowlers’ will permit a few more players to travel with the team and enjoy fringe benefits. It will enhance the net worth of the team.

If the idea does find favor, we may see several others inducted into the team. For example, experts may be roped in to prepare those fluffy idlis or the crispy dosas when the players are in the Caribbean or down under. There could also be cuisine specialists capable of preparing mouth watering veggie dishes with locally available ingredients, or who can prepare paneer in far off countries and transform the paneer into delectable matar-paneer or palak-paneer or who excel in serving typical Indian sweets like gajar-ki-halwa or rosogollas or gulab-jamuns. Other important additions could be considered of the footwear specialist, the hair stylist and the clothes man. Such positive actions will certainly boost the morale of the team, encourage them to give their best and not make them homesick.