destination india

Saturday, December 31, 2005

star gazing 2006

I am no astrologer, it is not for me to speak in terms of the 11 hour 11 minute 11 second way of things – I just thought how nice it would be if all of us could predict how the new year 2006 will turn out to be for us. I have not set any boundaries for myself; hence, nothing is taboo. One thing is certain – a new political outfit is waiting in the wings for the opportune moment to announce its arrival and, a combine within a combine is poised for take off – the brain child of the man with the lantern, it remains to be seen whether the lantern will pave the road to prosperity.

Your lucky number for each day can be based on a logic that you can define yourself – for example, TSOTD of when you open the day’s newspaper or when you have your first sip of tea or the reporting time of the domestic help or the waiting period at the elevator or the time lost in settling arguments of the kids or the time spent in meetings the previous day. (TSOTD means ‘the sum of the digits’)

Similarly, the color of each day can be arbitrarily chosen by you as the shirt worn by the paper delivery boy or the housecoat worn by your missus or the handbag of the woman who accompanies you in the elevator or the first car you see when you look out of the window.

So here are the results of star gazing for 2006 -

Aries – stop bleating like a lamb. Run away to some safe destination before they take you to the slaughterhouse. Lamb chops are no longer in fashion but who knows – there could be a revival. Devour those biscuits that can convert you to a tiger. The growl is better than the bleat. Be careful of sweet talkers in 2006.

Taurus – you have earned the wrath of the people. Improve your style of functioning. The country is in a resurgent mood – illegal occupation of roads is viewed seriously. Our power centers are wooing foreigners; we do not want you to scare them away. In 2006, walk the streets only at nighttime when the world sleeps. Dalal Street is the exception.

Gemini – your tribe has had wonderful times in our filmdom. We live on the lost-and-found brother/sister storylines. Invariably one of you is the one who is tortured, and the other is the one who comes to his or her rescue, as the case may be. We have always had two brothers or two sisters – that is financially advantageous to the producer. Insist on a change in combination for 2006, which will be lapped up by the public.

Cancer – everyone is afraid to come in contact with you. They avoid you like the plague. You have not confined yourself to just the human beings but have invaded practically all walks of life. Explore possibilities of changing the ‘C’ to a ‘D’ - we all love the dancer, especially she who performs the hot item numbers. 2006 holds promises for the chocolate coated ones.(continued …. )

zero in on zero six

As the clock strikes midnight and we step into 2006, I take this opportunity to convey my best wishes to all my fellow members of the forum / bloggers for a happy and prosperous New Year.

Mother Nature loves to continuously throw us into tizzies; she wants to test us at every opportunity, our patience, and our resistance powers. We have to accept her challenges, brave the odds and emerge winners. She loves winners as does others – therefore, on this auspicious occasion, let us resolve to fight our battles and not embrace defeat even before attempting to cross swords. Failures are an inseparable part of life – if we permit them to get on top of us, we are doomed. Always remember that the child has to stumble before it learns to walk, you have to display innumerable bruises on the knees and the elbows before you master the intricacies of cycling – these obstacles pave the way to a rich and fulsome life.

Like failures, you must never allow successes to rob you of your basic faculties of being a good human being, of being an individual who one wants to mingle with whether at work or in the social circles. Once you attain a stature, rise to a certain height, it is extremely difficult to maintain it – a fall can be very painful.

Each and every member of our fraternity have experiences to share, may be from work life or from personal life; let us try to disseminate these to as many corners as possible so that someone somewhere can benefit from them. Simultaneously, let us gather information from others. The art of acquiring and disseminating knowledge is in our grasp – let us make full use of these facilities. Let us give Nature her due respect – let us begin in the back yard, take care of the trees and invite the birds back into our folds, entice the butterflies to return to our world and add color to our lives. Let us hope that zero six is the year that we had been waiting for eagerly to get all the breaks.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

what happened on the fifteenth

With 2005 coming to a close, everyone tries to summarize the important happenings of the year and prepare capsules. While some of them rely on the written word, others prefer the visuals. Important events, natural calamities, accidents normally take center stage. There is also identification of the most something-or-the-other person of the year – the fields chosen are usually the silver screen or the idiot box or sports or politics. Out of those who remain in the limelight throughout the year, a chosen few are honored for their contributions towards whatever be the cause. In earlier days, one had to send the vote via post – the form would appear in popular magazines and one had to tick mark the recipient of his or her vote. Today is it is all SMS oriented – options are given as A or B or C or D – you have to type the alphabet and send the vote. On the face of it, Technology has made life so simple. But, all of us know that it is not really that simple.

Anyway, I have done a slightly different exercise to sum up the events of 2005. I have taken the 15th day of every month and scoured the archives of 3 leading internet sites -

TOI, Mumbai - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
The Daily Telegraph, Kolkata - http://telegraphindia.com/
The Deccan Herald, Bangalore - http://deccanherald.com

for interesting news taken at random and related to the specific areas – namely, the Financial capital, the Cultural capital and the Intellectual capital respectively. There will be two news items per day – due to lengthy material, some news will show only the first few paragraphs. The text is not edited for grammar or spellings. In order to maintain uniformity, I have used a common font. The results will appear as posts in this blog from the 25th December onwards and will cover two months per day.

I hope you like the offerings. Happy reading.

events of january zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/25/389611.aspx

events of february zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/26/390167.aspx

events of march zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/26/390610.aspx

events of april zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/27/390964.aspx

events of may zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/27/391695.aspx

events of june zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/28/392444.aspx

events of july zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/29/393377.aspx

events of august zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/29/393510.aspx

events of september zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/29/394024.aspx

events of october zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/30/394435.aspx

events of november zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/30/395138.aspx

events of december zero five -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/12/30/395355.aspx

Friday, December 23, 2005

geetmala and toothaches

Binaca toothpaste, which later became Cibaca, has vanished from the market. In order to woo the kids, each pack had gifts – the kids would collect them and exchange the extra ones with their classmates. When the radio was the only means of domestic entertainment, there was a program of film songs sponsored by Binaca. Called the Binaca Geetmala, it was compered by the one and only Ameen Sayani. The style of his presentation was unique, like his melodious voice that brings back sweet memories. The last Wednesday of the year was reserved for the selected hit songs of that year and listeners would sit glued to the radio for the one-hour capsule, captivated by the voice.

Read more – http://www.ameensayani.com/reviews/review_1.htm

The teeth are an important part of our body. Unless taken care of, they can make your life miserable. A toothache can literally rob you of your well-earned and well-deserved sleep. When the hidden warriors suddenly descend in the darkness to snatch their milligram of the goodies that still nestle in the crevices of your teeth, you groan and moan and toss about in bed. You wait for daybreak to run to the dentist. The dentist, bless him, prescribes painkillers and advises yet again to brush the teeth before you retire for the night. You hear him out and, in no time, forget him and his advice until the killer pain returns.

A set of pearly white teeth is something to cherish forever, it paves the way for appearances in beauty pageants. It is one of the stepping-stones to a life of the good things, a sort of passport to display your remaining assets to the world at large. This is one of the reasons why there are so many brands of products related to the teeth in the market. Each of them vies for attention. It is not known whether a set of gleaming white teeth can replace the flash bulb for the photographer, some feel they do. Then there are the mothers who chant the mantra of bhoot-police while busy in their daily chores – they expect this new police force to take care of the teething problems of their kids.

Gone are the days when the twig of a neem branch did a wonderful job – even today, these are sold and people use them. I have seen them on the railway platforms of Lucknow. The neem plant has medicinal values. The tip is first chewed leisurely to extract the juice and then the twig is used to rub the teeth to give them the shine. This type of natural toothbrush-cum-toothpaste led to the Neem toothpaste - but it is no longer available in the market. Like Binaca, Cibaca, Kolynos and a whole host of others they have become history.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

the derailed railways

The Indian Railways are one of the most popular means of mass communication. It still caters to the high class as well as the poor. Over the years it has introduced several improvements in its working, today you can even book tickets over the net in selected cities. But, accidents continue to plague it. A report indicates that Nearly 40 major accidents have occurred in the last 15 years on the 63,000-km route network of Indian Railways, the world's largest under a single management that operates over 11,000 trains every day.

http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=44251

On 3rd February, A train smashed into a tractor carrying wedding guests at a crossing in western India on Thursday, killing at least 52 people and injuring 10 others, a railway official said. The accident occurred near Kanhan, a small town in Maharastra 490 miles northeast of Bombay, when a local train bound for the central Indian city of Nagpur collided with a tractor as it was crossing the tracks.

On 21st April, 17 people (including the driver of the Sabarmati Express and his assistant) were killed and over 127 injured (10 in critical condition) when the Ahmedabad bound passenger train from Varanasi, Train No. 9168 SABARMATI EXPRESS, collided with a stationary goods train (on the same track!) near Samlaya village in Vadodara district of Gujarat state at around 0310 Hrs (IST) on Thursday, 21 April 2005.

On 3rd October, Fifteen people were feared dead and over 50 seriously injured when the Bundelkhand Express went off the track and rammed into a railway signal cabin in Datia district, Madhya Pradesh at 8.10 am on Monday. The train was travelling from Varanasi to Gwalior.

But, worse than accidents are the cases of rape in moving trains - in August 2002, a young woman was raped on a suburban train near in Mumbai. It was reported that she was a handicapped woman and, even though there were half a dozen male passengers in that compartment none stepped in to stop it. Interestingly one of the passengers was a journalist. On 6th December this year, five people were arrested for alleged rape of a 20-year-old woman in the Mumbai-bound Pawan Express.The woman was raped between Nasik and Igatpuri stations. The latest is the one in the Pushpak Express in MP on 21st December 2005. In this connection it may be mentioned that there was a Manoj Bajpai – Raveena Tandon film ‘Jaago’ shown in one of the TV channels where a child was raped in a local train in Mumbai – in that case there also there were witnesses who were afraid to open their mouth for fear of repercussions.

The railway authorities are tying up with MNCs to introduce signaling equipment that can provide advance warning of unfit tracks – they need to also look into the safety of the traveling public. It seems when followers of political parties forcibly board the trains to attend party rallies, they create problems for the authorized travelers. The railway administration should provide separate trains for such persons – the cost could be borne by the parties. It is a national problem and needs to be resolved by whichever party is in charge of the Railway ministry.

year ending thoughts

As one crosses the twentieth day of December, one ponders over the past and, in most cases, enjoys a few silent moments with his inner self in analyzing his personal gains and losses. Most of those who are employed are governed by two sets of years – one is the calendar year from January to December, the other is the financial year from April to March. The logic in maintaining such a system is not readily understandable. However, to the employed, it is the calendar year that has a greater appeal.

One of the reasons is that leave entitlements are calculated based on the calendar year – casual leaves are meant for sudden requirements over the year. These normally lapse if not availed within the year. Some are lucky to keep them preserved till the last possible minute – the result is fantastic: he (or she) derives immense pleasure in watching the not-so-lucky ones brave it out in the cold to reach offices while they relax in the sun.

Another reason is the LTC – these are facilities extended by some employers to their employees to enable them to travel and enjoy the diversities of different places. These LTCs or Leave Travel Concessions also lapse if not utilized within a certain period. Here again, the last day is 31st December.

The best part is, without doubt, the picnics in neighboring locations where one surrenders oneself to laze in the sun and watch butterflies flit from flower to flower or stare at birds chirping high above in the branches or watch a stray leaf as it sails down to the ground or listen to the ripple of the water as they jump from stone to stone on the banks of the river. These picnics can be family outings or in the company of close friends or even in a group. If the location is far away and there is a large group, one becomes a part of the whole and tries his hands at so many things that he would never ordinarily think of. Like – singing out of tune or bowling doosras or swiping at every ball outside any of the stumps. Breakfast of bread sandwiches, boiled eggs and bananas with tea or coffee, lunch of mutton curry, rice, tomato chutney and a couple of rosogollas or gulab jamuns and evening tea with biscuits before pack up are the usual menu for such outings. Hard drinks are always consumed on the sly and, there are invariably one or two members who find it difficult to hold on to their drinks – they provide enjoyment for the others.

climbing the ladder

We have climbed the ladder in the ICCI rankings, thanks to a well planned and dedicated fight executed to near perfection against a demoralized second-string team of Sri Lanka. Our spin twins, one playing in his 100th test and the other in his 50th, resulted in us achieving the win. This is a good sign – we have to maintain this winning streak and ensure uniformity in our performances. . Due credit must go to the opposition who braved it all out despite the absence of their star fast bowler in action. If only they had shown sufficient patience, the result could have been different. Test matches are basically about tests to prove the patience, determination and stamina of the players – these are the qualities that make for greatness. Scoring a century followed by a number of single digits does not pave the way for champions, there has to be a consistency.

Our team could have easily completed the formalities much earlier. The game need not have dragged on to the fifth day. Probably they wanted to occupy the crease as long as possible to gain some valuable batting practice that might prove useful in the subsequent encounters in Pakistan. If that were the case, they should have continued till all were out. That would have allowed Harbhajan to possibly move on to the fifty mark – a milestone for him, an additional reason for him to remember the Ahmedabad outing.

All said and done, our cricket team has plenty of ground to cover till the forthcoming World Cup. It is funny that the replacement of a senior player was not given a chance to show his mettle in this match. Probably he will be a surprise element in Pakistan. Only, a niggling worry, a piece of sentiment one may say – in my opinion, the recent unwanted episodes in our cricket field has brought the gentleman’s game to disrepute. It has left a bad taste in the mouth. The blemish will remain as long as cricket remains.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

vote for the goat

The goat is a stubborn creature, more stubborn than the donkey. When we witness a pair of goats lock their horns, we realize that none wants to give way without a fight to the finish. 2003 was the year of the goat as per the Chinese calendar. The goatee beard is fashionable; it is convenient for those who find it difficult to maneuver the shaving razor in the soft contours of the chin. There is a saying in Bengali that goes - ‘the lunatic speaks whatever he wants, the goat devours whatever it sees’. It is, therefore, not very strange that goats do not die even after munching and swallowing the plastic bags that other animals find it hard to digest!

Goat translates to bakra in Hindi and in the famous TV serial Chhupe Rustom, we enjoyed seeing the wonderful team of experts make bakras out of ordinary people like you and me on the streets. The MTV channel also has a special slot for the bakras. And – in the larger world, the politicians are continuously making bakras out of the electorate. In spite of knowing them in and out, we continue to repose faith in them and expect them to deliver us from the ills that plague our country. Our social spectrum spreads from the brilliant youngsters who control the destinies of MNCs to the ill fed, half clad people who survive on the leftovers of the multi storied buildings, who take shelter under parked vehicles or who sell their bodies to earn a meal. The politicians have been promising to improve the conditions of the common man, they get themselves elected to parliament on these false promises but except prosperity in their own backyards, the picture is as gloomy as it was in the fifties.

Goat, in short, means a fall guy, a scapegoat. We love to boost the ego of an innocent and leave him stranded in mid air; we flee from the place before he comes crashing down to discover himself to be at the receiving end of some ill conceived joke. If a poll is conducted to identify the Bakra of 2005, who will win the crown?

accommodation problems

The CM of Bihar is an unhappy person, he is unable to move into his rightful residence that is equipped with the infrastructure necessary to control the activities of a state as large and as complicated as Bihar. Actually, he has only himself to blame – if he had not dislodged the man with the lantern, he would not have faced these irritating problems.

The earlier occupant is unwilling to move out. He cannot be blamed – with every passing day, it is becoming more and more difficult to get an accommodation that is tailor made to suit your needs – schools, hospitals, markets, bus stops etcetera should be within reasonable distance. And – if you are the proud owner of a whole lot of animals, you must naturally have space to relocate them. You cannot expect them to stay under the open sky vulnerable to the ravages of nature. Even if you do manage to secure an accommodation, you have to consider yourself lucky if you can hold on to it indefinitely. This is a reason why people nowadays are encouraged to go in for ownership houses – it is beneficial to all in the long run. Loans are available off-the-shelf apart from the added incentive of relief in income tax for those who come in the IT bracket. IT, in this context, is supposed to mean Income Tax and not Information Technology. Those excluded from the IT bracket enjoy separate privileges that are maintained as closely guarded secrets.

In two corners of the country, the authorities based on the rulings of the honorable Courts have taken up demolishing of several existing residential structures. One is in Ulhasnagar in Maharastra and the other is right in New Delhi, the capital. This is creating accommodation problems for residents who suddenly discover that there is no roof above their heads. It seems innumerable illegal constructions have been reported from these areas. The sad part is that these did not sprout overnight like seeds – these had the blessings of those who sanction such add-ons. In New Delhi alone there are more than 18,000 such constructions. Those who are entrusted with this work are straddled with non-availability of the necessary equipment. The work is progressing at snail’s pace – it is evident that there is reluctance to follow the directives of the honorable Courts.

We had seen in the Natgeo channel about the method employed in demolishing buildings in congested areas – detonators are wired all over the structure to be demolished and, at the press of a button, the complete building is reduced to rubbles. As they say, where there is a will, there is a way.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

killer instincts

In our world, killers are probably the men who guard our borders or who take care of the law and order – to them killing is a task to be performed. There is nothing sentimental about the events. However, one thing that needs to be ensured is that this special group of people look the role they have to play. The reason for bringing up this topic is the recent announcement of the new CM of Bihar. He has issued certain directives to the police. The intention is to enable them to present a look that is more in keeping with their status in society. If properly implemented, the CM would have paved the way for more such tiny moves that can boost his own popularity. As it stands today, policemen are depicted as pot bellied samples of humans who are always the butt of jokes. They amble leisurely when running is necessary. They toil around on bicycles – these are their means of transport. For weapons, they carry stout sticks that are used for offense or defense depending on circumstances. Smartness is not in their book of ethics. The poor souls cannot be blamed – they have to toe the line drawn by those who wield political clout, who brandish the latest firearms, who whiz past in air-conditioned cars, who carry mobile phones in their palms. Under the circumstances, it is not correct to expect them to lay claim to possessing killer instincts.

When we see the smart police of Los Angeles or London, we also see the equipment they have in order to checkmate the moves of the crooks. Each of their actions indicates that they are tuned to a certain frequency. They know what drill to follow in which circumstance. They obey the orders of their Chiefs, not of political goons. Obviously, killer instincts can come only when one is armed better than the opponent. What exactly is this killer instinct? To a layman who has never seen killers, it is presumed to be a one-track mind that has its eyes fixed on snuffing out a life. A comparison can be drawn with ferocious animals like the tiger or the lion that select the prey and stalk it silently to its death. The prey can very well be a large one like a buffalo but the killer has its methods.


Our cricket team has been branded as one that lacks killer instincts. That is why we keep stumbling continuously at the winning post and end season after season as a dejected lot. Hopefully, with the present youngsters delivering the goods, we are on the way to acquiring the killer instincts.

Monday, December 19, 2005

influence of bengali culture

All of a sudden, there seems to be undercurrents of a silent cultural revolution making its presence felt. Once upon a time, Bengalis wielded a strong influence on the Hindi films – there were music directors, film directors, musicians, playback singers, artists, craftsmen, actors and actresses who left Bengal and stayed on in Bombay to churn out their masterpieces that are held in esteem even today. Their outputs had universal appeal and seldom was any effort made to identify a typical character as a Bengali. Remember the song – ‘suno suno miss chatterjee, mere dil ka matter ji?’ The trend followed with the ‘babumoshoi’ Rajesh Khanna. The film was a runaway success and, from then on, Bengalis used to be lovingly called ‘babumoshoi’ by their non-Bengali colleagues and friends. Earlier it used to be ‘dada’ – but, the word ‘dada’ took on different meanings over a period of time and it was a relief to get an alternative fall into your lap at the right moment.

The next major influences were the films Devdas and Parineeta – here, the typical style of wearing the saree caught the fancy of the public. In fact it is said that the saree can make a woman look more womanly and appealing and the portrayals in the film were proof enough, if at all proof was necessary. Then there were movies like Yuva and Calcutta Mail that brought glimpses of the Bengali culture to the forefront.

The result was that the ‘K’ factory which seizes each and every opportunity to woo different segments of viewers decided to introduce Bengali characters in its serials. That provided it options to project the new dress codes of saree Bengali style! The ad campaigns took their cue and fell in line because it is their basic duty to find out which way the wind blows. And, they added backgrounds of the Howrah Bridge and the Calcutta trams and the rickshaws. It is a pity that Bengalis did not capitalize on the opportunity of going global with sindoor (the large round vermilion dot on the forehead of the married woman that adds a special aura to her personality), the white conch shell bangles (better known as ‘sankhas’) and the associated red ‘pawla’. Even typical Bengali sweets like rasogolla, sandesh and joynagarer moaah could provide wonderful consumer markets if packaged and marketed in real earnest. In fact, with existing International air links, these delicacies could make Bengalis settled abroad feel more at home.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

sunday botherations

Yesterday was a Sunday that was an exasperating one – there was no Internet connection available throughout the day. Whenever I tried to connect, I landed up with an error message number 718 that said ‘remote server not responding’. Sundays are usually occupied in logging on to various websites to see how things are shaping up around us and where the world is headed. It is also the time to see what others have to say and make notes of people’s likes and dislikes. Unfortunately, the past Sunday was a disappointment. The worst part is that there was no one to attend to the help line phone.

From time immemorial, Sunday is taken as a day of rest and relaxation. As a famous song goes – ‘never on a Sunday ’cause that’s my day of rest …. ’

http://www.jacquedee63.com/neveronsunday60.html
http://www.piano-bar.com/pages/sunday.htm

Simultaneously, there is a seconds song that says – ‘meri jaan, meri jaan, Sunday ko Sunday ana …..’ This day is armarked for attending to personal and domestic needs. Before the advent of television, families used to keep the Sunday reserved to meet friends and relatives or proceed for an evening’s outing in the cinema to take in the latest blockbuster – after the film, there used to be invariable visits to nearby eating joints for some goodies to tickle the taste buds. With the fall in revenue from cinema halls, an unseen strategic alliance seems to have been forged between the owners of cinema halls and the TV channels – the TV programs on Sundays are of films that have been televised umpteen number of times or of bygone award ceremonies. Automatically, people flock to multiplexes for the latest.

In many organizations, the staff works extra time on Sundays to meet schedules that have are likely to be missed. The work environments on these occasions are less formal, the Boss smiles, jokes, and listens to his people – one gets to see the other personality of the Boss. As a result, more work gets done. The direct workers earn extra money as incentive for such work. For the others it is - meeting the target.

nashik in the news

Nashik has at long last come on the cricket scene – A Ranji trophy match is right now underway between Maharastra and Tamil Nadu. It has taken 23 years to get back this honor – way back in 1974, Sunil Gavaskar was injured by a ball from Salgaonkar since matting wickets were in use in those days. Nashik has, since, got a turf wicket; hence, has earned the opportunity to host this match. Hopefully, in future, Nashik will be considered as one more venue for ODIs.

NIMA, the central body of industries in Nashik, will be holding an exhibition from 25th January to 30th January to showcase the present industrial scenario of Nashik. They are considering having a permanent infrastructure for the display of products that the various manufacturing units churn out. This could come up in Vilholi or Pathardi. In addition, once the cargo terminal near Ojhar airport becomes operational by August-2006, it will give a boost to the region. It may be noted that the Nashik-Mumbai-Pune triangle contributes to 70 percent of the revenue collected by the State Government.

The proposal for a railway link between Nashik and Pune is slowly gathering momentum. As estimated 50,000 travel between the two cities by the State Transport and other buses while another 10,000 travel by road using private cars. This puts a tremendous load on NH-50 that links the two. Hence there is a genuine need for a rail link.

Another proposal is for a bird sanctuary in Nandur-Madhmeshwar. It seems nearly 230 varieties of birds have been sighted here over the years besides more than hundred types of herbs and innumerable fishes. It is a favorite picnic spot and, with upgradation of facilities, could attract bird watchers.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

latest trend in crimes

Today, anyone can contact anyone else via the Internet in a matter of nano-seconds. The bomb hoax in the Parliament on Friday the 16th is a pointer. The message, transmitted thro e-mail, put the complete country in turmoil. The authorities are trying to zero in on the area from where this might have originated. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1335059.cms

Then there is the case of an online chase by the cyber police cell over a period of two years to nab a culprit who was engaged in espionage activities for countries across our borders. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1332835.cms

On the heels of this exposé comes the news that a group of four youngsters were into duplicating credit cards and siphoning off other’s monies. One of them was scheduled to join an American software company shortly; another was a student of Engineering and the third was also a software engineer. It is shocking to learn that youngsters who are conversant with this new medium of communication are using it to feather their own nests. The above quoted news items that have appeared in the media tend to lend credence to this belief.

Added to these is the heinous crime of the murder of a woman employee of a reputed BPO company of Bangalore.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1335568.cms

As it is, women are vulnerable and when they work in night shifts it is for the employers to ensure their safety. Normally, women are not supposed to work in the night. The software industry has changed that concept and no adverse incidents have been reported till now. But, this grotesque incident is an eye opener. Concerned authorities must introduce suitable foolproof measures whereby these are not repeated.

Friday, December 16, 2005

a seemingly impossible task

Sachin Tendulkar, the master blaster has now posted 35 centuries - a record of the highest number of centuries in Test Cricket. In the course of a career of 15 years, he has 4 double centuries to his credit but, sadly, no triple ones.

The problems for Indians to post large individual scores are many – first and foremost, the toss must be won. Then one must get adequate time to settle down and have partners who can give him company on the pitch for a sufficient length of time. This is one aspect where we never seem to succeed – we have become so tuned to the fast version of the game that we want to hurry through the game expecting miracles to happen, partners keep departing leaving the individual high and dry – all he can do is to sigh, lament and curse his luck. Patience is certainly not one of our virtues; we are never able to arrive at the correct proportion of aggression and defense. Once we crawl into the shell, we are seldom able to recover the lost ground.

Don Bradman scored 309 not out on the first day itself of the 1930 Ashes and went on to score 334 with 46 fours from 436 balls – he was an exception.

In contrast, Brian Lara posted 400 not out off 582 balls against the Test match with England in Antigua. It included 43 fours and four sixes. In doing so, Lara eclipsed the previous batting record of 380 established just six months ago by Australia’s Matthew Hayden. Ridley Jacobs gave fantastic support to Lara by remaining not out on 107. It took the side to 752 for five declared – the second highest score in West Indies history and the highest by any country against England. Before that, on April 18, 1994 Lara surpassed the 365 made by Sir Garfield Sobers.

It will be a miracle to surpass the milestone of Brian Lara.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

the men in white

Cricket umpires are the men in white who raise the finger to convey a decision on the field – they have a real tough time. The players are young when compared to the umpires and none of them stay for the complete day either to score runs or prevent runs from being scored. If runs are to be scored, the player takes the field, performs his duty as best as he can and returns to the pavilion to make way for the next one in line. While on the field, he swings his bat, runs between the wickets and ensures that his body muscles are kept in motion. If a bowler, he has his spells of direct action followed by periods of relative inaction when he relaxes – to the extent possible – and exercises to get ready for the next spell. If positioned near the boundary, he may take upon himself the responsibility to entertain the spectators. In comparison, the umpire has to remain standing or crouching and be attentive to every aspect of the game.

He has to see if the foot of the bowler crosses the popping crease while delivering the ball and yell ‘no’ if it does. In a fraction of a second, his eyes have to follow the direcvtion of the ball and lock themselves on to the batsman – where has the ball pitched, does it come under the purview of being labeled as a ‘wide’, does it qualify for an ‘lbw’ decision. The umpire has also to be alert as to the sound of ‘snicks’ that carry to fielders behind the wicket. Stump microphones assist him to a certain extent in arriving at this decision. If a catch is taken inches above the ground, did it come off the bat or the glove or the pad? Then comes the run-outs – whenever the batsmen take off for runs, the umpire has to keep his eyes glued to check if the bat is grounded before the bails come off. In cases where he finds it difficult to arrive at a decision, he consults his counterpart on the field – in cases of close run-outs, he refers the matter to the third umpire who conveys his decision after examining the video footages.

Apart from these, the field umpires have to decide if the ball needs to be changed when it goes out of shape or becomes dirty. They also have to keep light meters so that play can be called off before time, if requested by the batting team.

All in all, the umpires have to be present for the complete duration of play. If the player feels uncomfortable, he can always leave the field and the reserve player can fill in for him. Unfortunately, such facility is not there for the men in white.

Our very own Venkataraghavan is a member of the elite umpires panel –
http://www.abcofcricket.com/News/icc/iccpanel/iccpanel.htm

More on Dickie Bird who umpired in 66 Test Matches and 92 ODIs including Three World Cup finals around the world.- http://www.thedickiebirdfoundation.org/news.php

birth of a nation

On 16th of December 1971 a new nation Bangladesh was formed.

For more on Bangladesh - http://www.bangladeshonline.com/

It was on this day that General A A K Niazi of Pakistan surrendered to Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora of the Eastern Command ending the long fight in which Indian Gnat fighters humbled the Pak Sabre jets. It was a day of rejoicing for Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and his Mukti Bahini. This bahini (or force) was formed to fight against the Pakistanis to secure the freedom of Bangladesh and India assisted them in their mission. Those days are still fresh in my memory – there would be black outs in the nights, window curtains were always kept pulled so that not a ray of light penetrated outside, all vehicles had to use dippers and the top half of heads lights were painted black to ensure that light did jot spread externally. In the day time mock drills would be held and trenches dug up in the nearby grounds where people could rush and take shelter in the event of the sounding if the air raid sirens. I stayed in Deolali at the time and, since it was a military area of sorts, rigid compliance of these measures was mandatory. Of course, when I went home after the war was over, I heard from my brothers about the dogfights in the air between Indian and Pakistani aircrafts. Unfortunately, no such incident happened in or near Deolali.

Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, affectionately called the Banga-bondhu is no more. Bangladesh today is an independent nation; over the years, they have built up their infrastructure. Cultural exchanges between them and Bengalis this side of the border is strong. Consignments of the tasty hilsa fish of the Padma River come in the markets of Kolkata quite frequently. They have a talented cricket team and, have chosen a poem of Tagore as their national anthem – ‘amaar sonar bangla’. Let us convey our good wishes to the Bangladeshis on this happy occasion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

misplaced priorities

Two news items that appeared in the TOI must have set people thinking - where are we headed for? A cow auctioned for Rs 12.51 lakhs in Gandhinagar and an enraged bull shot down in New Delhi. The latter news is in the archives -

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1329194.cms

We have heard of the bull in the china shop and of bullfights, we also know for certain that bulls roam freely on the roads in Beneras, Kolkata and practically all the cities causing obstruction to the smooth flow of traffic. They remain as witness to our misplaced priorities.

Every year we see hundreds of ill fed, under nourished cows roaming the countryside searching for little tufts of grass – those who herd them from place to place look like people from the villages of the Gujarat-Rajasthan belt. Why can our leaders not spare a thought for these dumb animals instead of spending money collected in the name of promoting ideology on meaningless jatras? One of the main political parties exhorted Chief Ministers of the states where they are in power to abolish cow slaughter – fine, so long as they hold the chair. When they are dethroned, the state may revert to the old style of functioning. Why then look for short-term populist measures? If a feeling does exist that the cow is a sacred animal and deserves to be treated with respect, let them be fed and looked after instead of allowing them to roam the streets and gulp plastic bags that lead to deaths. Organizations that deal in matters related to the welfare of animals and other activists should pursue such topics that help the society in the long run. Yes, the cow is sacred to us; there is a need for us to reciprocate for what she gives us. Lip service is not enough.

the perfect ten

The term ‘perfect ten’ is something we have come to know after watching gymnasts and divers perform in national and international events. When they perform, the judges award points – the average of the totals determine the winners. If you have observed, the difference is in decimals – while one may have earned 9.9, another may be on 9.8 and there may be a tie on 9.75! Only the best of the best manage to capture the perfect ten.

Here are ten pointers of how to attain perfection in one’s life –

One – invariably show off your knowledge: whatever be the subject, have your say. That spreads the message that you are a dark horse, not to be tampered with.
Two – always present a smiling face, it keeps the clouds at bay and crowds love a person who appears to be happy.
Three – even if others do not want a helping hand, extend it – it creates an impression that you mean well, your intentions are noble
Four – keep a list of telephone numbers regardless of whether they are useful or not; when someone urgently needs a number you can always search through it to see if the desired number happens to be there with you. That again lets others realize how you value their friendship.
Five – never carry loose change or currency notes. The coins weigh you down and currency notes are messy. In the days of plastic money, ATM is the solution. Flaunt your cards – which again helps build up your personality.
Six – carry a bunch of newspapers. They could be of the previous day or even the previous month. The date does not matter; it is the bundle that counts. Once again, those who see you are impressed.
Seven – when on a long journey and in the company of strangers, ensure that your mobile phone keeps ringing at regular intervals. That allows you to carry on one-sided conversations with imaginary characters. Your fellow travelers will continue sipping their tea and munch stale snacks as they lap up your stories.
Eight – keep a jotting pad and pencil handy when attending any meeting that bores one to death – drawing squiggles is a wonderful pastime in these circumstances. If the person sitting next to you shares your views, both of you can join forces and play cross and naught. It relieves a lot of tension.
Nine – never say ‘yes’ to anything straightaway – the power to remain non-committal is an indication of the perfect man. The reason is obvious – you cannot easily change ‘yes’ to ‘no’ but others will love you when you change ‘no’ to ‘yes’.
Ten – look for troublemakers around you; beware of those who have mastered the previous nine pointers. They can give you a fight for your money.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

domestic bliss

A very popular series of soaps on the TV would have us believe that domestic bliss is an entity that can be captured and hung up in the drawing room like a priceless painting of M F Hussein for others to see and appreciate. When families meet on the occasion of festivals and laugh and joke, the under currents of rivalry are never exposed. They remain in the background to jump upon the unwary viewer once the members disperse after performing the mandatory rituals. A similar philosophy drives the makers of ads to select small families who appear to be in complete harmony with the world, who love to share moments of happiness in their newly purchased car, who have for company a couple of elders, presumably the parents of the man. Such scenes are extremely rare in the present day otherwise how can one explain the rise in the rates of divorce or suicides. When two young persons decide to join company in holy matrimony, they enjoy the initial phase but, then, other considerations come in the way as stumbling blocks. In a majority of cases they had individual lives to lead, individual needs to fulfill. Suddenly they discover that compromises are necessary, one must yield in one area to gain the advantage in another. And, the game begins.

Yes, domestic bliss is a game of sorts. It is all about understanding each other, being positive and never scaring the partner. As a husband replied when asked the reason for his success – ‘I take all the difficult decisions and leave her to take easy ones.’ He also clarified that difficult decisions were related to world affairs like whether George Bush was right in treating Saddam Hussein as he has done, whether India should pursue for a seat in the Security Council etcetera.

Jokes apart, tiny things do make a difference in keeping a healthy domestic life – tiny things like helping out the missus in the kitchen by shelling peas or by skinning the garlic. Small acts like these bring one closer to the other and pave the way for a long and happy married life where lawyers can never dare to intrude.

in the news

It is normal for politicians to hog the limelight; those of the silver screen do butt in from time to time but politicians are more powerful. Unfortunately, in the recent past, film stars have eased out politicians – it all began with Big B falling sick. Then came John Abraham who was hospitalized followed by Salman Khan who was on a hair transplant mission in Mumbai and hence was not able to be present in front of the judge in Jodhpur. Next there was another Khan, Saif Ali who inadvertently knocked down a teenager, took him to hospital, paid him compensation and seems to be happy with the way the world took the incident. You cannot forget Jaya Prada who gave a dance performance on the occasion of the Lucknow Mahotsav 2005. She was given thirty-five lakhs whilst more senior members were given one tenth as much. It led to a lot of explanation and, by the time it all died down, it was Dilip Kumar’s 86th birthday alongside Dharmendra’s 70th and Ranjnikant’s 56th. Another film actor in the news was Sanjay Dutt – he was summoned by the honorable court to resolve certain issues. A non-politician non-film star who got talked about was Virendra Sehwag, our opener. His sudden illness paved the way for Irfan to take the field in a new role. If Sehwag had not been indisposed, Irfan might not have got this golden chance and a star might not have been born.

Ramanand Sagar who gave us the unforgettable serial Ramayan passed away on 12th December.

Monday, December 12, 2005

marking time

Time and tide wait for no man. Therefore, to keep track of time, we have invented devices that tell us how much time has elapsed since when. These devices go by the name of clocks. The oldest version is probably the sundial where the result was dependant on the availability of the Sun. This had its obvious drawbacks. Then came the hourglasses. Later man invented the grand father clocks – huge contraptions that would be kept in such a location of the mansions that the chimes could be heard all over the grounds – yes, these types used to be meant for the rich and the famous. Brings back memories of Hickory Dickory Dock. For the commoners, there would be community clocks mounted on top of important buildings like the railway station or the bus terminus or the church.

One such clock is the Big Ben of London. At 9'-0" diameter, 7'-6" high, and weighing in at 13 tons 10 cwts 3 qtrs 15lbs (13,760 Kg), the hour bell of the Great Clock of Westminster - known worldwide as 'Big Ben' - is the most famous bell ever cast at Whitechapel. …….The bells of the Great Clock of Westmister rang across London for the first time on 31st May 1859 ……

http://www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk/bigben.htm

As man became more knowledgeable, he invented the wristwatch – a contraption one wore on the wrist. Initially it was a mechanical device and involved rewinding the hairspring once in twenty-four hours. The Swiss are the most renowned watchmakers. Later, the electronic versions captured the imagination of the people and are available at throwaway prices. That is probably one of the reasons why ads of watches and clocks are seldom seen on TV nowadays. However, some wristwatches sell for around $100000. For an update on the costliest watches check out this site –

http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/ly/watches.htm

And then there is our own very special clock in the clock room of the Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad. The room has over 300 exhibits out of which the 19th century musical clock wins the honors hands down – it has a cute tiny soldier who comes out to strike the hour. Visitors to the museum assemble in the courtyard to catch a glimpse of the soldier and his preparations to strike the gong.

quota at the kotla

The present Test series with Sri Lanka seems to be one where records are being set one by one – first it was Sachin’s 35th test century followed by Chaminda Vas’s 300th scalp. Then there was Rahul Dravid, the wall, crossing the 8000 run mark – the third Indian to do so after Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin in less number of outings compared to the little master and the master blaster. It was also good to see yet another successful experiment of the Chappell-Dravid combine – reposing faith in Irfan Pathan by sending him out as an opener, the Indians threw the opposition into a tizzy. The experiment paid rich dividends. It was a surprise element. It is sad that Irfan missed out on a well-deserved century. It boosted his moral and sent out clear signals to other members of the team that this game is not a one-man show but a dedicated effort of a group that can help us regain the lost faith in our abilities.

The BCCI, now, has to put on fresh thinking caps and locate the best of the best to don the caps and discard the quota system. Like quota systems elsewhere, it does more harm than good. Zonal championships help identify deserving candidates; they need to be segregated and groomed for the future. Let us be frank – wherever we have insisted on maintaining a quota system, we have landed up with mediocre or les than mediocre people. That takes its toll in all corners of society. What we finally get straddled with is certainly not what we would have liked to have. It is something that is forced upon us and that we are compelled to swallow.

We are in the twenty first century; today whoever wants to get counted must stand up on his own merit and not rely on crutches for support. Crutches must be discarded if we are to make any sort of impression on the world stage.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

pay to get noticed in parliament

Wonders will never cease – first there were the Tehelka tapes, then the matter of open acceptance of bribes by law enforcement agencies in Tihar jail, now it is a case of ‘pay money, get noticed in Parliament’. The list includes non-matric alongside a law graduate! It is outrageous. How nice it would have been if these corrupt ones committed hara-kiri at the feet of God to avoid the shame that is heaped upon them by the masses. We are regularly treated to revelations via hidden cameras of money changing hands to grant favors and other similar facts, we know for sure who the corrupt ones are but they do not realize that we know. It is a pity.

Every second car on the Indian road today is of Japanese descent. Starting in a small way, it has gradually captured the hearts of millions of Indians and has dislodged many players from their positions of strength. This has been made possible because of the standards of quality maintained by the Japanese industries. The Quality circles and Zero inventory are a couple of pointers of how to generate and maintain goodwill among its customers. To ensure success of the JIT (just-in-time) concept, it is necessary to have an infrastructure that does not betray the trust manufacturers pose in them. They have ensured it. The Japanese have extended these basic concepts to each and every field – if their trains run late, the commuter gets a refund of the fare. Things work like clockwork precision in the country that has risen from the rubbles to command the respect of the whole world. That is why most of our homes are flooded with television, handycams and mobile phone handsets that are made in Japan.

We Indians are extremely fond of getting inspiration from external sources – the kimono took the fancy of the filmmaker way back in the sixties when the film Love in Tokyo (1966 Joy Mukherji, Asha Parekh starrer) was released. Ikebana or flower arrangement takes pride of place in many households – classes are held to train interested in the subject. Similarly, karaoke has been introduced and it helps the commoner to sing along with the group using the proper and correct words.

Like true Indians we have embraced plenty of what is Japanese but conveniently ignored one of the most important one – namely, hara-kiri.

Ikebana - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikebana
Karaoke - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karaoke
Hara-kiri - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hara-kiri
Kimono - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimono

the warm feeling

As the mercury continues its downward trend and the mountains welcome people of the plains with open arms to share the frolicking in the snows, we defy nature and search for comfort in our warm clothing. To keep the temperature of the room within tolerable limits we switch on the heater, provided that the electric supply is steady and load shedding has not intruded into the private lives of individuals. For those not so happily endowed, the community fires in street corners or in the bus terminuses or railway platforms or the sleeping market places beckon them to share the warmth. I am reminded on a wonderful movie that I saw in one of the film festivals long ago – the scene was of a group of men, women and children jostling with each other in trying to get the warmth of the rising sun as a shaft of sunlight filters down to a tiny space on the sidewalk – it was, if I remember right, a German film.

A TV ad of today shows the warmth one can experience if one wears a certain brand of product – the egg on the page of a magazine materializes into a chirping chicken, much to the astonishment of the airhostess and fellow passengers. Then there is another that offers free jute bag if you purchase a pair of garments to keep off the cold. The one that takes the cake refers to the ones worn by the boy friend who the girl is forced to hide in the freezer to escape the wrath of her father!

And then there are those who feel that the warm feeling needs to come from deep within you – literally that is. They swallow those drinks that gradually dull ones senses and ensures that the warm feeling spreads to every nook and corner of his body. It is a rather crude method very popular if the armed forces – those who guard our frontiers have to slug it out in biting cold conditions. The drinks that they receive are subsidized.

These are examples of the warm feeling that one can experience in physical terms.

But there is another warm feeling that comes from relationships. For example – when Usha Uthup or Amrik Singh Arora sings Bengali songs or when one reads a story by Dr. N. Vishwanathan, one is transported to another world. The reason is simple – all of them are non-Bengalis who are more Bengali than the Bengalis themselves!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

updates on nashik

A luxury train on the lines of the Palace on Wheels called the Deccan Odyssey is attracting foreign tourists. Still in its infancy, it begins its journey from Mumbai and passes through Ganapatipule, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Sawantwadi (in Konkan), Kolhapur, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik and finally on to Mumbai. More details can be had at –

http://www.deccan-odyssey-india.com/

The State Government plans to link Nagpur and Aurangabad with the golden triangle of Mumbai-Pune-Nashik. The first phase will be to connect Nagpur with Aurangabad, Sinnar and Ghoti – for this purpose the existing roads will have to be improved upon. The proposed road will touch Nashik. The Mumbai-Pune-Nashik-Mumbai golden triangle was announced several years back – the reason was to improve connectivity and, obviously, improve associated business potentials.

The Nashik run is held since January 2003 helps to collect funds to help out charitable causes. The General Manager of MICO conceived it. The organizers of the 4 Kms. long run claims that in the first year, there were 2500 participants and the amount collected was around 14 lakhs, the next year, the number of participants increased to 8000 and collection was 57 lakhs. In 2005, there were 10,000 participants and the amount collected was in the region of 90 lakhs. The money collected is spent only on the charitable causes and the administrative costs are borne by local industrial houses. Most importantly, the trust keeps clear of the interference of politicians and religious organizations.

the two sides of cricket

The people of Delhi will be proud of the fact that two world records of test cricket were created by Indians at the Feroze Shah Kotla stadium – the first one by Anil Kumble with his 10-wicket haul, now Sachin Tendulkar with his 35th century. It will take a long time for these to be overhauled.

Not just Indians but the whole World is celebrating the wonderful feat of Sachin Tendulkar proving once again that the trust posed in him by Greg Chappell, the present coach of the team, his team members, the bosses of BCCI and his millions of fans did not go in vain. It takes a lot of determination to scale such towering heights. Agreed that he started off early and that cricket is played more frequently today than it was ten or fifteen years back, focus is of prime importance – once the objective is identified, one must do everything possible to inch forward. The game tires one out, it takes its toll on the physical characteristics of the individual but, once the sights are set, it is a matter of time before the goal is achieved. That is what the master blaster has proved at the Feroze Shah Kotla today, the 10th of December 2005. It will remain a red-letter day for him.

While the celebrations continue, let us spare a thought for the Indian women’s cricket team. They also have reasons to celebrate – they have won the current ODI series against England 4-1. But very little has been written about them. Jhulan Goswami, the medium pacer from Chakdah in West Bengal caused their downfall in the ODI at Silchar capturing five wickets for only 16 runs. The Times of India gave a write up of the game in their sport’s page the next day. Jhulan was declared the woman of the match. But, the pitiful part is that these women players are paid miserably low fees for their efforts. Even though they participate in international events – it seems they get two thousand five hundred rupees per test match and only one thousand for each ODI!!!! I cannot vouch for the figures; it has appeared in the 8th December issue of the Ananda Bazar Patrika, hence presumed to be authentic. If these are really the figures, it reeks of gross injustice.

It is high time that the BCCI takes measures to rectify such glaring disparities.

Friday, December 09, 2005

trading in human organs

Yesterday, one of the TV channels revealed a shocking piece of news that in Bangalore, graveyards are dug up and the contents of the coffins are disposed off in most unthinkable manners. It seems, after the expose, the police swung into action and began the clean up operation. The reporter who covered the incident and was instrumental in revealing the dark secrets deserve praise.

Trading in human organs is not any thing that is unheard of in our country. Once upon it was simple blood – young children would be waylaid in villages and drugged after which their blood would be removed through syringes. Then came advances in medical field and transplant of organs became popular – we have more than one of some organs, the additional one is supposed to be a stand-by. Disposing one of these in exchange of monetary considerations became a business of sorts with touts lying in wait in the corridors of large hospitals where such operations are performed. There were reports that hospital authorities are also involved in the dealings. The documents would indicate that the donation was voluntary – money would change hands under the counter.

Emboldened by the success of these joint ventures, the more enterprising ones embarked on forcible removal of one of the organs without disclosing the fact to the victim – cases of this nature have been reported from villages, when the poor illiterates complain of stomach and reports to the hospitals for treatments, the gangs swing into action. The victim is compelled to be hospitalized and the organs removed. He does not even know what happens unless complications set in. In all probability, there are quite a few undetected cases of persons who live minus one of their hidden organs ignorant of the fact that he has not got any compensation for the loss.

the triple century

I have now added the 300th post to my blog ‘Rediscovering India’ on indiatimes.com.

When I posted the first piece in August 2004, I never dreamt that this blog of mine would become so popular over a period of time. It gives me great pleasure to put on record the fact that the cumulative viewership of these 300 posts is approaching the 85,000 mark – it has attracted viewers from all parts of the globe, as it rightly should, and they have left their comments on what they have liked about the individual posts and what they have not. I have accepted their comments in all humility. Ours is a free country and blogging is an activity where no holds are barred. A slot in cyberspace is allotted to you, courtesy the owner of the blogsite – you are at liberty to decorate it in whichever fashion you please. That is what I have done over the last sixteen months – I have blogged on innumerable subjects starting from cricket to movies to festivals to politics. When I reached the milestone of 250 posts, I felt happy. But, I could not stop because I have a lot more to say, there are so many topics that need to be highlighted. Those who roam cyberspace looking for thrills are all young men and women with visions of a new world, a new culture, a new social order in front of them. They are the products of today; they are facing life in the raw and at times feel defeated and let down by society. I cannot change all that overnight but I can certainly make an attempt. At least, I can bring a realization in the minds of those who interact on the web that all is not lost.

I am grateful to all those who have visited the site and gone through the posts. I am also grateful to indiatimes.com for showcasing a few selected pieces on the home page of the Times of India. The 12 most viewed spots are as follows –

Education in India –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/11/20/26927.aspx

The Seven Wonders –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/12/06/34568.aspx

Good bye nautch girls –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/04/01/92649.aspx

Mahalaya –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/10/11/16141.aspx

Improved index of corruption –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/10/19/297083.aspx

Remembering Indira –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/11/18/338882.aspx

The bold brave women of India –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/12/05/33992.aspx

Tirupati darshan –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/12/28/44585.aspx

Durga Puja 2005 is here –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/09/30/273447.aspx

Revised Ganga action plan –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/07/06/165055.aspx

Indian fast foods –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/10/07/15965.aspx

Kolkata book fair –
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2005/01/24/58564.aspx

Thursday, December 08, 2005

oil is messy

The papers nowadays are full of information related to oils. When oil tankers are lost in the sea, the resultant oil spills cause destruction of precious marine life. Life without oil is unimaginable – oil is the item that decides who is supreme and who is not. The price of petrol, a refined form of crude oil, controls the destinies of large countries. Immediately the international rate rises, the effect is felt in our kitchens – the cascading effect encompasses each and every item and price increases are announced. Whichever party or combination is in power at the center, they have to bow to the dictates of the markets. Way back in the seventies, a scooter would run on three liters of petrol at a total cost of around twenty rupees – today, one liter itself cost around fifty rupees. The LPG cylinder that could be had for twenty odd rupees is today three hundred rupees!

There are basically two types of oil – the mineral oil and the vegetable oil. Mineral oil is used as fuel and as a lubricant. Machines do not run to full efficiency without oil, right from the wristwatches of yore that had the gear and pinion system to large transport aero planes that can carry hundreds of passengers across thousands of kilometers. Oil is necessary to keep the moving parts properly lubricated. As its name implies, mineral oil is retrieved from deep down the earth – Nature has large stocks and the countries that possess oil wells obviously have certain advantages. Oil deposits have been discovered in deserts and seabeds.

Coming to the second variety - a head of lush hair that flows down to the waist can come only with regular conditioning by coconut oil. Hilsa fish will never taste the way it should unless you fry it in mustard oil. While on the subject of oil, some of the oils are not recommended for heart patients because they contain soluble cholesterol – to cater to their oily needs, cholesterol free oils have made their appearance on the shelves, like sugar free drops for the diabetic. Olive oil is recommended for babies, gradually massaging this into its arms and legs give is added strength. Cod liver oil has medicinal properties. In conclusion let us remember that a well-oiled administration delivers what you want, deficiency of this vital product can make you life messy, it can make you run from pillar to post.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

the flute that is a dacoit

Yes, that is one of the most popular songs sung by the legendary Sachin Dev Burman – ‘banshee shunay aar kaaj nai, shay jay dakatiya banshee, shay jay din dupuray churi koray, rattiray to katha nai, dakatiya banshee ….’ . When translated, it means – ‘there is no use listening to the flute that is a dacoit; it steals in the middle of the day as it does in the dead of the night …..’
We are all familiar with his name but are we aware that this is his centenary year? He was born on first of October 1906 and passed away on 31st October 1975. Son of a princely family of Tripura, his musical life spanned more than 40 years. He used to depend on the rich heritage of folk music of various parts of India and would weave them into astounding masterpieces that carried his distinct stamp; it was a unique style that no one has been able to duplicate till now. He was a sishya of Krishna Chandra Dey (uncle of Manna Dey). He began his journey to stardom from Bengali songs and films - later, he converted many of his hit Bengali songs into equally hit Hindi songs for Bollywood films. Film star Ashok Kumar was responsible to a great extent for S D Burman to stay on in Bombay when, at a certain time in his career, he was contemplating return to Kolkata. He was a stickler for perfection and strived to ensure that even the instruments used were appropriate to the occasion. A classic example was the postponement of the recording of "Honto pe aisi baath" in Jewel Thief until the arrival of the drum from Sikkim. He was awarded the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award and the Padmashree for his contribution to music apart from many other awards including a national award for singing in 1969. http://www.sdburman.net/

His son Rahul Dev Barman has carried forward his tradition and introduced his own style to maintain the uniqueness that identifies his creations from the first beat of the music.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

seller is the king

Banners are hoisted in large shops declaring ‘sale’ – they would mostly be stock clearance sales just prior to the start of festival seasons. With the fast changing fashions, old products do not find ready customers, therefore, these sales – goods in this category are offered at certain discounted rates. The arrangement pleases both the seller and the customer. Then there is the ‘sale’ of factory seconds – especially for footwear. It is given to understand that the goods have defects that are practically invisible to the naked eye but have been rejected all the same by the quality control department. These are again available at discounted rates.

But, the ‘sale’ that takes the cake is that of temporary outlets which are continuously on the move. Here one day, gone the next, like the migratory birds. It’s a seller’s market and the seller is the King.

Most of us must have noticed these mushroom outlets that offer clothes at exorbitantly low rates – at literally throwaway prices. The banners proclaim the stocks to be those meant for export but rejected due to long storage in the shipping yards during the floods when ships were not moving. These outlets are temporary ones and usually located in or near important places in the cities where eyeballs are never at a premium like cinema halls or hotels near to railway stations or bus terminuses. The crowds that throng to these venues comprise the young and the old – they come to get bargains and are seldom disappointed. Till recently, they used to advertise in the electronic media – indicating their schedule of movements from one city to another. These are not visible nowadays. A point to note is that if these consignments were really meant for export markets, they would have been covered by insurance and the parties must have collected the money from the insurance companies. These products must, therefore, belong to the insurance companies – how then can they be sold in the open market once again, who are the masterminds behind such business?

Monday, December 05, 2005

inseparable pairs

Comedians used to come in pairs – Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (106 films), or Bud Abbott and Lou Costello (36 films), or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (10 years, 16 films). The famous cartoon character of the pair of Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse are treats for tired eyes even in this the twenty first century.

There have been several celluloid pairs of Bollywood and Tollywood namely Raj Kapoor- Nargis, Dilip Kumar- Vyjantimala, Suchitra Sen - Uttam Kumar. They kept the people mesmerized for quite a long time. In those days, lead pairs along with the story and music had a lot of say in the success of the film. The final film that hit the halls on Fridays would be a serious affair where a group of dedicated persons worked together to present a masterpiece that is remembered even today. Dependence on such pairs have vanished, they have been marginalized. Those who invest in this form of business want the cash boxes to be ringing continuously, sorry – today there are no cash boxes, it all works on swipes of the credit cards. The amount automatically gets into storage and instead of giving the audience the same faces to gloat over, they have discovered that variety pays greater dividends - change of taste comes from a change of face: each face is a gamble. When it clicks, the producers add frills but seldom continues with the same pair – they keep on experimenting with dress codes, with taboo relationships or even with newer locales, sets and action that leave the viewer flabbergasted.

This system opens up opportunities for the stars to explore their market potentials elsewhere. Today’s world is one of cutthroat competition, no holds are barred and expectations are always high. Hence, the glorious days of a fixed set of hero-heroines have been shelved.

Our Indian film scenario had several memorable pairs of music directors like Shankar-Jaikishen, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and a pair of writers in Salim-Javed who gave us all those super special dialogues that used to be delivered by Amitabh Bachhan. Here again, these have been transformed to a world of singles who sky rocket to fame and nosedive to perish unsung.

The final word remains on pairs with the one seen while playing ‘teen patti’ for high stakes – its chase has sent many a person to his doom.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

nashik calling

Sri Chandrababu Naidu inaugurated the Krishi-2005 exhibition in Nashik on 30th November – the exhibition will go on till the 5th December. Last year, nearly 15 lakh farmers visited the exhibition from neighboring states.

Yes, Nashik the grape country is calling for attention. 18 out of the 36 wineries are located in Nashik district. The persistent clouds in Nasik over the last week have the grape farmers worried – such climate harms the crops and, due to increased use of insecticides, the crops lose their shine and lustre. These affect the final product and also their export potentials. Most of the 2000 odd containers are exported to Russia, China and European countries – efforts are on to include Pakistan among the clientele.

The Government of India press, one of the oldest organizations of Nashik, celebrates its golden jubilee this year – it was inaugurated on 31st October 1955. It was sanctioned in the first five-year plan and undertakes printing of Government stationery.

The population of Nashik has crossed 10 lakhs and important facilities have been set-up like Engineering, Medical and Ayurveda colleges. The flyover on the Nashik-Pune highway has reduced congestion to a large extent and eased the movement of traffic between Nashik and Pune. The widening of main roads and their relaying has been welcome by all residents as also the four-laning of the Agra-Mumbai highway NH-3. The recent air linking of Nashik to Mumbai and Nagpur by Deccan Air has come at a very appropriate time. There used to be a link between Nashik and Mumbai way back in the eighties operated by Indian Airlines but it had to be withdrawn because of inadequate patronage. However, the Nasik of today has changed tremendously and an air link was necessary. Also, with the proposed cargo hub and a container terminal planned adjacent to the airport, the unloading of consignments here will ease the load on Mumbai.

Sri Sharad Pawar, the Agriculture Minister and the newly elected President of BCCI will inaugurate the newly constructed facilities of the Nashik District Cricket Association in the Golf Club grounds for the forthcoming Ranji Trophy matches. And – one more swimming pool is being constructed in the CIDCO area (Ashwin sector) – this will be the third one after the Veer Sawarkar swimming club on Trimbak Road and the international level swimming club at Nasik Road. All these endear Nashik to its residents.

other links on Nashik -

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/08/26/5712.aspx
http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/08/24/4811.aspx

the boss is never wrong

The Boss rules our lives – right from the first kindergarten day to the day when we are laid to rest in the grave or on the pyre. It is the personality of the Boss that undergoes transformation. The basic philosophy remains – namely, to prove that we are inferior beings compared to him and have committed the greatest of blunders by disturbing the balance of Nature in trying to make our presence felt.

In school, the class teacher was the Boss – the words that came out from her mouth were as sacrosanct as the words of the Bible or the Gita. When she said – ‘Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was as white as snow’, we repeated. We accepted it in all humility – the name of the child could just as well have been Jerry. The fleece of the lamb could very well have been ‘as black as coal’ – that would have maintained the rhythmic character of the rhyme. But, no one ever dared to revolt, the tradition has been going on from the days of our grandfathers – and will continue.

When we entered the portals of higher studies, we had one Boss for one subject – his was the final word in the particular subject. He never tolerated arguments, in case you were stubborn and gathered up sufficient courage to cross-question him withy facts and figures, he would take it out on you during evaluation of exam books. Normally, at this period in a person’s life, he meets the girl – once again, she becomes the Boss. If you make an appointment for the six o’ clock show and you keep her waiting, you have plenty of explanations to do.

By the time you graduate and land your first job, you finally meet that gentleman who will be an integral part of your life for nearly half your life. He does not know how to laugh and hates those that do. He is always serious, is a stickler for punctuality, expects obedience at every step and, when he sees the moon in broad daylight, he heaps praises on others who share his vision. This part of one’s life is the most exasperating – one Boss at work, another at home.

As you arrive at the beginning of your twilight years, the baton passes on to your son who takes over the reins. He tells you what to do and what not to do. He admonishes you when you venture out in the night without your muffler or the monkey cap. He chalks out schedules for your medical check ups. He even gets annoyed at his wife if she does not give you your meals or medicines in time. Of course, there is a catch – you should have a reasonably healthy bank balance to expect such specialist treatment.

The Boss has always been a superior entity and will remain like that till doom’s day.

Friday, December 02, 2005

red alerts

Red is the universal color of danger and ‘red alert’ gives advance information of lurking dangers. The exact point of time when this term came to the forefront would necessitate considerable research – in the Indian context, dangers twenty years back came from Nature. Mostly they were connected to floods – the measuring stick located in major dams would send out the warning signs that the level of the reservoir is rising and is likely to cross the danger level within some specified time. Later, with high jacking of aero planes becoming an important tool for bargaining, red alerts would be issued when there were suspicions of such events in the offing. Later still, when terrorists took over, red alerts have become more common. Every hoax phone call triggers off a chain reaction – disaster management teams swing into action, rapid action forces are deployed – but, only after the damage is done. Our reaction time is affected not only by our sloppy standards and the game of passing the buck but also politicization. Each and everyone wants to gain mileage out of human suffering. If information is received through supposedly reliable underground channels, the people on top who are meant to pre-empt dangers start behaving in a manner that does not evoke respect for the guardians of law and order. With advanced equipments available, those who are responsible to safeguard of our lives and properties should issue red alerts only as a last resort. Red alerts should not be misused to shift responsibilities – if a bomb scare is there in the airport, hairs should not be split over whose jurisdiction is involved: if the bomb really remains untraced and explodes, it will take with it innocent lives and destroy important facilities.

Red alerts are also issued when Nature decides to show her wrath – our met departments release warnings after detailed study of cloud patterns. On receipt of these advance warnings, the media issues red alerts and advises fishermen not to venture out to sea etcetera – these are downright silly exercises. Fishermen do not wait to listen to radio broadcasts or TV news – their lives depend on the sea and they seldom have the time or inclination for such activities. In reality, the local administration should ensure that the message reaches the concerned persons and persuade them to take heed.

home delivery

This is a modern day marketing gimmick that is gradually changing the very concept of the customer-supplier relationship. Pizzas are delivered right into your drawing room within half an hour – if delivered later than the prescribed limit, you are entitled to a full refund. How is it done? Well, from whatever little knowledge is available to me, I believe that delivery boys with two wheelers are scattered in the large metros – they have provisions of stocking a limited variety of the products. It seems there are two containers - one for hot stuffs, like pizzas and the other for cold ones like ice creams. All these boys are linked to their local supplier via mobile phones. Once the supplier of a neighborhood receives a request, he locates the boy nearest to the address and asks him to deliver the product. It he has it in stock, fine; if not, the supplier arranges to make it ready and the boy has to rush and collect it for prompt delivery.

Introduction of this form of aggressive marketing has come as a boon to many of these delivery boys – it guarantees good income, plus commission. The tips that he pockets are added incentives.

This method is gradually spreading to other areas like the cinema halls and the railways – tickets will come to you, you have to pay the service charges. Even the local grocers have accepted this system – all you need to do is to hand over the list of your requirements and he arranges delivery into your kitchen. You do not have to waste your valuable time jostling with others on the counter. Of course, you lose out on comparing different varieties of the products, you also have to forego adding new items to the list once your gaze falls on new arrivals that offer discounts or ‘FREE’ knick-knacks. And, more importantly, you lose out on the personal touch and the one-to-one contact; things are becoming too predictable, too stereotyped.

Yes, the monthly quota of groceries is a must to any household but so is the monthly quota of goodwill.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

multi role all weather fighters

Air Forces the world over want aero planes that can serve any number of requirements – they should be armed to the teeth not only to save themselves but be capable of carrying bombs, missiles and other external stores to paralyze the enemy lines. Additionally, they should be able to take off and land in any climatic condition – whether there is a snowstorm or a cyclone or an andhi brewing, the pilot has to engage full throttle and take off on his mission. The helicopters were created for taking off and landing vertically so that they did not need large airstrips. In advanced countries, they operate from rooftops. This concept of vertical takeoff and landing has been implemented in the fighter planes and the outcome is the VTOL aircraft.

In our day-to-day lives, we meet these multi role all weather fighters in flesh and blood. Starting from the boy who delivers the morning papers on our doorsteps to the one who leaves the pouch of milk, the list embraces all those persons who are indispensable to our lives and without who our existence will be full of misery. They forego their sleep so that we can enjoy ours. They come over to do our dishes and take our children to school, but they have never learnt the difference between A and Z. They are there to extend support to us in whatever role we define for them. We take them for granted and strive to get the best possible bargain – we may fall sick but they are not supposed to even complain of aches of any type whatsoever, they have to tolerate abuses, they have to learn the art of service with a smile. Yes, they are fighters; they fight for survival every inch of the way. And they handle multiple tasks right from childcare to marketing to cooking – hence are multi role members of the family.

Normally those who reside in large cities shy away from recruiting locals who pose problems. To meet their needs, they procure innocent children from far off villages. They lure them away from their roots with promises of two square meals and better living standards in the cities. Once they come into their clutches, they are exploited to the hilt. Cases of physical torture against these poor kids are reported regularly in the media. The hue and cry dies down in due course of time and the game continues.

It is high time that one day in the year be earmarked to focus attention on these multi role all weather fighters.

get well soon big b

Superstar Amitabh Bachhan lies in the Lilavati Hospital of Mumbai.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1314147.cms

Each and every Indian is praying that he recovers soon and returns to his seat on KBC and share his innumerable anecdotes with us, his fans. He is, without doubt a superstar, a phenomenon. Even though he has crossed the milestone of sixty, he still bubbles with energy and is involved in any number of ads. He does not hesitate to accept challenging roles in movies. No other actor has held his audiences spellbound with his portrayal of typical characters whether they be of the young police officer of Zanjeer who has forgotten how to laugh or the aged elder brother of Hum who shivers at the thought of picking up a fight or the head of the family of seven brothers in Satte pe satta where he moans and groans with imaginary injuries to win over the heart of Hema. He has played each and every role to perfection in his own special way and has invariably left his mark. From an angry young man of the seventies, he has shifted now to serious adult roles where maturity is a criterion.

While wishing him a speedy recovery, allow me to put forth this small piece of writing that contains the names of 37 of his films -

Anand Sarkar, Bhuban Shome, Don aur Mr. Natwarlal kay saath hum niklay thay saat hindustani ko Bombay to Goa lay jaaney ke liye. Bombay say ayah mera dost aur Mili, Bunti aur Babli nay bolah ‘hum kisise sey kam nehi’. Khakee dress pehne huye ek black ajnabee nay dost ban kar unka akhri raasta may deewar ka kaala pathhar ko agneepath may badal diya. Major Saab ney aankhe dikhayee aur aaj ka arjun Lal Badshah nay chupke chupke ek sharabi coolie ko trishul maar key khoon pasina baha di. Phir zanjeer tod key saudagar nay ‘main azad hoon’ chillakey bhaga piya ke ghar. Bechara bawarchi ko garam masala kay badle mila ek pyar ki kahani.