destination india

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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

friends of animals

The SPCA plays a vital role in our day-to-day lives. The Animal Welfare Board of India was set up in accordance with Section 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (No.59 of 1960). The Board consists of 28 Members.

To a layman, these groups are supposed to ensure that animals get their proper share of attention. The condition of animals seen in circuses are pathetic, to tame the ferocious ones, the keepers would keep them half starved. Even in houses, parrots and budgerigars would be caged and dogs and cats ill treated. The Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has the authority of taking action against the erring individuals or groups. Hunting once upon a time used to be a favorite pastime of the Rajas, Maharajas, Zaminders and others of noble descent. They would spend weekends in the company of friends in the deep jungles and bring back prized catches. Such extravaganza today is completely out of the question. In some movies, animals are used – here again, approvals are required to be obtained in advance. The gist of the matter is that the ill treatment of the dumb creatures cannot be tolerated.

However, a few recent ad clips showcase birds and animals. Pigeons fly away in fear when the latest brand of Hero Honda ‘Pleasure’ makes its presence. The poor doggy in the ad of Hutch keeps panting, trudging up steep steps, and is forced to walk the plank to keep pace with its master and, in the bargain, prove a point or two for the makers. The Tiger is tamed by kids in the Britannia biscuit ads, even the Moms make fun of the animal that is gradually getting phased out. A gaudy colored Kingfisher watches in amusement at the goings on while a flock of geese scatters to allow Rani Mukherji forge ahead with her extra large special quota of Nestle ‘Maha Munch’. A time may come when Tom and Jerry cartoons and those involving Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse will be censored because of the cruelty shown to the animals. The monkeys in the Suman Shekhar ‘Pole Khol’ show might also have to make way for humans. Proposals might also be put forth to rename the ‘Black Cat Commandoes’ along with the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters and the Jaguar fighter planes.

Animals are to be treated withy respect. Showing animals in bad light constitutes unfair and unhealthy business practices and has to be discouraged.

Monday, January 23, 2006

engineers in politics

It is nice to know that a group of talented Engineers from different IITs have got together with the objective of repairing the damages that has been done to the fabrics of our politics. Apparently, they have chucked lucrative jobs and, with an eye on social service, have embarked upon this noble mission. It s not that Engineers have not graced the Parliament earlier. Sri Nitish Kumar, the present CM of Bihar is an Engineer. He has done his B.Sc. (Engineering) from Bihar College of Engineering, Patna (Bihar). But, it will be a near impossible task for a handful of young people to take on the administration that is so corrupt that to uproot the evil would be like rewriting history from 1947 onwards; a formidable task and, certainly, not an easy one.

The power of money is tremendous, it washes away the noble intentions into the gutters as if they were so much dirt and, when resisted, spells doom. We have seen it happen – the case of the Manager of the oil company who was shot dead when he stood up against malpractices is still fresh in our memory. The politicians who we see in real life are no different than the ones we see in the Bollywood movies – the same double faced persons who have only selfish motives behind whatever they do. And, their hordes of musclemen know how to bully people into submission. They resort to indirect blackmail and threaten to harm the family members when the innocents do not agree to toe the line.

Our best wishes go out to this fearless group of young Engineers who have embarked on a dangerous mission – only, a few word of caution: an exercise of such large magnitude will require representatives from all over the country. There would be possibilities of unscrupulous elements entering the group. In their enthusiasm to do good for the Nation, the serious ones must never let down their guard. There has to be rigid guidelines for inducting volunteers who will be sincere and dedicated to the cause and who will have the welfare of the common man uppermost in mind. Remember - one bad apple is enough to spoil the complete consignment.

kolkata boi mela 2006

The theme for the 31st Kolkata Boi Mela (Book Fair) 2006 is Spain, the land of bullfighters. The schedules for the main programs have been indicated in the official website of the fair –

However, there is no details available on the site as on 1800 hrs on 23/1/2006. Probably updating of the site is in progress! )

Anyway, inauguration is scheduled for 24 January 2006 at 4.30 p.m and the fair will be thrown open to the public on 25th January 2006.
Children Day Celebration and walk for books will be held on Sunday, 29 January 2006 followed by the Ashok Kumar Sarkar Memorial Lecture on 30 January 2006 and the Supriya Sarkar Memorial Lecture on 1 February 2006. The Prize Distribution Ceremony will be on 3 February, 2006.

Site search for fair titles - You don’t have to lose your way in the maze of Calcutta Book Fair 2006 in search of an obscure title. If things work out as Tamal Dasgupta and Subrata Biswas have planned, just log on to to get a complete list of books and authors in each stall…… (read more)

Other useful links to Kolkata Boi Mela (Book Fair) –

Kolkata book fair

news of interest regarding boi mela

tit-bits of boi mela –

love in Kolkata boi mela –

more on Kolkata boi mela 2005

the last few hours of boi mela 2005

Sunday, January 22, 2006

ignorance is bliss

On Republic day, the world will witness the newest faces of India and get a glimpse of her arsenal and a cross section of her Armed Forces. There will be colorful march-pasts, floats, cultural tableaus and a feeling of well being all around. We are right now in the middle of the 10th five year plan which has already been drawn up for the period 2002-2007. Out of curiosity I wanted to go back in time to compare how we embarked on the five year planning and what we have achieved over the past half century. I chanced upon the following – ‘ …… Literacy in India has made remarkable strides since Independence. This has been further confirmed by the recently declared provisional results of the Census 2001. The literacy rate has increased from 18.33% in 1951 to 65.38% in 2001. This is despite the fact that during the major part of the last five decades there has been exponential growth of the population at nearly 2% per annum. Some of the important highlights of Census 2001 are given below:……’ (read more)

It was nice to know about this. In a country where the largest of the states still believe in bonded labor and in superstition and in keeping alive the boiling cauldrons of caste conflict, the above information appears to be based on incorrect data. It seems in one of the states, the police have separate cooking facilities and dining rooms for different castes – the concerned Officers do not find this to be strange! Add to this the fact that in practically all metros, rag pickers and urchins abound, they accost you at street corners with their stocks of pan masala or garlands of flowers or newspapers or whatever they can lay their hands on to earn their one time meals. They live in huddles under flyovers or in the dark corners of railway platforms or on the railway over bridges or the subways. They have to struggle right from the day they are born till the day they pass away into oblivion and seldom get the time to understand what education is all about. A clarification on whether all of them have been covered in the illiterate category of 34.62% would be welcome.

The Government, on paper, tries its best to entice the children to come to school by dangling the baits of mid-day meals, and free education. There was even a jingle on Vividh Bharati some time back – ‘chalo, school chaley hum…’ In spite of such inducements, the final result is not up to expectations. The deprived continue to remain deprived – only, they provide a platform for others to climb the ladders of popularity and gain recognition as messiahs of the downtrodden! Celebrities meet up with them once in a while and the media goes gaga over the event – once the flashlights move away, darkness descends again to where it had always been dark. The following news report is interesting - Elementary education: Long way to go …….

Maintaining the ignorants in good humor has certain distinct advantages. When the battle cry is given to prove, once in five years, that Democracy thrives amidst the prevailing chaos in our country, this group of ignorants performs the balancing act. The visions of those who fought for our freedom lie shattered on the roadside.

An interesting blog on the subject of Education in India –

weekly news round up 3

Here is the 3rd set of News involving India and Indians as reported in five leading newspapers during the period 15th January to 21st January 2006 -

The Times of India - Emirates to begin Dubai-Kolkata service- DUBAI: Emirates, the Dubai-based carrier, will launch non-stop services to Kolkata from March 26 this year, spreading its network in the country to 63 flights a week to seven cities. ….. Emirates will operate six direct flights a week between Dubai and Kolkata. It will operate an Airbus A330-200 aircraft on the route in three and two-class configurations. ….. (read more)

BPO boom continues, UK call centre moves 100 jobs to Delhi - LONDON: A leading call centre firm in Britain's Merseyside region has announced its decision to move 100 jobs to New Delhi. …… Vertex, a subsidiary of Warrington-based United Utilities, said the IT losses would be split between its sites in Knowsley's Phoenix House, King's Business Park in Prescot and Manchester city centre. (read more)

Indian Express - Indian scientist named ‘Inventor of the Year’ - SILICON VALLEY, JAN 19: An Indian-American scientist has been named ‘Inventor of the Year’ for his pioneering work in developing a new system which utilises data to improve patient care and clinical decisions. R Bharat Rao, senior director of Engineering Research Development, Computer-aided Diagnosis and Therapy Group at Siemens Medical Solutions, is one of 12 Siemens inventors to receive the award….. (read more)

Deccan Herald - AAI to set up radar station in Bellary - The Airports Authority of India (AAI) will set up five more radar stations within a year to cover the country’s air space by the radar system, AAI Air Traffic Management (ATM) Executive Director Srikrishna said on Tuesday. …. Speaking to Deccan Herald at Bajpe Airport after inspecting the new runway, air traffic control (ATC) systems and other communication systems, he said at present there were 13 radar stations covering about 90 per cent of air space in India. …. (read more)

The Hindu – 19/1/2006 - Varsity project on seismological study - Students at the secondary level to be engaged in acquisition of data - TIRUNELVELI : To educate school children on seismology and train them in protecting themselves during earthquakes, the Union Government Department of Science and Technology has sanctioned a project worth Rs. 2.19 crore to Centre for Geo-technology of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. … (read more)

The Daily Telegraph – Tech takes Quebec fancy - - Visiting premier sees potential, eyes investment in IT areas - The city’s information technology (IT) sector caught the eye of the Quebec premier on Wednesday. …. Quebec, one of Canada’s largest and most economically developed provinces, has invested $900 million in IT research and development for emerging markets, such as technological convergence, optical and biophotonics technologies, wireless telecommunications, animation and geomatics. …. Premier Jean Charest told Metro he now hoped to invest heavily in China and India, as well as attract investors in those fields. … “We want to choose areas in India where we can intensify our investments, and we are looking at Calcutta very seriously,” said Charest, leading a 32-member business delegation on breeze through town. ….. (read more) (19/1/2006)

Why angel lost its twirl - Four months ago, Calcutta High Court had observed that the Victoria Memorial Hall authorities should take steps so that the Angel of Victory on top of the monument started rotating once again from January 1. ….. On Wednesday, the Memorial authorities told the court that engineers of Jessop’s, the company entrusted with repairing it, have not yet been able to ascertain why it stopped rotating after 1985. ….. (read more) (19/1/2006)

link to news of previous week –

Saturday, January 21, 2006

cultural revolution

Some of our beloved leaders delight in the art of speaking impeccable Hindi with proper accent on where it is due. The commoner, on the other hand, loves to speak in Hindi as she is spoken in Bollywood – words and phrases like ‘boley toh’, ‘khallas’, ‘apoon koh malum nehi’ etcetera are more close to their hearts. This could be one of the reasons why the mobile wielding leaders with their trishul toting guards are unable to interact with the masses as they would have liked to. To have effective communication, the gulf that is widening has to be bridged.

Today, nothing seems to match with the ideal – the clothes, the language, the eating habits, every thing is far removed from the dream situations. Whether we admit it or not, deteriorating standards of acceptance by society are setting up clashes of culture. Item numbers are mandatory in movies to improve their ratings – the video versions released ahead of the actual movie ensures raking in of moolah by the producers. Movie songs of today are created with one objective in mind - to ensure that each and every part of the body enjoys its fair share of freedom. Gone are the days when songs related to festivals were popular – festivals like rakhee or holi or bhai dooj or marriage had specific songs to match the occasions. In the absence of newer versions, we listen to the oldies that remind of our culture.

Lyricists of today are so engrossed in writing love songs that lend themselves to mournful rendering and picturisation in exotic locales that they would have to spend sleepless nights to come up with songs related to festivals. They would rather prefer to pen songs for the Valentine’s Day where bodies can gyrate under psychedelic lights. In case the lyricists can be influenced to have a change of heart, it would be interesting to listen to what the present day versions of songs on rakhee or holi or bhai dooj would sound like.

Friday, January 20, 2006

pitched battles

Brushing aside the unpleasant memories of the Gadaffi stadium in Lahore, the teams descend on the Iqbal stadium in Faislabad for the second session. Missed chances will be a point of dispute for quite some time. Already fingers have started their familiar game of transferring blame. It is strange that the Indian openers out in the middle were not aware of the approaching milestone – the subject was known to the TV commentators and, via their discussions, to all the other players. When they assembled for tea, it would have been terribly unlikely that no one broached the subject. Opportunities like this come once in 50 years and, inability to capitalize on it is sheer bad luck. Let us hope the second Test of the series begins on more auspicious notes and provides fulsome entertainment to the millions of viewers who will be glued to their TV sets over the weekend.

After the capture of lip movements pertaining to the secret and privileged conversation between the present and the ex captain in the company of the coach, all concerned are wary of the TV crew and their all powerful cameras. What actually transpired remains a mystery and will remain such till one of the three decides to open his mouth – maybe in his autography at a later date. The field cameras that the crew lug around in the hope of being the first with the ‘breaking news’ are becoming a nuisance. It is difficult, well nigh impossible, to escape the probing eyes. They do have their uses but also create embarrassing and avoidable situations. Like the one-to-one verbal exchange between Veeru and Sami.

As the World cup 2007 comes nearer, all the teams seize every opportunity to sharpen their weapons and hone their skills. Therefore, the idea of conducting a tri Nation ODI series between Pakistan, Australia and India will be useful to all the three. The possibility arises from the decision of Zimbabwe to withdraw from Test cricket for the remaining part of the year. They were scheduled to tour Pakistan. Now, that vacant slot can be put to better use.

a fresh start

When things do not turn out the way we want them to, we decide to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start. This is a trait all of us possess in varying degrees. Remarriage is one such important event. Reasons for separation may be many but the reason for remarriage is one – possibility of finding happiness by taking corrective actions to prevent a repetition of earlier mistakes. Some may search in their known circles of friends and relatives for a better partner than the one that flew away, others invade the columns of holy matrimony on Sundays. They make for interesting reading. It is of interest to note the appearance of words like ‘innocent’ and ‘issueless’ in the advertisements. Here are a few samples on view from a Sunday edition (spelling/abbreviations/grammar unchanged) –

43/5’5”/divorced principle of reputed college of London ……

Tall well settled CA Catholic Mumbai 43 years issueless divorcee living alone proposal from educated presentable single divorcee or widow …..

Match for 28 years handsome MBA Punjabi boy established business income seven figures, wealthy family short marriage at age 22. Mutual consent divorce …..

MG Director Mumbai based 5’9”/33 v.h’some require v.fair, homely girl can help in business, divorce in process. No issues ……

Visiting US citizen 58/5’7” 70 Kg young l’king prefer issueless partner …..

Fair, handsome, issueless divorce, US citizen, MS/MBA, IT, 40/5’6”, very young looking, seeks open minded, slim girl upto 35 yrs …..

Wntd tall bful homly Sunni girl unmarried 22 years for smart educated 26 years businessman income in six figures innocent divorce no kids ……

Beautiful, cultured, fair, 5’4”/39 years old Bengali, US citizen, innocent divorcee (brief marriage), issueless ……

Edu established match for Mumbai based PG working, 35, 5’3”, fair, good looking, cultured, issueless divorcee ….

Alliance invited for Sindhi, slim, b’ful 33/5’4” USA Green card, computer Engineer IT professional, innocent divorcee within 1 yr of marriage …..

Alliance invited for Pb Dentist slim, smart, issueless divorcee girl 33/156 ……

40/5’3” divorcee fair girl smart educated expert in all work …..

Fair 31 years/grad/Rajput divorcee 9 yrs daughter defence background pref for Hindu upto 36 yrs defence or well placed even one issue acceptable ….

38 years fair slim NI issueless divorce last 18 years caste no bar ……

Divorcee MA 40 yrs, Iyer with 2 kids seeks well settled match …..

BRHM 34/5’6” I’less div wrkg decent fly seeks groom below 40 yrs …..

BHU i’lsss div grad 28/5’1” teaching convent …..

MBA London 5’3” 37 (looking young) beautiful innocent issueless divorcee wrkg as Manager for International bank …..

Mumbai based employed Hindu Nair divorcee (issueless) girl 33/5’5” seeks match ….

Thursday, January 19, 2006

flying carpets to flying coffins

Flying carpets were popularized in the Arabian Nights, Ravana went around in his flying chariots and, it is said that our pilots today zoom around in their flying coffins, the obvious reference being to the MiG-21s. Even though one of our Defense Ministers flew in one of these aero planes and in spite of assurances being given by the Air Chief about the safety aspects of this flying machine, incidents continue to surface that do not appear to be convincing. The controversy over the release of a recent film (on the subject) and the reported crash of a modified MiG-21in the same week makes one wonder whether there is some truth in the allegations.

Yes, it is agreed that these aero planes are of the 60s vintage, and are the backbone of our Air Force. But, it is to be appreciated that even though they were wonder machines when first inducted in service they have been in service for far too long - the phasing out should have been done in time. Once worth their weight in gold, it is doubtful whether they have any scrap value today.

There was a wonderful movie of the 60s titled ‘those magnificent men in their flying machines’. Flying has fascinated us for ages. Ever since we saw the birds and the Greeks Icarus and Daedlous breaking their necks in trying to life off like birds by donning feathers, we longed to view our world from a different perspective. Then came the Jules Verne travelogue of ‘around the world in eighty days’ in a balloon. The flying fever gripped everyone until the Wright brothers really went airborne in that tiny place called Kitty Hawk way back in 1903. The two World Wars followed with aero planes improving their performance depending on the needs of the situation. The wood-fabric triplanes and biplanes made way for the all metal construction. Propeller driven engines were discarded for the more efficient jet engines. Newer versions of flying machines like sea planes, amphibians, helicopters, the VTOL, STOL and the hovercraft entered the market to provide a wider choice to the buyer. Regular air shows projected newer ideas to the flying community. People can today travel around the globe in a few hours. The supersonic Concorde has been withdrawn from active service - it had proved Man’s willingness to forge ahead and harness technology.

But, as in every other field, we Indians invariably wake up late. Let the learned ones finally take the unpleasant decision to ground the outdated aero planes. The sick cannot be kept on life support systems indefinitely. The proper place for coffins is in the graves not in the air.

shooing is not wooing

Two news reports from diametrically opposite corners of the country make for sad reading. It seems that instead of wooing investors, the locals are bent upon throwing spanners in the works and shoo away those interested in investing. One report is from Kalinga Nagar, Orissa where a proposed steel plant is going to be consigned to the back burners because the locals do not see eye to eye with the Government. A private company was allotted land by the Government and the boundary wall was also erected but when the bhoomi puja for the buildings was to be done, the tribals objected and attacked the authorities. The company defaulted on payment of installment and the Government cancelled the allotment.

Then, there was the recent incidence of violence in which more than a dozen lost their lives – the violence erupted when work was to be started on constructing the boundary wall for a steel plant

Another report talks about M/S Ford of USA who wanted to invest $500 million in a ski village in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. Here again, locals have raised objections that setting up such a village will destroy the environment and pollute the sacred surroundings including the holy rivers. Hence, the Yankees are not welcome. When it comes to West Bengal, labor unrest and agitations are common happenings – investors have to accept that there will be disruptions. May not be of their own making but disruptions all the same – for example, when the roads are suddenly blocked to protest the accidental death of a child or an elderly person or when the trains are stopped to register protest against late running or some such incidents. Investors who can accommodate sudden and unpredictable work stoppages in their scheme of things are welcome to set up tents. Bihar is the kidnapper’s paradise – apparently, they scout the roads for victims. Therefore, investors have to be prepared to shell out ransom money if planning to target Bihar.

All in all, while one section of society wants to see dollars pour into our economy, another section opposes it tooth and nail.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

lessons in chemistry

I was taken aback when I heard an actress mention in an interview on TV that ‘our chemistry matches’. The subject was related to one of her on-screen male partners. I scratched my head to understand what this match is all about.

Chemistry, as we know, pertains to chemicals and how one of them reacts when it comes in contact with another. Is it to be presumed that the on-screen combination involving two young persons can prove to be lethal, and can blow you up to smithereens? Is that how the term ‘bomb shell’ got associated with oomph girls? The possibility does exist because explosions are results of chemical reactions. Whether it is RDX or the firecracker, chemistry plays a key role.

Chemistry rules our lives - right from lighting the gas burner in the morning for the first cup of tea to switching on the mosquito repellant liquid at night, we continuously see chemical reactions around us that pave the way for a better, fuller life. When we turn the ignition of our car and the engine purrs into life, it is chemistry at our service. When indigestion strikes, we pop tablets in our mouths and the saliva interacts with the ingredients of the medicine to give us relief. Even manufacturers of body soap encourage us to take the litmus test to find out exactly how safe our brand is. More examples of chemistry in our daily lives revolve around milk – we curdle it and prepare sweets, we compress the curdled substance and get paneer, we allow it to solidify on its own and get yoghurt. When we keep the chicken or mutton marinated in vinegar, or add baking powder to make those beautiful fluffy cakes, it is chemistry all the way.

Chemistry is basically all about how different chemicals react with each other either singly or in combination and the end result that the reaction produces. If the end result causes destruction, the chemistry is bad. Else, we can say confidently that ‘our chemistry matches’. Is my interpretation on the right lines?

confusing acronyms

It is high time that a special cell is formed to look into the subject of confusing acronyms – it could be named the Department of Acronyms. Unless the DoA grants approval, no one can introduce an Acronym.

We have grown up on acronyms – right from our KG days. KG is the acronym for Kinder Garten – a word of German descent that means the Garden of Children. Once out of school, we graduated in BA or BE or some such stream that was supposed to mean Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Engineering – the word Bachelor has always been confusing: is it that those who acquire the qualification should be bachelors at the time of attaining the landmark or remain bachelors as long as they display the title?

Take the case of a simple acronym PO – it was supposed to indicate Post Office. Later, the alphabet ‘I’ was prefixed and it became known as the Indian Postal Order. Today, IPO also stands for Initial Public Offer – of company shares to the public!!!! Another PO is the BPO – or Business Process Outsourcing: a means of raking in the dollars by working while others sleep. The BPO culture has given rise to Call Centers where all the activity is in the cover of darkness. Healthy pay cheques, holidaying in exotic locations, and unbridled freedom are the logical outcomes. And now, the latest is KPO to join the list – Knowledge Process Outsourcing. A relatively new arena, it is already making its presence felt. The persons involved need not be computer professionals or qualified engineers or those who have to be trained in medical terms and terminologies – KPO is open to anyone who possesses knowledge to sell.

Then comes the IT group – until recently, IT was discussed in whispers and was the exclusive domain of the Income Tax department. Today, we shout of IT from roof tops – every state is wooing the IT fraternity as never before. No, we have not become honest tax payers overnight – by IT we now mean Information Technology. We keep inviting foreign IT delegations to invest in our cities; we expect them to shell out dollars for improvement of our crumbling infrastructures.

CBM is the acronym for Confidence Building Measures – if you prefix ‘I’ to it, it becomes ICBM – Inter Continental Ballistic Missile. It is difficult for Nations who have ICBMs to convince others about the noble intentions covered in their CBMs. NDA was, till some years back, the prestigious institution that gave us the officers of the Armed Forces. With a couple of ‘I’s thrown in, NDA became INDIA. Unfortunately, today NDA is better known as a group of politicians who keep changing their principles and agenda to suit their needs based on revised situations.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

bringing up the kids

Much has been written on how best to bring up the kids. We would not like to admit it but, from the day we broke free from the apron strings of our mothers and cold shouldered our grannies, we landed in soup. By the time the full implications of our folly dawned on us, it was too late. We discovered the hard way that the old timers did have some role to play in our lives, one of them being the all important role of a baby sitter. Anyway, since it was our own doing, we had no one else to blame but ourselves so we handled the situation as best as we could. We recruited paid ayahs to rock the baby to sleep, to change its nappies, to feed it as per a strict schedule prescribed by the doctor, to wheel it out in the park in its exclusive pram etcetera etcetera. When the kid gradually transformed into a toddler, we took it in turns to teach it the alphabets, make it familiar with the colors, explain to it the differences between the onion and the apple, make it understand that a cat meows and the dog barks. On holidays we exchanged notes with others of our tribe and continuously searched for points that we might have overlooked. The objective was to ensure that it secured admission to the school.

Well – once the first hurdle was crossed came other more serious ones. Donations to this fund or that were irritating but not as problematic as entering the domain of school lessons where nothing seemed to be familiar. The changes that have taken in the syllabus since we were in the same classes stump us. We resort to private tuitions by those who are better equipped than us.

The worst part is the parties, birthday parties and associated gifts. In our times, these parties were restricted to real close friends and near and dear ones along with the neighbors. Gifts were a part and parcel of these rare occasions. Today, however, such parties have become extremely popular and are for the children, by the children. Gifts today are costly affairs and, in keeping with the others, we have to bow down to the wishes of our kids. They have already learnt to live their lives in the fast track.

a paradise of fools

It is a sad state of affairs that all of us live in a paradise of fools – some are more foolish than others but the fact remains that we all belong to the same category. Suffixing degrees and diplomas to our names does not take away the fact that we are forever being taken for rides by those less foolish than us.

It is known fact that whenever there is a large gathering of people, disasters wait to happen, especially if the gathering has religious connections. We have seen it happen in our country during the Kumbhmela, the Ganga Sagar mela and other similar events.

The religious events occur at fixed intervals and pilgrims travel from far off places to take a dip in the holy river and wash away their sins. The location where the festivities are to be held are known, the authorities have enough advance notice to put their acts into position in time – unfortunately, such things seldom happens. Most of the people who fall victims to stampedes are usually the women, the aged and the infirm along with children. Majority of these disasters are man made and could have been prevented if properly taken care of in the first instance. At the end of the day, head counts are taken of the dead and the injured and Government authorities lose no time to announce compensation packages. Does any one know how many finally get compensated?

And, whenever any railway accident occurs, the Minister descends on the scene to pacify the injured, pay homage to the dead and make the usual announcements for the benefit of the general public. The Government continuously harps on a transparent administration and the citizen’s right to Information – it would be worthwhile for some NGOs to try to unearth statistics of how many families of the dead have so far received the promised compensations from the Governments. Let such details be made public so that the citizen can show up the authorities for the unfulfilled promises and prevail upon them not to make a mockery of disasters and catastrophes.

It will, in all probability, be revealed that the relevant papers of the few, who have dared to seek compensation, are tied up in red tape and collecting dust or the matters have been referred to the Honorable Court in view of disputes. The outflows from the coffers of the Government are not there and everyone sits pretty to announce one more batch off compensation – a case of the same alligator being shown again and again.

Monday, January 16, 2006

the leader leads

The first Indo-Pak Test match of the current series in the Gadaffi stadium in Lahore is destined to the inevitable draw as predicted by Imran Khan on the first day before the first ball was bowled.

When the hosts pulverized our attack and put up a really large total for us to overhaul, it seemed to be a formidable ask. The intrigue of who should partner Sehwag as an opener in this match was finally resolved when the captain himself accompanied Veeru. But the weather played truant – darkness and dampness all around with a near empty stadium added to the problems. But, like seasoned veterans, the pair took up the challenge. At the end of the fourth day, there were two gleaming Indians who returned to the pavilion with a total of 403 runs on the board. If the weather holds on the fifth day, the cricketing world will be certain to see a number of records tumble. One of them will be the one of 413 between Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy in 1954-55 against New Zealand, which was the highest ever first wicket stand in test cricket till now – a four and a six should do it. The second could be Brian Lara’s individual record of 400 runs.

Captain Rahul Dravid has been known all along as the granite faced Wall. There was a time when his credentials were in doubt as to the shorter version of the game. He ignored all criticism and, apart from improving the basics of fast scoring, he agreed to don the gloves and keep wickets. That gave the team more flexibility and strengthened the hands of the selectors. Now, as captain, he is setting traditions that have always been associated with the gentleman’s game called cricket. He knows how to hide the emotions and always seems to have an ace up his sleeve. The fourth day of the Lahore Test was one of those rare occasions when one saw him in smiles in public!

Let us join in wishing him and the Indian team success in the remaining two test matches. We would like to see a positive result in this series. If Rahul Dravid can do that, he will have earned the gratitude of all of us.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

of eyeballs and footfalls

This is the world of sellers – some sell us dreams, others sell us more tangible stuff that we can touch, feel and taste. To achieve these seemingly impossible tasks, there are agencies that have made it their business to snoop – direct snooping is not good manners, so they circumvent and extract information out of us in a round about way. We part with them unknowingly. Surprised? Well, all those TV spots that entice us to SMS instant replies tell a tale in themselves – the question is related to ascertain the popularity of the product which could be a batsman or a film star or a brand of toffee. The innocent response to the question indicates to the researchers the products that are the ‘in-thing’ and those that are on the way out.

In this context we come to the term ‘capturing eyeballs’ – obviously it translates into the viewership of the subject concerned. That is why automatic counters are placed in web pages – these give an idea of the traffic that passes through a particular web page. ‘Capturing eyeballs’ in this case would depend on the attractiveness of the page and the matter it contains. Similarly, asking viewers to SMS instant replies also adds up to the impact a product makes and gives a glimpse into the number of viewers who are watching it at the very moment. It seems there was this ad of a product that was aired simultaneously on all important channels at the prime time – the intention was to capture as many eyeballs as possible and leave very little to chance.

‘Footfalls’ is a comparatively new term to me. I came across it in a report on the New Delhi Metro. One sentence goes – ‘….That is why, though the station (Kashmere Gate) sees a lot of footfalls, its revenue collection is lesser…..’

Keeping a count of heads is not new – I remember way back in the sixties, the guard at the USIS library on S N Banerji Road, Calcutta, used to hold a counter in his palm. As someone entered the library, he would press the manual button and record the event. The intention was to gauge the popularity of the setup. Keeping track of feet seems to be a new fad!

weekly news round up 2

Here is the 2nd set of News involving India and Indians as reported in five leading newspapers during the period 8th January to 14th January 2006 -

India received record 3.9 mn tourists in 2005

NEW DELHI: India witnessed another boom year for tourism in 2005 with double-digit growth in foreign arrivals that hit a record 3.92 million, according to data released on Monday……. "Foreign tourist arrivals during calendar year 2005 has registered an increase of 13.2 percent (over the previous year)," an official statement said.

Rs 100-crore biotech park with IIT help

Chandrakona Road, Jan. 11: State industries minister Nirupam Sen announced today that the government would set up a Rs 100-crore biotechnology park at Kharagpur in collaboration with the IIT there. ….. Sen said the biotechnology park, which would come up on about 100 acres in Kharagpur’s industrial area, will house a state-of-the art laboratory. ….. “We want to set up the biotechnology park for investors in the drug and cosmetics industry, who will be able to avail of the research facilities there. (read more)

Indians protest against drug ‘taint’

WASHINGTON, JANUARY 9: Several hundred persons belonging to the Indian community have held a rally in Decatur, Georgia, to protest against the charges of supplying methamphetamine ingredients levelled by the federal authorities against dozens of South Asian convenience stores, alleging they were racially biased. …. In June 2005, federal agents had arrested 49 persons, including 44 Indians, many with the surname Patel, and charged 16 corporations, most of them in northwest Georgia, in what has come to be known as ‘Operation Meth Merchant.’ They and the stores were charged with selling products to make methamphetamine. Many of the charges have been dropped, some have resulted in guilty pleas and others are yet to be posted for trial. ….. (read more)

IE Archives 10/1/2006

Indian appointed new force commander of UNMIS

Lt. Gen. Jasbir Singh Lidder of India has been appointed as the new force commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). Lt. Gen. Lidder replaces Major General Fazle Elahi Akbar of Bangladesh, who served as Military Adviser to the UN Advance Mission in the Sudan (UNAMIS) before becoming Force Commander in September 2004….. (read more)

Madras varsity to publish teachers' works

Universities of Madras, Mumbai and Calcutta celebrating 150th anniversary
CHENNAI: The University of Madras will involve teachers of university departments and affiliated colleges as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations. It plans to publish and release 150 books authored by the faculty members…… This year (2006-07) is the 150th year of the founding of the universities of Madras, Mumbai and Calcutta. According to Madras University Vice-Chancellor S.P. Thyagarajan, several national and local level events were planned, starting this month. "The 150th year of the three major universities can be deemed as the 150th year of Indian higher education itself. So we want to create a sense of ownership and participation among the teachers…….

Link to the previous set of news -

Saturday, January 14, 2006

proud nashikites

Abhibyakti is a Nasik based organization that has made a documentary film ‘Harsud – the making of a ghost town’. This film has been for screening in the Mumbai International Film Festival to be held in Mumbai from 3rd to 9th February. It is the story of a small town situated on the banks of the Kalimchak River, a tributary of the Narmada. The building of a dam on the Narmada forced the villagers to vacate Harsud.

Two students of Nasik have received certificates from NASA which has accepted the rocks discovered by them. Sometime back, NASA had appealed to the student community worldwide to send across unique rock samples for carrying out studies related to life form on Mars. One of the students discovered a dull maroon colored rock in the premises of his college in Chincholi. The second was a yellow colored porous rock which was black inside and discovered in the premises of the Girna dam. The samples have been identified as RATW06275 and RATW06276. More on

One more achievement of a Nashik boy – the boy, a student of an Animation Institute of Mumbai, along with his class mates won the 2nd prize for an animation film ‘Saraswati’ organized by the UN on the occasion of its 60th year celebrations. The award was handed over by the Deputy PM of Thailand at a glittering function held at the UN Asia Pacific Centre in Bangkok on 24-10-2006.

An ATM (Any Time Money) collection centre has been started in the Bidyut Bhaban at Nashik Road by the Maharastra State Electricity Distribution Centre Limited. After Pune, one machine has now been installed in Nashik. Out of total 50 machines planned, Nashik will have five. The machine will accept currency at present but will cater to credit cards in the future.

Further links to information on Nasik -

Friday, January 13, 2006

encounter specialists

No, this has no relation to the Nana Patekar movie Ab Tak Chhappan. This piece is about encounters we all have in our daily lives and how we become specialists over a period of time. Experience makes one perfect and as we gain experience in understanding the reasons of why someone does something, we master the art of encounters.

In the market place, we encounter the vendor who sweet talks you in accepting his colored veggies and tips the scales in your favor to influence your decision. In the shopping malls, there are encounters of the sophisticated kind with freebies and slogans of ‘buy two and take one free’. In schools we encounter kind teachers who take it upon themselves to teach your child and ensure that he does better in his exams – in exchange, you have to agree to make liberal donations to his kitty. If you have grown up kids who are on the threshold of deciding the stream to follow, you will encounter knowledgeable persons who can once again ensure hundred percent success provided you do not mind shelling out suitable compensation. When it comes to gainful employment after acquiring the basic qualifications, there are yet more people who line up at your doorstep with proposals – yes, its all a part of the game, its the policy of sharing. Once in service, you encounter people who come around peddling credit cards, they entice you with attractive offers and agents who deal in shares, company bonds and other financial instruments that prima-facie appear to be attractive. You seldom read between the lines or the fine print, even if you do, it is doubtful whether you can interpret the implications or the complications. Then there are the travel agents and tour operators who you encounter when you consider taking time off with your family to lose yourself in the mountains or the beaches, when you want to go away far from the madding crowd. To these smartalecs, you are as ignorant as the next one in line; they will convince that whatever impression you had carried till now about holiday travel were wrong. No matter how intelligent you try to prove yourself to be, they will have the last word, they will sell you a package in any case.

It would not be wrong to say that in each one of us there resides an encounter specialist. He may not be of the Nana Patekar type but he is a specialist all the same.

a car for the masses

When the Maruti Udyog was formed in 1981, it was given to understand that it will produce low priced cars to meet the aspirations of the common man of owning a four wheeler. In December 1983, Maruti launched its first car, Maruti 800, targeted at the masses, as the 'people's car' with a price tag of Rs.40,000 (ex-show room price). Maruti rapidly consolidated its competitive position by launching various other models. In 1984, Maruti introduced a utility vehicle, Omni that could seat up to eight people.

Today, the cost of Maruti 800 has gradually risen and is in the region of Rs 2 lakhs. A news report indicates that one more series of small cars is being launched soon by a Pune based firm.

Gone are the days of the Ambassadors and the Premier Padminis. The former were manufactured in Bengal, and were popular in the North and the East whereas the latter were manufactured in Maharastra and hence were more popular in that region. Even today, the trend remains. The yellow and black taxis are proof. In addition, the Ambassadors are sturdy vehicles which can withstand the wear and tear of our roads and, therefore, are the default choice of Government agencies.. The Premier Padminis, on the other hand, are small and cozy. The only thing is the lack of flashy colors.

In the ocean of new models like the Skoda, the Ford Fiesta, and the Tata Indica that have automated a large range of functions, old fashioned cars like the Ambassadors and Premiers have no takers. Air conditioned Tata Indicas, fondly nicknamed ‘Cool Cabs’, have entered the scene to make long journeys more comfortable. The price range would have, in the past, made people think twice about possessing such miracles but today, the financial companies have their reps positioned in the showrooms to convince you that EMIs are the order of the day. He dangles the car keys in one hand and waves the contract form in the other. It takes tremendous will power not to surrender to the temptation.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

a new beginning

Some people get sadistic pleasure by forcing someone to put his back to the wall and prove his mettle – it used to be a game the Romans reveled in. The warrior would be thrown in a den of lions and, if he came out victorious, he was acclaimed as a hero. The chances were slim and the authority invariably had the final say. If TV was available to the Romans of old, we would have been treated to beautiful footage of the Emperor decked up in his shining coat of armor with the gleaming helmet studded in precious stones, leaning on his spear. ‘I told you that he did not have it in him,’ he would smile at the audience and wait expectantly for the next question from the girl with the mike.

There are lots of similarities with the ongoing episode of Sourav Ganguli.

When he takes guard in the Lahore Test at the Gaddafi stadium, he will be poised to make a new beginning as an opener in Test cricket, a position he played only once in his Test career. Yes, he does open the innings in the ODIs but Test cricket is an altogether different matter. In the shorter version of the game, there are field restrictions to capitalize upon, there are specific rules that are usually in favor of batsmen, hence flashing outside the off stump to send the ball to the boundary or hoisting a bowler over the ropes to undermine his strength are methods used to score at a rapid rate. But, in Test cricket, there will always be fielders breathing down your neck. You cannot get away with chance strokes. The player who opens the innings has to have plenty of patience, has to be judicious in selecting his shots, has to keep in mind the objective of occupying the crease as long as possible and wear down the bowlers. The opener cannot hope to score a century before lunch time but, if he can succeed in holding fort till then, it will pave the way for others to build an impressive total.

The inclusion of Sourav Ganguli in the final XI and making him open the innings, in spite of having a couple of batsmen who have more experience in opening the innings, seems to have serious undertones. It is up to Sourav to prove his worth – let us wish that he emerges victorious. That will compel people to rethink on whether Sourav still has something to offer.

let confusion prevail

Dutch medical researchers believe they can predict senile dementia years before symptoms begin to show by examining the size of two parts of the brain, a new study says.

I wonder whether this news item has come to the notice of BCCI. The way things are happening points to the fact that assistance of the Dutch need to be sought to weed out the old fossils who make a mockery of the present system. The latest one is probably that of the present Manager Raj Singh Dungarpur of Team India who had some unpleasant comments to make of our previous captain Sourav Ganguli. In this context, the following excerpt of 2001 is relevant – ‘….. At his age, Dungarpur could be forgiven, I guess, for forgetting today what he said yesterday. ….’

When the news channel challenged him, he sought shelter behind the coat of the President who came to his rescue. He has even gone to the extent of saying that the complete thing is a figment of someone’s imagination and that latest technology has been resorted to show an interview that never took place. Blame it all on technology is the escape route that people in authority believe in. It seems that concerted efforts are being now made to malign the news channel.

These recent controversies involving various aspects of cricket in India, has loads of possibilities to give rise to a whole new generation of writers. Remember the Carpetbaggers that set off a spate of books and films like Nevada Smith. Well, here also the atmosphere is electric. Statements made one day are retracted the next and revised and presented on the third. These speak of lack of knowledge of those who make the statements. Even after 58 years of Independence, even though we know that efficiency continuously deteriorates with age, we have not defined the retirement age of a large section of persons who fall in the category of decision makers. We have left it to them to decide on when to step down and relinquish office with dignity – unfortunately, no one takes heed to the signals.

Efforts are on to pass legislation in the next session of Parliament on phone tapping. The agenda could also include a proposal for deciding on the retirement age of persons who are not covered by them right now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

thumb rules

The thumb is strategically placed, is set apart from the bunch of the other fingers and is unique. It enjoys a special position in our lives. Who can forget the stories of Tom Thumb or of Thumbelina or the great actor Pran singing ‘bolega toh bologe ki bolta hai’ in the film Kasauti (1974) and trying to convey his thoughts via two characters created on his pair of thumbs.

The thumb is the only organ that has a variety of uses. As a new born, we begin by sucking our thumbs – it is delicious. In school, we thumb our noses at others to show contempt. As young persons, the adventurous ones among us love to thumb lifts – standing on the deserted roads or highways we raise our hands at passing vehicles and indicate with fists closed and the thumb pointing in the direction we want to go that we want to give the passing motorist company for some distance. Sometimes we manage to convince him that we have no evil intentions. Sometimes, we do not know the intentions of the motorist who seems to be kind enough to oblige us. Later on in life, we learn that raising the thumb means ‘all clear’ – it probably has its origins in the Air force when the ground crew signals ‘all clear’ for take off to the pilot. Similarly, the thumbs-down indicates things are not happy.

It is said that after the construction of the Taj Mahal, the thumbs of all workers involved in the construction were severed so that they can never replicate their masterpieces. The same tradition used to be followed for the artisans who wove brilliant designs into silk and other fabrics that were meant only for the Kings.

As a tribute to the thumb, one of the cold drink giants has marketed their product with the brand name ‘thumbs up’.

mud slinging exercises

This is an area where we have gained sufficient expertise and could very well consider setting up International centers to spread the message.

A proposal to this effect is doing the rounds and is being shuttled from North block to South block – the Institution will initially be controlled by the Ministry of Education and will be assisted by a team of experts from the agricultural ministry because ‘mud’ is associated with soil and, unless handled properly, can land the authorities into neck deep trouble with the sons of the soil. The sports ministry will also have a significant role to play because ‘exercise’ is linked with sports. To be able to accept challenges, the players must be cent percent fit, both physically and mentally. Any and every game of today has psychological undertones, mind games are the norms of the day. There are any numbers of gadgets to simulate live conditions under which the players practice – in the absence of fast bowlers, there are bowling machines. Instead of fast serving tennis players, there are again devices that shoot the ball at you trying for aces every time. A major hitch is whether this should form a part of the Arts stream or the Science stream – a final decision will be taken once the Ministers meet over dinner, an extension of dinner diplomacy because they are from different political parties.

Mud slinging is a state of the mind when vague allegations are made to tarnish ones image. As a result, spotless reputations take a beating and crumble into dust. There used to be a time when people would be careful of making allegations against any person – before uttering any thing, he would be extra cautious to ascertain the facts. Condemning anyone based on hearsay is incorrect – and, that is exactly what we practice. Our mental setup being what it is, the affected person seldom goes to court for redressal or sues for defamation unlike other countries where such actions are viewed seriously by one and all. To add a footnote – search is on to induct the first batch of Professors and Lecturers. The basic criterion is the amount of mud that the candidate has slung till the cut-off date. In order to qualify, he must have at least five instances to his credit in the past year. He must also be in possession of a valid passport and be willing to accept overseas assignments, especially in cannibal infested areas.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

keep the embers glowing

Autocracy is supposed to mean the rule of a single person, something like a King or a Dictator. Once we talk of democracy, we mean rule by a group of like minded persons who have the well being of their people at heart. At least that is what I, in my simple mind, presume. Democracy must also have people who will rise up to oppose the misdeeds of the rulers – not make a mockery of the system but carry out honest criticism of policies formulated by the rulers. The opposition must always have a constructive approach. But, with every passing day, we keep losing sight of our goals. That is why, when a Minister decides to suspend further work on a project that has progressed for quite sometime and where a large amount of the taxpayers money has been invested, it does not augur well for the decision makers. It is akin to sowing the seeds of discontent among the affected persons and indirectly eggs them on to foment trouble. In other words, it amounts to indirect incitement. That is what is likely to happen if the Ammunition factory proposed to be set up in Nalanda, Bihar is really shelved. From reports available, one third of the sanctioned amount has already been spent and civil works have been nearly completed. Abandoning the project at this belated stage without sufficient reason is calling for trouble.

This is similar to the unrest in Kalinganagar, Orissa for the construction of the compound wall of a steel plant in which several locals had to pay with their lives.

All incidents like these are indicative of the lack of co-ordination of different agencies involved. The philosophy of the right hand not knowing what the left hand gives has become outdated. Today, both the hands should know what each has one has, how much weight each can carry and the extent to which each can stretch himself. The practice of keeping the embers glowing needs to be discarded for a more positive approach that will help deliver the best. We must demand nothing but the best from the rulers.

holiday on ice

New Delhi has, a few days back, recorded the lowest temperature in the last 70 years withy the mercury nudging the zero degrees mark – there was TV coverage of ice flakes on the streets and on top of parked cars in the capital. Today, there are videos on TV of a frozen Dal lake with children enjoying it. This reminds me of the sixties when a show came to Kolkata called ‘holiday on ice’. Artificial enclosures were prepared where girls displayed their arts of snow skating.

Even today, snow skating rinks are there in the heart of Kolkata and other large cities. The heroines of the sixties and seventies loved to shoot in icy locales and perfected the art of preparing snow balls and hurling them at the heroes. Then there were the heroes who would roll down icy terrains singing songs that people cannot help but hum when the mood is right. Unfortunately, the speed at which we are inviting the ice age into our lives sends out disturbing signals. We must respect Mother Nature and control the urge to ignore the cover she has provided for us. We all know that large trees are necessary to bind the soil and also provide a shelter for birds. Trees are, however, uprooted to pave the way for widening of roads, or for expanding areas under concretization. Our winged friends fly off to other areas.

Moreover, unchecked pollution takes its toll not only on our own lives but also on the flora and fauna that are so important to maintain the balance of Nature. Once we disregard the basics, we invite trouble – we create situations like draught and floods and, now, snowfall in the capital. In order to extricate ourselves from the problems that we create ourselves, we look towards the Government to bail us out through grants and subsidies. Let us rise as one and resolve to preserve Nature.

Monday, January 09, 2006

tappers paradise

Tap is associated with water. Public awareness campaigns on TV point out to the common man that leaking taps should be identified immediately and corrective action taken otherwise, a time may come in the distant future when you will have to run from pillar to post for your daily drops of the precious fluid on which life depends.

Tap dancing is another word that contains the dreaded word ‘tap’ – it is basically a type of dance. ‘……. Tap Dance, style of American theatrical dance, distinguished by percussive footwork, that marks out precise rhythmic patterns on the floor. Some descriptive step names are brush, flap, shuffle, ball change, and cramp roll…..’

Telephone tapping is an altogether different kettle of fish. It is eavesdropping on the conversations of others using sophisticated means. The Wikipedia defines phone tapping as ‘….Telephone tapping or wire tapping/ wiretapping (in US) is the monitoring of telephone conversations by a third party, often by covert means. The telephone tap or wire tap received its name because, historically, the monitoring connection was applied to the wires of the telephone line of the person who was being monitored and drew off or tapped a small amount of the electrical signal carrying the conversation.

On 19th December 2005 – President of America George W. Bush defended the phone tapping policy. ‘…….US President George W Bush has again defended his decision to allow eavesdropping on Americans in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks. ….. Speaking at a press conference, Mr Bush also repeated that he would continue to authorise the secret monitoring. ….. He also urged Congress to renew the Patriot Act, the top US anti-terror law, saying it provided officials with the tools to protect Americans. ….. "We cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment," he said…….

Listening to privileged conversation of others is quite common in the daily TV soaps that we have got accustomed to – the vamp of the serial continuously pops up in the least expected of places and listens silently to corporate plans. Then she smiles that wicked smile of hers and retreats into the background to formulate her own plans. Reality is, at last, catching up with imagination.

republic day floats

The Republic day every year is an occasion to display to the world at large our military strength along with our rich cultural heritage. Normally, the program lasts for nearly two and a half hours but, this year it is being reduced for reasons not disclosed. One of the reasons could be the lack of interest in people – with the exception of the school children, cadets of the NCC, members of the Military and para-Military forces who have to attend out of compulsion, and other such persons, the Republic day has lost its charm. The spectators have got accustomed to seeing the same MBTs, Bofors guns, MiG aero planes, and missiles and having rose petals showered on them from low flying helicopters. In keeping with the times, they want variety. Days of meaningful lyrics woven into memorable songs via sincerely crafted music that kept you mesmerized have surrendered meekly to the demons of the dhoom macha dey types.

In views of the shortened time frame for the Republic day displays, several states have to forego their floats that represent the unique culture of the respective states and highlight their achievements. The axe has fallen on Bihar first and the new Chief Minister is rightly unhappy. The proposal put forth by the PR group of Bihar did not find favor with the Defense Ministry. In a state that has won the distinction of being labeled as one where kidnapping has become an industry of sorts, the Ministry must have expected a tableau depicting those half masked men with their shooting machines. What has been presented seems to be a let down, especially in the context of the efforts of the CM to woo NRIs to invest in Bihar.

In order to revive the attraction of the Republic day parade, some thought could be given to introduce new floats from the Department of Revenue Intelligence and the Income Tax department – the world could then see how people who swindle the exchequer look like and try to find out what sets them apart and puts them in a special class of their own. There could also be a separate cavalcade of politicians who are known criminals but who are more slippery than the eel dipped in oil and have never been convicted.

With proper planning and publicity, the audiences can once again be motivated to sit glued to their TV sets.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

the global link language

It is now official – Hindi has taken the world by storm, it has penetrated the heavily guarded precincts of the White House. With Mickey Mouse dancing to the hottest tunes of ‘kajra re’ and ‘dus bahane’, with our beauties walking the ramp in International beauty pageants and lifting the crowns once in a while, this was bound to happen. Uncle Sam has realized that those who speak Hindi can not only handle software problems efficiently but can also extend helping hands in other fields as well. It is reported that he is real serious in tackling the terrorist outfits and wants to clear the hurdles of conducting meaningful one-to-one talks with the captured members of terrorist groups.

There is a second school of thought that suggests that this move is one of the first steps in trying to discover what transpires in conversations between the Hindi speaking youth settled in Silicon Valley and what makes them tick. That could be a reason why Bill Gates visits us so frequently – he has tremendous foresight, he is aware that Uncle Sam has made up his mind to ensure that his people grasp the intricacies of the language so that they can have a level playing field. Bill must be nurturing plans to make his Office systems more adaptable to Hindi. To assist him in this enormous task, he has to requisition the services of experts in the field.

Right now, his options would be limited because those who seriously pursue Hindi, belong to a generation that may not be comfortable to venture out to Uncle Sam’s territory and take up the new challenges or to keep awake nights to attend to call centre needs. With the focus on areas that are more lucrative (like IT, Engineering, Medicine or the Administrative services), there are very few takers for language related subjects. If Bill Gates and his tribe are forced to rely on the younger generation, they will land up with hotchpotch Hindi – a combination of Hindi punched with English as she is spoken in the metros. That may not appeal to Uncle Sam. Therefore it is a wake up call to Hindi pundits - do not despair, your time has come. Get ready to jump on to the band wagon that rolls on dollars. Who knows – Hindi may very well become the global link language of the next century.

food for all

The mosquito stings you, extracts a morsel of its food and buzzes away to taste another. The sparrow picks up the ants and relishes the taste. The crow swoops down into the dust bin and flies away with a dead rat in its beak. Every living being must have food for basic survival – in the domain of human beings, there are the haves and the have-nots. While the former can take his pick, the latter has to be satisfied with whatever comes his way. If nothing does, he fills his stomach with water and goes to sleep hoping for a better tomorrow. And – those who have everything for the asking wait to meet the doctor the next morning. The problems are usually related to hypertension or high blood sugar or high cholesterol or problems of the heart. Those who live in the other end of the spectrum seldom suffer from these ailments.

Humans are grouped as vegetarians or non-vegetarians. Those who come in the non-veg category enjoy the taste of blood and blood related products that embrace a large variety of fish and animals. The only difference with other animals is that humans want theirs to be processed and not served in the raw. It should have unique taste and flavor, hence additives are a must. In order to perform these tasks, there are any numbers of gadgets in the market and, to train you in the art of preparing mouth watering dishes, there are cookery classes. On top of it all is a range of cutlery, crockery and associated etiquette and table manners to make the activities related to satisfying the taste buds an experience that has no parallel. Influence of the East has resulted in the growing popularity of Chinese and Thai dishes. Whether you use chop sticks or fork-knife combination or plain fingers, obtaining a degree in Hotel Management opens up innumerable avenues of prosperity. If you have a flair for impressing your audience with your method of presentation, you may become a celebrity.

When a person leaves his mother’s apron strings and moves to an unknown place, he has to rely on local eateries for food. In some cities, home prepared food is supplied to offices in Tiffin carriers. Later, when he gets married, he has to accept the preparations of his new companion – she may not be a master in the art. Still, tolerance becomes the watchword. By the time she masters the art, he probably reaches that stage in his life when restrictions are imposed on what he can take and what he has to avoid. A sad state of affairs, if I may say so.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

weekly roundup 1

This weekly piece will be posted on Sundays and will contain interesting news items compiled from five leading newspapers viz. the Times of India, the Indian Express, the Deccan Herald, the Daily Telegraph and the Hindu related to India and Indians. The links will be indicated to the respective pages for those who would like to read the complete story. The 1st installment covers the period from 1/1/2006 up to 7/1/2006.

Indian engineers to light up Kabul

KABUL: Engineers from India's Power Grid Corp are engaged these days in scaling the mighty Hindukush mountains of Afghanistan in a bid to bring electricity to power-starved Kabul. …. The 202 km transmission line being laid by Power Grid will bring 200 MW of electricity from the Timriz power project in Uzbekistan to the Afghan capital. India has provided $111 million for the project, out of the total $550 million it had committed for reconstruction activities in the war-torn country. … (read more)

Canadian election: Indians already winner

NEW YORK, JANUARY 4: At least 30 people of Indian origin, majority of whom trace their roots to Punjab, are in the fray for the Canadian general election, voting for which is scheduled for January 23. ……. Both the major Canadian political parties—the ruling Liberal Party and the main opposition Conservative Party—have gone out of their way to nominate members of the Indian community for the 39th general election….. (read more)

IE 4/1/2006 -

Britain awards 7/7 heroes, 12 NRIs also on honours list

The ‘‘immense’’ courage shown by medics, emergency workers and transport staff following the July 7 London bombings was honoured today in Britain’s annual New Year awards from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. …. The swift, efficient and in some cases overwhelmingly brave response to the attacks, for which London had been braced, was widely credited with preventing the death toll being much higher. …. Among 12 non-resident Indians chosen for the honours list are senior bureaucrat Sumantra Chakrabarti and actor Sanjeev Bhaskar …. (read more)

IE 1/1/2006 -

World’s first air damped bike

First of its kind, the air damping system in bike will significantly improve sag resistance and traction comfort apart from low weight and a long running life.
Readers of the Deccan Herald will be familiar with BMW’s sporty cars, but not many realise that its superb range of twin cylinder motorcycles actually predates its foray into car manufacture in the 1930s……….. (read more )

‘Thief’ caged in chicken coop

Residents of Tiretta Bazar, off Lalbazar police headquarters, woke up to a strange spectacle on Monday morning — a youth sitting in a large cage meant for carrying live chicken, with the door padlocked. ….. As people flocked around and watched him in strange delight, the youth sat shivering inside, barely able to hold his body inside the cage. ….. It was much later that the residents realised that the youth had been nabbed by some night guards, who had suspected him to be a thief. ……. (read more) (3/1/2006)

Molybdenum reserves remain untapped

Deposits identified in Harur belt spread over 194.86 hectares - Used in defence technology, aeronautical industries - Samples sent to the Indian Bureau of Mines
Dharmapuri: Rich deposits of Molybdenum ore found in Harur belt in Dharmapuri district that could be used in defence applications and aeronautical industry still remains untapped despite the initiative of the State Government. ………. (read more)