Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Last Day of the Year MMXI A.D. The year of the initiation of change. After having spent a couple of pretty lousy years, I can look back on Twenty11 with some satisfaction. And what is more am actually looking forward to the changes 2012 is going to bring into my life.

A quick summary of some major happenings (may not seem much but certainly one was a life changer)
  • Changed apartments, then flatmate moved on and I started living alone but certainly not lonely.
  • At work there were tangible changes. Still at the same company, but the work location has changed and now working with an entire new set of collegaues. A Big Deal & some numbers jump made some tangible additions.
  • The usual line of some people moving out of life continued but some more have entered. And permanently.
  • There was a realization that with so many books to read, so many movies to watch, so many places to visit, and so many people who you can connect to, you might be alone but you should never be lonely.
  • After 3 years the phone changed. Mobile phones are not just another device, they are you. Learnt it the hard way when a new phone got stolen.
  • Tried to do something good and felt great about it. Life may be becoming more self-centred but certain acts like blood donation do make you feel a better human being.
  • Felt the collective joy of over a billion people when India won the cricket world cup. A feeling which couldn't come in any other sporting event. (Went and watched a couple of IPL matches this year too)
  • Added a new travel location - Bhopal
  • Facebook kept the known ones in touch while twitter connected the new. Blogs were another sway of connecting to new people.
And as for My Pursuit of Happyness, I think I am getting there :)

To 2012, a leap year (am certainly doing something special on the most unique day of the calendar), a year of Hope & Change.

Wishing a Happy 2012 to all readers

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ten From Twenty11

The year 2011 A.D. is going by. Before we go on into 2012, its time to step back and remember the events to remember 2011 by. Following is my compilation of how 2011 went by. 

1. Trending Topic of the Year - R.I.P.
2011 took away a lot of legends. RIP was an ever trending topic on twitter. India lost legends like Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Tiger Pataudi, Sai Baba, Bhupen Hazarika, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Jagjit Singh, Ustad Sultan Khan. The computer world lost Steve Jobs & Dennis Ritchie. Dcitators and despots also seemed to be having a pretty bad time with bin Laden, Gaddafi & Kim gone (though hopefully no RIP for them)

2. Year of Movements
Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Bahrain, Syria and even India all saw major upheavals backed by the people. Social media acted as the mass mobilizer. Time magazine declared "The Protestor" as the "Person of the Year". However people on the roads certainly wasn't always a good thing. The riots in England & Vancouver, the attack on female journalists covering Tahrir showing up the ugly side of the people agitation. 

3. Overhype of the Year (sponsored by MRF Blimp)
As Diwali approached, there seemed to be only one event happening in India. The release of The promos were here, there and everywhere. It popped up in cricket ad breaks, sneaked on you through youtube, jumped on you through newspapers. Anywhere you went, you just couldn't escape the Chhammak Chhalo. In the end the marketing worked, as it could lure in big audiences before the critical (read bad) reviews had a chance to come out. 
P.S. Kareena Kapoor looked absolutely ravishing as the Chhammak Chhalo (the only universally agreed upon redeeming feature of the movie)

4. Picture of the Year
Quite a few competitors. There were quite a few movements (point 2 above) and natural disasters (e.g. Japan earthquake & tsunami). But the picture of the year comes from the Vancouver riots following an ice hockey match (!!!) as a young couple kiss on the road.

5. Doodle of the Year
Google have been playing around with their logo for quite a while now. Earlier it used to be just an image. Now they have shifted to making animated & interactive doodles. There were a few contenders for the doodle of the year, but to me the best was the Google Guitar, played on June 9th to mark the  anniversary of Les Paul. (incidentally also the anniversary of my joining my current company)

6. Song of the Year
Why this Kolaveri, Kolaveri, Kolaveri Di. So asked Dhanush. And soon the whole world was asking the same question. And everyone had their own version of it. There is the cute Nevan Nigam version, the dancing girls, the Arabic, the local boys, the chipmunks and the best of the lot the Punjabi version. Even CNN declared it to be the song of the year. And yet the question remains. Why This Koaveri, Kolaveri, Kolaveri Di?

Planning Commission's revised poverty line which came up to Rs 32/day. While it was immediately hyped up without trying to make full sense of the statistic, it showed a grim reality. There were nearly 40% Indians surviving on even less. Point to ponder upon.

8. Camouflage of the Year
Baba Ramdev dressed in salwar kameez. With his appearance wonder how much of a help was this dress.

9. Self -created newsmaker of the year
Poonam Pandey followed Larissa Riquelme's footsteps. Unlike Ms. Riquelme who fulfilled her promise inspite of Paraguay not winng the football world cup, Ms Pandey did not despite India winning the cricket world cup. And she hitched her name to the team without any rhyme or reason and continued with her weird antics throughout the year. Wondering if the Indian team's inconsistent showing post the World Cup was a result of this? (:P)

10. New borns of the year
There were some famous new borns in the year. First came the so called 7 Billionth baby, who was born in at least 3 different places. Then followed the media frenzy over Baby B. If this is the frenzy on just being born wonder what would happen if they do anything notable.

So this was 2011. Lets see what 2012 has in store for us. Though if the Mayans are correct, this might be the last year-end list I would have end. Certainly a nice thought to enter the new year.

Wishing all readers a very Happy & Prosperous 2012 :)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

In Remembrance - The Evergreen Star

A post dedicated to a true legend of Indian cinema. By the time I came into being his heyday may have been gone but the legend was very much there. His recent films may have been eminently forgettable which is probably a good thing since they should not take the gloss of the exemplary work he did in the 1950's, 60's and 70's. Probably the greatest style icon - his pose on the stage while collecting the Dad Sahab Phalke award from APJ Abdul Kalam is unforgettable.

RIP Dev Anand - a true cinema legend. I am not qualified to write/comment upon such a personality. What I can do is compile a list of my personal favorite Dev Anand numbers. 

In no particular order here goes

1. Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya - (Hum Dono) - A song which is probably everyone's favorite Dev Anand number and also in every one's greatest Hindi film songs list.

2. Phoolon Ke Rang Se - (Prem Pujari). Song appears on radio/TV and you have to sing along to it

3. Kabhi Khud Pe Kabhi Halat Pe - (Hum Dono). Perfect comment on life

4. Hai Apna Dil To Awara -  (Afsana). A great number on the mouth-organ

5. Wahan Kaun Hai Tera - (Guide). Probably SD Burman's best sung song. Also sets the tone for a brilliant movie.

6. Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya - (Guide). If your life suddenly hits a terrible phase, the song appears somewhere in the mind's playlist.

7. Ye Dil Na Hota Bechara - (Jewel Thief). A fun song for the road. Just wondering where he found that fish.

8. Phoolon Ka Taaron Ka - (Hare Rama Hare Krishna). Dedicated to everyone's sister.

9. Di Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar - (Tere Ghar Ke Saamne). Innumerable quizzes have had this question in the video clips section. Where is this song shot? (Ans - Qutub Minar)

10. She Ne Khela He Se Aaj Cricket Match - (Love Marriage). Totally surprised that in a cricket mad country like ours this song is hardly heard.

10 is a very insufficient number to capture my personal favorites. I can count many many more. 
RIP Dev Anand

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Short Story

For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

6 words, that's all, make up the shortest story ever. The author - Ernest Hemingway.
6 words tell a story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. But there are many items just open for interpretation. And everyone can have their own.  The six words (somehow am unable to refer to it as a story) open up a lot of questions.
  • Why are the shoes for sale? (The seller doesn't need them)
  • Why were they never worn? (They are stolen from expectant parents OR Maybe the baby never came into being OR never lived long enough to need them)
  • Who is the seller? (A thief OR A pawnshop OR the would-have-been parents)
  • Why only the shoes? Are there any other items also? (No answers here)
Lots of unanswered questions here, and there could be more. The words in ( ) are what I think might be the probable answers. Probably lots of stories can be woven out of these six words.

All I can conclude is Hemingway was certainly having lots of fun at his readers' expense.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Flying High...or not...

13th February, 2006 - A pretty important meeting. And the beginning of a life-altering affair.
But this post is about the events which happened the next day.

14th February, 2006.
After the events of 13th, I was returning to my then residence in Duliajan. Had a flight booked from Calcutta to Dibrugarh hopping at Guwahati. Unfortunately, ULFA had decided to have a state wide 12-hour bandh on that very day (and the day before as well). And when ULFA declares a bandh, it means Assam is shut down. While checking-in at the Calcutta airport, I was informed that Dibrugarh airport was shut down as ground crew could not reach the place. This had led to the cancellation of the Guwahati-Dibrugarh leg of the journey. I was given an option to cancel or go to Guwahati. I had to return urgently so took the latter option while thinking of options for the journey onwards.

The flight to Guwahati was uneventful. Then had to get off at Guwahati airport itself. Was wondering about the options ahead. The whole state was closed down, so even overnight buses wouldn't have been running. And nothing was going to open before 6 P.M. till the bandh ended (One point to be noted here, in Assam the bandhs are called off exactly at the time mentioned). While I was thinking about the options, the airline ground crew began collecting the passengers who were in the same predicament. Also at the same time I received a call from the airline, detailing my options. The offers included a ticket two days after with stay arranged for in the interim. However, I had to report back to work as early as possible. So the caller promised to look into some alternative arrangements.

In the mean time, the airport manager had already started making alternate arrangements. Refunds for those who wanted it or else transport to Dibrugarh via road. I preffered the second option. This option was also confirmed by the airline office via call. However as the bandh was still on for a few hours more road journey couldn't be started immediately. Thanks to the staff, the next few hours at the airport were as comfortable as could be possible in the cirucmstances. In the evening, our vehicles had arrived and an overnight journey followed. And they ensured that the passengers were taken to their actual destinations and not just the airport. For me it was my rooms in Duliajan which was a further 60 km away from Dibrugarh airport.

This was a good experince on customer relationship management which years in B-school wouldn't have provided. The airline in question? Kinghfisher who really treated customers as guests.

Why am I writing this today? Well, two reasons. (a) I had promised to write about this experience someday (taken over 5 years though), and (b) reading about the troubles at the Kingfisher Airlines with fears of the airlines being shut down. That day's experiences had got Kingfisher a fan for life in me. This is a story that I have oft-repeated, whenever talk of airline services arises. And I certainly look forward to travelling on Kingfisher again. Hoping Mr. Mallya and company are able to sort out this trouble.

P.S. The life-altering event was the interview for IIM-Indore. Sometimes I do wonder what would have happened if the bandh had begun on 12th instead of 13th & 14th and I had missed that interview...

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Writer's Block

Occasionally, this blog endures periods of extended silence. These are times when I do not feel enthused enough to put thoughts in writing on any subject. Its not that there is any dearth of ideas. The problem is they are just ideas. Like a nice little sentence which makes a great punchline but without any background (So it goes onto twitter) 

At times like these I post just for the sake of posting. (e.g. this post). A post for the sake of a post results in a series of incoherent ramblings (again, refer this post). Given that I have leased my soul to the devil and in return having a zombie like existence for the past few days (basically doing overtime as a salaried person), this is the kind of post that could emerge.

I did try looking at world in general to get some ideas for a post. All I could turn up with were
  • My own recent zombie like existence - Nope, not crying to the world for seeking attention (or maybe I have already done that here :P)
  • Anna & his teams latest - Already expressed my misgivings on the subject. AND I am not a journalist and neither is this blog a newspaper.
  • England playing India - Good idea, but wait I have a separate blog dedicated to cricket for that (like Star Cricket, Ten Cricket, Neo Cricket). [Aside -I did some promotional work here. Will I get paid for this?]
  • The most over-promoted film of all time. RA.One - still a couple of weeks to release and I am bored of it jumping out of TV, cricket, twitter, youtube and from GOK where not. [And here I go again, inadvertently doing some more promotion work]
In short, nothing to write but still have managed to put in 342 words here.  (Yes the words have been counted, I am that bored). Which reminds me of this demotivational poster (copied from, link here)

Enough for now.
Till next time, hopefully with some actual ideas (which are nobody's monopoly)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rs 32/Day???

According to the Planning Commision of India, a person living in urban India is not poor if he can spend more than Rs. 32/day and in rural areas the ceiling gets lowered to Rs 26/day. First thought which came on reading this news article was has the government any idea of the real ground situation? Have they done any reasearch into real cost of living at all? So if a person can't spend Rs 961/month he is "below poverty line" and it seems over 40 crore Indians are below this cutoff, which is an even bigger disgrace. And this is the government mandated poverty line. The more realistic number would be even higher.

Below is the break-up of how the figure had been arrived.
  • Rs 3,860/month  for a family of 4 living in the 4 metro cities.
Daily Expenditure
  • Cereals - Rs. 5.50/day
  • Pulses - Rs. 1.02/day
  • Milk - Rs. 2.33/day
  • Edible Oil - Rs. 1.55/day
  • Vegetables - Rs. 1.95/day
  • Fruits - Rs. 0.44/day
  • Sugar - Rs. 0.70/day
  • Salt & Spices - Rs 0.78/day
  • Other Foods - Rs. 1.51/day
  • Fuel - Rs. 3.75/day
Monthly Expenditure
  • Rent & Conveyance - Rs. 49.10/month
  • Healthcare - Rs. 39.70/month
  • Education - Rs 29.60/month
  • Clothing - Rs. 61.30/month
  • Footwear - Rs. 9.60/month
  • Other Personal Items - Rs 28.80/month
Wonder which era the Suresh Tendulkar Committee is living in? Have they tried themselves living with such resources for a week, forget a month. And all this from a government headed by a "renowned" economist. This seems to be an exercise undertaken in reverse gear. Instead of trying to find out the number of people under poverty line by fixing the line, it seems to have pegged the number and then fixed the line accordingly. And if this is not the case then it makes me wonder what kind of 5 year Plans are built on this basis.

Here is an interesting blog on the subject:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Where Was I?

Today is September 11, 2011. exactly a decade after probably the single biggest and most spectacular terrorist attack which humankind has seen. Co-ordinated hijacking of 4 civilian airlines itself would have been a big thing  but to use those planes filled with civilians as weapons was an unprecedented attack on humanity. Today being the 10th Anniversary, millions of articles will be published. Hence I will not be going into any details of the attacks.  This post is about my 9/11 memories and its aftermath.

9/11 Day

I was a fresher in engineering college, having joined in July. In fact I wasn't even aware of the attacks till some time. After dinner the daily "Bakar"session was on. In this group one fellow came excitedly saying that there have been terrorist attacks in the US. This was a shocking news. Then he added that the WTC had been hit by planes and some more planes had been hijacked. The hostel TV wasn't working. Personal internet connections were still unheard of. Mobile phones still charged for incoming calls, so no one around had them. One person went to the campus STD booth  and called his home and got the news confirmation. Someone else mentioned that there was a working TV set in another hostel. So we proceeded towards that, a bit apprehensive though. After all the ragging period hadn't been over as yet. But needn't have worried about that as the news was much more interesting than a bunch of "murgas" (as we freshers were referred to as). Watched TV for some time and got to know of the scale of destruction caused. Went back with the mind numbed at the scenes witnessed on TV. Sleep was fitful. The next day papers carried all the grim news. 

Aftermath of 9/11
The hostel TV was repaired on an immediate basis. And the news channels were watched with great interest. 9/11, Osama bin Laden, WTC, Anthrax, You are with us or against us, Global war on terror... these were some of the terms added to the "bakar" sessions. Newspapers had reading material and sales of weeklies like India Today & Outlook had dramatically increased in the hostel.

10 years to the day of the deadliest terror attack on humanity. And this is what I remember from those days. The attacks may have taken in a land far away. I did not know any of the people who lost their lives in 9/11 nor did I know anyone who was around the place on that day. But something inside me certainly felt the attack. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Road Rush

A few months back, having witnessed a spate of accidents and near misses during a 15 minute bus ride, I had written this post. It was pretty disturbing to see all these totally avoidable incidents. A little bit of road-sense and restraint could have easily avoided all these incidents. These thoughts came back to me after witnessing some more such drama again.
Incident 1 - Was waiting for the bus to come to take me back home. The bus duly came, slowed down while getting near the stand. However a car also stopped bang in front of it to pick a person waiting there. The bus driver had to brake real hard to avoid running into the car. Not only ignorant of his mistake the fellow driving the car starts shouting at the bus before moving away.
Incident 2 - on the same journey.  The people generally get on from the rear of the bus and get off from the front.The bus was crowded. And there was a heavy rush at a particular stop. Some ladies started climbing on to the bus from the front. This inspite of the protests from the driver. The bus got further jampacked. This also made it more difficult stuck in the middle to get off at their designated stops.
Incident 3 - Well this is a daily happening and not particular to this day. At the traffic signals the vehicles are stopped right over or in some cases even after the zebra crossing. No thoughts spared for how the pedestrians are supposed to navigate through and cross the roads. And I just not understand how much of time is saved by stopping a couple of yards behind or ahead.
Incident 4 - A bus was trying to turn into a street. Task had been made more difficult due to an SUV parked at the corner. As the bus turning, a biker came in trying to weave his way through. And that was the start of a small traffic jam. All the biker had to do was wait for maybe 30 seconds at most. Instead the ensuing jam must have resulted in a 5 minute delay.
In conclusion, all I can say is, We, the people of India just lack traffic sense, and have a knack of not following rules which have been made for our own convenience. I know our road infra-structure is bad, our streets are crowded with vehicles, and the traffic police is more interested in money making but the traffic would still improve drastically if we showed even an iota of respect to these rules and had basic road sense.

P.S. All incidents from Navi Mumbai area on the evening of August 30th, 2011.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anna & the Anti-Corruption Movement - My Take

I'll begin with making one thing clear. I am against corruption. And would support any movement which can eradicate this. Do I believe that the Lokpal Bill will be the cure for corruption in the country? I do not know, but certainly would like to believe that it might help.
First a little recap of the events going on.
Earlier this year in April, Anna Hazare went on a fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to ask/force (?) the Government to propose the Lokpal Bill. The country was then on a patriotic high. This had come just days after India had won the World Cup. The movement generated a lot of awareness in the people about the Lokpal concept. And certainly there was a massive outpouring of support for the cause. Anna Hazare had become the rallying point for the public's fight against corruption. My thoughts post the fast are here
Post the fast there were some more copycat fasts. Prominent was the drama created by Baba Ramdev and the Union Government. A whole team of cabinet ministers went to receive the Baba. And then there was a police crackdown at his fasting stage, which resulted in civilians getting tear-gassed and injured, while the Baba did a dramatic football style dive and escaped wearing a shalwar kameez (Just wondering, with his appearance, how much of a disguise was a woman's dress?). Post the crackdown, the public sentiment had swung in the favour of Baba till he started making weird statements about creating an armed force to take on the government (I guess a good enough reason for putting him behind bars, but the Government did not want to  take the risk).
Back to Annaji and the Lokpal Bill now. A joint drafting committee was formed with representatives from the Government and the "Civil Society" (another interesting term, which implies that the democratically elected Parliament represents the non-civil society). The Government produced a pretty mild version of the bill proposal with not too much powers to the Lokpal, while the "civil society" had a much different version. (Critique of the government bill is here and here is a comparison made by a news site, a presentation on the subject is here). Not satisfied with the Government's draft, the civil society led by Annaji proceeded on a second round of fasting.
Again there has been massive outpouring of support in the media and on the social networks for Anna Hazare. I have also seen demonstrations and rallies in his support. And these have been mostly voluntary. However I am not too sure of the public support which is coming right now. The support is there not as much in favour of getting a bill, but an outburst of the built up frustration in the people. Just too many scams, bribery at every level of the government machinery, inflation and just too many people. And the Government is not helping its own cause by behaving in an idiotic manner. Arresting Anna was a stupid move, and  with spokespersons like Manish Tiwari, Kapil Sibal, Digvijay Singh speaking for the ruling party, the Anna movement certainly did not need any campaigners for their cause. (An aside - The BJP must be really thankful that it is sitting in the Opposition right now)
The movement can be summed up as follows. The public is fed up, they wanted to do "something" and this looked like that "something", so why not do this. I am all for supporting the agitation but there are a few things about the movement/agitation which is worrying me.
First of all, there is a growing mass hysteria. Anna's supporters have built a George Bush kind of "Either you are with us, or against us" attitude. A person need not support Anna Hazare, and can still be against corruption. Try posting any statement which may seem to be in favour of government or against Anna and his team and look at the abuse you'll get. There seems to be no room for a contrarian view point. Definitely not an ideal condition in any democracy.
Then there is the hysterical media coverage. The coverage has been focussed on the activities going on while forgetting the main issue. What I see is logistics of fast being arranged at Ramlila grounds, whether and when Anna will leave Tihar or not, which celebrity has tweeted his support for Anna. What I don't see is the point-by-point debate on the two drafts. Or is that something which no one is caring about. The movement seems to be losing focus. (Or maybe it might have slipped from my attention due to all the jingoism everywhere)
The movement has been hyped up the Lokpal Bill as a panacea for all corruption. Nobody knows yet what form it is going to be, forget the implementation part. The Government draft  does not achieve anything, but neither does Anna's. If implemented in current form, that would be the end of all government functioning. We have already seen how a hyper active CAG through its "selective media leaks" has paralyzed a couple of union ministries. The ideal bill would be certainly something in-between the two drafts, but will either side listen to it. Even if Anna's version is proposed, the final law has to be passed by Parliament, which will certainly be a toned down version. What does Anna do then?
There already seems to be a 3rd version of the bill getting drafted by Aruna Roy. Hopefully that will enable public debate on the bill. At this rate I think all citizens should get in the bill drafting mode. Why not go in for a "crowdsourced" bill like the recently drafted Constitution of Iceland?
As for the public uprising going on, I get a feeling of deja vu here. Remember 26/11 and the citizen rallies which took place after that. Lots of frustration came out. People took to the streets, candlelight marches, posters and slogans against the Government. The TV channels were building up the hype. The stage looked set for a revolution. And then when the elections were held within 6 months of that heinous incident, hardly 40% people voted in Mumbai. Now where were the bringers of change?
There is a need for change. But the way the movement is going on, I do not see any change being brought forth. Though I am no expert in these matters, I guess we already have enough laws and their implementation mechanism in place. What we don't have is the willingness to follow them. And that certainly can't be created by just another law.
I don't have a solution myself but I am certain that what I am seeing all around is neither.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

India @ 64

Its Independence Day time. And also the time for my annual review of the year gone by for India. A tradition which has now gone into its 5th year. (Previous editions are here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).
The year gone by could be summed up in one word - Corruption. You heard the word everywhere. It was associated with every major and minor happening in the government, media, sports, wherever you like it.  The scandals and scams kept rolling out. The Commonwealth Games, the 2G Spectrum case, the Nira Radia tapes. The CAG was in a hyper active mode, investigating one issue after the other. But with almost every report of theirs being leaked to the media before getting tabled in Parliament, some doubts regarding their motives also came into mind. Amidst all this there was a large anti-corruption stir being raised in the people, with Anna Hazare being at the fore-front of it all. However, even this movement was almost hijacked by the antics of certain jokers. The government tried to crush some of the movements but don't know if it worked. (Just an aside - Baba Ramdev's jump from the podium during the police lathicharge at his fast reminded me of Christiano Ronaldo's dives for a penalty more than anything else). 
The Prime Minister seems more helpless then anything else. The opposition is useless. The President and Vice-President are unheard. I guess a total lack of leadership right now. Then there are politicians like Digvijay Singh, who has become a case of diarrhea of words. The various party spokespersons provide perfect examples of why "Freedom of Speech" can be taken away in some instances.  
The Nira Radia tapes showed that the bringers of "news" can't be trusted any longer. The media has long since degenerated into a sensationalist "Breaking News" mode. Even trivial incidents are blown up. When the blasts took place in Mumbai, from the news channels it would have seemed that the entire city was under siege, whereas in reality most parts of it were quite calm. Another case in point, repeatedly showing the video of a family getting washed away during a flash flood without caring about the sentiments of the relatives. Then of course we have the "Match Ka Mujrim" type shows which bring in some failed international cricketers then speak about the performances of the current players as if they are criminals.
The sports front had some extra-ordinary highs and then deep lows. There are some major contenders for sporting highs. Saina Nehwal winning the Badminton gold to take India to the 2nd place in overall rankings in the Commonwealth Games, the 4X400m relay quartet winning the gold and the biggest of them all, the ODI World Cup victory. Don't think there would have been a bigger celebration than when Dhoni hit the winning six. Indian cricket was the top of the world. We were the Test No. 1, and ODI world champions. Since then the dream run has turned sour with an ordinary performance in West Indies and then getting hammered by England to lose the No. 1 test status.  In other sports, we had the super athletics shows in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. The 4X400 women's relay final in the Commonwealth Games was one of the sporting highlights of the year. However, the star 4X400 relay quarter has been since involved in a big doping scandal. In tennis, the Indian Express is back together. And we are all set to host our first F1 race, with the likelihood of  2 Indian drivers racing.
Dabbang was awarded the national award for "Wholesome entertainer of the Year". I guess that sums up the state of the entertainment industry. The item songs ruled the roost with Munni & Sheela top of the charts.

So this is how much I can recall of the current Indian state. There are bad things going on. But the awareness against them is increasing. And the public wants to act. Its good to see some hope.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

When the Phone Went AWOL...

"Its not just a phone, its You", so says Priyanka Chopra in an ad for a mobile company. Couldn't have been a more apt description of what the cell phone has become to our lives. And as with all good things, you only realize its importance when it goes missing. And I had the first hand experience over the past 24 hour period.
Yester evening, climbed on to the public bus to take me home. After some time checked my pockets to realise that my cell phone is no longer there. So asked around, then borrowed a fellow traveler's phone to dial my number and heard the following words, "आपण डायल कियेला नंबर बंद आहे" (The number you called is switched off). Definetely hadn't switched it off myself. So the obvious conclusion someone had nicked it and switched it off. On any given day losing something is bad. But having lost a newly bought smartphone was pretty devastating. Reached home, used the world wide web to ask a few friends to keep trying my number. All of them reported the same "switched off" message. Pretty much confirming that it had not been misplaced but stolen.
While sitting at home, realised that no one could call me up if they wanted to. I was pretty much untraceable. Now this was a thought which was at the same instance very liberating and very scary. What if somebody was trying to call me. What would they be thinking? (And someone actually was and was getting very worried). Amongst the random thoughts which came in during this period was how was I going to order pizza? (Ok some misplaced priorities here). Thoughts also went to the amount of personal info I had on my phone that could be accessed. Pretty scary.
Now for things to do in case of losing a phone.

  • File an FIR with the police. But be sure you go to correct police station. I went into 3 different ones before being able to file the report. Learning - The police have very well defined jurisdiction areas and they follow it very strictly. You cant, just CANT, file a report anywhere else. The closest station from the incident need NOT be the correct one as I found out today morning.
  • Next step. Get the SIM blocked. No thief will have the phone ON after taking it. But it needs to be done to get your old number activated on the new one. A process which may take a day or two.
  • Register your phone IMEI number. Would not help in getting your phone back but still is a good idea.
  • If you are accessing mails, twitter, social networking by your phone, CHANGE your passwords immediately.
  • And most importantly. Inform your loved ones immediately. Lack of access in these heavily connected days is very unnerving.

P.S. And forget about the handset. Very unlikely you are ever going to see it again. Probably the ideal time to move on to the next one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Larger Lifeline?

Sitting at my desk at work, needed to jot down a note. The hand made its way to the shirt pocket and realised that the pen had not been brought. Remembered that I had been given one as an acknowledgment of a recent activity. So took it from my office cupboard. I noticed that there was a little inscription on it with the company logo. It read - "Smaller Waistline - Larger Lifeline". It certainly brought a smile to my face before some more thoughts came at their own leisurely pace.
Larger here certainly referred to having a long life but do we really want a "larger lifeline" for ourselves. For our loved ones, certainly yes. But for your own sake. Are their really any benefits of having a larger ordinary lifeline.
Reminds me of the line from the movie Anand - "Zindagi Badi Honi Chahiye, Lambi Nahi" (Your life should be large not just long).
Maybe, just maybe, the folks at office did get this line right just by accident. But then how would a small waistline make life large? Or has it got anything to do with the Royal Stag tagline - "Have I made it large?"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Not Again...

Yester evening (July 13, 2011) I got a text message. It read - "Just read about the blasts in Mumbai... is everthing fine at your end?". A bit confused, I switched on the TV and and saw our news channels going wild with their "Breaking News" mode. Texted back that I was Ok and then kept watching the "Breaking News". And the first feeling that came to mind was "Not Again".
Frustration, Anger and sense of helplessnes were there as the pictures unfolded on the TV screen. And the worse than these was the feeling of deja vu. The pictures were nothing new, they had all happened before time and time again. Multiple cities had been the target of series of bomb blasts. But Mumbai has been a repeated target. The financial capital, a city always in rush, lots and lots of people - all these factors making it probably the ideal target for terroists.
After the blast comes the condemnations from various quarters (does anybody not condemn the terrorist strikes) with special mention being provided to the condemnation from the President of the USA by our media. Followed by opposition trying to score brawny points by blaming the government for not preventing the attacks while never giving a single suggestion of note on the issue. In the meanwhile, there are the TV channels broadcasting "live" images of dead bodies. Also hyping up the event much beyond it actually was. As an example seeing the news channels on yesterday, the impression of an entire city under seige would have been created while in reality most of the parts life was going on as normal as it could. In the meanwhile the victims are rendered as nameless entities reduced to being a statistic on the latest terror strike count.
The cycle doesn't stop here when the next day people try to go back to their normal lives, the so called "spirit and resilience" of the city is hailed. I have been living here for the past 3 years. I can say its not spirit or resilience which makes the people get back to their lives. With so many attacks over the years, they have simply become immune to all of it. And this is why the people in the city move on so easily after the initial shock and outrage.
As for me, some feeling of outrage vented out via this medium and back to normal life now. After all there is nothing around me which suggests that something this terrible happened not too far from where I am sitting right now.

I found a good post on the same subject here.

P.S. However, even such times can have silver linings. Received a few texts & calls from friends and family whom I otherwise may not have spoken to in quite some time.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

My Good Deed of the Day

I did something good today. And I was left with an awesome feeling which needed to be shared with a little write-up.
A blood donation camp had been organised in office today. Initially I was quite apprehensive about it. I had  given blood earlier in drive oragnized in my college, but the experience was quite a painful one. The memories of that had prevented me from taking part in any such activities again. So inspite of knowing about the drive, I wasn't quite interested in participating in it. But a colleague of mine somehow managed to convince me into going. Rather he talked me into accompanying him to the camp. Reluctantly I agreed to accompany him but no more than that. Once we reached the venue, saw quite a people taking part. The sight of so many people voluntarily donating blood was a good enough inspiration. So picked up the form and filled it and went over to the complete the formalities.
Blood pressure checked, found ok, a pin prick to the finger and the haemoglobin count was found ok. And off I was to donate with a collection bag in hand. A slight wait while the others finished up. And then I was flat on the bed, with a tube inserted into my left arm while a smiley ball was in the hand for pressure and circulation (A suggestion - use opposite hands for checking the haemoglobin and donating). Within a few minutes the bag filled up and the tube was removed (the most painful part of the entire exercise). A injection point covered with a bit of plaster and all that remained was a slight prickling pain in the left arm. Apart from that nothing else. Photographs also duly taken for memories (and for facebook :P)
Left the place after some coffee and biscuits and back to my desk within the hour. 
Why am I writing all this. Because I hope it might encourage other people to clear their apprehensions and donate blood. The pain involved is very small and nothing compared to the awesome feeling you get off having done something good. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Social Media Experiment

Yesternight (May 31, 2011) me and a couple of friends took part in a so-called  "Social Media Experiment". Here are the results of our experiment.

Objective - To create a Trending Topic on the Twitter.

"Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" was trending worldwide. Now why it was, was a mystery. This was the issue raised by one participant. After a bit of research work turned out the title song had been sung on some singing contest (some Indian Idol type show somehere). Inspired and motivated by this piece of info, the 3 particpants decided to create a trending topic of their own.

Search for a Topic
Suggestion to make "Ringa Ringa" video trend worldwide was immediately shot down. #dialoguesfrom80smovies was ignored (sample line - "main tera khoon pee jaaonga"). Search continued. Events happening in the world were closely examined. 
Rohan Bopanna & Aisham ul Haq Qureishi were playing in French Open  Quarter-Finals against the top seeded Bryan Brothers. A pretty close fight going on (currently tied at 5-5 in the deciding set when bad light stopped play).
So there it was, our search was over. And we found our trending topic (or rather the topic we planned to trend). It was going to be the #indopakexpress.

Process Steps
1. Use the tag in whatever tweet we made & tweet as much as you could. (Score updates; abuse Star Sports for not showing the match live; put streaming links for the match)
2. Retweet each other.
3. Ask celebs to tweet about the match.
4. Contact people using the same hashtag.

1. Search for hashtag #indopakexpress & timeline began resembling each other.
2. Aman Ki Asha fellows got involved.
3. Post midnight, celebs are not online.

1. Limited twitter base (Ok one fellow did ask me about the streaming link, I should count that as a success)
2. Doubles tennis (Mens) does not make for a very exciting topic even though 2 countries are involved.
3. Post midnight is not the time to attempt to create a trending topic.
4. Live events need to be publicised beforehand to make them trend.

Random Observation
Today Sania Mirza is playing her doubles semi-finals while the indopakexpress vs bryanbros resumes. Now making Sania trend shouldn't be really diffcult.

Attempt not successful but to be persisted with.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May Musings

May is a special month. After all it is my birth month, as I recently got reminded via an e-mail from the medical department of my office to get my periodic medical examination done. Its the month in which the number which corresponds to my age in years gets bigger. And I start giving a different answer to the question, "How old are you?" But it still is just another number.
But what else does May correspond to? It is the height of summers. The days are long and hot. Also filled with laziness as one tries to shirk all activity during the day, blaming it on the weather. I sit back and pray for the rains to come and provide relief. Yet knowing fully well, that once the rains have arrived, I'd wish for it to go away.
There was a time when May was the most anticipated month. After all it marked the start of the almost two month long summer vacations. And they were quite fun filled ones. Visiting my grand-parents's places, spending time in the company of my cousins' brigade (there were lots of us). May also meant mangoes, reading comic books (rental basis, read & return), summer special issue, that was fun life. Cable television was still in infancy, while internet was unheard of. Yet unlike today, you had the holiday specials (Chhutti chhutti) to look forward to during the day. The only major sporting event to look forward to was the French Open, only the semis and the finals were telecast then. Side benefit of watching French Open was learning two French words (jeu=game & egalite=deuce). Those were real fun days.
And so on a May afternoon, I started thinking about the older days, or rather my younger days. And I wonder, where and when did the simple fun go from life? Can take leave from work but it certainly does not have the charm of the Summer vacations. And today when the cousins gather, when discussion earlier was on the latest adventures of Super Commando Dhruv & Nagraj now we talk about work, house, rent, tax, somebody getting married etc. Too many happenings all around but nothing is eagerly awaited like the French Open 1st singles semi-final which was telecast live. Something has certainly gone missing.

And did I grow up for all this?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Jhansi Ki Rani

I found the following picture on the internet, which claims to be the picture of Rani Laxmibai, the queen of Jhansi. Seems to be taken from a newspaper article. The text below the pic reads as (translated from Hindi) "this photograph was taken 159 years ago by British photographer Hoffman. This was featured in the World Photography Exhibition held in Bhopal (India) on August 19th. This photograph was sent by a collector of antique items in Ahmedabad".
Personally, I have doubts about the authenticity of the claim. Would like to know if this is real or a fabrication.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Fast & the Corrupt

Disclaimer: - The following are my views based on what I saw/read/observed during the past week and I am no expert in these matters.

Earlier this week, the entire country was in an excited state (at least thats what the media made us believe). Anna Hazare had written a letter to the Prime Minister informing him of his decision to go on a fast for a corruption free India. On getting no repsonse, he went on a fast which lasted till the demands on the Jan Lokpal bill had been met. What was amazing was the amount of support that he had been getting. Anna Hazare became the rallying point against corruption for one week. The question reamins, Now What?
The Indian public had been rightly fed up with the seemingly unending series of corruption scandals being reported. As someone rightly put - People wanted to do something, the Anna Hazare led Lokpal agitation seemed to be that something, so people jumped on to the cause. I can safely say most of his newly acquired supporters had neither heard of him or the Lokpal bill. But they came out in support immediately after the World Cup euphoria. Now my question here is, did the people who rallied behind this actually believe in the movement or they felt that something had to be done and this seemed like that "something"?
I might be sounding cynical, but I felt the support being shown was not for the cause but because it seemed the "cool" thing to do. Putting an "India Against Corruption" badge on your facebook display picture (which had the "Bleed Blue" badge till last week) became a sort of fashion statement over the past couple of days. And status messages/tweets saying "Anna Hazare is a rockstar" seem meaningless when most are not even aware of the cause he was fighting for. The social media seemed to have a belief that this fast was going to be the panacea of all problems when it was only a start.
Then there were people who tried to jump on the bandwagon. Some of the politicians with the worst cases of  corruption against them saying they support Anna Hazare. They were rightly turned away. The chief opposition party supporting the man only because it was a chance to score some brawny points over the government. There was a long list of film personalities coming in support. Lalit Modi tweeting support for the cause was comic to say the least. He was asking people to hold placards during the IPL matches. Wonder if he would have done the same if he had been the commissioner.
Then there was this disturbing trend on asking every personality to support the cause. A random article on a certain person would be filled with comments like why isn't he supporting this cause. An article on IPL had comments which stated - "none of the cricketers are supporting this, so lets boycott IPL". Seriously, this made no sense to me. You can't just force anybody to support you. This sort of jingoism probably defeats the very idea of satyagraha.
Now for the Battle against Corruption. Most of us not only indulge in but also actively encourage corrupt practices. Paying off the traffic police for minor violations rather than paying the full amount of fine. Submitting falsified HRA/Medical bills/Reimbursement claims to save on taxes. Applying for driving license/ passport through back door channels. Not taking the bill in lieu of a reduced price. These are just a few instances. Looking at all this somehow the battle against corruption starts sounding hypocritical. There was a nice tweet on this subject "Isn't it hypocritical that you sign an online petition supporting the fight against corruption using a pirated Windows OS?" Pretty much summed it up.
Now on a funny note. Indians abroad also planned to take out protest marches and candle light rallies. Given the recent events in Africa and Middle East, quite likely this might trigger the fall of some other government.

P.S. On re-reading, the above post has started sounding like me trying to do "something".

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Fight Against Corruption - Anna Hazare's Letter to the PM

Here is a reproduction of Anna Hazare's letter to the Prime Minister. Stated his points simply. Its good to see the support he is getting and hope this becomes the rallying point for the bigger fight against corruption.

Dear Dr. Singh,

I have started my indefinite fast at Jantar mantar. I had invited you also to fast and pray for a corruption free India on 5th April. Though I did not receive any reply from you, I am hopeful that you must have done that.
I am pained to read and hear about government's reaction to my fast. I consider it my duty to clarify the points raised on behalf of Congress party and the government by their spokespersons, as they appear in media:

1. It is being alleged that I am being instigated by some people to sit on this fast. Dear Manmohan Singh ji, this is an insult to my sense of wisdom and intelligence. I am not a kid that I could be "instigated" into going on an indefinite fast. I am a fiercely independent person. I take advice from many friends and critics, but do what my conscience directs me to do. It is my experience that when cornered, governments resort to such malicious slandering. I am pained that the government, rather than addressing the issue of corruption, is trying to allege conspiracies, when there are none.

2. It is being said that I have shown impatience. Dear Prime Minister, so far, every government has shown complete insensitivity and lack of political commitment to tackling corruption. 62 years after independence, we still do not have independent and effective anti‐corruption systems. Very weak versions of Lokpal Bill were presented in Parliament eight times in last 42 years. Even these weak versions were not passed by Parliament. This means, left to themselves, the politicians and bureaucrats will never pass any law which subjects them to any kind of objective scrutiny. At a time, when the country has witnessed scams of unprecedented scale, the impatience of the entire country is justified. And we call upon you, not to look for precedents, but show courage to take unprecedented steps.

3. It is being said that I have shown impatience when the government has "initiated" the process. I would urge you to tell me - exactly what processes are underway?

a. You say that your Group of Ministers are drafting the anti‐corruption law. Many of the members of this Group of Ministers have such a shady past that if effective anticorruption systems had been in place, some of them would have been behind bars. Do you want us to have faith in a process in which some of the most corrupt people of this country should draft the anti‐corruption law?

b. NAC sub‐committee has discussed Jan Lokpal Bill. But what does that actually mean? Will the government accept the recommendations of NAC sub‐committee? So far, UPA II has shown complete contempt for even the most innocuous issues raised by NAC. 

c. I and many other friends from India Against Corruption movement wrote several letters to you after 1st December. I also sent you a copy of Jan Lokpal Bill on 1st December. We did not get any response. It is only when I wrote to you that I will sit on an indefinite fast, we were promptly invited for discussions on 7th March. I wonder whether the government responds only to threats of indefinite fast. Before that, representatives of India Against Corruption had been meeting various Ministers seeking their support for the Jan Lokpal Bill. They met Mr Moily also and personally handed over copy of Jan Lokpal to him. A few hours before our meeting with you, we received a phone call from Mr Moily's office that the copy of Jan Lokpal Bill had been misplaced by his office and they wanted another copy. This is the seriousness with which the government has dealt with Jan Lokpal Bill.

d. Dear Dr Manmohan Singh ji, if you were in my place, would you have any faith in the aforesaid processes? Kindly let me know if there are any other processes underway. If you still feel that I am impatient, I am happy that I am because the whole nation is feeling impatient at the lack of credible efforts from your government against corruption.

4. What are we asking for? We are not saying that you should accept the Bill drafted by us. But kindly create a credible platform for discussions - a joint committee with at least half members from civil society suggested by us. Your spokespersons are misleading the nation when they say that there is no precedent for setting up a joint committee. At least seven laws in Maharashtra were drafted by similar joint committees and presented in Maharashtra Assembly. Maharashtra RTI Act, one of the best laws of those times, was drafted by a joint committee. Even at the centre, when 25,000 tribals came to Delhi two years ago, your government set up a joint committee on land issues within 48 hours. You yourself are the Chairperson of that committee.

This means that the government is willing to set up joint committees on all other issues, but not on corruption. Why?

5. It is being said that the government wants to talk to us and we are not talking to them. This is utterly false. Tell me a single meeting when you called us and we did not come. We strongly believe in dialogue and engagement. Kindly do not mislead the country by saying that we are shunning dialogue.

We request you to take some credible steps at stemming corruption. Kindly stop finding faults and suspecting conspiracies in our movement. There are none. Even if there were, it does not absolve you of your responsibilities to stop corruption.

With warm regards,
K B Hazare

Hoping and Praying that this is a start to reduce corruption.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Umbra & Penumbra of Life

Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
This was a theory which I had put forward as an explanation for people disappearing from our lives. As life moves on your earlier closest friends fade away and get replaced by new ones. And the cycle goes on. From school to college to work, the set keeps changing.
But nowadays thanks to the increased Social networking, it is becoming easier to keep track of the people who had gone away. But thats the only thing that social networking does. Keeps track, maybe an occasional meeting but the same level of friendlines? I doubt that.
And as the time flies the close ones become less and less while the social networking circle keeps expanding. I have a theory that this could be easily explained using the Light & Shadow effect of the Umbra & Penumbra. As life moves on the closer friend circle (equated to the Umbra region) becomes smaller, while the social network friends circle (equated to the Penumbra) goes bigger and bigger.

This is a theory I had mentioned in an earlier post. Would be glad to know if anyone else believes in it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Cricket Song

Cricket is the flavour of the season. The world cup is on. There have been a been a few cricket themed movies  (Lagaan, Iqbal, Awwal Number, Bodyline... come to mind immediately) and a few but nothing which really invoked the cricket spirit. Then I came across this uniquely cricketing love song here.

From an old Hindi film "Love Marriage" (1959) starring the evergreen one and only Dev Anand with Mala Sinha.
With lyrics which go like
She ne khela He se aaj cricket match... ek nazar me dil bechara ho gaya LBW

Definitely worth a watch

Friday, February 04, 2011

Once Upon a Time - The Irony

Memories are a funny thing. Incidents hidden somewhere in the grey matter jump out all of a sudden and you cant help but have a smile on the face. Today was one such instance. Was chatting with a friend on the subject of IP addresses getting depleted today. The talk moved to the concept of infinity then to the subject of calculus, onwards to the oil reserves in the world getting depleted in the next 40 years (?) to the uncoventional gas sources to coal bed methane to the debate of petroleum vs mining engineering (I know pretty huge variety but it had been a very logical flow of thoughts and ideas).
Now the last point reminded me of my final year engineering days. In one of the interviews I was asked how a post-petroleum engineering life is better than a post-mining engineering life. Now like a true petroleum engineer me gave the following reasons.
  1. better working conditions
  2. better locations
  3. higher salaries
  4. technology & analysis (or something like that)
My interviewers (fellow petroleum engineers) were obviously impressed enough to give me the job. And here is what I got in the job.
  1. Working in hot, humid conditions
  2. Located some place which was not exactly traceable on most maps
  3. A stipend as per PSU rates
  4. Technology usage - I remember climbing up on X-Mas trees (oil wells not the Christmas ones) with a pressure gauge to measure the flowing pressures. (Don't want to get any technical here, so no more details but it was dirty work to say the least)
Those days are now far behind me but do provide a few stories. Cant imagine the situation could  have been any more ironical.

P.S. Readers are requested not to not use this post as any comparison index between the two streams. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Saw this video shared on facebook. The poem is hauntingly beautiful. And nostalgic.

What is it about memories of your friends from school/college days that all of a sudden they just jump into the mind.