Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avatar - the Great American Guilt Trip

Am back here after a long time. And of all the things in life, it had to be a Hollywood movie that made me come back. Alas.... Yes, its Avatar.
Supposedly, the most expensive movie of all time. Surely one of the most disappointing of all time, according to me.
Firstly, what is all this about 'most expensive'? Is that supposed to make it attractive? Hardly. Its like that meaningless statistics that every subsequent Olympic/Asian/Commonwealth/ etc Games boast of. The BIGGEST games in history. Come on, pleeeeeeeez.
Anyway, back to the movie. It is a collection of all the things that America is adept at saying, but unfortunately never gets around to actually doing. So. What are they saying to the world (and to themselves, just in case you forgot)
1. We really should have treated the native Americans with a little more respect. But we killed most of them! Oops. Sorry, mate. But we couldn't help it, could we. They had bows and arrows, tomahawks, hatchets and what all! Can you imagine?? Savag.. Sorry. Wrong thing to say.
2. Vietnam was a big mistake. Kennedy died telling us so. But we weren't listening then. What could we have done? Let the Russians take over? NEVER. Here we come....
3. Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cub..(sorry, not Cuba, really. That man Castro. How we wish we had him then!) and so many mistakes later. We don't learn really, do we? Sorry again, chum. Next time. Promise.
4. We should never underestimate the strength of an ex-marine. After all, HE is the one who went and fought for a cause that was thrust upon him, got bullets riddled into his body and came back a broken man. No, but we won't learn. There's always the bully colonel who will push his way through. Never mind the fact that he will get blown up too. Who cares?
5. We want the minerals, ok? Yes! Well, EVERYONE wants them, right? So we wanted oil and uranium and this and that. Its just that in this movie we are calling it by a silly scientific-sounding name - Unobtainium. And to get that, we will blast away anything (or anybody, for that matter) who gets in our way.
6. Don't mess with the savag... sorry, the natives. Even if you have the most ultra-modern weapons, they are useless against their primitive bow and arrows. Because, damn, they know the terrain better than we do!
7. Its no use employing stupid gum-chewing managers to lead such sensitive projects. They will bulldoze their way using technology, but will get beaten sooner or later. Don't get carried away by his conviction. See how in the movie we show him asking rudely, "Jake, what do those blue monkeys want"?
I can list them endlessly, but will stop here.

Is it a 'bad' movie? Is it an entertainer? Ummm.... no and yes. Will kids love it? YES, SURELY.
But look at it closely, and it can just about compare with a B-grade Hindi thriller. Inane dialogues, sub-optimal use of technology and special effects (after spending all that money! That's the worst part!) and a very very predictable plot make it a dreary watch. And to top it all, it also matches very well with the Bollywoodean habit of stretching even the smallest story to almost THREE HOURS.
James Cameron gave us Titanic. Can't believe the same man could make such a disaster of a movie after that.
Last point. Even if one wants to admire the special effect, one can't. Star Wars (made decades ago) and Jurassic Park had a much better impact.
All in all, its an American-guilt-trip, and is a Sci-fi version of Pocahontas, with some bits of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars thrown in for special effects. The overall effect is really poor.
So much that at the last shot when Jake Sully's Avatar opens his eyes slowly, someone in the theater actually shouted, "Doctor saab. Mujhe kuchh dikhai nahi de raha. MUJHE KUCHH DIKHAI NAHI DETAAAAAAAA. Doctor SAAAAAB".
Psssst. That 'someone' was actually yours truly. My own way of getting back at the Americans. But are they listening? Nope.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guide book for politicians - elementary grade

Here is an easy-to-follow, simple-to-understand guide book for politicians. It is meant for general use, but it has been primarily written to help hapless politicians during the tumultuous period of elections and their aftermath.
Who can use this guide - Any politician who is thick-skinned. Ok, ok, I KNOW that this is a tautology of sorts, but its mandatory to write this on the 1st page of the Guide.

Eligibility criteria - None.

-work required - Not even expected.

Skill level needed - Very basic mathematics. (User should be able to identify 3-digit numbers. If person can answer que like "which number is bigger, 88 or 146 ?" - then he can use this guide effectively.)
Knowledge level needed - should be able to identify whether he is in ruling party or opposition party. That's enough.

Chapter 1 - What to say before elections
20 days before
For ruling party (RP) - We will come back to power. We have served the people for 5 years and they will give us their mandate.
For opposition party (OP) - The people are frustrated with the incompetent government. We will sweep the polls this time.

10 days before
For RP - We do not wish to politicize every little matter. Our fight is ideology-based.
For OP - You will see a miracle in the polls.

3 days before
For RP - Of course, I have no ambition to become Chief Minister. The High Command will decide.
For OP - Of course, I have no ambition to become Chief Minister. But if that is the wish of people....

Chapter 2 - On election day
For RP - Say nothing
For OP- Say nothing

Chapter 3 - On counting day
At 8.30 If you are in Winning Party (WP) - I was always confident of winning. The people have appreciated our work.
If you are in Losing Party (LP) - We will get absolute majority.

At 10.30

WP - (Say anything that will upset the LP. It doesn't matter what you say!)

LP - We will surely get absolute majority. These are only early trends. We are sure to see a change in the actual results.

At noon
WP - We thank the people for their support. It is the victory of democracy.
LP - We will surely get simple majority. I don't know where you have got these number from. I am in constant touch with my sources andmy information is different.

At 2 pm

WP - No, it is not for me to say who will be the Chief Minister. The party high command will decide.

LP - We will surely be the single largest party. There are several independents and also some like-minded parties who will support us.

At 4 pm
WP - (It REALLY does not matter what you say now. People don't care!)

LP - (Hey, what the heck, people don't care what you say either!) But in case you want to hog some footage on TV during the dying minutes of the program, then you can say things like "We will introspect the reasons for this failure." Note - if you are speaking to Hindi channels, then you say Chintan-baithak!

Next day at 10 am
WP - There is no dissidence on our party. The decision about Chief Minister will be unanimous.

LP - Our vote share has increased bu 0.01 % in 3 out of 290 constituencies, and that is a positive sign. We will sit in the opposition.

Next day at 4 pm
WP - I will be going to Delhi tonight.
Next day at 4 pm
LP (See below. Caution - for advance level only)

Option 1 - If you have lost - Ruling party adopted vote bank politics. We fought for our ideology.
Option 2 - If all your candidates have lost - No. There was no in-fighting in our party.
Option 3 - If you have lost your deposit - There is a conspiracy. Some Foreign hand is involved in this. I will declare the names at a suitable time.
Option 4 - If all your candidates have lost their deposits - Electronic voting machines are known to go wrong. We will take up the matter with election commission.

I wish the readers will help me in making this Guide Book popular. Please distribute free copies to all politicians. Hope they will find it nice. Unless, the person you are dealing with is Uddhav Thackeray, that is. The least he could have done is learn something from the Late Pramod Mahajan in what he did after the 2004 poll debacle. Long before other BJP bigwigs had accepted defeat, Mahajan candidly accepted not just defeat, but also owned up his share of responsibility as in-charge of the polls by saying it was his failure, and that his India Shining campaign had backfired. What does Uddhav have to say after the resounding defeat in the recent assembly polls? "This is not a defeat for Shiv Sena, and I am not at fault."

Some people insist on not using Guide Books and attending extra classes. What to do? Maybe in 2014.....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why BSNL is where it is.

I have been wanting to write this post for quite some days, but have been dithering. And there must be a reason for it. Having pondered over it for some time, I think the only reason why I have NOT posted this so far is because in spite of all that I write in this post, I have an implicit faith in Govt. machinery. People may disgaree with me, but still.
The other day, I went to BSNL office to surrender a Post-Paid connection. The lady at the desk nonchalantly pulled a paper out of the drawer and said,"OK, fill up this form, and submit it with your SIM card and a copy of the last paid bill."
Wow, is it that easy? I know that telecom companies pay handsome salaries to people for retaining customers. A churn (in cell phone company's parlance it means a customer intending to quit) is treated as serious business and efforts are made to retain the client. And here this lady seemed only too pleased to let me go. Nevertheless, I went a couple of days later with the form duly filled.
And the dialogue that followed went something like this -
BSNL - You will get another bill, for the period between this last paid bill and the date of termination. You will have to pay that.
I - But? I am terminating the service now, right? So why should I pay for a service which I am not going to use for the few days?
BSNL - You have to pay.
I - Well, OK. Here's the SIM card....
BSNL - (Keeps the SIM carefully inside a little ziplock bag) - Why are you terminating?
I - Because I don't want this service anymore.
I- So how many days will it take to actually terminate the connection, so that I can stop paying?
BSNL - Silence.
I - Ummmm....? 1 Week?
BSNL - Silence.
I - More than one week!!!
BSNL - We send the papers from here to Karve Road office, then they do the rest.
(Karve road office, incidentally, is ONE km. from where this dialogue transpired.)
I - So when will you send the papers to them? Today itself?
BSNL - (Looks at the watch) No. Maybe tomorrow.
I - And then? After you have sent the papers, how long do they take?
BSNL - Silence.
I - How long?
BSNL - Silence.
I - Does it take about a week? Or more?
BSNL - Yes. A week. Or maybe more.
I - OK. Two weeks?
BSNL - Yes. Two weeks. Maybe more.
(First round bell. I feel I am losing on points. At least I can avoid a knockout?)
I - OK, fine. What about deposit? Do I get some money back for the deposit I must have paid?
BSNL - Did you pay any deposit?
I - OH! I won't remember. It was really long ago.
BSNL - You will have to find out if you had paid any deposit.
I - And if there IS deposit, how do I get it?
BSNL - You will have to make an application, with a copy of the original receipt that we must have issued.
I - ORIGINAL RECEIPT? I am sure I cant find it now. There are too many papers.
BSNL - Without original receipt, we cannot give you anything.
I - I will try looking for it at home. But can't YOU tell me if there is any deposit pending?
BSNL - If you had paid 500 rs. then there is no deposit. If you paid more, then there is.
I - What does that mean? I said I don't remember how much I had paid. It was so long ago.
BSNL - It will be there in your original receipt.
I - And what if I cannot find the original?
BSNL - Silence
I - Can't you check in your system here?
BSNL - Silence.
I - I mean, I am sure you can just check the status of this SIM connection. Your system should tell you how much deposit has been paid - right?
BSNL - We can't check from here.

Checkmate. I give up.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The perils of being Sir

My work as an organizational consultant often puts me in front of people as a trainer. I have been conducting developmental workshops for the field sales managers of my client for some time. For the participants there, I am 'Sir' who has come all the way from Head Office to impart them with some knowledge. In spite of all the informality that I try to bring inside and outside the class, I still remain 'Sir' for them.
It is all satisfying to the ego and all that, but it has a downside to it. I often want to eat the local food, no matter if it is at a roadside joint. But these guys insist that Sir should eat at a nice place, preferably in the comfort of the hotel room itself.
Finally, yesterday night in Lucknow, I managed to convince one of them that I was perfectly OK eating at a 'Sir-but-it-is-not-a-nice-place' kind of eatery. So well past midnight, he took me to Charbagh area (near Lucknow station) and voila! The place was teeming with people as if it was evening and not 1 in the night.
The joint was not what you would call exactly 'hygienic', food was being cooked in a gigantic tandoor and two equally gigantic kadhais right outside on the footpath, waiters wiped the tables with an effortless swipe of a cloth that had seen better days, the source of 'Mineral Water' was definitely suspect, but hey, what the heck - the kheema and paratha tasted absolutely superb!

After I had licked my fingers clean and even procured myself a paan to my liking, my benefactor was convinced that I was not a stickler for sanitized nutrition. Then it became a matter of pride for him, and he promised to take me to eat some 'really good mughlai food' the next day. His argument was, "Sir (yes, that doesn't go away) this was OK, but Ameenabad is the best place to eat." Today late afternoon, after the workshop was over, I was glad that I had some hours at hand before catching the flight. So Sir was escorted to Ameenabad to - where else, but the ORIGINAL Tunday kabab place.

Once again, all matter of hygiene were put at rest the moment I put the first morsel of Galouti Kabab in my mouth and feel it simply melt.

Delicious stuff. This was followed by some equally nice kulfi falooda at another place snd then we headed to the airport (not before I had punched a big hole in my pocket by waiting at a shop selling the famous Lucknow Chikan material). As I was walking out of Tunday, I saw the portrait of the original Tunday Kababi, and the inscription below proudly proclaimed "suppliers to the Royal family of Avadh since 1791."

I may be getting the date wrong, but it was something more than two centuries old. Brilliant. I have always wondered at how proudly the suppliers of the Western world keep a track of their heritage and proclaim the same. Scotch Whisky, Cigars, Pipe tobacco, everything. And how no Indian supplier maintained such records and spoke about it. I am happy to be proved wrong by the Tundays. Long live Tunday Kababs! After Diwali, Sir will again be traveling to South India, then to East, then to Central. I hope Sir has sent the right message and gets to eat more of the local stuff.
Some months back, I had written about Tunday kabab and Lucknow food. Then, I had eaten at a more posh, upmarket outlet of Tunday (in Sahara mall at Hazratganj.) That was good, no doubt. But the rustic old world ambience of Ameenabad made the difference today.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where does the money go?

I just heard an interview of Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Dy. Chairman of the Planning Commission currently) on NDTV. I was startled on hearing something. Montek informed the viewers that we are not borrowing from the World Bank anymore. Good. We are also not borrowing from IMF either. VERY good, you would say?
On the contrary, we have actually LENT 10 billion dollars to the IMF. On first glance, this seems like something we Indians should be mighty proud of. After all, when the first reform budget of 1991 was announced, our reserves had dropped to an alarming 1 billion dollars, while today our reserves stand at 270 billion dollars. (Figures quoted by Montek himself.) So the reform budget and the ensuing 18 years have probably pulled India out of the economic doldrums . We all should be justifiably proud of it, right.
The question is, who is 'WE'? A minuscule population of urban Indians who can afford a car, an AC, a Blackberry and an iPod?
If we as a country can lend 10 billion dollars to the IMF, then the questions that haunt me are

- Why do millions of Indians still have to starve?
- Why do millions of Indian do not have access to basic medical services?
- Why does one farmer in Vidarbha have to commit suicide every day?
- It seems there is foodgrain surplus now. Then why are food prices going up all the time?
- Why are there frustrating power cuts? (In Pune, there is power cut from 9 to 5 on all Thursdays.)

I hasten to add that my rant is not against Montek at all. I have huge regard for him. I am sure he is bothered by the same questions himself. I wish someday I hear him give possible answers to them.
The money that we have lent to IMF surely has come from the taxpayers. (If it came from the black money that is generated, we could possibly lend 10 Trillion dollars. Not billion.) Is that why we pay taxes? So that the development in India can wait, while we lend money to the IMF?
I am not an economist by any stretch of imagination. I hope someone from the readers who are more enlightened on these matters can provide me the answers to these questions. Till then, I will keep hoping that Montek and Co. are taking India on the right path ahead.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Justice is blind. What does that mean, then?

The character of Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist says "The law is an ass." I don't know what prompted Dickens to write this strong-worded denouncement of what is considered to be higher than everything else, but the recent happening seem to prove him right.
Just a few days ago, I was chatting with my friend Prem Ayyathurai. He has just got into the Law School in Bangalore. (In case you think I have gone into a time warp, I have not. Prem is my daughter's classmate. But that does not stop him from being friend)
I was asking him how he is finding the subject, how are the classes etc. My curiosity stemmed more from my ever-present wonderment about this whole business called LAW. I mean, how does one 'learn' law? Thankfully, Prem assured me that they are not required to mug up the whole IPC.

Prem went on to tell me that the one thing he was beginning to come to terms with was - it is not so much about what the law says, but it is more about how the judge interprets it.
Which makes it really dangerous. I mean, in that case, it all depends on what the judge had for breakfast, whether s/he had a fight with his spouse in the morning, whether s/he encountered a traffic jam on way to the court, and whether his/her daughter has threatened to elope with the driver's son. If it is finally about how the judge interprets the law, then does that not make the whole thing rather subjective. And dangerously subjective, actually.
Ironically enough, in the past 24 hours, there are three court cases where strange events have unfolded, the kind which will make Mr. Dickens smile from ear to ear (I told you so! he will say)

1. Shiny Ahuja has been granted bail.
2. A maniac father who kept his two daughters chained in inhuman condition inside the house for years has been granted a bail for a paltry Rs.15000.

OK, both these cases are of bail and the final verdict is still weeks, months or more likely years away. But the third case is different.

3. A mother-daughter pair who were charged with kidnap and murder of a doctor in Pune and were sentenced to death by the lower court have been let off by the High Court. The HC has changed their death sentence of life imprisonment. Further, the HC did penalize them for kidnap and fined them Rs.50000.

The background is like this - The two women (allegedly) kidnapped Dr. Deepak Mahajan and demanded 25 lakhs as ransom from his family. When that didn't work, the two (allegedly) killed him by injecting him with a sedative. Further, they are (alleged) to have cut up his body into pieces and thrown them over a long distance on the highway.

Now, the sessions court had sentenced them both to death. Obviously, they appealed in High Court. Amazingly, the HC upheld the charges of kidnap, but not of murder. So what did the HC want to suggest? That Dr. Mahajan cut himself into small pieces? Or that Dr. Mahajan was simply lying down on the footpath of the highway and some butcher who was walking past simply wanted to test his chopper on him?

I am sure that the family of the deceased will appeal in Supreme Court and the case there will drag on for many more years. But - what if the SC decides to hang them? Will that put egg on the face of the HC judges? Or - will it simply prove what Mr. Dickens said - THE LAW IS SURELY AN ASS.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ill prepared for Commonwealth Games. So, what's new?

So with just over an year to go for the commonwealth games, Indian authorities finally wake up to the realities.
That we are ill-prepared. That the work for the stadiums etc. is going on (IF it is going on at all, that is) at a snail's pace and won't probably be completed in time.
Why did it take them so long to learn this lesson? That we Indians are ill-prepared, more often that not?
We were ill-prepared to counter 8 men who could simply land up on our shores, walk openly on our streets into our buildings and spray bullets randomly.
We were ill-prepared when hijackers could take control of our aircraft, land in Amritsar, take off again, land in Lahore, get refuelled, land in Dubai, take off again, and land in Kandahar.
We were ill-prepared when an aircraft could simply fly over our skies and drop arms in Purulia.
We were ill-prepared when hoodlums blinded with hatred could butcher thousands of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984.
We were ill-prepared when 13 bombs went off one after the other in our economic capital.
We were ill prepared when 7 bombs ripped apart our suburban trains.
We were ill-prepared when people could drive into our Paliament complex armed with automatic rifles.
More recently, we were ill prepared when a Chief Minister could coolly build a monument (of herself!!!) over ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY ACRES OF LAND IN THE MIDDLE OF ONE OF OUR STATE'S CAPITAL.

So, dear authorities, why are you so surprised? We have been ill prepared always. Even to counter our own internal detractors, leave alone outside forces. So why are you surprised, really?
OK, forget all these 'serious' matters. You are into sports, right? So let's consider that only.
Not too long ago, in 2009 in fact, your own Mr. Suresh Kalmadi did this very trick in Pune. With the Commonwealth Youth Games. The city of Pune needed better infrastructure, not the Games. We gullible residents of Pune beleived that development of roads etc. with the Games would eventually lead to the better infrastructure that we so badly needed.
The Games came. The roads were not ready. In fact, the planned Games village was also not ready. Shooters were practicing two days before the Ganes with construction workers still walking around the site in a frantic bid to complete the work.
The Commonwealth Youth Games came and went. And dear Mr. authorities, the road near my house (Paud road. One of the main arterial roads in the city - its unfortunate that it was not the one that led to the stadium!) is STILL being dug and re-dug and re-re-re-dug for THE PAST TWO YEARS !! It is exasperating, to say the least.
And where has Suresh Kalmadi been in all this? Invisible. We only saw him when he came for the blessed Games here.
So, dear authorities, don't worry. The Games in 2010 will happen. Suresh Kalmadi will make them happen. But soon after the Games, the stadium walls will develop cracks, velodromes will crumble, polygrass will come off, but it will make not an iota of difference to Suresh Kalmadi. He will continue to rule.

Cutting costs. At what cost?

The current austerity drive and what not of the Government is all fine, but I am afraid it is not going to work.
It is already not working, in fact.
Can the government do some SERIOUS cost cutting instead? Like doing a rethink about the level of security that is provided to politicians left, right and center? Like seriously disinvesting and privatising some of its dysfunctional PSUs? Like not providing freebies to all and sundry in form of subsidies?
This so called austerity drive by ministers traveling economy class and other nonsense will only serve as a political gimmick. And I suspect that is all it is supposed to do. So in that sense, it is a sparkling success!
Other than the fact whether it works or not, consider its implications otherwise. If all politicians start traveling by train like Rahul Gandhi, imagine the amount of security that will have to be deployed at railway stations and in trains. (Already there is a brouhaha over Rahul's train being pelted with stones.)
It will only create more nuisance for the common man. We already have enough trouble at airports with politicians; why cause the same at railway stations?
So - all you khaadi-clad netajis, please go ahead and do what you have to do. Because anyway I don't think you really run this country. It is run by the government machinery (and please, don't mistake yourself to be THE Government, ok? I mean the people in offices who work. WORK. Do you understand) and by the millions of 'aam aadmi' who work honestly, earn their salaries, pay their taxes, send their children to school, board public transport only after buying legitimate tickets, and follow road rules when driving.
All unlike you, who do nothing of this sort.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Southern mania

More than 60 people have died following YSR Reddy's demise in Andhra Pradesh. Some of these due to shock, others due to suicide. So much that YSR's son had to make an appeal to people to stop taking these drastic steps. One channel in fact reports this number as a shocking 122 people.
I can understand the feeling of sadness following the death of a leader. I felt it myself when Pramod Mahajan passed away. I had never seen him, leave alone knowing or interacting with him. Still.
But suicide? That's a different matter altogether.
What is it with South leaders, that they are able to whip up this frenzied support from masses? Or does it have something to do with South Indians as a whole? Political figures becoming colossal icons in the minds of people is not rare in South. MGR, NTR, Raj Kumar, Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi... the list is endless. Chiranjeevi is the latest addition to this I presume.
Or is it something that is a very Indian trait? But I don't see such frenzy in other Indian states, it is too pronounced in South. I am sorry if I sounding parochial, but there seems to be more to this than meets the eye.
How does culture influence the way we see our leaders? Did something similar happen after the demise of Gandhi, Nehru or Patel? I was not born when that happened. But I clearly remember Indira Gandhi's assassination and its aftermath. I don't recall so many people killing themselves (they killed others, but that's a different story). Now, Indira Gandhi was a national figure, unlike YSR or anyone else mentioned above. There surely were people who grieved her passing away, but not many took the drastic step of ending their own lives.
So instead of it being an Indian trait, is it a Dravidian trait? And if it is, what part has cultural upbringing played in this trait becoming so pronounced? Or is the loud media that plays a part in this sordid drama?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gastronomic marathon

There are many things for which I consider myself extremely fortunate. There is an equally plausible statement about some other things that make me feel I was born at the wrong time and place but then - I am feeling far too optimistic in life currently to dwell upon that.
One of these things that make me smile from ear to ear (I don't do that literally actually. Some of my friends say that I hardly smile !!!) is the work that I do. Within that, there are some sub-topics. Foremost of course is the myriad people that I get to meet - they enrich my life continually. I travel a lot and that brings a collateral benefit. FOOD. Yes, I get to eat a startling variety of food. I am sure that it all puts my digestive system in a disarray trying to figure out the forever-varying inputs. Now why do I say this about the variety of food that I get to eat? I have a very good reason for this claim. Now, how many people get to eat the following - ALL within ten days?

In Lucknow -
Tunday Kabab
Murg Shanno Kabab
I forgot their name but they were melting-in-the-mouth-type-paneer-kababs.

In Kolkata
Kakra Chingri (for those who are un-initiated into Bangla cuisine, this is crab and prawn, with lots of mustard oil of course, cooked in a banana leaf)
Chingri Aloo Poshto
Hilish Maachh
A gigantic fish that goes by the name Betaki

In Kolkata - specifically at Flury's
Almond Pretzels
Almond and Honey Horseshoe
Cheese Croissant
Cheery Bun

In Chennai
Idlis at Murugan (TN Chetty Road, where else?)
Dosas at Saravana Bhavan
Filter Kaapi - South Style, of course

Statutory Warning - there is a dish called 'Seven Taste Uttapam' available in Sarvana. Its a fraud. Its just seven tiny little Uttapams with different toppings. And one of them, hold your breath, is actually Mixed Fruit Jam! Just in case you think I am joking, there is another one with ketchup too.

So - that's how I am fortunate, barring the odd mis-adventure of Uttapam Seven Taste. And the list does not stop there. I am going to be in Hyderabad on the day after. And its Ramazan time. Yummmmmm...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

History. Or just His-story?

Who is to be blamed for partition - Jinnah, Nehru or Patel?
How much did LK Advani know about Kandahar action?
Was Pokharan-II successful or not?

Three cases of historical events becoming skeletons in the cupboard. All in one month. The irony is whether anything will ever come out of these (other than politicians getting their pound of flesh and news channels getting more 'breaking news, that is). More than 60 years have passed since the first event and all the three characters being spoken about are no more. The other two events will surely remain shrouded forever behind the doors of diplomacy, bureaucracy and defence. Allegations and counter-allegations will continue for few months and then it will all be put behind, till someone finds anther skeleton in the cupboard called History of India.
That brings up another point. Why is history so distorted in India? Or is it so everywhere? Why are events not documented as they have happened, without quickly adding our subjectivity to them, and promptly creating heroes and villains out of the event? Once the heroes have been honoured and villains castigated, it becomes the official record. Fifty years later, someone interprets it differently and all hell breaks loose.
Is there ever any such thing as an accurate description of an event? Is it possible - or does history as a concept always have to be subject to the state of mind of who documents it? Whose history does it then become, or does it only remain his-story.
Last week in Lucknow I saw giant monuments being erected, honouring Ambedkar, Kanshiram and of course Mayawati. I am not any history expert but I think Ambedkar's teachings have already been distorted and twisted and wrongly implemented by factions to gain their mileage. I believe Ambedkar never demanded reservation till posterity. So, fifty years from now, how will Mayawati be seen, with her statues adorning every other corner in Lucknow (and many other towns in UP)? Maybe she is smart enough to understand this aspect of Indians having a short term memory and is ensuring her place in history by skilfully writing her-story at the expense of taxpayer's money. So her megalomania might not find a place in our recorded history at all. The only thing that will stand out and be seen will be her statues. My friend commented on seeing the statues - "have you noticed? In all her statues she is carrying a purse....!" So will my friend's witty observation and the subtle interpretation therein be recognized by history? I doubt very much.
Another case - Prabhakaran and LTTE. How will he be referred to 50 years later? There are opposing views about him even in the present, so less said the better about what will happen in future.
Is history a reality of the past or simply a story of the past about which all we can say is - may or may not be true?
Just yesterday I was going through 'Horizons - The Tata-India Century 1904-2004.' The inside cover says that it is a "comprehensive and sparkling record of a hundred years of Tata in Indian history." Since it is a coffee table book, I was curious about how the not-so-sparkling events have been reported. I was glad to read the frank and clear account of three such events - the inglorious exits of Rusi Mody, Ajit Kerkar and Dilip Pendse.
So I suppose there are some people who are faithful to the reality. That's a welcome relief.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How are we different from other religious fundamentalists?

A 19-girl old girl from a Mangalore college was prevented from attending college because she wore a headscarf. I find this ridiculous to the point of it being revolting to my sensibilities.
What's more, the college officials kept saying on TV that it is a burqa, not a headscarf. Don't they know the difference between these? The girl gives interviews to TV with her face visible, looking straight into the camera, so obviously she is not wearing a burqa wherever she goes.

Actually, even if it IS burqa, so what?
I had heard of colleges banning dresses that they thought were provocative (although there can be endless arguements on who defines what is provocative.) But I had never heard of a college banning headscarves.
I think the college authorities are forgetting the basic reasons for their existence. Educational institutes are meant to impart knowledge and learning to the generation that would run our country in the next decades. What message is this college giving to the students?
I must be naive for not understanding this, so maybe some of the readers can help me out of my ignorance. But I really fail to understand how a headscarf becomes a religious symbol?
Some time back, there was this totally unnecessary controversy about the skirt length of Sania Mirza? Give me a break, please. What's more important - how she plays tennis or how long /short her skirt is? Same is true in this case. Would the college authorities look at the this girl as a student only and ignore that headscarf?

Mob sets fire to Vedic Village

Just heard this news about vandalism arising over a football match near Kolkata. The unruly mob entered the resort 'Vedic Village' and set fire to parts of it. One hears of such unpleasant acts every other day, but this one has saddened me most. Why should it bother me so much?
I have stayed in Vedic Village thrice in the recent past and have some very pleasant memories of the place. Its a beautiful little resort (also a very popular conference venue) and I have appreciated the excellent service and the cooperative staff there.

I think that when one stays at any place, it becomes a part of you and you leave a part of yourself there too. So as Vedic Village reels under the shock of this attack and attempts to come to terms with the burn marks, I actually feel the pain sitting miles away from Kolkata.
And that all this should happen simply because a group of people did not agree with the referee's decision in a football match! It's a shame.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

(Un)Fair and (Un)Lovely debate on NDTV

I saw a TV debate on We the people (NDTV 24 x 7) on this topic. I initially thought it would be interesting but eventually turned out to be same old mundane stuff which has been repeated in various forums. Advertising bigwigs (read the Kakkars and Pudumsees of the world) saying that it is a mindset and a reality, why should we say no if a client wants it. Manufacturing companies promptly pointing to matrimonial ads, saying that this is how Indian want women to look. If they want it, we will give it. (Thereby saying that two wrongs can make one right!) Then there is the usual dark, sorry dusky, Bollywood girl who says with moist eyes how she felt humiliated about the comments hurled at her and how she was very proud of her complexion (thunderous applause!) etc etc.
I find it completely pointless to involve screen actors in such debates. In any case, their true skin colours are only known to them and their make-up artist. Even if it was to be used a strategy to get more viewers for the program, it begs the question why NDTV couldn't find even ONE actress to come to the show? By actress, I mean someone who would command respect of the masses and whom people would look forward to listening to in a public forum. And they could only think of - Deepal Shaw ??

At no point in the debate did anyone take a clear stance that promoting fairness cream in this manner amounts to being racist. One gentleman came perilously close and created a minor uproar. He admitted that if he was interviewing two women candidates who were otherwise equal in their merit, then he would prefer to hire the fairer one. That sent Barkha 'Banshee' Dutt shrieking - this is not only sexist, this is also racist! Racist! RAAAACCCIIIISSSSTTT!
The possible uproar died in an amusing way when the gentleman's wife smiled and said, "actually, I know that he will do no such thing."

Among all this commotion, the debate never touched upon one fundamental issue. Whether the fairness cream really works or not? I think I can guess why. If it can be proved that the cream just creates a feel-good effect and is not actually effective in doing what it claims, then some very big FMCG companies will be in trouble. Calling their bluff will cause some major embarrassment for them. It would mean that not only have they been playing on the minds of a 'gullible Indian mindset' but they have also been selling a product that does not work. And - what if the claims of the cream are proved right? That would mean they are fuelling racist thoughts. So there is little surprise why this issue is skilfully avoided.
Eventually the debate turned out to be quite superficial. And that was not just because of avoidance of the key issues, but also because of a completely ineffective anchor. Barkha Dutt, who else. NDTV has not just one, but TWO people making a total hash of these programs. Barkha regularly does it on We the People and Vikram Chandra does an encore on The Big Fight. He was anchoring a debate on 'Mayawati's statues' and it was all mayhem.
I wish the powers-that-be at NDTV read this and consider letting Nidhi Razdan handle more of these shows. She did a commendable job anchoring the debate on the gay rights issue. It was a far more sensitive issue then fairness creams and ran the risk of turning into a chaotic shouting match, but she didn't let that happen. Good work.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Father and Son

There is much written, spoken and shown on the topic of generation gap and the disputes that arise from the same. Old values and norms, new meanings and defnitions. This gets debated even more with artists. Illustrious father's son trying to match up - haven't we heard that often before. What happens when the son doesn't really try and 'match up' but is anyway as brilliant as the father?
Kumar Gandharva and Mukul Shivputra. One has given infinite moments of joy and listening pleasure to millions across the globe. Other has puzzled and bewildered many people. A common thread that binds the two is the rebellious spirit in their singing. Both dared to challenge existing norms and refused to be trapped in the boundaries drawn by others.
I have listened to many disciples simply imitating their guru (won't comment on that topic more, that's besides the point) but Mukul does not stop at imitating. He has taken his father's style, no doubt. But also added his own bit to it and comes across a deep thinker when you listen to him. Just as his father was.
Here is the same bandish sung by both - listen for yourself and you will see the point. Don't try to figure out which one is better. It will be a futile exercise.
See how both of them treat the bandish itself. He is asking his beloved - 'Gori tore sajal naina, kahe re...' Why are your eyes moist my dear?
Kumarji deals with the nuances subtly, like an elder man would ask, gently - as if saying - What's wrong, dear? Did anyone say something? What has made you so upset? Why won't you tell me?
The way Mukul goes about is more like a younger impatient man - ok, enough. Are you only going to sit there and cry or are you going to tell me what's wrong? Look, if you want to talk, then talk. Don't just sit and sob, ok?
Kumarji is measured in his development of the raag, Mukul almost can't contain himself and seems to want to run ahead of himself! Maybe I am thinking too much into this - but even the choice of taal reflects this. Kumarji adopts a more stately Teentaal while Mukul chooses a more sprightly Addha teentaal. The former reminds me of a measured walk, while the Addha always brings to the mind a hop, step and jump!
Note - the bandish by Kumarji is from the album Surmanjiri and that by Mukul is from Nirala. The former mentions the raag as Patmanjiri while the latter says Marubihag! I don't worry about that much, but more learned readers out there can clarify.
I must thank Shubhangi Athalye for allowing me to publish her pictures of Mukul Shivputra - you can read her post about his concert here.
The pictures of Kumarji are from the 'Kumar Gandharva home page' by Sunil Mukhi. The brilliant sketches are by Vishnu Chinchalkar and I first saw them in Maharashtra Times about 35 years ago! You can see them here. Thanks are due to Sunil for preserving them for posterity.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Amazing khadtaal by Sabir

Here's another gem from the Jodhpur trip. After the soul-stirring rendition of 'Kesariya balma' by the young singer, Sabir enthralled us with a solo Khadtaal performance. For those who are unaware of what Khadtaal - these are wooden castanets. Simply two wooden pieces held in each palm, that's all!
Well, that's not all, exactly. I tried to hold them and at least manage one click, but the Khadtaal simply kept slipping from the hands.
As with the other video of Kesariya, this one suffers from poor quality too. The vigour and passion behind the performance has to be seen to be believed, so am posting the video nevertheless.

Hopefully the other pictures convey the total magic of this performance. Enjoy!

Swine flu in Pune

The outbreak of Swine Flu in Pune is all over the news and I am forced to think - has anything changed at all for me and my life in Pune so far? On an absolutely phenomonological level, the ansewr is NO. So then, what does it prove (if at all it does)

1. That I am an ignorant fool.
2. That swine flu is not really THE big danger that it is being made out to be
3. That one need not panic. There are realities about H1N1 virus and swine flu that one should calmly consider and take appropriate action.

Unfortunately, there is no one perfect answer. The sad and unfortunate death of a 14-year old girl in Pune due to this flu cannot be ignored and her family will no doubt agree with option no. 1 above.
So what is the danger, if I have to look at it objectively for myself? What is the risk that I will die in a road accident tomorrow compared to dying of swine flu? The former is clearly a higher risk.
Does that mean that I should simply ignore the risk posed by this flu and continue life as if nothing has happened? That would be foolish, going by the magnitude of the risk.
Consider this - Pune has been put under the 'epidemic act' - which is not something that happens every now and then. WHO has declared swine flu as a pandemic, which is also not something that WHO does every now and then. The largest proportion of cases is students. Which puts a very LARGE population at risk. How can I be sure that the kid next door has not contacted H1N1 from his friend who met his cousin who attended a birthday party of a friend who had played football with his friends where the kid that he bumped into has a younger sister who is in the same class as the girl who has had fever and a running nose for the past week, AND whose uncle came back from USA some time back?
A virus that measures a few microns in diameter has got an entire city in its grip. It exerts a power not just on our nasal cavities and mucosal membranes, but on the minds of a few million people. Very soon, it will be several million. (WHO estimates that in the next two years, there will two BILLION cases of swine flu worldwide.) It is time to wake up...
Some realities about this illness that I have learnt from the media

1. The symptoms of swine flu and our well-known 'usual' flu are very similar. So just the symptoms are not sufficient to give a warning.
2. The test can be done only at two govt. centers - namely, Aundh hospital and Naidu hosptial.
3. While there is no vaccine to get immunized against the virus, there is (thankfully) a medicine available. It is called Tamiflu.
4. It gets transmitted through contact.
5. Only 1% of the cases tested positive are fatal. (How does it matter for the family of the deceased? For them, it is 100%....)
6. Overall general hygiene and cleanliness can keep it away. But I don't think a face mask and a hand sanitizer kept in the pocket can really make you immune. They may contribute slightly towards the cause, nevertheless.....

All this does not answer one question. If I do wake up with fever and a running nose tomorrow morning, will I be clear about what steps to take?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Man who planted trees

I am going to see a one-act play today evening, despite having seen it thrice before. It is called 'Zade lavnaara manoos' by the students from Fergusson College in Pune. Earlier this year, they staged it for the Firodiya Trophy inter-collegiate competition and bagged a host of prizes.
The story is based on the French novel - Man who Planted Trees by Jean Giono (published in 1953 as the original French title L'homme qui plantait des arbres). It was translated in Marathi by Madhuri Purandare and the play is a stage adaptation of this version.
The story follows the narrative of a person who remains anonymous throughout. It traces his journeys and meeting with a lonely shepherd, Elezeard Bouffier, who single-handedly goes on planting trees in a desolate land, unmindful of the world around him, and without asking for anything in return. For many years, people believed that this was an autobiographical account by Giono, till in 1957 he declared that Bouffier was a fictional character. As per Giono, he simply wrote it because "The goal was to make trees likeable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable."
Whether truth or fiction, it is a remarkable story indeed. And the stage adaptation does full justice to its narrative quality. The play is embellished by some superlative music and choreography, not to forget the innovative use of other art forms like painting and also origami.

I have the line of credits by heart but will refrain from giving the credit to any one person. It is truly a team-performance and no individual contribution can be compared over one other.
I hear that the tickets are sold out but if you are really keen, you could try your luck at Bhrat Natya Mandir tonight at 9.30 pm. If you aren't one of the lucky ones in the hall tonight, well, just pray that the group will stage it again very soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

No-frills music!

We live in a digital era and it is getting increasingly difficult to make out whether a medium is original or has been 'digitally reorganized'. During a recent trip to Jodhpur, we were staying at a little resort called Nirali Dhani. As is usual in Rajasthan, a cultural paegant showing local talent is on show in the evenings. There was a group of singers led by Sabir (playing the harmonium in the clip) who enthralled us for more than an hour with their superb rendering of Rajasthani folk, Sufi music, and the usual smattering of bollywood numbers. There is no microphone, no amplifier, no digital interference. (Yes, it is ironical that I have to resort to using digital means for getting this clip to readers.) The lead singer must be just about 13-14 years old - his singing left us spellbound. His voice spanned all three octaves with equal ease. But the best part was - he was enjoying his singing immensely. It was amazing how his clear sharp voice could easily carry over a long distance.
We couldn't help but fantasize what it would be like to hear this little gem of a singer out in the desert, his voice matching the beauty of the night sky and the sand dunes. Some day I hope to meet Sabir and his group again. He told me he has already toured Israel once and is off to France and other European countries later this year. All the best - Sabir! And thanks for a wonderful musical treat.
Don't miss the beauty of the initial alaap by the little fellow, his boyish enthusiasm at jumping to the first 'sam' and the climactic rhythm accompaniment on 'Khadtaal' at the end. Two days later we also were lucky enough to listen to another group - and this time in the real desert. More about that later. Sorry for the poor video quality. The clip was recorded by Prasad Bharadwaja on his cell phone. Throughout the trip, we were kicking ourselves at not having carried the handycam. That's a lesson - always carry the camera - you never know what you will get!
I have been trying to upload the video file of this (its an .avi file) for the past four days unsuccessfully. Finally managed to extract the audio track from it and posting it here. Is there any techno geek out there who can help me with this? The avi file is about 800 mB - is that too big to post on a blog? I never thought so. Anyway - listen to this.....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Music talent shows getting in-authentic

Ever since Sonu Nigam brought SaReGaMaPa to us many years ago, there has been a flood of music talent hunt shows. Some good, some average, but many terrible. The record for the most pathetic one is surely held by Sony's 'Fame Gurukul' that came on sometime in 2004-05 if I remember correctly. It should have been named FAKE Gurukul, honestly.
Recently, the episode of Marathi SRGMP - Aajcha Awaaj - concluded and am I glad it did! It was simply going from bad to worse with every passing day. The last episode of Li'l champs was a super hit and I think Zee Marathi wanted to ride on that wave of success. Unfortunately, it boomeranged completely. It was nowhere close to the Li'l Champs. (It is another matter that the five eventual winners of Li'l champs are suffering from over-exposure now and are themselves going downhill - but that's a digression. i will write more about that some other day.)
If anyone wants proof of the deterioration in quality of the program - here's ample of it. The same song - sung by Shamika Bhide of Li'l Champs and by Vibhavari Joshi of Aajcha Awaaj. See and hear for yourself. Shamika is flawless. Ok, nearly. Yes, in the last stanza she has slipped once, at the words 'mrutyunjay veera' but I don't hold it against her. Consider her age.

And now compare it with Vibhavari's rendering of the same song. Don't forget that she is supposed to be an accomplished singer who performs regularly on stage. In this performance she only quivers along throughout the song - and guess what, the judges are full of praise for her ! I am convinced (and I know there are many others too) that these shows are rigged. I never expected any authentic honest judgment by Suresh Wadkar and Hridaynath Mangeshkar anyway. They were in the show only as a mutual admiration society. (for Hridaynath, it was self-admiration society) But Ashok Patki also??? I definitely expected better from him, really.

One thing that really ticks me off in these shows is this business of sms vote. Yes - I understand the economics behind it - but does it not make the whole thing a farce eventually? The judges (and I am NOT referring to Wadkar and Mangeshkar!) toil through all the episodes to select candidates based on merit and after all this - the award goes to someone who gets most sms. Thats silly. It renders the whole purpose of these shows meaningless. Of course - maybe the purpose of these shows in the first place is only to generate revenue for the cellular operators and TV channels, and not to search and appreciate good musical talent! That way, they are doing an admirable job.....
I must acknowledge the two kind souls who have uploaded these videos on YouTube - metab25 for Shamika's and Bipolbo for Vibhavari's. I don't know who they are - but thanks!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blogcamp Pune - Egalitarianism rules!

I went to attend the Blogcamp in Pune today and it was well worth it. Having just found my voice in the blogging world for just over an year, I have had the 'beginning woes' of a blogger. Why is nobody writing any comment? Does this colour scheme look good - noooo, hers is better! What is this Adsense all about? Do I actually earn money if someone simply clicks on an ad? And hey! Why does THIS ad appear on my blog? I haven't written anything good about that bank on my blog, have I? Now, what exactly does this fellow mean by Digg This and Tweet that? And so on...

Abhishek has everyone in splits over his experiences of blogging...

I initially thought I was in the wrong place because everyone was talking about Open Source, MySQL, 2.0, and other such terms that are as good as Greek and Latin for me. And then there were only 4-5 people of my age - rest all were in their 20s, and all of them seemed absolutely sure of what they were doing with their blogs. But slowly enough, I found things taking shape, so much so that I actually could ask some questions at the end of the last session!

It was organised as an 'unconference' so the air of informality made it enjoyable. There was no hushed silences, dark conference hall, accolades being showered on the Chief Guest, Keynote address (while you are waiting for the 1st tea break) and other such things that you would associate with a techno-gathering.
What I love about the world of blogging is the principle of Equal Opportunity. A newcomer need not be 'blogged down' (pun intended) with stalwarts already occupying all plum positions. If you have a voice, and are sure about having it, go ahead and blog - its that simple. Yes, there are netiquettes to be followed and thing to be done and not done, but you will learn. As I am...

A fittingly informal finale at the nearby chai shop

Thanks to Tarun Chandel and the whole team who put this blogcamp together. I think I will have learnt enough to be able to even speak on some topic in the next blogcamp!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lalgarh standoff - what will it achieve?

Even as I type this, the security forces are pitched in a battle against the maoist armed rebels at Lalgarh. It is not a question of whether the forces will succeed or not, its just a question of when. One can be tempted to dismiss this whole issue by saying - 'armed uprisings will never work, they will be crushed sooner or later by the Govt. machinery.' But I feel this episode throws up a larger question. If armed uprising does not work, what does?
A look at the revolutions and revolts that have shaped the history of our world can provide some pointers. Large scale uprisings (American Civil War, French Revolution, October revolution of Russia, IRA, among others) would seem to suggest that uprisings towards a separatist cause have invariably failed, while those with a call for a change have worked, even if it came a huge cost. Secondly, armed revolts that have worked have been those where the soldiers too joined the cause. The state's forces thus turned against the state itself. So there is one bit about the cause and another about the method adopted. One problem with the former is - who decides if a cause is just or not? And what happens when the cause goes haywire later - as the Taliban have proved? A lot of people I have spoken to have said that the cause of maoist rebels began as a just cause but they have now lost direction and their methods are anyway wrong now. As for the methods employed, consider Bhagat Singh, Subhaschandra Bose and Gandhi - all three believed in the same cause but chose different methods. As far as the British were concerned, it is amply clear that they looked at Bhagat Singh as a terrorist, Subhashbabu as a fascist and Gandhi as a nuisance.
I am stumped by a thought when I look at some scenarios.
1. Just last month, Sri Lankan army eliminated the LTTE decisively, giving further proof of the oft-repeated phrase, "those who live by the sword will die by the sword". Yet another armed uprising crushed.
2. Dalai Lama has led a peaceful non-violent movement against Chinese aggression in Tibet. Has it worked? The Chinese have gone about their business for the past 50 years turning a deaf ear to the world. Aung San Suu Kyi is not a very different story.
3. A much lesser publicized event. In the recent Lok Sabha elections for Baramulla, Sajjad Gani Lone became the first Kashmiri separatist leader in 20 years who contested the elections, thereby choosing the path of entering mainstream politics through democratic means. That he lost the elections is another matter.

If violence as well as non-violence doesn't seem to work, what works?

Maybe there is clue in another epoch-making event - the end of apartheid rule in South Africa, with the rise of Nelson Mandela as its President. How many people would know that Mandela established the armed wing of the African National Congress, called Umkhonto we Sizwe? His defence statement in the Rivonia trial makes compelling reading. Some remarkable statements from that -

I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case.
Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.
Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalize and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which is not produced even by war. Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence.
But White Governments remained unmoved, and the rights of Africans became less instead of becoming greater. In the words of my leader, Chief Lutuli, who became President of the ANC in 1952, and who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:
"who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all".
We had no doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else would have been abject surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight, but was how to continue the fight.
At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the Government met our peaceful demands with force. This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the Government had left us with no other choice.
Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other decision.

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Unquote -

Would Sajjad Lone be able to achieve what Mandela did? Does the answer then lie in a judicious mix of violence and non-violence? But who decides what is judicious and what is not? News reports mention that the maoist rebels are using children and women as human shields, a heinous trick they have undoubtedly learnt from the LTTE. Bloodshed is inevitable in such situations.
We are living in troubled times....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stop! Who goes there?

I am back after a little break. My landlord sprung a surprise on me by saying he wanted the house vacated in a week. A hectic search followed, then some hurried packing, shifting, setting up the new place, and am now back in business!
Funny road signs seem to have become a summer theme for my blog - or maybe I just have a penchant for noticing such things on the road. So, here's a sign and I challenge all of you reading this - show me this sign anywhere else in any country on the face of this earth! This is only possible in Pune.
I am sure we have all heard of this phrase 'point of no return', but here's a place from where only a return is possible! There's no going ahead anywhere, buddy!

OK, wait - that's not all. The brilliant irony is that this road sign is at the end of a one-way road! So no vehicle is ever going to come from this side and see this board! That is, if everyone follows rules on that road, but that's a different matter.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Customer orientation

Organizations across the world have been trying to out-think and out-do each other in being customer-oriented. Each of them have their own buzzwords ('customer delight' - is one example).

Here's one organization that beats them all. I have blurred few details from this picture - some because they contained names and phone numbers (and I didn't want my blog to advertise their services) and others simply because they were too graphic!
Anyway, here's what the poster conveys.
1. Just in case the potential customer has any doubt whether this service is for him or not, there are two rather revealing pictures of 'before' and 'after' states.

2. There is of course all the required information about phone no, address etc.
3.And then there is this amazing guarantee. It is so amazing that I couldn't resist the temptation of copying that part of the picture and reproducing it here.

Translated into English - it would mean - we guarantee to treat you till you are alive!!!
Now, that's very reassuring, I must say. Its another matter that the patient might die of the treatment than of the ailment, but this superbly worded guarantee covers that risk too. Show me a better example of business acumen together with customer orientation.
Well, that's the problem with our dear Marathi Manoos. Subtlety was never his strong point.....