Vantage point

Saturday, May 31, 2003


Dammit dammit dammit!!!

Abhinav lost! And that pisses me off bigtime. It pisses me off because they were so obviously the best team of the three that day. It was some stupid choices in the final round that did us in. I am upset!!

Oh, sorry, you must be wondering what the hell I am talking about. Let me give you a little background.

I am talking about the ESPN School Quiz 2003, which I rate as a top quality sports quiz on TV. Harsha Bhogle's compering makes it even more elegant. The questions are good, the pattern is exciting, and the level of the kids taking part...WOW!

So anyway, my alma mater, Abhinav Vidyalay Pune, did very well last year, but stumbled at the last block. They were crowned the West Zone champs, but lost in the All India finals. Like a loyal Abhinavite, I felt last year that we were the strongest team, but as it happens in most quizzes, the luck of the draw turned against us. Which is why I was hoping that this year, we would go all the way. Though our team was not as strong was last year's, we were still way better than others.

Abhinav won the first round easily and this week were supposed to be the West Zone semis. At the end of these semis, three teams would go through to the Zonal finals, and one of those, would eventually make it to the national finals. I never even considered the possibility that we would lose in the semis. But we did. :(

I know I should not be very hard on the boy, but I can't help feeling that they threw it away. Going into the last round, they had a slender lead of 4 points over RJ Nashik. In this round, you can choose between a 5, 10 or a 20 pointer. The difficulty level increases and the 10 and 20s have a negative attached. They went for a 5 pointer the first time round, fair enough. But they missed it, while RJN got their 5 pointer. So we trailed by one point. The next time, we again chose 5, cracked it this time, and led by 4. But RJN cracked their 5 pointer too, and got the 1 point lead back.

Now I would have expected Abhinav to go for a 10 pointer. Not too flashy, like a tough 20 or anything, but a goodish 10 pointer. Our team was definitely stronger and they should have backed themselves to pull it off, and put pressure on Nashik to do the same. But they went for another 5 pointer, much to my dismay. The same routine followed, they cracked the 5 pointer, but all RJN had to do was get their fiver which they did.

As the RJN kids were pumping their fists in the air, I sat shocked, feeling the same way as I did during the slog overs of the Australiuan innings in the World Cup finals. I guess RJN deserved to win, but I feel that if we had gone for a tenner, we would've made it.

If Abhinav would have won, we would have seen an all-Pune West Zone finals. The other 2 teams to have made it are Symbiosis and Bishops. If we had been there, it would have been another feather in the cap of Pune quizzing, which I feel is not getting the attention it deserves like the traditional quizzing centres of Calcutta and Hyderabad. Pune is a force to reckon with in quizzing at every level. The Infosys team from Pune won Brand Equity 2 years ago, and were in the semis this year. And as we all know, fellow blogger Ramanand won the BBC Mastermind India this year. I hope Symbi or Bishops wins the National Finals and does us proud.

But stil.....Abhinav lost. :-(

AN EVENING WITH RAVI AND YAZAD ( or "How I got an excellent guided tour of Mumbai TOWN")

We all met at 6 in the evening at McDonalds opposite CST. From here it was like a whirlwind chat session which ended 6 hours later, but went by so breezily, it could've been 6 minutes. Yazad, being the "town" boy, played the tole of a guide to the hilt, telling us stories behind many buildings. We walked to chowpatty, had bhelpuri there (BAD Mumbai bhelpuri!!!), then spent some time in Barista. After Barista we went to Gateway, roamed inside the Taj mahal Hotel, and finally had a delectable dinner at Bademiya.

We spoke about anything and everything, right from the different types of Maharashtrian Brahmins, to quizzing, to libertarian issues (the common thread between the three of us).

Another wonderful evening spent meeting bloggers. :-)


I think 'Walk the Talk' is going to become my favourite interview show. Shekhar Gupta has the brains of a Vir SAanghvi, plus he has that ability to make a guest open up. Yesterday's epsiode featured Narayan Murthy of Infosys. Great to watch!

Murthy too talked about how shackled our system is. He recounted an incident where the board of directors of IIM Ahmedabad, which consists of people like him, Banga(HLL) and Naik (L&T) were asked by an Under Secretary of the HRD Ministry to explain why they wrote off a maruti, whose book value was 8,000 rupees. That is symptomatic of what is wrong with our country. In fact Murthy hit the nail right on the head when he described this as a "colonial" mentality.

The ICS of the British days had one motive. To administer India while keeping its people enslaved. So the system they set up was too interfering, because even though most of them were brown, mentally they were white. After independence, ICS changed its name to IAS...but that is the only change that took place. The mentality remained the same, i e to control the masses. In that way, our independence was only political and not economical. This means that we are not quite free. Because like it or not, it is economic independence that really matters.

With stereotypes like Laloo, Mulayam and Rabri, we tend to put too much of the blame on politicians. The babudom gets away scot free even though it is as responsible for our stagnation. People should read 'Yes Minister' to understand the power that the bureaucrats wield.

We are a free country and this freedom should be real.

Other than the colonial mentality, another reason for our condition is the socialist way of thinking. It is based on what they call the "Axiom of Stupidity". I have coined this term after my debates with a fellow blogger. Each and every debate ended with him saying "See Gaurav, basically people are stupid". This is the axiom of stupidity, where a few people decide that except for them, everyone else is stupid and so require their 'skills' and 'planning' to help the country do better. Such an outlook is the result of living in a quasi-dictatorial state for too long.

First of all, how does anyone define stupidity? There is no clear metric for that. What happens in this system is that those who have the maximum muscle become the judges of stupidity. So when Thackeray has the 'remote control', Valentine's Day becomes stupid. When Mullah Omar is in charge, a guy not shaving becomes stupidity. When Zia is in charge, marrying without your parents' consent becomes stupidity. When Hitler has control, beng a jew, or being gay becomes stupidity. See how alarmingly flexible the definition becomes. The whole concept of a "benevolent dictatorship" is an eyewash. There is an antithetical phrase if I ever read one.

We are born free. We should have complete freedom to do what we want. The state should only be there to formulate some commonly acceptable rules. It should have no say over morality. It should not be able to dictate us unreasonably. I repeat, we are all born FREE. We are NOT born equal in terms of our skills and abilities. Some will always be better than others. You saw how the USSR collapsed ebcause it based itself on this false axiom of equality and stupidity.

If you combine the two, you have a line of thinking that goes "All people are born equally stupid." And you know how sick that sounds.
On every 15th August, rather than doze away the morning, we should wonder how free we really are. Our nation is free. But are we free from the state? Our struggle should be for freedom rather than for equality. It should be to encourage a free environment which will bring out the best of each person........rather than bring out the stupidity inside each person.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Our media needs to cover such articles more. Very good news. Very laudable.

Local Indians contribute to mass education program in India

I WANT!!!!

Following are some of the things I want to do (other than somethings which can not be mentioned on this blog, because face it, this is a family blog. :-P)

- Eat a kilo of surmai

- Watch 'The Fight Club'

- Take part in a quiz on the Pune circuit

- Meet Zaphod Beeblebrox

- Have a vacation on the Karakoram highway

- Meet pals like Kane, Satyen, Walya and Hemya

- Travel in the 1st Class AC of a train, maybe the Shatabdi.

- Go skiing

- Run my hands over a living tiger's skin

- Build a sandcastle 50 feet tall

- Experience hail again

.......that's enough for now. All you santas out there, hope you are taking notes.


We regret to inform you that yesterday, 28th May 2003, one of our most beloved journals Anya's Dreamscapes passed away. It expired after its life support system was cut off by authoress Miss Sukanya.

For the past one year, this journal/blog has been THE most popular Indian journal with all sorts of people visiting it. What set it apart from the rest was the sheer brilliance of Miss Verma's writing. It was about nothing in particular and yet it was about everything. It told us about Suku's life in its own anonymous way. We never learnt many details, but whatever few words she posted everyday were a source of joy, elation, amusement, sorrow....any of the emotions. What is important is whatever she wrote always touched our heart. It seemed as if we had a ringside seat to the game that went on inside Suku's head....and heart.

Sukanya's readers cut across all ages, nationalities and mentalities. Her decision to shut down this journal will cause heartache in 200-odd bosoms all over the world. Everyone is addicted to the effervecsent and lovable spirit which personifies "Anya's Dreamscapes". It is going to be a hard addiction to kick.

We hope the spirit which has drawn netizens to the journal like moths to a flame, will continue to prosper and spread happiness in many lives.


p.s - I will miss your posts, Suku


Notice that little sitemeter link on the left-bar? I have noticed something very interesting on it. The day when my site gets the lowest hits are always sundays. Which means that max people who visit my blogs do so from their office computers and so can't access it on Sunday. Or they spend their Sundays away from computers. Which is it?

The last few posts have been very serious and political. As a great Marathi sage once said 'Tikal tey politikal' (whatever lasts is political). Okay, maybe it wasn't a sage, but is the name of a TV series on some channel.

Point is, it is time to lighten up. So let us talk about something else.

Let us talk about.....Mumbai!!!

The past few days have made me realise that of all the blokes who had their heads screwed on right, Einstein was the finest. The dude spoke about relativity without realising what an immensely deep concept he had introduced. Okay, maybe he did realise it. But did he know that it can be applied to non-physics scenarios too? I have realised that in the past few days.

I was coming to Mumbai with Ameya, Vallari and Shalini, all of whom told me how they soent their last Pune-Mumbai journey (that is 3 hours) criticising Mumbai. Now the Gaurav Sabnis of one month back would have joined in with gusto or even conveyed my approval. But one month in North India and I am a changed man! I was actually appalled that the three of them were actually badmouthing such a fine city.

Then Einstein kicked in. These people had lived in Pune for the past few months. Hence it was obvious on their part to lambast Mumbai. But when you have lived in Delhi for almost a month, Mumbai looks like the closest one can get to Utopia(sorry, second closest :-)).

Following are the few things I have noticed about Mumbai vis-a-vis Delhi -

- A public telephone is more ubiquitous than a slum dwelling. And a local call costs just 1 rupee, even if you make that call from a normal handset instead of the coin-operated one.

- The buses have bells which the conductor will ring to indicate to the driver when the bus should stop and when it should go.

- Hawkers don't climb into buses peddling coconut slices or some such weird things.

- A netcafe is always closeby

- There is a lot of traffic...more importantly cheap public transport, even at night.

and last but not the least


Wednesday, May 28, 2003


I thought of writing this post in response to Pushkar's complaint that I should not attribute some actions and words of certain Sangh members or even the Saffron brigade, to the RSS way of thinking.

I have heard many guys do this before. They will criticise select actions of the VHP, Shivsena, Bajrang Dal...even the BJP but somehow assume that the RSS is above board. They don't realise that it is the fountainhead of all such unrealistic extremist philosophy. Sure, the image they would like to project to the world is that the RSS is a "social" organisation. It never fights elections, they say. It only feeds the poor and does volunteer work. They have no fixed leaning towards Hinduism, they say. Look at the name, it means "National Volunteers Association", so how can you call it a communal body, they ask with shock. Why, many Muslims are members of the RSS, they claim (though I've never met one). And so on....

But if the RSS is so free of religious leanings, why does it support the Ram temple movement? Oh, that is because the Babri Masjid was built by an invader and so is a blot on Indian nationalism. So would they like to raze the Taj Mahal to the ground as well? Oh no, but they would like to call it a Shiva Temple.

The RSS has always been playing a two-faced game. All said and done it is a communal body. It has religion (and by that I mean their definition of Hinduism) at the core of their philosophy.

However due to this two-faced image they portray, they leave their cadre confused. What exactly does the RSS stand for? Can all swayamsevaks answer in one voice? If so, then why do they seem to be borrowing (hijacking??) personalities from other groups/parties to further their agenda?

The biggest case in point is Vinayak Damodar "Veer" Savarkar. The RSS absolutely loves to use his name and his image. But how many of you know that Savarkar had nothing to do with the RSS? He headed a separate entity called the Hindu Mahasabha, which he revived in 1923 when he got out of prison. If the Sanghists were so in love with Savarkar, why did they start a separate body? I'll tell you why. Because Savarkar was an atheist. He has gone on record saying that the cow is just an animal, not "our mother" or anything. He has talked about the evils of the caste system. Now you see why the RSS found it difficult to align itself with him? These are the people who are wasting precious hours of the Lok Sabha to ban cow slaughter. These are the people who idolise Golwalkar who has written "Anyone who does not abide by the chaturvarna caste system does not deserve to live in India". The RSS despite all external appearances, holds religion close to its heart. Not just religion, but their definition of the caste-based Hinduism.

Which is why you see them getting all incensed at ill-treated Dalits converting to Christianity. But what is the use of attacking the symptom? The root cause is the prevalent heinous caste system. Never has the RSS looked to take any steps to break down this caste system. It has such a wide grassroot presence, but one never hears of any major(note - major, not cosmetic) efforts to wipe out the caste system.

Then there is Sardar Patel, whom they have hijacked. A Congressman who was a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi is actually being idolised by the RSS!! That is another opportunistic step. After the degeneration of the Congress into a one-edynasty party, Patel is not at the head of the Congress pantheon. So the RSS latches onto the much respected iron man, though during his lifetime, he believed they were a threat to national security.

The RSS has always claimed to be in favour of the 'free market' enterprise within the framework of swadeshi. They did this just to take a viewpoint opposite to Nehru's socialism. Yet of late the RSS seems to be the staunchest supporter of socialism. In 1980, they announced so as well. And if you have any doubts, ask Arun Shourie where he is facing the stiffest opposition from. The RSS leadership considers Shourie to be the prime villain for his steps to unshackle the economy from a government grip. Vajpayee has had to defy the RSS to keep him in the cabinet. As Shourie said on NDTV some days ago, "Those who once claimed to be the strongest supporters of a free market are suddenly discovering their love for socialism and state-control". Why? Simple. Since the RSS is now in control of the state, through the BJP, it does not want to relinquish control of the industry.

This is what I mean as far as hijacking other leaders and ideas is concerned.

Now look at how they are swift to dissociate themselves with their leaders when it looks "politically incorrect". The book "We, Our Nationhood Defined" written by Golwalkar, one of the RSS stalwarts, has stuff which would make Hitler happy. It openly espouses fascism, the caste system, etc etc. But if you ever take a quote from that book (like the one I made above), a Sanghist would give you a gamut of excuses like "The RSS does not recognise that book", or "Guruji later retracted that book" or "There is no such book". The point remains that the RSS was shaped by this man, who held such beliefs, which he retracted only after the second world war when the follies of Nazism became apparent. So while they will call Golwalkar a leader as important as Gandhi or Nehru, they are quick to discard those beliefs of his which are inconvenient.

And then of course there is the founder of the RSS, Dr. K. B. Hedgewar. For all this Congress-hate, how many swayamsevaks know (or want to talk about) the fact that Hedgewar was a member of the Congress right until he died in 1940? How's that for a propaganda loophole? The RSS was founded in 1925, but Hedgewar was a Congressi till the end.

The RSS is a religion-driven body. It is by no stretch of imagination a "nationalist" body. In fact the old prayer of the RSS, when it was established had the name of Ram in it. It was dropped later when they wanted to don this "nationalist" mask.

By the way, let me make it clear that I think that a Hindu fundamentalist body is a bit of a necessary evil. I mean, as much as I disagree with their ideas, I think that it is going to be a reality. As long as you have certain Christians and Muslims with organisation that preach their religion is the best...and seek to proselytise aggressively, there is going to be a Hindu fundamentalist body as well. It is like greed, gluttony, etc. By just denying its presence or seeking to wipe it out, we will achieve nothing.

The key is to keep in check the actions of such bodies. As long as they stick to the boundaries defined by the constitution, it is OK. We are a democracy after all.

The defunct Hindu Mahasabha was very clear in its approach. Some say it was too fanatical, and was responsible for Gandhiji's murder. Nevertheless, at least it did not have a two faced approach. The RSS is rife with internal contradictions. The sad thing is people fall for it. In part, I blame our historians who concentrate too much on the Congress. We are hardly taught anything about other bodies like the RSS or even the Communists. So the vacuum created is filled by the bodies themselves. So instead of knowing about RSS and Commies etc through proper sources, many tend to rely on what those bodies themselves have to state.

So you have people saying "RSS is not religious" or "CPI/CPM have India's interests at their heart". Yeah right.

Wolves in sheep's clothing.

Monday, May 26, 2003

While leftists of the world may cry themselves hoarse claiming their more 'pragmatic' approach to everything, the irrefutable reality is that most leftists are hardcore marxists and/or communists who are not that cocky anymore, now that the Soviet Union has collapsed. Of course there are some who will say they were leftists even before. This means that before the USSR collapsed, these people were too afraid of the McCarthy's of the world to be out and out communists.

Dilip D'Souza, one such prize ass. Read his latest gibberish.

Today I want to talk about one of my rants - CULTURE!!!

Actually I have no problems with culture. I just hate it when people misuse it to ram their ideas down others' throats and dictate their lives. I also hate it when anyone claims to be an authority on culture.

What got me thinking about it was the whole cow slaughter ban issue. But that has been done to death on many blogs so I'll not talk about it more.

So what is culture? I look at culture as something that is. No, I didn't eat up any words. "Culture is something that is". In our HR courses culture was defined as a shared set of norms beliefs and values. Let me add something to it. Culture is the everchanging shared set of norms, beliefs and values. How can anyone just decide to freeze the definition at one point and say "OK this this this is our culture, that that that is not. Down with that."

Sushma Swaraj!! A very articulate lady, who displays signs of an intelligent brain at most times. I had loved the way she gave the interview on PTV last year. A work of art if there ever was one.

But then she comes up with these idotic concepts of "Bharatiya sabhyata". Who is she to decide what Indian culture is? How can she just ban music videos and scrutinise TV channels? What amuses me is the whole duplicity of the Sangh Parivar in this issue. These people have a phobia of the Christian and Muslim influences on the Indian society and get all misty eyed talking about the so called 'Saraswati civbilisation'. The only history they want to teach is the ore-7th century history without any "foreign" influences.

If this does not already sound like a regressive idea, what makes it worse is the hypocrisy. It is common knowledge what Indian culture was before the Muslim and Christian rule. Go check out Khajuraho, Konark, and a host of other cave temples. Read Mricchakatika or Kamasutra. In those days, the Indian society must definitely have been a liberal one. A society which celebrates the female form in such a skillful way must obviously had visual access to it all the time. Not like today when everytime a girl goes out in a tigh skirt, she attracts wolfish whistles.

It is a universally accepted fact that the "prudishness" that we see in the Indian society today is a result of Islamic and British rule. Some think of this as a good thing. I don't. The more you make things taboo, the more people hanker for them. So anyway, this is an aspect of the Islamic-British rule that the Sangh Parivar is keen on maintaining.

In Uttar Pradesh, beauty contests are banned!!!!

In Uttaranchal, you need a special permission to conduct non-Indian music concerts!!!!

In Pune, Sandip Khardekar of the BJP had issued a threatlike statement saying "We will try to educate girls about how to dress properly for college".

Fortunately, Pune has a vibrant and vocal middle class. When Khardekar made this boorish announcement, he was met with a barrage of criticism from every medium. A group of army officers wrote to newspapers wondering if this is what they fight for, lesser and lesser freedom for their children in our own country. Khardekar had to drop the issue at once and withdraw the so called "plan to educate our girls".

Now not every city is like Pune. In Kanpur, I believe girls are banned from wearing jeans to colleges. there are many such unstated restrictions in place all over the country.

And all this is done in the name of that bogus concept called "culture". How would the Sanghists like to live under the "culture" of 100 years ago? Sushma Swaraj would not have been able to step out of the house, Murali Manohar Joshi and Vajpayee could not have visited foreign countries, and so on.

So please do not try to shackle us with your ramshackle ideas of morality. Go and read up on stats about where the eve teasing and rape incidents are highest. It will show you that there is no fact there is negative correlation between how "mod" women dress in a region and the eve teasing incidents there.

And assuming that there had been a positive correlation between such crimes and women dressing, you would still be barking up the wrong tree. What should you treat, the symptom or the sickness? The sin lies in the mind of the guy who will actually commit any lewd act rather than a woman who wears skimpy clothes.

But the Sanghis don't see that. They will go ahead and ban the 'Kaanta Laga' video. I personally found the video very stupid and not worthy of attention. What I hate is that the government is infringing on my right to reject that video. It is forcing the ban down my throat, all in the name of culture.

As I said during a libertarian seminar once, for 45 years, the Congress took away our economic freedom. Now the BJP is doing its bit by taking away our personal freedom.

GROW UP!!!!!!


...and there is no question about it. :-)

Spent a month up North and it feels great to be back where I truly belong. Spent a day in Pune yesterday and came to Mumbai this morning. Over the past 2 days I have travelled in buses blessed(??) with superfast drivers. The bus which I boarded at Nashik at 1 in the night said "Pune Ati Jalad" which means "Pune Super Fast". And boy did the driver make it live upto its name! At 4:45 a.m. the bus screeched to a halt at Shivajinagar in Pune!!! Usually the journey takes anywhere between 5 and 6 hours.

Then again this morning, another bus took us from Pune to Andheri in exactly 3 hours!!!! Now I wonder how many times I missed being in an accident on these 2 journeys. Thankfully I was seated at the back on both occasions and was either dozing or talking with someone. So unlike the Del-Lko bus journey I did not have a ring side view of the driver's antics. Hence I am completely aware of any "near death" experiences I faced.

Like George Orwell wrote in 1984 Ignorance is strength.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Today is the day I got the first whiff of that smell, when the rain beats down on the baked summer earth. As the clouds work overtime to cool the soil and then drench it, tiny fumes seem to drift upwards as they make their way into my nose. I stand in the balcony, with my elbow on the wall and my chin on my palm, staring at the procession of black clouds rushing in from the horizon, and my face breaks out into a wide happy smile.

The land that seemed like an oppressed widow yesterday, is a bubbly waif today. The birds are chirping, the dogs wag their tails.

A cool breeze blows in to the balcony, sending tiny shivers up my spine. I feel like I have woken up in a totally different place this morning.


If a tailor had a split personality, would he have an "alter" ego?

Was it a Labour Union leader in a steel factory who coined the proverb - "Strike while the iron is hot"?

How is it that even buses in the computer have conductors?

...add yours

Got a "spoiler mail" today informing me that Kareena(is that how she spells it nowadays?) Kapoor dies at the end of MPKDH.

That makes me want to watch the movie and raises Sooraj Barjatya's esteem in my eyes a great deal. :-P

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


You know what Vajpayee is here for? To inaugurate the Lucknow-Jeddah flights. Plus he has got some other shcmancy functions to attend do, and more ribbons to slash. What I don't understand is, if the PM starts inaugurating stuff, what the hell is the President supposed to do? I would rather that the PM do his job and make life easier for us. Sit there in Delhi and not put us through those painful traffic jams.

By the way, if a Prime Ministerial candidate ever wanted to contest from my constituency and wanted my vote, the only promise he has to make is "I will NEVER visit my constituency in the coming five years". I would ask "NEVER? Do I have your word on it?". He would nod and I would vote for him.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

He is a 75% CA. His specs are like Dexter's. He is extremely intelligent. He is the co-writer of 'Picchur the philim'. He has great "globing" skills. More importantly, he has started blogging with vengeful regularity. Welcome Pushkar to my blogroll.

I am back after this mini-hiatus forced by my work-related trip to Renukoot in South-Eastern UP. This trip completed all my visits and now I just have to book a 'tatkal' ticket and return to Mumbai to compile the report.

The journey to Renukoot was mostly uneventful. I did not have a reservation, so I bought a general category ticket and stood at the platform, waiting for the train. Now usually when I am at the Lucknow Railway Station (named Charbagh), I am either in a hurry to go to Pune, or to go to the insti. This time though I had time on my hands so I could observe the railway station in more detail. It is a huuuuuge and splendid railway station, definitely one of the biggest in India. It was built during the reign of the Nawabs and its royal origins show. If maintained properly, it can definitely be a tourist attraction.

I was told by my co-travellers that the train, Triveni Express will be mostly empty after Allahabad (9 p.m.), and so I should not have a problem getting a berth for Renukoot (7 a.m.) Based on this assurance I got into a sleeper coach and plonked my bag on an empty berth. The train started off and in a few minutes, the Travelling Ticket Examiner(TTE) made his way to where I was sitting. He seemed like a reasonable chap, 50ish, thin, and definitely must have sons of his own. I showed him my 'general' ticket and expressed my desire to procure a berth.

He looked at the sheets of papers in his hand and said "15 number milega, S6 mein". After I nodded my acceptance, he started writing out a receipt for the differential amount between a general and a sleeper ticket. It came to Rs. 94. I handed the man a 100 rupee note, which he held in his hands for a few minutes. Then he gave me a quizzical look. In turn, I gave him my most quizzical look (as Wooster would say, it was one of those evenings for quizzical looks). I was waiting for the 6 rupees he owed me. He, I later realised, was expecting some monetary gratification for having secured a seat for me. Now as far as the sheets in his hand showed, the supply of berths far exceeded the demand. So I saw no reason to 'grease his palms' so to speak. I continued giving him the quizzical look. Finally, he conceded defeat with a shrug, pocketed the note and left. I thought on the "tu bhi kya yaad karega kis rayees se paala pada tha" lines and did not press for my 6 bucks.

At Renukoot, I enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Agarwals, the family of one of my batchmates at IIML. They helped me go to the Hindalco factory, get a gate pass made, and even dropped me back at the station in the evening.

The return journey was a bit of a drag. On the plus side, the TTE just did not turn up this time, so I snoozed the journey away on a window berth. On the minus side, it was a loooooooooong journey. The train stopped at every station, and once it stopped, it took at least half an hour to muster up enough morale to get going. It arrived a full 4 hours late in Lucknow, and in the way, had been overtaken by a few passenger trains, an expedition of tortoises (looking very lost in Eastern UP) and a marathon of snails.

To add to my delay, Vajpayee had chosen this day to visit his constituency, Lucknow. So there were barricades all over the plus. Plus there was 'Hanuman Jayanti' which is celebrated here as 'Bada Mangal' with food and drink stalls all over the streets. It took me ages to reach the insti, amidst the scorching heat.

After I reached the insti, I immediately showered and headed back to the city, this time to visit Sarika in the Army Base Hospital. All those who frequent her blog must be knowing that she had an accident last week. Well, there is a problem in her knee cap and she has to be operated upon today. She will be in the hospital for at least 2-3 weeks until the plaster comes off, so there will be no blogposts or email correspondence from her side. Let us all wish her a speedy recovery so that she can be back on her feet very soon.

Friday, May 16, 2003


I love travelling. Which is why thought I have travelled to some pretty non-happening places in the past few weeks, I am enjoying it. I guess it has something to do with the solitude combined with the motion. Sometimes I read a book, but most of the times, I am thinking. Thinking about anything and everything. When I am alone, and surrounded by strangers, I think my thought process becomes a lot more lucid.

I have many "dream jobs". One of them is to be a travel writer. So if anyone from Lonely Planet is reading this, tell me if you want my resume. :-)

I have to meet a few customers in U.P. So I thought the best place to set base would be good ole Lucknow. I tried getting into a train going from Delhi to Lko, but nahh, it was too crowded for me and my big suitcase. So bravely, I decided to take a bus. The bus journey has to be one of the scariest I've been in. Having travelled on the Mumbai-Pune, Delhi-Jaipur and Delhi-Agra highway recently, my expectations about what a highway should be had reached the "First World" levels. This journey brought me back to terra firma. Firstly, the bus I was travelling in was a normal State Transport bus (In Pune we call them ST or YashTi). So the bones got a good workout. I sat cramped next to a burly fellow who obviously had a lot of faith in the medicinal qualities of garlic.

Our driver seemed to be a hall of famer from the Monster Trucks. And the highway was so narrow......whoa!

Anyway, the 12 hour journey was anything short of comfortable, but during that journey I thought of the plot of the story I posted earlier today. Have been thinking of a few more alterations as well.

Was goggling something, when I came across this site of two American bikers.

These guys have biked all over the world, as you can see from their website. What caught my eye was the fact that they had been to Maharashtra, and specially to Pune (well, what is Maharashtra without Pune, eh?;-)). This is the page about their Pune days. It is fun to read, especially since they praise my city a lot, and lambast its traffic. Here is an excerpt from the page about the Osho commune people -

Osho is the current moniker of a guru who used to go by the name Rajneesh back when he was operating out of Oregon and driving around in his many Rolls Royces. Remember? He got nabbed on tax evasion and fled the country, back to his native Pune to set up this place. While he�s no longer "in the body" (i.e. dead), the cult is still going strong and seems to attract mostly Europeans now. Lots of French and Germans running around in maroon robes, screwing each other with wild abandon (freedom of sexuality is a big part of the Osho schtick, and, presumably, its draw). After washing off seventeen layers of caked-on road dirt, we went for a sunset stroll. On the way over to the ashram we passed a young woman holding a rose up to her nose and wearing the most bogus beatific expression I�ve ever seen. I can�t recall a time I�ve felt a stronger urge to punch someone in the nose. Others, all clad in maroon, came streaming out of the ashram�s elegant gates, looking similarly brainwashed. We tried to get inside for a peek but this was strictly verboten. How did our Canadian friend get inside if she wasn�t a member? And if we two BikeBrats found these people so transparently phony, what on earth did they think of the likes of us? Here we were, surrounded by people of our own race and backgrounds for the first time in months, yet never had we felt so alien, so other.

Nice writing style. I am gonna read some of their other descriptions.


He kept his eyes on the road, having made up his mind not to look anywhere else. He was afraid that if he looked out of the window, he would again see the building in the desert. Using all his will power he just looked straight, like a horse and kept driving.

The shrink he saw had been perplexed when he told him about the building. Yes, people had mirages in the desert, but what Shashi was describing was clearly no mirage. It was perhaps more of a hallucination. The shrink said it was a surefire sign of stress due to overwork playing tricks with his mind. But Shashi did not agree. Yes, as an architect, he was used to a hectic life with long hours. Till a few months back, he had been neck deep in a big project, and had gone for days without sleep. But now the hard part was over and he had been taking it easy for the last few days.

In fact the first time he saw the building was during a vacation-like trip to Rajasthan. the big project he had been working on was a tourist resort in Rajasthan, and he was visting the site where the demolition of the older buildings had been completed, and the foundation work was starting. His clients had booked rooms for him in five star hotels all over Rajasthan and had drawn a plan for him to visit Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur...the whole tourist circuit.

He had been driving from Bikaner towards Jaisalmer when he first saw the building. It stood in the desert, a lone building, about 300 metres away from the road. He was perplexed at what a solitary building was doing in this vast sea of sand. He did not give it too much thought then and kept driving. However 2 hours later, as he looked to the left, he saw the same building, same distance away!!

How could that be, he thought. I saw this building a long time back. It stood solitary in the desert. How can there be an identical building standing in the desert here? Maybe it is some sort of a checkpost belonging to the army, he thought and drove on.

After that the building kept making appearances whenever he was driving on the desert highway. It would get closer and closer. Shashi did not share this with any of his friends. He went to see a shrink

After talking about overwork, the shrink asked

"So describe this building to me. It is designed beautifully? Is it big? Is it small? Does it change?"

"No, it doesn't change, it remains the same. And it is not aesthetically brilliant or anything. It is just a regular building. It has 3 storeys, is white in colour, and it is like any of the buildings you see all over our cities."

"Oh, then what makes you so sure it is the same building? Maybe you just see similar buildings everywhere." the shrink said.

"No, Doctor, come on. I know a building when I see one. Besides this one has some peculiarities. Two of its windows are broken. One balcony is painted red, for some reason. There are antennas on the floor in a distinct pattern." Shashi argued.

"And architecturally speaking, it is not remarkable?"

"No, it is mediocre at best".

"Well, so it can not be a design inside your head trying to get out. maybe it is a manifestation of....." blah blah blah the shrink went on saying things which did not make sense to Shashi at all.

He now started dreading this building. It would seem to come closer and closer with every approaching day. He had to keep visting the site in Rajasthan for his work, and he could not possibly tell his clients that he did not want to go there because he saw a 'ghost building' all the time. He told his best friend in the office In Delhi, Jacob, about this. At first Jacob thought Shashi was kidding, but as he realised the seriousness of what was being said, he grew concerned too.

"Do you see the building even when you are with someone?" Jacob asked.

"No, so far I have only travelled alone." Shashi said "The last time I saw it, it was just about 10 metres away from the road. I could see the chipped paint on some of its walls. The detail in which I hallucinate is scary, Jacob."

"Ok, tomorrow when you go to the site, I am coming with you. Let us see if we can get to the bottom of this." Jacob said. "Meanwhile, why don't you make a drawing of the building for me? Maybe drawing it will get it out of your system."

Shashi was up all night making a drawing of the building. He was to leave for the site in the morning and Jacob was going to meet him in the office.

However next morning, Jacob's son had an accident and so he had to rush to the hospital. Shashi had no option but to make the trip alone.

And, as stated earlier he did his best to keep his eyes on the road. However he could not do that long enough and slowly his eyes turned to the left. Sure enough, there the building was. What creeped him out was that even though he was driving, the building was right next to the road. It was as if the building was moving with his car. Shashi started sweating, when suddenly it happened. The car started making strange noises and very soon came to a stop. Shashi had to get out and was standing right next to the building he so dreaded.

His mind was trying to race away from panic but kept running into it. He was filled with a fearsome anticipation of what would happen next. But pretty soon it seemed as if he could not control his emotions. He felt drawn to the building and entered its gate. He could hear a din of children. Taking cautious steps he entered a room and saw that there was some sort of a class going on. The children all seemed to be from poor families, judging by their clothes. He strolled around the ground floor. There were children in all the room, playing with toys, reading books, singing, and yet no one seemed to notice him. He came to the staircase and climbed to the upper floor. Here he saw a lot of women cooking. On closer inspection, he realised they were making papads, senv, etc. In the corner a woman was packing them in sealed pouches.

The whole of this floor seemed like some sort of a "gruha udyog" office. Here too no one paid any attention to him. He climed the stairs to the top floor. Here he saw a lot of old people. Some were watching TV, some were reading, some talking. It was like an old age home.

Shashi was confused. The building seemed to be a school for poor kids, a source of income for poor women and an old age home, all in one. Why did this building frequent his thoughts? As he started reading the messages on the notice board, he wondered if it was all his imagination...

"NO IT IS NOT YOUR IMAGINATION!!!" read a notice on the board.

Shashi was so startled he jumped. Then he looked at the notice carefully. What he read explained a lot to him


Back in the office in Delhi, Jacob came to the office late. His son was not in any danger, but had fractured his foot. Jacob wondered if Shashi was seeing the building again. He walked into Shashi's empty office and saw the drawing of the building. Shashi had obviously taken a lot of effort drawing it, using water colours. Jacob picked up the drawing and was examining it when Sharma walked in.

"Has Mr. Shashi left for the site?" Sharma asked. Sharma was in the engineering department, and he was their demolition expert.

"Yes he has." Jacob answered. Sharma saw the drawing in his hand and said

"Hey, what are you doing with the drawing of Samaj Nivas?"

"Samaj Nivas?" Jacob asked.

"Yes, the red balcony shows that it is Samaj Nivas." Sharma said. "The red balcony is where they sold their stuff from. You know, this building delayed our Rajasthan project a bit."

"Really, how?"

"This building was built by a rich old man for a social cause. There is a school there, some sort of a snacks manufacturing centre for women, and an old age home. The rich old man was a philanthropist you know, he donated a lot of money to this cause."

"So how did this delay our project?"

"It was bang in the middle of our site. The old man had died recently and his son is money minded. He sold the building to us and turned out all those kids and old people. Activists had staged dharnas and all stopping us from demolishing the building. But we had the cops on our side. They physically removed everyone from the building and we demolished it in 4 hours flat."

"So what happened to the kids and the old people?"

"I am not sure. But you know, such places are few and far in Rajasthan. the kids had been rescued from the streets where they worked as beggars, so were the old people. I won't be surprised if they are back on the streets. And the women who worked there, I guess they are back to working in their own houses now."

"Shit, you mean we uprooted a perfectly functioning...." Jacob was horrified.

"Hey, the place was the old man's dream. After he died, his son could've refused to sell it to us. If anything, it is his son's fault. His son made a bundle of money from the sale, and has now migrated to Canada."

"Yes, but still, you demolished it, don't you feel guilty?"

"I was just doing my job. But tell me, why are you holding the drawing of the place? Who made it?"

"Shashi did...OH NO SHASHI!!!" Jacob rushed to the phone and started dialing Shashi's mobile phone.

The notice went -

This building has been sold to a developer. All the rumours you hear of us being turned out are true and not your imagination. Ramlalji's son Kishan is not like his father at all and has sold us out for money. We have to vacate this building by next week, after which it will be demolished and a resort will come up in its place.

We can only express our gratitude towards Ramlalji, for this place was like his soul. If it were not for the architect who planned the resort, the demolition squad which will raze it to ground and Ramlalji's son who sold out in the greed for money, we would all be living here like a big happy family for ever.

When this building is demolished next week, it will be like demolishing the spirit of Ramlalji."

Shashi's throat went dry. He wanted to rush out of the building, but his feet were rooted to the ground. Was this one of the buildings that had been demolished for his resort? Was it his fault?

Suddenly the mobile phone rang. he answered it


"Shashi, where are you? I have just come to know what your building is."

"So have I, Jacob, so have I. I have also....HELLO HELLO??" the phone line went dead. The silence in the phone line made way for a rumbling sound. He could feel the building shaking. He let out a yell as the ground beneath his feet gave away and he plunged......


Two weeks later

Inspector Rathore sat with the report in his hand. He was perplexed. The dead body of the man they found lying in the desert some days back had been sent for examination. The report said that the man had been crushed to death. The doctors thought he had been in some sort of a landslide or a building collapse. However, there was no evidence of that near the body. There were no fingerprints either. Did someone bring his body there and throw it? This was definitely the most mystifying case he had ever seen.


Kishan came out of the Indira Gandhi International airport and got into the car. He had spent the last few months in Canada, buying a house, getting his kids enrolled into school, completing emmigration formalities. Now all he had to do was sell of his remaining property in India. The car was speeding down the highway and in a few hours entered Rajasthan.

Kishan was looking out of ther window when he saw it. He was startled by it and rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Yes, there it was, his father's social service centre which he had sold. What was it doing here? Suddenly the car took a left turn and started driving in the sand towards the building.

"Driver,what the hell are you doing? Where are you taking me?"

He saw that the driver was lying unconscious and the car was moving by itself.....speeding towards the building.


p.s- I thought this story up while making the excruciating 12 hour long Delhi-Lucknow journey in a rickety UPSRTC bus. Any logical irregularities can be attributed to the road. I know it is probably not a good story, but I just had to get it out of my system. :-)

Thursday, May 15, 2003

There are times when you feel happy. The world seems like a perfect place. Everything seems just perfect. As if I am living in a Barjatya movie that starts with H, without the weddings and the big family.

As if almost each and every aspect of my life is perfect, the way it is supposed to be.

When one feels this way, one wants others to be happy too. So all of you reading this, start feeling happy RIGHT NOW!!! This is an order!

Never thought I would approve of something Laloo did, but this - Laloo catches US diplomat on wrong foot is hilarious. The guys who say "We want a change in a sovereign country's leadership" and then kill lakhs in the process, should have at least such small barbs thrown at them.

And by the way -

''So long as democracy allows for free expression of views, the US will have nothing to comment on it and such differences will not deter the US from extending support to India on developmental issues,'' Sibley said.


I think someone's been in the same room with Laloo for too long. ;-)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003



Woo Hooooooooo!!!!

Heehee, while Steve Waugh talks of his wishes to beat India in India, two West Idians of Indian origin have just pulled off the greatest chase in the history of the game. They beat India's record made in 1975 in the process. Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, take a bow!!

Anyway, while taking nothing away from this win, let me remind everyone that Australia has still won the series 3-1. However it feels nice when those guys go shooting off their mouths and then have to eat humble pie. Now I know why Lehmann is so fat...cos he keeps eating humble pie. ;-)

Anyway, read this about McGrath's shameful behaviour and tell me if it is not hypocrisy. Of course, everyone will go all "Awwww, his poor wife is ill and sarwan was such a jerk". Pardon me, but aren't these the same Aussies who defend everything saying "It is part of the game"? And let me take you 2 years back. Ganguly's marriage was on the rocks and there was news of his wife planning to move out of his house. At that time, it was this very McGrath who sledged Ganguly about his wife. Oh, but Donna Ganguly didn't have cancer did she? So that makes it OK I guess.

What I am saying is that who draws the line if you rationalise everything under the "It is a part of the game" line? Two days back, Steve Waugh displayed his immaturity. Of course he got away scot free. Two years ago, Slater had done everything but assault Dravid and Umpire Venkat. He got away scot free too.

This will keep getting worse. The thing that irks me is that the Aussies are cry babies who can't take what they are dishing out. South Africans give people lip too, but they don't start crying when they get some, neither do they get violent. The attitude is "Aussies ko sab kuch maaf".

I think one day an Aussie will get into a fight and seriously injure a player or an umpire, maybe even a career-threatening injury. And even then, they'll say "It is a part of the game".

Monday, May 12, 2003

Yazad has mooted an idea to start a blog by Indian Libertarians where we will post our take on current Indian issues. Ravikiran, Dipayan and a few others will be involved in it. I feel really honoured to be asked by Yazad to be one of the contributors, especially since I am not a complete libertarian yet in every aspect...and I doubt if I will be in the near future. I don't know when the blog will start, but I shall be able to post regularly only after Mid June when I am back in IIML with a 24 hr net connection. Meanwhile, I thought I would write a "pilot post" to see if I have it in me to write such stuff.


I was reading the interview of Jagmohan in the Hindustan Times this weekend(will try to find the link). Jagmohan is a controversial fellow known to have a penchant for changing things, and for the better, most believe. He is currently the Union Minister for Tourism.

Now tourism is a sector which has languished in mediocrity in India. For me that really represents the big letdown we have been for our own selves, because if there is one things that India has it easy in, it is tourism. We have snowclad peaks, deserts, lakes, beaches, backwaters, historic monuments, caves, name it! I dare someone to come up with one type of tourist spot that India does not have.

And yet, we suck at it. the reason, like most other failures in India, is the government control. The bureaucracy, the ASI, everyone have failed this gold mine. If we had Indian bureaucrats in the South African gold mines, they would think up of some way to not mine the gold, I am sure.

We could go on and on about what is being done wrong. But then just digging up mistakes, clucking our tongues, rolling our eyes and saying "Iss desh ka kuch nahi ho sakta" is not going to help. So I propose an alternative plan of action, a libertarian approach to tourism...libertourism if you will.

What the government can do is make a list of all the places it considers heritage sites or tourist locations. Places like the Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Ajanta Ellora, Elephanta etc. Then call for tenders from private parties to lease each of these places out to them, for a period of five or ten years.

These private players will own the tourist spot for the period. They will be given a free hand to renovate the place, revamp it etc, and in exchange, they can keep the revenue they make. Of course, to make sure that no fly-by-night operator type parties come and exploit these places, there should be periodic checks by the tourism ministry. For example if tomorrow a private player realises just as his lease is ending that he has not broken even, and so decides to sell some marble from the Taj Mahal (a la Brits), he should not be able to do so.

Recently the government announced that it will allow islands in the andaman Nicobar chain to be leased out. If these islands and the Lakshdweeps are run by private players, I am sure they can give the Seychelles a run for their money.

The way things stand right now, no one has any incentive to work extra hard for improving the tourism scene. Everyone gets fixed salaries, whether they work or not. The ASI is one confused body, unable to do anything useful. With libertourism, the ASI can be pruned and made a purely consultative body. Its "expertise" will be utilised by the private companies that have leased the spots. Competition for the ASI should be allowed to spring up as well.

The private players will promote their locales aggressively in the Indian as well as the foreign market. They will keep the places clean and well maintained, and the staff there will also be helpful and amiable. All the income will be taxable of course. So this means that the government will make more money than it does. For instance, if the Taj Mahal earns the government 10 million per year (hypothetically speaking), other ill-maintained places like the Elephanta caves earn it only 100 thousand. With privatisation, even though one may argue that the Taj's revenues may not grow significantly, Elephanta's revenues will surely jump will those of hundreds of other tourist spots. I am sure that even at a lowly 30% tax rate, the government will rake in many times the moolah it already does from tourism.

The government can slash its tourism payroll, and sit happy while the money jingles in.

That privatisation helps tourism can be seen from the example of Rajasthan. Many(or most??) of the palaces there are still owned by the families who ruled there previously. So the management is not government controlled. And anybody who has been to Rajasthan will know the difference in the condition of the spots there and those all around India. Now imagine, something similar, only on a bigger scale. Companies (not families) which are solely into managing such tourist spots. They will be able to publicise better and manage things better.

The way i see it, libertourism is a win win scenario. It won't just make the cake bigger, it will convert the cake into a full fledged bakery. Whatever pitfalls one envisages can be prevented by having a slim regulatory body with police-like powers so that they can not interfere with the day-to-day running but can check any wrongdoings by the private players.

So Mr Jagmohan, want to go for Libertourism?

Sunday, May 11, 2003


Each city has its own characteristic. No two cities are alike. Even twin cities differ in the essential "genetic code" if I may call it that.

I have not travelled as extensively as I would like, but have been to quite a few cities and each one brings out a different side of me. It is based on the way I behave in these cities that I realise how different they are. So I decided to describe all the cities that I have visited in one word. It is mainly, but not entirely, to do with how the city makes me behave.

Pune - Self-righteous. The city seems to have this superiority complex. It arises from its historic, cultural and educational abundance. A true blue Puneite will always hanker to settle down in Pune eventually. He may be living in the posh suburbs of Mumbai or the posh suburbs of California, his plan of life seems to have Pune as the final destination. This self righteousness gives the city its character. The relative safety that women enjoy in Pune, where you will see a girl going home at midnight alone on her scooty, also arises from this self righteousness. The Puneite will feel it beneath him to indulge in eve-teasing. You can make out the city's "attitude" by reading the letters to the editor. I could go on and on about my home, but suffice it to say that while Puneites are full of themselves....... at least they are full of subtsance. Only a Puneite/Punekar will understand that I mean all the above description in a good way. (By the way, for marketing guys, a bit of a tidbit, Pune has 500,000 Sec A & B people, that is 1.5 times Chennai and Kolkatta, and equal to Bangalore. In percentage terms this means about 20% of the population is Sec A & B, probably highest in India.)

Mumbai - Productive. The city realises that it is the economic lifeline of the country. It is so efficient, that it is almost a pleasure living here. The Mumbaikar is helpful and cooperative. You can get a glimpse of this by the way that commuters hanging from the local train will pull in a man running late. In any other city, he might have reached work late. Getting from one place to another is the easiest in Mumbai. Very few people actually are "from" Mumbai. Most have come from outside to work there. Since work is the main motive, it translates into the city's culture as well. People will talk about the poverty and the slum population of this metro, but if they leave their plush living rooms and travel in Dharavi, they will realise that even these slums are more productive than the industrial areas elsewhere. Just like its geographical make up, its mental make up is also very linear. It is a city that works hard, sleeps hard and parties hard. And it seems as if 15 million people are doing it together.

Delhi - Pugnacious. If Mumbai seems like one entity made up of 15 million people, Delhi seems like a battleground with each person fighting against the other. You always have to be on your toes here, whether you are catching a rickshaw, walking on the streets, eating in a restaurant or driving a car. This city has been invaded so many times in history and been a ground for so many battles that it has become combative and untrusting in nature. People are fighting everywhere, right from the bus stop in Mehrauli to the well of the Lok sabha in the parliament. Delhi also seems to have a schizophrenic character. It is almost as if it has two different natures. While one is stangant and rooted in the past, aware of its limitations, but wanting to survive in spite of those. The other seems to be keen to move on with life and make it big, because it has so many advantages on its side. Both natures though, have an edge of pugnaciousness. That is why Delhi has the most trigger happy upper middle class in India.

Bangalore - Optimistic. I lived there only for a week, but the atmosphere exuded optimism. You could literally feel that this is where the twenty first century is gonna arrive(i visited in 1999). The city is having a few teething problems, I hear, but overall it is filled with a surety of the success that lies ahead. You know how an awkward teenager suddenly grows tall, dresses well, speaks well and becomes 'chic'? Bangalore seems to have personified that transformation. It is yet to grow even more elegant, but its confidence in its own future is there for all to see.

Lucknow - Courteous. Because of the UP-Bihar stereotype that most of us carry, I was expecting Lucknow to be a crasser version of Delhi. But I was pleasantly surprised when i lived there. Sure, it is not a sprawling metro with wide avenues and towering flyovers, but the city still has "tehzeeb". Even rickshaw-wallahs arguing will refer to each other as "aap". The average Lucknowi wants to help you out, especially once he realises that you are not from the city. He will be warm, talk to you, and try to help you out in whatever way possible. And if he can't help you, he certainly will not hinder you. The 'crasser than Delhi'-ness that I expected is thankfully limited only to the Vidhan Sabha in Lucknow. Credit its Nawaabi hisory for it, but Lucknow's courteousness pervades every strata of the society. What saddens me is that Lucknow does not seem to be on a path towards growth. It has very few industries to speak of, and so the vibrance that would have added an extra attarctiveness to its nature is missing. Any Lucknowi with an opportunity and ability to settle elsewhere will leave the city pronto (except for Subrata Ray Sahara :-)) and come back only to visit relatives. I feel worried whether Lucknow will be able to maintain its sweetness over the coming years, I certainly hope so.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Saw "Walk the Talk" on NDTV 24X7 for the first time yesterday. It is an interview programme conducted by Shekhar Gupta, on the lines of BBC's Simpson's World, where Gupta and the guest talk while they are strolling.

Yesterday the guest was the ONLY man I respect in Indian politics. Some year ago, the only man I respected was ABV. But three incidents changed all that. One was the abject and spineless surrender to the IC814 hijackers after a heavy dose of rhetoric for half a century. Is this the same man who used to say "We will take back Aksai Chin" when he was in the Opposition? I guess some people are best left in the Opposition. What a two-faced ass.

The second incident was the bizarre 6 month long unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir. Please oh please explain how that ceasefire benefitted anyone but the terrorists.

The third incident was the Tehelka issue. The way he reappointed Fernandes without the completion of any inquiry...the whole witchhunt of Tehelka shows that he is just one of them.

Anyway, so the ONLY guy I now respect in Indian politics is Arun Shourie, Minister of Disinvestment and Telecom. He is a straight forward no nonsense guy. His interviews are such a refreshing change because he is perfectly candid. No empty rhetoric, no "party line" statements, nothing. Just the truth. It was great to see him talk about the country. Here is a guy who is actually making a difference to our lives.

By the way, while talking of China, he recounted something Sitaram Yechury said to him once - "yeh Chinese jo hai, woh DTC drivers ki tarah hai. Signal left ko kartey hai, aur turn right ko kartey hain/"


I hope Shourie goes to to occupy higher posts in the government......but I seriously have my doubts. Anyway, do watch the interview again if there is a repeat.


..and still I had to go to Panipat. Had to visit the National Fertilisers plant there and take feedback from a bloke. For all those planning to go to Panipat from Vasant Kunj, here's a tip - Start 4 hours in advance. It takes half that time to just reach the outskirts of Delhi.

The highway was quite good, 4 lane, and in 2 hours I reached Panipat. I got down at a place called Gohana Mod, and asked a rickshaw-wallah if he could take me to the NFL factory. he said - "Below the bridge?". I told him this was my first time in Panipat and I had no idea where it was. He told me to sit and started driving the rickshaw. The road we took...oh wow! You know how in New Zealand they bring a pitch from somewhere using a helicopter and drop it in the cricket ground? I think the Haryana road Development(!) guys took a helicopter to the moon, cut a long strip of land, and heli-dropped it in Panipat. Each one of my 206 bones got a richter-scale level shake and I was afraid my eyeballs might just drop out. The rick went below the bridge and came to a halt in front of some railway tracks. there was no crossing so i wondered what the hell we were doing here. The driver looked at me indicating that we were there. Now I could not see even a sack of fertiliser, forget an entire factory.

I asked him "Where is the factory?"
He said "I don't know, but I have brought you below the bridge"
"Why the hell? Do you know where the NFL factory is?"
"Me? No, no, I don't know."...reminding me of a dialogue from Pu La's Mhhais.
I told him to take me to the start of the bridge. there I found out where the factory really was and took a "shared rickshaw". Now this shared rickshaw is a dangerous concept. 6 people sit at the a space where the law in Mumbai-Pune will allow only 3. Two guys sit next to the driver. And three guys are hanging from the body of the rickshaw, like those lifeguards in Baywatch hang from the jeep. This rickshaw too, did to my bones what a blender does to fruit.

Finally, I reached the NFL gate. After i reached there and called up the guy i was supposed to meet, I came to know he had left for the day.

Now I started getting frustrated. I thought of pulling a Mahadji Shinde (for those unfamiliar with Maratha history, that means - "Running away from Panipat"). But the guy at the reception, by a curious twist of fate was a guy named Shinde. I thought he might be a descendant of the so called 'Great Maratha', but then remembered that the descendants now go by the surname "Scindia". Anyway, he saw my name and realised I was a Maharashtrian. He understood my predicament and said "I will call up his residence and see if he is there". he called up the guy who agreed to see me at him home.

So I had to go to the NFL colony, which again entailed travelling by the boneshaker rickshaws. This time the rickshaw which stopped seemed choc-a-bloc with people. But the driver still said to me "Oh you can get in". I jumped into the mini-sea of humanity in a manner which would have made Sadashivraobhau nod with approval. Half an hour later I was at the fellow's house. I spoke to him for about an hour and decided to head back to Delhi.

On my way to the place where the buses would stop (notice I am not using the term 'Bus-stop'), I saw a statue. It showed 2 angry looking guys pointing their spears at a dude on a horse who had a sword in his hand. I craned my neck to read the plaque at the base of the statue. It said "Om Prakash Chautala". My experiences in Lucknow, where I have seen many statues of various descriptions bearing the name "Sushree Mayawati", have taught me that the biggest name at the bottom of a statue in North India is not indicative of the identity of the person, but of the politician who unveiled it.

On further examination, I spied the words "The Third Battle of Panipat" and visibly brightened. I stopped the rickshaw and got down, I crossed the street and stood in front of the statue. It was a new one, installed only in January this year. I looked at the the image of Sadashivraobhau, the enigmatic warrior. I must have stood there for about 15 minutes, thinking about the battle. How 340 years ago, thousands of Maharashtrians marched North, how they gave the Afghans a tough fight at this very place (not exactly that place, the actual scene of the battle was some km away). The story of the third battle of Panipat is similar to the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. It is said to be a glorious defeat. Yet, I have my doubts about how big that defeat was. Some say that an entire generation of Maharashtra was wiped out. If it had been that devastating, the Maratha army would have been crippled. Yet, just 10 years later, the Marathas inflicted on the Britishers, what was probably the biggest defeat they ever faced in india. Anyway, this is a subject for an independent post in the future.

I bowed my head and paid respects to the martyrs of the third battle of Panipat.

Then i caught a bus and came back to Delhi.

This whole North India tour has been a great learning experience. I have learnt a lot about travelling unreserved, in buses, rickshaws, tempos in the not-so-plush areas of the country. I have learnt how to haggle about even the most basic things like mineral water, oranges and rickshaw fare. And I have learnt how to decode the Haryanvi accent. :-P

Firstly, let me say that Delhi has let me down a bit. I don't know why but I was expecting to be a very efficient and fast-moving city like Mumbai. But I have realised that the only thing that moves fast here are the cars belonging to the rich and infamous. The public transport sucks bigtime and the people aren't as helpful as Mumbaikars. And the rickshawwallahs!!! They are so dishonest and exploitative that it is a wonder they are driving rickshaws and aren't in the parliament storming the well of the house. In Mumbai and Pune, rickshaws have meters, and a fixed rate by which you pay them. So there is no bargaining or anything. You sit in the rick, he turns the knob of the meter, and when you stop, he looks at the rate card and you pay him accordingly. Very efficient.

In Delhi, the experience is like shopping in fashion Street. You tell him "Vasant Kunj". he will say "120 rupees". As you splutter out your laughter he will say "Okay, make it 70". You suggest "Why not go by the meter?". You see, Delhi rickshaws have more sophisticated meters than those in Mum-Pune. These are digital.......Douglas Adams would've approved. But if you find a rickshawwallah who voluntary flicks it on, you better take down his name and nominate him for a Bharat-Ratna. You haggle and end up paying through your nose.

Then there is the fact that Delhi believes in "early to bed" philosophy. The city just closes down at 9:30. I came back from Panipat yesterday at about 10, and I could not get a bus. All the buses were headed back to depots. I had to take a rickshaw and ended up parting with half my kingdom.

The roads in Delhi are wide, the buildings nice and there is a lot of greenery in some parts. Other than this, I don't see any reason Delhi should qualify to be a metropolis. At best it can be called a "very big city".

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

After you've done some things, there are bouts of self doubt, when you feel "Was that the stupidest thing I ever did?"

Then you keep hoping it is not. But more often than not, the anxiety of impending confirmation of stupidity is a precursor to the confirmation. Some guys (read 'me') never learn!


I have often wondered about faith. By faith, I mean faith in god. And no, I don't mean faith in any particular god, but in the very existence of god. For me someone who believes in the existence of any god, be it Brahma, Krishna, Allah, or any god, is one who has "faith".

So what is the source of faith? Where do we get it from? Is it something inborn and within us? Or is it the influence of our parents and our surroundings? Is it at the core of our exitsence or is it cosmetic? For instance, the function of walking. No matter where you are, you will sooner or later start walking. You will feel hungry, you will go to sleep. You don't have to be taught these things.

Is faith something like that or is faith something like....the table of 4. You learn the table of 4. When you learn it, you are told that 4*1 = 4, 4*2 = 8, 4*3 = 12 and so on. Kids are not taught at school the meaning of 4*3 = 12. No one takes 3 bunches of 4 sticks each, holds them together and arrives on 12. No. Kids are told "4*3 = 12, because I say so. Now memorise it." The kid is also told "Close your mouth while eating". Now closing your mouth while eating is not a truth, it is a norm we follow in society. Even for that there is no logical explanation other than "It looks bad". So the kid learns "4*3 = 12" and "Close your mouth while eating".

But imagine a kid left alone in the Mowgli. His hobby is picking leaves from four-leaf-clovers and gathering them. With habit, he will know that once he breaks off the leaves from 3 clovers, he gets 12 leaves. Habit will teach him 4*3 = 12. Mowgli "knows" that 4*3 = 12 because he has actually learnt it, as opposed to the kid in school who has just memorised it. So Mowgli may learn that 4*3 = 12(of course there is a distinct possibility he may never learn it). But Mowgli will NEVER ever learn that you are supposed to close your mouth while eating. It is not a truth of nature, just a norm. So as long as he doesn't meet another human being we will not learn it.

So what is faith? Is it "4*3 = 12"? or is it "Close your mouth while eating"? Is it a truth or is it a norm? The age at which we start "believing in god" we know nothing. We are just told to pray and we do. After this reality of God is firmly stuck in our mind, we interpret everything to fit with that reality. But like 4*3 = 12, we have just been told that God exists or we should have faith. Actually it is not like 4*3 = 12, it is more like "Close your mouth". Because even if you are told the table of 4 as a norm, you can later verify it as a fact. But the close your mouth can never be verified.

I think faith is not an ingrained truth. I think that if we conduct an experiment where we leave Mowgli in a jungle by himself and go to fetch him 23 years later, he will not have an idea about God. he will know that sun rises and sets everyday. he will know that when it rains, he will get wet. because those are truths. But since faith is a cosmetic norm that is imposed by society, he will not have that.

On what grounds do i say this? Because in the whole faith system, I find nothing absolute that can be derived from nature. You have to hold some axioms at heart and then proceed. Howmuchever you argue with a religionist, he will stop at a point according to his faith. A theist Hindu will stop at "Brahma wrote the vedas" or "The vedas are infallible". A Muslim will stop at "Allah is the only god and Muhammad was his prophet". A christian will stop at "Jesus Christ was the son of God". These statements can not be scrutinised. Suppose I were to ask, "Sez who? prove it" to these statements, what would happen? Nothing. The believers take these statements true, because someone told them. Mowgli will be able to defend his belief that "4*3 = 12" but the schoolkid can not defend "Close your mouth while eating".

And these axioms, these absolute truths are passed down from generation to generation. In legal terms, they are "hearsay". So the source of faith is not something intrinsic, not instrinsic to our psyche or even intrinsic to nature. The source of faith is society's norms.

Monday, May 05, 2003


Exactly one year ago, I had started blogging. Why did I start? I don't know. My friend George had a blog and I would read it once a week or so. As I mentioned it here in my first post, the decision to start blogging was spurred by my acceptance by IIML on that very day. I figured that since I would be away from home for the first time, I would have a lot to tell my family and friends. So instead of sending mails to everyone about how I find my new life, and about what I have been thinking lately, why not start a blog?

So I started this blog. Wrote a post and sent emails to all my friends saying "Yeh apun ka blog, isko visit karo". A few of them did visit it and said nice stuff about what I wrote. I was not able to update it very frequently at first. In fact my first post, though written on 5th may, was published on 6th because I forgot to press the "publish" button. The first post as you see, is mainly political. I was feeling pissed of at Thackeray (no surprises) and vented my irritation on the blog. I remember, this irritation arose from watching his spout his rabid inanities on Vir Sanghvi's Hard Talk Sunday night. I wrote about Pu La, cricket, in a way my first post is representative of all that I wrote in the year that followed. In fact as I read it right now, I noticed so many typos. Even that is representative of my blog. LOL.

For the first few days my blog was purely "friends only", i e only my friends read it. But one fine morning I saw a mail from someone called "Sonal Bhushan". She said she liked my blog a lot (confession - for the first few emails, I thought Sonal was a guy since I knew a guy named Sonal since I was a kid. Come to think of it I even thought Anik was a guy for many days. What is it about these Colorado females. ;-)) and that I should put a comments system in place because she feels like she has a lot to say about what I post. I was so happy that a stranger halfway around the world stumbled on my blog, read it, and liked it enough to actually write me an email. We emailed each other a lot during that time and became great friends. I was very happy when she started a blog as well. Then one day I got a long mail from Suku saying that she found my blog through Sonal's. We started emailing each other as well.

Around this time, I was supposed to leave for Lucknow. Earlier I was not much of an MSN messenger user since we had a dialup line at home. But in IIML, with 24 hour net access, MSN messenger became my lifeline. I used to have long chats with Suku, Sonal, Satyen and Nikita. At times we would have long late-night conferences.

Through the blogs and the chats, we became close friends, as close as real life friends...and we had not even met each other. I had always wondered how online friendships can get close, but I think that if you like someone's blog, your becoming friends is a foregone conclusion. Our blogs reflect our thoughts, our personality and our inner matter how hard we try to hide them. So once you like a person's blog, you are going to like the person as well (unless it is one of those "news link" blogs where people just post links). Little surprise then that when i visited Bombay 3 months later, Suku and I met up and got along like a house on fire. I was supposed to meet Sonal as well in January, but a cold wave combined with some pesky viruses made it impossible for me to leave Lucknow.

Blogging has given me a lot of joy. It has made me a lot of great friends, like Sonal, Suku, Anik, Sarika, the Nikitas, Sameer, Prashant, Onkar, Aditi, Almas and a few others. It has also taught me a lot of fun things about people I knew from my pre-blogging days like George, Ramanand, Satyen, Sumeet, Parvez, Hemya, Shantanu etc.

When I started blogging, I though that my close friends and family, numbering to about 10 or so, will read my blog everyday. So I would have put an estimate of the number of hits in one year as 4000 at the most. Yet, as I check the sitemeter which I put on the blog 2 weeks after I started it, the number of hits until now is 27,480. So other than the people who comment and talk to me, there are many others who just read the blog silently. I get on an average 100 hits a day. It means a lot to me that so many silent readers visit this blog regularly.

Thank you all for coming into my lives, reading my blog, appreciating it, debating on it, telling others about it.

I hope you all will be here when I write my 2nd Blogversary post next year.

Sunday, May 04, 2003


It had been a long day and I got down near the Western Express Highway and walked towards the place where I stayed. My stomach was giving the odd proverbial growl or two and I wondered what I should eat. It was just 5 p.m. or so and none of the street stalls were yet in business, and I did not feel like going to a restaurant after having spent the whole day in a sweaty Mumbai office.

That is when I spied his thela for the first time. He was rolling the mashed potato concoction into balls, which he would later deep fry into "wadas". The manner in which he was doing it betrayed the fact that he was a novice in the trade. His shining new thela further confirmed that he was a rookie in the wadapav business.

As I approached he gave me a warm smile and said "Give me just 2 minutes and I will have the wadapav ready". His sincerity is what struck me and I decided to linger on. A few minutes later, he served me 2 wadapavs. I took the first bite, and nodded with approval. Quite good, especially coming from a rookie. I finished the wadapavs in 3 minutes flat and paid him 7 rupees. He took my money, touched it to his head first and then put it in his cash-box. My payment had been his "bohoni".

This was the first I saw of him. A day later, I was a bit late coming home and when I neared his spot, I saw there was another wadapav-waala a few meters away. The other guy seemed to be doing rollicking business, with a big crowd of people around his cart. The rookie however stood smiling inspite of a total dearth of customers. I thought that maybe the other guy makes great wadapavs and I too took my business there. But one bite into the wadapav, I realised that the rookie's stuff was much much better. What could be the reason behind this disparity in the number of patrons then?

I did not want to follow the crowd here, so I moved to the rookie for my second wadapav. He smiled and handed me one.

"What is your name?", I asked him.

"Praveen" he said.

"Why are there no customers here?" I asked.

"You are new here, aren't you?" Praveen said.

"Yes, I am. Why?"

"You don't know the history of these parts. The people are angry with me, scared of me, I don't know what. That is why they won't come to me. But I am patient and I have faith in God. Very soon they will start coming here."

"What history?" I asked.

"I was released from jail 3 months ago. I was in there for attempted murder." he nonchalantly informed me.

I was stunned. I had read a lot about Mumbai gangsters, even seen movies made on them, but had never met one. Now here was this man, coolly telling me he had been in prison for attempted murder. I swallowed hard on my wadapav. I was wondering what to say that would not sound inappropriate. All I could come up with was


"See, you did not know, so you came here. Similarly new people will keep coming in and very soon I will have a business decent enough to make a living."

"Were you part of any....."

"Gang? Yes I was. In fact that is the reason I was caught. I was in the ..." and he told me the name of a famous gang he was a part of. "But in prison I learnt my lesson. I have a wife, and a daughter. I want them to lead a tension-free life. So I resisted offers to rejoin the gang and started this business."

"So these people don't buy wadapav from you because they are scared?"

"Some are scared. Some are repulsed by me. They don't want to give a gangster any business. I can understand actually. I don't blame them. I have made mistakes and they have a right to be suspicious. It is up to me to earn their trust."

I kept nodding all this while. After that, I paid him and left.

The next morning as I was walking towards the bus-stop, Mr. Rathi was standing there. He lived in the same building as me and had helped me about with buses before.

"Hi, I saw you eating Praveen's wadapav." he said "Don't you know his background?"

"Yes, I do, but he has served his time. He is trying to earn a decent living now."

"Hmphh, you people don't know these Mumbai criminals. They are like leopards and will never change their spots. This wadapav thing is just a front I tell you. I have seen Praveen since he was a kid. People like him can never reform. I bet he is involved in something shady right now."

I did not say anything, as my bus was approaching.

A few days later, I was coming back from work and felt like eating a wadapav. But I noticed that Praveen's thela was not there. So I was forced to eat the other mediocre wadapav. I did not think about why Praveen was not there that day...did not think at all. I must have subconsciously thought of some explanation and attributed his absence to it.

That is why I could not comprehend the excitement on Rathi's face as I passed his house. He saw me and walked towards me with a newspaper in his hand.

"See, see, I told you. A leopard never changes his spot."

I took the newspaper in my hand and read the piece he was pointing towards. It was written in the usual format -

"Praveen Dhayre, a criminal belonging to the _____ gang was killed in an encounter with the police near a bakery in Borivali today. Dhayre had been to prison before and was suspected to be behind the murder of a jeweler in Malad recently. The police got a tip off from an informer that Dhayre and a few others had planned a rendezvous near the bakery in Borivali. The police were waiting there as Dhaye arrived on a motorcycle. Policemen called out to him and told him to surrender. But Dhayre retaliated by firing at them with his gun. The police fired in self defence and wounded Dhayre. He was rushed to the KEM Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival...."

Guess whose birthday it is tomorrow? ;-)

Friday, May 02, 2003

All those who know me will vouch for my contempt for Communist and even Leftist thought. But came across this line when somebody was discussing the whole Sangh Parivar (BJP, RSS, VHP, BD, SS) vs Bidwai, Thapar and others issue.

And for all those who are ranting against the leftists; better to be a leftist than a riotist(sic) what!

Had me laughing for hours. A classical example of using humour to hammer your point across.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

This is a verbal prank you can pull on your marathi speaking friends. It is a Gaurav Sabnis original and has gotten me clucked tongues, hissses and annoyed looks on many occasions. I share it with you people today so that the prank can be used on more people. :-P

Ask someone - "Tujha bhutanvar vishwaas aahe ka?"
They will either say yes or no. Whatever their answer, ask next - "Ani tujha Bangladesh kinva Nepalvar vishwas aahe ka?"


Explanation for non-marathis - The first sentence translates as "Do you believe in ghosts?" but there is a pun in it and it can also mean "Do you believe in Bhutan?". People assume you are asking them about ghosts and after that you ask them about Bangladesh and Nepal.

I know, I know, corneeeeee. But still, try it on your friends and tell me the results.