Vantage point

Monday, February 28, 2005

BJP's Dilemma

The BJP needs to make up its mind about how to criticise the government.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sharing his opinion about the budget, says "salaried people have to pay more taxes".

Ehhh? That's news for me. Every TV channel and every newspaper is full of calculations showing how salaried people will have to pay less taxes. In fact, some parties have criticised the tax cuts, asking how the FM plans to raise money for his ambitious outlays if he is cutting taxes.

For instance, Yashwant Sinha says - "His tax concessions both on direct and indirect side do not justify his budget estimate for the next year."

So which one is it, BJP? Are we being over-taxed or under-taxed?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

That damn greenery on marine drive!!

Something needs to be done about that damn greenery on Marine Drive. No, I'm not talking about the trees and all. I am talking about the shrubs on the road divider. So while the drive from Nariman Point to Chowpatty is an absolute treat, the drive in the opposite direction just has you craning your neck to see what's behind those damn shrubs.

Clip, clip, clip, i say.

Tricolour Red-flagged

I don't recall the last time I felt as furious, as I did when i read this - Karthikeyan helmet banned.

Just when you think the government is starting to make some sense, and drag itself out of the Victorian maibaap-sarkar mindset, it goes and un-redeems itself with an idiotic decision.

Preventing cricketers from sporting the tricolour is a bit understandable, given that the BCCI has made arrogant statements like "The team plays for BCCI, not for India". But Narain Karthikeyan has shown no such airs. he is a very humble chap, and has always worn his Indian-ness on his sleeve. He can easily sell the helmet space to sponsors, but he chooses to wear the Indian colours.

Who the *beep* is the government to stop him? This stupid "flag code" they talk about is Stalinist. It needs to BE ABOLISHED.

I myself am so angry right now. I can't even imagine how disappointed poor Narain is.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

BCQC Goes Global!

The Pune Newsline story about the Boact Club Quiz Club in Pune has been picked up by UK's largest quizzing organisation, and published on their site.

I suggest we float an IPO of the BCQC. ;)

The Little Girl and The Panipuri

He is a gruff looking old man with a distinct Bihari accent. I like his panipuri and often stop by for a plateful. Like all typical panipuriwallahs, he too has a handcart with a bright red cloth. Like all panipuriwallahs, he also serves 6 puris in a plate, charging 5 rupees for it. Like all panipuriwallahs, he gives you a complimentary "sukha masala puri" in the end.

A few days back I was having panipuri at his cart when a tiny girl ran up to him.

"Bhaiyya, 2 rupaye ka panipuri milega?", she chirped. She was dressed in a tattered frock, and her hair was unwashed for days. She could not have been more than 6 years old. Sparing even 2 rupees for panipuri was definitely a luxury for her. But the way her face glowed at the mention of "panipuri" made it obvious that she had given this expense a lot of thought.

"Haan, milega. Aadha plate.", the old man replied as his hand punctured a puri and filled it with ragda.

"Baad mein sukha masala puri bhi milega?" she chirped again.

"Nahi. Hum sirf poora plate ke saath hi sukha masala puri det hai.", he scolded her, as he dipped the puri with his hand into the pot of teekha paani.

The girl made a skulking face but handed him the 2 rupee coin nevertheless.

The old man handed her a plate and served her the first puri, filled with ragda, tamarind chutney, and chilli water. The little girl picked it up, the puri looking huge clasped in her tiny fingers. She raised the puri and gulped it, just barely managing to fit it into her little mouth. As she was eating the puri, her face was again radiating in a contented way.

The old man placed one more puri on her plate, then another one, and then one more. That made it four puris. I assumed he would stop, and give me the next puri.

However he placed another puri on her plate! Then three more, and that made it eight puris. Usually you get six puris for five rupees, but this man had given her eight puris for two rupees. I was puzzled.

So far, I had been looking at his hand as he dished out the puris. I shifted my gaze to his face and saw that he was looking at the little girl with an indulgent smile on his face. He gave a little chuckle as she happily gobbled down the puri and wiped her face with the back of her hand. The old man was clearly enjoying this display of unadulterated joy from the girl, the simple joy that comes out of eating something you enjoy.

The little girl placed the plate on the cart and said "Bas, ho gaya." Then she fidgeted around a little bit and asked in a low voice "Sukha masala puri milega?".

The old man got irritated and said "Boley na, Hum sirf poora plate ke saath hi sukha masala puri det hai."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

An Update on the Comments Situation

Many patrons of this blog have mailed me urging to reconsider my decision to disable comments on this blog. Their contention is that because of this decision, readers will be deprived of the many interesting and insightful comments made on my posts.

I grant the point. The comments added a lot to this blog. However we need not be deprived of them. Whenever a reader sends across an interesting mail, I shall be publishing it with the relevant post as an "Update". Notice the "Update" on the last post about Nikhil's tip on change management.

So all of you who have a point to make about anything I have posted, do shoot across a mail, and I will make sure the readers aren't deprived of it.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Managing Change

Many maxims that were hammered into our overloaded heads in Business School were about "Change Management". Several chapters, cases, and professors would go on and on about how critical it is to manage change for the success of an individual as well as an organisation. In fact I had even taken a full credit course on managing change effectively.

After I left school and joined the real world, I understood that all the chapters, cases and professors were right. It is very crucial to manage change. However none of those were able to prepare me for dealing with change properly. Even now, every few days I face a daunting situation which involves change management.

The most frequent situation is the one when I reach office in the morning and when I reach into my wallet to pay the auto-wallah, all I see are hundred rupee notes sitting cosily with five hundred rupee notes. Which makes the situation rather tough to handle, since the fare is usually about 17 to 19 rupees. Thus lack of proper change management leaves me in a fix.

Not having change in a place like Bandra Kurla Complex is particularly challenging, since there are no shops or restaurants around, where one can equip oneself with change. So a lot of time is spent in me and the rickshawwallah just staring at each other and the tall buildings, hoping that change will materialise miraculously.

Never happens.

Then the rickie goes around the parked rickshaws and taxis asking if they have change. Hardly anyone does, and even if they do, parting with change in the morning is a rash step they won't take. Finally, after what seems like a few decades, we come across a kind soul who takes pity on us and delivers change.

There are many other occasions where change presents a problem. Be it in a shop, a bus, a railway station or on a street, Change Management is a skill we all need to imbibe.

I have learnt a few lessons in Change Management through my experiences that I would like to share with you.

The best way to manage change is to check at night how much change you have on you. Will it be enough for paying the autowallah or bus conductor in the morning? Remember, the crucial time for change management is morning, when no one has any change. So when you make any payments in the evening, make them using a 100 rupee note or a 500 rupee note, even if you have change with you.

Everyone has change in the evening. So when you pay a rickie even an amount like 12 rupees, hand him a 100 rupee note, and he will dutifully produce change.

Another good source of change is a restaurant. When you go to a restaurant, and the bill is 150 rupees, don't pay using a 100 rupee note and a 50 rupee note. Give him 200 rupees. What will happen is, that the waiter will get you change for the remaining 50. i.e he won't bring back a 50-re note. He will bring it back in tens. Always. Why? To make the process of tipping him easier, that's why. So what you have is a waiter helping you with change management.

There are a few places where you will get change for sure. The best ones are STD booths and internet cafes. These people have most of their cash in small denominations, and are grateful to anyone who will give them an opportunity to convert it into a more compact form. So if you walk into a net cafe at night, and ask "500 ka change hai kya?", the bloke will first give you a kiss, and then urge you to take 50 notes of 10 rupees each, thus taking care of your change management needs for the next week.

It is through imbibing these lessons that you will master the art of Change Management. You will never find yourself in the awkward position of brandishing a 500 rupee note to pay for an 8 rupee rickshaw fare early in the morning.

Update: Reader Nikhil Kulkarni has another lesson in change management, but with a caveat. he writes - One more tip of "change management" is to get change from local ticket counter at any station in Mumbai, esp when it's not too crowded. But beware, this can backfire, like once with me when the mamu on Kurla
station had given me change in one and two rupee coin when I had given him 100 rs note for ticket till Dadar :-)


Had gone to Pune this Sunday to attend what is currently one of the best Quizzes in this neck of the woods, i.e the VIT Quiz-o-Mania. What made the quiz even better was that Sarika and I, teaming up for the first time ever, won the quiz.

Read more about the quiz at Notesandstones.

Pune quizzing itself is doing very well. We all know about the Mastermind triumph of Ramanand and the ESPN School Quiz win of my alma mater, Abhinav Vidyalay. Pune has emerged as a quizzing centre. At the heart of Pune quizzing is the Boat Club Quiz Club. Though started by COEP-ians, it has become a universal phenomenon with most of the attendeed being from outside COEP. Even the local media has started taking notice.

Today the Indian Express covered the activities of the BCQC -

The In-quiz-itives

If any of you folks reading this blog are from Pune, and are interested in quizzing, we welcome you to the Boat Club Quzzing sessions. Everyone's invited.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Blogstreet Hawk

It was recently brought to my attention by Madhu that I have been displaced from the top at the Blogstreet India listings. I have lost my dual position as the #1 Popular Blog and the #1 Most Influential Blog.

Ahh well, it was good while it lasted. The fame, the adulation, and the groupies, that were all a part of being on top. It inconvenienced me greatly to wear a beard-and-glasses disguise when I went out, lest I be mobbed. I could no longer partake of such simple pleasures of life as panipuri and vadapav.

So one positive side of my dethronement is the fact that I can now mingle with the masses, thanks to my newfound freedom. Sure, there will be some girls who will still politely smile at me, the but the shrieking and the hugs will now be diverted to the new top dog.. I mean blog - Kiruba Shankar.

Kiruba, my friend, nurture the spot, will you? It means a lot to me, and I know that in your able hands it will come to no harm. Also, I hope you will be able to shoulder the immense social, political, economical and philosophical responsibilities that are a part and parcel of this position. Little kids will look up to you. The tiny beggars at traffic signals will ask you - "Uncle aap Blogstreet ke number 1 ho na?", and expect a lavish tip. Journalists will exhaust the tape on your answering machine.

Kiruba, I also urge you to not repeat the mistakes I made. Don't make a post without checking for typos. Don't persist with black backgrounds. Also, don't put off sending review reports to your boss until the last moment. This final point may not have contributed towards toppling my blog, but is good advice nevertheless.

So I wish you a happy rein at the top. But remember, I have tasted blood, and I will hunt again. I shall be working to dethrone you in a manner that would make both Brutus and Lady Macbeth knock on the insides of their graves in approval. It will be one long series of conspiracies and plots aimed at regaining the spot.

So Kiruba, watch your back! The West will rise again!


Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ciao, Comments

I have finally taken the decision to do something I have been contemplating since months. I have removed the comments service under each post and replaced it with a link to my email address. So in the future if any readers feel strongly about a post of mine, they are welcome to, nay, they are urged to send me a mail.

Why did I do this?

To be honest, it is mainly because of the trolls who get their jollies by flaming other people's opinions. I would love to be a tranquil nirvanised person who is not affected by these trolls at all, but I am not. And it is not just me, but a lot of you who get pissed off by these trolls. What this does is, it takes the focus away from the blogpost and throws it on the trolls. We have seen this happening particularly with one person who posts under different names (yumyum-aka-sabnis-ka-whatever-aka-AG)) but does not take the effort to change IP addresses in the same session.

To use some management jargon, the costs associated with the frustration arising from some pointless offensive anonymous comments have lately started exceeding the benefits of the convenience that comments offer.

So people, write to me. You will find a link to my mail ID under every post.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Not Another Tehelka

Regular readers of this blog would know that I am not great fan of A.B. Vajpayee. However, those sections of the Indian media which are treating this as if it is another Tehelka-type scoop need a crash course in comprehension skills.

Even if we don't ask why Outlook sat on such a supposedly "damning" piece of evidence for 13 years, all we need to do is watch the speech in question. I did so on Star News, and ABV was definitely kidding. He was speaking in a lighter vein, as was evident by the frequent chuckles from him as well as the audience, and can in no way be interpreted as exhorting hordes to tear the mosque apart.

Of course, the Congress will attack ABV, but commentators in the media should show more intelligence than that.

Frankly, I don't think that at least the BJP would have wanted the mosque to be demolished. In effect, it was equivalent of slaying the hen that was laying golden eggs. The Congress, on the other hand, would have loved it. Which is why I think Narsimha Rao just sat on his hands while mob frenzy gave modern India one of its most shameful moments.

My Musings on Poverty - Part 1

Explanatory Prelude - I believe Capitalism is good. I believe Globalisation is good. But I believe that the WTO, or indeed the existence of a body like WTO, which "enforces" capitalism, is bad. The reason I believe it is bad, is the same reason why I believe big governments are bad. These posts examine how a person who is anti-socialism and pro-capitalism can also be anti-WTO.

India is a country that has plenty of people on every peg of the Richness-Poverty scale. We have thousands, even lakhs of filthy rich people and we have thousands, even lakhs, even crores, of abjectly poor people who can't afford even the most basic of needs like food, clothing and shelter. The number of people on the poor side of the scale far outweigh those on the rich side of the scale.

So would you say India is a poor country?

I think not. A poor country is one which just does not possess enough resources.

Let us take one basic need - food, and look at countries from that perspective. A poor country would be one which does not have enough food to feed its citizens, i.e it does not have enough grain, vegetables and meat to feed its citizens. So is Saudi Arabia a poor country? It does not grow enough grain, vegetables and meat to feed its citizens.

Ahh, who said anything about growing? I said a country should "have" enough. Now, how will you have enough resources? Either you will "grow" them. Or you will "buy" them. Or you will "snatch" them. Snatching is something which is not done very often among countries. Only if there are wars waged, like Hitler's germany did. But in the normal course of things, a country will either grow or buy.

So a country like Saudi Arabia which can't grow, will buy food.

How will it buy food? By selling something else, that's how. What does it have that it can sell? Why oil, of course. Saudi Arabia is lucky. Fossil fuels under its land save it from poverty. But there are many countries which are not as lucky. So they
can neither grow enough food, nor buy it, because they don't have anything else to sell. Many countries in Africa are poor like this. But lets come back to India.

Is India poor? Not in terms of food. Quite simply, we grow enough food to feed our billion mouths. We don't even need to buy it, like Saudi Arabia does. Maybe 40 years back, we didn't grow enough, but ever since the Green Revolution happened, we have achieved "self-sufficiency" in food.

The next basic need is clothing. Do we "grow" enough clothing for a billion people? Yes, we do. We have enough raw material, and enough means of production to "grow" clothing. Saudi Arabia doesn't. It has to buy clothing too. Maybe 80 years back, we
didn't have enough means of production, but now we do. So we have achieved "self-sufficiency" in clothing.

Now we come to shelter. What do we need for shelter? Land, cement, bricks, iron ore, and wood are usually enough to build houses that will be our shelter. We have enough of almost all those things. So by and large, we have achieved "self-sufficiency" in shelter too.

Wow, will you look at that? Poor Saudi Arabia needs to buy almost all these things, but we don't. So I don't know about rich, but India is definitely not a poor country. In fact it is not even close to being a poor country, because it is self
sufficient in the basic resources.

How is it, that even though India is not a poor country, it has so many poor people? In the 1960s, there were times in India when we didn't have enough food. We were poor, in reference to food. But not now.

So why don't people just buy all this food, all these clothes, and all these houses?

Why don't they learn from Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia could buy, because it had oil to sell. What do these poor people have to sell?

Saudi Arabia sells oil, but not all countries have oil. Some have extra food to sell, like the Europeans, some have extra clothes to sell, like the Chinese. Some don't have anything they "grow". Like Japan. Japan doesn't have a lot of iron ore, but it sells lots of cars. How does that happen?? Because Japan has the "skills" to convert iron ore into cars. There may be tens of other countries who have the same natural resources as Japan, but they don't have the skills to convert iron ore into cars.

Now here it gets confusing. Saudi Arabia has oil, thanks to the earth. Where did Japan get these "skills" from? Are the Japanese born with these skills? No. Then how can we say "Japan" has these skills? Well, Japan has "companies" that have these skills. Companies? Aren't we confusing ourselves even more?

Maybe we are. Let us get back to the people in India, after understanding that Japan has the skills to make cars from iron ore. So when Japan sells cars, it is really selling the skills.

Don't these hungry, naked, homeless people in India have skills they can sell to people who have extra food? They sure do. Then why don't they sell these skills, like Japan does?

to be continued...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Most Irritating People Awards

Here is my list of the most irritating people in the world, divided into neat categories.

Most Irritating Female, Indian - Kareena Kapoor
Can't act, can't sing (aankhon hi aankhon mein, baaton hi baaton mein tooney churaya jee-YUCK), makes stupid faces very stupidly, makes normal faces very stupidly too, and contrary to the prevalent belief among Bollywood actors, does not even have a cute butt.

Most Irritating Male, Indian - Shahid Kapoor
His utter lack of acting skills shows that the genes of both Pankaj Kapoor and Neelima Azim refused to have anything to do with him. Moves as if there's a cockroach stuck in his underwear that he is chasing out by sheer willpower.

Most Irritating Cricketer - Justin Langer
Seems boring even when scoring at run-a-ball, makes a face even if he is clean bowled, and has a smile that was stolen from a circus frog.

Most Irritating F1 Driver - Juan Pablo Montoya
The Langer of F1, but without even 5% of equivalent success. Bad at handling a car, bad at taking risks, and the only thing he motors powerfully is his mouth.

Most Irritating Hollywood Star, Female - Kirsten Dunst
Looks like the result of a disastrous genetic experiment combining an ugly Persian cat with a 10 year old boy.

Most Irritating Hollywood Star, Male - Ben Affleck
I don't like his face, I don't like his acting, and I don't approve of his taste in women.

Most Irritating Media Personality, Male - Prabhu Chawla
Looks and talks like a slimeball from an Abbas-Mustan production.

Most Irritating Media Personality, Female - Christiane Amanpour
Sanctimonious to the T, talks like she has a 20-years-old chewing gum stuck to the back of her tongue, and is not even easy on the eye.

Bad Lens Day

Those who know me well will vouch for the fact that for me, "bad hair day" means "day". So bad hair days don't bother me much. I have more or less accepted them as a part of my life.

What I hate though are 'Bad Lens Days'. This aberration, no pun intended, afflicts me once every two or three weeks. On a bad lens day, one of your contact lens just can't get down to day-to-day business. Some issue crops up. And what makes it worse is, these issues always crop up about 15 minutes after you have worn the lens and left your house.

The issues are rather vexing ones, like irritation in the eye, or displacement of the lens, or just plain inexplication redness. Thus starts the bad lens day.

Even if you are resourceful and carry a bottle of solution, the mere take-out-rinse-put-in routine doesn'T always work. In fact it often makes matters worse, aggravating the irritation, or adding an issue like the "eye-flutter".

And if you don't carry lens solution then may the Deity of Atheism have pity on you!

I am a veteran of many such scraps with my lens. Once the lens shifted while I was travelling in a bus and I had to remove it and put it back in a moving bus!! Thank the same deity for air-suspension Volvo buses.

Today has started off as another bad lens day. I have already done the replacement routine thrice. And I must end this post here now because I think I need to rinse the lens again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Everybody and his grandmother says that the Urban Land Ceiling Regulation Act(ULCRA) is an archaic excuse for a law, and as anachronistic and idiotic as whipping. Everybody and his grandmother says that a large part of blame for the burgeoning slums in our cities, specifically Bombay, lies with the ULCRA. Everybody and his grandmother says that ULCRA should be scrapped.

Yet, why o why, is it still there in Maharashtra lawbooks?

The latest "opponent" of the Act is our suave Civil Aviation Minister, Prafull Patel, who said so in NDTV's Walk the Talk. However while Patel lambasted the Act in the TV interview, that part has been mysteriously edited out by the Indian Expess.

This is what he said in the interview (I quote from memory) - ULCRA is an old and bad law, and it should be scrapped. If it was in my hands, I would have scrapped it long back.

Now, Mr. Patel, your party is part of the government both at state as well as in the centre. How about championing to scrap the law? It will make your life easier, by helping clear the slums in Andheri ans Santacruz that surround the airport. Why then don't you, or any of our other "learned" new-age politicians take one such issue passionately. All these "stylish" politicians, like Pramod Mahajan, Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Dushyant Singh, spend most of their time networking with the NDTV crew, so that they can appear on TV, and seem "progressive".

If they want to make a real difference to the country, they should each pick one archaic and counter-productive legislation, and dedicate their time to its abolition.

That is the real way to "walk the talk".

P.S- Amit Varma highlights the positives of the Praful Patel interview over here.

Orissa Leads the Way!

Of all the states, it is Orissa that has pioneered this welcome step. It has decided to outsource select municipal services to private firms. Privatisation of such processes where ingenuity and discipline of the private sector can do a much better job than the complacent laziness of the public sector is but a logical step, and one wonders why it has not been thought of despite our cities being in such pathetic conditions.

A tiny beginning of this process was made years ago in a few Indian cities thanks to private initiative, with no involvement from the government. In Pune a lot of individuals would buy a small truck, and then collect garbage from buildings, and deposit it all at the city dump. At least our neighbourhood underwent a remarkable transformation after these "kachra tempos" started operating.

Its good to see the government taking such initiatives.

The article ends on a good note - In some areas, multiple service providers would be engaged to facilitate competition among them.

There are some flaws in the idea, like the government deciding the charges to be levied on residents instead of the market deciding it. But hey, at least its a start.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Q- How did Rani Mukherjee lose her eyes in Black?
A- Sanjay Bhansali removed them so they could be on the Oscars.

Bad joke, I admit, but it describes the underlying motivation behind Black perfectly. The movie is Bhansali's bid for an Oscar, having failed with Devdas. Devdas, he reckoned, was too garish, too long, and had too many songs.

Black is the exact opposite. It is not at all garish. In fact it is plain. The movie's sets are dominated by dark colours. It is just a little over 2 hours long, which is the standard length for a serious Hollywood movie. And it has no songs at all, which for me, was one major check-mark in the favour of the movie.

Another clear indication of Bhansali's target audience is the language and the setting of the movie. The family in the story is a Christian family, almost definitely Anglo-Indian, that lives in pre-Independence India.

Hence, a high percentage of the dialogues are in English!


*Oscar Rules Alert*

The website of the Oscars says - "A foreign language film is defined, for Academy Award purposes, as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track."

Is Black's dialogue track "predominantly non-English"? I seriously doubt. If it means at least half the dialogues should be non-English, then Bhansali probably won't even see his film nominated as a foreign film.

So.... is it possible that Bhansali is planning a grand American release aimed at the mainstream audience, and not just the diaspora?


Anyway, enough about Bhansali's Oscar dreams. To the movie.

Is the movie good?


Is it an amazingly fantabulous movie that will be counted as a classic?

Errrrrr... not if I had any say in it.

The basic story, as mentioned in the credits, is inspired from Hellen Keller. It is a sweet and poignant story, and has been brought to life by some stellar performances.

Stealing the limelight in Black, no irony intended, is Ayesha Kapoor, playing the role of the young Michelle. The angst and frustration of a little girl who, as Mr. Sahay (Bachchan) says, is just blind and deaf, but not mentally retarded, has been portrayed by her with the dexterity of a veteran.

The scenes between the little girl and her teacher are the high points of the movie. That part of the script has been masterfully written and executed, where we see Michelle's savage stubbornness go head to head with Sahay's eccentric stubbornness. Sahay is convinced that the biggest step in her education is to explain to her the concept of words, something which we people with eyes or ears, or both, can effortlessly pick up as infants. His efforts meet with violent inertia from the little girl. However finally, his stubbornness wins, and Michelle starts to understand words, at which point the triumph felt by her parents, teacher and herself, are shared in full measure by us, the spectators.

At that point however, the movie dips.

Mind well, it is still a very good movie. But I am just explaining why it has stopped short of being counted as great in my books.

Post-interval, its almost as if Bhansali, the writer, has blacked out. (Ouch!). The story just doesn't go anywhere solid. Different streams of the story flow off in different directions, like Michelle's academic problems, Sahay's health issues, the jealousy of Sara(Nandana Sen) Michelle's sister, and the issue which is the most haphazardly handled is Michelle's awareness of her sexuality, her being a woman and her feelings for Sahay.

Bhansali just takes dabs at all these sub-plots, and then ends the movie. It would have been a great movie if just one of these threads had been followed through right until the end. But the way the movie comes out, all the threads seem semi-cooked.

All in all, Black ends up way short of what it promised. To use a cricket analogy, remember the first India-Pak One-Dayer at Karachi in 2004? The way India were going until the 20th over, you expected them to cross 400. But eventually they ended up on "just" 349. 349 itself is a mammoth score, but anyone who saw the match will understand the disappointment I am talking about.

Bhansali has done something similar. He has scored 349, but after promising the viewer at halfway mark, a 400. Good effort, SLB, but you coulda done better.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

True Blue Cartelian

That's Amit Varma for you. When I met him at our blogmeet in Bandra, he seemed to me like a member of the cartel who was separated from us in a Kumbh Mela. He believes in the market, is an atheist, and loves to discuss politics.

With this post - Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black, he proves that he has another Cartelian characteristic - a panache for PJs. Nope, that does not mean he sneaks up to your clothesline and swipes your pyjamas. It means he too has a knack for cracking corny jokes, also referred to as PJs in Indian slang.

Friday, February 11, 2005

"Ever Noticed..." Volume 1

Ever noticed how the slowest, dumbest people lacking even the basic grasp of technology end up in front of you in an ATM queue? While you are fidgeting outside, muttering "What is taking them so long? I would have dismantled the entire ATM machine in this much time", the person inside is inserting cards, punching buttons and pocketing cash in ultra-slow motion.

Isn't it irrrrrrrrritating to have to wait for your turn behind such hicks?

It is! Ask the person who is in the queue behind you.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Zest, Paud Road

Reading this post by Amit Varma reminds me of Zest.

The best cold coffee in the world can be had at Zest on paud Road in Pune. Sarika will support me on this. It has the usual ongredients of course - milk, coffee, sugar, a bit of chocolate. But I don't know what magical proportion they have stumbled upon, it just takes you on a different level of existence as you are sipping it.

The world suddenly seems like a very fair place. You start thinking, "OK, so there are the negatives, like traffic, and work, Kareena Kapoor and Justin langer, but the world also offers you immense positives like cold coffe at Zest, and that too for just 20 rupees!!" Then you finish the coffee, and suddenly the world starts turning dark. So you have one more cold coffee.

And so it goes on...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Touche, Rahul

Rahul Dravid takes a dig at India's Shoaib-obsessed media in this article "Don't Burden sania, narain with expectations" in today's TOI, when he concludes with this paragraph -

Yes, and this also ensured that we devoted less space on our papers and channels to the fitness, activities and statements of a Pakistani fast bowler who is not even playing.

Touche, Rahul, touche.

Let them skip Ahmedabad

Let Pakistan skip Ahmedabad I say. What is the big deal? We went there and asked not to play at Karachi and Peshawar, and got our way. Then why make an issue out of the Pakistani demands?

As for those who might say "Well, we had cited security reasons, but they are citing political reasons", have we never used sports to make a political statement? Didn't we forfeit a Davis Cup because of it? Didn't we snap cricketing ties with South Africa and Pakistan in the past?

Why shouldn't Pakistan do it then? It is not as if what they are saying is a fabrication. Ahmedabad did see one of the worst riots in recent history, and most of the dead were Muslims. If they want to make a statement about it by not playing there, then let's drop the matter.

This "gentleman" should not make such idiotic statements. As Javed Miandad and "Mian" Musharraf himself will tell Modi, such statements have a tendency to boomerang and bite you in the ass.

For the benefit of those too lazy to click and search the whole articles to read the Miandad and Musharraf faux-paus -

Miandad - Your Irfan Pathans are in every gully and mohalla of Pakistan. We don't even bother to look at them. I am not saying he [Pathan] is bad. All I am saying is that he is all right for India. But Pathan can't scare us. He simply does not have the pace. What Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami can do against Indian batsmen, Pathan cannot do against our batsmen.

Musharraf - And I’d like to add that it’s only cricket, and not hockey or other games. Why, because they were scared to be defeated by Pakistan.

So Modibhai, please shut up. Cricket is a very phunny game.

Go Marathas!!

After two consecutive thrilling victories, the Maratha Warriors, led by Viren Rasquinha, seem to be peaking at the right time. First, the golden goal from Dhanraj to sink the Chennai Veerans (according to me, the sidey-est name in the league), and then on Sunday, the nailbiting triumph over the much fancied Sher-e-Jallandhar (according to me, the coolest logo in the league).

The win over the Shers was a really welcome surprise, and anyone who saw the match will agree with me. In the first half, the Shers were running circles around the Warriors, and even though the score at the first Q-Time was just 1-0, it might have been 4-0, if luck had favoured them. Gagan Ajit scored the lone goal in a splendid Matrix-ish way. But in the next three quarters, the Shers just ran out of steam, and the Warriors finished the game in style.

Now even though statistically, it is not possible for the Maratha Warriors to win the league, one would still like them end their campaign in style by crushing the Bangalore Hi-Fliers.

New Layout

Yes, it has happened!

Finally, I have grown weary of Black as the colour of choice for my blog (does it have something to do with Bhansali, I wonder!), and have shifted to a cool-as-a-breeze blue and white layout.

Please give your holy blessings to this new template which is all agog at the thought of serving you all, and endeavours to give satisfaction. Let us encourage this young template as it embarks on a thrilling new journey in the blogworld, that of being the karmabhumi of my writings.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


When Reliance started their mobile phone company using and tom-toming the 3G CDMA technology, the joke doing rounds was that 3G CDMA stands for "3 Gujju Chor- Dhirubhai, Mukesh, Anil".

This report - Govt threatens to cancel Reliance Info license would make us think that the joke really wasn't off the mark. Reliance was re-routing International calls, and passing them off as domestic ones to avoid paying charges to the Dept of Telecom.

I remember that a few months back when my friends in America had all gathered together during a long weekend, and called me up using the "extremely affordable" Reliance Calling Card. The number I receives the call from was a Chennai Reliance number. Later when they called again, it was a Kolkatta Reliance number. In fact the first question I asked my friends was "You are in USA, right? Why is this showing an India number then?"

So there is no doubt that Reliance has done what it has been accused of.

But a question begs to be asked. While Reliance did break the rules, were the rules themselves fair?

The media is making a big hullabaloo out of this violation by reliance, and are smacking their lips at the possibility (very remote) of RIM's license being revoked. Not one channel has really taken a look at the rule itself.

According to the current rules, direct dedicated links to a foreign carrier for the switched voice telephony bypass the authorised switched routes of the international long distance service provider and are not allowed. So if such calls are made, you have to pay charges to the DoT.

Let me translate this into plainspeak. DoT (BSNL and MTNL) had a monopoly as an International Call Service Provider. New technology like VOIP makes the old technology redundant, and consumers can make calls at a much cheaper rate. So DoT loses business and doesn't make as much money as before.

For me, this is a natural part of the business cycle. When new technology emerges, then firms sticking to old technology start losing money, but it is the consumers who benefit. After all, we don't have to pay 15-20 rupees a minute for ISD calls anymore, do we? And it is not exactly a "price war" where companies are just under-cutting prices to gain market share. It is plain and simple technological p-r-o-g-r-e-s-s.

So what BSNL and MTNL should do is, start VOIP services of their own, and market them well in India, and in the diaspora abroad. Whining about revenue losses due to technology, and punishing technology adopters like Reliance is stupid.

Think of it. Why should Reliance pay the government anything? It did not use the government's gateway, and set up the call entirely on its own (barring the last mile connectivity of course). How does Reliance owe the government anything?

Already, the legalisation of VOIP was delayed for years. even now there are idiotic rules like these in place which seem to take care of the bank balance of the DoT rather than the interests of the consumer.

Sure, Reliance has broken the rule. But the rule is wrong in the first place. It is archaic, protectionist, and anti-consumer. Because when Reliance pays up the 150 crores, it is not going to auction Mukesh Ambani's shares for it. It will coolly pass on the cost to the customer.

You and I are paying to keep the state owned TELCOs in business, rather than paying to get services from them!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Blogroll Update

Am adding to my blogroll, the blogs of the Young Turks of Pune quizzing. Only one of them is from COEP (or is it still PIET?). The remaining are from VIT and Fergusson. There are two ways to look at it. Be sad, that quizzing in COEP has declined, or be happy that Pune quizzing is now spreading to different colleges. I choose both. ;)

Anyhoo, the links -

Kunal Sawardekar - The tiny dishevelled quizzer from fergusson with a craze for military trivia, and a caustic tongue. Totally tears apart anything he doesn't like on his blog.

Kunal Thakar - A quasi-geek from VIT, reminds me a lot of Sumeet. Just like Sumeet, updates his blog very infrequently.

Salil Bijur - Another VIT-ian, this one is obsessed with obscure Hindi films trivia, religiously watched B-grade movies on Star Gold, and was seen discussing the "Films of Mithunda" enthusiastically with the other movie freak George. The only guy in the world who actually knows by heart the single dialogue that Nikhil Advani speaks during his tiny cameo in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai(!!!).

Siddharth Dani - Another VIT-ian, and a regular at the boat club. He is crazy about Formula 1, Star Wars, and hates it when people sum up his personality in just one line in blog-roll updates. ;)

Abhishek Nagraj - Nagraj, formerly of Fergusson College, currently at PIET(Formerly known as COEP, currently, probably being renamed as COEP again), is the sole saving grace for COEP quizzers currently. It is on his tender(!!) shoulders that the responsibility of conducting Chakravyuh is going to rest for the next couple of years at least. His other achievements include coming up with the Centaurian system.

Three Cheers for Narain

Narain Karthikeyan has done it. He has cracked into the elite Formula-1, with the confirmation of the same from the Jordan team.

Coming from a country like India, with comparitively negligible motorsports, and getting into F-1 is a stupendous achievement. If I had to give the uninitiated an idea of the sheer scale of this achievement, I would compare it with reaching the semi finals of Wimbledon, or qualifying for the Football World Cup Finals.

There have been numerous false starts for Narain. The most memorable one was his much hyped test drive for Jaguar a few seasons back. Then there was talk of flirting with Minardi, the perpetual minnows in F1.

Jordan themselves have slipped to being minnows. They finished 9th out of 10 teams last season. But the team has seen better days. Their last grand prix win came a couple of seasons back, and in 1999, Heinz-HaraldFrentzen, driving for the team, was neck and neck with Irvine and Hakkinen with a couple of races to go, and eventually finished third in the driver's tally.

Jordan, which used a Honda engine for many years is now going to use a Toyota engine, and considering the decent performance of the Toyotas in the last two seasons, it would suffice to say that Karthikeyan would have a decent car to make his debut in.

Karthikeyan's leap into the top league will serve as a big boost for F1 in India, and its following will grow at even more rapid speed. Plus having an Indian driver on the grid would give the FIA one more reason to push for an Indian Grand Prix.

Most importantly, Narain has opened the door for the Karun Chandoks and Parthiv Sureswarans of this world who will have an example to follow, and break into F1.

Go Narain!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Having read the reactions to my TOI post, and Ajay's counterpoint, I felt compelled to make this post.

More so because it is Ayn Rand's centenary, and people think I have misused the Money Speech.

Firstly, let me clarify that I do not condone TOI's wrong doings. If they filch material violating copyrights then it is wrong, and they should be punished for it. But I think, and readers can correct me if I am wrong, that this copied content still forms a very tiny portion of the total TOI content. Tomorrow if TOI was to stop printing filched content, the newspaper wouldn't go blank.

Now on to Rand.

The Money Speech does say that "Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason"

I think it is highly presumptuous to dismiss TOI as weakness or stupidity, and that was the whole point of my post. They have modified their content, something we perceive as "dumbed down", but that does not make it a stupidity or weakness. It is just something we do not have a taste for.

Coca Cola once modified their product, and came out with the infamous "New Coke". People hated it, the product bombed, and sales started declining. The company reintroduced Classic Coke, and New Coke was almost completely phased out. Here the market showed that when Coke changed its product (though it had been changed after rigorous MR), and the market hated the product, it stopped giving money to the Coca Cola company. The market forced the company back to Classic Coke.

MY POINT IS THAT THE INDIAN MARKET ISN'T DOING SO TO THE "NEW" TIMES OF INDIA. TOI's sales keep growing, and the company moves from strength to strength. It is clearly doing something right.

Now the point about lack of alternatives. Most of you say that TOI works because it is the "least worst". I ask you, why isn't there any alternative? Surely there is some astute businessman somewhere who can gauge a huge latent market for a quality newspaper like the "Classic" TOI. Then why doesn't he start such a newspaper for lakhs of us frustrated TOI haters?

Is it because we just aren't in such large numbers, so a businessman would be risking a huge loss?

to be continued...

It happens only OUTSIDE India

Check out this Telecom Italia ad.

Contrast it with the contempt and derision that most average Indians have for Gandhiji today. The "Brand Gandhi" is one of the few things that Indians can be truly proud of, but sadly, it is declining rapidly.