Vantage point

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Some Common Headlines

These are some headlines which you would keep coming across on a regular basis in the newspaper. In fact i am pretty sure editors keep a standard format ready for each of these stories, and run it with just a few details changed -

- Violence erupts in the middle east
- Blast in Kashmir
- Left opposes _______ (fill in the blank with a positive and constructive policy decision)
- Harbhajan's action reported
- Harbhajan's action cleared
- Uma Bharti says _____________ (fill in the blanks with something smacking of self pity)
- Musharraf takes hawkish stand on Kashmir
- Musharraf takes moderate stand on Kashmir
- Musharraf takes dove-ish stand on Kashmir
- Musharraf to remove uniform ( kids, close your eyes)
- Musharraf to remain President until hell freezes over
- Tendulkar to undergo surgery, out of action for ___ weeks
- Scintillating knock by Lara, abject defeat for West Indies
- Mallika Sherawat says ___________ (fill in the blanks with a desparately controversial statement)

.... do send me some of your own. Will add them to this post.

A Quote in Today's TOI

If absolute power corrupts absolutely, where does that leave god?

- George Deacon

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Abdulbhai presents

Came across two startling revealations yesterday, both thanks to Abdulbhai, my taxi driver for the day. First one was stereotype-shattering and the second one was hilarious in a dark sort of way.

While waiting for a colleague of mine to turn up, Abdulbhai asked me if I knew about a "Ciscowaala course". Keep in mind that this was a taxi driver, whose monthly earnings would be at the most Rs 5000. I said, yes, I knew about the Cisco course, assuming he meant the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Administrator) course. He asked if it guarantees a job, and I said, yes, if you do well in the course, a job is more or less guaranteed. He then asked me how expensive it would be. I really have no idea, so i told him I would find out. I asked him whom he was asking the info for, and this is what he said -

"For my daughter. She is a very smart girl. Always gets more than 80%. Just finished her HSC. I am expecting big things from her. My son was never that smart. Only got 60% or so. So i got him a taxi to drive as well. But my daughter is really smart. We want her to become a computer expert. As long as the fees is not more than fifty thousand, i should be able to afford it."

I was pleasantly aghast. Imagine, a barely-literate taxi driver, that too a Muslim, preferring to invest money in his daughter's studies, while his son drove a taxi. A parent who judged the worth of their child by the potential and aptitude rather than their sex. Really heartening

A while later, we were waiting at a signal when some little kids came up to my window, begging for some change. Abdulbhai shoo-ed them away and said to me "You know, begging is a very well organised thing in Mumbai?". I said yes, I was aware. but what he revealed next showed the level to which begging has been professionalised. Apparently, the beggars at the signals near the International Airport know some English as well as Arabic phrases and target foreigners using the same. And apparently, the really smart beggars are "deputed" at the singal, because they can carry off the English or Arabic convincingly!

Later on, when I was telling this to Sunil, he informed me that he ahd seen some beggar kids standing in the queue for Foreign Exchange outside the airport with dollar bills in their hands!!!

Two totally different sides of the enterprise and the determination of Indians to better their lives. Both of them, courtesy Abdulbhai.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Micro Libertarianism

Just noting down something I said to Ravikiran during the Bombay Blogger's Meet.

I have one complaint about Indian libertarians, including myself. We keep debating policy at the macro level, and about organised industry. So we will talk about TRAI, APM, PSU disinvestment, etc. But very rarely do we actually discuss issues at a micro level. Very rarely to we actually talk about how the misery and hardships faced, even by the poor and in the unorganised sector, are because of state control, and how liberalisation can make their lives better.

There are posts like this one by Amit, but by and large, we don't really play in that space. And I guess it is natural. It doesn't really affect our lives, one way or another, what trouble our chaiwalla or rickshawwallah went through, just to get the permission to make a living. What affects our lives directly is mobile bill, petrol prices and power cuts.

I guess that's why libertarianism is primarily an upper-middle-class-drawing-room entity. The reason leftists win elections in India is because they connect with the masses. They will raise a stink about local dhabas going out of business due to competition from Nestle shacks, and earn "Pro-Poor" labels. They..... or we, would better off noting how "getting into" the business is made so tough by the state and its rentiers, that going out of business seems like a distant problem.

In fact you show me a business threatened by globalisation, and I'll show you a business tortured, weakened, and sapped by socialism. This applies not just to telecom, power and petroleum, but even to chai shops, rickshawwallahs, and rice farmers.

A few months back, I had made a post - Selling Reforms to the Poor, in which I mentioned my conversations with a taxi driver. Us Indian libertarians should have more such conversations and write blogposts about them, try to get it published in the mainstream media, and maybe even the regional language press. This issue will be at the top of the agenda for the cartelians meet.

Development Defined

I recently read a hoarding that said -


Very true!

General Thoughts On The Formula 1 Season

Yes, it may get a tad boring when Ferrari keeps winning everything. But it also gets boring qwhen Ferrari keep losing everything. The ideal situation is when Ferrari is in close competition with 1 or two teams. For instance, 2003 was a perfect season, where Michael had to sweat it out until the last lap to ensure that he retained the championship, and Raikonnen could have won it right until the last lap, if he had managed to overtake Barichello and Schumi had dropped even a single position. That was cool. Now, you have the "others" fighting it out. Renault vs Mclaren??? Tchah!!
Fernando Alonso is the hot favourite to win the driver's title this year, and can more or less clinch it if he has podium finished in the enxt 3-4 races. His success has shown that a guy literally can start off his career in a Minardi and eventually become world champion. Narain is still in a Jordan, which is a few notches above Minardi.
Thankfully FIA has chucked its bizarre qualifying format, and now grid positions will be decided on Saturday itself. The spilling over of the qualifying to Sunday made the Saturday sessions almost like practice laps. Glad that sanity has prevailed.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Aankhein again

Yesterday was my second iteration of one of the most under-rated Hindi movies of all time - Aankhein. Nope, I am not talking about the Dharmendra starrer, nor about the Govinda-Chunky crotch-fest.

I am referring to Vipul Shah's film released in 2002, by the same name, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sushmita Sen, Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal and Arjun Rampal. Every few weeks, a "thriller" Hindi movie is released which is either copied, rehashed, predictable or hackneyed. The only thing about the movie which is c, r, p and h is its title. Everything else is a delight.

Like any good movie, this one too has a great story, and a well crafted screenplay to portray it. Aankhein is about a bank robbery by blind men. The plan is masterminded by Vijaysingh Rajput (Bachchan) who used to be the manager of the same bank, but was fired just months before his retirment because he beat up an errant employee. Rajput, who knows the bank like the proverbial back of his hand, seeks revenge by planning a robbery. He comes up with a plan to train blind men for the job.

Sushmita Sen plays Neha, a teacher who specialises in getting blind people to do seemingly impossible tasks. Rajput takes her brother hostage and forces her to enlist and train three blind men for the job - Vishwas (Akshay Kumar), Arjun (Rampal) and Ilyas (Rawal). The rest of the movie deals with the training, the actual robbery attempt, and the twists in the story towards the end.

As I mentioned earlier, the screenplay is crisp, and is supported by able performances. The first time I saw the movie, I kept trying to figure out which Hollywood movie it was "inspired" from. Turns out, the source is actually Indian, as the movie is based on a Gujarati play - Andhalo Paato. The movie did reasonably well at the box office, but wasn'ty a bumper hit, as it deserved to be.

But it is one movie whose VCD/DVD you should have, to remind yourself that Indians can also write good thriller.

Laughing for ten minutes....

.... ever since I read this. Hilarious!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Revenge is Sweet

Have you called upyour bank, or credit card company, or cellphone company, and almost died of irritation as they put your call on hold? There's also the left-handed taunt in their earnest assurances "Your call is important to us...please stay on the line....".

Of late I have devised a very satisfying way of getting back at them. I have been getting calls from all these folks wanting me to sign up for their services. You know what I do? I put their calls on hold!!

That's right! So when I put the caller on hold, they keep hearing Airtel's sweet message - "The Airtel you are calling has put your call on hold", which is like another left-handed taunt.

Just this morning, a non-life insurance company called me up.

Caller: Hello sir, I am Shilpa calling from XXXX. Would you like to hear about our various....
Me: Just hold on, Shilpa, I am interested in your services, but I have got a call. Please hold.

Then I proceed to put the call on hold. They almost always call back and I say "Yes yes, just a second, I have my boss on the other line, please hold."

Then I get back to eating chips, or watching TV, or writing blogposts. If you are a call-center executive who has been my victim, please share with me the frustration you go through.

Greg it is!

It's official. Greg Chappell will be masterminding India's bid to reach giddy cricketing heights. he will be in charge until the 2007 World Cup.

Chappell inherits a team which is halfway there. His job, in some ways is easier than John Wright, for he does not have to start from scratch. This team has won some famous victories in the past, and getting it to win again would be a lot easier than sending rockets to Mars. In some ways though, his job is tougher, because the expectations are sky high. He assumes office after the most high profile coach-selection process in cricketing history. Everyone knows his hefty pay package. Plus, since he is Australians, he will be expected to have the answer to beating them inside his head, much like Arthur Dent was supposed to have the question to the life, the universe and everything inside his brain, just on account of being from earth.

Hmmm....maybe Zaphod Beeblebrox should become President of the BCCI!

We, The Sick People

Something that I saw on 'We The People' last weekend really jarred me. The topic was rapes, safety of women etc, and Barkha Dutt was prancing about conducting the debate. She then introduced us to a victim of rape who would share with us, her trauma.

The camera focussed on a woman, who was covering her face with a dupatta as she spoke.

That shocked me, jarred me, saddened me.

What sort of a sick society are we living in, where a rape victim has to cover her face? In fact that one gesture has stripped our society of the mask of empathy it wears.

Imagine, somebody picked your pocket while you were travelling in the train. Would you cover your face and hide your identity while talking about it? Would you cover your face if your house was robbed? Would you cover your face after being cheated or swindled? Would you cover your face if you survived an attempted murder?

I don't think so.

Then why does a rape victim have to cover her face? What does she have to be ashamed of? In my opinion, a rape victim has as much reason for shame, as somebody whose pocket has been picked. Both of them were victims of another person's misdeeds. It is the perpetrator who should cover his face with shame.

But throw your mind back to television reports. Thieves cover their faces, fraudsters cover their faces, smugglers cover their faces. But have you seen rapists cover their faces? Sunil More's mug is as familiar as Sunil Gavaskar.

I see this as another side of the "death-to-rapists" argument. Only a society which attaches unnecessary stigma to a rape victim, would think of advocating a death sentence for rapists.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Saw it at last!

Sholay was touted as the movie with the greatest star cast of all times. But today I saw the movie which really had the most awe-inspiring crew behind it, and not just on screen.

Imagine a movie based on a story by perhaps the greatest writer in the world of Hindi literature (Munshi Premchand), directed by the greatest director this country has ever produced (Satyajit Ray), with a narration by the most famous baritone in the country (Amitabh Bachchan), and starring, not just some all-time great Indian actors (Shabana Azmi, Sanjeev Kumar, Amjad Khan, Victopr Banerjee), but also an all-time great Hollywood actor-director (Richard Attenborough).

For those who've not guessed it yet, today I finally saw 'Shatranj Ke Khiladi', the only Hindi movie Ray made.

Most of the credit goes to history itself, for the history of Avadh has so many great stories, that you could spend an entire career movies based on them. The naive decadence of the Nawab (Amjad Khan) and his subjects which led to a great kingdom being just handed over to the Britishers has been aptly portrayed in the film.

Then some credit goes to Premchand as well, for weaving the sub-plot of the two zamindaars, Mirza (Sanjeev Kumar) and Mir (Saeed Jaffrey), who are obsessed with the game of chess. Despite being from families whose previous generations were feisty warriers, these two have been softened so much by the easy life in Lucknow, that they prefer the make-believe wars in the game of chess to real-life battleds, or even domestic battles.

The remaining credit goes to Ray for translating the story into an excellent piece of cinema through his dialogues, screenplay and direction.

The brilliance of the man at helm of this movie is also evident from many other facets of the story.

For instance, this is perhaps one of the few movies which has portrayed the Britishers as real human beings with shades of grey, rather than being just pure evil or pure saints. When Outram (Attenborough) tells Weston (Tom Alter) about the Company's plans to annexe Avadh, the expressions on Weston's face say it all. His first reaction is one of disbelief, for the Nawab a a genuine nice guy, and his subjects don't seem to be having any problems with him, and there seems to be no justification for the annexation. Even later on, Outram is shown as being troubled by having to blatantly disregard the peace treaty and gobble up a kingdom without justification. However, in a business-like manner, they complete the annexation without a blood being dropped.

The scene where the Nawab confronts his aides is also a gem. Firstly, it is so reminiscent of the famous Gabbar scene, that any moment, you expect Amjad Khan to shed the Nawaabi poise and yell "SOOAR KE BACHCHON!!!!". Instead he proceeds to pour his heart out, showing how disconnected he is from the real world, living in a fairytale world of his own. While boasting of his poetic talents, he asks "How many songs has Queen Victoria written?".

The movie ends on a very poignant note as well, using a chess metaphor. A brilliant film, definitely one of the best in Hindi.

This now takes my Ray-count up to a paltry two, with 'Goopi Gaayin Bagha Baayin" being the other movie. If any reader of this blog who is in Mumbai or Pune, has any other Ray-pieces with subtitles, please lend them to me. I shall be eternally grateful.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Better Comments Without Comments

In this post, Amit Varma talks more about why he will continue to run a comment-less blog. He also quotes me as having said that having such a blog is relaxing.

It certainly is. But there is another interesting aspect of this de-comment-isation that I had not accounted for. The quality of feedback that I have been getting after having removed comments is a lot higher now. Now, since people have to go through the effort of actually writing a mail to me, I think a lot more thought goes into it. So I don't get the perfunctory "I agree!!!" or "I disagree!!!" type comments, but well-thought-out mails which are a lot meatier.

Here are excerpts from some such select mails -

P.K responds to the "It's just a book" post -
Let them manage their affairs.No muslim is going to follow your advice.If he says a word against Quran then rest of his life will be spent defending himself.Hindus and christians are pretty liberal.You can say anything against their religion.But muslims have cleverly used Quran to promote fuedalism.What they practice-in the name of Quran/Shariet is different than what Quran preaches. Problem is more acute in India.We have most regressive Muslim Personal laws than any other Muslim Majority Islamic countries. Whether its due to Minority Complex or promoted by Votebank Politics is debatable. In last 1 week two petitions have been filed in Supreme Court against Dowry and Child Marriages.There are Laws in place against the practice of Dowrey & Child Marriage.But has anyone filed PIL against "Triple Talaq" which has no Quaranic sanction, and even AIMPLB is quite about it in Model Nikahnama. Even so called Firebrand leaders like Shabana Azmi and Javed are sielent !! They will say that the Law should come from within community.But then did anyone take refrandum before passing Dowry and Child Marraige act? Prevelance of Dowry indicates that in secret Ballot people might actually support Dowry!!.But than Thats Democracy for you.

Responding to "Bombay - Still Safe", someone who goes by the name "Vague A" writes
Quite agree with you.
"there is not a strong logical link between incidents of rape, and howsafe the city is for a woman"
I think the logical link (and an inherently unquantifiable one) is between the incidents of 'eve-teasing' rape and general misbehaviour to women, and how the people in that city react. This can be two things. -If a high profile crime against a woman occurs (for whatever reason- heinous crime, high profile person etc), most communities are likely to be up in arms
about it. The Marine Drive case in Mumbai, the diplomat and Medical student cases in Delhi...these are bound to be talked about, debated with much indignation. So while they give a glimpse into human psyche they do not, for me, reflect the 'character' of the city.

-What possibly does reflect this character is the way the city reacts or not, 'on the streets'. Like you say, if a woman (and forget reasonably attractive, *any*woman)can walk on the streets without thinking twice about it, that is a clear pointer to the place's character. If a woman knows, as she walks or commutes ina city, that she is being looked or leered at, could be teased or harassed (even if not to the extent of molestation or rape) at any given time...AND that she should not expect too much support from people around her, now that shows the place has no character.

If a woman can know that taking a local or cab at midnight in Mumbai is (mostly) safe, then the city is safe. But if a woman in Delhi knows that educated, 'well-off' men in big cars could slow down and roll the windows down when she is walking on the road at 7 in the evening; if a woman in Delhi knows that a car full of guys could follow her auto rickshaw at 9 in the orning, doing 'nothing' except leering and following her- knowing that this happens all the time, so nobody will do anything to them-, then...then, that plain sucks.

PS- I have lived all my life in Delhi, I love it. But this one thing really really frustrates me, infuriates me, depresses me. (and I am not a woman)

Sandeep Kumar offersan alternative solution to the Maharashtra power crisis -
i have reading all you mumbaikars blogging about the power situation in maharastra outside bombay of course!!! i wonder whether your netas apart from banning dance bars and asking girls to dress "PROPERLY" have they been thinking about cogeneration /biomass electricity (please dont think that netas in karnataka are from heaven all are land grabbers from deva gowda to d k shiva kumar)i been asking this because in karnataka we have only in district ,mandya where sugar production takes place in large scale in maharastra where Mr sharad pawar is sugar baron i am told , a lot of waste coming out of it can be used to generate electricity visit my blog if you care to know more about this

P.K also has some thoughts on Anantashram closing down -
I am a guju brought up in girgaon.You are wrong in assuming that sena has influence in mumbai only.Today in Mumbai marathis are in Minority & Sena has hardly any influence.On the contarary its growing in Konkan,Vidarbha and Marathwada.
Problems of Anantashram are from the mindset of Marathi businessmen who refuses to adapt to changes.Those who do are successful.There are marathi restaurants which are very successful.Anantashram was and still is a "Khanaval" where chakarmani who has come from konkan for job -leaving behind his family there- would eat his daily meals.Thats why it has no frills, but is very affordable..Who will have a restaurant in Khotachi Wadi? ( away from main road,in a lane so narrow that even Maruti 800 will be difficult to take.) Three decades ago there were quite a few hotels like Anantashram in Girgaum,Lalbaug,Parel area. But with increasing popularity of sea food in Mumbai they took a leaf from Mahesh Lunch Home and Trishna,and started catering to this clientle.Anantashram did not change for this new clientle.Anantashram is not for you and me-it never was-it is for that marathi manus from Konkan who returns from job at 6 p.m.and is standing in queue for his affordable meal.Today 'that'marathi manus is slowly disappearing from girgaon,lalbaug,Parel area.They have shifted to slums of Mumbai and many have brought their families as well.Anantashram can survive nay thrive if it caters to the new clientle but then it will have to abandon its present clientle.

Hetunandan and a lot of other people mailed me saying Kannadigas are actually a minority in Bangalore -
This is regarding your post on "Why Anantashram deserves to go out of business" From what I remember, Kannadigas in Bangalore are actually a minority. A google search gave me the following (see the statement about the languages spoken). While this doesn't seem to be an official website(a thorough search might find one), the numbers do look approximately correct.

Indrajeet Kanaglekar speaks about both the issues -
A few points:
Do you think Hindu is a religion which follows certain texts. I think not. I dont think we are supposed to follow Geeta, vedas etc, and if we dont follow that we go to hell etc.. Because Hinduism is not a monotheistic religion (One can argue that Hinduism is more of a philosophy than a religion or a amalgamation of pagan religions that have survived over 3000 years). The point being its easy for us to ignore stuff because we dont assume that we will go to hell if we dont follow certain rules.

Regarding Christians, most of the western europe is secular, they dont believe in religion (except italy and may be a few other nations.. but france, germany, ..scandenevian natiosn are not religious). If I talk to my friends from sweden, france etc, noone goes to church, and there is a distinct separation. They are surprised by the religious influence on american polity. BTW, another funny thing in the US is, when they talk about God etc, they assume the christian way. that is very unlike India!!
There are laws being passed to take out evolution from texts, to stop stem cell research and stuff like that.. its ridiculous!

In US its peculiar. I think majority population in the metros, dont buy into bibles etc or have reformed views (BTW, US is MUCH more religious than Europe). But the redneck states still believe in bibles. and so do a lot of hispanics. And they do believe in not using contraception, and abortion, and gay rights etc.. all that bible preaches. They still are far from "reformed" ..educated or not.

Religious people put their faith in something. Once they start believing in that, they have to work backwards. i.e. if you believe Quran is right, you will work backwards to justify every action because you cant argue faith with logic and science. Now a lot of people who call themselves christians etc. still to a large extent believe in "God" but not necessarily in the preaching of bible etc. For them its easy to rationalise and act accordingly. But it really depends on how much faith you entrust in certain document/s. And this is a problem with most religions, especially the monotheistic ones.

I havent read Quran, Bible or Geeta completely. So, I cant comment on them with authority. But I believe that some of your conclusions are very simplistic.


Regarding Marathi:

I think you are confusing between orthodox marathi people and support for shivsena. You are right in that support for shivsena stems from fear of outsiders. But orthodox marathi people are not in bbay. The shivsena supporter in bbay supports them for the supposed personal benefits they will have.. not for the love for orthodox marathi traditions. marathi people in dadar, dombivali etc might vote for shivsena. That might make them narrow minded but not orthodox maharastrians. These guys are predominantly in sadahiv peth, narayan peth, etc and to some extent in parla east. thats the only area in bbay i can think of.

I am just trying to distinguish between the 2. I think you are mixing them up.

Vedant Patwardhan shines some light on the divorce laws under the Sharia -
Regarding ur post on the model nikahnama...while i agree with u in principle, i wanted to add that divorce initiated by a woman is permitted by shariah...and it has quranic sanction as well. of course, divorce for a woman is not as easy as it is for a man. to divorce her husband, a woman needs him to assent to this. if he does not, then she can go to shariah court, and if there is good reason, she is granted divorce.

Sandeep Kumar thinks there is an overkill of Indo-Pak cricket these days -
I had made a vow to cleanse myself of cricket after the last ODI in delhi, last time i did that was during olympics watched even on much malinged DD i watched phelps swim hicham al gurroej run of course rathore shoot funily enough then there was some lousy tournament india was playing but today i have think about cricket again unlike the indian media which is more concerned about shoiab akthar than about champions league wat nonsense !!!! i read india might tour pak again in jan please dont get me wrong but honeslty cricket in india is sellers market not buyers else how can you explain 2 teams playing each other 3 series in 3 years talk abt over kill i dont know when india is going to play new zealand engalnd south africa but keep on playing pakistan we are going to other extreme playing as often as possible coz dont know when terror attack might happen and series is called off in future so now play 100 times a year ideally like ashes play once in 18-24months so charm is there but of course media will be more than happy especially electronic media coz then they can rope in sponsors who have priced out from "official sponsor tag" and make disgusting shows like "MATCH KI MUJRIM"(mujrim for hindi i know is criminal ) maybe next time they will announce who got shazaye- eh-mouth (death sentence )

Manish Manke lends support to the conspiracy theoryangle of the power crisis -
If you recollect that when helmets were being made compulsory there was a rumor that CM or his relavtives had a helmet factory. Similarly , probably some of the guys might be having a factory to make inverters or generators and these are the guys who are cashing in on these. 3-4 yrs back a 550KVA locally made inverter costed 3-4K but now they cost around 9-10K

Ranjit Nair agrees with the Sena-Taliban comparsion -
I like your duck analogy :).

Its eerie that my roomie and I just completed the 'Sena-Taliban comparison' argument a week ago. You've just reiterated
my points (and more) in your post.

I was watching 'Schindlers List' recently, and it struck me how similar the Sena and co. are to the Nazis...the clinging to old & archaic values, racist attitudes - its all there. Thakeray (and Modi, my pet hate) have even reiterated this in public interviews (what class our leaders possess, wah !!) - imagine somebody being proud on being called
a me.

I am not sure about things improving...although there are plenty of people who oppose such moral policing, there seems to be no updates to the law - and hence the police can still stop me walking with my girlfriend on a beach, if they have a mind to. Thatz a downer for me...hopefully some SC judge will have the guts to pass a ruling on moral policing soon..

To end on a high..this rapist chap who was 'willing' to do penance by marrying the gal he raped (and clawed the eyes out of)...not only was he turned down by the gal in no uncertain terms, he received a life sentence as well...hope he rots in jail.

While Vedant says -
I agree with your views on the Shiv sena. The Taliban and MMA at least have very sound religious reason for their beliefs. The Shiv sena does not even have that. The much bandied term used is the rather annoyingly vague 'corruption of Indian culture'.

An Ode to Phoren-Returned Homilies

Granted this guy has lived for a couple of years in the "First World" and come back.

What he does not seem to realize is that just about any Desi-in-USA who can cajole a friend into dropping him to the nearest airport in America has done so, and boarded an airplane back into this land; has recorded and re-recorded such stupid self-loathing thoughts on at least 16 million occasions. Some having the benefit of turning out as classics, while others being its' subject.

Regardless, my point - this is 2005 and not 1971.

Just remember this you just-back-from-Umrica self-loathing Desi - "Whatever you have observed or experienced, at least 5 million others did. And almost 90% of those morons wrote a stupid piece not unlike yours or this one".

Nilu, even now. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


My readers mailed me, I had made this post thrice
As soon as I read it, I removed two of them in a trice

It's been a while since I rhymed something.

SomeAchaar - New Punishments from the ICC

London - The International Cricket Council today announced amendments to its rules, including some very harsh measures as penalties.

Now, for failing to complete overs in time, like Saurav Ganguly and Graeme Smith did, captains will be punished by the age-old deterrent - whipping. Captains will be whipped, with the number of lashes equalling the number of minutes by which the time exceeded the official limit.

If a bowler is repeatedly called for chucking, he will be punished by cutting off his bowling hand.

"This whole process of chucking, then going through tests, then being cleared, and then being called again is very wasteful for the ICC as well as the player", said Ehsan Mani, the head of the ICC. He claims that cutting off the hand will make things easier for all concerned.

Finally, excessive appealing, looking at the umpire too long for appealing, or not looking at the umpire for appealing will be punishable by burning at the stake. The ICC will also lay down the exact guidelines for appealing, with the number of seconds that a player must look at the umpire. There will also be decibel levels specified. If these levels, or the looking time, are either crossed, or not met, the player will be burnt at the stake.

Deflecting criticism that these measures are inhuman and unconstitutional, Mani said, "We gag players from talking to the media, talking about the umpiring, etc. No one has ever complained about it, even though freedom of speech is included in most constitutions as a fundamental right. Remember, the players sign contracts with us. Those who don't want to agree to these punishments are free to not play for cricket boards under the ICC."

The punishments will be administered by an ICC Elite Panel of Enforcers, who will be carefully hand-picked from all over the world. The ICC has already received over 500 applications from audi Arabia for inclusions into the Panel of Enforcers.

Deer Burgers?

Thought of this while listening to the "remix" version of "Ek ladki ko Dekha.."

Q - What do you call burgers made out of deer meat, in Hindi?
A - Bun mein hiran.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

All Animals Are Equal....

....but some animals are more equal than others, wrote George Orwell in his masterpiece Animal Farm.

Somnath Chatterjee, the Honourable Speaker of the Lok Sabha proves this point as he gets a lot of wheeling-dealing done to ensure he doesn't have to go through airport security checks. Apparently, the comrade finds them "dishonourable" according to this report in the Times of India -

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee plans to stop by in France May 14-17 to address the French senate on his way to the US. But, as was evident in his recent difficulty with the Australians, the honourable Speaker would have felt dishonoured if he were to be put through the usual airport security hoops. We learn that New Delhi and Versailles chatted quietly with ahem-laden inquiries from the Indians – "Would you not, please?" – and "c'est la vie" shrugs from the French agreeing to arrange things. Which goes to show that the legendary Gallic penchant for discretion is so much nicer for bleep-phobic Speakers than the incorrigible frankness of Anglophone Aussies. We are relieved that hizzoner Chatterjee can now visit Paris when it sizzles.

So while the Tatas, Premjis, Murthys, Mittals, Ambanis, and the Sabnises :) of this world go through the security procedure without giving it too much thought......we all have more productive things to do right.....Chatterjee gets his red undies in a twist, and goes red in the face taking umbrage at being "dishonoured" thus.

Don't they know that Politburo members are more equal? Maybe the French didn't read Animal Farm, Hon Speaker, Sir. Or maybe they aren't aware of the Priviligentsia Raj that you lived through. Maybe while you are there, Comrade, you could suggest they change their motto too.

Why Khadi?

Mahatma Gandhi urged people to burn their imported clothes and wear khadi. Each person was encouraged to spin his own khadi, and then wear clothes made from it. The rationale behind it was to reject the clothes which were manufactured in England. The Britishers took cotton from India to England, and sold the finished goods here, pocketing a healthy margin. Why let the Britishers pocket the margin, was Gandhiji's rationale. It is this margin, and the revenue they earn from it, that gives them the economic might to keep India under their thumbs. The whole concept of 'Swadeshi' was an economic strategy to minimise the colonised bankrolling the colonisers.

Bet you knew that already.

Now tell me, what is the relevance of khadi in today's world? India is one of the biggest garment exporters in the world. There has been tremendous improement in technology which makes mass production very efficient. As a result you have a Chinese town which is the "Socks Capital" of the world, producing a huge chunk of the socks sold in the world.

We have pretty much the same advantages as China does, viz, raw material and cheap labour. When you buy clothes, the people making the margins are almost all Indian. Why then does the government still continue to promote Khadi? The same worker who is involved in making khadi can be utilised much more efficiently in the modern textile industry, which is a lot more profitable.

Even our politicians who insist on wearing khadi kurtas..... what point are they trying to prove? Do they think the khadi hides the fact that they are getting down from a swanky new Mercedes, and entering their 20-room mansions?

Khadi for me is one of the biggest anachronistic symbols in India today. It served us well during our freedom struggle, but today it belongs only in museums and history books. If you don't believe me, try counting the number of slum-dwellers and beggars in India wearing Khadi. Then count the number of Five-Star-Only-Commies wearing khadi (like Comrade Yechury.

Khadi today is the fabric of the privileged.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Andaz Apna Apna

One of the important criteria for me when i judge a movie is, how much thought has gone into the script and the screenplay. My complaint with most Hindi films is that their screenplays are very uni-layered. There is very little that you will additionally notice when watching the movie for the 3rd, 4th or 5th time, if you do watch it as many times that is.

One movie that has a very well-thought out screenplay is the classic Andaz Apna Apna. There are so many jokes in the movie that you notice at the 5th, 10th or 15th iteration, or often only when someone else points them out to you. Which is why I maintain that AAA ia THE best comedy movie ever made in India. I love JBDY too, but AAA is in a class of its own. An old post of mine about the classic - APNACEA - THE CURE FOR ALL ILLS

Today I joined the Andaz Apna Apna community on Orkut, and on the "Unnoticed Scenes" thread, I came across the following gems that I hadn't noticed, inspite of having watched the movie at least 25 times.

- Aamir khan goes to Tea shop..he is about to leave and at that time his friend enters....This guy is smoking cigarette and Aamir has Bidi..He asks that guy to give his Cigarette to light up his bidi...
After lighting guess what he does....
Right, he gives back Bidi and not Cigarette....

- Many of us may not have noticed this but when the climax is almost over and when Bajaj gets his diamonds back from Amar Prem, then starts a series of bad characters pointing gun one by one.

Notice the funny thing in the sequence:
2]As each bad guy comes and points the gun to the other he says his own punch line: for example

Teja: Pattey mai bhichaon aur game to....
Bhalla: Plan kay mutabiq heray idhar la
Robert: Sorry Sir Is dafa ghalti say koi mistake nahi hoinga


There are a couple of jokes I noticed at subsequent iterations -

- When their friend asks them "Tum logon ne Sholay dekhi hai?", Amar says "haan, iske baap ne likhi hai", pointing to Prem. Sholay was indeed, co-written by Salman's dad Salim Khan, one part of the famous salim-Javed duo.

- Towards the climax, when Prem gets a gun, and Amar is going from person-to-person gloating, he pulls on Robert's suspenders and lets them go, making them snap hard against his skin. Immediately, you can see Teja slipping off his suspenders.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

It's just a book

After the model nikahnama was released by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), there have been protests from a lot of Muslim women about how regressive it is.

As a non-Muslim, I find these conflicts very interesting. Followers of one of the youngest religions in the world are locked in a process of reform, one that has just started, and will continue at least for a few decades. What is interesting is that despite their wishes to embrace modern thinking, justice and equality, there is still this effort to somehow find a Quranic sanction for it. This is particularly true when it comes to women's rights. Most devout Muslims will argue that the Quran actually provides for women's rights. As a result, a bulk of Muslims don't find it necessary, indeed they deem it sacrilegous to initiate a change in defiance of the Quran.

The problem is that the Quran is not all that it is cracked up to be. Sadly, there are portions of it which, in the 21st century, are downright regressive and anti-women. However reform or self-confidence in the Muslim world has not yet reached that level where they can say, OK, I reject these few verses of the Quran, but I still believe I am a Muslim.

It has happened with other religions. Christians don't take each and every word of their holy books as irrefutable. The testaments too have some pretty ugly stuff, but Christians have by and large learnt to ignore it. Hindus too don't stick by each and every thing their religion teaches. Casteism is opposed, sati is non-existent, and no one cares too much about what Manu prescribed any more. The Bible, Vedas, Geeta, Quran, all have portions which should be deleted/ignored/bypassed.

Reform will happen in the Muslim world only when the Quran is thought of as being a set of guidelines, rather than following it letter-by-letter.

So while women here may protest the nikahnama, they need to understand that when they say "women too must have the right to divorce", they are actually asking for defying the Quran. Which is a good thing, and will be more effective if it is recognised thus, rather than a compromise within the the framework of the Quran.

Bombay - Still Safe

Every time there is a rape in Mumbai or in Pune, the media immediately writes half a dozen articles about how the "city is not safe for women anymore". I find this connection logically very weak.

Generally how safe a city is for women is gauged by how freely can a woman move around in it. Can she walk on most of the streets alone without getting heckled and teased, or will she need a male escort. Can she use public transport by herself, without being humiliated?

In other words, imagine a street in a city. There are men driving vehicles, running shops, walking, talking, etc. A woman walks by. Do a substantial number of the men turn their attention towards her, and say or do something lewd? And how often does it happen? If a woman climbs into a crowded bus, does she get the feeling that men are bumping and grinding against her in a sexual way?

Ask any woman and she will tell you that in most cities up north, like Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Chandigarh etc, the things mentioned above happen very often. It is very rarely that a woman, even a reasonably good-looking one, can walk alone without being given the undesired attention by men.

These women will also tell you that in Mumbai and Pune (and to some extent Kolatta), this happens very very rarely. The occurence is almost a miniscule percentage. So if a woman is walking on a street in Mumbai or Pune alone, the chances of her being teased are miniscule as compared to the North.

As a result, a woman in Mumbai or Pune will be a lot more at ease while walking on the streets. She will be relaxed, more confident, and will enjoy greater freedom.

The question of rape doesn't really figure in this situation. Rapes, all said and done, like murders and theft, are perpetrated on a minority population. Whereas the humiliation I mentioned earlier is mentioned by most, if not all women who dare to walk the streets of Delhi.

It takes one guy out of millions to commit a rape, and grab headlines. But it is the consistently lewd behaviour by a large number of men that makes a city like Delhi 'unsafe' for women.

In that regard, I have it on good authority from most of the Bombay women I know, that the city is still quite safe. Constable More raping a girl has not suddenly made all Mumbai men break into wolf-whistles and fondle women in BEST buses.

Because, as I re-iterate, there is not a strong logical link between incidents of rape, and how safe the city is for a woman.

Why Anantashram deserves to go out of business

It was great to read Shahane's article on Amit's blog. When I read the news about Anantashram a couple of weeks back, my instant reaction was one of sympathy. But then I noticed some things that de-sympathised me. The restaurant takes its last order at 9 p.m. no matter what happens. For me this policy alone is sufficient for any sympathy to vanish. If a restaurant in today's world expects to close down at 9, it is hastening its own doom. There is no use in blaming vegetarian Gujjus for it.

In Bombay, most restaurants, at least most successful restaurants, are not necessarily ones where only customers in its neighbourhood go for a bite. So just being situated in a Veggie-dominated area is not reason enough to justify lost business.

This may sound like management jargon, but change is a reality, and you need to adapt to the change. Young people,as well as families today are staying out later than ever before. It is absurd to shut the kitchen down at 9 pm and yet expect a flourishing business. By doing so, you are turning down a bulk of your potential clientele that eats only after 9.

The Khadpes have only themselves to blame. They ignored what the customer wants and so now the customers are ignoring them. That's the reality of business, and they can ship up or ship out.

Anil Awchat, a Marathi author, once wrote about a restaurant in Pune which is famous for its misal-paav. He said the restaurant was run very casually. The owner just sat at the counter reading a paper. The waiters, with no supervision, were lazy, and the service was horrible. Sometimes, if they ran out of paavs, they would just close down for the day, instead of sending someone to buy more paavs from a bakery. And yet, the restaurant did great business, with people travelling great distances to eat the misal.

He wrote this in 1991, in a book titled "America" in which he was comparing the American culture with the Indian one. He seemed to be saying that people still visited the restaurant because of some sense of loyalty and appreciation for the misal itself. I don't think so. The reason for such arrogant behaviour was lack of competition. Now with competition, I'd like Awchat to go and see if the restaurant is still as successful.

However there is one thing I have noticed. The most unwilling-to-change Marathis are in Bombay. The most orthodox Marathis are in Bombay. No wonder then that except for Bombay, there is no geography where the Sena can readily command a great following. The reason for the success in Bombay is the insecurity against the "outsider". Outsiders are coming by the hordes and competing on equal terms with Marathis. What can they do? No Marathi is going to travel to UP, Bihar and Rajasthan to compete with people there.

I don't know if I am getting my point through here, but the fact remains that Marathis from Bombay.....are the only people to have created a 'Shivsena' because they are the only people who have really faced such a large scale competition from 'outsiders'. The whine about outsiders is wrong, but it is understandable.

Other peoples, faced with such competition, would surely react in a similar way. Just look at Bangalore. Even now, just a small percentage of the population is non-Kannada. Yet they imposed the ban on non-Kannada movies, forcing them to be released only after they are at least 6 weeks old. This, when Bangalore's grocers, rickshawwallahs, and even beggars, are mainly Kannada. Imagine when they start facing competition in that from the hordes from the BIMARU states? You will soon have a "sons of the soil" movement there too.

Being an urban Maharashtrian from outside-Mumbai, I find the Marathis here very "old-fashioned" in their way of thinking. While Puneris themslves are thrilled at the change in their city over the last ten years or so, Mumbaikars keep lamenting that Pune is losing its "Marathipan". They feel the last bastion of "Marathiness" is falling. To be fair to them, Pune is getting the benefits of cosmopolitisation, like Mumbai did, without the "outside competition". So we don't understand what the big deal is. Our rickshawwallahs still speak marathi.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Poem About Life

Yogesh Dashrath, whose thoughts about Gandhi I have posted on this blog before, has an uncanny knack of churning out good poems in a matter of minutes. He usually writes about 3-4 poems a week. In my opinion he should start blogging. He has absolutely no excuse not to.

But until he starts a blog of his own, here's a poem he wrote today

a journey so long
filled with drama and song
each on his memorable journey
sometimes cruel sometimes funny

some go at speed of light
some stop to admire the sight
while some prefer
to embrace darkness of night

some spread joy
some spread sorrow
some follow paths broad
some follow narrow

destination is same for all
what ever may be the faith
for journey long or small
in the peaceful embrace of death

To convey your appreciation, and to encourage him to start a blog, mail yogesh.dashrath{at-the-rate}gmail{dot}com

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Maharashtra Power Crisis

There is a conspiracy theory brewing in my head. But to confirm it, I would like some info from readers of my blog who have been living in Pune during the last 3 years.

Three years back when I lived in Pune, the power situation was not this bad. There used to be load shedding once a week, but that was it. In three years, we have suddenly reached a stage where the capacity is just about 70% of the demand, requiring 4 hours of load shedding daily?

Has this crisis developed gradually? Did we go from load shedding of 7-hours-a-week to 28-hours-a-week in stages or in one quantum leap? Did the hours grow gradually during the last three years?

It was in December 2004 that the MSEB announced this large scale load shedding. But until then, to the best of my recollection of my weekend visits there, there was regular power supply. In fact, as we all would remember, both the Cong-NCP combine as well as the SS-BJP promised free power to farmers in the assembly election.

If the 3000 MW load shedding started in December, where was the power coming from before that?

And now that the whole state has vented its anger over this idiotic crisis, the only short-term solution in sight is apparently ENRON!!! Setting up new plants takes almost 5 years. The only immediate solution is ENRON which has a plant ready to produce, but has been shut down because of disputes. In fact, unless the Maharashtra government wants the state to decline into a West-Bengal-in-the-60s style rot, it will have to revive Enron.

This is where my conspiracy theory comes in. Is this power crisis mainly a driving force to revive Enron without committing political harakiri? It is obvious that Enron greased palms across party lines to set shop in India. the Congress and the Sena are both sinners. Anyone who would now try to Enron would automatically invite charges of corruption.

In this light (pardon the irony) the only way a government can revive Enron without committing political suicide is to portray that Enron is the only saviour. Is that what is happening?

Commie PJ

When Prakash Karat visits 24 Parganas, is he called 24 Karat?

Ford Exploder

George just directed me to this news item -

Bill Gates Envisions Cars that Can't Crash

It's a real news report people, not a SomeAchaar or Onion. Microsoft and Ford are working together on cars that won't crash. Now before you come up with your own wisecracks visit this slashdot page and read all that have already been used up.

Here are some of my favourite ones -

* Milliseconds before impact, the entire windshields and all the windows go blue.

* After making a second consecutive right turn, Clippy appears. "It seems like you're turning. Would you like help about this topic?" You say no.

AutoFormat kicks in, causing your car to automatically turn right at every intersection. You manage to get rid of that, but now every time you try to turn left the steering wheel is AutoCorrect'ed to the right.

You finally just let the car drive you wherever while you listen to MSN radio. You don't get where you wanted to go, but at least you didn't crash.

* Officer: Can I see your software license and registration please?

* Driver calling tech support...

Driver: I need some help, my car won't start.
Tech Support: sounds like a driver problem.
Driver: Hey, fsck you!!! I know how to start the damn car!
Tech Support: No sir, I mean the driver for Windows.
Driver: Oh, ok, sorry. Yeah, my kid is always screwing the damn windows. Up and down, up and down. I'll let you talk to him.
Tech Support: Thank you sir, that would be easier for all of us.

* microsoft...

can't crash...

must... make... joke... before head explodes...