Vantage point

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Kangaroos Hopping Mad

You know that the Aussies are really in a bad shape when they, the most legendary rule-benders in the game say things like " It's within the rules of the game but it's just not within the spirit of the game, which is what we're all trying to uphold." Read more of how Ponting is all hot under the collar over here.

It is side-splittingly funny to read that an Australian captain is even pretending that they are trying to uphold the spirit of the game. This is just so funny that I am finding it difficult to string together a sentence without taking a laughter break. I wonder what Ponting things about the crawl of a run-chase that Australia embarked on against the West Indies in the 1999 World Cup?

Ponting is just playing into the hands of the Englishmen here. They know it pisses him off, so now they are going to do it even more. Remember the time Steve Waugh whined about Ganguly being late for a toss. An amused Ganguly started going for the toss late on purpose and it irked the Aussies no end, adding to their frustration. While it may not have been the sole factor behind India winning the series from behind, it was an excellent psychological tool.

I have always said that Ponting is not captaincy material. Warne should be the first choice, followed by Gilchrist. Ponting is just too hot-headed. When things are going well, a team can do well even without a captain, but it is at tough times like these that he needs to show his leadership skills. At Old Trafford we saw a great demonstration of the skills of Ponting the batsman. But Ponting the captain has been found wanting on all counts in this series. I would not be surprised if there is a leadership change affected after this tour.

Another Reader's Response

A blogger, Umesh, jumps to the defence of what Prakash had written here - ( ).

A few excerpts and my reactions.

we cannot deny the fact that it is the dressing of the girls that attract men and so their is no doubt that they are responsible for all these rising sexual harassements on women or rather hot-babes, if I am allowed to say so.

You are allowed to say so, but you would be wrong. The reasons are already explained in my original blog post.

It was Menka who broke Valmiki's meditation, and that she did by seducing him and I need not detail here on how girls can seduce a men.

Firstly, followers of Valmiki, protest!!! Valmiki's good name is being sullied here. Valmiki's meditation was never broken(sic) by Menaka. And followers of Menaka, join in. She never tried to break(sic) Valmiki's meditation. I think it was Vishwamitra.

Anyway, what is the point here? Quoting from mythology/fiction to give an analogy? Grow up! Well then on a totally different topic, do you agree that it is possible for a lion to curb his meat-eating instincts and not eat his friends, like in the movie Madagascar? Or since we are on Hindu mythology, everyone knows how Vamana got enough land using just two of his foot-steps. How do you feel about land-reforms which will give peasants two foot-steps of land, since it is enough, as shown by Vamana?

Even if for the sake of argument, we assume that there existed a Menaka who enticed Vishwamitra, then remember, it means Menaka was a consenting adult trying to seduce him, so Vishwamitra did nothing wrong. I am not saying all men are un-seducable.

If we get a polling done on the "Eve-teasing" or "Molesting" done on scantily dressed girls Vs well dressed girls, then definitely the percentage of the former would be much higher.

This is that logical fallacy whose name temporarily eludes me(Cartellians, help!). "IF" we get a polling done, then "DEFINITELY".... again, what is the point of this? Either show a proper poll which reflects this or then shut up. Secondly, even if the point is assumed true for the sake of the argument, so what? How does that justify the stance taken?

Suppose a poll shows that maximum money is stolen from houses of people who have money, does that mean that a person having money is responsible for the theft? Would you say people who have money want it to get stolen? Or suppose there is a woman who wears jewellery everywhere she goes. Would you say that she does it because she wants the jewellery stolen?

If someone says that a woman wearing a lot of jewellery on a deserted street is at more risk of being robbed than a woman who does not wear the jewellery, it is fine. But saying she is "responsible" for the theft is wrong, because it was the thief who is responsible. Saying that "she wanted the jewellery to be stolen" would be so outrageous that no one would even say it. Yet some people like Prakash B have no qualms in saying that "WHEN A WOMAN WALKS DOWN THE STREET IN A SHORT SKIRT, SHE ALREADY HAS IN MIND THAT SOMEBODY SHOULD LAY HER DOWN.", and people like Umesh will defend these people.

I argue that girls get what they invite for and if the boys sometime crosses their limit, the whole blame goes these uncultured/uncivilised boys, and the poor girl is just the victim.

There are more contradictions in this single sentence than L K Advani's entire political career.

Umesh ends his post with a lot of advice for me, and a dare which is reminiscent of dares we used to give each other on kindergarten playgrounds.

Monday, August 29, 2005


He sat on the bed waiting for the attack to start. He stared at the crack in the wall. He knew that any moment now, the army would break out of the crack. They were waiting there, waiting for him to go to sleep, so that he would be easier to attack. He could not afford to fall asleep now. It was kill or be killed. Gone were the days when the maximum damage such a battle would inflict on him was a few bite marks, boils and some rash. Now they were bigger, badder, poisonous and very dangerous.

He had literally begged his landlord to pay for the pest control and fumigation. He had refused to pay the rent unless the landlord did it. There was a long standoff, where the landlord claimed that the rent contract did not oblige him to make the apartment ant-free. Which apartment does not have ants, he argued. All you need to do is make sure you don’t leave food outside, and keep the house clean. But he would not listen to the landlord. He insisted on fumigation. The fumigation would cost as much as two months’ rent. He threatened that if the landlord did not pay for it, then he would get it done himself and not pay rent for two month. The landlord said he would deduct the amount from the housing deposit. The standoff continued.

He had not always been this way. The ants were always a problem, but not as big a problem. Now they had spread from the kitchen to the bedroom and the living room. There would be ants in his clothes, in the cupboard, even inside his computer cabinet. The ants were literally taking over. He could not sleep properly. One night he woke up, to find ants crawling on his bed. They were on his bed, and were even inside the mattress. There were ants crawling on the wooden bed.

His landlord told him that he would not pay for the fumigation because he was not convinced about the ant problem. When the landlord came over, the ants would retreat to the crevices and holes. His clothes, his furniture, and his gadgets would be free of any ants. The only ants his landlord could see were a few which were swarming around a grain of rice on the kitchen platform.

“See, this is just normal. Why do you want me to spend so much for the fumigation? Just don’t spill food like this, and if you do, clean it up before the ants get to it.”

“But I am telling you, usually the ants are all over the house. They have retreated today because you came. They want to avoid being fumigated.”

“Shyam, do you understand what you are saying?”

“I know how it sounds. But believe me, these ants are very sly.”

“Bye, Shyam. I need to go now. As I said, get the fumigation done at your own expense if you want.”

Finally Shyam bit the bullet and decided to get the fumigation done. The process was simple. His house would be sealed for a couple of days, and some mild nerve gas would be pumped in, killing off all ants and insects. The house would be ant-free in a couple of days. It all seemed right. But somehow Shyam was not convinced that all was right. A fear still lurked at the back of his mind.

Two days later he entered his house, which had now been de-gassed. There was an odd stink, but the house seemed clean.

“Mr. Shyam, we did not find many dead ants or insects in the house. Usually when people get fumigation done, there are a lot of those which need to be cleaned. But your house was normal. Hardly any dead ants”, the bug guy said.

Something did not feel right. That evening Shyam was sitting sipping a cup of coffee when he felt a slight spasm of pain in his temples, and suddenly a thought filled his mind,

“You thought you would get rid of us, didn’t you?”

“What????” Shyam spoke out aloud. What was this!

“Don’t be shocked. I am an ant talking to you telepathically.”

“What???” Shyam stood rooted to the spot. The words were appearing in his mind, and there was no physical threat, but he was too scared to even move.

“Yes. I am an ant. The gas had a strange effect on some of us. Most of us died, but a lot of us have developed an enhanced brain power. We can communicate telepathically, and it turns out our bite is now poisonous. Tonight we shall come out of our houses and kill you. Every bite this time will mean death. Over and out.”

So Shyam sat on the bed, shivering. He had tried to get out of the house, but there were ants swarming all over the door. All he could do was sit and wait.

A row of ants came out from the crack on the wall. They advanced towards his bed. Shyam sat, shivering, sweating, knowing he would die soon.


“DOCTOR!!!! DOCTOR!!!!” Vinita shouted.

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Dixit?”, the doctor asked as he rushed into the ward.

“What is the meaning of this? There were a few ants crawling on Shyam’s bed which I just brushed off. Is this what you call hygienic conditions? A patient is in coma and your staff does not even bother to check up on him at all? Look at these marks on his hand, they are definitely ant bites.”

“I’m very sorry about this, Mrs. Dixit. Nurse, who is in charge of this bed? I want to see all of you in my office immediately. But first ensure that there are no more ants around.”
“Is this what we are paying so much money for, Doctor? Ants biting my comatose husband? Ants??????” Vinita was still fuming an hour later as she sat in the Doctor’s cabin.

“OK, Mrs. Dixit. I admit it was our fault. The staff has been pulled up, and such a thing will never be repeated. But will you please let it go now? It was just a few ant bites. He is in coma, for god’s sake. It doesn’t affect him. He doesn't even know there were a few ants biting him.”


Sarika has written her version of the story which I think is great.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Why the fightback never happened

So now England has taken a 2-1 lead and the Australian "backlash" is still nowhere close to materialising. After the narrow defeat at Edgbaston, people expected the Aussies to fight back like the proverbial and cliched cornered tiger. It was expected that the Aussies, with their backs to the wall, would come out throwing punches, and put England in their rightful place.

The Australians have made England fight tooth and nail for each victory, but there is no hint of a "backlash" or a "fightback". There will be murmurs down under of a fightback at the Oval to square the series and retain the urn. That may just happen, but I find it unlikely, given that Mcgrath will almost certainly miss the last test, and the Oval is a very draw-able ground, so the groundsman will prepare a dozing flat track. The odds are heavily stacked against the Aussies.

So why did the fightback never completely materialise? We have seen how the Indian team, after losing the Mumbai test to Australia in 3 days in 2001, went on to win the next two matches and win the series. We have seen how the Pakistan team, dejected and down and out in India earlier this year, fought back to draw a nearly-lost match and even win a nearly-drawn one to square the series.

The absence of a strong fightback is actually a glowing testimony to the way Australia play their cricket. What has made them world champions is the fact that they maintain the level of their game at a high peg. And they do so consistently, making it so difficult to beat them. So if a team always gives a 100 percent, it is at a loss when faced with a situation to give more. Other teams like India and Pakistan often play below their potential, and so there is scope for them to actually raise the level of their game, and come out looking like "cornered" tigers. They are tigers which were pushed into a corner because they were napping, and so after waking up, they roar and fight back, giving scope for ample drama.

Australia, no matter how much they are criticised for their game in this series, have simple been outplayed and beaten by a better team, which threw up better individual performances. We recall the repeated 500-plus scores that Australia posted over the past half decade without really evaluating the quality of the opposition attack. It's not like Matthew Hayden has forgotten how to bat. It is just that he is up against some really good bowling now. Lee and warne have not forgotten how to bowl. The English batsmen have just played them very well.

So you see, Australia always put in a great effort. If the opposition does better, they can't be blamed for not trying. However we are so used to watching other teams play below par many times and then raising their game for the crucial matches that we assume that the same is happening with Australia whenever they lose.

Aussie fans would still be hoping for a fightback. I would bet against it. What could happen though is, England, exhausted mentally from three close games, might let their game drop a bit. But considering what is at stake, even that is unlikely.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Reader's Response

I still can't believe that I actually received the mail that I am reproducing below. I can't believe that such a person with such a warped way of thinking actually exists. I got the mail in response to this post I made last month. The sender of this mail - Prakash B ( email id - prakashcritic(ATTHERATE)hotmail(dot)com in case anyone wants to write to him directly) has commented on every portion of my post. Do read it. The most hilarious part is the one about "hot pants". :)

Dear Gaurav,

I was going through your comments on this issue. Please note my comments below IN CAPITALS:

Whenever the issue of harrassment of women/couples at the hands of either policemen or other elements of the society, both prudish and lecherous, is raised, one of the prominent arguments made is "she/they brought it upon themselves". THIS IS PURELY A BIASED NEWS, CAN YOU PROVIDE SOME PROOF OR IF YOU DO NOT HAVE PROOF, CAN YOU READ THE COMPLETE STORY AND COME BACK. DO NOT HIGHLIGHT ONE OR TWO STRAY INCIDENTS!

The main thrust of this argument is that men are by nature sexual predators, and in any situation are likely to lose control. This, it is deemed, is an act of nature, and as unavoidable as a dog barking. However, women's clothing and behaviour, is not dictated by nature. So they can control it. Hence the onus of preventing incidents of eve-teasing and molestation, somehow, lies primarily on the woman. If she walks alone down a street

Many bloggers, mainly female, have written how insulting this argument is towards women. About how unfair it is that a woman be actually blamed for something being inflicted upon her. (THESE WOMEN WHO MOAN, ARE ALSO A PART OF IT, WHY CAN'T THEY APPROACH FEMALES WEARING SKIMPY DRESSES AND ADVISE THEM TO WEAR DECENT INDIAN DRESSES TO AVOID CONSEQUENCES. IN TURN, THEY WILL TALK BIG ABOUT HARASSMENT. NOBODY IS GOING TO CATCH HOLD OF A SCANTILY

I raise a different issue. I say this argument is extremely insulting to least a large number of men... who do not act as if imposing their lust on other women is a god-given right. I, am personally offended, that according to some people, my kind, i.e men, are supposed to act like animals wanting to hump the first thing in sight. As a man, I am offended at this warped logic which pulls down the rest of the population to the level of the most barbaric repugnant male. I DO NOT CARE WHAT FEMALES SAY, BECAUSE BASICALLY THEY ARE WRONG AND THEY ARE TRYING TO PROVE IT RIGHT BY ACCUSING MEN.

There have been several occasions when a pretty woman passing by has caught my eye. But not once in my life have I even remotely considered "molesting" or "eve-teasing" anyone. And trust me, it does not take Herculean Mahatma Gandhi or Jain Monk style self-control. It's not like I took classes in self control and hence can let a scantily clad babe pass me by without feeling her up. DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN TOP SLOT. NOBODY MOLESTS OR EVE TEASES ANY

As silly as this statement might sound, it has to be made - It is easy to not molest a hot woman on the streets.

The fact that it is so easy makes it even more insulting that the so-called guardians of Indian culture say "It is natural for a man to get aroused and act rashly. The woman should dress decently to avoid it." To give a parallel, it's like saying.... see, animals urinate whenever they want, wherever they want. That is hence natural. So it's unreasonable to expect a human being to go to the bathroom. It's just unnatural. DO NOT GIVE USELESS

Remember, when a woman walks down the street in a short skirt, and a man gets "aroused".... the arousal happens in the man's head and not the woman's. Hence the onus lies on the man to control it. When a couple is making out in public and a prudish old lady gets "offended", the offence happens in the lady's head and not the couple's. Hence the onus lies on the


That does not mean my parents sat me down and said "If you see a hot babe in hot pants, don't pinch her butt". But I was taught, more implicitly than explicitly, to respect others. (YOU HAVE SAID IT, WHAT YOU MEAN BY HOT BABE (IF YOUR UPBRINGING IS VERY GOOD), WHAT YOU MEAN BY HOT PANTS, WHY DON'T U CALL THESE NORMAL BABES WITH NORMAL PANTS. IT MEANS DIRECTLY THAT SEXY BABE IN A SEXY PANT. WHAT YOU DO WITH HER !)

Respect does not mean falling prostrate at the feet of elders every time you see them. Respect does not mean paying lofty lip service to the role of women in society. Respect comes from within. And respect for another person is shown by letting that person choose to live life his/her own way. If you respect another person, you won't impose or intrude on the way they live their life. (GENERALLY INDIANS DO NOT RESPECT WOMEN WHO ARE ILL DRESSED, BECAUSE DRESSING SPEAKS A LOT ABOUT WOMEN. FOR EG., SEE ANY INDIAN MOVIE, HOW DO THEY PORTRAY A DANCER/ PROSTITUTE ON THE SCREEN.)

I Give Up Atheism!!!!

Yes, i give up Atheism. There is finally a religion which has revealed to me the true light. I am now a follower of Pastafarianism. No no, this is not one of the millions of typos that grace my writing. I did not mean Rastafarianism. I do mean Pastafarianism.

I encourage you all to join the followers of this rapidly growing religion. Yes, this blog has now stooped risen to proselytizing.

More info here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

O Great Google, I genuflect!!

Downloaded and used Google Talk. My mind has boggled so much at the sheer simplicity, usability and the genius of that product, that I am speechless (kinda ironic, eh?).

Chalk up another resounding win for Google. The company is now firmly entrenched as the techie's darling company, a position occupied by Apple.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A nice blog

Proakis...Millman...Halkias....Fast Fourier Transforms... suddenly the (not-so) dustant past came screaming back, and made me nostalgic about the four years I spent in COEP to obtain an Engineering degree in E&TC. They came screaming back thanks to this blog - Ek Kathak Aur Uski Kathayen run by a student of MIT (nope, not Mass. and not Manipal..... Maharashtra Institute of Technology). It is an interesting blog, with a lot of short stories. I recommend it heartily.

Many years back.... between the years 1998-2002 all the aforementioned terms were very significant in my life. The target then was, as I mentioned, becoming an engineer. Then came two years of MBA at IIML which pushed all this stuff into the background. After that, has been a year and half of selling servers, which does not require me to go too deep into the technology that I am selling, not as deep as I had to during my engineering.

What is the point of this post? Firstly to draw attention towards the fine blog of Kathak. Secondly, to express the feeling that has just sunk in about how fast and how much life changes. I am talking about my engineering days as if they are a distant past, whereas, it has been just 3-4 years. A few years from now I will probably be talking of my current life as a part of old history. A pretty obvious and non-earth-shattering point I know, but when it hits you, you want to blog about it to save it for posterity.

Super Cribs

The World XI squads for the Super Series have been announced.

My huge crib about it is the exclusion of Inzamam-ul-Haq from both the test and one-day sides. It is a preposterous decision, and is very unfair to one of the greatest batsmen of this era. Inzy possesses both class as well as form, and I dare selectors to justify his exclusion.

Another cirb is the appointment Shaun Pollock as the captain of the one-day side. The guy is not even captain of his own country. There is a huge blot on his captaincy skills, i.e the idiotic miscalculation he made in the game against Sri Lanka in the 2003 World Cup. Brian Lara is there in the team. He could have been made captain. If it was a question of choosing from former captains, Sachin Tendulkar would have been a much better choice instead of Pollock. Choosing the mathematically challenged Pollock is an insult to these two guys.

Absolut Vodka as a Hijack Weapon

While coming back from Germany, I decided that I would buy the two bottles of booze that the government so graciously allows me to bring into the country without paying any duty, from the airport duty free shop. The duty free shops are accessible only after you've checked in, i.e after your check-in baggage is taken away. So anything you buy from the duty free has to be carried as cabin baggage.

We are allowed to carry bottles in our cabin baggage. Doesn't anybody feel bothered by this? The 9/11 hijackings were carried out using box cutters. You know what is a more potent weapon than a box cutter? Anybody who has seen a fight sequence from a Hindi film which takes place in a college canteen or a restaurant will know the answer. A glass bottle, broken such that its jagged edges turn it into a weapon.

Get my point? A few guys, carrying booze bottles in their cabin baggage, take out the bottles, break them, and use them to threaten passengers and the crew. That's a hijacking waiting to happen.

Good Egg, Aadisht!

A JNU professor presents some partial stats to make some points over here.

Aadisht takes a look at the complete stats and demolishes the argument here, also educating the Prof about Giffen Goods.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Damn Dem Bleeding Hearts

Fellow-ex-Abhinavite and fellow-ex-COEP-ian, Sumeet, who maintains one of the most diverse, well-written and yet under-updated and (perhaps therefore) under-rated blogs, has written a brilliant post on the occasion of Independence day -

Freedom from Bleeding Hearts

This para is particularly my favourite -

Whenever I speak of free markets, empowerment and liberalization to be the best solution to India's poverty problems, I am almost always told that it is easy for me make armchair arguments. Have I ever experienced life in a village, the hunger, the desperation? How can someone who has been an urbanite all his life ever know what is good for the rural poor? There are some basic flaws in this argument. The first one, I think it is somewhat presumptuous to merely go by my present attire and speech and lifestyle, and make conclusions about my economic history, especially for people who have known me for a few minutes, maybe a few months, or at the most a couple of years. The more important flaw in the argument is that these very people suggest that some wise, know-all bureaucrat and regulator who has exactly as much or less knowledge or experience of hunger or poverty or the rural struggle for survival should sit in Delhi, and decide on which district gets how much of the centrally planned monetary allocation for that year to spend on "his" subjects. The whole argument reeks of hypocrisy. In my armchair "solutions", at least I don't presume that I am more intelligent than the poor farmer. I don't underestimate his ingenuity to use his empowered mind to alleviate himself from his impoverished state.

Go read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Bangladeshi Blog

Came across the blog of a Bangladeshi today while searching for posts related to the bizarre blasts in the country which happened at 400 places but killed only two.

What really caught my attention though was a post Tazzy the blogger made titled Its not my fault that I feel like screaming sometimes...

She writes

How can seemingly educated and logical people originating from that country STILL know so little about the events of 1971?! I mean they can't even claim the 'media blanket' as a reason for cluelessness(where the West Pakistan media failed to report on what was happening in Dhaka in 1971, on purpose) , like their parent's generation. All they have to do is 'Google' the words - Bangladesh war, 1971 or even East Pakistan- and voila! You have facts. YES FACTS! Not conspiracy theories of how India instigated the Bangalis to revolt or that 'only a few people died' (try 300,000 by your government's count you morons) in combat ; but actual sequence of events. And they don't even have to go the seemingly Bangladeshi sites.

She further writes

But hey, the Bengalis are not better eh? If the people from West Pakistan are mistaken in giving all the credit of the 1971 war to India, the liberated Bangladeshi people, I will accuse, of not giving enough credit to India, specifically the Indian army. Even today, there are fears of 'selling the country to India' or 'India taking over Bangladesh' among the equally educated and logical Bengali people instead of endorsing in building even the smallest monument to acknowledge the Indian soldiers who died then- not defending their own country but helping another.

Read the whole post.

It is strange to read that Pakistanis feel that their country has done better than Bangladesh. True, there is no point in really playing the one-upmanship game in an under-achiever region like South Asia where millions are hungry and illiterate. But if I had to compare, I would say Bangladesh, considering its tender age, turbulent politics and vulnerability to natural calamities, has performed really well. It is rated slightly above Pakistan in the UNHD Index, and its achievements in empowerment of the rural population through community initiative and innovation rather than cumbersome government programs, are astounding. For coming up with Grameen bank alone, I would give Bangladesh kudos.

But yes, the ugly monster of Islamic fudnamentalism is raising its head in Bangladesh too.

They may say blood is thicker than water. But nothing is thicker than the heads of fundamentalists.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Augustravelogue 2

The next stage of the trip took place in two different countries. One was Austria, where we had an event at the Swarovski Crystal World near Innsbruck, and the other was Abu Dhabi where we had an 18 hour stopover.

Austrian landscape is visibly prettier than German. I have often used the term "feels like being inside a picture postcard" but never have I meant it as seriously as when I use it to describe the beauty of Austria. Granted, I saw only a small part of the country, but I have falled in love with it and surely return, in much more romantic company, to explore it further. Swarovski KristallWalten, i.e Crystal World, is a museum type thing with the central theme being, obviously crystals. The whole Crystal World is very fact one of the first exhibits is a Dali creation. It has to be experienced rather than described. The IBM event had a performance by Sunil Pal, an extremely talented comedian who has made his name on the Great Indian Laughter Challenge recently. His jokes were original as well as up-to-date, with several gags aimed at recent phenomena like the Mumbai Flood, Abhijit Sawant, etc. The guy is a natural performer, and is destined for big things. If I may take a detour here, the Laughter Challenge is a great concept, as it takes the off-the-beaten-path track of promoting comic talent, and not singing talent which sixteen million other shows do. There is a great deal of comedy talent in India which, if mined properly, will reap rich dividends.

We lament how Indian sitcoms are puerile when compared to American and English sitcoms, but we ignore the fact that most great sitcom creaters have been successful stand-up comics. These stand-up comics make a living performing at Comedy Clubs. Sadly, the Comedy Club phenomenon does not exist in India. There has been a boom in the restaurant business, but there exist only a handful of restaurants where comedians perform. With the emergence on shows like the Laughter Challenge, hopefully there will be a pool of comic talent which will then encourage entrepreneurs to set up Comedy Clubs.

Back to the travelogue then. We left Germany, and arrived in Abu Dhabi for an 18 hour long stopover. The city is spic and span, well laid out, opulent, but seems to lack a "punch". I did not go to Dubai, and spent my time wandering around Abu Dhabi. The heat was extremely sapping, reminiscent of the hottest days in Lucknow, and every few minutes we would be seeking the refuge of AC shops or malls. My conspiracy theory is that this stopover was put in place only to make us appreciate the weather of Mumbai, instead of cribbing about it, which we would have surely done had we landed directly after the comfy climes of Germany. Arriving on a mildly rainy morning after having spent a day in the searing Abu Dhabi heat made us compare Bombay to a hill station, something that happens only once(if at all) in a blue moon.

Thus ends the travelogue. Normal broadcasting, I mean blogging, will resume in a day or two. There's lots to write about. The latest happenings in Shivsena, the Old Trafford test (about which interestingly, updates were appearing more frequently on CNN than BBC World in Germany), the modification in the Hindu Code Bill to correct the inheritance issue. Watch this space.

Augustravelogue 1

Call it a case of reverse biasing, but I found Germany to be a lot should I say.... imperfect, even in appearance, than I expected it to be. It's a beautiful place of course. Munich, especially its downtown section. But I had heard so much about the clinical and mechanical perfection of the Germans that it was surprising, maybe even a bit relieving to see the litter on German streets. The streets were lined with cigarette butts, and there were quite a few scraps of paper around. Not littering on the Indian scale of course, but still, not streets that you could eat off, something I had expected.

The Munich trip began with a visit to the Olympic village and the famed Olympic tower with its revolving restaurant. The difference in the architectural styles between parts of the city as seen from the vantage point on the tower was very obvious. The experience of eating in a revolving restaurant itself was somewhat underwhelming, maybe even a bit weird. The reason was that though the restaurant was revolving, sitting inside it, it felt as if the inside cylindrical wall of the restaurant, i.e the portion surrounding the axis of the tower, was what was revolving. The outside scenery did not seem to be moving as fast, because the wall was so much closer. These tricks played by the brain made the attention focus too much on the inside than the outside.

Another underwhelming experience was the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz. It has been touted as the biggest tourist attraction in Munich. The story behind it is that everyday at two different times (11 am and 1 pm) inside the main hall, several bells of varying sizes are played. Then the act of a horse-fight which happened while celebrating a royal wedding is replayed using mechanical figurines. The play of the mechanical figurines is what is supposed to draw tourists from all over the world, and there's even a cafe opposite the town hall from where you can watch the whole thing. Now the figurines are located high on a tower, and are basically placed on corcular discs. As the discs move, the whole act is played out. It is hardly an opulent sight, and growing up in Pune, where almost every Ganpati Mandal would put up mechanical displays far far superior, you can't help wondering what all the fuss is about.

An overwhelming experience though was Hofbrauhaus, the home of the world famous Oktoberfest. Hofbrauhaus is a beer hall, shaped like a beer keg. It's a huge hall, seating easily over a thousand people at the same time in several rows. At the head of the hall is a stage where a band and a dance group keeps performing through the night. Fresh beer, brewed by Hofbrau, flows, and the whole atmosphere is like a carnival. If we had so much fun on a normal weekend, I can't imagine how great it would be during two weeks of the Oktoberfest.

I have never really appreciated beer in the past. I just take a couple of sips of it, and can't go geyond it. However the beer served everywhere in Germany, whether it was at a beer garden we visited earlier or at Hofbrauhaus, tasted way too good to be beer. I loved it and gulped down amounts that I will not specify here. I was informed that one reason why German beer tastes so good is that it is freshly brewed and the one served out of kegs in Munich has no added preservatives. So it is "natural" beer. Thankfully I live in Mumbai where the beer you get is in bottles and cans, and not kegs, and it tastes horrible. So my beer consumption will now return to 3 sips a year. But if I were to move to Germany, I will positively be sporting a massive beer belly in record time.

The other sights of Munich were great of course...standard stuff you will read on any tourist site.

Another thing that strucks me was the high number of "Indische" i.e Indian restaurants in the city. I would always peek inside one when I passed it, and would find 90% of its clientele to be white. It seems like Indian cuisine really is catching on abroad, and its not just exaggerated hype like Aishwarya Rai. :-P

Came across an interesting bit of coincidence while on the city tour. By and large me and a few guys roamed the city on our own whenever the conference wasn't in session. But I did join the 3 hour guide-on-front-seat-with-mike type tour. The guide's narrative centered heavily around a couple of kings named Ludwig and she hardly spoke about Hitler at all, though he started his "career" in the city. I am told Germans like to talk as little about the third reich as possible. So later, after being told about the historic significance of every cobblestone in the city with the minimal reference to Hitler, I askeed the guide where Hitler's infamous Beer Hall Putsch happened, the very location that he later narrowly escaped an assasination attempt. Was it at Hofbrauhaus, I asked. She said no, in fact it happened at a beer hall called Burgerbraukeller, which was destroyed in the bombings, and on part of the land now stands a section of the Hilton, the very hotel where we were staying.

Overall, Munich was very pretty, and the three days spent there were memorable. German folks are by and large very helpful. Most of them can at least understand English and many speak it. Even if they don't understand English they make an effort to help you out.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I will be travelling to Germany this weekend. So if I have limited net access, there will be no blog posts. If I have net access, then the blog posts will be about Germany.

Guten Tag!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Look who the rains have stymied!

- Worst rains in a decade, causing 150 mm of rainfall
- Flooding in most parts of the city, many buildings flooded.
- Urban train transport system shutdown, as a section of the route submerged
- Domestic and international airports shut down for two days
- 800-plus dead throughout the country since summer rainy season began

You could be almost forgiven for thinking that the lines above are taken from news reports about the monsoon devastation in Maharashtra. Almost, because the keener amongst you will notice that the amount of rainfall mentioned is 150 mm, whereas Mumbai received more than six times, i.e 944 mm of rainfall.

You know what the lines describe? They describe the impact of typhoon-caused rainstorms on Shanghai, the city which the media keeps harping about as the standard that Mumbai should look up to.

Now it is no secret that Shanghai is certainly a better planned, better laid out city with an infrastructure many times better than Mumbai. And yes, it bears mentioning that only 4 people died in Shanghai over the two days of the rainstorm. Plus there was a typhoon at work, with the wind speeds also causing a lot of damage.

But the fact remains that despite avoiding too many fatalities, Shanghai could not avoid a two-day shutdown which brought the city to its proverbial knees, after being lashed by rains which were a fraction of what Mumbai saw on 26-7. Their roads and buildings were flooded too, their trains and airports were shut down too.

No one will deny that the various state agencies have done little for Mumbai. And it is admirable to note how lives were not lost on a big scale in China. But the fact remains that 944 mm of rain is a LOT of rain, and no amount of infrastructure development could have prevented the city from coming to a standstill for those two days.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The fraud that is IIPM

IIPM is to Management Education, what Parnab Mukherjee is to quizzing. However IIPM is a more serious matter because it actually screws around with people's lives and careers.

You all must have seen full-page IIPM ads in all national dailies, asking student to "dare to dream beyond the IIMs". If one went by the ads, one could be forgiven for thinking that IIPM is the institute with the best possible infrastructure, faculty, and placements in the country.

Scratch a bit and you realise what a load of crap it all is.

Arindam Chaudhury, touted as a "Management Guru" has educational antecedents which are as questionable as Parnab Mukherjee. Though IIPM ads go all out boasting about anything and everything, which may or may not be true about the institute, notice how Arindam's educational qualifications are never mentioned? A professor of ours at IIML informed us that this is because Arindam could not even pass graduation exams at first attempt. And yet, reputed media organisations like NDTV call him as an expert panelist for their discussions.

JAM Magazine has a detailed exposè on IIPM over here. Read it in detail and forward it to anyone you know seriously considering joining IIPM.

It has exposed the lies about the infrastructure, the faculty, the placements and everything else that IIPM has been conning people with.

I'll end this post with something our prof in IIML brought to our notice, and which even JAM mag has mentioned. The fine print.

At the end of every IIPM ad, there is a fine print which goes -

IIPM conducts its own programmes in Planning & Entrepreneurship (a non professional course) and does not teach any foreign institute’s courses... The MBA/BBA degrees are conferred by IMI, Europe and is internationally renowned and does not come under the purview of AICTE, UGC or other state acts.

Which means the so-called MBAs from IIPM are not even MBAs.

I applaud JAM for the courage it has shown in exposing the Chaudhury scam. I wish other components of the main stream media would also do the same.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Prima facie DNA review

I have seen just two issues of the much hyped DNA(Daily News and Analysis), the collaboration between Dainik Bhaskar and Zee, which was launched last week after a protracted media campaign.

I'll write a detailed "review" after a couple of weeks once I have read the newspaper for a longer period of time, but prima facie, I am unimpressed.

There is nothing earth-shattering editorially, and the layout is almost identical to Times of India, with a lot of pictures of scantily-clad women on every alternate page under some excuse or the other. In fact the "skin dose" is much stronger in DNA than TOI, who usually restricts it to just one or two pics a day.

The coverage of Mumbai is a lot more comperehensive, but then, these are times of crisis, so there are a lot more news-worthy stories being generated in Mumbai itself. I believe the true worth of a newspaper can be gauged in crisis-less times when the day-to-dayhappenings are not gripping enough. In a way, simialr to a good one-day cricket team being one wich scores well in the 20-40 over stage.

So prima-facie, my verdict is, DNA at best is very similar to TOI at its worst. Mind you, a lot of people agree with me that TOI, at least the Mumbai edition, has improved a lot over the last few months. Hmmm..... a couple of bigwigs from TOI quit a few months back and joined DNA.

Corelation or causation?

More on Parnab

Pune, a city by and large unsoiled by the parnab brand of quizzing, has been afflicted by his presence in the last few years thanks to some uninformed college fest organisers.

Kunal Sawardekar writes about his experience(also mirrored on Interrobang) at the SCIT Business Quiz in Pune conducted by Parnab. In this quiz, Parnab wiped out James Callaghan from history and made Edward Heath the PM who preceded Margaret Thatcher.

Other posts on Parnab(by me and others) -


Cow de do,Ice Cream ley lo

A cow has been stolen from Connecticut.

Not just any cow, a but a fibre glass cow! And the owner is offering free ice-cream for a year to gether back.

I am thinking of ratting on this cowbsesssed guy and claiming the ice cream.


A factual error in my Reliance Energy post. BSES was always a private company. Reliance acquired it from private players rather than through disinvestment.

Mumbai as a UT....or a country?

There are many things which people say just because they are fashionable. They might be right or wrong. But people will nevertheless go ahead and say those things, because its a fashion to say them, and instinctively they see nothing wrong with it.

One such "cause" that is supported fashionably is the matter of making Mumbai a union territory. Instinctively it seems great, doesn't it? Here is Mumbai, contributing a chunk of the country's taxes. And yet it is let down by these politicians who come from Latur, Nagar, Konkan, Baramati. Yes, instinctively we feel that making Bombay a UT or even a separate state will solve most of its problems because then the leaders of Bombay will be answerable to Bombayites. Think a bit and you realise that making Mumbai a UT to avoid problems like slums, bad roads, flooding, creaking public transport is like taking a Hepatitis vaccine to cure lung cancer.

People like Vir Sanghvi and Fali Nariman who passionately argue for a separate Mumbai seem to base their argument on the premise that being a part of Maharashtra is detrimental to the city. They speak as if the rest of Maharashtra makes merry at Mumbai's expense. But is it really so? I seriously doubt it.

Even today, Mumbai's infrastructure is far better than Pune or Nagpur. Mumbai has over 60 fly-overs, two wide arterial roads, an efficient bus transport service and a creaking-but-functional suburban rail system. Pune and Nagpur combined have barely half a dozen flyovers. They have no public transport to speak of, and the roads, at least in Pune,are no great shakes. The roads in Nagpur are superb, thanks to an efficient commissioner in their Civic Corporation, and not because of mooching off Mumbai.

Everyone talks about how Mumbai contributes obscene proportions of several central taxes and levies countrywide. Then they lament how a paltry fraction of it is pumped back into Mumbai.

And then, without batting an eyelid, they say, "Hence, make Mumbai a UT. Problem solved. QED"


For that they must first establish how much of Mumbai's tax collected is pumped into Maharashtra, and how much of it goes to the rest of the country. If a huge percentage of the taxes goes into developing other cities and rural areas of Maharashtra, then the argument for making Mumbai a UT make sense.

However if the bulk of those are central taxes which go into the central government's kitty and are then distributed everywhere else in the country, then there won't be any impact even if Mumbai is separated from Maharashtra.

Then we will actually need to think about separating Mumbai from India. :)

Another argument often put forth is that since most of the senior leaders in Maharashtra come from outside Mumbai, they don't really care about the city, since the Mumbai voter does not decide their personal fate. The argument goes that if Mumbai were granted statehood like Delhi, then the way Sheila Dixit's constituency is Delhi itself, the Mumbai CM's constituency would be Mumbai itself, and he would have to work for Mumbai's betterment.

Now, if a CM is necessary for a city's development, what good are corporation elections? The corporators are all dependent on the Mumbai voter for winning elections. Is BMC really doing all that great? I don't think so.

So when people put forth the Mumabi-UT argument, the two main reasons -

- That Mumbai will have total control over spending the taxes it pays
- That the state government(or UT government) will work better because it will be directly answerable to Mumbaikars

are both shown not to have a direct link with it.

It's just fashionable to say "Make Mumbai a UT".

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Cut Reliance Some Slack

My house is among the 20,000 houses served by Reliance Energy which still haven't had their electricity restored. However I bear no malice or anger towards Reliance or the Ambanis. In fact I am irritated when I see a politician, Narayan Nane, talk about how they may arrest Reliance Energy officials if the power isn't restored in time.

This is wrong on so many levels.

Firstly it is wrong because no government owned company can be sued or punished if they don't provide services satisfactorily, even if it's an essential service. So when MSEB was carrying out 12-hour power cuts in rural Maharashtra for six months, they did so without any fear of arrests or even the slightest action.

If the floods had happened 5 years back, when BSES was a state-owned company, no politician would have dared talk of arrests. But now that it is a private company, they casually throw around ideas of placing the Reliance Energy behind bars.

A lot of consumers and politicians have asked why Tata Power did not face any such problems. Firstly, Tata Power mainly supplies energy in South Mumbai, where the rains were 15 times milder. Secondly, Tata Power has always been a private company. They set up their own infrastructure, including transformers and lines. They thus made the infrastructure adhere to their standards, which would obviously be stricter than a government owned company.

However Reliance Energy inherited the infrastructure from BSES. They did not install these transformers in low-lying areas. The infrastructure was of a shoddy public sector level.

Whatever complaints one has about Reliance twisting policy for their benefits, they have always satisfied their customers and their shareholders. In fact during the 48-hours of flodding last week, the only telephone network that was working was Reliance Infocomm. All others, Orange, Airtel, BPL, MTNL, BSNL, were unable to handle the load. This shows that the Reliance Infocomm infrastructure, which was laid by Reliance itself, was sturdily built, and perfectly capable to performing even under a crisis.

All of Reliance's plants and refineries are also acknowledged as being world class.

Even Reliance Energy is a million times more customer friendly as compared to MSEB. They have a dedicated phone line where customers can call and get info, even during a rare power cut. I remember a couple of months back when there was a power failure at my place. I called the Reliance Energy number, and it was answered by a lady who said that they are sorry for the power cut, and it will be restored in one hour. Sure enough, an hour later, power was back.

Compare this with MSEB. Whenever there is a power cut in Pune, MSEB officials either don't answer the phone, or if they do, are very rude and lax in their responses to the customers. Those are the people I'd love to see arrested.

I'd also love to see arrested the politicians of both Sena and Congress, who did not bother to add a single megawatt of capacity in Maharashtra in over a decade and plunged the state into a sure-fire crisis.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Think before you empty your cupboard for them

Whenever calamity strikes, the common people contribute in whatever way possible. The most basic help we all offer is clothes. We donate some old-but-wearable clothes to the charities who are collecting them. But are they really that useful?

I never really gave this issue much thought before I read Amit Varma's tsunami despatches. In several posts like this one, he tells us that the clothes often end up aggravating the relief work rather than helping. A few excerpts -

old clothes, although people love to clear out their cupboards and donate them, generally go waste, and often lie strewn around disaster areas. Even poor people don't fancy old clothes, especially when they've never worn anything like it before. I spotted sweaters in a box of clothes that came into Aid India today, and that is just ridiculous.

Many of the relief supplies that we saw reaching Tamil Nadu were redundant – old clothes being a case in point. To make sure that relief for the next disaster is focussed, it is important to carry out an evaluation of what kind of supplies came in handy here.

As the rainclouds finally start sparing Mumbai, relief work will start. Already I see posts like this and this on the Cloudburst Blog, announcing where people can send their donations and old clothes.

I request the NGOs to draw on the lessons learnt from the tsunami, documented so well by Amit here. We already know that plastic bags ended up clogging a lot of drains. Let us not have a pile of clothes, which no one will probably wear, add to the problems.

In the tsunami, tens of thousands lost their houses, and everything else they owned. even then the piles of clothes were causing a nuisance in Tamilnadu. The scale of homelessness is a lot lesser in numbers in Mumbai. If all conscientious Mumbaikars donate clothes, you will probably have a thousand clothes per homeless person, which even if the homeless person is willing to wear hand-me-downs, is a colossal waste..

Another thing to consider. The textile industry is no longer in the Mahatma-Gandhi-Munshi-Premchand days. Buying clothes is no longer as much of a concern for even the poorest as it once was, at least in the cities. Just try and recall the poor people you have seen on the streets, in local trains, and in slums. Do you recall seeing a lot of half-naked and barely clad folks? I frankly don't and unless all my life I have seen a slice of life that does not truly represent urban India, clothes is not really too much of a concern for the poor any more.

So let us concentrate the relief efforts in more relevant directions. let us not empty our cupboards and feel good about helping the flood-hit poor when actually we may just be adding to our city's garbage and clogging.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Govinda, Mat Bolo

Have been trying to locate an online article about this, but there doesn't seem to be any.

Saw a hilarious bit of news on Star News yesterday. The Bombay film industry has decided to file a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) against the Maharashtra Government for its inept handling of the flood situation.

Star News caught up with Govinda, the M.P. from North Mumbai, and it turns out the guy has no idea what PRO means. This is the gist of the hilarious bits of the interview.

Correspondent: Bollywood has filed a PIL about the flood situation.
Govinda: Yes, yes, Bollywood has always done that. We have always been at the forefront for relief whenever there is a calamity in the country.
Corresponent: Yes, but what about the PIL that has been filed about the flood?
Govinda: See, whatever the PRO(sic) is doing is very wrong. People like the PRO are always interested in pulling other people down and this is very unfortunate......

....and on and on went Govinda, making some point, but I don't know if even he knew what it was. I hope he is currently trying to find out what animal this PIL is, and if it is a cousin of PRO.