Vantage point

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Could this really happen?

Next IIM campus in Pune?

The city is ideal for students to live in. It will be easy to get quality faculty to settle down there, since Pune is one of the better places to live in. A big presence of the IT sector, and proximity to Mumbai would ensure great placements, and really well-rounded industry interaction.

I hope the state government learns from its mistakes and doesn't insist on the 'quota for Maharashtrians' again.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hear Hear

In a discussion at How the Other Half Lives, a couple of very accurate observations have been made.

srinivas says -

Anecdotal evidence about rural distress are fine to make a forecful point but they cannot be the basis of judging policy outcomes. Hard data cannot be replaced with broad brush impressions formed from personal visits.

neela says -

its easy to churn out the anecdotes (god knows, theres plenty of raw material in India) but it would be nice to link or discuss some ideology-free stats once ina while.

I would like to recommend to everyone a couple of bloggers who are personally involved in policy research, and whose posts are always backed by on-the-ground evidence, anecdotal data as well as a study of the underlying economic principles like incentives - Naveen Mandva and Ajay Shah.

It would be great to see them guest-blogging at HTOHL once in a while.

January 30th

Marking Gandhiji's punyatithi, Uma makes a post remembering him at How the Other Half Lives, a new group blog.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Inside Viru's Mind

The all-new Cricinfo Magazine hit the stands this month, and the most exceptional article in the inaugural issue according to me is Anatomy of a classic. It is an interview with Virender Sehwag that takes him through his 155 against Australia at Chennai. It is fascinating to peek inside Viru's mind. A few select quotes -

In my batting the pad has no role.

If you leave him(Mcgrath) alone, and let him attack your stumps in order to make you play, then it's easier to play him. If you chase him, go after him, he'll have you in trouble.

When I respond to a bowler's verbals, I become determined not to lose my wicket to him.

(M)any batsmen look to play Warne defensively, or leave a lot of his deliveries, and that's when they get into trouble.

I said(to Lehmann), "You're bowling too slow, so you'll hardly get a caught-and-bowled."

My game is an attacking game and I know what kind of shots to play and when to play them. Whether wickets are falling or not, a loose ball is a loose ball.

Q-From your body language as you left the field it seemed that that you were trying to tell the Australians...
(Interrupting) hum log kal jeetne waale hain. (That we're going to win tomorrow.)

How can one not admire the guy?

Great stuff, Chandrahas.

Those Damn Messages

Today was a rare working Sunday for me, due to an event that had been organised in Matunga. I was sitting in a small glass cabin, in a vital meeting, with my phone in the 'meeting' mode.

At what I later noted to be 10:36 a.m, I get a message from Friend1 - Batsmen have forgotten that the ball can swing.

Ah, the slight pang of jealousy at missing the action at Karachi. Wonder what the friend is alluding to, I think to myself.

Friend2 sends a text message at 10:38 a.m. - Awesome

What? What is awesome? Someone please tell me, I silently scream, even as I nod at whatever is going on in the meeting that I am supposed to be a part of.

The phone buzzes silently again. Now it's Friend3 with an even more frustrating message - Wooooohoooo!!!!

Wooooohoooo??? You $#%%^^^#@#. Couldn't you describe what happened and add such exclamations? As I am about to text this reply to some friend, begging for an answer, my dad is calling me up. Obviously, it is to talk about whatever is happening. And obviously, I almost fight back tears, I can't take the call and end the suspense.

In addition I get three more messages which go - "They haven't killed test cricket completely", "Hope you're watching" and "Ah! Now that's satisfying".

This is my finest moment, since I did not know I had it in myself to exercise so much control over myself, nodding along whatever is happening, even making a relevant comment or two, and just glancing at the phone once in a while. I would have expected myself to just jump up, storm out of the meeting and call someone up to ask them what the hell is going on at Karachi.

Fifteen long and agonising minutes later, the meeting ends.

I run out, and a friend who spots me yells - "Pathan took a hat-trick in the first over!!!!"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bali aur Shambhu

This post will mark my debut on

Bali aur Shambhu is a play that evokes the cliched description -'bitter-sweet', but there is nothing cliched about the play itself. It is not very easy to write and direct a story that can make you laugh even while tugging at your heart. Manav Kaul though, manages to pull it off with refreshing ease, assisted by a talented line-up of actors.

On the face of it, the story has a 'been-done-before' feel to it. The story of two geriatrics who are forced to share a room in an old age home. One surly, another cheerful. Sudhir Pandey plays the surly Shambhu who keeps losing his temper at every little thing that the gregarious and zestful Bali (Kumud Mishra) does. A bulk of the play concentrates on the interaction between the two of them, as Shambhu goes from threatening to murder Bali to becoming his friend.

What makes the play different is the fact that this is just one part of the story. There is another aspect - that of Shambhu's dead daughter Titlee who keeps making 'dream-appearances' right from the first scene. As Bali and Shambhu's friendship progresses, we are also gradually revealed the story of Titlee. Kaul has managed to weave the 'Shubhankar' factor into the script very cleverly, and keeps giving the audience clues about it/him at regular intervals.

Kaul's story mainly deals with two very diverse factors. One, how old age is one's second childhood. This is put across beautifully through the almost child-like fights that Bali and Shambhu have, right from arguing over the positioning of the bed to jocularly blackmailing each other. Secondly, how parents are often childishly stubborn about not accepting the reality of their little children having grown up. This is amply underlined by the fact that even after Titlee's death, Shambhu still dreams of her and converses with her as if she is a little kid who wants to listen to fairy tales. It is by deftly mixing these two factors that a play is created which can alternately make you laugh and cry.

The play's music clearly reflects a lot of thought and effort having gone in. From Beethoven to Bhimsen to Subbalakshmi(I think) to Kaykay(not KK), it covers a very wide spectrum. Kaykay Menon, he of Sarkar-Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi-etc fame, not to be confused with KK, makes his playback singing debut with a very snappy song. That he does so at Prithvi Theatre, a place where he honed his acting skills, is sheer poetic justice.

I would recommend Bali aur Shambhu to everyone who lives in Mumbai, and even outside Mumbai, if the play ever goes on tour.

Friday, January 27, 2006


I read Curious Gawker's blog pretty regularly because it is one of the wittiest ones around. I have also recently started following the blog of Spaceman Spiff, named after one of my favourite characters of all time.

Both of them raised questions about my Raj Bhavan post saying it comes across as confusing. Introspecting, I realised that the post could indeed have been more lucid. So let me clarify what I was trying to say.

The post probably confused some people because, I will admit, it tried to say too many things at the same time. But you know how one can get while ranting. So let me list down what I was trying to say one by one -

a) I have a beef with the post of the Governor, and indeed the President. Though prima-facie they may appear as checks-and-balances-type arrangements, they mostly end up being rubber stamps if the cabinet is hell-bent upon getting a decision passed.
b) Even if I were to make my peace with the existence of a governor, why should so much money be spent on him? Why does he need to occupy fifty acres of prime real estate in South Mumbai? What does he do there which can not be done from a place like Jalna, Parbhani, Ichalkaranji, etc. My point is not, as Gawker thinks, that security concerns should be disregarded and everyone should be allowed to rub shoulders with the governor. My point is, what is there in the job description of the Governor that requires 50 acres of prime land?
c) I also have a beef with the Maharashtra government parking itself in South Mumbai, when whatever it does can easily be done from a place like Nanded, Solapur, Amravati etc.
d) The Maharashtra government is under a debt burden of over 1 lakh crore. A "cost-cutting" measure of selling off their offices in South Mumbai will be very useful in this scenario. What cost would be cut? The opportunity cost of not selling off prime real estate.
e) The Raj Bhavan land itself can be thrown open to the public, once the Governor is moved to a small office in some other place. Why can't it be a mini-Cetral-Park, or even a mini-Aarey-Colony but in South Mumbai?
f) Why isn't there activism for point b) and e)? There should be. I expressed surprise that no activists have taken up the cause. The government stealing land from the victims of Sardar Sarovar is theft. But the government unnecessarily monopolising so much land without any real need is also theft. Sardar Sarovar is of course a lot more heinous because it was personal property being stolen. But this theft/hoarding of land by the Government is also wrong, in my opinion.

so you see, my post was my little contribution towards raising points a) to e) and just expressing point f).

Unfortunately, point f) came across as environmentalist-bashing. Mea culpa. Though I disagree with some environmentalists on some issue, this is not one where they can be blamed, and seriously, it was not my intention to blame them. Their purpose, of having more greenery is served even if Raj Bhavan is inaccessible to us. So "liberating" Raj Bhavan is not really their responsibility.

It is the responsibility of people who feel strongly about it. Like me.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blonde Joke

If you haven't heard this one already, you'll realy appreciate it. Thanks Ramanand for ponting out to me the best blonde joke of all time.

Good Ole Inzy

Inzamam, apart from being one of the best batsmen in the world, and a genuine nice guy, can also be a source of entertainment thanks to a quality of his which, due toi lack of a better word, will have to be termed as cuteness.

Just saw an interview of his on the hindi channel Aajtak, where talking about pitches, thanks to his Punjabified pronunciation, he unwittingly made an amazing pun.

He said - Pitch jo hai aisi honi chahiye jispe batsman bhi kheley, fast bowler ko bhi sport miley, spinner ko bhi sport miley, aisi sporting wicket honi chahiye

Nope, he didn't have his English mixed up. In Punju pronunciation, "support" comes out "sport". So all he was saying was, he wants a sporting pitch which will support pacers and support spinners.

Inzy man, please retire so we can go back to hating the Pakistan cricket team. Afridi will ensure that.

Speaking of Afridi, yes, we may not like him much in India, but he sure is the most popular player in Pakistan. Did you see how the stands started emptying as soon as Afridi was dismissed on the last day? I bet that thousands marched out in the time that it took for Afridi to walk from the pitch to the dressing room.

Happy R-Day

I can't think of a better way to wish everyone a Happy Republic Day than by linking to this poignant post by Greatbong, actually Greatbong's mom.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Guess what I got?

As the project we were all working on ended, the Project Manager decided to personally buy gifts for each of us involved in it. He spent hours shopping for it because he wanted the gift to perfectly reflect and summarise the receiver's personality.

No prizes for guessing what he gifted me. A book called 'The Argumentative Indian'. :)


The players, experts, spectators, all disappointed with the draw at Lahore were upbeat when they reached Faislabad.

After all, the name of the city was "Faisla"bad. Faisla in hindi/urdu means result, so a result was inevitable.

As the fifth day dawned, everyone realised that they had been too hasty in translating the city's name. They translated just a part of it. "bad" in hindi/urdu means later. Thus 'Faislabad' would mean 'Result Later'.

No wonder it was a draw...

This 'joke' if you can call it that was originally thought up by Sumeet many years back.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Go North

In the last couple of years there has been a marked shift in the Centre of Gravity of the Indian cricket team northwards, showing a domination of players from smaller cities as opposed to players from metros.

Here is another concrete indication of the same - Uttar Pradesh beat Mumbai in Mumbai to enter Ranji final

U.P. were guided by a masterful captain's knock of 64 by Mohammad Kaif, a guy who is sure to captain India in the future. Suresh Raina, who has been in top form in the entyire season, also contributed in the low scoring but thrilling match.

Open Spaces in South Mumbai?

We often hear about how there should be more open spaces in big cities. All of us hate builders who covet the few patches of remaining greenery amongst concrete and seek to start building something on it.

What if I told you that there were 50 acres of lush greenery to which the common public has very little access? What if I told you it was located in a prime real estate hot spot - South Mumbai? What if I told you that it is our taxes that pay for the maintenance of this place whose contribution to actual governance is at best negligible?

Wouldn't you, like me, be surprised about why environmentalists and NGOs don't protest about this land hoarding?

The Raj Bhavan at Walkeshar, is at one end of Marine Drive. It is 50 acres of lush greenery and sprawling architecture, not to mention, some nice beaches. Yet, how many of us Mumbaikars have ever visited Raj Bhavan? How accessible is it? If some of us working in cramped and crowded Nariman Point want a small break, can we drive down to Raj Bhavan for a calming stroll?


The Raj Bhavan is the official residence of the Governor of Maharashtra, and the security there is pretty tight. Access is quite restricted and it is not a "public" space, but more of a personal "jahagir" of the government. In fact Raj Bhavan is a symbol of the reality of the Indian state - i.e we didn't really win our "freedom" in 1947, instead the white folks were replaced by brown ones. Of course, we were able to sing a few songs we couldn't and hoist a flag without being caned.

The Britishers also monopolised the 'coolest' places, made them off limits for the common Indian, sat there and sipped tea luxuriously, having forcibly taken charge of running people's lives, complaining about the heat. Today's brown sahibs are the same, except that air conditioning ensures that they don't complain about the heat. Especially since they have ensured that they live in South Bombay, which does not suffer power cuts even when the state is in a power crisis.

Next time you are standing at Marine Drive, look at its right-most end. That is Raj Bhavan, a picturesque facility you pay for with your taxes, where you aren't allowed to just walk in and take a stroll, and which is supposed to be the residence of a human rubber stamp, the Governor, a post which has no real meaning in the set-up other than being a consolation prize for politicians who are unwanted, but also difficult to disgrace.

And the next time you meet an environmentalist or an NGO, ask them what they are doing about "liberating" Raj Bhavan from the clutches of the Saahib. I know I am going to.

Coming soon...

.. Desicritics!

Watch this space for more.

Vote for India Uncut

Amit Varma's India Uncut is one of the five nominees in the 'Best Asian Weblog' category of the 2006 Bloggies(scroll down).

He's already won the Indibloggies by a huge margin. Help him win the Asian Blog award too.

Bad Land Laws

A couple of months back I had written about how some stupid laws in India give government the monopoly over purchasing agricultural land, and thus enables them to commit highway robbery.

Aadisht has more - No Land For Air

Another Page in the Book

'The Book of Sachin Tendulkar Dismissals', if ever written will be quite un-put-down-able. It will have historic milestones, such as the first ever third umpire dismissal, career-makers, such as his first ball duck at Calcutta'99 first inning, freakishly unfortunate coincidences, such as Calcutta'99 second inning, where his bat was grounded before and after the stumpos were broken, but not at that precise moment.

It will have umpires being foolishly partisan, such as the should-before-wicket at Adelaide'99, umpires being just criminally and stupidly incompetent, such as at Brisbane'03, fielders being brilliant, such as Jonty in the 97 series, and sometimes players being dishonest, again, such as Jonty in the 97 series.

There will be other twists and turns as well.

Another bizarre page was added today with Tendulkar walking in spite of being technically not out!

This is what happened. Shoaib pitched it short, directing it at Sachin's body. Sachin fended, his right hand coming off the bat. The ball passed the bat handle safely, touched the right hand, touched his sweater and was caught by the keeper. The Pakistanis appealed, and promptly, Sachin walked. Taufel the raised his finger.

As commentators later pointed out, since his hand was not on the bat at the moment the ball touched it, technically he was not out. Yet Sachin walked!

Would Taufel have given him out if he had not walked? Maybe, considering his lousy luck with such decisions. But since he walked, we will never know.

And another twist has been added to 'The Book of Sachin Tendulkar Dismissals'. The man walking despite being not out.

Beat that, Mr. Gilchrist!

To me, this is another case study to illustrate why batsmen shouldn't walk.

Wise or Unwise?

The stand-in captain for Pakistan - Younis Khan, has just taken a bold decision. With Kaneria bowling beautifully from one end, having dismissed Laxman a few overs back, and with Dravid having been run-out in a Ganguly-esque fashion (not grounding his bat), he has chosen to go for the new ball straight away.

Maybe the move will work anyway. But knowing Yuvraj, he would gladly start off against Shoaib and Asif with a bouncy pacy new ball rather than against Kaneria with a slow, worn out old ball.

Update: Luckily for Younis, Yuvraj took the bait and holed out an attempted hook shot to fine leg.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The 'Indian' Nightmare

I finally traveled in our venerated national carrier – Indian Airlines….nope, I won’t call it just ‘Indian’ because even its staff hasn’t started calling it that. In spite of being a habitual PSU-basher, this experience ended up disgusting me even more than I expected. The total and utter disregard for the customer is evident at every step of the way.

The stewardesses were brusque, bordering on rude. There were one or two polite ones, but most of them had dispositions a lot less sunnier than my high school history teacher. I wondered if they had been sold into slavery or something. This was in stark contrast to the courteous, helpful and ever-smiling stewardesses in Jet, Spicejet and Sahara.

To make matters worse, circumstances arose that portrayed the airline in an even poorer light. As the plane was waiting at Delhi, apparently a technical fault was detected. There was a squeaky and confusing announcement made, an announcement that would have made the announcements on Central Railway’s platforms seem as lucid as Harsha Bhogle’s commentary.

My co-passenger, an employee of the railways(I kid you not, he seriously was!), managed to decode that the announcer was telling us to deplane, since there was something wrong with the aircraft. I started moving towards the door, but not all passengers had the benefit of sitting next to a railways employee, and were looking around, bemused. That is when the stewardess, with an expression on her face not unlike Steve Bucknor, barked “Can’t you people hear? Please deplane!!”

One man barked back “But what do we do after deplaning?”. The stewardess, assuming his bark to be worse than his bite, ignored it.

Soon we were in the bus heading for the Delhi Terminal. Inside the terminal, we were informed that they would arrange for another plane, and it would leave in an hour. Meanwhile we were supposed to collect fresh boarding passes from counters number 6,7 and 8. I was at counter 8, where a sleepy dude was working too slowly even for a government employee. The dude at counter 6 was trying to go even slower. There was no one at counter 7. After 5 minutes, the guy at counter 5, definitely poached from a private airline, told the folks at counter 7 to go to him. The entire queue, backed up, went around queue 6, and stood at counter 5. One guy was given the boarding pass when suddenly the counter 7 guy came wiping his face with a tissue. He looked irritated that counter 5 had stolen his ‘business’, and yelled at the passengers to return to his fold. Counter 5 disagreed. There was confusion.

Eventually it was a senior looking guy with the homily of Asrani-from-Sholay that came to the rescue with ‘aadhey idhar jaao, aadhey udhar jao, aur baaki mere saath ao’

The ‘baaki’ being the rest of us, who, after getting our boarding passes were rather mysteriously instructed to go up. It turned out that ‘up’ meant a restaurant where we would be given a complementary meal. That is where the gentleman took us.

There was just one buffet counter and about 10 tables in the restaurant, whereas we were almost hundred. You can imagine the confusion, frustration, etc.

A couple of hours later, we finally managed to get into the replacement aircraft. The Delhi-Mumbai flight took 3.5 hours! I assumed there was a lot of air traffic over Mumbai, and we were waiting for a clearance to land, but it would have been nice to be updated about it by the pilot. What’s more, all the stewardesses had disappeared, and they stayed so for almost an hour. I rang for them several times, but to no avail. I finally had to get up, go to the back of the aircraft, and ask for some water.

I object to renaming ‘Indian Airlines’ as ‘Indian’ because I hate to have my nationality described with the same term that is used to refer to such a shoddy, callous and mediocre company.

Waiting for the Whump

Your plane is slicing towards the runway. The buildings and street lamps keep getting bigger and bigger. You can see the tarmac below you. The plane swoops down gradually nearing land, and you can clearly see the grass along the runway. Now, isn’t there a slight shrug, as you brace yourself for the whump and the slight jerk that accompanies the touchdown? Those few seconds, as you are wondering “has he touched down already? Was it so smooth?”

There should be a name for that state of mind.

Also encountered when you have lit the fuse of a fire-cracker, and are waiting for it to explode. Or when you notice a bump/pothole in the road too late for you to change course.

Cheap-Chocolate Blur

Traffic rules in India are meant to be not read, especially when you are applying for a driver’s license. What makes Mumbai an exception is something I have never completely understood, and which is the topic for a separate post altogether.

But except for Mumbai, lane-discipline, one-way streets, right-of-way etc are terms which may well be written using alpha, beta and gamma.

Even in the disorderliness, there is disorderly, and the there is sheer bloody-minded violent disregard, even contempt of traffic rules. An example of the latter in Lucknow yesterday resulted in my heart being lodged in my throat for a good hour.

We were in a cycle rickshaw, and this cheap-chocolate coloured jeep was speeding right at us, following the traffic conventions that belonged more to the American than the British way of driving. At the last moment, he veered off, speeding past us from our left!

Usually when people drive on the wrong side of the road, they do so gingerly, with a mix of caution and guilt. But this cheap-chocolate blur was just too much.

Oh, needless to say, it had a green-and-red flag fluttering on it, bearing the name of a political party we all know.

Friday, January 20, 2006

In Luck Now

This small blogging hiatus has been necessitated by my trip to Lucknow to conduct the General Quiz at IIML's annual fest - Manfest. Have been busy with the quiz for the last few days. Am in Lucknow presently, making this post from the very Comp Centre from which I submitted several term papers, asignments, CVs and of course, blog posts.

Returning to the city and the campus after almost two years is, needless to say, evoking an acute sense of nostalgia. And it is also making me realise that the contribution of the people in the memories associated with any place is overwhelmingly high. For the past few hours, I have been looking aroudn me, hoping to run into some familiar face from my batch, maybe even my class, whom I can take to the Nestle stall, the mess, the canteen, or to one of the several restaurants in the city to catch up on all the old times.

It just isn't the same though.

After having travelled in Jet, sahara and Spicejet throughout my "flying career", my debut with Indian Airlines....make that Indian.... was should I put it... interesting. :)

I had no idea that the Bombay-Lucknow flight wasn't a direct one. So as the hustle-bustle of my co-passengers removing their luggage from the overhead compartments woke me up from the proverbial deep dream of peace, I assumed we had landed in Lucknow. I gathered my measly luggage, and stepped out on the tarmac, thinking to myself, "Man, this airport looks almost exactly like the Delhi airport". Just as I was about to get into the airline's bus, I noticed the name of the airport and was taken aback. panic set in. In the inevitable somnambulance asociated with catching an early morning flight, had I pulled a Home-Alone-2 and boarded the wrong one?

In a few minutes, the gruff but helpful airline staff had made me aware of the truth. It was the scheduled stopover at Delhi.

Very happening few minutes though.

So the quiz happens tomorrow. Am thinking of posting the questions on my blog and having an "online quiz".

Monday, January 16, 2006

Remembering Manju at the Mumbai Marathon

Today's Indian Express carries on its front page the story about Dharmendra aka Dhammo, who ran the entire Mumbai Marathon in remembrance of Manjunath.

Dhammo, who was my senior, and Manju's classmate also has a blog - Dhammonia. As Dhammo says,

‘‘It’s not that we must forget about it since the compensation has reached the family. It’s all about justice,’’

Indeed! We are all happy that Manju's family has gotten support from all quarters. But what is more important is that his murderers be brought to justice, and the lacunae in the system be removed.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Free Markets to Blame for New Orleans!!?????

A friend recently directed me to an article which actually blamed free markets for the destruction caused in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

This approach to criticise free markets is taken very often. You take an example of a massive state failure, and then use that to attack free markets. I have lost count of the times when predatory or unethical practices by private companies, which were possible in the first place due to a so-called "regulatory mechanism" are used to attack the ideas of free markets. But it did not seem possible that someone would use a disaster caused by the failure of a government body to actually attack the free markets.

The flaw in the article is evident in it's opening lines - The free market played a crucial role in the destruction of New Orleans and the death of thousands of its residents. Armed with advanced warning that a momentous (force 5) hurricane was going to hit that city and surrounding areas, what did officials do? They played the free market.

Oh, so officials abandoning their responsibility is called "playing the free market"? What next? Blame Bihar on free markets, because after being elected, Lalu's government ignored everything including law and order?

The gist of the article is this - Free markets ask you to leave everything to individuals. Well, in New Orleans, everything was left to individuals, and many were too poor to evacuate the city. Hence, free markets caused the destruction.

This shows an ignorance, wilful or otherwise, about the underlying principles of free markets. Free markets do not say that all individuals live alone, cut off from each other. Free Markets, as Hayek said, believe in a spontaneous order arising, which arises from among the people rather than being imposed from "above". Free Markets are opposed to the governmental imposition, because governments, especially federal ones, have no personal stake in decisions, so the decisions will never be as good as those taken by a set-up formed out of spontaneous order.

Decentralisation, and localisation of decision-making related to issues like police, judiciary, disaster management is what we ask for. Not a complete anarchy where there are no rules at all. But the governments, in their infinite wisdom, take charge of all these things, and often at too high a level.

In New Orleans, this is what happened. The government was supposed to be "in charge" of the situation. The FEMA, a governmental body failed in its job, and we know what happened as a result.. It has been universally acknowledged that failures in planning and responiveness on part of the government resulted in this disaster.

Even though the article is blaming the Bush Government for the disaster, it is attacking free markets?

As a libertarian, I am baffled by how the New Orleans disaster can possibly be used to attack the beliefs held by free market proponents.

But wait! If it is possible for Joseph Stalin, who died in 1953, to have talked about the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Exxon Valdez, ozone layer....etc.... then it is possible for libertarians to be blamed for the New Orleans disaster. :)

Stadium Bad, Studio Good

An observation about the team that TEN Sports has put together to cover the India-Pakistan series.

The on-air commentary team at the stadium is an assortment of some of the premier yawn-inducers in the modern cricketing media. Throw Ranjit Fernando in and you will have undoubtedly the "worst ever" panel.

Here are a few samples of their commentary -

Deanno - Chee, the batsman is a class act, and the bowler is a class act too. And my word, that was a beautiful shot, and what fielding! The fielder really is a class act! The umpire, now he's a real class act, has called one run short. My word. What a crime. This stadium is a class act, the security guards are class acts, that specvtator there is a class act, and the other spectator too is a class act. I hand over the mic to Rameez Raja my co-commentator whose barber is surely a class act.

Rameez Raja - The Indian Bait-ing line-up looks good. Yoveraaj Singh wil day-fee-nate-lee play well.

Waqar Younis - Yes, but it will be difficult to compare with Shahid Khan Afridi and Kamran Khan Akmal. Younis Khan Khan was unlucky to miss the 200, as was Mohammad Khan Yousuf. In the enxt inning I am sure Salman Khan Butt will do better. What do you think Michael Khan Holding?

Michael Holding - Aactully let us talk aabout how Eengland saaacks. Daat is maa areaa of specialeetee.

Well, you get the idea. :)

The studio panel, comprising of Manjrekar, Imran and Nasser Hussain is however very good. All of them are quite articulate and can use incidents from their past very well to illustrate a point and also make the proceedings interesting. I especially find that Manjrekar "manages" Imran very well, and asks him all the right questions, and extracts the maximum out of him.

Nasser Hussain is better in the studio than on air, and though at times he feels left out from the discussions between Manjrekar and Imran, he does jump in and adds a nugget of wisdom or two.

About 15 Park Avenue

This post is about the new Aparna Sen movie - 15 Park Avenue.

This post has many spoilers....and rather crucial spoilers so I would advise you not to read this post unless you have seen the movie. So if you haven't seen the movie, quit this post right away, and come back only after watching the movie.

OK, all those who are still with me, you say you have watched the movie? Good. SO I was saying.....who is that over there in the corner? Hey, I know you haven't watched the movie!! Stop reading at once. I am telling you this for your own good.

What? You want to stay anyway? OK! Don't tell me later I didn't warn you.

Let's us get the regular stuff out of the way right away. Great performance By Konkona again, matching Shabana Azmi "stroke-by-stroke". Waheeda Rahman was earnest, and Rahul Bose was....well...Rahul Bose. Won't elaborate here... the current status of Rahul Bose in my mind is a separate post altogether.

As a pure "schizophrenia" movie, it good, but not as good as the marathi film 'Devrai' which handles the issue in a much deeper and meaningful way. But as a film which uses schizophrenia as a part of the plot, the movie is brilliant. And what makes it brilliant?

What makes it brilliant is its end.

AFter the movie ended, the audience around me in the cinema hall were stunned.....they did not know what to make of what they saw. Such endings are very rare in Indian films - endings which leave it up to you to interpret the meaning.

I sat in my seat grinning like a cheshire cat because I loved the movie, based on my interpretation(s) of it. It was just amazing.

Now obviously there can't be a right or wrong interpretation, so take these few as mine.

Interpretation 1 - This was the interpretation I immediately drew from the movie's end. The entire movie is a dream or a hallucination or Anjali(Shabana). She is a very aggressive and pugnacious woman whose first marriage broke up(we're never told why or how). Her second boyfriend also left her and went to Princeton. Her brother didn't care much about her, and was engrossed in his own family life with his wife and kids. And her younger sister whom she has been very close to, also leaves, and goes abroad to live in New York, and her work or home address is 15, Park Avenue, New York. Anjali herself is schizophrenic, and this is her alternate reality, to explain away why her sister and her second boyfriend leave her and go away. Kunal, the doctor who keps showing up everywhere is actually her real life doctor, and is the only connect to the real world, helping her achieve closure by playing along. Notice that in the end when everyone is confused about where Mithi disappeared, Kunal is the one who leads Anjali away from Park Road.

A few points supporting Interpretation 1 -
- Her first marriage is never discussed and she is shown throughout to be a very aggressive character whom even her own mother is scared of.
- Kunal, the doctor, showering so much attention on her seems far fetched. He is supposed to be married, she clearly has a boyfriend - Sanjeev, and after all, as a busy doctor he would have many patients.
- It is very far-fetched that Mithi would not recognise Joydeep. He looks almost the same, and if she remembers him, why can't she recognise him?

Interpretation 2 - The part until Mithi's suicide attempt is reality. She actually dies, and Anjali feels guilty about it since she didn't believe Mithi when she told her about the witch doctor. Her guilt and the shock of Mithi's death causes Anjali herself to lose her mental balance, and everything that follows is actually her hallucination attempting to tell herself that Mithi is in a better place, and in the 15 Park Avenue that she always wanted to be. Thus in this dream, she has Joydeep returning, and helping Mithi out. The whole dream is to make Mithi's going away more painless.

Interpretation 3 - The entire movie is a metaphor for the virtual disappearance of the Mithi river in Mumbai, which caused the July 26 floods. Hehe, OKAY< this was a PJ. Let's try to forget it and move on.

Interpretation 4 - The suicide attempt is a reality, and what happens later is actually Mithi's own dream, just before she dies in the hospital. She tries to imagine everyone happy - her sister getting attracted towards the doctor, Joydeep being happily married and she herself in her dream home with her Jojo and five kids.

The last Indian movie I saw which asked me to draw my own conclusions was Aks. Sadly Aks, a big-budget venture, flopped because though the basic idea, and the end were mind-blowing, the execution of the movie was a little too...mainstream. It seems like Rakesh Mehra, the director, instead of rectifying the mistake, went the opposite way, if the previews of Rang De Basanti are any indication. But let's review that bridge when we come to it.

For now, I am savouring 15 Park Avenue. Hope you loved it as much as I did. And you... you recalcitrant oaf, reading the post inspite of not watching the movie, how silly do you feel now? Par tum apunka suntaich kidhar hai? Now go watch the movie!

Do mail me your opinions/interpretations at gaurav.sabnis{attherate}gmail{dot}com.

Update: Here are a few interpretations of the movie by other bloggers -

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Self-Image of Pakistan's Pace Bowling

This wasn't entirely unexpected. After crowing and crowing about preparing "greentops" and "pacy pitches", the Pakistanis at Lahore turned out a track so placid that school-kids could survive against a test attack on it.

Bob Woolmer is no dunce. As an outsider, he doesn't suffer from as many delusions of grandeur as the Pakistani experts. He knows that a decision to prepare a seamer-friendly track could end up backfiring if the Indian pace trio runs through the Pakistan line-up. He also knows that the ICC Test Rankings are determined on the basis of the most recent home and away series results against all sides. Since the last Indo-Pak series in Pakistan was won by India 2-1, it makes sense to play safe and go for a drawn series. A drawn series would earn points for Pakistan and lose them for India.

Shoaib Akhtar is fast, but he is not accurate, nagging, or miserly most of the times. He produces one or two torrid troubling spells per series, but even that spell is not always enough to run through line-ups. Rana Naved, despite being a much improved honest trier, is just that - a much improved honest trier. Then there's Sami. Sami's bowling average, despite being almost a permanent fixture in the team, is more than Ajit Agarkar, who's been in and out of the Indian team. Gather ardent supporters of the "Pick Agarkar for Tests" school of thought and you would struggle to populate a dinner table. Yet, in Pakistan, which should ideally adhere to higher standards of pace bowling, you don't see many people advocating Sami's exclusion.

I am sorry, but having grown up watching the products of the pace assembly line-up, it is just pathetically tragic to see the self-image of Pakistan bowling having dipped to an extent where Sami and Rana are considered very good bowlers.

Cross-posted at Different Strokes, the Cricinfo Blog. Go there if you want to post comments.

Vintage Greatbong

Greatbong comes up with a classic post in response to losing out the Best Indiblog 2005 to AMit Varma by a (not so) narrow margin. It features Mithun-da, Bappi-da, Porno-da, Da-da, and the Bertie Wooster of Indian cricket - Rajsingh Dungarpur, and I am sure there is a kitchen sink hidden in the post somewhere.

Trust me, there's no better way to liven up an ill Sunday morning (it's me that's ill, dummy, not the Sunday. Transferred epithet? It made me miss the Mumbai marathon, but that's another post).

Ameya Naik on Foot Work

In this post, Ameya says that Styris or Sehwag may not need footwork right now, because their hand-eye coordination will be enough for them to get in a balanced position. But they will need it when they start ageing, as Ganguly would testify.

Libertarianism on Indian Television

It is very heart-warming to see that finally some topics which almost seemed to be in the blind-spot of the Indian media are getting some exposure, and some opinions which were earlier restricted to just seminars and workshops, are now being discussed in front of a wider audience.

I write this post as I watch 'The Big Fight' on NDTV 24X7 where a refreshingly different topic is up for debate - "Does India need to reduce the role of government?"

The answer to that question from me is of course a loud and resounding YES!!

Another interesting development is that for the first time, debuting in an "experts for media pantheon" cluttered with ideologues for the left as well as the right, and a smattering of centrists, is a libertarian! Our own Sauvik Chakraverti who guest-blogs at Anarcaplib.

And the winner is......

The Indibloggies results are out!

Amit Varma has deservingly, and as expected, picked up the big prize - Best Indiblog 2005, and by a whopping margin. Coming in second is young(!) Arnab the Greatbong. The rest of us nominees were languishing in double digit votes. I came in puffing and panting at #5.

For more details, and the winners in the remaining categories, visit Indibloggies.

The winners are all expected to put up "Acceptance Speech Posts" on their blogs. :-)

Congratulations and applause for the winners, "well played" to all the nominees, and a thank you to everyone who voted for me.

Of course, the biggest Thank You is reserved for Debashish, for putting in all this effort and pulling off the "event" so successfully.

Save Maharashtra?

A few months back, a friend pointed me towards a rather deranged blog. This blog, started with the motto of 'Save Maharashtra', was a little too extreme. It was vommiting bile at Madrasis, Bhaiyyas, Marwaris, Gujaratis.... literally at every community. If hate, anger and profanity can save Maharashtra, then the blog will surely succeed. I didn't pay much attention to the blog later, and never mentioned it on Vantage Point. The thoughts on that blog would make even a Shivsainik cringe.

Desipundit points out a blog which has actually answered the aforementioned blog very appropriately. Coincidentally, this blog is run by a Shivsainik, and he has put forth his rebuttal after giving it a lot of thought. Do read the post, and join the debate either there or on DP.

Crossposted in Marathi on Bhurjee

Friday, January 13, 2006

Mohammad Yousuf!

Mohammad Yousuf? I first heard this name a couple of months back. A Pakistan-England test was on and the commentators kept mentioning "Mohammad Yousuf Mohammad Yousuf" time and again. However the two batsmen i could see on screen were Inzamam and Youhana. Then who on earth is Mohammad Yousuf, I wondered. I later realised - Mohammad Yousuf is Youhana's new name. I had read about Youhana converting from Christianity to Islam. But I had no idea that he had changed his name as well.

The India-Pakistan test has started today. He's at the crease again. But I can't think of him as 'Mohammad Yousuf'. I will continue calling him Youhana.

I am sure he won't mind. And if he does, then tough luck for him.

Cross-posted in Marathi at Bhurjee

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Welcome, Ameya

A good friend - Ameya Naik, also takes to blogging.


The caste system is a form of ‘racism’, in fact probably one of the worst forms. Worst because it was “institutionalised”.

Racism/xenophobia is in my opinion a natural reaction of human beings. Distrust or dislike of people from a “tribe” other than yours is a feeling that will naturally arise. The natural expression of this is a tendency to be with your own flock, and be indifferent or distrustful about the “other”.

The unnatural and dangerous form of this racism occurs when one group tries to actually actively stop or hinder the other group from doing well. In a plain and simple tribal system, this would be reflected as tribal wars over territory.

But in a “civilised” society, a major tool offers itself for misuse in racism - the state. The people in a particular “tribe” who want to subjugate another tribe know that if they use the state for that purpose, the subjugation will be much more effective. And unlike a tribal war in the jungles, when a tribe, after losing the war, may come back months later rejuvenated and launch a counter attack, a state action insures the everlasting nature of the subjugation.

Look at other dangerous examples of racism. The blacks in USA started suffering from racism because the state sanctioned the racism, and in fact made anti-racism illegal. The same thing happened in South AFrica where apartheid was enforced by the state. And of course nazi Germany where it was the state that ousted the jews.

The American, South African and German examples are very recent. The Indian caste system is centuries old. Until a few centuries ago, only kings ruled most of the world, and were usually considered incarnations or agents of God, religion was an extension of state. Thus “religion” was the de-facto constitution.

Certain tribes/races in India used religion, i.e the de-facto constitution, to subjugate other castes. And they did it in the most efficient way - tie it to economic activity.

People who dismiss economics as some dreamy abstract discipline should recognise that no matter how primitive or modern the era is, economic activity is the basis of man surviving, and even prospering.

Whoever devised the caste system was/were genius in an evil way because he identified the basis of a man’s survival and progress, and used the de-facto state to clamp several restrictions on that very basis - economic activity. So only a few races/castes were allowed to indulge in the more cerebral, sophisticated, glamorous, and well-paying economic activities, while others were forced to make their living from a few menial jobs.

Notice the term “caste system”….”system”….. caste-racism worked because it was made part of the system. The system enforced this racism.

Is there an example of racism working, or rather working to such alarming limits, without the state actively pushing racism? Working enough to actually make one race “underprivileged” over the centuries?

I can’t think of one.

So if the state has been the most misused tool for racism, is it right to assume that the state itself can correct the action? Or is it foolhardy?

The answer lies somewhere in between. How did the state enforce racism in the first place? By trampling on individual rights of a certain group of people.To just trample in the opposite direction, i.e on the rights of people who did not suffer during the racist era, hardly makes sense. We've all heard the cliche about two wrongs not making a right. Whenever rights are trampled by coercion or state action, you have a group of people being wronged. And saying, "Hey, these castes were wronged for centuries, now it's your turn to be wronged!" is not justification by any stretch of imagination.

So whenever the state is contemplating any action to improve the life of a group of citizens who were wronged, the first step should be to determine whether those actions are coercively trampling on someone else's rights? If they are, then the actions should not be undertaken.

An action like a law for reservations in the private sector is one such action. It tramples on the rights of private companies. By it's very nature, the action betrays its foolhardiness. Centuries of racism enforced by the de-facto state (something that still happens at the hands of the village panchayats) has made people racist. It is a sad but true fact that most Indians, across all castes, are racist. The caste system, though slightly weaker than before, still exists in the minds of many people.

The first job was to make sure that the state wasn't racist itself, which has happened to an extent. The next job is to ensure that the common public is not racist. And giving reservations to certain castes is a step in the opposite direction. Instead of making people understand how caste system is wrong, it will actually propogate the caste system. It is a step which will incentivise belonging to an underprivileged caste, and the objective of wanting to do away with the very concept of some castes not being as good as others will fail.

This post started off as a comment on Shivam's blog.

India's New Faces of Outsourcing

This article on the Washington Post front page - India's New Faces of Outsourcing is also about outsourcing and its benefits to both USA and India. But with a difference. This time the "Indian leg" of the story is set in Pune, and not Bangalore or Bombay or Gurgaon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My Boli

There! I have been able to "accomplish" at least one thing I had decided to "accomplish" in my New Year's Resolutions list - start a Marathi blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you - मी काय म्हणतो or भुर्जी

Monday, January 09, 2006

Memo to fellow-Cartellians

Beware of Archeologists!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

My Personal Favourites

Here are my favourites in some categories for the Indibloggies polls, for which you all can vote -

IndiBlog of the year
Vantage Point :)
Random Thoughts Of A Demented Mind
India Uncut
Youth Curry

Best Humanities Blog
The Middle Stage

Best Sports IndiBlog
Online Chess Blog

Best IndiBlog directory/service/clique

Indiblog with the best tagline
Ceteris Paribus
Mall Road

Best Topical IndiBlog
The Acorn
The Indian Economy Blog
Youth Curry

Best New Indiblog

IndiBloggies 2005 lifetime achiever
AnarCapLib: Yazad
The Examined Life: Ravikiran

Best Marathi Blog

OK then, go vote. I'll be checking your index finger to make sure you did!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

CCBR = Contemporary Contextualisation of Blogosphere Rants

You've all read Crystal Blur's CCSL (Contemporary Contextualisation of Sacred Lore) of the Mahabharata.

Chetan presents Contemporary Contextualisation of Blogosphere Rants. Read the first chapter here. This series too promises to be very entertaining.

Cut that Tree, I can't See the Hoarding!

Have you ever said that? Ever wanted a tree cut so that you can see an advertising hoarding clearly? Not even someone completely unconcerned with the environment would made that demand.

But as Streak Ahead informs us, that is exactly what the Bangalore City Corporation is doing. The pictures on the blog tell quite a story.

Hope this cause too makes it to the Mainstream Media through blogs.

Indibloggies Polling Begins!

Polling has begun for the Indibloggies - Indian Weblog Awards.

Vantage Point has been nominated in the Indiblog of the Year category. All you need to vote is a valid email ID. So what's stopping you, pals?

Go vote for me!

Polls open till 10th January

This is the voting area.

Update: Worried that the "voting ballot" is too big and you won't have time to fill it all up. No problem. Voting is compulsory for only one category - Indiblog of the Year. You can leave all the others blank.

Pakistan Uncut!

Amit Varma of India Uncut, will be in Pakistan for the next month, covering the India-Pak test series for The Guardian. So for the next month, his blog should temporarily be named Pakistan Uncut!

Within a day of landing there, Pakistan has gifted him an opportunity to combine his three passions - logical fallacies, food and puns. These Pakistanis do take good care of guests!

Don't miss your daily dose of India Uncut, especially now. As Amit has said, fun will come.

Such Fun!

Brinda Karat, rather bizarrely, took up a very page-3-ish cause a couple of days back when she accused Baba Ramdev, a Yoga Guru, of selling medicines that contain animal fats.

I did not really care to find out if she was right, because I have never taken those medicines, and even if I come to a juncture when I have to take those medicines, I would have no problems with their containing animal fats.....though I must stress here that I prefer seafood.

The controversy seems to have snow-balled big time with some allegations that really tickled me pink. It has been alleged, that Brinda Karat, of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is working at the behest of drug MNCs. A CPM office-bearer being accused of working for MNCs. LOL! Can life get any better?

This entire episode has turned out to be most entertaining. The Baba's supporters have reacted rather vehemently, clashing with CPM members. Brinda Karat's effigy was burnt in Kanpur. Chickens coming home to roost?

She also found herself being attacked by fellow-politicians.

The BJP and Shivsena very obviously leapt to the Baba's defence. But funnily enough, two chums of the CPM, the two Yadavs, Lalu and Mulayam and a senior CPM member himself, also backed the Baba.

In fact the CPM member Subhas Chakraborty came up with the best line in this saga - Do we have to remind all that there are cases of people digesting raw meat?

Health Minister Ramadoss, who has so far been obsessed with banning smoking in films, suddenly found himself in the unfamiliar, unexpected and awkward situation of actually dealing with a health-related issue. He hedged his bets by saying that the medicine sample indeed contained animal fats, BUT the samples had been handed over by Karat, and not officially collected by the Health Ministry, so they could not be sure if what was in the samples was indeed Ramdev's medicine.

Meanwhile a reader sent me a link to a blogpost which has some clarifications about Ayurvedic medicine.

While most channels and newspapers are getting sound-bytes from everywhere, and generally trying to gain maximum entertainment value out of this episode, the Indian Express snoops around a bit and tells us that there is a bit of history between Karat and Ramdev, and it does have more to do with labour issues than animal fat. The Express also solves the puzzle of why the two Yadavs ditched the CPM and supported the Baba - turns out Baba himself is a Yadav.

So what should we do? Well, get a bag of popcron, enter "karat" and "ramdev" in Google News and get entertained.

Vote-bank Politics - Cause or Symptom?

A lot of Indians would vehemently agree if one was to mention vote-bank politics as one of the causes for our country's troubles. Yes, they will say, those bloody politicians just care about vote-bank politics.

What does vote-bank politics really mean? A few google searches wil, show you that the term, much like 'eve-teasing' is almost exclusively Indian. There is no universal definition, so I will try to articulate one for my own understanding - A political strategy in which a politician or a party concentrates on the well-being of just one particular group of people to win elections and doesn't care about other groups, or the country/society as a whole.

If you examine the definition carefully, you will realise that this would naturally be the political strategy of any political party. After all, what is the ultimate objective of a political party? To be in power. How will they be in power? By winning elections. How will they win elections? By any means possible which they can get away with.

Why doesn't vote-bank politics seem to be as dominant in other countries like, say USA or UK? The general opinion is, their politicians are "more honest" than ours. Better people get into politics abroad than in India. Well, whether that is indeed true, and if true, whether that again is a cause or a symptom, is a subject for another blog post.

Let's just recognise that politicians are driven by the same objectives everywhere. Winning elections. What differs from place to place is the system which puts in place explicit and implicit incentives to do the thing which will benefit the country, and explicit and implicit disincentives that will stop them from doing things which are harmful to the country.

Vote-bank politics is obviously harmful to the country. It needs to stop. If we are hoping for a magical "Honesty Revolution" that will clean up our political scene, we are thinking Utopian thoughts. Let us examine why vote-bank politics is so prevalent in India and let us identify the actual reasons logically than give the high-school-level-elocution-competition reasons like corruption, population, poverty etc etc.

Votebank politics exists in India due to two reasons. One reason is reality-based about which nothing can be done. Second reason is system-based which can actually be changed.

The reality-based reason is that India is a very diverse country. We have several religions, castes, sects, communities, each of them well defined. As a result there exist substantial chunks of people which naturally are susceptible to being moulded into a 'vote-bank'. The best case study for this is Uttar Pradesh where you have 20% Muslims, 15% high castes, and the remaining divided into percentages varying from 5-20%. Other democracies like USA, UK, Japan, etc are not as diverse. Correction....USA and UK are pretty diverse. But the different groups there as not as strong numerically as in India.

The second reason is our election system, which is 'First Pass the Post'(FPP). Any election in which people cast their votes, is FPP, i.e. the candidate with the maximum votes wins. So if there are just two candidates, the winner will have to get more than 50% votes. But in India, there are several parties and several candidates, each representing a group. So whoever gets the maximum votes wins. These 'maximum votes' may be as less as 10%, he will still win, as long as no one else got more than him.

so if the electorate is as diverse as it is in India, all you need to ensure is that you keep your "votebank" happy, and that it is big enough to beat anyone else. And you are assured of an election win.

If you were wondering why Paswan was going on and on about a "Muslim CM", this is the reason. He calculated that in addition to his traditional base, if he also gets votes from the 'Muslim Votebank', his number, while way way short of 50% will still be quite high.

As long as we remain a diverse society, and cling on to the FPP system, make your peace with votebank politics. Because votebank politics is not a cause of our country's ills, but just a symptom.

About Reservations in the Private Sector

Was going to write a long post on this once weekend brought some free time. Weekend is here, so as I sat down to write a post, I realised that much of what I wanted to say, has already been summed up eloquently in these two posts -

Reserving My Table by Arnab
The Great Leap Backward by Nitin Pai

Opposing the reservations should not be seen as a knee-jerk turf-protecting reaction by the upper castes. Even if we grant the premise that government policy has a role and a responsibility in ensuring the well-being of its most underprivileged citizens, this move makes bad sense from a policy point of view.

Economics is often said to be nothing but a science of understanding which are the incentives that will work and which are the incentives that will fail. Socio-economic policy needs an even more accurate understanding of incentives.

What intrigues me is that the government is hinting at the inevitability of much-needed labour reforms at the same time that it is hinting at the inevitability of reservations in the private sector.

That would mean the Prime Minister wants to say - You can hire and fire anyone at any time you long as you maintain the caste ratio.

So imagine a scenario where a factory owner decides to fire ABC because he reports late for work and is very lazy. If ABC, by chance, happens to be of a caste that falls under the reservations, then the factory owner will also have to fire XYZ who is from the "open category", just to maintain the caste ratio.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Hey, Zee English!

You guys are OK with telecasting 'Mind of a Married Man' which has abuses galore, and also some partial nudity. You guys telecast 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', again with lots of abuses, in the afternoon. So admirably, you aren't squeamish about a bit of this n that. Could you then explain to me why you guys have not started telecasting South Park yet?

There's brave, and then there's too brave

The South Africans go back routed 2-0, but they performed a lot better than the scoreline suggests. Now if only they get rid of a few habits like unattractive batsmanship, and an inexplicable tendency to make fools of themselves every few years, we might have another team in world cricket which we can admire.

Look Who's Blogging Too

Virender Sehwag!

I know what you're thinking. Is it genuine, or a hoax? Well, I don't know think Sehwag actually plans to update it himself, but it sure is an official blog, and a part of his official website on MSN -

(Hat-tip - Madhu)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

MTR's Upma Mix

I usually avoid these "instant" food items which are "ready to eat". Indian food items, i.e. I like Maggi. But the different curries, vegetable preparations, dals, etc from MTR or ITC never really impressed me. Mainly because they don't taste that good. And secondly, because they are not really Value-For-Money, being priced at 30 rupees or upwards.

MTR Upma however blew me away. I bought it because the shopkeeper said I should try it, since it goes out of stock within a few days. Plus it costs just 10 rupees.

Today I tried making the upma. It is very simple to make. Just add water, a little ghee, and warm for 5-6 minutes. What you get is very very close to the actual upma. It has all the garnishing and the add-ons. A 10-rupee pack, with 200 g of Upma Mix, on adding 500 ml of water, yields enough upma for at least 3 people to have a breakfast.

A breakfast which costs less than 5 bucks per head, takes just 5 minutes to prepare, and tastes good. what else could a bachelor ask for?

This had me ROFL!

This news almost seems straight out of Onion but it actually appeared in the 31st december edition of DNA -

Stealth warship collides with merchant vessel
Note - The link provided is to DNA's epaper. The story appeared on the front page.
Full marks to the Russians. That is one remarkable stealth warship they have built. It is so stealthy that other ships come and collide with it! I can almost imagine the russians designing their new product brochures -

"Our stealth warships - So hard to detect, that you'll worry about other ships colliding into them"

The story says - the ships tried to alter course on spotting each other but failed to avert the collision


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Lot More Lip

A lot more lip from Indians and Pakistanis has ensured that the forthcoming test series turns out to be even more lip-smacking than the last two. Both sides have already started the verbal duel, and it is a mix of provocation and praise.

From Pakistan's side, everyone is talking about how Shoaib Akhtar is back to his best, and Indians should be wary of him. There is talk of preparing fast, bouncy pitches to assist the Pakistani pacemen. Sehwag, who has scored almost a thousand runs against them in just six tests, has been singled out as the major threat. Inzi however asserts that he trusts Pakistani bowlers to win the series for him. Wasim Akram seems to have remember at last that he is a Pakistani, not an Indian, and has also said some things like how Pakistan are a stronger team, how Pathan's progress has been disappointing, etc.

From India's side, the Chappell effect is obvious with a lot more lip than usual. Dhoni has dares Pakistanis to pitch it short. Dravid has said that Pak's ploy is wrong. He has also backed Harbhajan to do well. Tendulkar has backed India's seam attack and said that if Pakistan prepare pitches which are extra-conducive to pace, then it could backfire on them.

This time's series promises to be awesome for sure, because both teams are on a high. When we visited Pakistan last time, we were on a high, and they were in disarray. When they visited us last, they were on the defensive, and we were in shambles, having just lost to Australia. This time both teams go in with an equal amount of self-confidence. India after having destroyed Sri Lanka completely and Pakistan after routing England comprehensively. It is also crucial to note that since this is the third series in less than 2 years, there are no "unknown entities" for each other. Both teams know each other inside out, and the strategising this time round will happen at a much more evolved level.

Shoaib Akhtar has been getting wickets, but they have been more due to variation than due to raw pace. It signals a much-awaited maturing of the paceman, and I am sure Dravid and Chappell will be poring over the tapes to sort out every variation of his. Rana Naved has grown a lot since he was hit for 24 runs in a single over by Sehwag in Karachi two years back. Kaneria too will have learnt from last year's mistakes, but he would do well to remember that Indians are very different from the Poms. They have just negotiated Murali with ease and thumped his team. Among the Pakistani batsmen, it is good to see Salman Butt back in the team, and opening regularly. Kamran Akmal's growth as a batsman has made him a worthy successor to Moin Khan. Inzy and Youhana are of course, as dependable as ever.

For India, Sehwag is in good form, and though he hasn't been converting his starts, which better side than his favourite Pakistan to do it against? Tendulkar is looking in ominous touch, and recognising that this will probably be his last tour to the land where he made his debut, might churn out a few special knocks. Dravid is Dravid, and we can count on him to give us at least one double ton. But the man to watch out, in my opinion, is VVS Laxman. He is a guy who, on striking form, continues in the same vein for months. He was playing beautifully against the Lankans and Pakistan has exactly the kind of attack he loves. The Gambhir-Jaffer toss-up will be interesting to watch, as will the Yuvraj-Ganguly toss-up. It is difficult to see Ganguly replacing yuvraj after the latter's recent form, but maybe Ganguly will replace Gambhir-Jaffer and open the innings with Sehwag. Though Patel has chimed in with his willingness to open, Dhoni's star status will ensure that Patel plays the role only of a tourist.

Anil Kumble is closing in on 500 wickets, and would love to get them in Pakistan by repeating his great showing. Pathan will love to repeat his performance as well, both with the ball and the bat. It was in Pakistan that he first showed the potential to bat, with a fighting 49. Agarkar, whose progress has been unnoticed will look to consolidate his position, in the light of Zaheer's return to the side. And Bhajji, who missed the last tour, and had a great test at Ahmedababd, will look to bask in the spotlight.

I would back the Indians to win this time as well, but they will have to work a lot harder than last time.

Amity Sued by Students!

Read the JAM Story

The Ignored Land

I refer to the North-Eastern part of India as the 'Ignored Land'. In my first month of blogging, almost three and a half years ago, I had written about how people in "mainland" India don't really give a damn about the North-East. A rape in Delhi makes headlines in Bangalore, and vice versa. News about Bombay's actors makes news in Chennai and vice versa. But even the most significant happenings in the North-East very rarely get too much attention in media.

And as a 'marketwallah' I have always said that the media gives us what we want. It doesn't give us news about the North-East because we don't want it. We just don't care.

Tony Tongbram, who hails from Manipur himself, has written a shocking post about the alleged use of poor fishermen as human shields by the Army. I am not jumping the gun, pardon the pun, and saying that the Army is guilty of what it is being charged with. But I think that such allegations deserve serious attention, and if they were made in "mainland" India, it would be frontpage news being covered on all news channels.

Most of us have an informed opinion on whether TADA, POTA and MCOCA are right or wrong. How many of us have an informed opinion about the AFSPA? How many of us even care enough to have an opinion about it?

From a purely strategic point of view, the North-East is viewed as something of a buffer zone shielding us from China and Burma. But viewing it as just a "buffer zone" is the job of army. We normal folks should not view it that way, should we? Isn't it time we pay more attention to some of our own people?

For what its worth, I demand that the Government look into these allegations of civilians being used as "human shields" in Manipur. I demand that the public service broadcaster, Doordarshan, which is funded by my taxes pay more attention to the topic. And as a customer, I would like to communicate to the mainstream media that I would like to see this issue taken up specifically, and would like a better coverage of N_E in general.

To end this post, let me end with these poignant lines from Tony's blog -

I always thought it was normal. That it was normal to hear gun shots, and bomb blast. That it was normal to be stopped on the roads at random by Army men or Police Commandoes and get roughed up. That it was normal to have seen cross fire in front of my eyes twice by the time I was 17. I also thought Combing operations were normal, that the army could barge into our house any time of the day or night without a search warrant. And that the shutter at the market will be down by 6:30 pm and we sleep by 7:30.

But I learnt, when I went outside the state that it was not at all Normal. Nothing that was happening was normal. That in other parts of India, you don't get to see army men every 5 Kilometers, and that the Police actually need an arrest warrant to arrest someone. Gosh! and I have seen people shouting at Police men. God help him.
Few months back, a person was shot dead by the police in manipur when he shouted back at the police who abused him for overtaking the police vehicle.

Some People!

A few days back I linked to Crystal Blur's blog which had a few humorous posts about the Mahabharat. I got a few mails protesting my endorsement, but creditably, they were all by and large polite. Nothing PMK-Sena-Taliban-ish fortunately. Which was fine.

But recently I came across a blog run by a guy who, very very ironically calls himself Hawkeye. You folks would remember Hawkeye, the irreverent Benjamin Franklin Pierce from the classic sitcom M*A*S*H. This bloke reacted in a manner that is becoming less of Hawkeye and more of the PMK-Sena-Taliban types. First of all, hilariously enough, he titled that post "Female Bloggers", and said he wanted to list some female bloggers he liked. (Reminds me of women's line, or women's compartment, etc...very condescending). He then listed a bunch of female bloggers and wrapped up their descriptions in a few lines each, and then announced that he would list bloggers(sic) he hates. And he launches into a tirade against Crystal Blur, calling her a "stupid little blogger who thinks too much about herself"(playground lingo anyone?).

He shows shades of the PMK-Sena-Taliban breed in so many ways. He proceeds to attack her personally and claims she is ignorant about the Mahabharat. Now even the most devout Hindu offended by what she has written would not level that charge at her. Every chapter shows that she knows the epic quite well. He also bets his property... :).... that Crys does not even know how Rajajai's book looks like. If Crys wants to make a quick buck, she can just leave a description of the book cover on his blog, and claim this guy's property.

He then adds to the hilarity by saying he isn't a prude to give a lecture on sanctity and has done(sic) similar jokes too, but has taken care never to single out a specific religion. He also says that the problem with us Hindus is that we make fun of ourselves, but never "level the playing field" by making fun of everyone equally. You must be rolling on the floor laughing now, right? So the next time you want to satirise anything or make a joke about anything, you should carry a check-list and make sure that your humour is "leveling the playing field".

It is apparently not enough for the guy-who-goes-by-the-name-hawkeye that there do exist spoofs, satires and critiques of other religions too. For him to be mollified, they must all come from just one person. Islam, Christianity and Judaism have been satirised so many times by so many different people. I would recommend that the guy watch a sitcom called South Park.

This guy is, what I call a neo-prude. Neo-prudes aren't completely prudish like the PMK-Taliban-Sena, because of the simple reason that they have been brought up in a bit more liberal setting. So their definitions of what is right and what is wrong are a bit more lax than the zealots. Zealots, when the lines that they have decided are crossed, take umbrage and go on an offensive. They forget that the so called Indian culture is as much anyone else's as it is theirs, and each person has a right to interpret it the way he wants. If you don't agree with someone's interpretation, fine, disagree, but at least respect that person's right to that interpretation. But they won't they will blacken the faces of couples celebrating V-Day, ban Rushdie's books, and torment Khushboo for talking about sex.

A neo-prude is slightly more bearable, because their "lines" are not as tightly drawn as the zealots. But if they are drawn even marginally tighter than yours, they go the same way. They are not boorish and/or influential enough to coerce individuals like the zealots. But they will get all sanctimonious, and make personal attacks, like this guy calling Crys a stupid little blogger, an idiot, and then some more. They will also profess to upholding their version of the Indian culture, and turn their noses up at anyone who crosses that line. Such is the hypocrisy of the neo-prudes. They aren't as dangerous as zealots. But sure are pesky.

This guy, who went through the trouble of coming up with such an obviously-contrived topic for the post, just so that he could attack Crystal Blur, probably needs to be introduced to the wonderful diversity of the blogworld. If Crys makes his neo-prudish blood boil, there are several other blogs he can frequent. After all, Crys has not made any personal attack against him, or anyone else. If she had attacked him personally, I can understand a retaliation. She is just choosing to interpret her heritage, and it is as much hers as it is anyone elses.

Oh yes, one movie I advise the guy to stay away from - Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron!

Aaj Ka Blogroll Expansion Iss Prakaar Hai

Time for a blogroll expansion.

Firstly, the addition made sans an announcement - Kaushik Ramu, a poet at heart, but a sales manager by vocation.

Next we have a slight change in the name of an old blog. Middle Stage, which was been taken over by Chandrahas Choudhary in a bloodless coup months ago, will be linked as Chandrahas. By the same token, India Uncut is being linked as Amit Varma.

Now on to some real additions.

First up we have Shivam Vij's Mall Road. Shivam is a Delhiite who enjoys plugging blog names into sting operations, and likes to host discussions on his blog.

Next we have the guy who has been interacting with me over email for a few months, but shot to instant fame in the Indian blogdom after a looooooooo~ong post on Shivam's blog - Chetan Kulkarni.

Saket and Pratik, two Desipundits, have been on the blogroll notionally for months, and finally I get off my ass and actually add them as well.

Arnab, aka greatbong, the hilarious baadshah of b-grade movies.

Tony Tongbram writes very passionately at Anthony's Mirror.

Jai Arjun the famous Jabberwock brings up the rear of this blogroll expansion.

isike saath blogroll expansion ki yeh kaDi samaapt hui. Namaskar.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Good Stories, Bad Direction

Most Bollywood movies stink. Most Hollywood movies stink as well. But there is a difference. Hollywood movies stink at different levels. Bollywood movies stink at the most basic level - they have a bad, boring story to tell.

WHich is why it is encouraging to see Bollywood movies which stink....OK, maybe stink is too strong a word... movies which don't quite make you think they earned their ticket's worth... but at least have in mind a decent story they want to tell you.

Saw two such movies over the last week or so - Bluffmaster and Shikhar.

Both movies have decent stories to tell, in two totally different ways.

Bluffmaster has been "inspired" by a lot of movies, but the operative phrase is "lot of". Since there are so many inspirations, the movie doesn't end up looking like a rank copy-paste job which Mahesh Bhatt et al indulge in. Its story manages to carve out a separate existence. But a lot is lost while portraying it on celluloid. A lot of unnecessary scenes, a lot of unnecessary deviations, a lot of unnecessary "senti", which is suicidal if you are out to make a Guy-Ritchie-type flick. The screenplay and the direction ended up doing a great disservice to the basic story.
Positives -
- The imaginative and novel use of various South Bombay locations.
- A few hilarious scenes which show that Rohan Sippy does have potential, especially the one in which Nana Patekar is aarti-ing a mirror.
- Decent "twist" in the end.

Shikhar is John Mathan's first movie after the well-times success of Sarfarosh fix years ago. Whenever an Aamir Khan movie is released, there are whispers that he does a bulk of the direction. It does seem so in the case of Sarfarosh, because it is tough to believe that the same guy who took what was a pretty run-of-the-mill story and converted it into a taut, absorbing film six years back, could take a richer story and dish out such a poor-ly envisioned product.

The story is really very good. It has a Jeffrey-Archer-business-thriller-ish feel to it, and maybe George can tell us if it is original, or again lifted from somewhere. But except for the story, everything else blows, and blows hard. First we have Ajay Devgan puting on the angry-middle-aged-man-in-weird-clothes act for the nth time. Then we have Genetic Dilemma 2 - Shahid Kapoor.

Digression - Genetic Dilemma 1 is Esha Deol. The dilemma lies in the question - how can the child of two really good looking people be so ugly? Genetic Dilemma 2 is Shahid Kapoor. Here the dilemma is, how can the child of two really good actors be so wooden?

Then we have Amrita Rao who is pulling the whole sweet-innocent-girl act for the nth time. Apparently she has sworn off skin show. I predict she goes the Preeti-Jhangiani-way in a year.

Bad acting, bad direction botch up a good story. Thw only glimmer of hope is Jawed Sheikh, who makes an impressive debut.

So all in all, the two movies were disappointing. But one must applaud he effort that went into stringing together a good story.

Utopia Or Bust!

Utopia, or bust - This in a nutshell sums up the arguments of many critics of the free market philosophy.