Vantage point

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Darna Zaroori Hai - A Review

Darna Zaroori Hai is a disappointment. It is disappointing to see that one of my favourite film-makers, Ram Gopal varma, actually took a backward step, committing the mistake most other monochromatic film-makers would. That of putting the concept of a sequel above all else, even story.

As simplistic as it may sound, the lifeline of a movie is its storyline. The screenplay, treatment, portrayal, performances, special effects are all secondary. While they are all useful elements that go into making a good film, the story is of paramount importance. And it is in the story department that DZH disappoints the most.

Horror is a petty tough genre to handle, especially if you are targetting discerning audiences. Horror stories will be of two types. One, which begin with a paranormal premise. And the other which begin with a "rational" premise and attribute the seemingly paranormal occurences to a perfectly logical and often coincidental explanation. Both sorts of stories can be entertaining. It depends on how you write them and take them to a conclusion rather than the premise itself. DZH has them both, totalling 7 in number. Most of them do not pass muster, at least packaged into a single movie.

The main reason for this is an obsession with the "twist". A twist in the plot can be very exciting, and can raise the estimation of a story many notches. Especially if the twist is mind-boggling, and turns the entire story upside down. But a twist should be used as a surprise element and not a stock element. When you have a movie with 7 stories, most of them relying on the twist factor, then it gets a tad predictable. And when the said movie is a sequel of another such collection of stories, half of which themselves relied on twists, it becomes downright tedious. I mean seriously, which person who has seen DMH and has an average intelligence will not be able to guess the ending of the Bipasha-Makrand-ArjunRampal story? Or for that matter the AnilKapoor-Mallika story? They were just downright yaaaaawn.

The Amitabh-Ritesh story which replies on paranormal and depends on the "creep" factor ends too abruptly and inexplicably. Now usually I am all for open-ended conslusions to stories which leave scope for the viewer's imagination. But this story's end was a little too open-ended. The other paranormal-based story is probably the most competent of them all, starring Randeep Hooda. But just about, sinceit is one story which does not bore you, even though it does not enthrall you. The opening story, starring Manoj Pahwa is also decent, and sets the tone for the movie very well.

The only reality-based story in the movie is the one with Sonali Kulkarni and Suneil Shetty, and it is absolutely lame. It wastes the talent of actors such as Sonali and Rajpal Yadav thanks to a forcibly-written plot.

And the background story, with the old lady and the kids was as excruciating as it gets. I don't see why a background story is so necessary if the film is basically supposed to be a collection of shorts. While making the third part in this series, which apparently Varma is planning, he would be well-advised to do away with such a concept and just show the stories one by one.

By the time the end credits roll and you see that 7 different directors worked on each of the 7 movies, the movie turns out to be nothing but an excellent illustration of the adage - too many cooks spoil the broth.

Reality Check

Just came across an interesting blog titled Reality Check, which is primarily addressing the issue of Mandal-2. It references to several articles as well as papers, and examines some key issues which are being ignored in this cliched debate, viz -

- Crucial differences between affirmative action in the US and the reservation system in India.
- How clubbing OBCs together with SC/STs is a travesty to the former.
- The complete misuse of reservations in TN, and more information about the same
- What is wrong with the implementation of the Mandal Commission report.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Raddi Hunting

Standing in a non-descript raddi shop tucked away in a tiny off-shoot of a bylane in the Mumbai sub-urbs. Going through the titles of the dusty yellowed books stacked on a discoloured wooden shelf in a corner even as the remaining space is taken up by the shop's main revenue-earner - old raddi newspapers, neatly tied up in stacks.

All of us grow up reading stories of treasure hunts on islands far away. Searching for some desirable books in shops like these is the closest we can come to that adventure in our urban 21st century 9-to-5 lives. Most of the names staring at you from the shelf are unknown, undesired, and even relative failures. One almost feels sure that 99% of the books are such that whoever bought them, regretted it half-a-sitting later. So the books sit there for a decade and will probably sit there for another decade until they are converted into pulp.

But sifting through all the literary rubbish is worth it when you find that first book that you actually want to buy. For me today, ironically and yet fittingly enough, the book was Alfred Hitchcock and The three Investigators: The Secret of the Terror Castle. It is the first book in The Three Investigators series, which was my favourite series of books growing up, as I have written on this blog before. It was fitting because, the entire set-up of the Investigators in the series has been put together by sifting through junk.

Energised by this success, I start examining the books with renewed enthusiasm. Some of them would have a lot of value for folks I know. There were a few Star wars and Star Trek books. There was also a book by baseball legend Micky mantle, describing 12 seasons with the Yankees. There were some "Wild West" pocket books. The whole treasure-hunt brought back memories of my childhood years, when I spent a long time every day agonising over which book to take home from the musty shelves of the library on Karve Road in Pune.

After what seemed like a long blast from the past, I finally chose 3 more books in addition to the TI book.

Peter Pan by J M Barrie - a book I have never owned
They're Playing Your Song, Charlie Brown by Charles Schultz - a collection of Penuts cartoons, with a message on the front page - "To Chuckie on his 1st birthday(that is, with me!), all my love, march 25, 1978" handwritten no doubt by the person who bought it first.
Private's Progress by Alan Hackney - a classic about Army life, first published 1954

The four books cost me just 40 rupees. Notice how you never have to pay a lot for the some of the most valuable things in life.

Wai Wai, Wah Wah!

The Nepalis may have their failings, such as violently mourning their royal king's death, violently protesting the king's rule, violently protesting Hrithik Roshan's opinions, among others. But they sure can whip up some mean instant noodles. Wai Wai noodles have to be the best instant noodles I have ever had, whipping the Nissans and the Maggis of this world by a huge margin.

sarika used to rave about them a lot but they were never available in my locality. Then one day I saw the noddles stacked on the shelf of a shop. I bought his entire stock, which was a measly 4 packs. The noodles more than lived up to the hype Sarika had created. The noodle itself has character and crunchiness, and the seasoning, which among other things, apparently has shrimp in it, is to die for. The seasoning comes in 3 different tiny puches inside the pack.

The noodles can be had in 3 ways - You can either lunch it, i.e, cook it like maggi, with water and the season, or you can soup it, where you get soup-style noodles, or the best of them all - munch it. You just mix the seasoning with the uncooked noddles, and have a snack, since the noodles are pre-cooked and fried anyway. Directions for all 3 are given on the pack.

The price is great too, just 11 rupees. The only problem is with their distribution network. I very rarely see stocks in shops. The last time stocks arrived, I bought a dozen packs, and they are still beind rationed and savoured by me and Sarika. If they get the same push in the market as Maggi, Nestle will have a major problem on its hands.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Give Up Your Seat, And Dont You Dare Protest!

Cops in Delhi beat up medical students protesting Mandal-2 peacefully.

Water cannons, teargas and lathi charge. Students of the top five medical colleges of Delhi were treated to these when they decided to demonstrate in a peaceful manner against the proposed 50 per cent reservations in medical colleges.

Girls were also manhandled and mistreated by male cops.

Girls from Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) had a tough time too. “When we started from our college in the bus, a little distance away, several male cops got into the bus and pushed us around. Then, they forcibly evicted us from the buses at Jantar Mantar and surrounded us,” said one of the students who didn’t want to be named.
Shweta, another LHMC student, recounts, “Once we reached the area, the male cops manhandled the girls. We were beaten by lathis on our thighs.”

The message is loud and clear. Give up your seats peacefully. And if you dare to raise a chime of dissent, be ready to be manhandled, beaten up, threatened, blackmailed, lathi-charged and even molested.

Another RDB Factoid

Another thing I noticed about Rang De Basanti is that Kiron Kher, who plays Aamir Khan's mom in the movie, is referred to by everyone as 'Mitro'. I postulate that her character has been named after the former French President Francois Mitterand.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


We all know what flamebait is. Flamebait can be many things as I have discovered from personal experience - irritating, annoying, infuriating, insulting, and even downright obscene. But once in a while you come across flamebait which is so goddamn boooooring that it seems to be targeted more at insomniacs than anyone else. Flamebait then becomes Phlegm-Bait.

Phlegmbait evokes only one sentiment in addition to mind-numbing ennui - pity. The pity is further compounded when the supposed cloak of anonymity is about as effective as the emperor's new clothes.

Poetic Hoodwink

People are lambasting Kaavya Viswanathan for plagiarising from another book. The lambasting is well-deserved, but I am surprised at how she landed such a lucrative deal for her book without this being detected earlier. Wouldn't you expect literary agents, publishers, and even folks Dreamworks SKG (who have acquired movie rights for the book) to be a little smarter and more well-informed than editors of a college newspaper? It took a Harvard college newspaper for Kaavya to be found out, whereas everyone else was showering cash her way.

Her apology itself is quite lame and insincere, saying the plagiarism happened unintentionally, and she had unknowlingly "internalised" McCafferty's work. If only college professors everywhere were as "enlighetend" as the agents, publishers and producers tricked by the sleight of hand, writing term papers would be so much easier.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Whither Sukhdev?

Happened to watch Rang De Basanti again, while travelling in a Volvo bus from Mumbai to Pune. Noticed something which I couldn't believe I had missed earlier. In fact come to think of it, none of the reviewers, be it in MSM or on blogs, seem to have noticed it either.

There is no Sukhdev in the movie!

Yep, Sukhdev, who studied in the same college as Bhagat Singh, and was one of his earliest comrades has been left out of the movie completely for some bizarre reason. There are historic parallels for every character, but Sukhdev, who was hanged along with Bhagat Singh and Rajguru is nowhere to be seen.

Before you respond with "Sharman Joshi was Sukhdev", let me assure you he was Rajguru. His "present avataar" was named "Sukhi", so it may have confused a few people. But even the movie's IMDB page does not list Sukhdev.

I really wonder why such an important character was omitted. If any of you meet Rakeysh Mehra or Aamir Khan, pliss to ask.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Indian Entrance Tests

The blogger Abi, who is also a faculty member at IISc has written a post about the entrance exam methodology. I was planning a post on the topic myself a couple of weeks back, but the college-admission-related-blogging-fatigue got to me and I chucked it midway. This was followed by a short discussion with some friends about how the time for standardized tests has come in India.

This concept of one-shot entrance exams really is too arbitrary and dependent on luck. Even though I was a beneficiary of them during my engineering and management education, I know how large a part luck plays in them. It is inconceivable to imagine that just one entrance exam can completely test students for their suitability for a course and institute.

Admission procedures should be more broad-based, and an exam should be but one of the factors considered.

In fact if you make entrance processes dependent on just an examination, even if it is as fair as can be, it leads into a very unidimensional development of students during their school life. Let us take the JEE. It is a very tough exam, with some quality questions, and there can be no doubt that people who ace it will possess a great aptitude in problem solving.

But as those of you who have worked in the real world will know, while problem-solving skills play a very important role in success in technical jobs, they are by no means sufficient. Good communication skills are required. An ability to apply paper-based-problems and ideas to the real world is required. No matter how tough and challenging the JEE is, it can not and should not be the sole criterion.

Look at what the entrance exams are doing to students. Kids now start preparing for GRE from Class 9 onwards. 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, i.e a student from 14-18, is just driven towards completely paper-based entrance procedures. Many children take coaching, cram all day, and often forego other interests for those crunch years. This would definitely hinder their all-round development. Many extracurricular activities are sacrificed in this rat race because every extra hour spent studying does actually help to improve your JEE rank.

Here let me put an outlier alert, let people mail me citing examples of several friends of theirs who are in the IIT, and yet good at sports, singing, debating, quizzing, etc. Yes, these are the outliers. But in general, communication skills, participation in sports, and other extra-curricular activities, not to mention dating :), are very poor in the average Indian student who is aspiring for some paper-based exam like JEE, or MHCET or PMT.

CAT is a bit better. Firstly, the test itself is more of an aptitude test, and does not really require cramming as such. Since it is based on just elementary maths, english and logic, the written test does measure your aptitude well. Then there is the GD/PI as well. If you don't do well in GD/PIs, then you can be denied admission. So you have to be at least a competent speaker, need to have some sort of extra currics that can set you apart.

In that sense, CAT does at least encourage students who are appearing for it to be prepared for the things that actually go into making a good manager - decent number crunching, gift of gab, confidence, presence of mind, etc. However it still is just a one-shot exam. It all depends on that 1 day of the year. So if you have a bad day, you are toast.

More entrance procedures even at undergrad level in India should try to be like CAT. This year I trained some students for their IIM GD/PI interview sessions. Many of them were really outstanding. But there were so many more who had a great percentile on CAT, but stuttered, were diffident, and hadn't done anything extracurricular of note. And that is not because they were dumb. But because nowadays a bulk of your formative years are spent cramming for these written tests.

People who run colleges in India need to think of a serious overhaul of the whole entrance exam procedure. And standardized tests, which at least take away the huge luck factor of it all depending on just one day, will be the first step.

Schumy's Back

Imola manages to produce some great races every year. Maybe it is the extra motivation Ferrari has to do well on its home track. Maybe it is the motivation other teams have to outshine the Ferraris on their hoimetrack. Whatever the reason, races like yesterday's are a treat to watch.

Alonso, the reigning champion, right on the tail of Schumacher the reigning god, for half the race. Constant pressure, frequent overtaking attempts, deteriorating brakes, a battle of nerves. It doesn't get any better than this. It wasn't Alonso's day yesterday, as a little slip-up with half a dozen or so laps to go could have potentially cost him the race. But the way he kept the pressure on relentlessly, even though he could have just coasted to 2nd and picked up 8 points shows that he is made of the same ultra-compewtitive material as his opponent, and will be a worthy successor to the throne.

Schumacher himself gave an exhibition of his talent and his intellect, slowing down the pace of the chase adroitly, and making the much faster Renault blink first. The pressure on Michael was tremendous, since he hadn't won a race since the embarrassing Indy GP last year. With an ultra-motivated and in-form champ like Alonso in a superior car, mere mortals would have buckled in, and lost the fight. But Schumy, literally and figuratively, stayed one step ahead. It was an excellent sequel for last year's race.

People often say they prefer easy-overtake circuits over those where there aren't many opportunities for it. While an overtake-intensive race is no doubt exciting, a race such as this is absorbing. I prefer savouring the absorbing contests to an infinite series of slip-stream-assisted manouevres in which the race lead changes faster than you can count.

Though practically, Ferrari just gained 2 points over Renault, a win energises the whole team, and suddenly a Ferrari-Renault , the battle we've all been waiting for for about half a decade, seems probable. As Jeff Murdoch would say, exceelent!

Khali Boost

I returned to Bombay last night, and cast a cursory glance upon my visitor stats and was suprised to find that the usual weekend-dip in visits was missing. Weekend-dip, for the uninitiated is the trend observed by most bloggers that the hits they get on weekends are much lower in number than on weekdays. The reasons are simple. On weekends, people go out, watch movies, dine out, etc, and do not spend as much time on the internet. It also means that the visitors who browse blogs from their offices only can't do so.

So what accounted for this hike in traffic? A not-so-cursory glance at my referrals was very enlightening. Almost 75% visitors in the last few hours had come via a google search for "the great khali", the Indian wrestler on whom I wrote a post last week. It turns out that post was the top search result for "the great khali", with the official WWE website coming in second!

The google arachnid must be high on something, maybe celebrating Marijuana Day which was a couple of days back. Nothing else explains this.

Scrat 2

Saw Ice Age 2 yesterday.

For me the movie was, much like its prequel, a series of boring cheesy laborious interruptions by assorted animals like mammoths, tigers and sloths in between the rivetting and hilarious efforts of Scrat, the squirrel to capture his beloved acorn.

The creators have obviously realised the immense potential Scrat has, going by the fact that they have released a separate short film considering of just his 'adventures'. I do hope they develop the character further, and maybe even develop it into a TV series. The Scrat Show, if launched, will have the potential to be this generation's answer to The Roadrunner Show.

Here's a complimentary blogger PJ.

Q - Who is Scrat's favourite blogger?
A - Nitin Pai

Sir, Espresso is Black Coffee

The waiter at 'The Big Cuppa' coffee shop at E Square in Pune has finally done it. For ages now, I have been grating my teeth whenever I order an espresso, and am met with the explanation "It is a black coffee, sir". I then hiss back, "Yes, I know it is a black coffee". I've been waiting for 'the one waiter' to come along who will knowingly or unknowingly swear by the mantra of "caveat emptor".

The aforementioned waiter turned out to be the one. I ordered an espresso, and he just nodded. Nice!

To be fair though, this irritating habit of baristas across India to enlighten their customers about the true nature of an espresso has a reason. Several restaurants all over India serve "expresso" coffee, with milk in it. Plus, black coffee is not that popular in India, at least in Mumbai and Pune. So I am sure that in the early days of the CCDs and Baristas, people ordered an espresso expecting a foamy milky sweetish cup, but got a small bitter black shot of coffee. Heated arguments would have ensued.

So the "sir, espresso is black coffee" is just a disclaimer of sorts.

Sticky Post - The April Open Quiz in Pune

This post has been made sticky and will appear on top until 23rd April. Regular updates to the blog will appear below this post until then.

Sarika and I will be conducting the April Open Quiz in Pune.

Date - 23rd April 2006 (Sunday)
Time - 10 a.m. (finals will end at approx 3 p.m.)
Teams of at the most 2 members
Venue - Dewang Mehta Auditorium,
Bhageerath Building of PSPL
Behind Domino's Pizza, Senapati Bapat Road,

It will be a General Quiz and a few Bombay quizzers like Amit, Dhoomketu etc plan to share a cab to Pune on Sunday morning. Any other Bombay quizzers wanting to participate are welcome to contact them if they want to join the "delegation".

For any more clarifications, mail me at the ID given in the sidebar.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Next Bradman...

... Jason Gillespie? :-)

For years, Jason Gillespie has been for bowlers the tiny bone that gets stuck in your throat after swallowing the fish. No one knows it better than India, whom he has tormented on many occasions, costing us the tests at Sydney and Chennai in 2004 with his irritating ability to guard his wicket.

But not even the most fertile imagination would have backed him to get a double century, even if it is against Bangladesh.

Blogroll Revamp

One award which Vantage Point would be a shoe-in for - The Sloppiest Blogroll Award. Seriously, it has to be the most neglected blogroll in the universe. My modus operandi, if I can call it that, of building up my blogroll was to just add links and forget about them. For this I blame Hero Honda's 'Fill it, shut it, forget it" ad campaign which was telecast in the late eighties and early nineties when I was in my formative impressionable years. I applied that philosophy to my blogroll and went "Fill it, Republish it, forget it".

But now I am a changed man. Today I have embarked upon a privately funded project to revamp my blogroll. I am correcting faulty and outdated URLs, removing dead blogs, and even ambitiously attempting a classification into different types.

Any monetary donations to this project will be welcomed.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Some Problems Even Free Markets Can't Solve

I have always maintained that I am a libertarian and a free market supporter more from a philosophical point of view than a utilitarian point of view. What that means is my personal convictions about free markets and libertarian thought derive from what I think is right and wrong. In reaching my positions I have not given prime importance of the utility of these ideas, i.e whether they work for the society in general and all that. However even from a utilitarian point of view, I find that a libertarian solution, in some degree or the other, usually is the best, or should I say, the least worst solution which is practically feasible.

However that does not mean that free markets will usher in a utopia. There will still be prolems that free markets can't solve completely.

One example is that of Dalit women from Boudh Vasti. They came together to pitch their services for a catering contract for the village schools under the Anganwadi meal scheme. However the local Village Panchayat refused them the contract, apparently because the women were Dalit, and the villagers had problems with their children eating food cooked by Dalits. Plain and simple casteism.

Evaluating this problem from a libertarian point of view, there is no remedy that can be suggested. The women came together to form an organisation. The decision was taken by a small local government, and was reflective of the opinion of the majority stake-holders. So from a strictly philosophical point of view, there is nothing wrong with the women being denied the contract.

Yet I can't help but feel that a wrong has been committed. Woman who were apparently capable and competent in every other way have been denied the contract solely on the basis of their caste.

While this is very unfortunate for the women, I do believe that such an example is good because it shows us the mirror and can have the effect of causing some introspection. If news like this is splashed all over, and it becomes politically incorrect to discriminate against Dalits, then the panchayat will be shamed into awarding them the contract. It may not work in this case and women may still be denied the contract. But every such incident will go a long way in reshaping beliefs.

The short-cut would be of course for the government to step in and force the panchayat to award them the contract. But it goes against the very grain of decentralisation. Because though in this one case the government may step in and do the "right thing" according to most, it will still be riding rough-shod over the wishes of the villagers.

Teach Them To Fish

Be it P Sainath's book 'Everybody Loves a Good Drought' or the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the key problem is that the state has a constitution-given right to take away anyone's private property. The state has the power to fix the compensation. So everything is left to the state's judgement.

Narmada is one issue in India on which liberal and libertarians agree. Well, at least they agree in their opposition. How they reach their positions is completely different. From a libertarian perspective, the opposition to the SSP is based on the opposition to Eminent Domain and the sanctity of property rights. From the liberal perspective, the opposition is there because the relief and rehabilitation in this case is insufficient. There is another liberal viewpoint which says that any project which uproots villagers from their rural setting or adivasis from their ecosystem in equilibrium, is wrong.

It is interesting to note that the liberal perspective is after all based on what the libertarians are saying. respecting the sanctity of property rights means leaving the decision about the land to the owner, be it a villager or an adivasi. Now if the villager/adivasi thinks that the compensation he is being given is not up to the mark, he will refuse the deal. Similarly if the villager/adivasi feels that whatever he is being offered in return will not assure him of a lifestyle as good as, or better than the lifestyle he led, he will refuse. What we are saying is, give the villagers and tribals rights to negotiate on their own.

The final say in deciding whether the compensation is "fair" or not should not rest with the government, the World Bank, or any NGO. The land owners should have the final say. It is their land after all.

Sadly neither Sainath nor Medha Patkar seem to address the core issue. Sainath writes about project after project where villagers and tribals have been uprooted. Patkar goes on a hunger strike. But nowhere are the words "property rights" heard.

The analogy that comes to mind is that of feeding a man fish and teaching him to fish. What Patkar, whom I have great respect for by the way, is doing is feeding them, by fighting for their rights in courts. If she and her supporters demand reductions in the sweeping power of the Indian state, and greater empowerment of land owners, she will be teaching them to fish.

Vada in Pune, Pav in Mumbai

The ideal vadapav would be one in which the vada is made in Pune and the pav in Mumbai.

The Mumbai vada plain sucks. Mostly it tends to be spherical for some bizarre reason. How can something which is supposed to be pressed between a pav and had be spherical? Obviosuly, this leads to flattening of the vada. Since the vada has to be flattened, the makers have to be careful the stuffing doesn't spill out. This forces them to make the covering batter layer too thick. The vada then stops being a vada and becomes a bonda. When the besan batter starts developing a noticeable existence of its own, your vada is ruined. And since the besan layer is so thick, it can never be made crsip.

Plus I don't know what they do with the potato stuffing and I don't want to know. It just tastes aweful!

Vadas in Pune are perfect. They are flattened before deep frying. Since the vada thus does not have to face circumstances where its structural durability will be tested, the batter covering is thin and as a guessed it... crisp. The potato stuffing is to die for. I haven't analysed this very closely yet, but I suspect that the stuffing in Pune has garlic playing a large part, and it adds to the yumminess. I doubt if garlic is used as much in Mumbai. The vada in Mumbai is not even noticeable.

What is noticeable in Mumbai is the pav. Ah, the Mumbai pav! If there was ever a contest between the top breads of Earth and the top breads of let us say Jupiter or Pluto, I am sure the Mumbai pav would feature prominently in the scheme of things. The texture, the juiciness-without-juice, the scent, everything is divine. As a result the pav ends up dominating the Mumbai vadapav.

Whereas bakers in Pune, though miles ahead of bakers in other Indian cities, still can't match up to Mumbai when it comes to the pav. The Pune pav is competent, but just that. Considering the level of perfection attained by the Pune vada (especially the guy who stands oppose the UCO Bank near Vanaz), the pav falls behind.

A vadapav made in heaven would thus have a vada from Pune and a pav from Mumbai.

The Great Khali

There are some success stories which are not mainstream in the Indian sense, but still quite remarkable. Narain Karthikeyan is one such story. Just a tiny fraction of the country's population knows what Formula 1 racing is. And yet an Indian managed to break into the rarefied echelons of this sport. Granted, he didn't exactly strike fear in the heart of Fernando Alonso, but just making it to an F1 team is remarkable.

There is another Indian success story of sorts brewing in the United States. It is not in the field of sports per se, but sports entertainment, i.e WWE (professional wrestling). No Indian newspaper or TV channel has picked up on it yet, but I am sure they will. The Indian media is usually desperate to connect to people with even the remotest Indian connections. This person is a bonafide India, a true rags-to-riches story if there ever was one.

Dalip Singh has made his WWE debut. He used to be a daily wage labourer in Punjab. That's right, he used to work on highways, breaking stones. He was later recruited into the Punjab Police Department, worked on his physique, won the Mr. India bodybuilding contest, and joined the Pro Wrestling circuit in Japan. He has rapidly moved up the Pro Wrestling Chain and has ended up at the WWE, the top most body of pro-wrestling.

Not only has he entered the WWE, but he's done so with a bang, debuting in a feud with the legendary wrestler 'The Undertaker'. Most wrestlers move up the hard way, by feuding with smaller stars, and as their popularity grows, they move higher and higher in the value chain, so to say. But once in a while, if a special "talent"(I use this term in the WWE sense, not as pure wrestling talent) comes along, with a potential to make a splash, he is pitchforked into the big league.

Whether Dalip Singh, who has been named 'The Great Khali', can actually stay in the big league and become a big star remains to be seen. I have been following WWE off-and-on since I was a kid, and the fact remains that the biggest names in the business are not necessarily those who are big, strong, and great wrestlers. The biggest names are those blessed with the gift of gab. In that regard, Dalip Singh may fall short.

Be that as it may, a poor daily wage labourer reaching the WWE is a remarkable achievement. Here's wishing Dalip all the luck.

Update: Dhoomketu has a post on Dalip Singh too.

PBM on Mandalisation

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is one of those men who is one of the few political commentators with clarity of thought and excellent reasoning skills. I don't agree with him on all issues, but on the issue of Mandalisation, we're almost on the same page -

It is a profound tragedy that arguments that were made in the context of SCs/STs have been extended to cover OBCs and all kinds of other groups. Whatever one’s views on reservation, the claims of OBCs are not the same as those of SCs/STs. Our founding fathers were wise to recognise that. OBCs have been capitalising on a narrative of injustice which is not theirs, and in the process compounding greater injustice. It is a widely known fact that many OBCs are now akin to what used to be dominant castes. Giving them special access to state offices is, in some cases, working against the interests of SCs/STs. While many of the atrocities against Dalits are perpetuated by high castes, OBC atrocities on Dalits are no less significant. It is a travesty of justice to contrive special measures to reinforce OBC dominance. In this context letting SCs/STs reservations stand for the time being, without extending the ambit to OBCs, would have been prudent.

A Few Bloglets

A collation of a few "bloglets", not big enough to be posts by themselves.

Managed to travel in a local train with the new bogies(rakes?). Quite a welcome change. Of course, the train was still crowded, but the white-and-blue-and-metal-grey combination makes for much more sober and calming surroundings than the yellow-and-brown which the locals have become synonymous with. Hope all the old rakes are phased out and replaced by new ones. If the GoI has money to buy air conditioned swanky metros for Delhi, surely it can spare some change to change the conditions of those travelling in locals.


I hear a young boy chanting his hawker-chant at another end of the compartment. He goes - "dame-dame-dame-dame-dame-dame...". I crane my neck to see what is being sold. It's a boy not older than 8-9 years selling the newspaper 'Mid Day'. Mid Day becomes "dame-dame-dame". The hawker chants in India which are pronounced so differently from the name of the wares they are supposed to hawk, can surely be a topic for doctoral research.


Outside the Mahalaxmi Railway Station, there is a bus-stop. The stretch of the road adjacent to the bus-stop is designated a no-parking zone. A lady, oblivious to this fact, stands there and waves for a taxi. The taxi comes and stops right on the no-parking zone. Unluckily for the cabbie, a Mumbai Police Van is right behind him. I expect him to be censured, fined, etc. But the havaldar gets down and slaps the taxi-driver, yelling at him for stopping at a no-parking zone.

Imagine, that's a representative of the Indian state greets the taxi driver. With a tight slap. I wonder if the havaldar would have done the same to a well-dressed man driving a gleaming Santro. My guess is, not.

From the valley of the Narmada to the upscale no-parking zones of South Mumbai, the biggest nemesis of the underprivileged in this country remains the Indian state.


Two men discussing the violent fall-out of Dr. Rajkumar's death in Bangalore.

"Saala ek filmstar ke liye? Dada Kondke marney pe kisine Mumbai jalaya tha kya?"



Saturday, April 15, 2006

Home Delivery

Us Mumbaikars have to be the most pampered people on earth(not that I am complaining). The extent to which the "home delivery" concept has pervaded the city's lifestyle is unparalleled. You can have any and everything home delivered. Everything is literally a phone call away.

I haven't seen this degree of deliveraciousness(sorry Amit) in any other city. I think it has to do with the fact that Mumbaikars already have such a tough time commuting, that they don't want to step out of the house again until the next day. Where there is a need, there is a shopkeeper. Hence free home delivery of everything from food to groceries to appliances to laundry to even elephants.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Real Winner in P/D/D - The Little Guy

The real winner in privatisation/decentralisation/deregulation in India almost always, and overwhelmingly so, is going to be the "little guy". The common man, the man on the street, who has no contacts to push him up, no money to bribe ths system with, and no army of brutes to enforce his writ.

The biggest naysayers of P/D/D have been of course, the left parties. About their motivations and rationalisation, the lesser said, the better. But the other thinkers, intellectuals and activists who oppose P/D/D do see more out of their misplaced fear of the "evil corporations" who will take over whatever is up for grabs and grind the little man into the ground.

What they don't realise is, these "evil corporations" will have much more scope to be evil and oppressive in a state-run-state-regulated set-up that has existed in India. Because establishing and sustaining an inefficient and blood-sucking monopoly is so much easier under government regulation. You just bribe the government, and the police force becomes your de-facto private army which stops anyone from competing.

P/D/D is what levels the playing field to a great extent and empowers many "little guys".

Look at the heavy regulation in primary education. The "big guys" get their way. We have so many posh, air-conditioned schools springing up to cater to the urban rich, only because the "big guys" have money to bribe their way through multiple layers of bureaucracy to start a school. Or, of course, the contacts.

But why are there very few private schools for the lower middle class or the poor? Because the "little guys" who will start the "no frills" schools do not have the money or contacts to get permission to start them.

Times, Star and India Today are the "big guys" who got the valuable licenses to run FM radio stations. But a "little guy" like Raghav Mahto was forced to shut shop because he didn't have the money or the influence to get a license.

So when you oppose P/D/D, you usually end up opposing the "little guy".

Ah Finally!!!

Finally a post about school vouchers as a way to improve primary education in India, which has been made by a blogger other than those known to me.... almost literally, since he calls himself Unknown Indian. The post says -

Several studies have shown that governments spend more money on education of each student than the fees charged by unaided private schools catering to the poor. The quality of education delivered by private schools however is far superior to that delivered by government schools, for the obvious reason that no-one would go to a private school if they did not deliver a certain minimal quality of education. As mentioned earlier, even my maid servant has admitted her children to a private, unaided, English medium school instead of relying on the free Marathi medium municipal school system. School vouchers would help improve access for the poor to such private schooling. These vouchers could be distributed universally – one for every child in a family, and should represent an amount equal to the government spending for schooling each student in a given region. They would enable parents to win back control over the behavior of teachers in government schools.

Read the whole thing.

32 Nations 32 Interviews

Pratyush Khaitan at Sportolysis has embarked on an ambitious project. He plans to interview a fan from each of the 32 nations participating in the football World Cup.

The series kicks off with an interview from the host nation - Germany.

Rue Fatullah, Bangladesh

I am not going to write a condescending and patronising post gushing over Bangladesh's performance against Australia at Fatullah. I am sure they wish to be counted as a proper test playing nation, and in that spirit I am going to criticise Bangladesh for losing this test match after being 158 runs ahead at the end of the first innings.

Fatullah will be remembered by most as the test equivalent of Sophia Gardens, the venue where Bangladesh beat Australia in an ODI. But if Bangladesh are to make progress, they should remember that Fatullah was NOT Sophia Gardens. At Sophia Gardens, Bangladesh held their nerve till the end and won the match. The scorecard showed them as having beaten Australia. At Fatullah though, they lost their nerve, capitulated in the second innings, dropped catches and let history slip by.

Of course, Bangladesh should derive confidence and self-belief from this test. But the desire to improve even on your greatest moment is what what sets you apart from the rest.

For the world to take Bangladesh seriously, they should first take themselves as a test team seriously. And any serious test team would rue the Fatullah defeat.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Argument Clinic

If you still haven't discovered the sheer joy that are Monty Python Sketches, you are leading a very impoverished life. DVDs of their sketch-based-movies are available in most DVD parlors and British Council Libraries. One sketch that cracks me up the most is the 'Dead Parrot' sketch. Especially the line "The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead", delievered by John Cleese.

Oh, but let me not get started on the Dead Parrot sketch, or I'll go on and on, cracking up over every line, much like I do when I get into an Andaz Apna Apna mode.

One sketch that I have been repeatedly reminded of in the last few days is the tongue-in-cheek "Argument Clinic". Do try to get hold of it from somewhere and watch it. Or read the transcript I linked to.

An excerpt -

Man: Look this isn't an argument.

Mr Vibrating: Yes it is.

Man: No it isn't, it's just contradiction.

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: Yes it is.

Mr Vibrating: It is not.

Man: It is. You just contradicted me.

Mr Vibrating: No I didn't.

Man: Ooh, you did!

Mr Vibrating: No, no, no, no, no.

Man: You did, just then.

Mr Vibrating: No, nonsense!

Man: Oh, look this is futile.

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: I came here for a good argument.

Mr Vibrating: No you didn't, you came here for an argument.

Man: Well, an argument's not the same as contradiction.

Mr Vibrating: It can be.

Man: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition.

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: Yes it is. It isn't just contradiction.

Mr Vibrating: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

Man: But it isn't just saying "No it isn't".

Mr Vibrating: Yes it is.

Man: No it isn't, an argument is an intellectual process... contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: Yes it is.

Mr Vibrating: Not at all.

Man: Now look!

Mr Vibrating:(pressing the bell on his desk) Thank you, good morning.


I have often written about how I think that a failed state-controlled and kleptocratic primary education system is probably the biggest hindrance in the path of the country's poor.

Neha in her post about the Mandalisation issue writes about primary education -

Education. Primary Education. The government makes feeble attempts at universalizing primary education and FAILS. It's been failing consistently since 1947. It's the worst report card a country can produce - that most of the country still can't read it. The issue with primary education is that it is so centralized, that it's difficult to hold an absentee or inefficient teacher responsible.
the government either needs to clear up its act and decentralize schooling and education, or it needs to give more impetus to private schools.
If you tell me that private schools are expensive - think again. The market forces are not allowed to operate. If enough parents feel that the teacher discriminates against girls in a private school - chances are that another private player will recognize the gap - and start a school that is more gender sensitive. I understand that this school, in an ideal situation need not be gender-blind. The school will need to reach out to parents to convince them to continue in the school. (Which school wouldn't want fees the next year?) The school has further reasons to push parents to send their girls to college. Because earning women make a better case for the school to urge all parents to send their girls to school. If the fees do not appear to go down despite schools competing for children, well, in that case - let their be an open system where you apply to the government for scholarships.

Bang on!

I hope more thoughts of this kind are expressed on blogs and in the media, and there is a better understanding of arguably the biggest reason for the underprivileged remaining underprivileged.

I hope to see support for, and greater discussion upon the Education Choice Campaign.

What is happening instead is that the media, and the intelligentsia are sitting silent and clueless even as steps are taken in the exact opposite direction which will further compound the problems in primary education system, i.e the Free and Compulsory Primary Education Bill.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gimme some of that!

Some of what? Some of the stuff that Shahid Afridi is smoking these days.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

A few bloggers are doing a great job of articulating problems with the increasing Mandalisation, and also of exposing the shoddy logic of some supporters of the same.

Falstaff again

The last para of the post by Ranjan had me totally ROFL -

Will you believe that I have met my office' liftman? Well he is a non-OBC local Maharastrian and did not come from Murho in Madhepura. Probably that's why B P Mandal didn't know there are poor non-OBC people to in India. And before you ask, I am against reservation for him too.


Kannada thespian Dr. Rajkumar passed away today, suffering a massive cardiac arrest.

His fans poured on the streets bringing Bangalore to a standstill, destroying private property and throwing stones.

This happens very often in India. It happened when MGR died in Chennai, and will happen whenever Thackeray passes away in Mumbai. I wonder if insurance companies fully cover for the cars burnt at such times. If they don't, then it's sad for the owners. If they do, then....interesting.... offers scope for insurance fraud.

A few irate fans said on TV "It is the government's fault that he died!!!!".


A Small Boost For Freedom

The Indian Nanny State has gotten a rare rebuff from the judiciary. The Bombay High Court has struck down the Maharashtra Government's Kafka-esque dance bar ban.

A tiny boost for freedom in India.

IIPM Students Speak Up

When the whole IIPM issue broke out, everyone asked, why are the students silent? In fact there were many obscene and threatening comments left on Rashmi's blog. If my blog had comments enabled, I am sure it would have been graced by the same. However it was very obvious that these people were not actually students of the institute, because there was nothing to gain from these comments for them. It was obvious who the trolls were, even from their IP address.

But the questions remained, why were genuine students silent?

Well, the students weren't exactly silent. A lot of them mailed me, although most were anonymous or were requesting that their identity be withheld. Only one person came forward, divulging his name and his telephone number. But the media didn't contact him.

I have now come to know about a site which is apparently set up by current students of IIPM. The site gives a lot of information from an insider's perspective about a lot of the issues surrounding the institute.

The site is IIPM Student's Union and the URL is

The detail in which each issue is addressed makes it obvious that this website is genuine. For instance, in the "free laptop" issue, they give the promised configuration and the one they actually got.

Do visit it and link to the site. By putting the site up, these students have shown great courage. Remember, the victims in this story are not Rashmi or Gaurav. The victims are the IIPM students. Through this site, they are taking an effort to demand for what they have been promised.

I wish them luck, and a bright future.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

South Park Plug

Do watch the episode of South Park called 'Smug Alert', the episode 2 from season 10 which was aired in the US. The transcript is available here.

Some people in the media, and on the blogsosphere need to watch/read it. :-)

An excerpt -

Keenan: I noticed it on the computer this morning. Look here. [a satellite map is shown, with a closeup window over it. There's smug everywhere] This is the smug over South Park. It's... getting bigger and gaining strength.
Cartman: [clearly doesn't know what's happening] The smug?
Keenan: The smug is getting so massive that it's moving west... and fusing with the San Francisco smug... Here. [points to the smug over the California-Nevada border, near Reno] These two smug clouds are combining, fueling each other. [moves his hand over the hurricane-like formation over the Nevada-Utah border] Now take a look at this. [moves his hand towards Souther California. A small cell is moving northward]
Stan: What is that?
Keenan: It's the smug from George Clooney's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.
Stan: George Clooney's acceptance speech?
Keenan: Did you hear it? He talked about how people in Hollywood are ahead of the curve on social mattes. He even took credit for the Civil Rights movement -Look!! The point is... the smug from his acceptance speech has been slowly drifting north since he gave it... and is headed straight for the supercell. The South Park and San Francisco smug is already at critical mass. If it gets hit by George Clooney's acceptance speech, it will be a disaster of epic proportions. The perfect storm... of self-satisfaction.


Naveen Says Quotas are Good!

Naveen Mandva says quotas are good, but only in the way that I think losing this ODI series against England would have been better for us than winning it. This win has caused a euphoria which has made us ignore what is wrong with the test team, just like after the Pakistan debacle. Ifwe lost ODIs too, a threshold would be caused leading to greater introspection and reevaluation, leading to improvements.

Similarly Naveen says,

Possibly we need a repeat of the '91 Liberalization in higher education. For that we need a crisis. A crisis is generated only when the present set-up will bleed itself. Hence I support the reservations. In fact, I wouldn't mind even 85% reservations. The short-run is painful. But I hold more optimism in the long run. Once they succeed in bleeding the higher education market will the citizens and policy-makers realise the importance of developing sound markets and not ruinously doctor them with policy measures like this. Once that happens a lot of other constraints like the no for-profit set-up in education and strictures on private universities may be removed. These factors are present not only in tertiary education but elementary education as well. All these measures only dampen the supply of education. In fact, I hope they don't get any bright ideas of providing vouchers to the students to choose their seats. That would only delay the crisis and possible recovery of education markets.

Heh. So true. We only learn after paying the price through huge crises.

By the way the post also links to an older post of Naveen's - Why IIPM is significant for Indian education?

That post was for me, perhaps one of the best posts in the whole IIPM controversy. Having been busy during those October days, I only noticed it much later, but for some reason forgot to plug it on my blog.

After the IIPM episode, a lot of people asked me if I now support government regulation, and how it was privatisation that led to IIPM and more privatisation would lead to more IIPMs. My response could not have been articulated better than what Naveen has written in this post.

Follow-Up Post

This is a follow-up to this post I made yesterday.

Chetan writes in -

Kancha ILiaiah is not a Dalit. He is a shudra (he belongs to a shephard community in Andhra) He champions a unity between Dalit-Bahujans. So this line...

Kancha Illaiah, if you are really interested in progress of the Dalits, stop supporting Mandalisation. Brahmins are victimised by Mandalisation, but the extent of the victimisation is a lot lesser than the Dalits. out of place and is jarring in an otherwise well-written post because Kancha Ilaiah is always targetted by dalit activists for helping BCs and OBCs at the expense of Dalits. So he is doing this knowingly and not because he isn't aware of the marginalisation of SC/STs owing to OBC reservations. Most Dalit writers oppose OBC reservations. The two people who champion Dalit causes and yet support OBC reservations are Kacha Ilaiah and VT Rajshekhar both of whom are OBCs themselves and hence are hated by other Dalit activists who are Dalits themselves.

Thanks for this info, Chetan.

I also wanted to point to this article by Chandra Bhan Prasad in Times of India which clearly spells out the problems with the Mandal report. A few excerpts -

why did L R Naik, the only Dalit member in the Mandal Commission, refuse to sign the Mandal recommendations?
Cutting across party lines, all are afraid of discussing his observations. Naik said that OBCs were made up of two large social blocks - landowning OBCs whom he describes as intermediate backward classes, and artisan OBCs whom he describes as depressed backward classes.
In 2006, justice demands that upper OBCs be expelled from the Mandal list, as MBCs are the truest inheritors of Mandal quotas. V P Singh refused to buy Naik's thesis because his eyes were on the powerful upper OBC vote bank.
The intelligentsia, which harps on social justice, too stood with upper OBCs, leaving MBCs to their fate.
The anti-Mandal lobby gained in legitimacy simply because Mandal went the wrong way. It is in that sense that Mandal hurts even Dalits.

A Sneaky Kinda Love

I have no clue when Bombay sneaked up on me and made me fall in love with it.

Like all Puneris, I used to hate Bombay because it was overcrowded, sweaty, dirty, hectic and big. I still hate the crowds, the sweat, the dirtiness, the hecticity(yes, i'll patent the word!) and bigness. And yet I love Bombay. I have no clue when I fell in love with the city. There was no active seduction, no wooing, not even a definitive takraar-to-pyaar song like Bollywood movies. And yet somehow I now find myself completely attached to this city.

I realise how much I miss Bombay when I am away from the city for more than 2-3 days. I don't know what I miss exactly. But when I am back, every few minutes, my love is reaffirmed. I break into a bessotted grin when the rickshawwallah returns me a 1 rupee coin when the fare is 49 and I have given him a 50 rupees note. The grin reappears at every such "typically-bombay" moment.

I will be leaving this city for good in July. And I'll miss it for sure. Because I share with it a sneaky kind of love.

Real Victims of Mandal - Dalits

As I have written before, the big evil for me is the government forcing reservations on private entities. It is wrong, and will lead us towards a Dystopian future.

Reservations in government-run entities is a different matter. I don't think that the government should run businesses such as these anyway because they are just subsidising the undeserving. But given their existence, the issue of reservations in state-owned entities should be viewed separately.

On a philosophical level, once allowance is made for existence of state-run entities, I see nothing wrong with imposing any decision of the parliament on it. It is a publicly-owned entity, set up by an act of the parliament, so any commands of the parliament should be applied.

The problem with reservations in IITs and IIMs and any other government-run entity is utilitarian. They end up fulfilling just a fraction of the goal they set out to.

Let us consider a few things here -

Dalits are very different from OBCs. According to the Hindu caste system, hindus were divided into a caste system. It was based on professions and one's profession was determined by his birth. These 4 castes were brahmins, who did schoalrly work, kshatriya, the warrior caste, vaishyas, the traders, and shudras, the manual labourers. Though no inter-mingling was allowed, each person belonging to these castes had a specific role in the Indian society and could earn his leaving honestly and under normal circumstances. Though brahmins were respected for their monopoly over cerebral work, the vaishyas and kshatriyas used to be wealthier. The shudras, though forbidden from cerebral work, still had several professions like shepherd, artisan, etc by which they could earn a living.

Outside the caste system were certain people considered casteless. These were the untouchables, with whom no Hindu of any of the 4 castes was allowed to have contact. They lived on the fringes of society and even in the best of times, struggled to make a living. They were not allowed access to water resources, temples etc. Their existence, for centuries, was inhuman beyond belief.

These untouchables are called Dalits, and in the reservation system, called SC/STs.

The OBCs, for whom the Mandal Commission recommends reservations, are not Dalit. They are made up of castes other than Brahmins. In fact if you look at communities which make up the OBCs, they literally represent every caste other than Brahmins. In Bihar, baniyas, i.e vaishya traders are OBC. In the north, the warrior Jats are OBC.

Now the OBCs historically suffered from one problem. They were not allowed access to the holy scriptures that the Brahmin was. So no cowherd or artisan could become a pundit. However, economically, a hundred years ago, they were no better or worse off than Brahmins.

What has constituted "education" and "learning" over the last century or so, is not and has never been monopoly of the Brahmins. Education and learning has been provided in schools and colleges. The Brahmins had as much access to it as any other castes. Their financial resources were as meagre as most OBCs.

The OBCs, over the years, have had similar access to a livelihood as an average brahmin. They are miles and miles better than the Dalits who led a sub-human existence.

The only disadvantage one can envision non-brahmins as having would be discrimination-based. i.e if for any job, the selection in subjective, then brahmins would be given preference.

Now if it is a privately owned company, then these rights to discriminate are inviolable. A person can be shamed or incentivized into having a non-discriminatory hiring policy, but should not be coerced by the state.

When it comes to hiring for government jobs however, the government has a right to take steps to do whatever the public madate thinks fit. So if subjective discrimination is feared in government jobs, then to avoid it, reservations for OBCs, or for anyone actually... can be rationalised.

But reservations, at least for OBCs, should be in place only to prevent discrimination. i.e if an otherwise capable candidate is being rejected only by virture of his caste. A quota in government jobs prevents such a and large.

But on these grounds, considering that OBCs were no better or worse in terms of resources and access to education, than Brahmins, I fail to see the rationale behind reservations in completely-objective selection procedures such as JEE and CAT or any other admission entrances.

In JEE or CAT, a candidate is just a roll number. A roll number has no caste or creed. So why do OBCs deserve reservation?

In case of Dalits, one can understand the reservations. They have suffered from years of oppression, and are still suffering due to lack of resources. So the government decides to give them a helping hand to them.

But why OBCs?

Now personally speaking, this has been my experience studying in an engineering college, the best in Pune, with a 49.5% reservation.

The cut-off for the 'general category' was 97% for my class.
The cut-off for SC/ST was 70%.

The cut-off for OBCs however was around 92-93% (ballpark).

So you can imagine the scenario. The bulk of OBC students in my class were, in terms of resource availability, not very different from the general category. Even during engineering, as a group, they did not do significantly better or worse than general students.

So what happened practically was, that these 92-93% scorers, who would otherwise have studied in a lesser college, ended up studying in the best college. And several brahmin students who would have otherwise studied in my college went to a lesser one.

I don't know what this achieved. Those students would have had decent careers even if they had gone to other colleges.

The "intention" of reservations...or at least of Ambedkar, the man who evisaged them, was to help the Dalits. What happened to the SC/STs in my class? Most of them flunked in the first year. A fraction would complete the course of course, but most Dalits would flunk out.

Why? For the simple reason that they had just not been prepared for the level of competition. If students who scored 90+ in HSC got around 60-70% in engineering exams, you can imagine how people who scored 70% in HSC would fare. That is assuming there is at least some correlation between HSC marks and engineering marks. The student got only 70% because usually, he did not have the time or resources over the course of his life, to hone, sharpen and develop his mind to that level. here I am assuming that genetics plays very little role in intelligence.

I am told this happens in IITs too. Most SC/STs either flunk out or get their degrees in 5-6 years, which makes them quite worthless, unless you want a job in a PSU which also has reservations.

So this whole Mandal commission implementation, at least in areas where the selection is objective, such as entrance exams, is futile.

What will happen is, around 400 students who would have otherwise studied in colleges like Symbiosis, Somaiya, TAPMI etc, with 96-97 percentile CAT scores, will end up going to IIMs. And 400 students with 99 percentile scores who would have otherwise gone to IIMs will go to Symbi, Somaiya, TAPMI etc.

The overall level of the IIMs will not really fall that much by the inclusion of the OBCs. Just like the level of my engineering college didn't fall. All this talk of fall in salaries and reputation etc is an over-reaction.

The overall positive is also the overall negative. The level won't fall because they are not that bad. But then if they are not that bad, why are they being given reservations in a completely objective selection procedure anyway?

Just to score a brownie point. The politicians will thump their chest and claim that they have done a lot by implementing the reservations.

Brahmins, OBCs and SC/STs who always had access to resources will keep doing well. Only there will be a slight churning like I indicated.

Brahmins and OBCs who didn't have the access to resources will continue to stay out.

Most SC/STs who make it despite being way below the cut-off will not be able to derive the benefits.

Of course, there will be a small percentage that will be an exception. There will be a small percentage of OBCs who had no access to resources, but fought all odds to score well. For instance, the son of a bhelwaala, who works all day, studies at night and scores 90% and the son of an engineer who studied all day, joined coaching classes, and scores 98%; both will probably do equally well in the course, if the bhelwala gets a scholarship and studies the same time as the other kid.

But such cases are too few and far in between. A huge chunk.... my guesstimate is 90% of OBC seats are taken by folks who have access to the same resources as Brahmin kids. Thus there is something horribly wrong in the way reservations are being implemented, even in government owned entities.

And the wrong will continue.

The ultimate sufferers are the Dalits, i.e the SC/STs. I think the biggest losers in the "rise" of the concept of OBCs are the Dalits. Mandal's biggest victims have been Dalits. With a constitutional sanction to pamper and appease the numerically superior non-brahmin-non-dalit folks, i.e the OBCs, politicians have no incentive anymore to even think of upliftment or well-being of the really needy folks, i.e the Dalits.

Caste-based politics has now become purely a numbers-game and has nothing to do with "upliftment of the downtrodden". And the true downtrodden, the true victims, i.e the SC/STs, the Dalits, will remain downtrodden, because it is easy to use their plight as an excuse to get free goodies for the non-brahmins and win elections.

Kancha Illaiah, if you are really interested in progress of the Dalits, stop supporting Mandalisation. Brahmins are victimised by Mandalisation, but the extent of the victimisation is a lot lesser than the Dalits.

The Dalits are the real victims of Mandal.

Update: Dhoomketu has a slightly dissenting viewpoint here.
My clarification - I admit that what I have stated about the opportunities for OBCs is largely anecdotal, and based on the experiences I had. There will certainly be a vast number of OBCs who will be very poor economically. What I am saying is that the level of oppression of these was nowhere as close to Dalits whose poverty can be almost exclusively blamed on the caste system. Many OBCs would be poor too, due to various circumstances. But a large number of OBCs are not poor. And the number is large enough to soak up all the benefits of reservations.

So what practically happens is a lot of folks who are no different from their Brahmin counterparts end up getting most of the benefit as it happened in my class.

I went through the 'creamy layer' criteria. When I was applying for engineering, or for IIM, I did not fit in a single of those criteria. i.e if I was born an OBC caste, then with the resources I had, I would be considered a non-creamy-layer candidate. Yet, growing up, I had access to everything needed to place me on equal footing with any other kid vying for an engineering or management seat.

In Dalits, the number of people who have access to resources is very very less even now. In OBCs it is not. A significant number of OBCs, enough to fill up the seats, were and do have those resources. That itself undoes Mandalisation's intentions.

Hollywood's RDB

Watched 'V for Vendetta'. Decent entertaining movie. It is based on a graphic novel released by DC Comics.

I can't help but think of it as Hollywood's 'Rang De Basanti'. I know that graphic novel fans will be offended that I compared it to RDB and RDB fans will be offended that I compared it to a graphic novel. But seriously, consider the similarities.

Both movies are about citizen vigilante-ism. Both movies decry government cover-ups. Both movies feature parallels with historic figures. And so on an so forth. I feel too lazy to list down further similarities, so make up your own.

Of course VFV is a lot more entertaining than RDB. And of course "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." is a much more pithy and meaningful line than the infuriatingly childish "Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota. Usey perfect banana padta hai."

One sad fact that I noticed about the movie is that another beauty has been lost to the dark forces of anorexia. Natalie Portman who used to be a normal well-rounded beauty has gone the starvation army way and looks like a skeleton with a face lift. It all started with the luscious Cameron Diaz who has never looked as ravishing as she did in Mask, thanks to being captured by the dark forces.

I fear the next victim will be Scarlett Johansson. Sob!


What the hell is happening in Fatullah? After taking a 158 run 1st innings lead against Australia, Bangladesh are off to a flier in the second innings!! As I type this, tea has been taken and Bangladesh are 41/0, and the lead is 199.

Can they? Will they?

In case I haven't written this before...test cricket rocks!!!!

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Blog on SENSEX

A friend of mine, Saylee, has started a blog which tracks the Sensex. Very useful.

S&Y Market View

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Two Sides of the Same Coin

How many of you recognize the fact that this and this are two sides of the same khota sikka - a setup that gives the state too much power riding roughshod over individual rights and freedom?

Not Surprisingly SBI

Suggested script for an ad -


A man stands in an elevator with an attendant, looking very awkward. Both men are visible only waist-up.

Man: Uhhh....SBI...State Bank of India... is still the same inefficient boorish and inconsiderate entity which cares two hoots about its customers.
Attendant nods

Man: I fell into the trap of their 'Surprisingly SBI' ads and believed that they really had changed. Bank mein account khola... salary account.... doston se shart lagaayi ke SBI badal gaya hai...haar gaya. Lost the bet. The last 10 days I haven't been able to withdraw a single paisa from my account. Have been forced to borrow from my friends who have their accounts in private banks. So lost the bet. Isiliye...

A longer shot reveals the man wearing no pants. He steps outside the elevator and everyone starts laughing. A message appears - "Not Surprisingly SBI"

A few suggestions for billboard lines -
"Guess which bank had the highest number of defunct ATMs for a week?"
"Guess which bank managed to hold to ransom 30% of depositors in the country?"

Not Surprisingly SBI!

My parents have a couple of accounts in some nationalised banks including State Bank of India, the pampered behemoth whose employees have managed to arm-twist the government into pampering them even further.

I have convinced them and a few other relatives to shut off their accounts in all nationalised banks and shift to private banks.

I would give the same suggestion to all readers of my blog who have accounts in nationalised banks. If you are as upset at the high-handedness and the impunity displayed by State Bank of India employees union, punish them by shifting to a private bank.

First the Airport strike and now this. Those who still believe governments should run businesses, please shift all your money to nationalised banks....or even better...cooperative banks.

Put your money where your mouth is - literally.

Towards Dystopia

A lot of dust has been kicked up over the OBC reservations proposed in IITs and IIMs and rightly so. But in this supposedly high-profile controversy, a more ominous happening is being ignored.

The amendment to the constitution which made these reservations possible also makes reservations possible in any educational institution, aided or unaided by the government. This means any private educational institution can be forced to reserve half its seats. Even if it is not financially aided by the government.

And even more ominously, it can include schools. So any private school can now be made to have 49.5% seats reserved.

Reservations in government institutions and government jobs, inspite of having miniscule effectiveness and being counter-productive, can at least rationalised at some levels. The public owns these entities. So the governemnt, elected by the public, will do what it sees fit.

But forcing reservations on privately owned independent entities is barbaric. It is a massive attack on freedom and rights of individuals. And the fact that the amendment was passed 379-2 in the Lok Sabha shows the scant respect that our supposed representatives have for individual rights and freedom.

This is a small but sure step towards reservations in private sector jobs. Seems almost Dystopian, but is very very real.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Review of 'Being Cyrus'

Watched 'Being Cyrus' at the Wave multiplex in Lucknow a couple of days back. Went in expecting a standard happy-go-lucky Ind-English movie with a Rohinton-Mistry-ish touch of Parsee lives. What I got was a superbly crafted, well written and brilliantly performed movie with probably the best screenplay in Indian cinema after Satya.

Homi Adajania's movie is mindbogglingly good. It has humour, drama, suspense, a slice of reality, and delicious performances, all wrapped in a slick 90 minute package that in a rare accomplishment for a Hindi film, leaves you pining for more by the time the end credits roll.

The Parsi community has given India a lot. Besides giving us soaps, shampoos, cupboards, cars and a national carrier, their unique history, quirky customs, and their unique assimilation intothe Indian mainstream even while retaining their own identity has given much fodder for great plays, books and movies. I expected Being Cyrus to be one such 'slice of parsi life' flick with lots of Fardoons and Dinshaws and tameras and ameras captured by the camera. The Parsi community which at one time occupied the hallowed upper echelons of colonial Indian setup have had to rub shoulders with commoners from Punjab, Karnataka, UP and Tamilnadu who are claiming their pieces of pie in the great Indian dream. The super rich Parsi still holds positions prominence, but the middle class Parsi who once held sway over other middle class gujjus, ghaatis and madraasis thanks to his mastery over the Queen's language and the gentleman's game has found himself paying the price of running in the same place. Others have caught up thanks to several english-medium-vidyalayas and cricket academies that have mushroomed everywhere from Pune to Patna. Though the accents and mannerisms of these Johnny-come-latelies from the boondocks may not be as refined as the South Mumbai ones they still possess enough knowledge and skill to compete on equal terms. And in a competition on equal terms, the numerically sparse Parsi is losing prominence. Today you see more of these boondocks-waasis lunching in the Taj and boozing at Geoffrey's.

'Being Cyrus' is indeed about all this. But it is also about so much more. It is about a man who does not quite know how to keep evolving with his talent. It is about a woman who is not quite satisfied with what she has got because she does not realise that she already has more than she deserves. It is about a man whose mindless mistreatment of his children comes back tohaunt him in ways unimaginable. It is about a man who is usually smugly drunk on a concoction of self-righteousness and cunning.

And of course it is about Cyrus.

Dimple Kapadia has been given a meaningful role after ages, and she delivers with finesse. Naseeruddin Shah and Saif Ali Khan are their usual competent selves. Boman Irani, who with his late arrival and consistent brilliance is to Indian films what Matthew Hayden is to Australian cricket, is the pick of the lot, portraying Farokh with perfection. Simone Singh grates a bit towards the end of the film. The surprise package is character actor Manoj Pahwa whose Inspector Maninder Lovely adds a lot more to the story than Adajania perhaps intended it to.

I am going to watch this movie on the big screen again when I return to Mumbai. If you haven't watched it yet, then go do so.

Back in Lucknow

This long unscheduled break in blogging has actually been as per schedule. I am travelling these days, and am back in the Great North Indian Plains again....Lucknow to be precise. I am travelling with milady, meeting herparents, relatives etc.

The train journey to Lucknow was dotted with stations which were infinitely cleaner than they used to be back when I travelled this route during my MBA. Prima facie, there seems an improvement in cleanliness of railway stations in Central and Northern India. I don't know how much credit goes to Lalu Yadav, but Indian Railways sure has been spruced up. The improvements in the ticketing systems are also welcome, since for the first time I booked tickets over the internet and used a printout as a ticket.

A friend from Bihar once said to me that people make the mistake of thinking that Bihar is badnaam due to Lalu. If they knew Bihar they would know that Lalu is badnaam due to Bihar. While his stint at the Railway Ministry started with a lot of gimmicks like the kullhar decision, he seems to be proving himself quite capable with his work over the last couple of least no less capable than an average politician.

Lucknow itself hasn't changed much. There are more retail outlets and more guns....though I don't necessariy imply a link between the two.

The food in Avadh is as yummy as ever, and I am stuffing myself silly with kababs, mughlai parathas, chaat, and everything that is edible.