Vantage point

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Time after time, I have been apalled by how insensitive the Indian media is towards the dignity and rights of the dead or the injured. In an attempt to sensationalize news and grab attention and viewership, they show the most grotesque visuals. AajTak pioneered this, and the image I am still unable to shake off is of Phoolan Devi's shattered head, which an Aajtak reporter snuck into the morgue to film and broadcast. Whenever there is a terror attack or riots, the Indian media shows scant respect towards the victims.

The Indian blogosphere has usually been very critical of these cheap tactics of the media. The dead and the mourning deserve respect and privacy. It is possible to tell news about them without encroaching on this privacy.

So it is unfortunate to see that one blogger - Shivam Vij, who could not have fallen from my estimation further than he actually has, has followed the same Aajtakian mindset. Under the garb of reporting the suffering of Dalits and proving his "enlightened credentials", he has plastered pictures of naked and half-naked blood-splattered dead-bodies on his blog. I wonder if he considers this Faustian decision of his to rob the dead of their last shred of destiny, a price worth paying for increased attention, more hits, and maybe a few more writing assignments.

Writing this is pointless, because knowing him, he will have a hundred justifications full of post-modernistic-jargon for what he has done. And in writing this post I know I have already fed part of his attenion-seeking-appetite which was the motivation behind posting those gruesome pictures.

Update: Greatbong's post is a good example of how you can blog about the incident, and express your horror and sympathy without having to depend on privacy-violating pictures. Of course, Shivam couldn't resist going there and shamelessly plugging his own post.

Update: As I logged in to my mail account from NY, I read a mail informing me that Shivam's fertile imagination has come up with a conspiracy theory for the link to his blog being wrong, which was due to a typo. In blogger if you forget to add "http://" before the blog, the link goes wrong. Anyway, I am correcting the link, especially moved by this comment. Don't be surprised if he clarifies "I was being sarcastic". By the way Aaj Tak watcher has to be the lamest pejorative ever. Even lamer than when he called me a Shivsainik. :)

The Ugliness of SEZs

SEZs are ugly in many different ways.

What is an SEZ? An SEZ is a Special Economic Zone wherein the government sets aside a lot of land and attracts companies to set up facilities, usually manufacturing. These SEZs have special laws separate from the rest of the country, which make it easier to do business, bring in foreign investment, generate employment and create an island of prosperity.

Thus an SEZ is, for all practical purposes foreign land with laws of its own. In India, the proposed SEZs will have labour laws and tax regimes which will be more liberal than the rest of the country. The very need to set up SEZs is a tacit confession of the fact that policy and laws in place are draconic, counter-productive, lack any benefit, and actually end up hurting not just the bigger components of the economy but even the common people. If it is an understanding of the sheer wrongness of the laws that results in setting up of SEZs, why not do away with those laws altogether? Why not make the entire country an SEZ?

By now everyone and their uncle has realised that the idiotic labour laws in this country actually end up harming the very common man that they pretend to protect. The labour laws have ended up severely restricting the size of our organized workforce, leading to massive underemployment of people who are forced to work in the unorganized sector, or stick to that treacherous and thankless profession - subsistence agriculture. It has been empirically seen that wherever labour laws are reformed, employment and incomes go up.

The tax regime in this country is also as convoluted and useless as can be. It ends up disincentivizing growth and incetivizing corruption. The implementation of VAT was done in such a haphazard manner that it has not made any difference. We still have excise, octroi, and a score of other tax windows. This has resulted in massive rent-seeking from the players involved.

The process involved in setting up a factory is also similarly harmful. It is a hindrance to the growth of organized sector employment. It benefits no one but the bureaucrats and ministers who line their pockets, and those industrialists who know enough to work the system and get unfair benefits.

And finally there is the ugliest feature of SEZs - land-grabbing. The land "alloted" to SEZs is typically not owned by the government. The government grabs the land like a bully, usually from small farmers and poor people, at a pittance. And then sells or leases it to the industry at an exponentially higher price, paid officially as well as unofficially, pocketing the profit. So the bank accounts of babus and ministers as well as the national or state exchequers are filled at the expense of those very poor and small people whom the socialist Indian state pretends to protect.

This ugliness should be done away with. Reform labour laws, industrial regulations and tax laws for the entire country. Whatever special laws are being drawn up for SEZs, make them applicable to the whole country. Reinstate right to property as a fundamental right in the constitution. Give people the right to negotiate the prices for selling their own property. Enough of using the ruse of "greater common good" to actually cause "greater common evil which benefits only a select few".

Let these SEZs bloom on their own. It makes financial and economic sense for industries to be set up in a common location. It saves the costs involved in providing infrastructure.

But the current way of SEZ-ization is wrong. The prevalence of archaic kleptocratic laws in the rest of the country and the land grabbing from poor people makes the SEZs nothing but pockets of ugly travesty.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

If you've read Milan Kundera's classic novel, you will completely understand my skepticism as I picked up the DVD and examined it quizzically. How could anyone be audacious enough to presume he could actually make a film on 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being?". So much of the magic in Kundera's writing is in his observational philosophical expositions. So much of the book's central import came from how Kundera wrote about lightness and weight. Could any film ever capture that?

This film didn't exactly capture it. But then to its credit, it didn't try to. At least not in a way that would make it seem like the director tried too hard. I was half-expecting some sort of narration or voiceover, but fortunately there was no such thing. The film just tells the story of Tomas, Tereza and Sabina. And even just the story is enough to make it a good film. And even telling the story faithfully manages to convey the book's central consciousness.

The casting is almost perfect. Daniel Day Lewis is almost a perfect Tomas, in his sincerity, intensity, integrity as well as his suave flirtations. Len Olin wears Sabina like a second skin. Even the dog chosen to play Karenin is just apt. But the most on-target performance was by Juliette Binoche. She is the perfect Tereza and I am sure even Kundera could not have imagined a better portrayal.

The film does not have many intense or long-winding dialogues and the actors make brilliant use of their facial expressions as well as body language to flesh out the characters faithfully. They are assisted by a seamless screenplay and crisp editing, especially in the final scenes when the linear chronology is abandoned to triumphant effect.

As expected, the film has many love scenes, and all of them are sensuously erotic, and not pedestrian and contrived like in Hollywood. One particular scene featuring Sabina and Tereza, which is technically not even a love scene but more slumber-party-pillow-fight-like in nature, is brilliantly done and both Olin and Binoche excel in portraying the right emotions.

This film is a perfect narration of the story on The Unbearable Lightness.. and any Kundera fan must watch it at once.


Anodyne - that is the word most suitable to describe food in Indian restaurants in USA.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Impressions of Washington DC

Overall, a bit underwhelming. It doesn't convey the sense of grandeur and importance that one expects from a place where decisions impacting the whole world are made. The White House at first glance made me feel the same thing that I felt when I saw the Taj Mahal at first glance. Of course as you go closer, and enter the Taj, it impresses you beyond description. And I obviously wasn't invited inside the White House, so Dubya's pad didn't get a full opportunity to impress me.

One view that takes your breath away is when you stand at the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial at night and look at the Washington Memorial and the Capitol Building behind it.

Irony- A woman fusses a lot about the angle and the frame while clicking the picture of a particular section of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Looks very emotional and all. And after the picture is taken, while walking away tramples over a rose someone has placed near the meorial, and doesn't even notice it. Check the picture my friend Simon clicked -

Yes, it is true. All cab drivers are indeed brown.

Just outside Washington there is the "George Bush Centre for Intelligence". Yes I know, it is named after Bush Sr. And I know that Inteligence refers to the CIA type intelligence. Yet it is difficult not to laugh for a couple of minutes after reading "George Bush Centre for Intelligence".

Most Comfortable Beggar in the world - A visibly over-weight man sitting on the Starbucks table nursing two cups. One cup has coffee and the other cup has change. And as Starbucks customers pass him to sit down with their coffee, he asks them if they can spare some change.

Bishop Allen rocks. Download some songs from the website I say.

The French for 'Gilmore Girls' is 'Gilmore Girls'(don't even try to make sense of this observation).

Crossing the street when a marathon is running on it requires dexterity, agility, coordination and a lot of shamelessness.

Most DC license plates say "Taxation Without Representation". That really is a major beef they have with life.

The guy in charge of deciding street names in Washington was lazier than even me. Numbers, Letters and states. That's all. White House is on Pennsylvania Avenue. Woohoo!! Go PA!!

When you find a stack of Maggi Masala Noodles packets on the shelf of a store, buy them all.

Definition of "double bed" is singularly weird in Washington.

Review of "Sarivar Sari"

Marathi cinema has been stuck in an unenviable position over the last couple of decades. Since the Hindi film industry is in Bombay, it means that top Maharashtrian talent would rather do Hindi films for greater pay as well as greater recognition. Also since everyone in Maharashtra understands Hindi, it means that the masses who make films commercially successful on a large scale, will watch Hindi films. So financially, Maharashtrian cinema can never scale heights similar to Tamil cinema.

However with the advent of multiplexes, it has become possible to target niche audiences whose size might not be big enough to command big budgets, but is big enough to make a film with a moderate budget. The first major success of such niche-driven-marathi-cinema was Shwaas. Mainstream Bollywood could never pull off a Shwaas. But the substantial educated and refined Marathi middle class made it successful enough to become India's official entry for Oscars.

I just finished watching another such movie - Sarivar Sari ( the title means 'Torrent after Torrent' Note - the sari here is not pronounced sari as in the item of slothing. the sar- is pronounced like in sarpanch). I can't see Bollywood pulling off the movie, either mainstream or even multiplex. The movie is set against a very middle class frame of reference, most components of which are universal to any part of India, but some of which are very specific to Maharashtra.

Sarivar Sari is mainly the story of Manisha(Madhura Velankar), a girl from a lower middle class Marathi family in Mumbai. Manisha is confident, aggressive, amost tomboyish, and is ambitious, but not like her sister Mini(Manasi Salvi). Mini is studying in a medical college, has always been a good student, and is the apple of her father's eye because in her he sees a promising ambitious girl who will reach beyond the shackles of poverty and make it big. Manisha is different, almost reminiscent of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa's Shahrukh. She is promising, but in her own way, and her talents are of a non-academic nature. Her father is always pissed off at her for wasting her time, and not following in her elder sister's footsteps.

Manisha does a fashion show in college, is "discovered" and gets a modelling contract. That is when all hell breaks loose. Her father literally beats her up and she runs away from home.

Some may confuse the movie's central theme to be feminism, and how the Indian woman is subjugated by the male. Indeed, there are enough characters thrown in to derive such a conclusion. There's the mother who has spent her life in toiling for the family but has no say in any of the family's decisions. There's the bar dancer who is the sole bread-winner in her family and yet has to take abuse from her husband. There's the over-the-hill model who makes every compromise possible, but later commits suicide because her boyfriend refuses to divorce his wife and marry her.

Sarivar Sari however is first and foremost Manisha's story, and it is a story not of feminism, but of individualism. It is a story of how the world tries to shackle an individual by imposing upon him/her some preconceived notions of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. But finally it is up to the individual to evaluate his/her own definitions of right and wrong, and not conform with those of the world.

I especially loved the scene in which Manisha gets the modelling offer and asks her sister what she should do, knowing that their parents are very old-fashioned and will never allow her to model. Her sister says to her - "What you should do... is not something that is my place to tell you... what you shouldn't do... is something that I don't have the courage to tell you".

When Manisha finally jumps into the world of modelling, she predictably faces many challenges. She doesn't compromise on her definitions of right and wrong, and holds her own, through several situations, again predictably.

But what I found unpredictable, and even courageous was the ending. I never thought that an Indian filmmaker would have the courage to end the film on this note. After fighting off several inappropriate advances, including offers to sleep with someone for getting a good assignment, Manisha is offered an international assignment in which she has to pose nude.

I seriously expected her to turn it down, just like she fought off the amorous photographer, the lecherous co-ordinator, and the sex-for-work offer. After all, this is an Indian movie, and nude shots are "wrong" and all that. An Indian girl may wear skimpy clothes, kiss on screen, shake her butt even. But nudity? No no, sorry, no nudity, we are Indian. Maan, maryada, izzat and all that. However, Manisha accepts the assignment and agrees to do the nude shots.

When she tells this to her family, her sister, who has supported all this while flinches and asks her "Why? What is the need to do it?". Manisha's answer is so clear, logical and convincing that it's encouraging to see it in an Indian movie. She says - "Again, the same question of traditional rights and wrongs. No one is pressuring me to do the nude shots. And I am not doing them because I am in some sort of need. I want to test myself.I want to break not just the old traditional barriers, but even the new ones. I know for sure that I am not just a doll. I am not just my body. I am so much more. My intelligence, my ideals, my talent, my confidence are all a part of what I am. And I want my family to share my successes with me."

Sarivar Sari is a film that deserves a wider audience, and if you get your hands on a DVD of the film with sub-titles, do watch it. Let's hope more such movies are made in India which actually address relevant issues instead of just glossing over them. Take a bow, Gajendra Ahire.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Princess and the Soldier

A: Once a soldier saw the princess of his kingdom and fell in love. He told her that though he was a mere soldier he thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and he was in love with her. The princess was touched by the soldier's sincerity. She told him that if he really loves her, he should stand beneath her balcony for 100 days and 100 nights. If he can wait for her that long, she will be his. So the soldier went and waited below her balcony. One day, two days, ten days, twenty days. Each evening the princess looked out and he was there. Standing, waiting for her her. Birds would shit on his head, bees woud sting him, but he didn't move. He just stood there. After ninety days and ninety nights he became dry and white. He couldn't hold back anymore. Tears streamed from his eyes and he didn't have the strength even to sleep. At long last it was the 99th night. One more night and she would be his. But on the 99th night the soldier got up, and left.
S: What happened at the end?
A: That is the end. Don't ask me what it means. I don't know.

Which movie is this dialogue from? (not verbatim, largely reproduced from memory).

Much later in the movie, S tells A he's finally understood why the soldier left on the 99th night. What does S say is the reason?

Send your answers to gaurav.sabnis(at)

Update: The quote is from the classic Italian movie Nuovo Cinema Paradiso as quite a few of you guessed. However no one was able to remember Salvatore's explanation.

He says that the soldier realised on the 99th day that the next day, the princess might be his. But she might even break her promise. And that would have broken his heart and dented his love. So rather than risk his heart being broken, he left on the 99th day, carrying with him his love for her, untouched and pure.

And that is why he left.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Summer of 69

There are a lot of things wrong with our country. Poverty, corruption, Yashraj Films etc. But the wrongest thing of them all is how everyone seems to love Bryan Adams' Summer of 69. I hate that song. I despise it. Not only is it boring, shrill, and retarded, it gives the hallowed institution of '69' a bad name. Everytime the song plays in some party or club and people start singing along... I feel like executing each and every one of them. Out of politeness I have always kept my hatred of the song to myself. But when I finally saw someone else, i.e Hari Kondabolu sharing my viewpoint, it motivated me to get over my laziness and make my first ever youtube clip post.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What Was She Thinking?

What exactly was Kareena Kapoor thinking when she agreed to do the cameo in Farhan Akhtar's remake of Don? Did she really think she could fill dancing shoes as sultry, graceful, and shapely as Helen's? I just saw the new "Yeh Mera Dil" and it is a disaster. She doesn't have the curves, the moves or the sass to come within even a parsec's distance of Helen's original shimmy.

Akhtar would have done well to hire one of the hundreds of Remix Rambhas, maybe even their Squadron Leader, Rakhi Sawant for the role. What he has ended up doing is weakening his film, which already faces a pretty formidable challenge in matching up to the original. The song had me rolling on the floor laughing. It wasn't just her dancing and emoting. Even the dress she wears is ridiculous. Thank heavens she didn't try to replicate the crawl-on-the-floor-and-flick-the-bullet-away routine like Helen.

I think the only reason Akhtar cast her in this role is so that people whould be so busy thinking "Kareena is so not Helen", that it would distract them from thinking "Sharukh is so not Amitabh".

Enemy's Enemy is My Friend

The main reason why most secular commentators and columnists have been widely viewed as pseudo-secular in the last decade or so is their conscious or unconscious embracing of the age-old adage - my enemy's enemy is my friend.

There is no doubt that right-wing politics is a big threat to our country's stability. And it is the sign of our being a reasonably healthy democracy, that the biggest critics of Hindutva politics are often Hindus themselves. Even though what happened in Gujarat in 2002 was tragic and heinous, the way the media covered it, and followed up on it was encouraging.

Where the seculars lose the plot is equating right-wing with hindutva. All hindutvawadis are right-wing. But not all right-wingers are hindutvawadis. A Mulayam Singh is as right-wing as a Bal Thackeray. So what if he calls his party 'samajwadi'? The tactics, the thought process, and the sins are all almost identical. However you will very rarely see the secular columnists breathing fire at Mulayam Singh's actions and policies, which are as much a threat to secularism, as the actions and policies of Narendra Modi.

In fact a few days back, something remarkable happened. A blogger was going around sticking up for Mulayam Singh Yadav, protesting that his name was being mentioned in the same breath as Modi and Thackeray. And in that lies the whole reason behind secularists being called secularist. If a well-read, well-informed journalist who grew up in Uttar Pradesh is ignorant of why Mulayam deserves to be in the same list, it shows how skewed the press has been.

Bombay riots happened in 1993. Gujarat riots happened in 2002. And even today you see articles being written about them. Nothing wrong with it. The press is acting like a watchdog, and we should be proud of it. But I am amazed at why the same commentators and columnists hardly ever write about the Mau riots. Or the riots in Kerala. Or the first ever Hindu-Muslim riots in Lucknow earlier this year fuelled by, of all possible reasons, George Bush's visit.

Columnists who are opposed to sectarian ideologies would be expected to be apalled by all sectarian crimes, regardless of who commits them. Especially when these sectarian crimes are cyclical. When a Hindu mob goes on a riot, often it does so believing it is extracting revenge. When a Muslim mob goes on a riot, it too does so believing it is extracting revenge. The whole process is cyclic. And yet, most commentators concentrate on only one half of the cycle.

These commentators don't realise that their views add to this this polarisation. No, I am not saying they alienate Hindus by writing against Modi and Thackeray. They alienate Hindus by not writing about Mulayam. They alienate Hindus by not protesting against the Madani resolution. they alienate Hindus by not writing about the Bhiwandi riots.

And this alienation is growing. There are several commentators who were once viewed as respectable but are now thought of as pseudo-secular. And it is all because they believe, consciously or unconsciously, that the enemy's enemy is a friend. They seem to be under the impression that criticizing Mulayam and Madani would somehow equate to playing into the hands of the Hindutvawadis.

I got a personal demonstration of this attitude a few days back. On a blog, responding to the aforementioned blogger, I laid down facts about Mulayam's sins. The 1990 riots, Mau riots, Lucknow riots. In response, there was a comment saying I was "sucking up to the Hindutva folks". Note that in my comment I didn't even mention Hindutva. I didn't concoct any facts. All I did was note the riots which Mulayam has been responsible. And that was seen as sucking up to the Hindutva brigade?

This mentality, which is so deep-rooted is what fuels pseudo-secularism. And unless the secular commentators introspect and take corrective actions, in a few years they will lose their credibility completely.

Me Ani Mazha Shatrupaksha by P.L. "PuLa" Deshpande

Mi Ani Mazha Shatrupaksha...translates as "Me and My Enemies". It is a hilarious essay which will strike anyone, regardless of their background, as relevant. Because the enemies described in this essay are universal, crossing the barriers of language, religion and nationality. Read on and you will know why.

Here I have translated just the part about the house tour. The essay also speaks about hunters who boast about their kills. And people who go to exotic locations for a holiday and insist on boring you to death by making you look at all the pictures.

I have a few sworn enemies. Hunters who torment you with detailed accounts of how they killed a tiger in some remote Hittargi or Fittargi jungles. Or then people who have just built a new house, or are in the process of building a house, and who torture you by taking you on a "house tour".

This incident took place recently.

City - Pune
Time - A scorching afternoon in May

I was passing by a house under construction when someone called out my name.

"Oh wow, wow, wow, what a rare honour", said a man covered from head to toe in cement, lime, paint and other construction material. Flashing a smile which gave the impression of him having 64 teeth instead of 32, and jumping over the iron rods like a male rabbit running after a female rabbit, he approached me.

I didn't recognize him initially, because his identity was deftly concealed by by various amorphous ingredients. A few seconds later I placed him. I know a few hundred people by the name 'Kulkarni' and he was one of those Kulkarnis.

"Oh Hello, what are you doing here?", I asked attempting some small talk.

"What am I doing here? You mean you don't know??" he asked with amazement overflowing from his voice.

"Don't know what?"

"I'm building a house!!" Kulkarni said. Initially I had him pegged as contractor of some sort.


"What do you mean really? You mean you haven't heard about it? That's strange." he said.

Now why on earth should I know that Kulkarni is building a house? But most people who are building or buying a house are of the firm opinion that it is a matter of national importance which everyone has to be aware of.

"Didn't Vashya Joshi tel you?" he further queried.

"Yes, yes, he did, I think he did. I must have forgotten". Now this is not lying. This is a universal method to avoid as much awkwardness in life as possible.

"Come on, I'll give you a tour" he grabbed hold of me.

"Actually you know Kulkarni, I am looking for an address. This Doctor Khurmandikar..." I tried to escape.

"Ya ya, the doctor is not running away anywhere. Come on."

Resistance is completely useless you are trapped in the "house tour" vortex. So Kulkarni started dragging me across a plank placed over a gutter.

Now if a butcher told a lamb "I am shortly going to run a knife through your throat", then the enthusiasm with which the lamb would follow the butcher, approximates the enthusiasm with which I was following Kulkarni.

Now here I am compelled to make a clarification. If somebody is building a house... even if it is the Taj Mahal, i do not feel any envy, jealousy, resentment towards them provided they don't insist on dragging me on a tour of the house.

So I gingerly negotiated that plank and followed Kulkarni past the heaps of bricks, rubble, iron rods and other stuff. During the whole time Kulkarni kept his commentary going non-stop, without letting me utter anything more than "Ok" "Is it?" "Oh ok" or something similar.

"Wait, let me show you the plan first" Kulkarni said and unrolled a big blueprint in front of me. Now blueprints are completely greek to me. Except for the name of the engineer who has drawn up the plan, I can't make head or tail out of anything.

Kulkarni however was looking at the blueprint with an eagerness usually reserved only for smut mag centrefolds.

"OK, so now do you get it? This is north. And this is south. And this is east..."

"Oh yes, right, facing east", I uttered some nonsense just for the sake of saying something. Facing east... what the hell is facing east?

"..yes, and this is West. So you see, the house is aligned in the Northern direction"

At that moment my leg was experiencing an overwhelming urge to express itself on Kulkarni's southern end.

I didn't pay any attention to the first twenty or so statements of Kulkarni. Then I heard him say.

"See, this is the drawing room. It's 20 by 24."

"That's great!" If Kulkarni had told me it was 0.5 by 1.5 I would still have said that's great. I felt like catching hold of one of the workers on the site and asking him if he knew how to bury a live man in a wall.

"Yes, I have made it very spacious. It's dining-cum-drawing." I had no intentions of ever coming to Kulkarni's place for dining or for drawing.

"Now look at the trick I have played here." It was news to me that people play tricks even while building houses.

Now all of a sudden, I looked at the plan with the confidence of someone whose last ten generations were architects.

"But Kulkarni, tell me, where is the entrance for this drawing room?"

Now actually I had no interest whatsoever in how Kulkarni, his Kulkarness, or the tiny Kulkarnlets entered the drawing room. But I have this extremely effective technique to cope up with irritation. If something is irritating you, act as if it is happening for your benefit and take unnecessary interest in it. So if your neighbour is playing music a little too loud, tell yourself he is playing it for you, and try to sing along. Try it, it's very effective in handling irritation.

"Hang on. Let's go step by step. Now I have kept a reception room outside the drawing room. That way anyone should not be able to walk directly into the drawing room. Right?"

"Yes yes, so many people walk in." again, an unnecessary addition from my side. So many people walk in? What was that supposed to mean?

"This is where all the shoes will be kept."

"Where?" I looked for a place on the blueprint to keep my shoes.

Now the blueprint kept shrinking into a roll every few minutes. We had to straighten it out every few minutes. These blueprints are just like a dog's tail. No matter what you do, you can't straighten them out. So Kulkarni held two corners and I held two corners. Sweating under the hot May afternoon sun. Mud, lime, cement, paint ruining our clothes. Why me? Why me?

"OK, now look at this door which leads towards the sitting-cum-bed-room. That's the dining-cum-drawing hall. And this is the study-cum-guest-room." After a while Kulkarni started looking to me like a human-cum-satan.

"Now look at this. This is the staircase to go up..."

Oh god! It's got two floors! More pain! Kulkarni will eat up another hour ravenously.

"Upstairs, there's a terrace." he said

"Oh terrace? Good. Good for hanging clothes to dry." That's all someone like me can think of when it comes to a terrace.

"I am planning to have a terrace garden here." Kulkarni chirped.

Now whether Kulkarni used the terrace to build a garden, or to jump to his own death, I had no interest in it. But Kulkarni was holding forth. For the next hour or so he made me pore over the plan in more detail than I would have ever dreamed possible.

"Now this is the kitchen. It will have all facilities. Lots of burners, lots of closets, lots of cabinets. And look at the trick I have played here." I looked at the spot he had put his finger on to learn about the trick.

"See if you put the used dishes here, they will slide to the sink outside for the maid to wash. Automatic!"

"Wow, what a trick!" Now actually I had said this sarcastically. But kulkarni was way past recognizing sarcasm.

These tricks or innovative facilities is a major obsession with people building their new houses, especially when they are telling unsuspecting souls about them. Closets in the wall. A bed which hides in the wall. A couch which turns into a bed. A bed which turns into a table. A table which turns into a chair. Dining-table-cum-bed. A wall of windows. windows with foldable panes. Folding kitchen. Lamp-cum-flower-pot..... oh god!

If someone opens the main gate, a bell goes off inside. If someone doesn't close the gate, it goes off again. The things these people are obsessed with!

This one guy I know had gone completely overboard. He was telling me about how if someone is at the door, it doesn't ring a bell, but lgihts a bulb somewhere in the house. Then some concealed mirror shows you who is at the door. If it is someone unwanted, you press another button. Then an automatic mechanical dog comes out of somewhere and snaps at the visitor's trousers. He was telling me all this with barely concealed glee. He said he had even planned to arrange for an automatic rock to fall on the visitor's head. But in case the visitor moved, then the rock would hit the floor and ruin the tiles, so he didn't put that facility in.

"Visit me some time. I'll show you how much fun it is." he said with a twinkle in his eye. Obviously, i didn't visit him. But once a man visited me to collect donations for a public satyanarayan pooja. I gave him the address and told him he was assured of a big donation from there.

Anyway, back to Kulkarni. After wasting an eternity on the plan, he dragged me towards the construction.

"Come, I'll show you the work that's been done" he dragged me over another plank. As I was crossing the plank, the foot of my trouser got stuck in an iron rod and tore open.

"Oh no. Your trouser's torn? Tch tch. You know what I do is, I always wear shorts when I come here?" Kulkarni said. Oh great. So in case I might get ensnared by a predatory house owner, I should walk around town wearing shorts all the time? I stepped through the site carefully. Kulkarni however was frolicking around like an excerpt.

"Careful, the ceiling is being plastered here.." just as he said that, a glob of plaster fell on my blue coat creating an impromptu Rorschach test.

"Oh, don't mind that. It'll wash off easily" Kulkarni's thick skin would give Assamese rhinos a complex.

"Now look at this. This is the servants' toilet." The price I had to pay to look at Kulkarni's servants' toilet, was the hefty drycleaning bill for my coat.

"The servants' toilet is Indian style. All other toilets have commodes." Kulkarni was narrating all this with a bizarre kind of joy. Why should I have to know which the Kulkarni household and their help use to ceanse their bowels?

House owners will bore you not just with the facilities. They will also unload on you tales of how they managed to procure all the raw material like cement, bricks and stones. And they will keep quizzing you like you are some expert. This one house owner I know seemed to be under the impression that I am a qualified carpenter, mason, and plumber.

"Now these stones... look at these stones... guess where I got them from?"

How should I know where he got the stones? To end the discussion soon I said,

"From the stone market?" I hoped my sarcastic answer would give him a hint. But people who are building a house, maybe because of the cement that they are around all the time, become impenetrable to anything.

"Haha, no. I got these stones from a special quarry twenty miles away. These stones are so much better. Now look at this ordinary stone which you will get from a contractor. And look at my stone."

He made me hold both the heavy samples in my hand. And for the next two hours, he made me take the tour with the two stones in my hand, the ordinary stone in my left and his special stone in my right, until my mind was numbed with boredom.

That day I learnt first-hand why being mind-numbingly dazed is called "being stoned".

Piled Higher and Deeper

It's a ritual... a rite of passage... an absolute imperative that must be fulfilled by any PhD student before the end of first semester. Start working on a paper? Commit yourself to one prof? Go for a seminar? NO!

The one thing every PhD student must do to become one with the community, is spend an entire night, burning the midnight oil, reading all the archived strips from 1997 to 2006, at Roflacious stuff!

Here are some from the first season I found particularly hilariously relevant -

Hot T.A.
Spring Break

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Nagesh Kukunoor's Dor has a lot going for it. A true story which is touching without being melodramatic. Excellent locales in the form of the hills of Himachal and the dunes of Rajasthan. Good editing, similar to Iqbal, which makes the film crisp.

And yet, as the end credits rolled I felt disappointed. Mainly because of the two leading ladies. Gul Panag and Ayesha Takia were both mouthing their dialogues as if they were written using the roman alphabet. There was no fluidity in their diction and the dialogue delivery jarred. This made even the most powerful scenes seem tepid.

Shreyas Talpade however excelled as the talkative behrupia. Perhaps to compensate for making him stay quiet during the entire movie in Iqbal, Kukunoor has given him a lot to say. There are accents, there are wisecracks, there's mimicry, there's even a drunken scene. Talpade, who I realised bears an uncanny resemblence to Ritesh Deshmukh. However he is far more talented than the mukhyamantriputra.

Other Iqbalites making an appearance are the competent Girish Karnad and Pratiksha Lonkar.

But the film is supposed to belong to the two young ladies, and I feel Kukunoor went horribly wrong with the casting. Panag is still able to pull of the confident-independent-minded girl to a large extent. But Takia seems as convincing a Rajasthani widow as Dave Chapelle would a Santa Claus. She should stick to playing perky well-stacked young woman roles.

One high point of the movie was the portrayal of the relationship between the behrupia(Talpade) and Zeenat(Panag). Especially the scene where the behrupia confesses his love to her is well-handles.

So overall, Dor is worth a watch. But definitely not Kukunoor's best. Though it does give an insight into why Gul Panag didn't become a successful mainstream actress like so many Miss Indias before. No, it's got nothing to do with acting or diction.... Aishwarya is successful isn't she? It's because Gul Panag is probably the one human being alive who dances worse than me. Check her out during the kajrare-in-the-desert sequence. She can be the poster girl for all us two-left-feeters.

Ed Wood

What do you do when you read a list of the worst directors of all time? If you're Tim Burton, you make a movie based on the life of the guy who topped the list.

Ed Wood is a by-and-large true story about a hugely unsuccessful director. This film tells the story of failure. And yet it is not a depressing tear-jerker. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Ed Wood keeps you rooting for his next film to be a hit, even when you know that it's not going to happen. Ed Wood had self-doubts like any other guy. But above all else, Ed Wood had supreme confidence in his abilities.

Teachers, parents, friends, and motivational speakers keep underlining the importance of confidence. Be confident about your abilities, give it your best shot, and success is assured. Ed Wood is the rare film that tells you, that at times you can give it your best shot, have supreme confidence, and yet all you will be successful only at being the biggest failure ever. Sometimes, many times, you are just not good enough.

The film is shot entirely in black-and-white, giving it an authentic 50s feel. Ironically, you can see that a lot of effort has been put into making the shoddy sets look genuine. Like any movie in which he stars, Depp eclipses this one too by pulling out another persona out of his hat. Seriously, the man has a wider repertoire of mannerisms, emotions and personalities than humanly possible.

If you want to see what the word tragicomic exactly means, watch Ed Wood.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Quiz Question

Which film, incidentally the only English film of the director, very aptly has its opening credits spoken out rather than appear on screen? As the credits are being read out, we see shots of different television antennae.

Update: 3 correct answers out of 12 attempts. The answer of course is, Francois Truffaut's film on Ray Bradbury's cult classic Fahrenheit 451.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bill O'Reilly and Delicious Irony

Yes, this observation has probably been made by every cricket fan who came to the US and watched Fox News. So this is my time to ruminate on the deliciousness of this irony.

Bill O'Reilly is a right winger and hosts The O'Reilly Factor on Fox. And do you know what he calls the show? He calls it a 'No Spin Zone'! Imagine that. His name is Bill O'Reilly. And he calls his show a No Spin Zone.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Shoddy Logic

Afzal should be hanged. He waged war against the state. There are several other reasons to support his hanging.

But the shoddiest reason I have heard is that we should hang him to prevent another IC814 type hijacking from happening. Hang him for the crimes he committed.

And if we want to avoid hijackings, let us have a no-negotiation-with-terrorists policy in place.

Let us not mix up the two.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bhatuklichya kheLamadhli Raja aaNik RaNi
Ardhyavarti Daav moDlaa adhuri ek kahaaNi

- Arun Date

Sunday, October 15, 2006


No, that's not a girl falling twice. It's a new phenomenon sweeping India according to this post.

Link from Salil

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chitale Master by P. L. "Pu La" Deshpande

While talking about PuLa with non-marathi folks, many people compare him to Wodehouse. With all due respects to Wodehouse, I think it's unfair to PuLa. PuLa had an ability to make the language dance to his tunes, much like Wodehouse. But he had so much more. Wodehouse's world was idyllic, formulaic, and an escape from reality. PuLa's unique gift was an ability to derive humour out of real day-to-day situations. And he also had the ability to touch that sensitive cord buried deep inside your heart that makes your eyes well up with emotion. And he often did that in the same piece of prose. While explaining this talent of his to a friend, I compared his work to the movies Anand and Life Is Beautiful. Movies which made us laugh and made us cry.

I later realise that even that comparison was flawed. A cheerful man dying of cancer, a cheerful man and his son in a concentration camp....these are ideas filled with the potential for pathos. PuLa never had to write about anything that extreme. Even the tears he brought to your eyes came, not out of some grand tragedy, but out of recollections of similar intensely personal moments in our own lives.

An excellent illustration are his character sketches. And Chitale Master is one such character sketch. It was the first thing by PuLa I read, and it is from his book 'Vyakti Aani Valli'(loosely translated 'Persons and Characters'), which won him the Sahitya Akadami Puraskar. Written half a century ago, it is set in an even older time. Konkan sometime in the 30s. Yet the theme of a favourite teacher is so universally identifiable, that everyone loves this character sketch in an intensely personal way.

The usual disclaimer - many jokes might be lost in translation. A few additions and alterations will be made. But I hope to retain the refreshing core of this superlative piece of literature.

In those days, once a kid in our village was admitted to kindergarten, his parents didn't take any interest in his studies until he passed or failed his HSC. The universal belief held by each parent was "The brat is under Chitale Master's charge now. He'll turn out OK."

Holding his dhoti in his left hand. Wearing a jacket which raised strong suspicions of having been blue in colour in the distant history. Head playing host to a black Nehru cap which faithfully pointed to the North East. A few strands of hair, only survivors against the unstoppable forces of baldness, sticking out of the cap. A moustache suspiciously similar to Lala Lajpat Rai's. In the remarkable event that they hadn't been forgotten in the school the previous day, sandals on the feet. Since the left hand was busy holding the end of the dhoti, the right one was left to handle the entire load of books. The right hand so hardwired to hold its position, that if there were no books to carry, it would still be next to the shoulder, empty, and holding up an index finger.

This is how you would describe Chitale Master on any day out of the past 30 years that he has been trampling the long distance between his house and the school. He taught me. He taught my uncles. And now he is teaching my nephews.

A few years back, folks in the village felicitated me after I returned from a visit to England. After the ceremony, Chitale Master walked up to me, patted my back proudly and said, "Purshya, Purshya, you've made the school proud. Tell me, did you go and see how Westminster Bridge looks at daybreak? Remember Wordsworth's poem? 'Earth has not anything to show more fair; Dull would he be of soul who could pass by; A sight so touching in its.....?"

"Majesty", I said.

"That's right"

Old habits die hard. This habit of Chitale Master's was still alive and kicking. He would often make students say the last word in a line. My mind wandered back to his English period.

"Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care:
Fashioned so slenderly,
Young, and so....?"

"FAIR", the whole class would yell in chorus. Starting with English in Class 1, right through high school, Chitale Master taught us many subjects. His area of expertise was English. But with the welcome exception of "Art" and "Drill", he would teach any subject. Two entities he never saw eye to eye with were the school bell and the time table. In those days, our school could not afford the luxury of hiring a separate teacher for each subject. 8-10 teachers managed to run the whole school.

Of course now, the school has swelled up, not unlike a river swelling up during monsoons. A huge building, each class with 8 divisions, two different shifts, two thousand kids, all these things make me realise how much the world has changed. Nowadays there are kids who don't know the names of their teachers... in my day, the teachers would know each and every student in the school by name.

Chitale Master would take additional free sessions at home, specifically for kids who were above average, and those who were lagging behind.

"Young Ashok is displaying unsatisfactory progress in Mathematics, and we would advise you to enroll him in some special tuitions".... notes of this kind from teachers to parents which are a norm today, were unheard of in those days.

If a child failed an exam, the teachers would take it as a blot on their own reputation. And a cane was as integral to the school's existence as chalk and blackboard. Chitale Master however never used the cane even once in his entire career.

His tongue itself was so acidic, the sting from it was enough to keep kids in check. If rarely he got really angry, then he would press the culprit's shoulder very hard with this thumb. And it hurt!

The vocabulary Chitale Master used in class was in a class of its own. Since English period was first, we would be sitting in the class with Nelson's textbook out on our desk. And Chitale Master would astound us by marching in like a soldier with a world map on his shoulders instead of a rifle. We all would start whispering among ourselves, trying to figure out this development. Right then Damu, the school peon who is as ancient as the bell he has the monopoly to wallop, would walk in with a huge world globe. Since he would carry the whole world in his hands, Chitale Master referred to him as 'Hercules'.

After the attendance had been taken, Chitale Master would address a sincere sort of a kid on the front bench and ask "Hmm...where did we stop in the last period?"

"Sir, it's English period!"

"Ack! Then when is the Geography period?"


"Alright, then let's hold a memorial for Nelson in the third period. Now take out your Geography textbooks."

This exercise of taking out the textbooks was utterly futile. Chitale Master never taught anything by the book. Be it Geography, History, English or Maths, the only appropriate answer to the question "Which period is it?" was "Chitale Master's".

Which subject to pursue in the class was a decision taken after reaching a consensus post a lot of deliberations. And then Chitale Master would come into his element. All his life, Chitale Master taught many subjects. But there are some things he could never quite manage to do. For instance, drawing a map of India.

With a chalk in his hand he would be labouring over the blackboard for about ten minutes. And after all this trouble, a pitiful outline bearing at best a passing resemblence to the Indian map would materialise.

Eyeing his creation critically, he would joke, "Tell me children, is it just me or is India becoming more and more like South America these days?". The rolled up map which he would march in with was rarely if ever unrolled. After his attempts to draw the map successfully failed, he would say,

"Pandu, be a good boy and draw the map of your motherland"

Then Pandu Gharat, who was the budding artist of our class, would erase the board and draw a perfect map of India.

"Wow, splendid. God has really blessed your fingers." he would say effusively, "Anyway, now tell me Pandu Anna, where do the monsoon winds come from?"

Pandu Anna clean bowled!

Speaking of winds, I remember this one time when he was teaching us about land winds and sea winds.

"Hmm..Goda Akka, tell me, which direction is the wind blowing in right now?"

Teachers who refer to the girls in their class as "Miss Joshi", "Miss Sathe" etc had not even been conceived then. In fact when Mr. Deshmukh, who came to teach wearing a suit, a tie, and referred to girls as "Miss" first turned up in our school, we were all wondering where this child-sired-by-a-Brit had come from. All teachers in those days were the dhoti-types, who referred to the boys as "Bandya, Baalya, Yeshya, Purshya" and the girls as "Ay kusmey, chhabey, shantey, kamley".

Chitale Master however had this quirk of referring to the dumb kids in extremely respectful terms. Goda Gulawni was the encyclopedia entry for "dumb". Fair skinned, light eyes, built on the lines of a flour sack, dumb Goda attended school with great difficulty until 4th or 5th standard. Finally her father managed to find her a groom. Girls in India were married off very early in those days.

In her wedding, chitale Master said to to the groom, "She's my student, mind you. Great girl. Will make an ideal wife and run a family very well. But don't send her grocery shopping. Or else she'll buy 6 mangoes costing 12-annas-a-dozen for 14 annas. Am I right Goda Akka?"

Imagine that, he said this right at the wedding in front of everyone!

While leaving, Goda first touched her father's feet, and then touched Chitale Master's. I could see that he kept his emotions in check with great effort. As Goda crossed the threshold, he discreetly wiped his eyes. Balu Paranjape and I were the only ones who noticed it.

"Look look, Master is crying", Balue said out loud with the tact of a crazed dictator.

"Heh, they jump around in your front yard like sparrows for a few years, and then fly away with a flutter, don't they?", Master said to Goda's father.

This very Goda, whose wedding he cried in, was the butt of so many of his jokes in class, that if it were to happen today, parents would have sent the Principal a "note" complaining about it. But parents in our day? Nah, they were of a different bent of mind. In fact if a father came to know that his child had been caned by the teacher in school, he would ensure an encore at home.

Back to the time in the class,

"Godakka, which direction is the wind blowing in?". Goda silently stayed put on the desk, like a resolute flour sack in a grocer's store room.

"Damn you, move that ass and get up at the very least"

Telling an adolescent girl to move her ass might be inappropriate is a thought that never crossed either Chitale Master's mind or the students' minds.

Goda got up, pouted her lips, and did her best impersonation of a statue in summertime.

"OK, now tell me, which direction is the wind blowing in?"

Goda still silent. Then Chitale Master got exasperated and said,

"Goda Akka, use your head a bit. Look at the pallu of your sari. Which direction is it fluttering in? Is it fluttering towards the sea or away from it? Ramu, you tell us."

Then Ramu Gogate got up and confidently commanded Goda, "Hey Goda, stand up properly."

"Why are you asking her to do that, Ramu?" Chitale Master asked

"How else will I see her pallu properly?" Ramu said innocently.

"You idiot, why the hell do you need to see her pallu?"

"How else will I know if the wind is blowing towards the sea or land?"

"You dumbass, are you going to make Goda to stand in front of you during the exam?" Master thundered. "Idiot, it is daytime. During daytime, is it sea winds which blow or land winds?"

Then the entire class had to repeat after him a dozen times "The winds during the daytime are..". And after that, we also had to repeat "You dont need Goda's pallu to tell which direction the wind is blowing in."

Mugging up, commiting things to memory, were concepts that Chitale Master firmly believed in. But even this memorising was done in a way that was fun. His whole period would be fun. We would never realise when the hour was up. Often the teacher for the next period would be standing at the door, annoyed and waiting for Master to leave.

Chitale Master was very absent-minded. Forgeting his sandals in the classroom was a regular occurence. Then one of the students would take them to him in the next class. Master of course would not let go of the opportunity to make a wisecrack,

"Bharat took care of Ram's sandals for 14 years, and you brats can't keep them with you for even an hour?"

In 12th, a few students would he handpicked by Chitale Master to attend special coaching sessions at his house. These free sessions would happen early in the morning. His wife would give us something special for breakfast. He taught these sessions in a very different way from his classes. Even today I remember those sessions fondly. In those classes, I learnt Raghuvansh, I learnt the poetry of Tennyson and Wordsworth. In the batches before us, quite a few of his specially coached students had won the Jagannath Shankarsheth Scholarship. No one in our batch managed it. So after our results came out, were were a bit embarassed as we went to meet him.

"Aunty" he said... Chitale Master's wife was called Aunty not just by the kids, but by him too. "Aunty, the children are here. Bring out those sweet coconut dumplings."

Then he said to me, "You must join Elphinstone College, alright? I had told your father this. Don't go to some shady college. If you decide on going to Pune, then Fergusson.I warn you. And in Bombay, which college?"


"Spell it!"

Aunty came out with the dumplings and said "They're sprouting moustaches and you're still giving them spelling tests?"

"So where are you going? Mumbai or Pune?"

"I don't know. Wherever father decides", I said.

And it is at this point that the path of Chitale Master diverged from mine. Staying in touch regularly was not possible. But almost every day I still apply what I learnt from him. For instance, his strict rule of "Only 8 words in a line". He would threaten us,

"If I see even a single line with 9 words, I will draw a lovely egg on your answer paper", and he even came good on this threat a few times.

One evening, I was sitting in my house in Bombay when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to see Chitale Master standing there. Still the same. The same coat, the same north-easterly cap, and the same right hand near the shoulder.

"Chitale Master? How great to see you!"

"Your Bombay is quite a place, Purshya" he said as he walked in.

"Why? What happened" I asked as my wife took his bag from him.

"I'll tell you what happened....hey, careful with that bag. It has mangoes. Don't bang it somewhere like a clumsy oaf."

My wife used to be his student as well, so he does not need to mince words with either of us.

"So tell me, what wrong did Bombay inflict on you?"

"I knew the place you used to live at earlier. This part, Worli, is relatively new to me. Had come here a few years back for a Boy Scouts Jamboree. It was almost like a jungle then. And look at it now. I couldn't find your building for a long time. Now you... you are Lokmanya Tilak's father."


"I mean you are famous. So I thought everyone would know where you lived. Shame on you, even the paanwaala downstairs doesn't know. I told him you are a writer, into theatre, had recently been abroad. And do you know what he said to me?"

"What did he say?"

"He said, sir, nowadays even street sweepers go abroad. He's right actually. You are a big name for us. Why would others know you that well? But you should do something. Give the paanwaala free tickets for your play. At least he'll tell people the directions to your house respectfully."

"Anyway, when did you arrive?"

"Have been in Bombay for ten days. Living with Janu Panshe. Was he in your class? No no, he was in the batch of 38. Dumb son of a bitch. Couldn't tell the difference between Bajirao and Abdali if his life depended on it."

"So what brings you to Bombay?"

"Begging for donations, what else? We're building an open air theatre for the school.."

"What are you building?" I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly.

"Open air theatre. Why are you looking so surprised? You're a theatre guy yourself. The government is paying for half the expenses. We have to gather the other half. You know last year, our school won the district play competition."

"Our school?"

"Yes, our school. We performed "Bebandshahi". Jilgya Pavshekar's son did a superb job as Sambhaji. The audience was applauding for nearly ten minutes."

All this was new and surprising for me.

"And you let people do all this? Remember, when I had suggested that we perform a play for our school gathering, you kicked me out of the class?"

"Purshya, come on. Times have changed. In fact our special early morning sessions have stopped. The school itself starts at 7 am. There's a shift in the morning and a shift in the afternoon. It's become a factory, I tell you. 52 teachers in the school, but sun and moon."

"Sun and moon?"

"It means they're in the same sky, but when one rises, the other sets."

"Ok ok. Anyway, stay for dinner."

"No no, can't do that. Dinner's at Nuru Kazi's place. Ismail Kazi's son. Smart guy. Batch of 40. He's in the Education Ministry now. He's the one who arranged for this open air theatre grant. Helps us out a lot. Really smart guy. Has an amazing command over English. He was telling me something funny the other day. A new officer joined his department. His file was sent to Nuru. In the file, he noticed, every line had 8 words. So Nuru called up the guy and said "Joglekar?". He said "Yes sir?". Nuru said "Are you Chitale Master's student?". That Jogalekar almost hit the roof in amazement. "How did you guess, sir?". So Nuru said, "In one place in your file, you rubbed out the ninth word and wrote it in the next line"."

"So you're going to Kazi's place for dinner?"

"Yes, I have warned him - if you feed me meat, then I'll go to your Education Minister and tell him you were caught cheating on your geography exam in 3rd."

"So what will you have? Tea? Coffee?"

"Whatever your better half gives me. Speaking of better halves, Aunty speaks of you often."

"Is she doing fine?"

"Developed cataract."

"Oh. Sorry to hear that."

Something has been bothering me for a while. Finally I said,

"Master, what is all this about building a theatre in the school?"

"What's the matter with you? You're from the same line, and yet you're bring so weird about it. I tell you, if you had seen our "Bebandshahi", you would have patted my back."

"Your back?"

"Well I directed it, didn't I?"

This was surprising news. "You were the director?" I asked with my mouth agape.

"Yes, did you think you're the only director in the world? Got all the kids to mug up the lines properly. Not just their own lines, but everyone's. The entire cast knew the entire play by heart. We'd meet at 5 a.m. for rehearsel every day. These kids are such brats, I'll tell you. Usually they turn up for school at 7 a.m. as if they are sleepwalking zombies. But when it comes to acting, everyone from Sambhaji to Aurangzeb was on time, fresh as a daisy at 5 a.m."

"But why did you make everyone memorize the whole play?" I asked when I managed to get a word in.

"Why not? If some kid fell ill at the last minute, it would ruin the whole play. By the way, we inaugurated the play by breaking a coconut at an auspicious muhurat. I don't believe in this astrological nonsense, but strangely, these kids, quarter my age, insisted on it. I don't get these kids of today, Purshya. No one wears a cap these days. They may not have a pen in their pockets, but they'll have a comb for sure. Each one has a different hairstyle. Modern in so many ways. And yet, they'll look for muhurats, wear rings and lockets given by various babas and swamis. This is really puzzling, really puzzling. You know, after this second world war and independence, the world seems to have turned upside down. Nothing makes sense."

"For how many days are you in Bombay"

"Leaving in two days"

"Then come for dinner tomorrow"


"But will you be able to find the house again?"

"That's a good point. Actually I should not have trouble locating houses in Bombay. After all I am a Wilson alumnus. In those days Wilson was more affordable than Elphinstone. McKenzie was the Principal. Dedicated man. It was the dedication of men like him that inspired me to take up teaching. I did try to work in the Collector's Office for a few days. But they found a copy of Tilak's 'Kesri' in my pocket and kicked me out. I went to meet McKenzie before I left Bombay. He asked me what I planned to do next. Told him I wanted to become a teacher. He felt so proud. Ah those days. In those days our college would look majestic on the Chowpatty. Now it's just shrunk into insignificance between bigger buildings. The waves of the Arabian Sea are the same as before. Other than that everything has....?"

"Changed" my wife and I completed his sentence together.

"I'll come to pick you up. Where will you be?" I asked.

"In the evening I will be with... oh yes, from your batch, Mukund Patankar."

"Oh, Hindu Colony?"

"Yes. He's also doing very well. Owns a car! He took me to see a lot of places in it when I visited last year. Come to think of it, I do own about 5-6 cars in Mumbai... hehehe"

Chitale Master's childlike laughter was still intact.

The next evening I went to Mukund's place.

"Is Chitale Master there?" I asked him

"Yes, he's in the other room. Telling Baby a story." Baby was Mukund's 6 year old daughter who had been bed-ridden for a year since she developed polio. I entered the room and saw Chitale Master in full flow. It was a story about some Prince. Both Master and Baby were completely engrossed in the story, oblivious to everything else. In the story, when the Prince's airplane took off, Master spread his arms and ran around the room to act it out.

Mukund and I looked at each other. There were tears in Mukund's eyes.

"Every day that he's been here, he comes in the evening to tell Baby a story." Mukund said to me.

Chitale Master's story was about to end.

"....and so the Prince and the Princess lived happily ever.....?"

"After", Baby, Mukund and I said at the same time.

Master and I got into the taxi.

"Wait I'll be back" I said to him

"What happened?" he asked.

"Nothing, providing an old service. Noticed that your feet are bare. You've forgotten your sandals again."

"Oh, let it be. I'll be coming here again tomorrow anyway."

"No no, I'll get them"

I ran upstairs. Spotting Master's sandals from the rack in Mukund's house was not very difficult.

They were the ones with the most worn out soles.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


If all the members of Monty Python, the founders of The Onion, Antony Jay, Jonathan Lynn, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert took part in a huge orgy and somehow miraculously created a baby out of it with all their genes together, such a Super Satirical Baby would still not be able to come up with fake news that could match up to this.

Broadband providers have been charged with tax evasion. Why? Because the tax department says they are selling "light energy" through optical fibre. And the taxes applicable to light energy sellers will be applicable to them!

I wonder if babus have this internal competition to see who can come up with the reddest of all tapes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We Kinda Like Los Angeles and Seattle

Ever since Kim Uncle went public with the news of a nuclear weapons test, the media has been hounding the American administration with several questions, a majority of which can be paraphrased as -

"In Iraq you had a dictator pursuing WMDs, oppressing his people, and threatening his neighbours. In North Korea you have the identical situation. Yet why the attack on Iraq and why the push for diplomacy and sanction with North Korea?"

I don't think the media really wants the American and North Korean armies to have a 55-years-after-reunion. They just want the White House to say that Iraq was a mistake.

The White House has been responding with several half-baked excuses like -

- All diplomatic options have not yet been exhausted with Pyongyang
- Neighbours have a say in it too
- The astrologer advises against it (OK, not this one)

Why doesn't Tony Snow give the real answer to that question, which will shut the media up - We kinda like Los Angeles and Seattle.

Dishonesty of Love Songs

It's not that I don't like love songs. It's just that I think they are..well, dishonest I suppose. See, the happy ones aren't about love. They're about being mad with love, and in love with that feeling... and they're fine giddy things, but they aren't true. And the sad ones... well they're not about love either. They're about pain and hurt and people only like them when that's how they're feeling. The songs say, "I've had it bad too...maybe worse than you. I know what it's like." And that's all they are, just friendly voices to comfort you in the dark. I still quite like them, mind.

- Nuala in The Dreaming #16 - Ice

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ronery Kim

When people get rearry rearry ronery, they do weird things. On this weirdly proud occasion for Pyongyang, here's a song, sung by Kim in the Move Team America -

I'm So Ronery
I'm so ronery
So ronery
So ronery and sadry arone

There's no one
Just me onry
Sitting on my rittle throne
I work very hard and make up great prans
But nobody ristens, no one understands
Seems that no one takes me serirousry

And so I'm ronery
A little ronery
Poor rittre me

There's nobody
I can rerate to
Feer rike a bird in a cage
It's kinda sihry
But not rearry
Because it's fihring my body with rage

I work rearry hard and I'm physicarry fit
But nobody here seems to rearize that
When I rure the world maybe they'rr notice me
But untir then I'rr just be ronery
Rittre ronery, poor rittre me
I'm so ronery
I'm so ronery

One Year On...

It was on this very day last year that it really hit the fan. It was a Sunday. A little past noon, I was sitting in a coffee shop in Pune with a friend of mine who had returned from Germany. We were shooting the breeze, cracking PJs, and speaking Hedao(inside joke, don't even bother). That is when I got a call from a senior VP in IBM about IIPM's threats of burning laptops.

The next few hours are still clear in my mind. I remember each and every conversation down to the last world. My conversations with Sarika, Rashmi, Amit, my boss at IBM, a couple of other senior colleagues at IBM, my mom, Yazad.... half these conversations happened when I was in the bus back to Bombay later. In fact I even remember that the movie playing in the bus was 'No Entry'.

It was somewhere around Khopoli that I decided to resign. Frankly, it was mainly a decision taken to avoid some headache for me as well as for IBM. The harder decision to take had been to not remove the posts. But resigning from my job didn't seem like that big a deal. Which is why I was surprised at how the resignation acted like some sort of a spark and kicked off this amzing chain of events.

Even though "Blogger quits job over a post" makes a great headline, from a personal point of view, it was not that massive a decision. Even now when people talk to me about it, I try to underplay the resignation part. I mean seriously, consider this. I am an IIM graduate and the economy was doing very well. I was sure I would get another job easily. So that was no sacrifice or act of heroism. It wasn't that hard.

What was hard was keeping the posts on and eyeballing IIPM. In India, people with money and influence can often get away with anything. And considering the sort of threatening comments that were being left on Rashmi's blog and being sent to me by mail, my next job was the least of my concerns. My own safety and my family's safety was a bigger worry.

And that is where the bloggers' help played a huge role. Bloggers all around the country reacted spontaneously and spectacularly, and the news of this issue spread like wildfire. It didn't quite achieve the breaking news status, but it was reported in media well enough. And this widespread publicity to the issue from bloggers and the media acted as the biggest shield for us. With so much public glare, the "dark side" could not dare to do to us some things that they were reputed to have done in the past.

The issue also served as the first real demonstration of the possibilities of how bloggers can come together and make an impact. We Indian bloggers may not be influential enough to end political and media careers, but we can play a significant role in information diffusion. The biggest impact of the whole controversy was on google search results for IIPM. Even today, I get about 200 hits daily directed from a google search for IIPM.

When someone is talking to me or writing to me about the negatives of blogging, they say that blogging could be used to spread rumours and falsities. That the blogosphere can destroy reputations. This is a fear that arises from a lack of understanding of not blogging, but the human mind. A reputation will be destroyed by the blogosphere only if it is a hollow reputation in the first place. Bloggers are not a bunch of demented loons out to take down any one at random. IIPM was hit not because bloggers are evil or incestuous, but because IIPM was in the wrong. They were and still are issuing tricky advertisements. They are still making false claims. And their response to criticism has been cheap and dastardly, that of making threats and setting up splogs.

If a person or organisation has no chink in its armour and no skeletons in its cupboard, the blogosphere can not...and will not want to... destroy its reputation. Remember, bloggers write and link to each other, driven not by personal gain, but by social capital. They will not stake their own credibility by attacking someone whom they are not sure is in the wrong.

That the Indian blogosphere, which usually is very polarised on various politco-social issues, unanimously stood together shows how unequivocally wrong IIPM was.

So did we have an impact? I am sure we did. I think we have ensured that there is enough information in the public domain about the truth behind IIPM's claims. I doubt if there is a single MBA aspirant who will apply to a school without googling its name. The students will thus read all about it. If they still decide to join the school, that is their decision.

Remember, at no point in time was the objective to drive IIPM out of business.... or even forcing them to comply with AICTE guidelines. We were just bugged by the information asymmetry, since no major media organisation in India except for JAM was willing to (in some cases able to) carry out an expose about their tall claims. Blogging gave us a means to do that. To convey the information that the media could not because of a conflict of commercial interests. And that for me is the biggest takeaway from the whole episode. Bloggers can not topple governments, change policy and end world hunger. But what they can do is remove asymmetry of information. And this is bound to have massive implications in the world of business in general and marketing in particular.

At least with regards to IIPM, the symmetry of information has been restored. No student going to IIPM will be doing so because of lack of complete information.

And that makes our "Bloggers Movement" launched a year ago, a total success.

To the thousands of bloggers and blog readers, I can't say this enough - Thank You.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Mumbaikar and Punekar

Produced below is my humble attempt to translate into English Pu La Deshpande's famous marathi essay "Punekar, Mumbaikar, Nagpurkar". I have only translated the parts about Mumbai and Pune. By the time I reached the part about Nagpur, my Stats homework questions were making ominous noises and attempting to bite their way out of my bag. So if some proud Nagpurkar is enthu enough, he/she can translate that part and send it to me and I'll add it with due credit.

This essay was written by Pu La sometime in the early 60s. 45 years later, most of it is still relevant. I have made a few additions and a few deletions wherever I thought appropriate. The full hilarity of the essay obviously can not survive translation. But I do hope a significant part of it is retained, due to the sheer incisiveness of Pu La's observant eye. If people like this, I will try my hand at some other essays of his.

Ever since Maharashtra became United Maharashtra, we have started feeling even more divided than before. Nowadays it doesn't suffice just to say that you are Marathi. You need to specify whether you are a Punekar, a Mumbaikar or a Nagpurkar. So the Maharashtrian of today is faced with an identity crisis of sorts. Being just a Maharashtrian in Maharashtra is like being without an identity. There are only 3 identities that matter - Punekar, Mumbaikar and Nagpurkar. Actually there are hundreds of towns in Maharashtra, but these are the only three that deserve the suffix "kar" after them.

So do you want to be a Mumbaikar? If you do, then it is very important that you should be born in Mumbai. Letting the one who gives birth to you also give you a roof over your head is the easiest way to solve the thorny issue of a residence in Mumbai. Otherwise you need to be prepared for another crisis. Just imagine, these days you need to pay in thousands even if you want to sleep on the pavement at night. So unless you are actually born in Mumbai, perish the thought of becoming a Mumbaikar. Be happy where you are. You don't always get what you want in life, do you? Think of this as one of those things.

Of course, if an aunt living in some chawl or apartment in Mumbai is willing to adopt you, then the prospects look bright. That's the easiest way to be born again. Or you could always become a "ghar jamai". In Mumbai, the definition of a "ghar jamai" is someone whom you have to give your daughter as well as your house.

However if you do manage to take care of the housing issue, then there are few joys in the world as unmitigated as being a Mumbaikar, believe me.

"Mumbai is too crowded" is a complaint which you are more likely to hear from outsiders than from true blue Mumbaikars. If someone cribs about Mumbai's air, heat, crowds, mosquitoes, let him. Because it is not mandatory for you to be proud of everything about Mumbai. In fact pride is not a pre-condition to being a Mumbaikar at all. That's a pre-condition for Pune. You've got to have oodles of pride in Pune to be a Punekar.

In fact if someone calls Mumbai rotten, you should agree with them whole-heartedly. There is no better way to dodge guests and potential immigrants who might drive real estate prices even higher. In Mumbai, dodging out-of-town guests is an exercise you have to carry out like guerilla warfare. Luckily, Mumbai is continuously plagued with epidemics. To top it all there are political epidemics like bandhs. Those poor misunderstood political parties. Every year each of them has to demonstrate "success" in their respective bandhs, or no one will take them seriously. What can they do about it?

So if some relatives of yours plan to visit you in Mumbai, don't forbid them from coming. Write to them, "Yes yes, please grace us with your presence. But please remember to take vaccinations against cholera, typhoid, malaria, chikungunya, leptospirosis. There were 214 deaths last month, but don't mind that. By the way, hepatitis is making rounds again. But don't let such minor irritants bother you. Do come."

This should take care of most of your relatives. But there are some stout-hearted relatives who will still want to visit. Assure them you will be there at the railway station, and then don't turn up. In fact, call up the Taxi Driver's Association, ask them when their next strike is scheduled, and tell your relatives to come on that day. If the relative is coming to Mumbai for the first time, then there's more scope for guerilla tactics. If you live in Colaba, tell your relatives, "It will be better if you get down at Thane".

The only pain of living in Mumbai is avoiding these unwanted relatives from taking up valuable space in your tiny homes. Apart from that, there is no city like Mumbai, believe me. If you want to live in Mumbai, you need to learn Mumbai's marathi and Mumbai's hindi. Every sentence should have at least 3-4 english words. In fact while speaking any language in Mumbai, you should remember that past tense has no significance in this city. The way Mumbai has only two seasons - Summer and Monsoons, it has only two tenses - present and future.

Mumbai, poor thing, doesn't have much of a past. She cares only about today and tomorrow. The Mumbaikar cares less about how fast Shivaji's horse galloped, and more about when the next fast local train is scheduled. It is only after you come to Mumbai that you realise that the minute hand in your watch is also of great significance. In any other city, you can go through life just paying attention to the hour hand. But not in Mumbai. Because in Mumbai your watch is tied not just to your wrist, but to your fate.

Mumbai might not have a rich history like Pune. But the only time a Mumbaikar feels passionate about the past is when he is talking about that special topic. You guessed it. Cricket. Cricket is the only sport that Mumbai knows. In other places, cricket is played on grounds and in fields. But in Mumbai, even corridors play host to legendary test matches.

And please do not dwell under the misconception that to know about cricket you need to have handled a bat and a ball in your life. Not at all. Remember, cricket is more about talking and less about playing. However you need to be well-versed with the history of cricket. You need not know any other history. In fact a true blue Mumbaikar is very likely to pose the question "You know that Battle of Panipat....where exactly in Pune did that happen?" to a Punekar, causing him to have apoplectic fits on the spot. But ask a Mumbaikar anything about cricket, and you'll never find him wanting.

The way a Punekar can wax eloquent about his pantheon of "Bajirao, Nanasaheb, Narayanrao...", a Mumbaikar will launch into the exploits of "P Balu, CK Nayudu, Vijay Merchant...." right upto Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Tendulkar.

The true blue Mumbaikar always had a special connection with the Brits. You see, Mumbai was never ruled by Mughals or Marathas. In fact Mumbai did not exist until the Brits built it. The Brits came and built Mumbai from scratch. So the first and last Kings of Mumbai were the Brits. Outsiders like Tilak and Gandhi needlessly came and stirred up trouble between the Mumbaikar and the Brit Saahib. Even today, the true Mumbaikar wells up with emotion when he looks at the old buildings in Fort and misses the Brits. So even though Pune retained its stoicness even after the extinction of the peshwas and the horse carts, the Mumbaikar still misses the brits and the good old trams.

Ok, so now... do you want to become a Punekar? Go ahead. We have no objections. But our advice is... think again. Do you really want to? OK, if you insist then your preparation needs to be thorough. And once you are fully prepared, then being a Punekar is as enjoyable an experience as any.

Firstly, do not nurse the notion that you are inferior to anyone in any aspect of life. You are not. You are a superior being. Secondly, learn to express dissent on every issue possible. I mean seriously, stop thinking about minor things like who you are, how educated or uneducated you are, what your achievements are..... don't think about any of these things and just express a contradictory opinion. Whatever the topic under discussion, your opinion needs to be strongly voiced, and it has to be contrarian. Even if the topic under discussion is "How to get the American economic machine back on track", and you are just an employee of the Pune Municipal Corporation's Rat Extermination Department, don't let it stop you from holding forth.

At least once every few hours you need to cluck your tongue, shake your head and say "Pune just isn't the way it used to be." There are no age-related requirements for saying this. In Pune doddering geriatrics and school-going striplings say "Pune just isn't the way it used to be" with matching conviction. So you will get to hear this statement with comforting regularity in offices, colleges, tekdis, temples, markets and even kindergartens.

Marathi, or in general any language, exists in several forms in Pune. Public Speaking Puneri, Shopkeeper's Puneri, Domestic Puneri.... are all various dialects with little in common with each other. Let me demonstrate the difference between the language used in private conversation and the language used for public speaking, with an example.

Imagine that a Prof. Bhamburdekar is talking about a Prof. Yelkuntkar with his wife - "What nonsense! Yelkuntkar is being felicitated? Utter nonsense. Actually he should be thrashed with his own shoes. What is he being felicitated for? Translating the rigved? More like transmutating the rigved. But still he gets government grants, thousands of rupees."
Note- One of the typical ways for a Punekar to vent his anger about someone else is to rant about the money he is making.
"Yes, you fool! Live it up! Embezzle that money! Live the big life! Eat banana pudding and peas curry everyday!"
The most superlative form of living the big life for a Punekar stops at thse humble heights - eating banana pudding and peas curry everyday.

Now let me show you the transformation of this sample of private Puneri language into public Puneri language. Imagine, the same Prof. Bhamburdekar at the felicitation, giving a speech about Prof. Yelkuntkar.

"Felicitating Guruvarya Prof Yelkuntkar is like felicitating in person the Sun God of Scholarliness. Friends, today's date will be carved with gold in the annals of Pune's cultural history. This great teacher of mine.... I mean I have always considered him my teacher.... I am not sure if he considers me his student..."
At this point the audience laughs a little. According to Puneri Public Speaking rules, if you don't make the audience laugh after your third sentence, it is counted as a foul. So all aspiring Punekars preparing for the daunting task should keep this in mind.
"Now of course, in a way I am his student. Because when he was a teacher in the municipality schools, I was his student in Class 1"
See how cleverly he slipped in the information that Prof. Yelkuntkar was once just a school teacher in a rundown municipality school.
"His father was an employee of the nutritional department in the palace of the Sardar Panchapatlikar"
Another masterstroke.... the good professor's father was just a cook!
"Having spent his childhood in extreme poverty, Professor must be feeling great contentment living in his spacious bungalow in Aranyeshwar Colony"
i.e notice how he's embezzled all this money under the garb of education.
"Prof Yelkuntkar and our Honourable Education Minister have been friends right from their school days"
i.e now you know why he gets all those government grants he doesn't deserve.

So you see, unless you are Marc Antony, you will have to prepare a lot before your public speaking skills can match up to Puneri standards.

Now when it comes to Puneri language to be used in day to day life, the standards are pretty stringent too. Let me illustrate with another example. All over the world, the convention is that when you answer the phone it should be with a polite "Hello?". Not in Pune.

In Pune when you answer the phone, your voice must take on that natural irritable brusqueness that descends when someone wakes you up from an afternoon nap, and you must yell "WHO'S THIS??". It helps to pretend that it costs you money not just to make a call, but also to receive a call.
Now if the caller responds with "Err...could you please get Mr. Gokhale to the phone?", then his non-Punekar status will be blindingly obvious even to a child. A true Punekar will respond testily "CALL GOKHALE TO THE PHONE".



To be a true Punekar, you have to have a burning pride for something. Not just normal pride. Normal pride can be felt by anyone. It has to be fierce burning pride. It is not necessary to feel this pride just about major things like the life of Shivaji or Tilak. It could be something as flippant as the rank of your lane's Ganpati statue during the Ganpati immersion procession or even peanuts from the rural regions of Pune district. But no matter how flippant the issue is, the pride must be fierce and burning.

This burning pride is very helpful when you have to make dissenting arguments. So then, on the day of Tilak's Death Anniversary, you could tap into burning pride for Gopal Ganesh Agarkar. On the day of a cricket test match, you could tap into burning pride for kabaddi.

Expressing your dissent merely in private conversations is not enough to get you the Punekar tag. You need to frequently write in your dissenting opinion to the 'Letters to the editor' column. It does not even have to make sense. For instance, this letter appeared in one of Pune's leading newspapers a few years back -

This year the monsoons have been particularly fierce. The roads are in a horrid condition and crops have been washed out. May I ask the good people at the Meterological Department, who draw their fat salaries from our taxes, what they are doing to stop this deluge?"

Dissent is of primary importance. Logic is secondary.

Now another art you need to perfect, and that too in a specialised Puneri way, is driving a bike. Just sitting on a bike and going all around town on it does not qualify you as a bike rider in Pune. The verb "driving" when it comes to bikes in Pune, is used in the same sense as "driving an axe into a block of wood" or "driving hordes towards revolution".

A bike in Pune is viewed, not as a means of transport, but something to sit on when you meet for chit-chat with a group of friends in the middle of the road. It really helps in training new traffic policemen. It also helps in making access to any building virtually impossible for pesky salesmen. Managing to cluster bikes together to construct such a barricade is as crucial as being able to extricate your own bike from the cluster without toppling others.

Bikes should not be driven alone in Pune. There should be at keast 3 bikes together going parallel to each other in the middle of the road, at a leisurely speed while talking to each other. Your eyes should not be on the road, but on the walking-and-talking attractive scenery on the road. Having unnecessary accoutrements like horns, mirrors, lights, indicators is a sign of cowardice on the streets of Pune.

In this way, as you are crossing various levels in the game "How to be a Punekar", you should also parallely keep up efforts to beome an office bearer in some social or cultural organisation or a Rotary Club. Holding a hollow post in a useless organisation is central to the completeness of the Punekar's existence.

It is also necessary to attend as many lectures, talks and seminars as possible on topics as diverse and vacuous as "Bajirao the Second's Handwriting" or "The Fungus on Bajra crop". And after the lecture, it is imperative to catch hold of the speaker, and in full view of at least half a dozen people say to him with an earnest expression on your face "I would like to discuss this topic in more depth with you some time."

All this preparation should be enough to make you a normal Punekar. But if you want to operate a shop in Pune, you need more lessons. You especially need lessons on language. Only then will you be able to heap maximum insults on your customer in minimum possible words. Because in Pune, the verb "operating" a shop is used in the same sense as "operating a bull dozer" or "operating a machine gun". The most negligible entity in a shop in Pune, is the customer.

A shop operated in this way can realistically make money only for 7-8 years until all the customers desert it. Once that happens, you can sell your shop to a Sindhi or a Marwari. The price of land must have appreciated enough to get you a hefty bank balance to last you for the remainder of your life. And you are free to conduct seminars and panel discussions on the topic "Why are Maharashtrians unsuccessful in business?" in the Tilak Smarak Mandir.

Summing it up, to become a Punekar, every action of yours should be aimed at ensuring a felicitation ceremony for you some years down the line.

The Afzal Issue

Those of you who know how opinionated I am will be surprised to know that I am somewhat of an agnostic on the issue of capital punishment. I can't find myself taking a strong position either supporting it or opposing it. There are convincing arguments and rationalisations from both sides, and I am firmly entrenched on the fence.

Recently the death sentence awarded to Afzal, who was involved in plotting the attack on the parliament, has been in news. There have been several commentators arguing against the statement. Afzal has been awarded(!) the sentence, not for killing someone in cold blood, but for waging war against the state. Apart from murder, to the best of my knowledge, the Indian law gives death sentences for only two more crimes. One is dealing in drugs, though I don't know if anyone has been executed for that. The other is waging a war against the Indian state.

Does Afzal deserve to hang for waging war against the state?

If he has been proven an accomplice in the plot, which he has been by various courts, then I do believe he deserves to hang. Finally we are seeing someone being punished for cold blooded terrorism, and it being differentiated from just regular(!!) murder.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Pandora of course.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The CP-Biasing

An MBA really biases you a lot towards putting CP (class participation), no matter where you are. The motivation to get those 10-20% for CP during your MBA make speaking up during a class or a seminar almost second nature. However most of the classes I am taking are in non-business departments like Stats, Econometrics, etc. So I have noticed that it is usually me and a couple of other fellow-post-MBA-doctoral students who do a lion's share of the talking.

Sometimes it just gets embarassing. You can never be sure whether what you are saying is actually a useful contribution or just pure "globe".