Vantage point

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Extremely Random Post

New York City Rulesssssssss!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Newsflash for Facebook Users

I thought this was very obvious but apparently it isn't. Whenever you want to amuse yourself with some application, like comparing likeness, or biting a zombie or even taking a movie quiz.... you don't HAVE TO send the invite to everyone on your list. Just deselect everyone or better still, skip that step and go to the results.

A longer post about Jindal

Over at Sepia Mutiny, Anna and Amardeep can't help but feel slightly proud of Bobby Jindal for his achievements, despite their vehement disagreement with his politics. If I understand them correctly, their pride stems from a guy who is "one of us" achieving something this tough, and being able to fit in, which is a hard thing to do especially in a state like Louisiana.

For me, his politics is relevant in assessing him as a politician. But they are not very relevant when it comes to deciding whether to "feel proud" of him. In the latter decision, his pro-life, anti-stem-cell and pro-Bush stance is not relevant. There are people like Dinesh D'souza and Ramesh Ponnuru who are right-wingers too and I disagree with them. And although I dislike the right-wing of the Republican party, I agree with moderate Republicans like Ron Paul, while I dislike almost the whole Democratic party. So the "R" at the end of his name does not bother me either. And while I vehemently disagree with D'souza and Ponnuru, in their moderate success as pundits I can still feel a small sense of ethno-centric pride that I do not feel for Jindal.

What bothers me is the feeling that he seems to have tried very hard to de-Indianize himself. Admittedly, this feeling arises from the seemingly cosmetic points that he changed his name from Piyush to Bobby, and converted to catholicism. Prima facie these two things don't seem that major. I am sure there are millions of "Bobby"s in India... and several Indian Americans with anglicized names. There are also millions of catholics in India and among the Indian American population here.

Yet, I can't help but feel that he is hell-bent on throwing away as much of his Indianness as he probably can. Even his attempts to dispel the notion of his being a wonk and an overachiever are at least partially in that direction too, given the general stereotype of Indians as bookish overachievers. His message to the white community does not quite seem "Hey, I am one of you" but more like "Hey, I am one of you, and I am in no way Indian.... anyone have the number of the doctor that made Michael Jackson white?". I do not want him or even expect him to pander to the Indian community. But what he is doing is the opposite of pandering, and that bugs me.

Given his intense and proactive de-Indianizing actions, I find it a bit pathetic to still feel proud of him. He clearly wants no part of "us". Why should "we" still latch on to his success?

Disclaimers - I understand that I am an immigrant, while people like Anna and Amardeep are second generation Indians. So I will probably never quite "get it" why they feel the way they do (much like Stan in South Park said to Token - "I get it.... that I DON'T get it!" in the Nigger Guy episode). I also admit that it is possible I am reading too much into Jindal's name change and conversion, especially the latter, since I hold the view that while all religions are stupid, some religions are more stupid than others.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All hail Bobby Jindal!

Hurray! Bobby Jindal has finally become the Governor of Louisiana. This is a proud day for the Indian American community. His achievement is an inspiration to all of us. His success tells us all that if we change our names to those of characters from American sitcoms, convert to christianity, oppose abortion without exceptions, oppose stem cell research, advocate the teaching of intelligent design in science classes, support legislation banning flag burning, and spout a lot of inspirational christian aphorisms, we too will be respected for the Indians that we are.

I am so high on inspiration right now, I don't even need to drink to celebrate!

The Chilling Truth About Gujarat

Tehelka has a very detailed and chilling story about the 2002 Gujarat riots, in the words of the people who did it. Past exposes by Tehelka like match-fixing, defence deals, questions-for-cash etc have garnered a lot of attention and had some real impact. Hope this one does too.

However, when it comes to accountability for communal violence, we Indians tend to be so blase, it is shameful.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Breaking News - Amit Varma Wins The Bastiat Ward For Journalism

We all knew he was nominated. We knew it would be tough. But he's done it. Amit Varma is the 2007 recipient of the Bastiat Prize for Journalism. He is giving his acceptance speech in New York as I type this.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

All the Candidate's Girls

It all started with the Obama girl. Then Glen Beck came up with McCain Mama. Of course, Ron Paul supporters were not to be left behind and a skimpily dressed girl appeared online supporting him too.

Last week the man Hillary Clinton calls a great philosopher, Stephen Colbert, threw his hat into the ring. Little surprise that a Colbert Girl has sashayed out of the woodwork.


Monday, October 22, 2007

There are forwards and then.... there are forwards

Here's the thing. Not all forwards are bad. By and large I delete all forwards with a cussword directed at the senders. But these are usually forwards which are inane. I do not want to be part of a divine email chain about ganesha or venkateshwara or some such deity who has enough time on hand to follow email trails. I also do not want inane zero-intellect observations about men and women, or about Indians and Americans. I do not want stories about people who missed out their last chance to say or do something nice for someone. And I definitely do not want inspiring stories about brave individuals who overcame some crippling illness to achieve something great in life. And please oh please, I do not want idiotic puzzles with a glaringly obvious catch that you were stupid enough to miss or gif files which require me to stare at some image for 15 seconds. I could also do without the standard event-related jokes (like "Misbah hit the last chip shot in the T20 cup because he didnt know there was a mallu in every corner of the world") that I usually get on chat before anyone composes an email about them.

The forwards I do not mind are the ones which are funny, witty and non-standard. Like Becky the Dublin girl. Or the material girl from New York who posted a message on craigslist wondering how to bag a millionaire. Those are the kind of forwards I could do with.

Now you may say.... how can one differentiate between the two? Which forwards are inane and which are witty? A simple thumb rule is, what you do before forwarding them. If you send them to a standard set of email IDs saved in your email program, no thanks. If you just hit the forward button with a pointless message like "this is good!", please excuse. If you do not wait for even 10 seconds before you send out the forward, kindly adjust.

However, if you pick and choose the recipients, write a non-standard message accompaying the main message body, and actually take efforts to delete the email IDs, headers and footers from the previous message, sure, send it across.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Force India in F1

Vijay Mallya has announced that the Spyker F1 team that he bought will be renamed Force India for the 2008 season. While this is very nice, patriotic and sentimotional, I am surprised that a canny businessman like Mallya did not name the team Kingfisher. Considering that Kingfisher Airlines plans to go international in a big way next year, that would have been the sensible branding move.

Anyway, now just see the Indian media go ga-ga over this news. Force India is a name that feeds the india-shining-type jingoistic euphoria that the media so loves.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Brave Manmohan!

The more I think of the Indian government's decision to put the nuclear deal on the backburner, the more it makes sense. There are several good arguments one can put forth to support the decision.

Firstly, by doing so, the government avoided a confrontation with the communists. That decision was a masterstroke of survival skills that Darwin would be proud of. Remember, no good ever comes out of fighting the communists. USA fought the communists for decades and see where it has landed them. The country is now mired in an unwinnable war in Iraq, is facing a crippling mortgage crisis, has been hit by a devastating hurricane and has had a bridge collapse. If this is what comes out of standing up to the communists, no thanks, but we are better off just complying with the communist wishes.

The government also avoided mid-term polls. Elections in India cost hundreds of crores of rupees. We are a poor country. We need the money to go into productive schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. Yes, critics like Amit Varma may argue that the NREG is a failure.... but is it really? Yes, most of the money goes into the pockets of middlemen, but remember, those middlemen are consumers too. They take this money, pump it back into the economy, and help sustain the high growth our economy has witnessed. The Manmohan government has thus ensured that the 500 crores or so which would be wasted on snap polls will instead be utilized more effectively, towards spurring economic growth via middlemen.

Another undercurrent of resentment over the deal's failure has to do with China. Several so-called experts insist that the Indian communists are doing China's bidding to scuttle deal. so what if they are? What is wrong with thinking about China's well-being after all? We all love the Chinese. The millions of red Chinese food stalls that dot the Indian roadside are a testimony to this love. Additionally, we owe the Chinese a lot. In 1962, they could have overrun the whole country, taken over Delhi and made us a vassal state. But they did not. They just took the little land they wanted for their constructive purposes, and left us alone. Arguably the first and last time that an aggressor came into India and did not rule for centuries.

Plus think of the good it will do for the environment. Yes, most of Indian homes are without electricity, but then electricity would just mean further compounding of the global warming problem. Think how we are saving the planet by making sure that most of our population does not indulge in wasteful energy consumption like the so-called developed world. Keeping nuclear energy out of the energy sector ensures that this eco-friendly frugality continues.

In sum, if you think about it carefully, nothing good would have come out of the nuclear deal and we should all applaud the Manmohan government for scuttling it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Can't Remember the Last Time I was this Pissed Off

Spineless Manmohan.... treasonous commies.... traitorous Sonia...... ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH!!!!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Farewall Inzy

Over the past few years, many of the players I grew up watching and loved, have retired. Wasim Akram, still my favourite paceman of all time. Shane Warne, the king of spin who will always be special because of his showmanship. Allan Donald, the tearaway phenomenon who personified South Africa's return. And of course Steve Waugh, who defined mental strength and leadership. Yet today is the first time that a retirement is prompting me to write a fawning and mushy blog post. That is how much I have loved watching Inzimam on the cricket field. And it will always be my regret that I never watched him live in action.

Growing up in India, especially in the 80s and 90s, you had no choice but to hate Pakistani cricketers. They were arrogant, they were mean, and even though they were great cricketers, like Imran and Miandad, their anti-India zeal always showed. Even respect for those greats was a grudging respect. Inzy came and changed it all, at least for me, and I suspect for many of my contemporary cricket fans. I have already written once before how Inzimam is primarily responsible for making the Indo-Pak rivalry healthier. Today I want to write about some things I love about this literal and figurative giant who never quite got his due in world cricket.

Everyone thinks of Sachin, even at the age of 34, as a kid. In Sachin's case, it is more a case of nostalgia, and while his eagerness to play the game is still intact, it isn't completely accurate. Inzy however, till his last day, played like he must have as a pre-teen on the dusty Multan playgrounds. From his ability to step up the pace of his game in a split second, to his decision to forfeit the match at the oval, to his irritation at being run out, to his rare but adorable banter, everything is endearing.

Dean Jones once talked about how Brad Williams, the one-season-wonder of Australian cricket was sledging Inzimam. Now normally, saner individuals know better than to tangle with the somnambulent giant. However, Williams, firing in deliveries at almost 150 kph, thought he was better than the rest. He bowled a few quick ones and gave Inzy some lip. Inzy apparently responded by thrashing his bowling and then said to Williams "You are a bad bowler. You bowl off-spin." Call me biased, but that remains my favourite counter-sledging story, even better than Viv Richards' "You know what it looks like. Go fetch it."

His off field controversies, like running after an Indian fan in Toronto with a bat in his hand for calling him "aloo", or the famous Oval walk-off that started Hairgate, further underline his innocent demeanor.

While all this peripherals of course add to the Inzy magic, what made him so special was his batting. In terms of solidity combined with destructiveness, only Lara surpassed him. He went from stody defence to quick-footed offence in a matter of seconds. Whenever Inzy danced down the track, you knew that it was definitely clearing the ropes. True, he was a shaky starter, and once he got his eye in, he took control of the game without giving you any chances for a long time. But the special moments were when he came out to bat, with Pakistan in trouble, in a blistering counter-attacking mode. Few remember that though Razzaq and Akmal saved the 2005 Mohali test, which eventually helped Pakistan level the series, it was Inzy's blistering half century than took the initiative away from India.

Going further back, I remember THE innings that made me his fan for life. His breathtaking century in the Lord's test of 1996. It was a first day pitch, with Cork and Mullay bowling well. Though Saeed Anwar made a half century, everyone else fell quickly. Inzy's counter-attack amazing, entertaining and full of some unbelievable strokes. When he got out, Pakistan was on 250-something and he had scored almost 150 of them. That century, combined with a relatively circumspect half century in the second innings, was instrumental in making sure that the quality bowlers in his teams have runs to play with.

Every few months, Inzy had the knack of coming up with something special. It is sad that there will be no more magic forthcoming from the big man. Even his last innings was, in the vein of several greats before him, extremely anti-climactic. I have embedded a youtube video of the innings below. You might say there's nothing special about scoring 3 off 2 balls. And yet this small innings typifies so much that made him special. A straight batted sweetly timed drive down the ground. And then, just 3 runs short of becoming the highest Pakistani run-getter of all time, our man charges down the track, acting on his impulse and gets stumped. Almost anyone else, mindful of the record, would have been cautious until getting to the mark. After all, the test was already a sure-shot draw.

Like I said before, when Inzy charges down the track, you know for sure the ball is going for six. That his final dismissal, so close to the record, was charging down the track, makes his exit even more poignant. And even more endearing.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Genuine Question

What exactly are "monkey chants"? Assuming they are chants imitating monkeys, how are they racist? Are we expected to believe that the Baroda crowds knew that Symonds is of mixed ethnicity? Everyone says Indian crowds are very knowledgeable about cricket, but that is stretching it a bit.

What probably happened was some members of the crowd were having some fun with him. But I fail to see the racist angle.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Rebuttal to Madhu Menon

Last year Madhu Menon wrote a post reporting about a new outsourcing opportunity for India. He said that Western countries should outsource protests and offence-taking to India, much like a lot of IT and support services. Madhu wrote -

First of all, Indians have been offended at pretty much everything over the years. If you've written a book that's even slightly controversial, there are sections that want it banned. If you make a movie that tackles bold themes, you can expect howls of protest about how it's corrupting impressionable young minds. If you wear a female tennis outfit just like everyone else in the tennis world, somebody will be quick to point out how you are no longer a good member of your community. So let me assure you, no matter what the subject of the protest is, we Indians are capable of delivering a strong protest. Our service standards are world-class and globally competitive. When it comes to protesting, we are the epitome of "unity in diversity"! With our wide range of religions, beliefs, and castes, we are champions at being offended and having our sentiments hurt.

This is just plain wrong wrong wrong wrong. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Madhu Menon. Some of my best friends are Madhu Menon. But as I look back at this post, I can not but shake my head at how ill-informed Madhu Menon is. In fact Madhu Menon reminds me of those Indians who say "Bollywood is receiving global attention", "Indian cricket/hockey/kabaddi team is the best in the world", "Indian techies dominate the world scene" and "India is a real threat to Chinese domination".

We Indians tend to overestimate ourselves and Madhu Menon has committed the same flaw. So here are some inconvenient truths - No one seriously gives a damn about Bollywood, Indian tech companies are still small players, China is still miles ahead of us, and no Madhu Menon, we are nowhere close to being competitive in taking offence and registering protests as compared to the United States.

Offence Taking and Protests (OTP) is a thriving cottage industry in India, but it is a high margin, high returns, multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Indians specialize in finding things to take offence at, and Madhu Menon is right in point out that our diversity is our competitive advantage. We can get offended about Ravi Shastri eating beef as well as about Dan Brown giving Christ a wife. And of course, our sizeable Muslim population also covers a lot of bases, offence-wise.

But while the Indians have diversified horizontally, the Americans have specialized vertically. They have used their relative lack of diversity to reach a higher level of evolution in terms of offence taking. And they are also able to generate their offence-taking materials in-house. Their insourcing is so much more productive and efficient. They don't need to go to Scandinavian countries, remote MP villages, esoteric film festivals or Gujarati universities to find sources of offensive materials.

Why, just in the past few weeks, the US Senate has wasted its time on offence taking on two separate occasions. The Senate first introduced a censure motion against, a far left entity for insulting the troops. And then they tried to censure Rush Limbaugh, a far right entity for insulting the troops. News channels over the last few months have spent hours and hours discussing how Bill O'Reilly offended blacks, Don Imus insulted black women, Barack Obama insulted Indians (Yay, Chidanand!! India is receiving attention inside the beltway!!), CNN insulted Michael Moore or Michael Moore insulted CNN, Ann Coulter insulted John "who?" Edwards, Bill Maher insulted Dick Cheney, Al Sharpton insulted mormons, Rosie Odonell insulted everyone else,........ and all this is just in the last few months. I haven't even talked about Mel Gibson, Michael Richards etc.

You get the point, Madhu Menon? The sources of all these offensive utterances have been people who are in the media all the time. It is really quite a brilliant business model. One of them says something. The others spend hours and hours discussing what was said, all the discussions interspersed, of course, with lucrative advertisements. The following week, it is someone else's turn to say something which can be construed as being offensive to blacks, troops, jews, or some such group.

If I come across as someone who thinks that all the US media does is play a game of "you offend my back, i offend your's", perish the thought. They are not that insular. They also devote attention to important matters such as Brittany Spears' custody battles, Anna Nicole Smith's baby, Paris Hilton's driving record, Lindsay Lohan's driving record, Michael Vicks' crimes against dogkind and whatever OJ is up to.

So in closing, Madhu Menon, I hope you realize that as scrappy and tenacious as our OTP industry is, the outsourcing proposal stands no chance against the Americans' insourcing.