Prioritize: That's My Buzzword for 2010

If I have to state my “Resolution for 2010” in one word it'l be Prioritize. But that's not really measurable, is it? Elaboration time.


One: Spend Less time in the Online world...

... and more in the real world.

How?

  • Fewer blog posts (this is my 62nd post for the calendar year 2009 – that's too high don't you think?)

  • Less time on Facebook – no, I'm not one who spends endless hours playing Farmville or Mafia Wars; or taking “What-kind-of-extra-terrestrial-creature-are-you” quizzes. Yet, I think I spend way too much time updating my FB status. So gotta keep a check on that. BTW, did I mention how much I had to shell out for GPRS and for the SMS'es which I use for updating FB from my mobile?

  • More tweets. Twitter is the perfect tool for people who want to voice their opinion but still want to keep it short!

  • More posts on SCSB.

  • READ MORE!


Two: More outdoor activities

  • Travel more

  • Take more photographs (and spend less time processing them :)


Three: Be Healthy, Stay Healthy

  • GAIN WEIGHT :D

  • Be regular in some physical activity like sport/gym/cycling – anything.


Four: Learn more household tasks

Currently I'm only good at washing utensils, or operating the washing machine. This year I want to learn cooking, cleaning, shopping, provisions, grocery – basically contribute more towards running the house!


Five: More dedication to my Social Responsibility

I want to take any one cause (like TeachIndia) and make a more meaningful contribution to it in 2010 than I have been able to do all these years. This is opposed to what I've been doing so far – dipping my fingers in everything and not making a meaningful impact in any!


Six: WORK-LIFE BALANCE

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. This point, in conjunction with the five above will ensure I get myself a life in 2010, which is more then just work and a good virtual presence!!


A "Civil Society" that Victimises the Victims

I came across this talk by Sunitha Krishnan at TEDIndia through this post at IndiaUncut. Sunitha, who was gang-raped at the age of 15, now works towards rescuing victims of sex slavery; and she has rescued more than Three Thousand girls and women till date, often at great risk to self and colleagues in the form of violence from traffickers. This talk is about her fight against this lowest form of human abuse. I'm embedding the video here.


WARNING: This video has a few graphic slides and is Not Safe For Work. Moreover, it is pretty hard-hitting.




The take-away for me from the speech was the point that Sunitha put forth so forcefully towards the end of her talk – and that is this: The biggest hurdle to rescue and rehabilitation of people who have been sexually exploited; is the so-called “Civil Society”. A society which, keeping with it's notorious trend of hypocrisy, refuses to accept a victim of sexual abuse. A society that completely cuts itself off from a victim of sex slavery. A society that only further victimises the victim.


Is it so hard to realise that the girl was raped, trafficked or enslaved for no fault of hers? Is it so difficult to digest the fact that she has as much a right to lead a normal life post the incident as any of us? Is showing some compassion for such victims really such an unthinkable proposition?


I've written a couple of posts previously on this topic, but I have only been harping on the “raising awareness” part, but not been doing anything. Here is my chance to really do something about this. I have decided to implement what Sunitha appealed to us to do in the video – talk to people about this; get them to change their mind-set, get them to accept rescued women in mainstream life – in jobs, as household help.


Supporting Sunitha in this fight does not necessarily mean going out and rescuing girls. What she needs from us is a far more challenging task and that is to change the way our “civil society” treats the victims. Let us resolve to start sowing the seeds of change in this regard.


Looking forward to a society where the victims; not the criminals; feel safe and welcome!

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Edited to add:

My previous posts on this topic:

Artificial Solace


This is the highest partnership for the third wicket, screams [insert-the-name-of-your-favourite-commentator-here]; and it gets me all excited...

.. for India against [insert-name-of-opponent-team-here], he continues ..

“Oh well, that's still good”, I say to myself ..

On this ground.. By now I feel the excitement draining ..

...

under Dhoni's captaincy ... WHAT??..

since P Chidambaram took over the Home Ministry from you-know-who (hey, wasn't this soon after 26/11?)!!!


And I scoff at those cricket statisticians who can make even the most mediocre achievement seem like a “record”.


Then I tell myself: But isn't this what life is all about? Making the best of each situation – seeing it from an optimistic viewpoint?


And then I answer the question myself: Not Always. Many-a-time, I try to find solace in fabricated so-called-positive-sides of the matter when in fact, none exist. Why should I try to falsely convince myself that a situation has a sunny side to it? Who am I kidding and WHY? This is more harmful than a purely pessimistic dissection of the issue at hand!


I conclude with a quote that I came across in Rashmi Bansal's book, Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. It quotes Anand Halve of chlorophyll:


Define your Do's and Don'ts before you start. Post-facto, any act can be justified”.


Babies For Sale!

Dealing in drugs, liquor, adulterated food, pirated media, porn, flesh is all passe. What's the latest? Dealing in babies. How any human might want to sell her own baby is beyond me.


  • Perhaps it is the poverty?

  • Is it because of too many children? (this opens the topic of awareness about family planning – but that's taking this post off-track)

  • Is it because of the demand for baby BOYS? (so people who have a girl child sells her – which they perceive to be more humane than killing the foetus or the new-born infant; and people who don't have a baby boy are ready to pay for one)

  • Where do childless couples come into the picture?


Whatever the reason, baby trafficking is a HUGE blot on an already blotted society. The fact that it is a booming business speaks volumes about our character and our humanity. What can WE do about this?


Looking forward to a society which treats its children better than mere commodities!


So Media, Where Are The Results?

Dear Indian Mediarazzi,


During the past few weeks, you have raised a big hue and cry; wasted newsreel by the kilometers; (and tripped and fallen over each other in a bid to prove your one-upmanship) regarding the following matters:


  • 25th “anniversary” of the Bhopal Gas Tradegy

  • 25th “anniversary” of Indira Gandhi's assassination

  • 1st anniversary of 26/11 (if you remember – you started hyping this up more than a week in advance)

  • Liberhann committee report.


... and the list goes on.. and on .. and on..


Now, if you could be kind enough to publish the results. What did you achieve by doing this? What improvement/betterment has your several-pages-long worthless junk on these topics brought about?And oh, how come you have already forgotten about the incidents now that the “landmark date” has passed?


Waiting to hear from you.


Yours Sincerely,

Disgusted Consumer of your Disgusting Sense of “Reporting”


A New World, New Order

The year is 2200 A.D. There has been an outbreak of nuclear war. An overwhelming majority of the world's population has been wiped out.

There's destruction and desolation everywhere. Buildings have been razed to the ground.

Mega-cities have been become mega-cinders.

Forests have disappeared.

To top it all, global warming has taken its toll on the earth.

Islands have submerged.

Several species of animals have become extinct.

In short, the earth has been reduced to ashes.


And from these ashes, rises the phoenix – A New World, New Order.

A world free of religions, unaware about “races”. People are divided only by their geography and culture. There is nothing to die for or kill for.

Boundaries there are, none political – only those created by the topography - rivers, mountains and seas.

Vehicles they have – only those which run on solar energy. No petro-wars, no pollution.

Banks exist – only those that serve the needy. Sub-prime lending is not something they know about.

Competition lives, and the competent thrive. There is no room for corruption.

Inequalities exist – but only in small proportions. The majority work towards wiping out the inequalities of the few (not the other way round).

Children have a future, a world to look forward to – the world which they will inherit from their previous generation.


Life in The new world is not a bed of roses.

There are problems, there are issues, and each one has to carve out a living. However; it is a world worth living in. It is not a doomed life.

Survival is not the primary objective – continuous improvement; and conservation of the earth, the world for the next generation are.


Looking forward to The New World, The New Order?? Or looking forward to preventing the Doomsday in the First Place??


Does This Make Me Any Less Patriotic?

In a recent post; I had posed a question (that I had been asked by a British couple): “Are you happy with your country?”


I got quite a few responses. Among these, the very first one (by Mihir Modi) is very close to what I had in mind when I responded. I just could not express myself as well. And well, most of the responses were along similar lines – that there are problems; but every country has them; and that people are happy with India.


However, I was not convinced with that answer. Somehow, for some reason, I could not convince myself that I am indeed happy with my country. And that is when two other comments came in (by Deepak and IndianHomeMaker). I agree with their comments. Now, its all very clear to me.


I love my country and am strongly patriotic. I know we have lot of potential to make it big in any field. BUT, I am not happy with the current state of affairs in my country. Not even close to. There are too many things that are wrong. Forget about politicians or the other “hated” breed of people. I am not happy with even the common man. The way we common people vote, drive, conduct ourselves, practice the highest degree of hypocrisy - we just may deserve the detestable politicians that we get.


This does not mean that I should sit and crib. No. I want to do my bit in improving things around. I want to play my role in a slow revolution. I want to show the world what We, as Indians, are capable of. But the answer to the original question is: "No- I am not happy with my country."


I leave you with this video of actor Rahul Bose giving a speech (at OASIS 2k9, BITS Pilani) on what his Dream for India is. Do watch it if you have not already.



Original Youtube link here.


Looking forward to the day when the answer to this question will be a resounding YES. JAI BHARATH.


Sena interview on Sachin Controversy: Behind-The-Scenes

CNN-IBN ran an interview on their talk show “Talking Point”; and the topic was “Sachin versus Sena” (transcript here). You've got to read it. Do you notice how the Shiv Sena's supposed “spokesperson” Rahul Narvekar seems to have taken a course on “how-to-appear-as-unconvincing-as-possible” before attending this show? He almost appears to be a pet animal of Balasaheb Thackeray and not the spokesperson!


And that thought conjures up interesting behind-the-scene visualizations. I can imagine the scene at Thackeray's house just before Rahul Narvekar was dispatched to attend the interview:


Bal Thackeray (BT): Kuthlya tari channel ni aaplyaala interview saathi bolaavla aahe. Kon zaanaar? (Some channel has invited us for an interview. Who wants to go?)

Rahul Narvekar (RN): Bow-wow

BT: Rahul, tu zaanaar? Nakki? (Rahul, you'l go? Are you sure?)

RN: Woof-woof

BT (in Marathi of course – I do not have the patience to translate and type all of it in Marathi): Ok. Go ahead. But do remember that whatever I have stated on the issue is the final word. Do not contradict anything that I said.

RN: Bow-wow. Ooooooo, Woof-woof,, bowowowoowow woof?

BT: Yes, they are sure to ask that question. Make sure don't paint a negative picture of Sachin. I have already dug my own grave by making that totally uncalled-for statement.

RN (Tail between his hind-legs): Waaiill, howwwlll, barkbark wowbowwoof?

BT: Rahul, you are the spokesperson. Do I have to tell you everything? Anyways, if they ask you “Sachin just said he's an Indian first; what's wrong with that?”, just change the topic, stall, or deflect it, or say our Supremo has spoken and that is final.

RN: woooooooof waaiiiiilll?

BT: Well, if they ask you “What is the Shiv Sena trying to prove by this outburst against the national icon?” - just say something unintelligible like “A clear reading of the article in Saamna will resolve the issue”. Don't forget to end the statement with something like “Our Supremo has spoken and there is no question of anyone speaking after that”.

RN (tail wagging, ears cocked up): Bow-wow.


***************************

And that, dear friends, is how we got to witness this most enlightening interview in recent history.


Are You Happy With Your Country?

I just returned from a trip to Europe (snaps here; and travelogues to follow shortly). Met lots of interesting people and had nice little experiences and anecdotes. I'd like to share one here.


I was in a villa in Spain run by a retired British couple, Liz and John. One fine evening they were entertaining me with stories from their travails all over the world (they've travelled far and wide); and I was giving them snapshots into Indian life. Suddenly, Liz asks me:

So, Kiran, are you happy with your country?”


Now I know this is not a question that can be answered in a yes/no manner. But I'd still like to know how you'd respond to that. Are you happy with your country of origin? Your country of residence?


As for me, I stuttered and stammered and changed my answer between “yes” and “no” several times before throwing up my hands and saying that it is a really tough question to answer – especially when asked out-of-the-blue.


Its amazing how people you barely know and whom you meet far away from home can inject such stimulus into your thought process!


Why I Love Fireworks During Diwali


It makes driving on Bangalore's roads exciting:

I'm pretty bored with the mundane driving experience in Bangalore (dodging cows, people, autos, sweepers, what-have-you) everyday. Diwali gives me an opportunity to test my driving skills; which begins with spotting the cracker bang in the middle of the road. I get the chance to test my alertness levels; scanning the footpaths (well – whatever is left of them) for any sign of a person holding an incense stick or a matchbox. These are pointers to crackers on the road. And the fun that I have avoiding these crackers and driving on! Boy-oh-boy!!!


Weeding out the sick and elderly from our population:

Our population is bloating. And there are many who are sick, who have asthma. Bangalore is polluted enough even without the fireworks. Now we have a chance to choke them even further. Then, there are people who have heart problems. It gives me sadistic pleasure to sometimes drive very close to them and then honk loudly. The look on their faces! Heaven. And in spite of all this, such people want to stay on in the city. How dare they? I am glad that God gave us Diwali which is an excuse to weed out such people from amongst us healthier, more responsible citizens. Now I can burst these fireworks right in their faces so they either collapse because of the pollution; or get an attack because of the sudden explosion of the fireworks!


Opportunity to take revenge on my neighbours:

I vividly remember the time when my next door neighbor parked his horse in front of my gate. The mutt! Now, what better time than Diwali to get back at him? I can fire those rockets at will – in whatever direction I wish. Yesterday I fired 2 into his balcony, one into his bathroom; and one under his car. Serves him right – the wretched fellow. But oh! This is Deepavali. I should not be having such negative thoughts. But anyways .. what is done is done. God bless him.



And this list is just the top three reasons! Now, let those “Please-have-a-fireworks-free-Diwali” types better THAT! Ha!

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Update [20th October '09]:

In case you are wondering what the other reasons I love fireworks might be, well here are some


When I Interviewed Ambika Soni in My Dreams!

Abhi pointed me to this transcript of the Devil's Advocate episode where Karan Thapar interviewed I&B Minister Ambika Soni. Watch out for the number of times she uses phrases such as “debate”, “mechanisms in place” etc.


I guffawed so hard at the stupidity of it all that I fell down from my chair, hit my head against the floor; and fell unconscious. But even then the ghost of this interview did not leave me. I actually dreamt that I was interviewing Ambika Soni. And here's how the dream went:


********************

Me (Interviewer): Hello and welcome to [Insert-the-name-of-any-interview-show-here]. This is Kiran Rao; and we have as our guest today, I&B Minster of India, Ms. Ambika Soni. Ministerji, let's start with the question of censorship. What makes you think your ministry qualifies to tell people what they should be seeing?

Ambika Soni (AS): Well, I don't think that's true. I think we should have a public debate. I have committed myself on the floor of the house. I have an absolutely open mind.

Me: Ministerji, your ministry recently disallowed screening of one of the episodes of my interview show because it had a scene showing me kissing my wife. Are you implying that I was doing something immoral?

AS: No. I am not saying that. But there are mechanisms in place to deal with such cases. It is not my creation.

Me: Ok. So you accept, then, that that episode had nothing shameful?

AS: Kiran, I am not going to table my personal opinion on the matter. It is just that there has been a mechanism in place for this. I am ready to have a public debate.

Me: Ms Soni, lets lighten the mood a little. Let's switch topics. Who is your favorite cricketer?

AS: As I said, I have an open mind and I am prepared to have a public debate to resolve the issue and reach a conclusion.

Me: Huh? Ok. Let's try this. Would you like to tell us about yourself? Your history? Family background?

AS: Well – I committed myself on the floor of the house .. I have an open mind ... ..

********************


At that moment, I felt some cold water running down my cheeks and woke up :D I gave a good scolding to the friend who had woken me up. I so wanted to know where the interview was heading!


Can this be a Dilbert Comic?

Really .. does it qualify to be a Dilbert comic?


************************

Scene 1:

Dilbert: Boss, in order to complete this project, we will need to Zapperize the Customerator; and follow it up with a Clamorification of the Vendorola; and all this while we also need to ensure that our company's Exploiterazi process is followed.

Pointy-Haired Boss (PHB): [Irritated; “I wish I had the remotest idea of what this fella is blabbering”]: Oh well, Dilbert, that sounds interesting. Could you give a date by which you can complete this?

Dilbert: @#$%


************************

Scene 2:

Dilbert: Boss, we are very close to delivering this milestone; now all we need is to lay our hands on a gadget which is somewhat of a cross between a Bugatti Veyron and an Apple iPhone. But, as you know – we do not have control over the plans of Bugatti or Apple. So, we ...

PHB: [Cutting Dilbert short; and in complete awe of him]: Woww... thats awesssome ... Err .. could you just estimate a date by which the milestone will be delivered?

Dilbert: @#$%


************************


Scene 3:

Dilbert: Boss, our Water-Molecule Detector is ready. However, the only way we can test it is to fly out to Mars and see if we can find anything there (there are too many interfering water molecules on the Earth for the test result to be meaningful).

PHB: [Sympathetically]: Well, Dilbert, I understand you are facing some minor hiccups in releasing this product to the public. Now, could you just put a Completion Date against this task of testing the product?

Dilbert: @#$%

************************


And I can imagine the various facial expressions of Dilbert and PHB in these three scenes.

Scott Adams, are you reading this?


Minor Victims in Open Courts

Finally, the judiciary has taken note of the harassment that child victims go through when they are produced in open courts for trials. Taking exception to the cases where the minor victims of rape are produced in courts, the Delhi HC has ruled that


The child victim (of rape) shall not be separated from her parents/guardians on the ground of ascertaining the voluntary nature of statement. No court shall detain a child in an institution meant for the adults”


The good news is that judiciary is becoming sensitized towards the trauma that a child has to go through in courts; often having to describe the complete incident to total strangers, fielding uncomfortable questions (“where did he touch you?”, “Did you resist?”). The least we can do is spare the little soul who has been abused from this additional form of abuse!


The bad news is that, although there already are “guidelines” put in place regarding rape trials where a minor is involved; it appears that courts are simply ignoring these guidelines left, right and center. What is needed is to turn these guidelines into stringent laws – that's the first step. Making the trial process child-friendly is the next. (More about this in Pinki Virani's Book “Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India” - my review here)


If only, laws and guidelines as they are on paper were to be implemented! Looking forward to an India where the law treats the children as children and not as commodities!



Flood Relief, Statues and More

The current flood situation in Andhra Pradesh, the worst in over a century, have caused damage to the tune of Rs. 12 Thousand Crore; according to the Andhra Pradesh government (news link here). The state government has sought immediate assistance of Rs. 6 thousand crore from the centre.


Meanwhile, elsewhere in India, Mayawati intends to spend a whopping Rs. 2600 crore on statues and other structures in honor of various leaders in UP. And then, while reading another article, I came to know that there are plans to build a statue of Shivaji in Mumbai at a cost of Rs. 350 crore.


There – I have already provided the source for 50% of the flood relief budget – and we're just done with statues and just two states. Need I say anything more?


Oh yes – I do. What would Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar or Chhatrapati Shivaji themselves prefer in such a situation? That some lunatics build their statues when lakhs of people are homeless? Or divert the funds to help the needy?


Any answers, honorable politicians of my country?


Wake Up Sid: Movie Review and some Introspection

Just watched “Wake Up Sid” today. Really liked the movie. I'll keep the review short in order to concentrate on the introspection (rather, interpretation).


The Movie

Wake Up Sid” is about two people who appear to be poles apart. Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) is the son of a rich businessman in Mumbai. In the beginning he seems to be a happy-go-lucky guy, but you soon realize that this is at a much higher level – he's completely irresponsible, is a failure at college, and cannot even stick to the job his dad offers him at their business for more than a week. Aisha (Konkona Sen), on the other hand, is a mature, independent-minded lady who has come to Mumbai from Kolkata with a goal in mind.


The movie is about the friendship between these two; but does it eventually turn into love? Let me leave the story at that to avoid spoilers .. uh . .am I too late? :)


What I liked

... about the movie is the fresh approach to a not-so-different story. The story and the main characters have been handled in a way that made me identify with them. I kept comparing myself with Sid first and with Aisha next (c'mon .. comparison is inevitable), trying to decide in what way I am better than each; and what I would like to learn from each. Acting is good; and I fell in love with Konkona all over again(*blush*) :D To top it all, there's no unnecessary kissing scenes and the sex quotient of the movie is like zero (Just for the record: I'm not against kissing or love-making scenes in movies .. just that now-a-days there's overkill and these are used even when not relevant thus diluting the main theme of the movies!)


Interpretation

When I was watching the first half, I spent the entire time just enjoying the movie. The college life, the small moments of comedy. Only during the second half did I realize that the movie is trying to put across a point. Although the contrast between the characters is brought out very well, I felt that each character had some elements of the other. For example, I felt in some scenes that Sid demonstrated remarkable maturity. Aisha, on the other hand, sometimes acted like the very baby that she accused Sid of being.


And near the end of the film, it suddenly occurred to me that this film is not really a love story! I actually concluded what exactly the film is trying to impress on me; and I concur with it too. To put it in short, the “Wake Up Sid” is telling me “Everyone needs to change and become mature as time goes by, everyone needs to have a goal in life and all that; but one also needs to slow down every now and then to take in the simple pleasures of life, to become an irresponsible and care-free baby again!” Cheers to that thought.


Flood Rescue and the Language Card

Union Minister M K Alagiri came to the aid of 18 Tamilian tourists from Pallipalayam who were stuck in the floods in Andhra Pradesh, says this article in ToI.


I suppose contacting the minister was an act of desperation by the unfortunate tourists who, I'm sure, would want to shake off the entire episode as a bad dream. Imagine being caught in the middle of one of the worst flood in South India in recent times!


But, as you might have guessed, the flood situation is not the topic of this post. Then what is?


If some Indians are in a soup in a foreign land (for example, have lost their passports etc); then it is the duty of our embassy there, and of our Government here; to ensure the safety of those Indians.


If some Indians are being harassed or mistreated in a foreign land, then it is the responsibility of the embassy and the Government, to demand the safety of the Indians from the government of that foreign country.


Going one step further, if a person from State A within India is in State B; and is being harassed there on the basis of his origin – Yes – then maybe the state governments need to step in.


But, playing the language card when there is a natural calamity? M K Alagiri may have done the right thing by expediting the rescue of those eighteen Tamilian tourists; but what about the lakhs of others (especially people from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka) who have been the victims of nature's fury during the past few days? Another way of asking this question: Should I show my humane side only when the person in trouble is my lingual sibling? If the Union minister had the resources at his disposal to be able to rescue people trapped in the floods, why use this power only to rescue people of his own state? You belong to a country, remember? It's named India. There are 28 states in this country in addition to your own. And we aren't even talking about Union Territories yet!!!


And oh, replace “language” or “state” in the rant above with any of the following; and my question still holds:

  • Religion

  • Caste

  • Creed

  • Nationality

  • .... and the list goes on and on ..

Looking forward to a country where our nationality and our Indian-ness is our primary identity (err .. am I hoping for too much?)


Bajaj Discover Ad: Discover the Truth

Watch the recent Bajaj Discover bike commercial if you haven't. It appears to be oh-so-interesting what with a village where people speak only Sanskrit being just a one-liter drive from Mangalore. (Link from Bajaj site here and youtube link here – neither of which might be permanent!)



Dear Bajaj Auto, don't you think your ad companies could do with just a little fact-checking before releasing this factually flawed ad to the public? For,

  • The ad claims that Mattur is 100 kms from Mangalore. Err, Mattur is actually 6 kms from the district headquarter city of Shimoga; which in turn is about 200 kms from Mangalore and 280 kms from Bangalore. What's that? You want proof? Go drive from Mangalore to Shimoga – you'll get ample proof. I could post links to google maps or other distance calculators here, but I won't. It is your job to have verified it first.

  • I have been to Mattur village. And although it is true that villagers speak Sanskrit, they use the language to converse among themselves. I spent a couple of hours at the village conversing only in Kannada. For gods' sake, you expect the public to believe that the villagers will start speaking in Sanskrit with every tourist or visitor who comes there? Get outta here!


It is understandable that the ad industry is cut-throat and they need to just exaggerate a bit. But claiming that the distance between two cities is half of what it actually is – that's taking it a bit too far. It only serves to diminish the credibility of the companies involved. What's next? Will Bajaj claim that Shimla is less than a one-liter drive from Delhi?


Taking advantage

Specimen A: A bully who takes undue advantage of his muscle to get his way.

Specimen B: A woman who takes undue advantage of her feminine charm in order to get her way (at work where she works her charm on the boss; in queues where the guy who's manning it considers it “good manners” to allow the girl to break the queue; at the signal she just broke where she “convinces” the cop to let her go with a milder fine; and just about everywhere).


We all detest Specimen A; without exception. But how is Specimen B different from Specimen A? At the end of the day, both are being manipulative and using what they consider their most valuable asset (or effective weapon depending, on how you look at it) to get what they want.


Well?


Internet Freedom and Regulation: The Skype Case

According to a news item in today's ToI; Skype has refused to co-operate with Indian authorities in a matter relating to the nation's internal security. Apparently, Skype has refused to share the encryption code which it uses to encrypt the data communicated over the VoIP service it provides. This encryption code will help the Indian Intelligence agencies to intercept communications and could be an important tool in the fight against terror.


This refusal on the part of Skype has prompted Indian Intelligence authorities to consider banning Skype – which again, as the article points out, is easier said than done since Skype hosts its servers outside of India.


Now, I am not a believer in internet censorship – since it is a free medium after all. But, this is a serious matter and has a direct bearing on the internal security scene in India. Further, the report says that Skype has already shared the encryption code with Governments of countries like US and China. Then why not with India? The article does not mention why Skype has refused to share the information.


I think it is in the best interests of everyone involved if Skype co-operates with India in this case. Failing which, India should consider banning the service; the possibility of by-passing the ban notwithstanding, considering the fact that China has succeeded in strictly monitoring each and every aspect of internet use in the country!



Remarkable Efficiency in the Corruption System?

The whole Indian system is bloody inefficient- Says who?”, thundered my pal; Mr. Professional (MP) recently when I was cribbing about inefficiency being the principal ingredient of the Indian DNA.


“Have you ever tried registering your property (site/house)? Then you would have inevitably come across the remarkably efficient bribe system. Everything is fixed. The bribe you pay (over and above the registration charges of course) is either a fixed percentage of your property value; or follows slab-rates depending on the property value. It doesn't end there. Each person's share of this pie is clearly defined beforehand, all the way up to the minister; no less. And have you ever stopped to marvel at the process of bribe collection and distribution?”


I definitely saw sense in what MP was saying. I pointed him to this excellent article by Atanu Dey which explains how trucks are routinely overloaded in exchange for a bribe. I was astounded at the way it works – and how seamless the entire process seams to be. Everyone stands to gain – the lorry operator, the corrupt officials at the check-point, the road construction contractor, and not to mention the babus and netas.


That only charged up MP all the more. He now focused his energies on bashing the LPG cylinder delivery chain. “Do you have any idea why you have to wait for 10 days to even 2 weeks for delivery of you LPG cylinder from the day you book it? It's because the dealers are stocking it up and providing it in black. The process is so streamlined, you won't even suspect something's cooking. You'll even dismiss the delay as yet another manifestation of the Great Indian Inefficiency Syndrome!”


Well, well, well. MP's right this time. The various processes and systems which corruption has spawned should be taught as subjects at the various B-Schools. They're probably six-sigma or better. If only this skill had been put to proper use. And here we are, the educated middle class, who's blissfully putting it all down to inefficiency. Ha!


Poland to Castrate Paedophiles

According to this news item in today's ToI, Poland has approved a law that mandates castration of child sex offenders in some cases. The news item also adds in the same breath that this move has sparked criticism from human rights groups.


Two points I want to raise here:

One – Heinous crimes call for heinous punishment! Why can't other countries around the world take such concrete and seriously tough steps to curb the menace of child sex abuse?

Two – The part about criticism from human rights groups had me thinking: Can an adult who mercilessly sexually abuses a child really qualify as “human”? Why can't human rights groups look from the child's point of view for once?


Looking forward to a humane world which treats its children as human too!


B-Cancer and T-Cancer

We all have heard about blood cancer and lung cancer. But, ever since I came to know that my close friend Lai has “nose cancer”; I have been discussing with friends and I came to know about forms of cancer I had never heard about – cancer in the knee-cap, in the esophagus.


Another very prevalent form of cancer about which awareness is only recently increasing is breast cancer. In the past five years, I have known of about eight women who have lost their lives to B-cancer. All Indian, most of them middle-aged. I always used to hold our culture and women's attitudes responsible in equal measure for this. Its not only about awareness. Its also about the social outlook towards the problem. We Indians being notoriously conservative in all these (often wrong) matters; the problem is only compounded. People (both women and their husbands) shying away from consulting doctors; and self-examination being either unheard of, or worse – people having partial and wrong information about self-examination. After all, its our great culture, I used to think, where even using the B-word is taboo (if you haven't noticed, I'm even using “B-word” .. instead of .. well .. the B-word) – let alone getting oneself examined for cancer.


But that was before a friend told me about yet another form of the disease – testicular cancer. A few days after I came to know about this, I was also pointed to former World cycling champion Lance Amstrong's story (he has survived T-cancer to become the world champion).


And now that I know about T-Cancer, I no longer blame women or culture or society for the prevalence of B-Cancer. Suddenly, I understand the hesitation, the shame, the shyness that women must be going through when faced with the prospect of an examination. I understand it is not only about the examination itself – it is also about how to face society. Which also explains the hesitation to consult even lady doctors.


However; shame, shyness, culture – none of these justify neglecting or concealing the disease, whether B-Cancer or T-Cancer. It is a matter of life or death, for God's sake! I feel that the awareness (at least regarding B-Cancer) is spreading these days – which is definitely a good thing. All we need now is a change in societal outlook towards these killers – an outlook which strongly discourages young men and women from ignoring these diseases.


On a closing note, I think we should put the internet to good use in such matters. Information regarding self-examinations for various forms of cancer is available on the internet; including videos (for example on sites like videojug). These can be used to make the youngsters more aware of these issues; which would help them take preventive measures.


Looking forward to a society which values human life more than it does shame! JAI BHARAT.


Stricter Traffic Rules: The Real Reason

There was a news item last month - traffic violations in Bangalore will become dearer; not only in terms of the fine applicable, but also in the sense that repeat violators stand to lose their driving licenses. It appears to be a very good move .. on the face of it.


But just dig a bit deeper; and suddenly it all becomes very clear. It is just a very smart way for the traffic police to make more money; and demand more bribes. The target – those people who insist on paying the fine and getting the receipt rather than paying a bribe.


Given a choice between paying a bribe and getting your “violation” tracked, thereby risking losing your license; what would you prefer? I think I'd rather pay the bribe – principles take a back seat. Especially because of the fact that it is virtually impossible to drive in Bangalore without breaking some rule or the other – albeit unwittingly. For,

  • Many of the signals are faulty. Some signals stay permanently red for most of the days; and suddenly start functioning properly only when there is a cop around.

  • With bullies behind you honking and shouting and abusing you when you wait at a red signal, I think the sensible option is to face the police rather than face the bullies!

  • Signals in Bangalore do not follow a standard convention (especially the “blinking green arrow”, free left turns; “free straight” all are very irregular)

  • Huge number of signals are obscured by signboards, trees, and other such.

  • Most importantly, sometimes you are concentrating on the vehicles around you rather than craning your neck to see where the signal light is. Or, you are following a bus and the signal is simply not visible.


Bottom line – since it is very difficult to perfectly follow the rules while driving in Bangalore; and since I would not risk losing my license; I think I will need to compromise on the “no-bribe” principle if this proposal is implemented by the transport department.


On a closing note, how I wish the traffic police and transport department tried to target the deliberate violators; rather than the unfortunate ones who break the rules by mistake!


Book Review: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Imagine one fine day, human beings were to vanish from earth. No, we are not talking about extinction or asteroid collision or anything of that sort. Just imagine that all our constructions, all our signs are retained – just we humans are plucked from the earth. What would then happen?


The World Without Us”, by Alan Weisman, tries to answer just that question. I'm sure we all know what we've done to the Earth. But, reading this book will give you a more complete picture of this. It leaves no stone unturned, no aspect of human interference untouched. Just a sample of what are the topics the book touches upon:

  • What will happen to New York city without us?

  • What will happen to oil refineries?

  • How long before the nuclear power plants disintegrate without humans to maintain them?

  • What will happen to farms and farmlands in the absence of humans?

  • Will corals reinvent themselves sans us?

  • How long will the non-biodegradable poison (plastic) continue to poison the animals, bird and aquatic beings after we're gone?

  • Will nuclear waste buried at several places deep below the earth continue to poison all future species for millions of years to come (remember, fuel-grade Uranium has a half-life of 700-million years)?


What is even more interesting is that in order to understand what will happen in future; Alan takes us through a history of how the arrival of humans wreaked havoc with the environment. How the appearance of humans coincided with the extinction of megafauna (massive animals like giant sloths which were twice as big as today's elephants). So guys, if you though the industrial revolution was the beginning of the destruction of the earth, you are off by a few million years!


Then, Alan also takes an educated guess as to what might be the monuments which will last the longest – and as you would have guessed, most of them are ancient!


I think I'll leave you with that – and rate “The World Without Us” as a must-read if you are an environmentalist or a nature-lover. The author has travelled to all corners of the earth in quest of the answer; and he takes you from corals to deserts to Chernobyl to Serengeti to the Korean DMZ to the 5-centuries old forests in Poland and Belarus. All this makes for a very interesting read; not to mention a very relevant and thought-provoking one at that.


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Other books I have reviewed:



Viral Fever ke Side Effects

Viral Fever ka Side Effect 1: H1N1 fear grips you :)

.. like the guy who was just before me in the line at the hospital. He mentioned the s-flu word to the doc and got a mild scolding from the doc for believing the the media hype!


Viral Fever ka Side Effect 2: Unread count bloat!

Hmm .. lets see – unread tweets: 150 – that's easy to clear. Google Reader unread blog count: 350! Now you know why I have not been commenting on your blogs of late!


Viral Fever ka Side Effect 3: Ruined Weekend

A packed Independence Day weekend goes waste – in bed. And you start wondering why you always fall sick on weekends. Why not on weekdays when you can skip work for a couple of days?


Viral Fever ka Side Effect 4: A book completed.

Well – you dont feel like watching TV, you dont want to switch on the laptop; but then you want to avoid rusting. So what do you do? You complete that book you've been reading slowly forever now. You read more in 4 days than you've read in the whole month before this :) (stay tuned for a book review)


My Friend Lai, a Cancer-Fighter

My close friend, Lai, has been diagnosed with nose cancer. When I came to know about this, my mind was a swirl of emotions. I did not even know what to think. But, I read his blog completely; and once I did that, I started seeing Lai and this whole matter in a new light altogether.


One – Lai refuses to be bogged down by self-pity. What's the point of being sorry for oneself? He has decided that he's going to fight the cancer. That's remarkable – in a world which is hell-bent on making patients sorry for themselves; where more people lose their lives to the loss of hope rather than to their root suffering itself!


Two – Lai has turned this situation into a source of hope. He wants to motivate other cancer patients like himself – to fight; to survive. To quote him “Cancer is a new beginning – not an ending”! This is now the main purpose of his blog.


Now; I can not even imagine what I'd do had I been in his situation. Its very easy for me to sit here and throw in an opinion that one should be strong, one should fight, one should not give in .. blah blah. But the real impact will only be known to one who is actually the patient.


However, Lai's blog proves that hope and the will to fight are the most indispensable companions of a patient. After seeing the situation from his point of view; I now feel that I can encourage anybody to fight their diseases, their suffering rather than throw in the towel. I now view Lai as an embodiment of hope for cancer patients – the world over.


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I have now decided that:

  • I will never feel sorry or sad for a cancer patient in the future – no-one's going to gain anything from it.
  • I will do all it takes to spread Lai's message, his blog, his determination, so that it reaches other cancer patients.

I request you to do the same. The larger the number of cancer patients who find the hope, the motivation and the strength to survive from this initiative – the larger would be our bit in helping Lai. You can also contact him through various channels – details are over at his blog.


I'm now a proud friend of a proud cancer patient.


Indian Media, Pigeons and Terror

Who were the most deeply scarred by the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai? Politicians? Aam Aadmi? Security Forces? Mumbaikars? All of India?


India TV added one more to the list – pigeons.

Original youtube link here.


You never know when youtube videos suddenly become “no longer available” - so let me also put into words, what this video is trying to say. This minute-and-a-half clip shows a video grab of a news item shown on India TV in the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 attacks. The reporter is making a complete fool of himself in his attempt to draw the attention of the nation to the plight of the pigeons who had made the Taj their home (and who were supposedly the “pride of the Taj”, according to IndiaTV). There are several melodramatic phrases used by the reporter (which I'd rather not translate).


This clip is too stupid to even warrant a comment. All I want to say is – guys @ India TV – please see this news item and look back at what exactly you were trying to prove by airing this clip (at a time when one billion people were terrorized; and awaiting news of their near and dear ones in Mumbai, hoping the terrorists had been captured, praying that the victim count had stopped rising)


Cheers to the might Indian Mainstream Media!


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My previous posts on Media Madness:

  1. Short Story: EmpTy-TV and Parkha Strutt
  2. Maniacal media

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Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. All the views and opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, organization, relatives, friends, acquaintances or any other person/entity.