A CM and Alzheimer's

Scene 1
Shibu Soren takes the support of BJP to form a Govt in Jharkhand, of which he is the CM.

Scene 2
BJP moves a cut motion against the UPA Govt in the Parliament. Shibu Soren votes against the cut motion, leaving BJP red-faced and showing how clearly [edited undivided] divided the opposition is.

Scene 3 (The “clincher”)
An aide of Shibu Soren says “Guruji is suffering from Alzheimers' and did not know what he was doing”. Yes, you read that right. Rub your eyes, squint at your monitor, re-open the website or read it after having 2 helpings of your favourite beverage and you're still going to read the same thing. Alzheimer's.


So, here is a Chief Minister of a state of India, serving a population of 2 crore plus; and he has Alzheimer's? He doesn't even know what he's doing, who he is voting for or against in a parliamentary motion? That's either the scariest thing next to the movie “Exorcist”; or it's the most scoff-worthy piece of crap.

Seems to be the season of ridiculous excuses (with this one being not even a day old). Kasab must be rubbing his hands in glee. I can envisage him saying:

I was drunk when I was shooting away at CST, but more importantly, I have Alzheimer's so I don't even remember the shooting. Or the drinking”.

Such it goes.

Short Story: Blame the Alcohol

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You won't believe what happened. The other day, I was drunk and my wife was too. We got into a heated argument. In a fit of rage, I fetched the knife from the kitchen and dug it deep into her abdomen. She bled to death.

Now, how is that my fault? I wasn't even aware what the consequences would be. But the courts wouldn't listen. First, the District Court, then the High Court. They both termed it as MURDER!!

Glad that finally the Supreme Court had the sense and saw it all from my point of view. It realised that I was drunk and had no control over proceedings. You know, they aren't treating my case as murder. How cool is that?

Okay, I'm off. First, I'll go on a drinking binge. And then, I'll commit more crimes under the influence. I'll loot, plunder, shoot, kill, rape, betray. I cannot be blamed for those, can I? It's the damn alcohol.

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Disclaimer: This article has NO relation whatsoever to this news item. I wouldn't dare to counter the Supreme Court's views now, would I?

Amnesty, Purulia and an Open Letter

Dear Amnesty, UN and other organisations opposing the extradition of Purulia arms drop mastermind Kim Davy to India, I ask the following questions of you:

  1. Do you have any idea of the implications of such a massive arms-drop on a nation's security?
  2. Had someone (say, a “third-worlder”) been caught doing the same in US airspace or the airspace of one of your own so-called “developed” countries, would you have been taking up his case so strongly?
  3. Is protecting one's own country and punishing proven foreign criminals the prerogative of only the rich countries?
Looking forward to some gyaan from your intelligent and righteous selves.

Yours Sincerely,
Concerned Indian Citizen

P.S: I have a nagging feeling that you are headed the “criminal rights way”. Have you done anything that might dispel my concern?

This is What Real "Sports News" Should Be

What have been the sporting achievements of Indians during the past month and a half?

  • Saina Nehwal broke into the top 5 of world badminton rankings. She became the first Indian woman to do so. She was also a semi-finalist at the Badminton Asia championship held in India. 
  • Pankaj Advani created history by becoming the first cueist ever to score a hat-trick of Asian billiard titles when he won the title for the third time at Singapore.
  • Then, there was a group of archers from a backward region in Gujarat, who attended the National archery championships in Guwahati. Yes, this is an achievement considering they had to sell off their ancestral properties in order to pay the airfare.

Well, I think I need to stop here. Because, as far as I can tell, these achievements and news items are irrelevant. People couldn't care less. We, as a great sporting nation, have more pressing matters at hand. Sania getting married to Shoaib. And, then, the question about who funded what team in IPL and where the money came from.

Long Live Indian Sports. And Long Live our dream of getting double digit medals in Olympics (for I'm sure this will remain a dream).

2 Seriously WTF News Items of the Day


Imagine a woman, foreign national, in Dubai. She is out for a drink with friends, and on the way home, she is raped by a local. She informs the police. What happens next? SHE faces jail, of course. It's her fault and not the rapist's.

I wonder what happens when a person is murdered in Dubai. Is the dead person given life imprisonment?

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Then, there's Iran – one of the most earthquake-prone countries. And what, would you say, is the reason for these frequent tremors? Tectonic plates? Some complex seismic movements in the earth's crust? Well, according to this cleric, it is women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously!!

The lesson learnt – People all over the world, please stay away from beaches, swimming pools and bathrooms. These are the places most likely to be hit by earthquakes.

Profession and Respect


Overheard in a bus
Dude1: He should've kept in mind that she is an engineer before being so rude to her.
Dude2: Yeah, he treated her like a housemaid.

What has profession got to do with respectability? For all you know, a driver might be much more honorable than the CEO he is chauffeuring. This is well known to one and all. And yet, we expect ourselves to be given more “importance” because we belong to a particular profession.

What kind of respect really matters? That which one commands? Or that which one demands?

Outsider. Insider.


These days, wherever I turn, I simply cannot avoid getting pulled into an “outsider vs local” debate. Among friends, colleagues, in the newspapers, on the interweb – I invariably run into a discussion on how “outsiders” are “spoiling” a certain city or how the “locals” of that city are hostile to the outsiders (be it Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai). This post is my take on the entire debate.

The opinions detailed in this post are based on my own experience: I have never stayed in my hometown; and until my late teens I had never even stayed in the state where I hail from. However, since I had been for 7+ years each in two other states, I had started treating those two states as my home.

I have also travelled a bit – ranging from a week in Bangkok to 4 months in Gurgaon to 7 months in Kuala Lumpur.

I think that how welcome you make yourself feel in an away place depends, to a large extent, on your own self. There are really only 2 simple rules to follow to make sure that your relationship with the locals in a strange land is pleasant:
  1. Respect the local culture
  2. Do not do anything which makes the locals feel threatened.
Intra-national and inter-national

We Indians take German language learning classes before taking up a job in Germany. We train ourselves to speak in French and learn French etiquette before embarking to Paris on an assignment. But the same “we” expect everyone in India to somehow know our culture, our food habits, our language. Why so? It is important to appreciate the fact that although the whole of India is your country, and it is your right to stay anywhere you want in the country, there are massive differences in “way of life” across India. For instance,
  • A well-dressed professional from Mumbai, who is used to travelling in overcrowded trains, is likely to wonder what the fuss is all about when he comes to Bangalore and hears people say they travel by car because buses are crowded.
  • If a resident of, say, Kerala travels to Mizoram, he is sure to be bewildered by the early rising and setting of the sun there.
  • A Bangalorean, accustomed to the ubiquitous autorickshaw, would be in for a struggle to find public transport if he travels to some of the “interior” sectors of Noida or Gurgaon.
  • Majority of urban Indians, always cribbing about parking space, would re-think their complaint if they ever visit Shimla and notice the precarious parking positions there.
  • Most Indians would have no idea about factoring in snowfall and landslides into their day-to-day plans and would have a hard time if posted in J&K or Sikkim.

Bottom line: it is as important to understand the background of the place you are visiting within India, as it is if the place is a foreign land.

Respect for the local culture

I personally know several people who consider learning another's culture as a disrespect to their own. In my opinion this is completely unacceptable. Wherever I go, I make an attempt to learn some speciality of the local way of life. Remember, it is NOT necessary for you to “become one of them” . All you need to do is show some genuine interest in the local way of life.

When I was in Kuala Lumpur, I made it a point to wish my Malaysian friends on local festivals and national holidays. In fact, I even wished the taxi drivers on the bigger occasions like Merdeka (Independence Day).

As another example, the average Thai is extremely polite – this goes right from a sweeper in the hotel to the big-shot executive. But, at a restaurant in Bangkok, I saw a group of desis snap at the waitress for some reason, demanding a replacement for one of their dishes. Such kind of behaviour is not going to earn them any brownie points. If you are unhappy with the service offered, the way you express it in Bangkok is different from the way you would in Delhi.

A final illustration of this point – driving in Europe. The European motorist is very courteous – especially to pedestrians. If you don't want to be a black sheep in Europe, you better adapt your driving style by keeping your hands miles away from the horn; and adjusting to the pedestrian-is-first convention.

Be Non-threatening to the locals

Different cultures are strongly protective of different aspects of their ways of life. For The Vatican, Bhutan and several Muslim nations, religion comes first. In France, Japan or Tamil Nadu, language is foremost. In several far eastern cultures, business and work take precedence over everything else. It is advantageous to know what the people of the place you are visiting are particular about – and make sure you do not offend that aspect of their culture. This, by no stretch of the imagination, means that you MUST be fluent in the local language or that you embrace the local religion. All it means is that your actions and the way you conduct yourself should not make the locals feel threatened regarding their precious way of life.

This particular point requires more thought since it involves not only individual behavior but group dynamics as well.
  • As a bonafide Goan, I like individual “foreigners” who tour Goa every year – but I detest them collectively since they descend in hordes and spoil the beauty of the state, are responsible for obscene price spikes during the tourist season; and in the recent past, are projecting the state into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. There have been reports of foreigners being involved in the land mafia in the state and I feel threatened that Goa might be taken over by them. The individual tourist does not look at it all from my angle and is hence sure to be put off by my hostility towards them (real or perceived).
  • What is the percentage of Kannada speakers in Bangalore? That of local ethnic Tibetans in Lhasa, especially since the opening of the trans-Tibetan railway?Are the locals justified in feeling threatened that they might be reduced to a minority in their own homeland?
  • I had once shared a taxi in Kuala Lumpur with another Indian. There was some light local music playing on the radio. My fellow passenger said in a rude way that he was getting a headache and he asked the driver to switch off the radio. So, is the taxi driver justified in feeling threatened by all Indians?
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I have always tried to stick to these basic rules of thumb and I find that not only do I get to learn a new culture, the hosts give me my space too. It makes my stay in a place away from home that much more pleasant. And, the best part – there's nothing at all that I lose. If anything, I gain in the bargain.

~Diversity makes the Earth beautiful. Savoring it makes life beautiful~

55-er: Sibling Discrimination


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They came home from college. She wasn't feeling well. He thought he'd help her with the dishes.

Their mother snatched the dishes from him. “You men shouldn't be doing kitchen work”, she snapped.

He left the kitchen quietly. However, he couldn't get himself to look his sister in the eye for the next few days.
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55-er: When Venus Has the Upper Hand

As the name implies, 55-ers are posts which contain 55 words or less. There are some more rules for 55-word fiction according to wikipedia which I am reproducing below; but I do not think it is necessary to judge each 55-er based on all of these rules.


A literary work will be considered 55 Fiction if it has:

  1. Fifty-five words or less (A non-negotiable rule)

  2. A setting,

  3. One or more characters,

  4. Some conflict, and

  5. A resolution. (Not limited to moral of the story)

  6. The title of the story is not part of the overall word count, but it still can’t exceed seven words.


I find 55-ers to be a pretty interesting way to express your opinion – you need to be concise but clear (something I don't consider myself to be very good at). It is amazing how much can be expressed in 55 words. Check out Shail's Nest, and IndianPundit for a dose of excellent 55-ers.


This is my first attempt at 55-er.


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His bike kissed her car's bumper. Both drivers were at fault.


Out she came screaming. He removed his helmet to say sorry. She slapped him hard, his genuine apologies drowning when palm met cheek.


Maybe she's justified”, he thought. “Men often misbehave”.


Maybe I can get away with this”, she thought. “After all I'm female”.


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This is not entirely fictional. I witnessed something similar in New Delhi over a decade back.


AvantGarde Bloggies Awards: I Won!

Finally, 4 years after I started blogging, I have won an award! I have won the Best Book Review at AvantGarde Bloggies Awards for my review of Bitter Chocolate. First and foremost a BIG thanks to Poonam and her team of judges and designers for organizing this award. If any of you out there think that running an online awards is a simple matter, you really need to read this post about the process that was followed – from nomination phase right up to the polls phase. Hats off to the team!


The next round of thanks goes out to those of you who voted for me since you are the ones who made me winner :)


Congratulations to all the winners and runners-up. But more importantly – congrats to all those who made the final shortlist. Remember – being shortlisted is in itself an achievement since your post would have undergone scrutiny from some of India's topmost bloggers. The polls were merely a measure of one's popularity/network than of the quality of the post itself.


Don't agree with that last sentence? Check the percentages of votes that each post polled in the Best Book Review category. You will see that 3 out of the 6 did not get any votes at all. I suppose this is either because the authors were unaware they had been nominated; or that they simply did not publicise it. I, on the other hand, put up the link on twitter, facebook, my blog, gtalk status requesting people to vote. Further, although I did persuade my readers to read the various entries before voting, I do not know how many actually did that. In fact, I am pretty sure there were several who voted for me without even reading my post!


Bottom-line: All the shortlisted posts were winners in their own rights. Congratulations to each and every one of those bloggers.


It goes without saying that this award spurs me to do better and to improve the quality of my blog. Let's hope that this motivation is translated into the real thing on the blog :)


Book Review: "It's Not About The Bike" by Lance Armstrong

What's it about?

“Its Not About The Bike” is the story of World Champion in cycling Lance Armstrong's fight against cancer – testicular cancer. To put things into perspective, Lance won the Tour de France – the crowning glory for any cyclist - after he had recovered from cancer; and he did it twice back-to-back. That's how inspiring his story is.


The Chronology

The book traces the life history of Lance Armstrong, his childhood in Texas being raised by a single mother, how he started riding the cycle and how he was a winner right from college days.


By the time he reached his early twenties, Lance was a world champion already. Just as his career was shaping up, cancer struck. Lance describes how he ignored some ominous signs and wrote them off as effects of intense cycling. In fact, he even rode the 1996 Olympics and did not return a good result. He did not know it at that time but he had competed in the Olympics with cancer in his body.


1996 was the year when Lance was told the three dreaded words “You have cancer”. So, here he was, at the turning point of his career, already a champion, starting to make money, beginning to train big time to conquer the Tour de France and at that opportune moment, he is diagnosed with cancer.


The Fight

The book then follows the story of how Lance fought the cancer – against all odds. His cancer was at a very advanced stage already. It had spread to his chest and even brain. He was given very low chances of survival. Lance describes the struggles that he went through – surgery, catheter, chemotherapy (which he says is worse than the disease itself). There were a lot many other challenges:


  • When he was diagnosed with cancer, Lance was moving from one team to another – so he did not have insurance!

  • He knew he would become sterile eventually (remember it was testicular cancer he suffered from), so he froze sperm with the hope that he would someday be still able to conceive a baby.

  • One of his sponsors, Cofidis, pulled the rug from under him – essentially they gave up on him.

  • There was no dearth of de motivation from all quarters.


But in spite of all this, Lance fought – he fought and survived the cancer. His key allies in the fight were:


  • Knowledge – as soon as Lance was diagnosed, he started reading up on the topic and armed himself with as much knowledge as possible. He took second and third opinions from doctors

  • His mother's unflinching devotion.

  • Friends and family's support.

  • Doctors, nurses and medicinal science.

  • Above all – spirit.


Each and every one of these factors played a crucial role in Lance's recovery and the absence of even one of these might have spelled doom.


What Next?

But surviving cancer was only the first part of the story. After recovery came yet another struggle – what to do with the rest of his life? When Lance had been sick, he had just wanted to live – even if it meant he'd never had to mount a bicycle again in his life. During the “survivorship” phase, he had all but given up on cycling. To add to it, he had to undergo tests every month for one year to ensure that cancer had not reared its ugly head again.


He was a mental wreck. He was to understand later that this is called “survivorship” and it is an extremely difficult phase to go through. He had put everything he had into fighting the disease and surviving and now that he had done it – he was spent. There was a hollow sensation and he didn't know what to do with the rest of his life.


As if putting the pieces of his life together was not difficult enough, Lance had to deal with de-motivating comments from lot of people too.


The Return

But Lance returned. He mounted the bike and when he did – he was a changed man. Before his disease, he had been a rash young man who dint think much about strategy. He used to just mount the bike and use brute force to win.


Now he was a more calculating, team-player and after a few months of riding, he know he had it in him to become a professional again. He met with tremendous de-motivation, some people just dismissed him. But he fought this battle too.


In 1999, against every possible odd, Lance won Tour de France. By now, he had married and he and his wife had also initiated the process of IVF. They wanted to have a baby.


Even this victory was not free of sour grapes. The French media accused Lance of drug abuse. Lance had to prove is innocence too. Further, many people dismissed his victory as a fluke.


And then Lance won the Tour de France again in 2000. That shut is detractors up.


The Take-Away

It's Not About the Bike” is as inspiring as a real life story can ever get. Lance maintains that cancer changed him – his life. He says cancer made him a better person and changed his perspective of life. However, I think this holds for any disease, or acute adversity that a person faces. Determination, awareness, will to fight and human spirit are indispensable to overcome any major problem in life.


I rate “It's Not About The Bike” at 4.5 stars out of 5 and I think it is a must-read for what it teaches you about life.


AP Village Laborer Cracks IIT Entrance

I'm a little late in posting about this – a village labourer from Andhra Pradesh, Narasimha Rao, has secured the 453rd rank in the IIT Entrance exams. Watch this video to know more (original youtube link here)



This is yet another instance of students from the Indian hinterland beating all odds to prove themselves in one of the toughest technical exams ever. Last year, I had written about a college which made IITians out of cattle-grazers. And now this.


Goes to show two things:

One: How much talent and determination rural India bundles.

Two: How important it is to encourage such people and revamp the education system such that mindless “coaching” and “tuition” culture makes way for more sensible and practical approaches.


The video says that Narasimha's battle is only half-won. He still needs money to even travel to the counseling, and needs to supplement the family income.


All I can hope for is that such talent doesn't go waste and that Narasimha makes it to IIT and proceeds to serve the country in his chosen field. We all need such examples of hope and inspiration every now and then to prove what difference determination can make.

Pre-Marital

Pramod Muthalik and Kannada litterateur M Chidananda Murthy have opposed the recent SC verdict on pre-marital sex. Their contention is, and I quote this from the article in ToI:


It can happen only in foreign countries, where almost 33% of 13-year-old girls get pregnant because of such liberal laws. If the same is allowed here, we would face similar consequences,”


Err, gentlemen, I have two innocuous questions for you:

  1. Have either of you ever hear of the term “age of consent” and do you understand how it relates to the matter at hand?

  2. Do you have even the remotest idea how many teenage pregnancies there are in India and what role child marriages play in this statistic?


Looking forward to some enlightenment from your esteemed selves.

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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.