Wednesday, December 31, 2008
We are in an age of advanced political correctness which, although is right in its own way, does tend to make life a bit complicated as seen by the contents of this New Year greeting I received today. Enjoy !
I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting to my friends and colleagues, but it is so difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without offending someone. So I met with my attorney yesterday, and on their advice I wish to say the following
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted Gregorian calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for himself or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.
In short, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
Each time I catch up with my school friends who I grew up with, we end up recalling the good old days and share a very good laugh. And we end up thinking how long back that was. Its not easy realising that lady time is taking us along with her day by day while we vehemently refuse to let go of our notions of being forever young(a Dylan classic). Sitting in the rather popular Cocoa Tree in Cochin is often a surprisingly honest slap on the face. Not only do we get to witness kids (Defn kid - anyone younger than me) with jeans ready to fall with the next breeze while wearing t-shirts 3 sizes larger than their actual size, but we also get to learn whats happening & whats not. Last week I saw 5 guys troop in there sporting beards identical to mine. Time to change my style then, cant be seen as one of their brigade ..... Each one of them whips out a mobile phone at all possible times for no discernible reason and I could go on and on but you get the point - they seem to be really different from how we were when we were their age(which is not a great gap in itself).
Now I realise what our parents must be feeling when they look at us & think 30 years ago life was never like this & wonder how to deal with us. And here I'm talking about kids 3 or more years younger than us. Wow the next generation of kids is going to have one bunch of confused parents (read - us). Gulp ! As Dylan sang - the times, they are a changing .....
Am looking forward to settling down in work & having as much fun, if not more. Marriage age is setting in for both my childhood friends & TAPMI brethren, a couple of weddings are happening in Feb. Looking forward to more in the coming months. The R15 which I blogged about earlier is as tempting as it ever was, crappy after sales service included. Now to build my bank balance towards its high asking price. Thing is by the time I'll be able to afford it Bajaj wouldve come out with newer & better bikes & I'll be back to square one. Hopefully I finally get off my lazy butt & start writing my one-shot-at-writing-glory novel. Hopefully I dont have to upgrade my wardrobe to account for my increasing waistline. Hopefully I get my hands on all the eipsodes of Seinfeld which I'm really loving these days.
Its been a royal mixed bag in the last 364 days, hope the next year is as topsy turvy as this one. What’s life without a little uncertainty anyways ?
Friday, September 19, 2008
For those not in the know, the Bajrang Dal is a youth organization of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Some say they look out for the best interests of the Hindu community in India while moderate Hindu groups accuse them of using violence in their war against Islamist fundamentalists. Even former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP has reportedly criticized them. The BJP (one of India’s big 2 political parties, having been the previous central government) has very strong ties with the VHP & the Bajrang Dal. Come Valentines Day and Bajrang Dal activists are out in their full force as they threaten couples and beat them up for going against our Indian values as well as attack shops selling Valentines Day cards. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind of their involvement in the Gujarat carnage (an article on this can be found elsewhere in this blog). I just came across a couple of articles that talked about Bajrang Dal activists being involved in bomb making accidents, the latest one as near as the 24th of August 2008. Sinners or saints, you decide.
Back to the topic at hand, the state convenor for the Bajrang Dal, Mahendra Kumar, has said that New Life (one of the churches that were attacked) was into conversions, which was why they had acted against them. And yet their leaders roam around threatening to make further attacks if the conversions continue. The BJP Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa says that action will be taken against those who attacked the churches but they should also desist from conversions. These attacks on Christians have begun only since the BJP has come to power in Karnataka in the last couple of months. The issue of conversions is a constantly simmering topic in India but these unprovoked attacks are despicable.
The most saddening part of these attacks is that these hooligans attacked at the Adoration Monastry in Mangalore where there were 10 cloistered nuns. Cloistered nuns shun the outside world and pray for the world. How is it possible that nuns who don’t meet people from the outside world are involved in conversions?
Wasn’t America the country that just bailed out their largest mortgage companies Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae in a deal that according to Mark Zandi, Chief Economist, Moodys, lies between $ 25 – 50 billion? Wasn’t America the country that’s spending billions in their continued invasion of Iraq? Wasn’t America the country that promoted capitalism? How can a country claim that anything goes in the quest for profits but if you make bad decisions we are going to come and bail you out? More importantly, how long can they afford to keep saving financial institutions that are in a sticky spot because of their own stupidity? One benefit that could possibly arise out of all this mess is that people might start becoming smarter to the risk exposure that they face when dealing with financial institutions. But that’s a miniscule gain for what looks to be far from a small price that is being paid.
What a difference a week makes. Last Friday I was reading about Lehman’s advanced announcement of their terrible last quarter results. Now there is no Lehman Brothers. Merrill has been bought over. Talks are on between Morgan Stanley & Wachovia to save the former. Strange are the ways of the world.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Turn your attention to any relative's place and all you can think of is spic and span tables, ashtrays without a speck of ash on them, perfectly arranged nick nacks etc etc. The curtains always look like they have just been washed, the dishes like they have been cleaned so thoroughly that no germs could possibly be alive and the dishes served for dinner even if they are home made are always always perfect. Undoubtedly the maid at the house must be thinking
to herself - Madam is making me work extra hard for the money she pays me, hmmph! Its just that sometimes you feel to yourself - Why does it have to be so perfect? Wouldnt it be wonderful to go to your relative's party and find the main dish doesnt have salt in it or that they forgot to repair the generator which means that everyone has to sit in the party in the dark or with as much illumination as a handful of candles can provide? Why is it that the older we get, we feel this necessity to fool people into believing that we have the perfect house with perfectly trimmed lawns and perfect kid with the class topping grades and ..... Do we have to eliminate all traces of bachelorness in us ?
Ever since I picked up my PSP Ive been going through various game review sites to help me decide what games I need to pick up next. My limited salary and the price of the games (ranging from Rs 750 to Rs 1500, the exchange rate being $1 = Rs 45, you do the math) meant that I can pick up a new game once a month. I was at Landmark (a large retail chain that stocks everything from books to perfumes to music players to consoles) and in the process of deciding which game to pick up when I started talking to this total stranger about PSP games. He was suggesting a couple of games to me when he asked me "Why dont you mod your PSP and pick up the pirated ones?" "Havent got around to doing that" I replied instictively before he left. And then I thought to myself - Since when did piracy become such an accepted norm.
We can all pretend that it doest exist but the honest fact is that it is rampant everywhere. In India everybody freely downloads mp3s and movies. So do I. We dont have a facility for buying our music online (like the itunes system) and even if we did I doubt too many would do so. I like most others of my age group have seen more downloaded movies on my laptop than I have in theatres. This despite getting my laptop just over 2 years back. Its filled with around 20 gb of mostly downloaded music. And I have a bunch of downloaded movies. Its not that I dont go to a theatre and watch movies and make sure the producer gets his moneys worth. But say I want to watch one of my all time faves The Fast & The Furious on a sunday afternoon. I havent found the DVD in any of the large retail shops Ive searched in. If I were to pop into a tiny shop selling pirated DVDs Im a 100% sure I would find the movie and its 2 sequels as well. Moser Baer is doing a lot to fight piracy the smart way - price movie DVD so cheap that people wont mind spending 100 bucks if its a movie they like. Still I dont think we will ever get close to eliminating piracy in all forms. And as long as you & I keep thinking - Hell, as long as people arent copying my software/music/movie content for free, why should I bother?", we wont keep moving towards a pirate free world of the digital kind.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
However Yamaha's new beautiful & expensive R15 is a bike that is a landmark achievement for Indian bikers. Priced almost twice as much as bikes with a similar engine capacity, the bike brings with is exquisite styling & features that makes your bike feel like yesterdays hit. I wasnt really taken up by the bike after watching its ad but that was until I popped into the Yamaha showroom to check out the prices of the bike. And boy is she a royal beaut.
Of course its not all picture perfect, there are only 2 colours on offer right now. A nice blue and a very ordinary black. Apparently a new red colour has been added to the range. I had suggested on xbhp.com that Yamaha could probably look at introducing more colours especially in their special anniversary edition scheme that they released the R1 in recently. In fact there is a guy in Bangalore with an R15 in those colours. Damm neat. Also lower down the torque isnt killer which means some of the opposition 150s might be quicker off the block but the bike is an angel while handling and has rock solid stability. And can just about outdrag a Pulsar 220 which was the erstwhile king of the hill.
The Pulsar220 may epitomise the cream of the current crop of Indian bikes but with its body styling too similar to all the other countless Pulsars on the road the stand out value is not really there. A proverbial victim of its own success. If anyone from Bajaj Auto is reading this, please give your flagship bike some distinctive styling to make it special. Because thats what the R15 does, its turns heads. It brings a smile to your face. You look at it and wish you could have one. And at the end of the day thats what a flagship bike should do.
And in less than a week I picked up a PSP Slim Lite along with God Of War & Justic League Heroes. Not only are the games fun and totally enjoyable, I also use it as a music player & to check my mail. My only grudge is that the speaker volume isnt enough to hear music if Im in the next room like my phone but it serves its purpose well i.e. provides good sound while playing a game.
Which means that my monthly stack of auto mags is lying unread by my bed as the PSP is slowly replacing them. Not totally but it is eating into my reading time at home. I wonder if i can take the PSP to office to kill time when I have no work so I can keep reading my auto mags & get my daily dose of bashing super villains .....
Its easy to let life dictate what is going to happen to you. You complete your education , have a good job in hand. You enjoy life for a few years with your friends, you get married, you settle down, become a parent, struggle to balance work and your family and before you know it your kids have grown up and they are off to college. And the cycle continues while somewhere along the way you lose your dreams & aspirations and become who life wants you to become.
Many Indian movies understandably make money on the basis of the pulling power of their lead actors. Make no mistake about it, Rock On is not just about its actors or music. Its a wonderfully shot movie that highlights just how important the technical crew of a movie are. Brilliant camerawork & lighting make the movie so much more effective. In fact you probably would love the movie even if the camerawork and lighting were in the typical Bollywood style. But the work done in Rock On gives it such an amazing touch its impossible to miss. Sample the screen shots below to know what I mean.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
I must admit I was really lucky to be exposed to a lot of books very early in my childhood. I picked up my first Hardy Boys novel when I was in 3rd standard (pretty early by standards in those days) and I haven’t looked back since. In school a few friends and I would finish our library books within in a few days of getting them issued and then swap them and finish those as well and then confidently head to the library the following week and take a new set.
My stint in TAPMI reintroduced me to books after a very long hiatus and its been a welcome return. Stepping into a book store in Bangalore with a pick up all you can read for free offer will ensure that I will empty the entire store. However until that day I still have to pay for anything I pick up but my meager bank balance has been a bummer. Until I stumbled upon this book sale near my place where second hand books were being sold dirt cheap. The first time I went I picked up 4 books and was immensely satisfied. The next day I went there with my friend who wanted to pick up a couple of books and I ended up picking another 4 books…. Did I mention the fact that they were really cheap?
Now to find enough time to finish all these books before the next sale begins. One thing is for sure I’m not going to let circumstances decide that I have to take a break from books (non academic of course). I’d sacrifice a weekend movie and instead settle down with a good book anytime. If only kids these days weren’t so much into everything except a good old fashioned novel (no Harry Potter isn’t included). Parents out there stop gifting your kids remote controlled toys and PlayStation games and Barbie dolls. These are going to be discarded in a few months time. Gift them a good book and get them hooked. Turn them into bookies (of the good kind). For life.
I have a suggestion to make to all recruiters heading out to B-schools this year. Admittedly getting the best of India's MBA certificate toting, ready-to-become-the-next-Bill Gates youngsters is becoming harder and harder with each passing year. One group discussion followed by a 15 minute interview is scarcely time enough to gauge a candidates caliber & ability to work in a team (all too important these days). So I propose that all the HR people embarking on their whirlwind round the country hiring spree later on this year make the selection process more transparent and use the following criterion while shortlisting prospective employees – check whether he/she has had a dog while growing up.
I can hear your chuckles and laughs already. Hold on to your horses, let me explain. Having a dog (and I will deliberately refrain from the term owning a dog) brings such a truckload of experiences with it that a non dog lover somehow just may not get the wonder of it. Having a dog doesn’t mean feeding him/her Pedigree (a brand of ready made dog food available here in India) everyday or buying the most expensive dog tag or boasting about the bloodline of the dog. Having a dog means falling in love when you see it as a puppy and taking it home to parents who will undoubtedly have concerned looks on their faces when they hear the typical – Don’t worry daddy ill take care of it. The initial honeymoon period will of course be broken by the now exasperated parents who have to clean the dog poo which you conveniently haven’t seen and therefore not removed. Potty training for the pooch ensures that you will have to try and try and try and keep trying until eventually the dog goes out on its own and attends to natures call. And then the next day you will find poo on the carpet and the drama starts again ….. With each puppy comes great responsibility.
And then before you know it, the puppy has gone and grown up and you start adjusting your life to suit the dog. For example my Dalmatian – Bret, refuses to get into his kennel if its after 6:30 AM so my dad has to make sure the alarm is set for 6 every day. And before you know it the dog is an integral part of your family. Fifi (who is woofing down on us from doggie heaven right now) truly was the lady of our house bossing over everybody including the much larger Bret. The postman was terrified of her and would run to his cycle if he realized the front door was open. All we had to do was ask Fifi “Wheres Bubbles (our resident squirrel who used to eat up all the mangoes from the tree)?” and away she would go barking up the trees looking for Bubbles. Knowing that we would put her in the kennel in the evenings she somehow managed to disappear right when it started getting dark and we would have to search the entire house to find her. I’ve seen B-school grads who aren’t as smart as her, I swear. Our house is empty without Fifi and I can’t help but smile each time I think of that lovely lady. Wish I could somehow drop her her favourite bread crumb while I read the newspaper with while having breakfast just like the old days .....
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
1. Bing Crosby
2. Elvis Presley
3. Frank Sinatra
4. Michael Jackson
5. The Beatles
Of these I would venture to guesstimate that one of Elvis, MJ and the Beatles would be the actual top seller.
To be honest I am a huge fan of the Beatles. My Granddad had a CD of theirs which I loved listening to over and over and over again. The quartet of Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon from Liverpool certainly can claim to be the most successful band of all time. Their influence of culture is well known and they were awarded the Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II, much to the consternation of some who had been similarly conferred. The Beatles are famous here in India for having spent time at Rishikesh for studying transedental meditation. They eventually split in 1970 but not before making floppy hair ultra cool around the world (even inspiring a couple of Bollywood songs) and giving us songs that will live forever - From Me To You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Love Me Do, She Loves You, Yesterday, Hard Day's Night, Can't Buy Me Love, Hey Jude, Ticket To Ride, Yellow Submarine etc: (phew!)
Elvis Presley wasnt called the King of Rock n Roll for nothing. Elvis was a cultural icon, a man who changed the landscape of music forever. His naturally good lookshis trademark puff, sideburns and leg swaying/ gyrating combined with his unique music style to drive girls & in turn America crazy. With a unique sound - a combination of blues (with traces of gospel influences) and country music, Elvis was a phenomenal hit and eventually acted in a number of movies. In layman's terms, he was a white man singing a black man's music. His energy needs to be seen to be believed and to be honest I havent seen an artist in years who has half the screen presence and charisma of Elvis. His last few performances were admittedly painful as he was a pale shadow of his former self and health problems and addictions were responsible for his death at an early age of 42. Interestingly, during the Beatles years ('63 - '70) only 6 of Elvis's singles reached the top 10.
MJ has been quoted as the greatest artist since Elvis. John Lennon has admitted that "If there hadnt been an Elvis, there wouldnt have been the Beatles". Time then to pay tribute to the greatest of them all - The King.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I remember the time when mobile phones came out in the 90’s. That was when pagers were the rage and just about everyone had one clipped to his waist. The advent of mobile telephony in India ushered in a revolution of brick sized boxes masquerading as communications devices and spelt the doom of pagers. Of course call rates were so sky high that often incoming calls were so much more expensive than outgoing calls. To be fair to the phones they weren’t all that bad, some of them had the snake game that kinda provided entertainment. Its just that they followed the SUV policy of bigger is better …..
With increasing competition among service providers, we now have call rates as cheap as 10 paise a minute or if youre lucky, calls to other customers on the same network might be free. From being a luxury, phones have become a necessity with just about everybody having one or more. When I had to pick up a new phone in the summer of 2007 I did a bit of research and to be honest was surprised at the number of phones available on the market. I ended up picking the k750i after a lot of spadework and I havent regretted the purchase once.
Just last week I picked up the latest issue of a mag focussed on mobile phones. I flipped to the back and was looking through the phones currently available and my jaw dropped when I realised there are 266 different phones for sale right now (Feb ‘08). How in the world do you decide on which phone best suits your requirement if you land up in a shop with cash in your hand and not too much idea about what you want? Which leads me to conclude that a majority of people will end up picking a phone that doesn’t exactly meet their requirements and as a result they will be unhappy with their choice. Imagine a generation of frustrated mobile users who wont change their phones even if they don’t want/need their current phone cause they suspect (rather rightly I venture to guess) that they will end up picking a wrong phone again. Who suffers in the end - mobile manufacturers.
Whoever talks about all this in economics textbooks while they extol the virtues of liberalization? Maybe its time for the world to embrace my idea of ‘liberafrustration’.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Theres nothing like reading an engrossing book flipping through page after page while being mesmerized by the world carefully laid out for you by the author. Add to it the pleasure involved in looking through shelves of books in a library while making a mental note to self to read the following n books. Time has taken its toll and from being a lover of Enid Blyton , 3 investigators, Hardy Boys, William etc I moved to Archer, Forsyth, Wilbur Smith, Robin Cook etc: as I grew older. I even became a fan of Michael Moore on the way. Over the past few months I’ve found myself reading books varying from the Ramayana to a book on the rise of Islam to a book on how Boston Public Schools destroyed the hearts and minds of black children in the late 60’s. But the book I’m reading now has done what no book has ever done before. It actually makes me close my eyes and cringe in pain.
Gujarat – The Making of a Tragedy is a book that every Indian should read. Currently at the end of my B school education, I’ve heard enough and more stories on how India is shining and poised to take on the world along with China and whatnot. But this book serves as a slap on the face for all of us who have forgotten the carnage of the attacks that took place in Gujarat against Muslims with the full support of Narendra Modi’s state government. The enormity of the scale of the atrocities and their nature is a brutal reminder that below the shining façade of India is another darker side of our people that we ought to be ashamed of.
The following passages are taken from the book. “Nasir Khan Rahim Khan Pathan, principal of Sunflower School which catered to both Hindu and Muslim children, saw the attackers pour petrol into the mouth of six year old Imran. ‘A lit matchstick was then thrown into his mouth and he just blasted apart.’ ”
14-year old Javed Hussain says “… we heard a mob outside. They said they would destroy all Muslims. We tried to run but they had surrounded us. They set fire to houses and started throwing people into the flames. I was standing with my pregnant cousin Kausarbibi, who was to deliver in another two days. They dragged her away, ripped open her stomach with a knife and threw the foetus into the fire. Then they threw my family into the fire, one by one: my father, mother and my 17 year old sister Sophiya. My aunts family was also burnt alive”.
For the first time I actually don’t know if I have the strength to finish reading the book.