Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The ultimate guy device !

Disclaimer : By posting this image, in no way do I suggest that I recommend the development of such a life saving device (for half the worlds population - the guy half) nor do I subscribe to this line of thinking.

A little too much ?

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 !

Dear All,
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.

Dylan sang it best

There are some things in life you love to cling on to. Old cards from friends long forgotten. Old magazines which you’ve read & re-read so many times youre familiar with the contents each time you flip through it. That old t-shirt that you’ve grown up in but steadfastly refuse to throw away. And the belief that youre young, irrespective of the number of New Year eve parties that you’ve witnessed.

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 .....

Adios 2008

Its that time of the year again when I look at the little pop up at the bottom right corner of my screen & realise that yet another year has passed by in the blink of an eye. Of course just about everybody who thinks that their writing matters (journalists, bloggers, diary writers) will be sitting down penning their thoughts on the year's events both on a personal as well as general front. Which reminds me its back to my days of diary writing from tomorrow onwards. Party planning is going on in full swing everywhere I look. Beverage companies (cant call them alcohol manufacturers now can I?) sure must love December. Relatedly my home state of Kerala has just been in the news a couple of days back for witnessing record sales of booze despite the slowdown in its IT sector, the not positive stock market & increasing number of unemployed NRIs in the gulf. God bless Mallus. Anyways today calls for some introspection time which is probably the only thing good about New Years eve.

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

Home made terror on a platter

If the fall of Lehman Brothers & the bomb blasts in Delhi weren't enough, there was more drama unfolding since Sunday in the form of Christians being attacked & churches being vandalized in Karnataka. Bajrang Dal activists have claimed responsibility for these shameful attacks, justifying themselves by saying that forcible conversions were being carried out in these churches.

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?
Mangalore is a wonderful little city which you fall in love with almost instantaneously.These attacks have understandably shaken the city & the damage can’t be undone. The BJPs policy of divide and rule albeit on the basis of religion is not new to them and in fact has been highly successful for them. Its time we take a decision on who we vote to power. Do we want a Congress led government which has numerable faults of its own? Or do we want a BJP government that is going to turn friend into foe and neighbour into hater?

Petroeuro vs Petrodollar

Heres a very interesting forward that I am pasting in its entirity. Im not sure how true it is but it certainly does answer a lot of open questions that have been hanging around for years.
The Voice (issue 264 -) ran an article beginning, ' Iran has really gone and done it now. No, they haven't sent their first nuclear sub in to the Persian Gulf . They are about to launch something much more deadly -- next week the Iran Bourse will open to trade oil, not n dollars but in Euros' This apparently insignificant event has consequences far greater for the US people, indeed all for us all, than is imaginable.
Currently almost all oil buying and selling is in US-dollars through exchanges in London and New York . It is not accidental they are both US-owned.The Wall Street crash in 1929 sparked off global depression and World War II. During that war the US supplied provisions and munitions to all its allies, refusing currency and demanding gold payments in exchange.
By 1945, 80% of the world's gold was sitting in US vaults. The dollar became the one undisputed global reserve currency -- it was treated world-wide as `safer than gold'. The Bretton Woods agreement was established.The US took full advantage over the next decades and printed dollars like there was no tomorrow. The US exported many mountains of dollars, paying for ever-increasing amounts of commodities, tax cuts for the rich, many wars abroad, mercenaries, spies and politicians the world over. You see, this did not affect inflation at home! The US got it all for free! Well, maybe for a forest or two.Over subsequent decades the world's vaults bulged at the seams and more and more vaults were built, just for US dollars.
Each year, the US spends many more dollars abroad that at home. Analysts pretty much agree that outside the US , of the savings, or reserves, of all other countries, in gold and all currencies -- that a massive 66% of this total wealth is in US dollars!In 1971 several countries simultaneously tried to sell a small portion of their dollars to the US for gold. Krassimir Petrov, (Ph. D. in Economics at Ohio University ) recently wrote, 'The US Government defaulted on its payment on August 15, 1971 . While popular spin told the story of `severing the link between the dollar and gold', in reality the denial to pay back in gold was an act of bankruptcy by the US Government.' The 1945 Breton Woods agreement was unilaterally smashed.The dollar and US economy were on a precipice resembling Germany in 1929.
The US now had to find a way for the rest of the world to believe and have faith in the paper dollar. The solution was in oil, in the petrodollar. The US viciously bullied first Saudi Arabia and then OPEC to sell oil for dollars only -- it worked, the dollar was saved. Now countries had to keep dollars to buy much needed oil. And the US could buy oil all over the world, free of charge. What a Houdini for the US ! Oil replaced gold as the new foundation to stop the paper dollar sinking.Since 1971, the US printed even more mountains of dollars to spend abroad.The trade deficit grew and grew. The US sucked-in much of the world's products for next to nothing. More vaults were built.Expert, Cóilínn Nunan, wrote in 2003, 'The dollar is the de facto world reserve currency: the US currency accounts for approximately two thirds of all official exchange reserves. More than four-fifths of all foreign exchange transactions and half of all world exports are denominated in dollars. In addition, all IMF loans are denominated in dollars.'Dr Bulent Gukay of Keele University recently wrote, 'This system of the US dollar acting as global reserve currency in oil trade keeps the demand for the dollar `artificially' high. This enables the US to carry out printing dollars at the price of next to nothing to fund increased military spending and consumer spending on imports. There is no theoretical limit to the amount of dollars that can be printed. As long as the US has no serious challengers, and the other states have confidence in the US dollar, the system functions.
'Until recently, the US-dollar has been safe. However, since 1990 Western Europe has been busy growing, swallowing up central and Eastern Europe .French and German bosses were jealous of the US ability to buy goods and people the world over for nothing. They wanted a slice of the free cake too.Further, they now had the power and established the euro in late 1999 against massive US-inspired opposition across Europe , especially from Britain - paid for in dollars of course. But the euro succeeded.Only months after the euro-launch, Saddam's Iraq announced it was switching from selling oil in dollars only, to euros only -- breaking the OPEC agreement.. Iran , Russia , Venezuela , Libya , all began talking openly of switching too -- were the floodgates about to be opened?Then aero planes flew into the twin-towers in September 2001. Was this another Houdini chance to save the US (petro) dollar and the biggest financial/economic crash in history? War preparations began in the US But first war-fever had to be created -- and truth was the first casualty. Other oil producing countries watched-on.
In 2000 Iraq began selling oil in euros.In 2002, Iraq changed all their petro-dollars in their vaults into euros. A few months later, the US began their invasion of Iraq .The whole world was watching: very few aware that the US was engaging in the first oil currency, or petro-dollar war. After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, remember, the US secured oil areas first. Their first sales in August were, of course, in dollars, again. The only government building in Baghdad not bombed was the Oil Ministry! It does not matter how many people are murdered -- for the US , the petro-dollar must be saved as the only way to buy and sell oil - otherwise the US economy will crash, and much more besides.In early 2003, Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela talked openly of selling half of its oil in euros (the other half is bought by the US ). On 12 April 2003, the US-supported business leaders and some generals in Venezuela kidnapped Chavez and attempted a coup. The masses rose against this and the Army followed suit. The coup failed. This was bad for the US .In November 2000 the euro/dollar was at $0.82 dollars, its lowest ever, and still diving, but when Iraq started selling oil in euros, the euro dive was halted. In April 2002 senior OPEC reps talked about trading in euros and the euro shot up. In June 2003 the US occupiers of Iraq switched trading back to dollars and the euro fell against the dollar again. In August 2003 Iran starts to sell oil in euros to some European countries and the euro rises sharply. In the winter of 2003-4 Russian and OPEC politicians talked seriously of switching oil/gas sales to the euro and the euro rose. In February 2004 OPEC met and made no decision to turn to the euro -- and yes, the euro fell against the dollar. In June 2004 Iran announced it would build an oil bourse to rival London and New York , and again, the euro rose. The euro stands at $1.27 and has been climbing of late.But matters this month became far, far worse for the US dollar.
On 5th May Iran registered its own Oil Bourse, the IOB. Not only are they now selling oil in euros from abroad -- they have established an actual Oil Bourse, a global trading centre for all countries to buy and sell their oil!In Chavez's recent visit to London ; he talked openly about supporting the Iranian Oil Bourse, and selling oil in euros. When asked in London about the new arms embargo imposed by the US against Venezuela , Chavez prophetically dismissed the US as 'a paper tiger'.Currently, almost all the world's oil is sold on either the NYMEX, New York Mercantile Exchange, or the IPE, London's International Petroleum Exchange.Both are owned by US citizens and both sell and buy only in US dollars. The success of the Iran Oil Bourse makes sense to Europe , which buys 70% of Iran 's oil. It makes sense for Russia , which sells 66% of its oil to Europe . But worse for the US , China and India have already stated they are very interested in the new Iranian Oil Bourse.If there is a tactical-nuclear strike on - deja-vu - `weapons of mass destruction' in Iran , who would bet against a certain Oil Exchange and more, being bombed too?And worse for Bush. It makes sense for Europe , China , India and Japan-- as well as all the other countries mentioned above -- to buy and sell oil in Euro's. They will certainly have to stock-up on euros now, and they will sell dollars to do so. The euro is far more stable than the debt-ridden dollar. The IMF has recently highlighted US economic difficulties and the trade deficit strangling the US-- there is no way out.The problem for so many countries now is how to get rid of their vaults full of dollars, before it crashes? And the US has bullied so many countries for so many decades around the world, that many will see a chance to kick the bully back. The US cannot accept even 5% of the world's dollars -- it would crash the US economy dragging much of the world with it, especially Britain .To survive, as the Scottish Socialist Voice article stated, 'the US , needs to generate a trade surplus to get out of this one.
Problem is it can't.'This is spot on. To do that they must force US workers into near slavery, to get paid less than Chinese or Indian workers. We all know that this will not happen.What will happen in the US ? Chaos for sure. Maybe a workers revolution, but looking at the situation as it is now, it is more likely to be a re-run of Germany post-1929, and some form of extreme-right mass movement will emerge...Does Europe and China/Asia have the economic independence and strength to stop the whole world's economies collapsing with the US ? Their vaults are full to the brim with dollars.The US has to find a way to pay for its dollar-imperialist exploitation of the world since 1945.. Somehow, eventually, it has to account for every dollar in every vault in the world.Bombing Iran could backfire tremendously. It would bring Iran openly into the war in Iraq , behind the Shiite majority. The US cannot cope even now with the much smaller Iraqi insurgency. Perhaps the US will feed into the Sunni v Shiite conflict and turn it into a wider Middle-East civil-war.However, this is so dangerous for global oil supplies. Further, they know that this would be temporary, as some country somewhere else, will establish a euro-oil-exchange, perhaps in Brussels .
There is one `solution' -- scrap the dollar and print a whole new currency for the US . This will destroy 66% of the rest of the world's savings/reserves in one swoop. Imagine the implications? Such are the desperate things now swimming around heads in the White House, Wall Street and Pentagon.Another is to do as Germany did, just before invading Poland in 1938. The Nazis filmed a mock Polish Army attack on Germany , to win hearts and minds at home. But again, this is a finger in the dam. So, how is the US going to escape this time? The only global arena of total superiority left is military. Who knows what horrors lie ahead. A new world war is one tool by which the US could discipline its `allies' into keeping the dollar in their vaults.The task of socialists today is to explain to as many as possible, especially our class, that the coming crisis belongs purely to capitalism and (dollar) imperialism. Not people of other cultures, not Islam, not the axis of evil or their so-called WMDs. Their system alone is to blame.
The new Iranian Oil Bourse, the IOB, is situated in a new building on the free-trade-zone island of Kish , in the Persian Gulf . It's computers and software are all set to go. The IOB was supposed to be up and running last March, but many pressures forced a postponement. Where the pressure came from is obvious. It was internationally registered on 5th May and supposed to open mid-May, but its opening was put off, some saying the oil-mafia was involved, along with much international pressure. ........................... In 2007 Crude was traded around 60 usd. Everyone know dollar was getting weaker and weaker day by day. Then US with the help of their two NYMEX & IPE exchange started rising the price of crude by Future trading on crude( called speculation). Today crude is around 140 usd. It means whole world who were paying 60 usd, now paying 140 usd, means demand of dollar increase to 230% and dollar started rising again.Even OPEC recently that in hike og crude, 60% contribution is due to speculation (Future market). Moral of story is USA has & will go to destroy any nation to keep itsmonopoly of dollar in world.

Strange are the ways of this ......

Strange are the ways of the world. Its only Friday morning and boy has it been a tumultuous week already. Worldwide there’s panic in the global markets as Lehman Brothers tanked after announcing huge losses last week & Merrill Lynch got bought over by a rather opportunistic Bank Of America. This after Merrill Lynch has written down over $40 billion dollars in assets in the last one year, according to the BBC. Of course John Thain’s (Merrill's chairman and chief executive) role in strengthening Merrill Lynch over the past few years ensured that they had people interested in buying them when the going got bad. Lessons to be learnt from Lehman Brothers’ mistake of believing they couldn’t go wrong. Add to that the $85 billion rescue package that the American government was forced to give their largest insurance player – AIG, in return for a 79.9% stake.

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

Terror in our backyards

13th September - It was a lazy Saturday night & I had planned on doing well nothing. A pizza, a movie, an hour of button mashing with Burnout Legends. Or some UFC fights. Or an episode of SHIELD. Listening to some B.B. King. Not groundbreaking plans but enough to satisfy a worn-out-from-a-long-week guy. Until I got a call asking me if I had heard about the blasts in Delhi.
With NDTV (one of India’s leading English news channels) being based out of Delhi, they were probably the first ones on the spot and had disturbing footage of people being carried away from the sites. The 5 bombs that exploded in Karol Bagh, Connaught Place, Greater Kailash-I and Barakhamba Road within a span of 25 minutes took 30 lives & injured over 90 people. These are places where a lot of shopping goes on especially on weekends. What’s scary is that these were the places that I used to frequent when I was in Delhi last year. Watching people carrying bodies to ambulances with blood pouring from them was something that made me shudder. And then I realized that could’ve been me. I could’ve been a nameless person being carried away on national news which thousands of people watch their televisions in disbelief. It could’ve been any one of my friends who are from Delhi or who are working in Delhi.
Did the terrorists succeed in instilling terror in all of us that evening? Yes they did. Will we live in the shadow of the bomb blasts that are occurring with alarming frequency across India? Yes we will. But will we give up hope and look at the TV and wonder how could it happen to us, why us? Nope. Will we just stay cooped up in our homes afraid of what will happen to us if we step out? No we won’t. We Indians are a strong bunch. Resolute. It’s going to take more than bombs and threat mails to dislodge us. Cause in India, whatever happens, the show must go on. And that’s what makes us so special.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Whatsinamess ?

Theres a refreshing honesty about bachelors. The only untidy houses Ive been to are bachelor pads, which means that anything goes in terms of messiness and clutter. That of course implies clothes (hiding the text book your host so deperately was searching for to study for tomorrows exam) in piles everywhere, cigarette butts strewn all over the floor, beer bottles here and there, unwashed dishes in the sink and if your host is old school - girly magazines. Ask your friend if you can use his computer and chances are that 9 times out of 10 you will find a folder on the desktop filled with the latest movies, music and porn (in no specific order). The threat of a parent visit means that all the clothes get shifted as a lump and thrown into the cupboard (leading you to find the book your host needed for yesterdays exam....), cigarette butts are hastily swept off, rapid fire dishwashing occurs and the bottles are hidden behind a pile of unopened text books. And for some strange reason your host dont seem to know which subjects these textbooks are meant for even though his exams are going on.... Often characterised by long hair, stubble and a general air of dishevelness, bachelors are often appreciated by other blokes of course for their 'look' and general carefree attitude to the boring things of life.

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 ?

Pirates of the New World

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


The Indian 2 wheeler industry is going through some wonderful times. Now only do we have Yamaha's R1 & MT-01 on sale here (for the price of a Skoda Ocatavia,Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla but still ....) but Suzuki has lined up the iconic Hayabusa & Gixxer for launch this year, Honda is launching a couple of bikes above 800cc this year and Kawasaki is bringing out its magnificent Ninja 250 soon. KTM's launches are around the corner and Ducati is already here with some gorgeous & jaw droppingly expensive bikes. All of which are out of my reach.

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 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.

To PSP or not to PSP

To be honest Im one of those half gamers. Someone who will sit down and enjoy a good game of Quake or NFS UG on my computer occassionally but not really sit down and play for hours everyday. Of course this wasnt the story 10 years back when I spent hours playing classics like Age Of Empires, Cricket 97, each edition of the FIFA & NBA series and what not. Of late Ive been thinking that I should get a PS3 or a XBOX360 but it would be a big waste if I were to have to have got them cause I wouldnt have played it more than half an hour a day. So I was mentally prepared to get myself a PS2 when a friend of mine got her brother a PSP which got me researching ....

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 .....

Rock On

No 2 ways about it - you just have to watch Rock On. The movie which stars the talented and debuting Farhan Akhtar, the intense Arjun Ramal, the energetic Purab Kohli and the subdued but strong Luke Kenny as members of a band Magik. The movie deals with friendship and how life changes people. This is a rare Indian movie that is both powerful and heart warming. Strongly written characters, excellent music and absolutely wonderful technical work makes this movie a rare gem and a must watch.

The main reason I love the movie is that in many ways, Rock On is a movie that is going to have each one of us question ourselves by asking - What are you going to do with your life ? Are you going to eventually grow up and live life as everyone wants you to ? Or are you going to live your dream ?

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.

For all you people out there who arent from India, I would suggest you wait for a while until the movie comes out abroad with subtitles. This is a movie that is a tribute to how far Indian cinema has progressed and what we can do given the will of producers. Hats off to my now all time fav Bollywood movie - Rock On and to the message it gives us - Live Your Dream.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Im a bookie

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.

A Mans Bestest Friend

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

USA - Country of Mass Destruction (CMD)

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction they said. Fact - they didnt. Never did after 1991.
Al Qaeda & Iraq are chuddie-buddies they said. Fact - they werent. Interestingly Osama Bin Laden's family was quite a favourite of the Saudi Arabian government which is rather pro US.
So the US invades Iraq on its own free will, overthrows Saddam and ends up being stuck in a country thats mired in a bloody battle with itself. And if you still think its about WMDs, I would suggest you read a book on the Bush administrations former Secretary of Treasury - "The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill". He provides rather disturbing details of how the Bush government was searching for excuses to land in Iraq since he took office. If you dont believe me go read the book.
5 years since the invasion & today George Bush (Junior & dumber) has the audacity to say " Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision -- and this is a fight America can and must win ...... Yet there was nothing easy about it. The liberation of Iraq took incredible skill and amazing courage. And the speed, precision and brilliant execution of the campaign will be studied by military historians for years to come." I am not even bothering to get into the details of how messed up their strategy (or lack of it) was. Instead I would like to throw light on Colin Powell's role in the madness of the Iraq invasion. Before he went in front of the United Nations Security Council and told them that Saddam was working towards producing nuclear components, State Department staff had realised that a number of claims that were in his speech were errrr lies. Still they went ahead with some of them that would prove damning enough to build a watertight case. Since then Powell has tried to wash his hands of his involvement in the war. He says the speech was a blot and that it will always be a part of his record. "It was painful. It's painful now." Its a little too late for empty words now isnt it Mr Powell? Powell who has advocated containment and diplomacy in international matters rather than military intevention says he had warned Bush about the dangers of entring Iraq and tried to convince him not to do so. But given the nature of Bush's cronies that was never going to work.
So where does that leave the world ? We have a rogue #1 country that decides where and when it wants to do anything. Countries that support it like a pussy cat (cough cough Britain) get benefitted with large (re)-construction contracts going their way (this after America destroys half the stuff in Iraq so it can get rebuilt by its corporations). Countries that oppose them get their products boycotted (cough cough France) .... Maybe there is a way out - maybe just maybe we could get our Miss Universe's and Miss World's and Miss USA's to run for the presidents seat everywhere. After all each of them wants to work for world peace ......

The Fall Of Diplomacy

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mirror mirror on the wall .....

.... who is the greatest music artist of them all ? Really tough question that, considering the fact that sales figures from around the world arent all that accurate. Apparently there isnt complete data from before the 50's and a lot of sales figures from after that are dubious. The top selling artists of all time are (in alphabetical order)
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.
Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, the man who moonwalked his way into peoples hearts and album shelves, is of course the freshest on peoples minds. MJ though is a picture perfect case of being on top of the world and falling to unheard of before depths. From being the man who could bring cities to a standstill when his concerts were being held there, MJ has become the sleazy guy against whom child molestation cases were filed by the dozen. Martin Bashir's controversial documentary Living with Michael Jackson was, of course, instrumental in his downfall. The shift in his skin colour from being dark to a ridiculous pale white along with his obvious numerous operations on his face havent really helped. The standard of his music has also fallen in recent years but there is no taking away from his incredible songs such as Billy Jean, Beat It, Bad, Way You Make Me Feel, Dangerous, Smooth Criminal (my fav) to name a few. The King of Pop yes, but the greatest? Far from it.

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

Liberalization or my new concept ?????

Liberalization, as defined by wikipedia, refers to a relaxation of previous government restrictions, usually in areas of social or economic policy. Indians know how life has changed since we opened up our markets in the early 90s. From being a country that had the good old Hindusthan Ambassador, the lovely Premier Padmini & the loveable Maruthi 800 as the choice of transport on 4 wheels we have moved to a deluge of cars from the finest of car makers with prices ranging from 2.5 lacs to above 4 crores. Buying a packet of biscuits is no longer easy as there seem to be a 101 options in the shelves with the end result that I walk away from a shop after having picked more biscuits than I need. I think you get the drift. But nothing beats trying to buy mobile phones these days.
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’.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A different view of TAPMI

( Mc ) Ca (i) n Obama do it ?

Like the rest of the world which has had just about enough of George W Bush and his tyrannical ways, I too have been avidly following the elections in the US this year. I've been following various websites and newspapers for the latest on the elections and what are the latest predictions and whatnot. Given the front runners this time - Barack Obama & Hilary Clinton for the democrats and John McCain for the Republicans, my vote (worthless as it is seeing as i'm sitting half way around the world from America & that im not an American citizen) would go to Obama. And it isnt about him being a great orator or having well written speeches or a meticulously planned campaign. His campaign promise of change is bang on target. Thats what americans want. Thats what the world wants in its politics. And with news of his recent consecutive wins, the Obama wave seems to be closer to striding into the White House (see pic) with more and more vigour. And I for my part was extremely happy about it.

Until I read the newsweek article today that talked about the Obama delusion. The article thankfully dug beyond the Obama's clean campaign for change versus the slowly disintegrating Clinton campaign. According to the author Robert J Samuelson "He has run on the vague promise of "change," but on issue after issue—immigration, the economy, global warming—he has offered boilerplate policies that evade the underlying causes of the stalemates. These issues remain contentious because they involve real conflicts or differences of opinion." Eye opening stuff indeed. To be honest this is the first criticial article that I've read on Obama but it does leave a bitter taste in what was otherwise a very sweet (for America) proposition for a president.

So what are we left with? Mrs Clinton who has Mr Clinton do the dirty work of sniping at Obama. John McCain who believes that America's continued presence in Iraq is the way forward. And Obama, the one hope that the world had for a new leader championing the cause of goodness who it turns out isnt all what he promised to be .... Of course it is entirely possible (and i hope so) that Obama is what the world needs and America will vote him into power and he will fulfill his promises to the nation and make them proud. But if he doesnt turn out to be the harbinger of change like he promises to be, strangely I wont be too disappointed. Another politician we will all say with an indifferent dismissal. And that worries me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AC's favourite quote " We pulled off Casablanca x3" ....

To be honest we had a terrible time deciding what play we were going to do for Dionysia (our annual inter sectional drama competition). Given our not-so-Midas-but-so-full-of-fun touch, we decided to do something different from our rather memorable Ace of Diamonds mindset. Unblessed with cousins, buddies, sidekicks or ex-girlfriends in any of India's drama companies, the internet became our source for plays. The harder we searched the less likely it looked like we were going to decide on anything. And then AC (in a rare fit of genius) exclaimed "Why dont we do Casablanca?"

Shoot to Sunday a week later and I'm going crazy running backstage taking care of the small things in my role as the (Co) director, sound boy, props arranger, prompter etc etc ....... And its only when I hear "Louie, this looks to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship" am i able to finally relax and stop and take a deep breath. Add to it the post Dionysia drama of the judge wrongly announcing the scores, thereby putting us in last position only to later invite the Directors of the team that performed Casablanca on stage to collect the runners up trophy. And there we stood on stage, team Antherdwandh (I still dont know how to spell it....) trophy in hand, grinning like school kids in an All You Can Play PS3 Gaming Convention.

Of course I would like to tell the world that its not about winning or losing but the the fun involved in getting terribly unpunctual lead actors at the same place at the same time and throwing mock tantrums to get them to get serious and all that. But I will reluctantly admit the not so good looking runners up trophy brings a smile to my face, unfailingly. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, we ended up celebrating at ......

Friday, January 18, 2008

From mystery to misery ...

I like first times. The first time you read a book by a particular author and fall for his style of writing. The first time you visit a library. The first time you refuse to listen to your body crying out for you to sleep cause the book in your hands is so unputdownable.
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.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The one word that describes me best - Seeker

A poster i made that captures the essence of me