World of India!: November 2006 e

World of India!

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CurrentAffairs: Allan Carr cured a million of smoking and died today of...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
I still remember the day I had my first puff. It was at my home where my father ( an occasional smoker) had discarded a stub and neglected to clear it. I was in my 10th std. then and curiosity killed the cat.After that experience (which was not too pleasant), I started smoking again in Junior college and then in Engineering. I was a moderate smoker, smoking not more than a cigarette a day, if at all and used to go for weeks/months without smoking. In other words, I was not an addict, or so I thought. I picked up my strike rate in MBA where I moved to 3-4 cigarettes a day, which we used to see as handy weapons to kill time, during off hours and off college. Of course, we must have thought we looked cool while smoking too. Not that we cared about it, or so we thought.

By the time I had joined my first job out of campus, my strike rate was hovering to about 5-6 a day and in the next 5 yrs it climbed slowly but surely to 10 a day, till a year ago, when I finally quit. This means that I have smoked for about 15 years in total at an average of about 2-3 cigarettes a day. Modest by most clinical stds., but according to MedIndia web site smoking risk calculator I STILL HAVE LOST ABOUT 108 DAYS OF MY LIFE. Hmm... I am not sure I enjoy that factoid as much as I did my smoking.

I remembered all of this, because Allan Carr died today at the age of 72, of Lung cancer. Allan is estimated to have cured 10 million people of smoking addiction through his The Easy way clinics (70 clinics in 30 countries) and became a millionaire by curing people of smoking. His first book, Allen Carr's Easyway To Stop Smoking, has sold more than seven million copies. He has been credited to have cured Sir Anthony Hopkins and Richard Branson of smoking.

Allan himself was a extremely heavy smoker, and was a 100 a day man till he quit smoking 23 years ago. Talking at the time of his diagnosis, Mr Carr said: "Since I stopped smoking more than 23 years ago I have been the happiest man in the world. I still feel the same way." Mr Carr himself was convinced he would have died many years earlier if he had not kicked the smoking habit. He said "Given that I am informed that I have cured at least 10 million smokers on a conservative estimation, even if that is the case, it's a price worth paying."

I myself never used Easy Way method or read his book in my attempt to quit smoking. But I still managed to kick the habit. I personally am convinced that unless you REALLY want to quit , you can't . There is no other really no other Easy Way and I am sure Carr's 'Easy Way' also says the same thing.And anyway,Allan Carr's Easy Way clinics are not available in India and even if they were launched here, they would probably be too expensive for us 18 crore Indians who use tabacco related products, to bother about. So we really have nobody but our own will power to count on to kick the deadly weed. Good Luck !

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EditorsEdit : Sanjay Dutt more equal in the eyes of the law?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
"The law for the rich and poor is not the same."- Plautus, Cistellaria, c. 200 B.C.

There has been an outpouring of sympathy for the Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, after his conviction under the Arms act., related to a charge that he took possession and stored a AK56 rifle from Abu Salem, a known terrorist. The actor has been let off the much serious charge of abetting terrorism, though. A youth was quoted on NDTV saying - " his family and he himself have done so many good things for society, so he should have been let off".

How short can public memory be, how easily can public image be 'managed' and how having friends in high places can help the high and the mighty! People seem to have forgotten that Sanjay Dutt has himself confessed to have taken and stored the AK56 rifle from Abu Salem. If a lesser mortal had committed the same crime would the Indian public and the judiciary be so forgiving? Would YOU & I have been shown such leniency?

Did you say yes? Well then spare a thought for one Zebunisa Qazi .The court held Zebunisa Qazi guilty of abetting terrorist acts by keeping in her possession weapons delivered to her by gangster Abu Salem and his men.

Former police commissioner M.N.Singh (who had , then,investigated the Mumbai blasts case), put these two disparate and disturbing facts in sharp relief, today, in an interview on CNN-IBN. Although he refused to comment on whether this was travesty of justice, not surprisingly, since that could amount to contempt of court, but he hinted that all was not well with this kind of a judgment.

Plautus, my dear fellow, nothing has changed.

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CurrentAffairs : Maniram Sharma banega IAS babu?

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NDTV interviewed an extra-ordinary man called Maniram Sharma yesterday , who has passed the IAS examination, with distinction, despite being 100% deaf. Not only that, according to Maniram, he has secured 243 out of 300 marks in the difficult personal interview section, which the highest any candidate has got so far.

Now comes the bummer. After allowing Maniram to sit for the exam (his medical certificates claimed only 50% deafness), the UPSC medical exam concluded that Maniram was 100% deaf and therefore cannot be selected for the IAS cadre, per rules. He was instead offered the (prestigious) Posts and Telegraph cadre!

Maniram asked two very valid questions during the interview on NDTV :

1. If, he was fit enough according to UPSC, to work in the 'Posts & Telegraph' dept and take important decisions there, what's so different at the IAS cadre does, that he cannot work with them?

2. Despite being 100% deaf, Maniram answered all questions asked by the interviewer flawlessly. In fact, I began to wonder whether this man was really 100% deaf. How did he manage this astonishing feat? The answer was revealed at the end of the interview. It was because Maniram also happens to be an accomplished lip reader! So surprised was the NDTV anchor with Maniram's feat, that he too declared that he has never seen anything like this before. Maniram therefore asked another valid question. If he can appear n antional television and not only understand but answer all questions without any difficulty, why can't he be accepted in the IAS.

Maniram comes from a family of "illiterates" and given his disability, his feat is simply amazing. Rules are rules, but rules also beg an exception, to justify themselves. The 'file' hardened babus in the UPSC probably don't have the authority to make such exceptions. Or they are simply insenitive to what is indeed a deserving case from any angle.

Perhaps its time that some one higher up, should intervene and give Maniram what " he is not begging for but demanding as his right".


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CurrentAffairs : Fresh Greg Chappell controversy in Indian cricket - all smoke, no fire?

Monday, November 27, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
India Uncut has justifiably panned the Indian Parliamentarians for their sense of misplaced priorities. But how guilty is the Indian media of CREATING controversies, when none exist? An excellent example of the kind of distortion the electronic news media is indulging in sometimes, is yesterdays news item, on Chappell having commented on the criticism of him in the Indian Parliament. When the news broke out, I was watching Aaj Tak which is a division of the prestigious 'Living Media group'.

Aaj Tak anchors first read out Chappell's comments viz., "Indian Parliamentarians have the right to comment on the state of Indian cricket. They are paid to do it". This was translated literally as "Chappell ne kaha ki Bhartiya sansadon ko tippani karne ka pura adhikar hai kyonki isi baat ke woh paise lete hai!"

Although the translation is correct literally, the connotations of the same sentence can be quite different in Hindi. While in English the phrase"they are paid to do it" usually means a straightforward 'it is their job to do it', by adding "isi baat ke" in the Hindi translation, the same translation can also be construed as an insulting barb/potshot. Keep in mind that "paise lena" for the Indian mind does not always ring as an honorable word. To make matters worse, the anchors also commented that by saying this Chappell had insulted Indian parliamentarians or at the very least taken a potshot at them.

It is extremely important to translate a comment with its true meaning in another language rather than do a literal translation and repeat it endlessly. Do respected media organizations like the Living media group not know what any mass communication student can understand?

I suspect thay they DO fully understand the nuances of the language and the comment, but then, if generating a controversy can improve the bottom line that much more, its better to keep churning new ones from the studios. After all one has to be 'Sabse Tej', no ?


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EtcEtc : Only in India

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Courtesy:Flickr

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SurvivingIndia: Indian traffic for Dummies- a survival guide (Part II)

Sunday, November 26, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Part II of the India Traffic for Dummies series. Find Part I here :

6. If you are riding your bike in a new city, without changing your registration numbers, I can write another book on how to avoid cops at trafffic signals noticing you. For lack of space, I will only remark in passing that the essence of the technique revolves around using other vehicles and commuters as shields, to prevent him noticing your number plates.

7. Some Indian youth are known to use the roads as a race track. You don't need to do much except get out of the way. They usually fall down like mosquitos every few kilometres and have to be rushed off to a hospital.

8. If a cop does catch you for any traffic violation, or for nothing in particular, empathise with his household problems. Never argue. Understand what he wants to say- NOT what he is saying.

9. If you wish to cross the road and there are no zebra signals to be seen, it's because Indians don't believe in zebra signals, generally speaking. The whole road is your oyster and you may do what you please. If there are too many vehicles to cross the road, employ the 'stradle' technique. It essentially involves standing at the side of the road with an inch between the vehicle coming from your side (from the left or the right), and moving ahead, AS SOON AS it passes you. You repeat this for all vehicles which come along the way. Hold your hand as a signal for vehicles to stop as an added means of protection.
Statutory Caution: This technique can only be practised by expert traffic negotiators AND if the drivers of the oncoming vehicles understand that the 'straddle' is what you have on your mind. Some raving psychotics who dislike the straddle, are known to deliberately drive on your feet.

10. Never park your bike in the middle of the road. I learned this, when we did this to stop a friend who was speeding dangerousy from behind to impress a comely girl riding pillion. The guy damaged his brain, almost lost his life and is now a well known Doctor who treats accident victims (no kidding).

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CurrentAffairs : Dutch diplomat slams New Delhi as a "garbage dump"

Friday, November 24, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
A Dutch diplomat, Mr.Arnold Parzer who is the Agriculture Councilor at New Delhi's Royal Netherlands embassy has reportedly said that "New Delhi is the most miserable place I have ever lived in" while talking to a Dutch newspaper. He further said ""Anything that can go wrong, does go wrong; everyone interferes with everyone else; the people are a darn nuisance; the climate is hell; the city a garbage dump." He also said, "New Delhi is the most miserable place I have ever lived in."

Now if that isn't a truly honest opinion expressed in the most undiplomatic way by a career diplomat ! HT also reports that the foreign ministry had a minor fit.

But pray why? Isn't the opinion patently true? If an Indian diplomat posted in , say, Amsterdam, reports that the Netherlands is one of the world's most beautiful, unpolluted and clean countries apart form the fact that it does have a fairly major drug, immigration and human smuggling meant for prostitution problem, would the Dutch Govt. disagree so violently? Me thinks not.

The babus are probably frustrated that some one who is a diplomat is speaking the truth. After all wasn't it Bisaac Goldberg (who?) said "Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest thing in the nicest way."

Mr. Parzer forgot to be nice.

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CurrentAffairs : Wipro employee's wife drags Chairman Azim Premji to court

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Wipro's Chairman Azim Premji has been hauled to court. It seems that the wife of a Wipro employee has a grievance, that her husband has left her, instigated by the dating allowance paid by the firm to its employees.

It seems that the woman and more importantly, her lawyer, assumes that a husband can date only outside marriage and not his own wife. That her husband chose to (or to be more precise- is alleged to have chosen to) date a woman (or women) other than his own wife, using dating allowance paid by his firm, is something that Premji, obviously, has no control over.

But then, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...both men just learned that the hard way : )

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EtcEtc : Only in India

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Slum tour anyone?
Courtesy: Flickr

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CurrentAffairs : ManuBhai Shah of CERC gets sucked in email scam

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I did not know much about the CERC (Consumer Education and Research Centre).The CERC, I learnt today from its website, is recognized as a research institute by the Government of India and as a consumer organization by the Government of Gujarat. The United Nations has recognized CERC as one of the approved non government organizations. Sounds splendid.

Its Chairman and founder Manubhai Shah, is now in the news, though for a not so splendid reason. Shah has fallen for the 'Advance Fee fraud' email scam and has lost money to the tune of Rs.45,00,000 (approx. $100,000) of which Rs.32,00,000 he has been accused of siphoning from the CERC's accounts! Shah has now been driven out of the very institution he has founded and is fighting to clear his name of this sordid saga.

The advance fee fraud is not in any way novel ( I receive about 3-5 mails every two weeks from the fraudsters due to my published email account) and in one particular incident, I had even sent a reply to the fraudster. Not that he bothered to reply, of course. Nor have the emails stopped.

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EtcEtc : Business Consulting for a better P/E

Thursday, November 23, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Joseph.Y sent this joke by email:

Last week, we took some friends out to a new restaurant, and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket.

It seemed a little strange, but I ignored it. However, when the waiter brought out water and utensils, I noticed he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket, then looked around the room and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets.

When the waiter came back to serve our soup I asked, "Why the spoon?"

"Well," he explained, "the restaurant's owners hired Anderson Consulting, experts in efficiency, in order to revamp all our processes.

After several months of statistical analysis, they concluded that customers drop their spoons 73.84 percent more often than any other utensil. This represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour.

If our personnel is prepared to deal with that contingency, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift."

As luck would have it I dropped my spoon and he was able to replace It with his spare spoon. "I'll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now." I was rather impressed. The waiter served our main course and I continued to look around.

I then noticed that there was a very thin string hanging out of the waiter's fly.
Looking around, I noticed that all the waiters had the same string hanging from their flies.

My curiosity got the better of me and before he walked off, I asked the waiter, "Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?"

"Oh, certainly!" he answered, lowering his voice. "Not everyone is as observant as you. That consulting firm I mentioned also found out that we can save time in the restroom."

"How so?"

"See," he continued, "by tying this string to the tip of you know what . . ., we can pull it out over the urinal without touching it and that way eliminate the need to wash the hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39 percent."

"Okay,that makes sense, but...if the string helps you get it out, how do you put it back in?"

"Well," he whispered, lowering his voice even further, "I don't know about the others, but I use the spoon."

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CurrentAffairs : Indian Parliamentarians demand Greg Chappel's removal as coach of India's cricket team

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<-- Everybody loves a good apology

CNN-IBN reported today that some of India's parliamentarians expressed concern over the India cricket teams debacle in its first one dayer in Durban and also demanded the removal of Greg Chappel as Indian coach. A Samajwadi party M.P was heard saying " When I saw the Indian wickets tumbling down, I felt ashamed. Chappel is destroying the Indian cricket team and needs to be removed"- or words to that effect. BJP spokesperson V.K.Malhotra also joined the chorus and has asked Sharad Pawar, BCCI chief and also our Agriculture minister, to look into the matter seriously.

While the concern of these and other parliamentarians for Indian cricket is touching, one wonders who shall we turn to, for the removal of Indian PARLIAMENTARIANS, for their rowdy behavior in side parliament, criminal record outside, lack of attendance, rampant corruption, general lack of initiative for the nationals ills and propensity to further compound those through ingenious means, for private benefit.

Who shall we turn to, to ensure that these good for nothing grand daddies, stop worrying about Indian cricket teams records and start doing the work that we elected them for?

Update : The Times of India editorial,today, on 25/11/06, agrees with me.



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BizNpersonalfinance : State bank of India MF - subterfuge in new fund offers

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State Bank of India's Mutual fund division has come with a novel product called 'One India fund'. It is an excellent example of how even big companies can spread falsehoods or be economical with the truth.

The 'One India' fund according to the company is based on the investment belief that having a geographically diversified spread of companies in its equity portfolio, would make for a better return on investment. The Fund would invest atleast 15% and not more than 55% of its equity exposure to each of the four regions. Of course, there is no logical rationale' for this belief at all. The company says that they carried out an internal study on a selection of stocks and found that they were geo-diversified and also performed well in terms of historical record. Really?If I select some of the best BSE 200 companies and then say that they have performed well because the hair oil used by the members of their board of their directors is diversified across different hair oil brands, would I be correct? Statistically yes, but then you know what they say about lies, lies and damned statistics. The fact is that the companies selected are performers anyway and the market just responds to that and NOT because the regd. office of the company is in Barabanki or the hair oil used by the CEO is Dabar Amla !

Now SBI MF is not run by morons. The head honcho who came up with this brilliant idea is a normally sane man called Sanjay Sinha. Then why did they go berserk all of a sudden? There is a method in this madness.

What SBI MF fails to admit that the Indian mutual fund investor is an ignorant lot and goes for new fund offers (where MF's mop up new money for investing in the market) rather than going for a pre-existing fund. Why does the investor do this? Aggressive marketing campaigns for one and the fact that many Indian investors mistake a new fund offer of a mutual fund with an Initial Public offering (IPO) by a company.

The difference between an IPO and a mutual fund NFO is that equity IPO is looked by investors (Iin many instances rightly) as undervalued and there is a possibility of potential gains on listing, if the IPO is priced at a valuation lower than its market deemed value (which becomes apparent on listing of the share).

But in the case of a mutual fund NFO, the money mopped up is deployed in purchasing stocks from the stock market at the ruling market price. So the mutual fund NAV will increase (and hence the investors wealth) only if these existing prices increase. So fundamentally there is no difference between the two. Both pre-existing funds and NFO's can deliver better returns only if the companies they have invested in increase their earnings and hence the share price in the market. Investors, in India , however do not understand this difference and tend to prefer putting money in an NFO, for no reason .

So what do MF's do? They take advantage of the igorance of investors and come with all kinds of different MF products and market them aggressively and mop up fresh money. This is done by almost all market players in the market with impunity. Earlier MF's used to deliberately name these offers as IPO's to make them sound similar to an Equity IPO. SEBI clamped down on this practice recently and asked MF's to use the term NFO's.

Why is this practice so bad? Because it makes false claims about the premise on which an investor can make money and this is mis-representation by any standard. Instead of educating investors with investment schemes based on sound logic, it seeks to confuse them. The number of NFO's MF's have come up with with almost no diffenrentiation between them but which falsely mis-represents differentiation (like the example of One India) are many. This robs the market of meaningful differentiation and therefore promotes confusion in the minds of the consumer.

Its just that its sad that even a Govt. undertaking like SBI MF , which millions of Indians trust intrinsically, is now going down this unethical path instead of choosing to educate investors.

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EtcEtc : Indian traffic rules for dummies - a survival guide

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I am in the process of writing a book called 'Indian traffic for dummies'. I will publish here some sneek previews, in parts, into some of the traffic rules of India, which have been codified for the first time in writing. Here's is Part I in that series:

1. Cattle, Elephants, Camels, Donkeys, Pigs, Dogs, Cats have the first right of way on Indian roads. Human beings come second. Vehicles third.

2.When crossing the road-Yes, do look left and then to your right. That's what they taught you in school, didn't they? But after doing the aforementioned, don't forget to look back, look ahead and in all other sundry directions. You may also need to look UP, in some situations (no kidding).

3. If a buffalo cart, or stray cattle decide to brake, count till 100 (or more), wait till the few hundred crore gods in their bodies decide you can pass and don't forget to touch the cattle and smear your forehead with some delicious dung on your forehead, as a blessing.

4. My favourite trick while passing any four wheeler vehicle parked on the side of the road, is to look at the little space visible from down its wheels, while passing the vehicle, for tell tale signs of the feet of any passer by, who is determined to commit suicide by crossing the road without following rule no 1., above.

I started following this procedure after knocking down a small kid who did precisely this and whose bone I had the privilege of watching come out from near his elbow.


5. If you see a woman driving within 20 feet of you, all your (driving) senses need to be on guard. Remember, if you ram into her (vehicle) you will be beaten black and blue by an angry mob, but if she does the same, all you will get is a "Ohhh, I am sooo sorryyy" from her, which you might as well shove up your sorry ass and drive off.

To be Contd.

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Get Sporty : Indian cricket team on foreign soil - shed a few tears...

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As I write this, its past midnight here and India has just lost their 7th wicket in their first one dayer against South Africa in Durban. The 'Blue Billions' seem to switching off their T.V sets in the neighbouring homes and the leftover Diwali crackers have to be sent back to the attic for another day. Greg Chappel had said before the match " it would be difficult to imagine that this kind of intense preparation would not show during the matches" but that is precisely what has happened. Even 'The Wall' fell down today, with little resistance.

Why is India so completely helpless on foreign soil ?
Take a look at the statistics below and shed a few tears, you hapless member of 'The Blue Billion' tribe. If only the BCCI could improve these stats, rather than their billion dollar bank balance...
Statsguru - India - ODIs - Results summary

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Get Sporty : Ravi Shastri's pearls of wisdom on Indian cricket strategies

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
<-- Looking for some positivity, Mr Shastri?

Ravi Shastri
was commenting during the pre-match session of our ODI with South Africa today, on how India is playing "negative" by keeping Anil Kumble out in the reserves, considering the state of the Durban pitch. Leaving aside the merits or de-merits of the argument, I would really question Shastri's right teach anyone in Indian cricket the merits of positivity.

When I was a kid, I remember how Shastri used to INFURIARATE (that's the only word to describe our mental state) us cricket fans by playing in one dayers and in crunch situations like he was playing a Test match and Time was his own personal slave.

I can understand that the game has changed since some of today's commentators played and they are now commentating from TODAY's perspective yet, Shastri was a particular breed of a player who, only now (thank god) is disappearing. A breed which always put personal records above the match result and did everything he could to survive in the team, come what may.Many a Indian ODI defeat in those days, could be attributed to many star players of this category and some one should really tell Shastri that at least Greg Chappel has got one strategy right : to make sure that the team members know that they cannot survive, if they play for themselves and not for the teams victory.

For that, and that alone, we are eternally thankful to Chappel.

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EtcEtc: Driving test for rich kids in Mumbai

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How did Aliston Pereira get a license? Rahul sent me this picture to explain how.

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Food&Drink : Why President Hu would go hungry in India?

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Amit Varma wrote here on the Chinese President Hu being fed Chicken Manchurian. He says "This is really good," I can imagine President Hu saying as he bites into it. "I never knew Indian cuisine could be so tasty. Different from ours, but good nevertheless."

Tough luck, buddy. No chance in high heaven of any Chinese ever praising what passes for Chinese, that we get in India. We regularly used to get visitors from China to our office in India and after endless carping about food that I heard through other sources, I decided to take matters in my hand. First I sent them to a well known restaurant in Pune, 'Malacca Spice' ,whose founder has traveled all over the far east, during her youth and claims to have "authentic" far eastern food on their menu. The China men went there and their unanimous verdict- "No No good food". Desperate, I sent them to 'Mainland China', this time with a sub-ordinate, thinking maybe communication problems with waiters are getting in the way of them getting good service . Next day, I asked them how the food was.After all 'Mainland China' was authentic in my books, the way I knew it (I hadn't sampled the food in Hong Kong and Bangkok, at that time). With crestfallen faces they declared " No No Chinese food this, this no real Chinese".

So what about Mainland China's campaign claim of it being a "specialty fine dining restaurant". Feed that to an army of hungry Chinamen, I sayyy!

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EditorsEdit : Netherlands bans the Burqa - and takes a step back

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The Netherlands has become the first country to ban the Burqa covering the face. Timesonline, U.K, reports that "last year several Belgian towns, including Antwerp and Ghent, banned the wearing of the Burqa in public, and recently started issuing £100 spot fines for breaking the municipal ordinance. Several towns in Italy, including Como, have invoked legislation introduced by Mussolini that bans hiding one's face in public to impose fines Burqa-wearers. France and several regions of Germany have followed Turkey and Tunisia in banning the wearing of the hijab, which leaves the face visible, in public buildings, most controversially in schools. "


The ban has caused a huge uproar in Holland amongst Muslim groups, who see this as yet another attempt to mow down on religious freedom and target Muslims specifically.

Public opinion against immigration in Holland is at an all time high and issues such as integration of existing immigrants, laws regarding granting citizenship to immigrants, have become hotly debated topics. Holland has had traditionally the most lenient of immigration laws in Europe. This resulted in a wave of immigrants from all over, especially the former Dutch colonies, Turkey, and Africa. I still remember that the first time, I took the train from Schipol airport and landed on Rotterdam train station, I was completely taken aback by the number of black faces around me. It seemed, for a moment at least, at the station, that I was in Africa rather than Europe! The truth wasn't much further. Rotterdam., Holland's second biggest city and its commercial capital, has no less than 47% of its population as immigrants. So it’s hardly surprising that the Dutch are concerned at these levels and are fighting back with tough anti -immigration laws. If anything, isn’t it the most natural thing in the world?Woudn't we be concerned if 47% of Mumbai be composed of Bangladeshis? Immigrants from other parts of the worlds (including Indians) should not think that other countries around the world have an OBLIGATION to host them in their countries.

Where the Dutch, on the other hand are erring is that by targeting religious practices , like wearing of the Burqa, they are trampling over some fundamental religious rights, which not only legally questionable (The EU might have a hard look at this particular ban),but are also discriminatory. As Imran Khan rightly pointed out in a recent interview, liberalism is a two way street and if there is no ban against wearing the skimpiest of clothing, there should be no ban on wearing the Burqa, if that is what some women, VOLUNTARILY wear. I whole heartedly agree.


For example, Holland has extra-ordinarily liberal legal framework against a range of issues ranging from prostitution (legal) to consuming psychotropic substances (marijuana is legal- I remember a shopkeeper telling me that perhaps even the police might ask for a 'push') and gay rights. If some people feel offended by these, would the Dutch consider banning them?

Sadly, some of the western countries seem to believe that cultural integration can be achieved only by immigrants adopting their culture wholesale. True cultural integration is a two way street and the mainstream has to realize that they have to make as much effort to integrate with immigrants as the immigrants themselves. In our Dutch office, for instance, I met one Turkish manager, who complained to me bitterly that despite being on the job for more than a decade, his Dutch colleagues would never invite him for a beer in the pub, after work, or in another social setting. How would the Dutch Govt. punish such behavior?

Measures like banning the burqa, would only aggravate tensions and perhaps draw some more youth into being extremists and perhaps a repeat of the incidents like murder of the far right politician Pim Fortuyn (who incidentally was the first politician to speak against immigration and hence became very popular). More importantly, they would not serve to do what should be the priority of all western politicians- promote cultural integration in its truest form.

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BlogToon : The internet brings us all together

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

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Travellerr : Lone Indian, Bharadwaj Dayala, around the world on his bike

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In Aug'06, I had written about a Indian youth named Bharadwaj Dayala who is biking around the world on a Hero Honda Karizma bike.

For those of you who tuned in late, Bharadwaj writes a blog on his adventures here.

I had lost track of Bharadwaj, since he stopped posting for a long time after Aug 26th, when he was biking through Italy. Today, I checked in again and was relieved to find that the braveheart is still going strong and is now biking though Canada and U.S.A, braving the sub-zero temperatures there.

Do check his blog (if you check out the ads on the blog , nothing like it) and cheer him up through comments on his posts. His is an extra-ordinary and rare story of an Indian man of limited means, braving all odds, to achieve the impossible.

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PopularCulture : The new James Bond in Casino Royale' - Marshy Mush

Sunday, November 19, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
<-The World is not safe, so i turn into a wimp and fall in love.

So I saw Casino Royale, the much hyped about latest in the Bond series. And my verdict? Average, at best.

Sure, the action sequences are shorn of gizmos and are believable. Sure, Bond is shown in a more humane light and even falls in love. But the producers seem to have missed that the essence of Bond was that he was larger than life. So going down this path does not do much for the franchise, in my opinion.

I think it would have been better to keep the gizmos and the 'larger than life' personna (which has been given almost a complete go by), but tone it down, from the excesses committed in 'Golden Eye'.

And its almost pathetic to see Bond in Love. Bond was never meant to fall in love, at least not admit it in public ! Bond is meant to philander and fulfill the male populations fantasy of fooling around with exotic bimbos in even more exotic locales. What's coming next? A married Bond who drops the kids to school, bah !

The script is important in Bond movies to give the twists and turns and witty one liners. We hardly expect a Bond movie to win a Oscarfor its screenplay!In this movie, there are NO twists and turns which really hold you, except the last one, when Bond's love seemingly betrays him (serves him right, for not behaving to type). The script slows down completely in parts, perhaps in an attempt to build characters. But it takes a lot off the movie's action/thriller genre', in parts. There is no buildup to a dramatic finale'. In fact the finale' almost leaves you cold.

Don't get me wrong. The movies not THAT bad. Daniel Craig is a good actor and does a splendid job. So does the Danish actor who plays the villain. Its just that- well, this is not the type of Bond I signed up for!

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EditorsEdit : Milton Friedman is dead - long live Friednomics !

Saturday, November 18, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Milton Friedman is dead. And with him a rare breed - an economist who could explain abstruse economical theories in a simple language, which the common man can understand.

Of course Milton Friedman also won the Nobel prize for economics (1976)- "for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy", to quote an article on him in Wikipedia. Of course he was a major influence on American economic policy in the Reagan and Thatcher years, since both these leaders were heavily influenced by Friedman's ideas.

But for me, Friedman will always be the man who wrote (along with his wife Rosa Friedman)"Free to Choose' - a classic television series which was later converted to a book, which explains complex economic theories using examples even a child could understand. I credit this book to my understanding of why free market economics, and that alone, could help a country like ours, which at that time, was taking its first tentative steps to reforming our economic landscape.

I wish someone like Prakash Karat, our CPI(M) leader, would read this book. Going by a recent interview he gave to an interview channel and a newspaper , where he was asked as to why Pension money should not be invested in Equities, if it is sure that that would give a higher return, and his reply that he doesn't want Pension money to be used by corporates as capital (!!!) there is a lot he can learn for sure. How do dimwits like him, who don't even know the basics of economics, go onto positions where they dictate major economic decisions of the country, is a question only God can answer. Oh God, forgive them, for they know not their Friedman!

Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition

Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960

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The sign says "Going down is prohibited". Thanks for letting us know, buddy. Or who knows, we would have liked going down the ravine?
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Friday, November 17, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
PopularCulture : Amma ! Rajnikanth fighting, Saar !

I have lived in Chennai, for almost a year, in two different stints and have always marveled at the kind of adulation Rajnikanth enjoys there. Perhaps its the cultural difference that lends itself in me never understanding what the fuss was (indeed, IS) about. The Chennai auto wallah's idolize Rajni and to my eternal regret, even try to live his characters, while driving the auto. If you happen to sit in an auto, which believes in scraping past other vehicles with just millimeters separating them, curse Rajni. This tribe can also be identified by their urge to get out of the auto at every signal/traffic snarl and walk some distance to check what the issue is, and if possible, resolve it. When the signal turns back on, they will walk at leisure, and shout at anyone who objects to the obstruction. Jay Rajni !

So imagine my surprise, when the night before I left Chennai for good and the director of our company was hosting a farewell dinner for me in a well known city restaurant, who walks in but - Amma, Rajni Saar ! He had come with his wife and daughter and sat on the next table. This was 3 years back, but boy, did he look old ! Dollops of make up must have gone into making his recent movies, but Rajni Saar doesn't mind for sure. After all he charged the unheard of Rs. 4- 6 crore even in those days.

Much of Rajni's appeal is due to his stylized acting, which is unique and cannot be copied easily. One his his most famous tricks was throwing up a cigarette and catching it in his mouth and lighting it in one stylized flourish, which I must admit, even I like. Check this video, for some heart stopping, mind numbing action, Rajnikanth Istyle.

Amma ! Rajni Saar fighting very nice....

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Travellerr : Bangladesh capers

Thursday, November 16, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Bangladesh seem to be much in news recently with the controversy surrounding the appointment of an interim President who is alleged by the opposition to be the stooge of the former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and therefore not fit to stand in power during the crucial election period.

I had extensive contacts with several Bangladeshis due to my job and they all seemed routinely pessimistic about the political scenario in their country. Much of Bangladesh's problems are due to the extremely bitter power struggle between two grand dames of bangladesh's political landscape, Khaleda Zia and Begum Sheikh Hasina. The bitterness between the two is the stuff of legend and has to be seen to be believed. This has led to a very different kind of democracy in Bangladesh with the party in power pulling all stops to ensure that the opposition is silenced as much as possible, using all means at their disposal. The opposition on the other hand, does much of the same. No means are small enough to reach their political end. Bands, strikes, processions and violence are an integral part of Bangladesh's DAILY life, so much so, that 2-3 years ago , it was estimated that the country used to be shut down anywhere from 50-100 days a year, due to strikes , alone. Since ours was a private multinational company running a critical service operation which could not shut down, the managers would use whatever means necessary to reach office. But there were no guarantees. Corruption is endemic in Bangladesh.It is virtually impossible to run any business there without passing money at every stage of your operation. This is true of India too of course but I am not exaggerating when I say that India is a much much cleaner country, by comparision.

The other feature of this country is the sheer density of its population. I have lived in Mumbai and am used to a horde of densely crowded people, but even I had to hold my breath when walking through Dhaka's commercial places. I have never seen so many people anywhere. I had visions of our planet being crowded like a sewer filled with rats, when I walked about that place. The end truly seemed nigh. The only traffic rule in Dhaka is that their are no rule and I did not spot a single traffic signal on the entire stretch from the airport to the commercial district. Chaos and cacophony ruled the streets. Everywhere you could spot hordes of emaciated men drenched in sweat, struggling to peddle their bicycle rickshaws. For any Indian, other than the ones from Calcutta, this would make for an extremely uncomfortable sight.

Chittagong by comparision is a sleepy town running at a comfortable pace. The only heart stopping moment is when you land in Chittagong, it feels like you will hit the ocean waters instead of the runway, any moment, till you actually hit land.

We were invited for dinner at a colleagues place and I was curious to sample Bangla food, but the first few morsels and all of us Indians did not know how we would finish the meal without offending our hosts. The problem for most of us (except the Bengalis in India , probably) is the liberal use of mustard oil, mustard and dollops of turmeric, all of which lends a very peculiar taste, for those of us who are not used to it. The other distinguishing feature is that the food almost floats in oil.

Nature has not been very kind to Bangladesh.Because of its peculiar location, it is routinely flooded and millions of people are displaced every year. Bangladeshis are not a very India loving country either and the main reason is this annual flooding, which they accuse is exacebated because of the way India releases waters from our dams during monsoon.

The one hope to improve this bleak political and social landscape, now, seems to be the creator of the Grameen Bank and Nobel Prize winner , Muhammad Yunus, who it is widely thought would enter politics soon, leading a third front against both Zia and Sheikh Hasina. Here is a man who is truly urbane, socially conscious and politically responsible, some one who has both the ability and the vision to lead this country from distress to progress. More power to Yunus!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
One hell of a crazy women!

This lady sure ran fast but strangely it reminded me of a REAL life joke which had me in splits. It was narrated to me by my earlier companies Quality Manager. He narrated the story of a Supervisor in HIS previous company who was instructing a worker and wanted him to file (imagine this to be a instrument which manually scrapes metal much like you would scrape a potato peel) a job ( a metal component)much slowly than the worker was doing. The supervisor said " Don't file this fast fast fast fast( saying this rapidly), just do it- faaasst fasst fasst fassst (saying each word v slowly as if to pantomime the slow pace at which he wanted the filing to proceed).

This lady sure ran fast fast fast fast fast fast : )

As I am writing this, another memory- long forgotten, from my childhood days rushes to my mind. I remember, me, my grandmother and myself, rushing off the tracks with my mother dragging me along desperately and passengers on the platform shouting at us to hurry up. Before I knew what was happening, a Mumbai local train rushed past us, throwing up dust and drowning us in its din. It was a close shave...much like what this woman had.

Strange how the sound of a rushing train can evoke long forgotten memories.

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EtcEtc : Public toilets in India ... less said the better

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The BBC has reported that an estimate 4 million people in the U.K are hit by toilet phobia- which can be defined as fear of going to public toilets. The true numbers are expected to be much more than the ones reported.

I have always found public toilets in Europe to be spotlessly clean. So I really cant understand fear of unclean public toilets there. My only complaint has been that mainland Europe can be a bit expensive to pursue what is a legitimate and natural line of activity, and therefore should logically be free. Many public toilets in Europe are maintained by private parties and charge anywhere from 20-30 cents a shot,which works out to Rs.15/-. No wonder so many people in U.K and Europe have got toilet phobia :)

In India of course its another story. I would avoid visiting a public toilet even if some one pays me to do it! So if anyone suffering from toilet phobia is thinking of taking a vacation or coming in here for a business trip, I would advise them to get their heads examined.Most public toilets in India, except the ones in five star hotels are filthy to the extreme. This is true even for normally well run and popular restaurants and many of the well known hotels, malls and cinema theatres. I often wonder why a proprietor who rakes in lakhs of rupees a day, cannot invest a few thousand rupees a month, in what is surely an important service to provide to their customers. We are way too tolerant with such commercial enterprises and I for one some times make it a point to talk to the person in charge and give him an earful for the state of the toilet. Not that it makes much of a difference to be honest. Our attitude, culturally, towards toilets has always been that since its a place that we visit once in a while and more importantly not in easy view of guests, customers or the public at large, it need not be cared for. That's why our drawing rooms are much better decorated than our other rooms, for instance, and the restaurant dining room would invite a spend of crores but the few thousand rupees required to maintain a toilet would be grudged for.

Is the filthy nature of our toilets the reason many of us simply prefer to 'Just do it' in the open? Not if you would read the recent newspaper and other reports which highlighted the fact that in Punjab and Haryana, although households have built toilets, they are seldom used and are many a times locked for the use of a potential guest, and that people still prefer the rush of cold air on their rumps, early in the morning. What is it with us? Yes, go closer to nature by all means, but this is surely too close for comfort?

The other problem is of course that if you need a toilet, filthy or not, its often 'dhundo dhundo re sajaana'. Our municipalities have come up with innovative solutions like huge water supply pipes being cut in half and erected on the sides of our roads with the a helpful sign indicating that it is to be used as a toilet. Many people use these monstrosities out of sheer helplessness.

After all if you gotta do it, you gotta do it, right?

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites

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CurrentAffairs : Another war in the Middle-East a foregone conclusion?

Monday, November 13, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
The clock is ticking away on the Iran nuclear issue. More and more people are now veering towards the view that another war in the Middle East is not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. The BBC did a wonderful documentary on this issue recently, which was quite alarming, for the facts they presented.

The U.S might have been cornered on Iraq and might be about to open channels of discussion with Iran and Syria on the same, due to the recent setbacks the Republicans had to suffer in the Mid-Terms elections, but that doesn't take anything away from the fact that BOTH the Republican and the Democrats are united in their stance that Iran, under no circumstance, should acquire nuclear weapons. This stance is shared by Europe. Israel, of course, views this matter as a question on which its very survival depends, since it suspects that the nuclear option is primarily meant to be used against Israel.

It is now basically a question of which of these three, muster the courage to take the gauntlet and strike Iran. The Americans are capable, but hobbling in Iraq and can hardly commit themselves into a third war in the Middle East , all at the same time. Public opinion in the States is strongly against pulling "our boys' out of Iraq. The European Union is a bunch of namby pambies, who can bark but never bite. Europe has not fought in a major war since almost 50 years now and the guns and will to fight, in Europe, have long since gathered rust.

That leaves the Israelis to do the dirty work and in the most likely scenario, would form the willing shoulder through which the U.S and Europe would fire. Some people (like the Vice president) in the higher echeleons of power in Israel are extreme hawks and have advocated pre-emptive strikes against Iran for long.

No one can predict the exact time, when the strike will happen. But what's reasonable to expect that the air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities would occur, in advance of Iran coming closer to build the bomb, which could be anywhere from a few months to a year or two away, but no more.

The consequences of such a strike are not hard to imagine. Oil price would probably surge past $80 a barrel, leading to inflationary pressures throughout the world. Commodities will shoot up. Gold will almost certainly reach record highs with the dollar loosing in value.The more prolonged the war and the more countries in the Gulf that get sucked in the conflict, more the impact on oil and commodities. Stocks will almost certainly undergo a severe correction, during and after the end of the war.

It could well be a 'dirty' war. The Iraq war seemed to be over in days when the allies captured it in lightening speed, but turned messier by the day. Iran , on the other hand, has learned its lesssons from this, and is said to be training hundreds, if not thousands of fidayeen (suicide troops). It has missiles in its armory which can strike upto w.europe, should the need arise and some of them can carry nuclear war heads.

In his astrological predictions the famous astrologer Nostradamus had predicted of a terrible third world war, which would wreck destruction all over. Lets pray that he would be wrong.

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EtcEtc : Kevin Carter's Pulitzer winning picture of the Sudan Famine

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I received this as a forward from some one I know, today. Normally I delete all forwards, but I could not delete this one, without publishing it. I don't know if I am violating any copyrights here, but I think the copyright holder would agree that publishing this is far more important than thinking about copyright.


The text in the pic above reads: The PHOTO in the mail is the 'Pulitzer prize' winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine. The picture depicts a famine stricken child crawling towards an United Nations food camp, located a Kilometere away. The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat it. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken.

Three months later he committed suicide due to depression.

This was found in his diary :




"Dear God, I promise I will never waste my food no matter how bad it can taste and how full I may be. I pray that He will protect this little boy, guide and deliver him away from his misery. I pray that we will be more sensitive towards the world around us and not be blinded by our own selfish nature and interests."

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CurrentAffairs : Uncle Sam going under in Iraq

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Get Sporty : Wannna play dice with your life? Become a sportsman in India!

Sunday, November 12, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
India is experiencing a string of successes in sports other than cricket at the world stage, in the recent past. Abhinav Bindra won gold at the World shooting championship, Saina Nehwal reached the finals of the Jr. World badminton championship, Jeev Milkha Singh won the Volvo Masters Golf tourney in Shanghai and there are a few more one can recount. But these successes are not a result of some state controlled program to exhibit our sporting prowess and notch some national prestige brownie points, unlike China. In India, sporting success can be safely attributed to individual brilliance and more importantly a lifetime of sacrifices, blood,sweat, toil and tears.

Its quite well known that we as a country have abysmal sports infrastructure, including that of cricket. There are very few good grounds/stadia, coaches and most people can't afford the equipment needed to play today's modern sports. Those who can prefer to (or their children) play sports only at an amateur level, since making decent money out of sports, unless you reach the top, is very very difficult in India. Couple this with the cut throat competition to get in a decent educational course, and you can understand why being serious about sports and thinking of it as a career is a very dicey game, indeed. My own sister, went to win in Table Tennis at the National University level, but left the game after that, to pursue her medical career. There was no way she could balance both, beyond a point.

No wonder India has not produced an Individual Olympic medalist since 1952, except for Leander Paes.

So when a few people battle all odds to ensure their child gets all the facilities needed to excel in sports, one can't but help applaud their courage. When I was young, my father had a sub-ordinate, who actually got himself a transfer into a major town in Maharashtra, so that he could give his son access to the best sporting and coaching facilities, in Table Tennis. His wife stayed back in another town, to take care of the other kids, who couldn't be relocated. Husband and wife made this sacrifice, for the sake of their son's sporting career. Did they not have doubts whether they will succeed in making a champion at the end of it all? They must have, but their resolve was must have conquered these fears.

Many of India's champions, in sports other than cricket, like Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, V.Anand, Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh, are born out of sacrifices and life uncertainties, such as these. They are even more praise worthy, cause unlike cricket, which promises better than average compensation even if you don't reach the very top, pursuing these other games is nothing less than playing Russian roulette with your life.

And what if you succeed at the highest level? Even then a sporting career is possibly the most hazardous of jobs you can have. Yes, you make big money- but remember your shelf life at that level can be anywhere from 5-10 years. Most sportpersons cannot be effective beyond 30. The threat of an injury cutting short your career is omnipresent. I have always felt that critics who attack big money in sports (in India cricketers are often a target for the amount of money they make) can never understand, for what kind of risks these people are being paid for. But what can you expect from a hack who probably played safe, did his B.A or Mass Communication course and played sports at an amateur level, but doses of vitriol tinged with envy?

But many a sacrifice ends in tears rather than a smile. A few months back, I got to know, through some common acquaintances, that the boy I knew, had indeed won a few majors at the State level and also played at the national level, but never quite got beyond that. I wonder what career choice he made once he knew he had little chance of making it. I wonder if he is ruing his life choice and whether his father blames himself for that decision.

Oh well, Life is a bitch.

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SurvivingIndia : Official website of the Govt. of India

Saturday, November 11, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
I don't know how many of you know about it yet, but the Indian Govt. has a web site of its own! Nothing extra-ordinary in this, except for the fact that, it is quite a useful little site, which is a bit uncharacteristic of our Mai Baap Sarkar.

The website is a significant part of our President Abdul Kalam's vision of E-Governance, which basically means using electronic technology to make governance easier and governance related information more accessible to our Aam Aadmi. The aim is to make governance not only efficient, but also more transparent.This is one in a series of measures that have come up lately, the most prominent being the Right to Information act , which seem to be putting back the power of information in the hands of the citizens and giving them the right to DEMAND their rights rather than beg, (or worse pay) for them.

The web site can be accessed @http://india.gov.in/.

One example of the way e-governance and technology is changing things for the better in India is the link on this site which allows an entrepreneur to register his business via the internet. This process was earlier notoriously bureaucratic and used to take weeks , if not months, with the entrepreneur being already considerably lighter in the pocket, before starting his business. The new procedure enables anyone to register their business via the internet and virtually within an hour or two!

In one more sure sign of change the whole business section is actual maintained by FICCI (Federation of Indian Industry) and , contentwise, quite useful. Gone are the days when the Businessman and the Govt. were perpetually at loggerheads. These days even Govt.websites are being maintained in collaboration! Way to go!

The information available on this site is too extensive to enumerate here, even in part, but suffice to say that it is all extremely informative and every Indian Netizen, should have a dekko, at least once. Happy surfing.

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Nirvana for all your sexy problems, Saar!

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EtcEtc : (Tax) deta hai ya Dhikhau ?

Friday, November 10, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Patna's new Income Tax Collectors-"We Collect"

I had written a few days back about how majority of traders in India don't pay any taxes. The Patna Muncipal Corporation , it seems, shared my frustration with this and decided to do something about it.

The method they employed to make traders pay up log standing dues, though, is something that is not only unique but also one of those quirky ideas, only a true blue Indian (and a Bihari at that!) can come up with.

The Washington Post carried this Associated Press report:

PATNA, India -- One cash-strapped Indian city has launched a unique collection service to dislodge payment from tax deadbeats: Door-to-door eunuchs.

Eunuchs , a term used in India to describe transvestites, postoperative transsexuals and hermaphrodites , traditionally make a living on tips for dancing at weddings or for blessing newborns. They frequently refuse to leave until they are given money.

Patna, the capital of Bihar state in eastern India, hired scores of them Wednesday to compel shop owners to pay their back taxes.

"We are confident that their reputation and persuasive skills will come in handy for the municipal authorities to collect taxes from defaulters," said Bharat Sharma, a revenue officer.

Only 2,000 of nearly a half-million people have been paying property tax and water supply charges to Patna's municipal authorities, and tax collection is less than one-third of a projected tax base of $15 million, said Atul Prasad, the municipal administrator.

Dancing and singing to the beat of drums and wearing bright saris, the eunuchs met with success in their new role Wednesday. They collected about $9,000 in cash and checks from shop owners in the city, Sharma said.

The eunuchs get 4 percent of what they collect from defaulters, and will soon be asked to help collect outstanding taxes from homeowners, Prasad said.



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We accept 'Master Cards' (Check the logo on the receptacle)

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CurrentAffairs : When push comes to shove - Spin!

Thursday, November 09, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Its always amusing to observe how people are couching their communication when interacting with the media, officially. Depending on how important the communication is, there are anywhere from a few hundred to a few million and sometimes billions of people listening to your communication and so saying the right things and most importantly NOT saying the wrong things is extremely important (Congress spokesperson Manu Singhvi says that he considers the latter far more important than the former.) For example, Ex-Fed Chairman Allan Greenspans speeches were dissected so finely, that much was made of even the commas and hyphens in his speeches and comments, since that could potentially change the whole meaning of what he wanted to say. And fortunes could be made or lost on what Greenspan wished to say on Fed Monetary policy. The present Fed chairman is more boring from that perspective and he has made it clear that he doesn't believe too much in such guessing games and wants more transparent communication. Oh well, I can almost see all those unemployed Greenspan watchers eating their nails in frustration.

I brought this up after reading that the Australian Cricket Captain Ricky Ponting has "offered" an apology. This became necessary, since he and his team behaved obnoxiously with the BCCI president Sharad Pawar when the latter was handing them the ICC champions trophy. But Ponting has merely "offered" to apologize, not apologized and has shifted the onus of "seeking" the apology to Sharad Pawar and the BCCI ! How clever? I would love to slap Ponting and then "offer" to apologize should he choose to seek one. While being so magnanimous, Ponting has not forgotten to attack the media and point out that it is they who are making a mountain out of a molehill. This is the most novel way of apologizing (sorry , 'offering' an apology) and so very Australian too! They are even apologizing by being on the offensive!

Bill Clinton (that guy!what a lovable bastard he is) of course was the past master in this art. He famously said once that he "smoked" marijuana but did not "inhale" it. In Bill's eyes that made all the difference.

Newt Gingrich, once the U.S congressional leader was has also been acknowledged as a guru of spin. To understand how seriously he and U.S politicians take spin read what John J. Pitney, Jr. says-"Newt Gingrich may have left the Republican congressional leader-ship, but his spirit survives--on the Democratic side. To understand the link, think back to 1990. At the time, Gingrich was the House Republican whip and general chairman of GOPAC, a committee for the training of Republican candidates. As the midterm congressional campaign got under way, GOPAC issued "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," a linguistic guide for those who pleaded, "I wish I could speak like Newt."

The guide consisted of two lists, both of which grew out of focus group research. "Optimistic Positive Governing Words" such as opportunity, challenge, and commitment would help Republicans define their own vision. "Contrasting Words" such as crisis, threaten, hypocrisy [sic], and ideological would help them define their opponents.

After Democrats attacked the guide as cynical and demeaning, Gingrich quickly disowned it as an aide's mistake. But in spite of their public indignation, the Democrats adopted its central idea: that language is indeed a mechanism for shaping the way people think about politics. Sometimes they openly acknowledged their intel-lectual debt to Gin-grich. At a 1995 political retreat, Democratic senators and staff received an information packet that included the GOPAC document....One reason the Democrats have done so well lately is that they have mastered both lists. These days, any speech by a Democratic politician will contain long stretches of "optimistic positive governing words," along with a few verbs and prepositions that give the illusion of thought. A typical passage sounds like this: "We have a precious opportunity to preserve our commitment to our families and protect the dreams of our children." Thanks to the list, speechwriters do not have to worry about order and logic. String the words together in another sequence, and they sound just as good: "Our families have precious dreams for our children, so we must preserve and protect our commitment to opportunity.

While these fuzzwords are dulling the listeners' capacity for critical thinking, the "contrasting" words are calling forth demonic images. Again, the Democrats have relied heavily on Gingrich's list, making adept use of such standards as greed, selfish, and intolerant. They've also made some additions, including mean-spirited and, of course, extremist. In the 1998 campaign, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) got away with applying the "extremist" label to GOP challenger Matt Fong, who is about as wild-eyed as Mr. Rogers. And in nearly every race, Democrats linked the Republican candidate to the king of the "extremists," Gingrich himself. As George C. Scott said in Patton: "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!"

As I write this I hear that 'Cricket Australia' has said that they "regret" the incident where Pawar was pushed around. Not an apology remember, but a plain vanilla 'regret'.

Newt Gingrich would have approved.

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Did you forget the curry, mate?
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EditorsEdit : I have the POWERRR !

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
I discovered today that we are a very rich country. Its absolutely certain that thousands of farmers are not committing suicide and its all probably just a figment of some body's fertile imagination. All that data about we having hundreds of millions of poor and destitute without any medical, educational and basic sanitation needs is probably hogwash as well.


How do I know?

Because ISRO (The Indian space research organization) has just asked the Govt. for Rs.10000-15000 crores to send a mission to the moon. And lest you remark that this is bordering on lunacy, think again ! Pakistan and Malaysia it seems have recently sent a man in space and therefore India needs to redouble its efforts to keep its lead in space. And of course the Chinese will attempt to send their own man on the moon. God forbid, if they succeed, as these buggers seem to do with routine regularity, woudn't it be a slap on our collective faces?

And if ISRO is keen to build its own palace in space, can the Armed forces be far behind? They made news recently by beating the world (oh yes, EVEN those pesky Chinese) by importing the highest amount of arms in dollar terms (6 $ billion worth).

What? Are you crazy to ask why we need so many arms? Really ! How can you ask these questions? The Indian Army needs to maintain a 'strategic upperhand' vis a vis Pakistan and China. That we outgun and outman Pakistan by 10-1 does not matter. What if they bridge the gap to, heaven forbid, 9-1? That the Chinese have already outgunned and outmanned us and whatever we buy is of no consequence anyway, doesn't matter too. What if they increase that lead? As for the Air force, they need new toys since the MIG's are falling of the skies faster than mosquito's near a mosquito repellent. The Navy? Well they are bored with ramming our own ships and taking them underwater or leaking confidential papers to their chiefs nephew who is has run out of the country. So they have decided that they want to 'retain and deepen' their 'Blue Water' status (which basically means that they can store and burn more fuel in a ship, so that it can go for longer excursions).

So basically luxuries like good roads,basic medical and educational facilities, basic sanitation for our millions needs to wait. After all, would you miss these things so much if Pakistan or China were to attack us tomorrow? What is that you want anyway? Loss of freedom or poverty? What? You say in today's world, no country can get away with attacking each other in a brazen manner? Fine, but that doesn't mean we let off our guard, for heaven's sake. And MOST importantly, have you forgotten our LONG cherished dream of being a SUPERPOWER? Yes, 'I have the powerrrr', as He-Man used to shout periodically. We want to have the powerrrr too!

So my dear friends,you see what compelling arguments these people have? How can we be poor if we are so rich in arms and ammunition? After all, if you don't have bread you can always eat some bullets, bombs and boats.

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