Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 beckons

Maximum city got missed out of the pic, but all in all a healthy reading list to wade through in the beginning of a year...See you on the other side of the year...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Now again, what happened on 26/11?

Deactivate forward airbases, Pakistan tells India. Over the past few days, you would think 26/11 was organized by India in Pakistan. India is now rapidly on the backfoot denying any moves towards war and placating Pakistan.

Need to avoid conflict with India, tells its army chief...after organizing (condoning with a wink and a nudge - anything) the most brazen terror attack; they if they can get away with this, wow, we deserve more of it.

Pakistan does not want war, it seems...Way to go Pak. The wimp state that is India deserves all this and much more.

If I were Pakistan, I would continue to screw India in much the same way. Sending in a few fidayeen who cause economic damage, kill infidels and get away with it is a neat strategy. They got away in 2001, 2008 looks set to be a repeat of it. The only question is how soon and where it wil happen again...

Can we get started with our covert networks once again?
Can we, send more troops in Afghanistan please?
And can we also stop all those Pak flights, trains and what not into the country?

Wake up Kumbhakarna....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stateless actors

"All these stateless actors are causing a problem. "
"Why?"
"Well, they have created a parallel industry of themselves without the locals."
"Like how?"
"See, they have disproportionate influence over the locals as compared to the state actors"
"But can they do anything without local support?"
"True, but that local set is an exclusivist set and does not represent the view of the true local majority"
"How would you know that?"
"We are in touch with the ground realities"
"Hmm"
"They run the industry all by themselves. Their fund sources are from all over the world and they have sympathizers all over the world. So, many of their actions find sanction everywhere. They are a big hit, even though I hate to admit it..."
"Any specific person?"
"Oh yes. Amitabh Bachahan. He is one of the biggest stateless actors." said Raj Thackeray signing off...

Salman Rushdie: Brutality, Incompetence And Cynical Duplicity

"Ask yourself the question that if the Kashmir problem were resolve tomorrow, if Israel-Palestine reached a lasting peace, do we believe that al-Qaeda would disband? Do we believe that Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad would put their guns down and beat them into plough-shears and say we would now be farmers because our job is done. I mean the point about is that is laughable, right? And the point about that is that that is not their project. Their project is power. This is a power grab by the most obscurantist, revanchist, old-fashioned, medievalist idea of modern culture that attempts to drag the world back into the middle ages at the point of modern weaponry ..." [via]

Full piece, here...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Praveen Swamis book on Kashmir

I picked this book, Indian Pakistan and the Secret Jihad by Praveen Swami recently - on the Acorns recommendation.

Do yourself a favour and read this book. It tells you what your history books never taught you, nor newspapers ever told you or the apologists will never tell you.

It tells, very vividly, how the Pakistani establishment has continuously, (beginning 1947 till date) believed in its claim over Kashmir. It documents the use of irregulars (variously known as Lashkars, tribesmen - and now known as terrorists here and FF there) to try and create an uprising in Kashmir - which it continues to do even today. The support for the elements in Punjab was just one part of this "grand strategy".

Today, of course, it has broadened the scope of terrorism in India, but it is interesting for us to know that every other excuse for any sort of terrorism support is just an excuse. The Kashmir front is just another one in the entire theater of war (see the NE explode shortly) and the sooner we realize it, the better.

It also tells you (and my respect for Indira Gandhi goes up for her nationalism) how India responded. The success in our response - cases in points being the modernisation of the Indian forces post 1962 and how we engineered 1971 - happened when we acted with determination (on both diplomacy and aggression). So, your heart goes out for those who claim her legacy, yet act as stooges and weaken this country.

The book ends around 2004 and nearly ends on an optimistic note. But the events post 2004 tell us that such optimism is unfounded, unless Indias rulers decide to do something about the menace that has continued since 1947.

Another thing. The diplomatic manouvers post the 2001 attack seem eerily similar to the one happening now - and hence I am pessimistic about its outcome...

Those who dont know history are destined to repeat it...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Terror response lifecycle 2

Part 1, here...

It has been a long time since then, nearly a month and the only full monty happening here, is of our own government. Read on.

Day 11: Restraint is not a sign of weakness.
Read: It is a sign of weak knees.
Action: Pakistan wipes out evidence of terrorist camps from all known locations.

Day 12: Bring perpetrators to justice, Pak told
Read: Do something, do anything, save my face.
Action: Pakistan bans Jamat ud Dawa. A foreign newspaper traces the identity of the captured terrorist.

Day 23: The US has approved our evidence
Read: Papa has approved, yay.
Action: Pakistan places some of the people on the piece of paper with increased security, calls it house arrest. Everybody knows the home address of the terrorist.

Day 24: Even Nepal has accepted our evidence
Read: There are another 34 countries other than Pakistan which accept the evidence.
Action: Pakistan reverses its ban, asks for more evidence. Media is barred from entering the terrorists village.

Day 25: Pakistan is the center of terrorism
Read: This was nearly 20 years ago, we are still saying this or am I reading the wrong speech?
Action: Pakistan asks India to prove nationality of captured terrorist, wipes out village from map.

Day 26: Address India's concerns quickly, says Papa
Read: Which address will they use?
Action: Evidence not enough says Pakistan. They want the captured terrorists birth certificate. Terrorist did not carry it, reports media.

Day 27: Islamabad must act
Read: Who is producing this movie?
Action: Pakistan applies for Academy awards.

Day 28: Technology is not being used adequately
Read: The last time funds were sanctioned, we bought those .303.
Action: Taliban supports Pak army and the world thought they were fighting each other at some point.

Day 29: The terror attack is an attack on our ambitions.
Read: That does sound new
Action: Pakistan says, India is unnecessarily escalating tensions. JuD slams Indian government.

Day 30: The government is a wimp
Read: The government is a wimp
Action: India is a wimp, says Pakistan.

Sigh! Update in another month.

Using the market

Over the past few days, India has done nothing but sabre rattling with Pakistan. And it has led nowhere. Pakistan is in the perfect position of "ulta chor kotwal ko daante" and this kotwal has proved his own ineffectiveness.

But it is time to take the gloves off. There were suggestions on how to screw Pakistans non existent economy - heres 2 of the most discussed. And some of them were brilliant, while some of them were a little childish. But the objective should remain. Hurt Pakistans economy - much of which is basically the army in any case.

I like what IPL is doing here. Pakistans players unwanted in the IPL, reports IE today. Way to go IPL. We also need to do the same for Pakistani artistes who want to perform in India. Some of us will argue that these are the "good" people there etc. etc., who we need to encourage, but I see no point. We need these so called "good" people to be able to inlfuence their country and countrymen to stop using terrorism as a "tactic".

India should use the power of its market and the strength of its economy. Perhaps, just perhaps the idea of war sabre rattling is to get Pakistan to push some of its depleting resources into the army. Great. It does look like they are using their limited supply of oil reserves to fly sorties across the country.

BTW: I read recently that many Gulf countries do not allow Israeli passport holders or passports with an Israeli stamp to enter their country.

Israel too has an enemy country policy : On 1 April 2008, the Israeli government proposed a new revised law which includes a list of 10 countries and territories to be defined as "enemy countries": Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and the Gaza Strip. As of August 2008, the legislative procedures of this revised law have not been concluded yet.

Read: Economic Boycott of Israel by Arab Nations.

Special clauses in Invoice: For GULF COUNTRIES: (i.e. Abu Dhabi, Aden, Bahrain, Basrah, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Hodeidah, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Tripoli (Libiya), Ummsai, Oman)
In Invoice & Certificate of Origin:-
"It is further declared that above Goods are not of Israeli Origin/Manufacture nor do they contain any Israeli material."

Time for us to do the same to Pakistan?

Update: Bravo UTV...(via)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two sides of the same coin

Taliban to back Pak army in case of war with India [Indian Express]

But, dont worry. India will not go to war. If at all, we do, so many days I am sure has been useful to shift all those camps to nice, undisclosed, locations...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Finally, India takes action

After dilly dallying over the past few weeks on what we could do about terror considering that Pakistan has dismissed all claims about their involvement, India has taken a step forward.  It announced a limited precision strike on beach parties in Goa. Yes, you read that correctly.

Beach parties in Goa are banned this year in view of the heightened terror perception. 

As a continuation of limited precision strikes, the government is further expected to ban worshipping in temples (Akshardham), shopping in markets (Delhi), travelling in trains, hotels, stopping at railway stations, hospitals, driving in police vehicles (Mumbai), conventions (Bangalore), bus stops (Bangalore). Since none of these require weapons, as a non violent state, this has been seen to be the best option. If this does not reduce terrorism, India proposes to ban living in India too as a future step.

Note: In view of the heightened terror perception, India has also banned terrorists. However, they may not receive the notice or may not read it, as it has been observed in all incidents before this one.

Our government, serving us

Just in case you missed, the spectrum scam is turning out to be the biggest scam ever, to the tune of some 100000 crores or so...Nice going.

And in the meantime, the lifeline of the mango man, roads is progressively being killed. The UPA government has laid waste to the Golden Quadrilateral program. No, I am not saying this, the high court is...

The Delhi High Court seems to have hit upon the root cause of why crucial highway projects across the country have been moving at a snail's pace in the past few years. And the discovery has left the court both shocked and angry.

We are all set to lose a world bank loan that was granted for the completion of a highway project...

He said, "World Bank concern centres around the poor implementation of five road packages under the Lucknow-Muzaffarpur National Highway Project (LMNHP) which should have been open this month. But at the current rate of progress it will not be ready in 10 years."

[via][via]

Previously here, here on how the government has been progressively screwing the project.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some links that made me think...

Greatbong dissects the algebra of infinite fundamentalism practiced by A Roy. Superb! Slightly long, but worth every moment of your time.

More on her, here. And Chandan Mitras column on people who have made a career out of treason is a must read since A Roy falls exactly in this category.

The sad thing is that people like Ms. Roy are always described by the media (and whoever posts her pieces) as Booker prize winning author and so on - which seem to lend credibility to what she writes. At the same time, they never point out her own venomous ideology or how she uses the same globalization (or companies) to achieve her own ends. Luckily, nobody but the elite reads her and then too most of them can see through her verbal diarrhea.

Previously, influenced my rather lame Anti Globalization aunties.

On a related note, there was a nice piece by Salil Tripathi on why the arrested Pakistani terrorist should get legal representation and I was thinking that he should, but then along comes Kanchan Gupta who argues it in an entirely different light...now I am confused.

And then, in the light of the Mumbai terror attack, BJP was accused of politicizing it, but really is the Congress as "apolitical" as it pretends? Who politicized Gujarat and continues to do so?

In fact, efforts to milk the tragedy of Gujarat for political ends were made by the Congress till the last Assembly election when Ms Sonia Gandhi used the expression “Maut ka saudagar” while campaigning in the State. Till then, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had stuck to the development agenda. It was the Congress and its fellow-travellers in the guise of NGOs and cohorts in the media who sought to communalise the Gujarat election. [Pioneer]

India today, meanwhile has a nice piece here...

Sometimes it takes a certain amount of Gallic flamboyance to tell the truth. Towards the end of his book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy reaches this terrifying conclusion: “I assert that Pakistan is the biggest rogue of all the rogue states today.[India Today]

I am learning immensely even as I link these pieces. Think. As someone (Balaji, wherever you are) pointed out, "Dont use your head as a helmet stand".

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Erasable paper

Meanwhile, the perfect trick for making those "records" disappear. Great ecofriendly idea though, from Xerox corporation.

Coming up, the new excuse in future investigations, usually pertaining to scams, scandals, frauds, "We inadvertently printed the whole damn thing on erasable paper."

But pretty soon hopefully, printouts and paper would be only "if required" and most stuff should be digital...

What, Jews died?

From the Times of India:

Two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg tugs at your heartstrings, crying for his mother who was brutally killed by Pakistani terrorists at Nariman House in Mumbai during the three-day terro ttacks. In many ways, Moshe is the face of the trauma that wracked the city. Moshe's Israeli parents, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his pregnant wife, Rivkah, 28, were killed along with other hostages.

...The Indian government, however, has remained completely immune to all this. In a display of crass insensitivity as well as an enduring sign that the government continues to pander to the politics of the Muslim-Jew divide, minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed did not mention the Nariman House attack in his statement to the UN Security Council last week. And this from an India which officially maintains that terror has no religion and all victims are equal.

No sleepless nights here for the PM. Yesterday Kanchan Gupta had pointed out the same asking Closet Islamists in PMs team?

On December 9, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed read out a statement in the United Nations Security Council, pleading India’s case for action against Pakistan-based terrorist groups. Here is an excerpt from the official text of the statement: “A group of ten terrorists from the global terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Tayyeba reached Mumbai in the evening of 26th November 2008. The group divided themselves into four smaller groups and proceeded to pre-selected targets which included a café, popular with Indian and foreign tourists, and two major hotels.” There was no mention of, or allusion to, the fourth group’s pre-selected target, Chabad House, and the fact that the Jewish centre was attacked by the jihadis for obvious reasons. It’s almost as if nothing happened at Chabad House, that no Jews were tortured and killed by the terrorists for the simple reason that they were Jews. What makes the omission stand out like a sore thumb is the global outpouring of Jewish support for India, the outrage in the West over the targeted killings which we have used to our advantage, and the Israeli Government’s unequivocal endorsement of the tough commando action.

So, basically, nothing has changed. Time to write The Chronicles of NarNIA: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oscar award for a country

This time the Oscar awards will include a country, the first ever time that a country has been nominated for best acting. It is expected to win unanimously...
NYT goes behind the scenes of the house arrest of the JuD founder and gives us a better picture. House arrest or forced vacation, they ask...

Meanwhile Kanchan Gupta observes:

Meanwhile, late Saturday evening I decided to check whether www.jamatdawah.org, the website of Jamaat-ud-Dawah, the nom de plume of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, had been blocked subsequent to the Security Council’s sanctions on the organisation and its amir, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. The website, with its inflammatory contents, remains unaffected.

In any case, DNA reports, the ban is also an eyewash..

This is a joke and the joke is on us. Now, where will the next attack be? The weeks are slowly slipping by and the kitty swells to 1800 cr. Rock a bye baby...

Acorn calls it a cosmetic crackdown...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

First they came...

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

First they came...

India is in the cross hairs of Islamic terrorism sponsored by Pakistan as well as sponsored from inside. All the stateless actors, we are victims of terror too is bullshit. If we dont get them, by hook or crook, our future is at stake.

What would you do? What would you expect your country, your government to do? Stand up to it, speak it out and denounce it in the strongest terms and ensure that our lives are secure. Or, we do the next best thing. Vote the government out and get someone who does...

Friday, December 12, 2008

While we build a missile defence system

US to help India build a missile defence system?

If true, this is hilarious. We will have a missile defence system and terrorists sneak in via boat, porous borders, faking id cards and what not...

On the other hand, we have Ballistic missiles, rockets capable of reaching the moon but our policemen patrol with inadequate bullet proof vests, not enough guns...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Get Involved

After the terror attack, the season of activism has descended upon us. There candlelight vigils, Facebook groups and what not. Couple of PILs have been filed - one by a music director on the media - Small Change. Theres a PIL by the SIL to ensure that the government works to modernise the police force. Jaago Re is an initiative by Tata tea which has gathered eyeballs and even seems to be having results in gettig people out to vote.

But couple of media houses have jumped into activism mode which is heartening to see...India Today has a terror pledge - in which they will ensure that all these terror attacks will be kept in public memory by them till the necessary action is taken. DNA supports the PIL filed by SIL (Society of Indian law firms) to modernize the police force.

Ideally the government should do both of these, but if someone can force the government to do it, why not. Nice to see these two media houses take a strong stand on terrorism - there may be others too.

Hopefully this will not be another forgotten incident and so far it appears to be very alive. True, some of the "activism" is just a click of a button and may not seem significant. But what is important is that each one of us needs to make our voice heard. It is important that the misdemeanors of this government and its allies (who seem to have escaped blame) not go unpunished.

But, make no mistake. Kumbhakarna (the Indian state and politicians) has not awakened yet. Not learnt from its mistakes. Sadly, a lot more blood will be split before Kumbhakarna wakes up. But in the meantime keep banging the drums and blowing the trumpet. Kumbhakarna will wake up, hopefully, if he is alive...

Bush and MMS

The media pillories US President George Bush and lionises our Prime Minister MMS - but Bush has his priorities right. He will defend his country and his citizens. If I had heard this speech or talk from MMS, that would be something - and what we got was a speech that was a watery concoction.

US President George W Bush promised on Tuesday to "do what is necessary" to blunt any terrorist threats originating from suspected extremist havens in Pakistan's remote tribal areas.

Did MMS promise that? I don't think so.

"We have made it clear to Pakistan and to all our partners that we will do what is necessary to protect American troops and the American people," said the US president, who leaves office on January 20.

Have we? No

"We understood, as I said here at West Point in 2002, 'if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.'

We have waited too long for many many years ago, and we will be long gone before we wake up...

And the article ends with this:

They (Osama and Zawahiri) "remain at large, yet they are facing pressure so intense that the only way they can stay alive is to stay underground. The day will come -- the day will come -- when they receive the justice they deserve," he said.

Now, think Dawood, think Masood Azhar and think of the others. Can you truly say that about someone who has attacked India? What have we achieved from Pakistan thus far? A couple of house arrests and "raids". There is a lot of that to be done in our country also.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Notes from a Big Country

Notes from a Big Country: A positively hilarious book on the US of A

Hard to believe this is the same person who wrote a super serious (well some of that superb wit can be seen here too), A Short History of Nearly Everything...

I wish Bill Bryson could write a book on Indian Politics, especially the one practiced these days...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Disconnect, disable

Discussion in a leading private bank...

"I wish we could find a way of reducing costs on our credit card. Many of these idiots pay up on time and dont let us make money. On top of it, they expect to be rewarded for points"
"Shh...dont call them idiots though we treat them like that. They are our customers."
"Well, alright. Dont tell anyone..."
"What are the items we could attack?"
"Too many people redeeming their points earned on the credit cards."
"If we could find a way of disconnecting the reward and the actual card, it would work."
"Intriguing. Explain..."

"A few years back IT companies hit upon a great idea. Troubled by people who came up to their managers/HR, "I have been working as a manager - please make me a manager." or "I have been working as a consultant - please make me a consultant." - they came up with a brilliant masterstroke. They simply disconnected your designation and the work that you did. So, your pay was based on your designation and the work depended on whatever was available or whatever was required to be done at that moment. Therefore, in theory, you could be a peon who does the work of a president and be paid as much as that of a peon."
"And how is that connected here?"

"If we make the points independent of the transaction, it would make a difference."
"How could you do that?"
"Give them a separate card to be swiped for the points. Chances that they will swipe one more card is low - especially the old forgetful customers or the rich chaps who never have enough time. That leaves us with the kids who dont spend too much on their add-ons any way. Voila, points disappear down a black hole."

"You are a genius. Tell me more?"
"There is an agency that offers service levels that plumb the basement. They take ages to mail the second card only if you follow up 1898348 times - which means even the phone service provider will make money. "
"Great, put me through to them..."

And the complaints mount...

Why kill the rabbi?

Superb post here...and link from there to this piece by Mark Steyn...

Hmm. Greater Bombay forms one of the world’s five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An “accidental hostage scene” that one of the “practitioners” just happened to stumble upon? “I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?”

Now this is something. As a long time resident of Mumbai, I did not know this place or such a place existed. Not that it mattered to us. Think ideology...

Also remember that nobody in the Indian media told you about this...till today. But they perhaps never will.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Imagining India

Optimism. Can Do. Two things that India needs today and two words that strike you as you start off on Imagining India.

Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation is the title of Nandan Nilekanis new book that came to me from Webchutney for review. It is a big book, make no mistake - and it is clear that Nandan is not your average writer (or blogger) - he is an astute, observant and meticulous author. The processes that his company is renowned for is reflected in his book. Overflowing with citations, bolstered by first person accounts and teeming with anecdotes, it is also an account of interactions with a lot of people who have been intimately involved with a lot of these ideas.

It takes a book like this to really tell you that there is more about India, than novels titled on coloured felines would make you believe. And which is what makes this book so credible. Nandan is closely associated with a company that has negotiated through this maze, ethics and values intact, and made a success out of it. As you read through it, you cannot but shake your head at the many opportunities India missed. Also, given todays disillusionment with politics, it may even make you wish that people like Nandan made it to governance.

As a book on contemporary history, it is an engaging read. For people who have not seen the "socialist" years or want to know how business operated during those years, it is a must read. And my favourite chapter was the one where he talks about technology - and there are two of them. The passion there is evident.

As he dissects the facets of India, how we reached here, why we are what we are and how we can change, it comes across a simple, sensible, even obvious set of ideas. And the overall attitude is a refreshing one of quiet self belief. How we can use what is given to us to take us where we want to do? How can we do better with the resources that we have? How can we improve our lot? The answers are all out there. Indeed this book makes it a simple to-do manual for any government. In each of them, he ends on a positive note and belief that we can achieve and talks to many who are working on these areas in the right direction.

The only issue, which I suspect also plays on in the authors mind, in that in the past few weeks, post the financial meltdown (and the terror attack), many things have changed and we still dont know what is in store. So, while it is an engaging read for what got us till here, some assumptions may change. But even here, it is evident that we need "Indian" solutions in a lot of places instead of templating whatever has been tried across the world. But recession or no recession, in the meantime, the basic things that need to set right still need to set right and Nandan gets it right.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Terror response lifecycle

Day 1: We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people.
Read: I hope I did not say this last time. Many words look familiar.

Day 2: Military option is not ruled out.
Read: I meant, against any terror hostage situation in India how can you rule out the military. They are the ones who have go in and fight...

Day 3: All options are on the table.
Read: Which table? Whose table? The wife just called. Dinner is Continental and Chinese food, I heard and she has left it all on the table.

Day 4: Military option is ruled out
Read: By now, my spinmasters would have done their job. People dont want war. We are only 6th over a period of 20 million years, relax.

Day 5: We will take strong action
Read: My cold is really bad. Vicks Action 500 is said to be the best, madam advised.

Day 6: I summon the ISI chief
Read: I have no clue what I will do once he is here...but someone said I need give him a piece of paper. Wonder why dont use the postal service.

Day 7: Send someone, atleast a peon
Read: I have a piece of paper to send. They are not even picking up the phone.

Day 8: We sent a demarche to the High commissions front door with a list of 20 most wanted people
Read: A demarche is a piece of paper. All phone lines in this route are busy for a long time now.

Day 9: Send someone, anyone, so that I can save face
Read: Even the cricketers will do...Atleast my cricketers will defeat them even though Kumble and Ganguly have retired. MS Dhoni, where are you - I am sorry I withdrew your security.

Day 10: Time will tell what action we will take
Read: By then it will be election time and I will be in the opposition...

What nonsense is this?

With something like this, you dont need no humor or satire...

In any case, he is clearly someone who requires ZZZZZ category of security...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Moment of truth

This piece,titled Indias moment of truth is by Jack Welch, who surely gave India a shot in the arm with the GE centers while he was at the helm. This is how he ends the piece, but the entire piece is worth reading - because our inaction to contain terror or better equip our police or armed forces will now cause businesses to think a lot more about the risk of doing business in India. Thanks doc...

With such a mixed picture, all foreign companies can do right now is boost security for their people—and wait. Meanwhile, many investors will be thinking about tilting the balance to China. That's understandable. Despite persistent worker protests, the Olympics this summer left little doubt of the country's ability to manage itself.

But China isn't really India's biggest economic challenge right now. India is. How its leaders respond to the Mumbai attacks will tell the business world what it wants and needs to know. Not just whether to pull back from India but how risky pushing forward will be.


Meanwhile Tom Friedmans Op-Ed in NYT asks.

On Feb. 6, 2006, three Pakistanis died in Peshawar and Lahore during violent street protests against Danish cartoons that had satirized the Prophet Muhammad. More such mass protests followed weeks later. When Pakistanis and other Muslims are willing to take to the streets, even suffer death, to protest an insulting cartoon published in Denmark, is it fair to ask: Who in the Muslim world, who in Pakistan, is ready to take to the streets to protest the mass murders of real people, not cartoon characters, right next door in Mumbai?

After all, if 10 young Indians from a splinter wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party traveled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the central train station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the imam and his wife at a Saudi-financed mosque while they were cradling their 2-year-old son — purely because they were Sunni Muslims — where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets.

For all the anger in the Indian media, I have not seen an article that gets to the point in as succinct a manner as these two. There in lies another story...

Meanwhile look at these two brave cops - with one vintage .303 rifle to share between them, they took on the terrorists. If they had more decent weapons and a bulletproof vest, this terrorist would have been vaporised at CST itself...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Walk around CST

Its a few days since the terror attacks and life is fast returning to normalcy or resignation. So, today, I thought of looking around VT and if security was any different around the long distance/suburban platforms where the terror attack and killing took place.

As my train crawled in, I could see no policemen in the rear end of the platform (that's where the terrorists ran out from, they came from back door at the Taj as well !!).


I still had hope. As I walked forward, I could see 3 cops with probably SLR (INSAS I guess). Yesterday there were 5 cops, today 3, tomorrow?


I walked towards the long distance platforms from the suburban - again no cops there. Outside the long distance platform a huge presence of cops (but few or no guns).


Further down, more cops - again just filling in numbers, nothing more. How often we attempt to solve an issue by simply putting in more people? And to think some parts of Mumbai will be underpoliced because of this...


A police jeep passed by me, on the backseat I could find the cop doing his kitchen chores I guess - was busy sorting green peanuts. Now, unless that is some new weapon we have figured out, big help it is going to do when there is an attack.


I am Mumbaikar all my life, well I am not ashamed to say I am scared. Did you say where is the spirit? The spirit has been held hostage - I have had enough. I just wish there were more gun totting, confident looking cops. I could have felt more safe. I guess I need get a new pair of sports shoe and hope to run as fast - nothing more can help me now. Or a bullet proof vest?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A tale of two countries

A tale of two countries. Separated by about 24 hours at their (official) birth, both countries have taken a different path.

Over the more than 60 years of independence, both countries have advanced, in slightly different directions though. Today, both the countries use the abundant manpower available with them. They have set up industries from scratch with barely any foreign assistance. Today they are renowned across the globe for their industries. Global interns are keen to work in these enterprises and it is a talent magnet from around the world. The training centres are huge and require considerable investment. Selection procedures are tough and require a decent level of motivation. Both countries have access to the latest communication systems including blackberries which they use for effective project management. Some projects bomb, but they take in their stride. Clients and vendors are global, as has to be the case whenever the projects of large of such nature. Billing can be upfront or milestone based and can be paid in almost any currency. Many of these companies have operations in other parts of the world - both acquired and organically grown - which allow for a certain degree of operational independence from the headquarters (and plausible deniability if required). A company needs to have, preferably, multiple training centres, offices and enough back up and risk planning capability. It is also important that they are located in catchment areas for the labour. And recruitment centers for have to staffed with local experience. Campus recruitment is ideal though laterals are hired too...The industries that these countries offer expertise in, is considerably mature today...

But in those common paths, there is a distinct difference. Like the by now cliched story of Bollywood movies with twins separated at birth where one ends up becoming a robber and one becomes the police, the story of these two countries is remarkably different.

Today, one country is the epicentre of global terrorism outsourcing and another one is the epicentre of global technology outsourcing. Just as every single terror attack big or small finds a linkage in Pakistan, almost every single IT product big or small has some Indian connection.

Without the terror and the technology part, you will actually not see any difference - both of these countries used globalization for entirely different aims. Which goes on to show, each of these countries could have swapped paths or could have used it in a synergistic manner.

No, I am no peacenik, but the consequences of the path one chooses will come to haunt them at some point.

Yes, this is slightly rehashed from a previous post...probably will take it further

Rail, air links cut

Rail and air links to the neighbour towards the West have been cut. No word on the road links though...(or sports links for that matter)

But, but, the terrorists came by boat no?

That, by the way, may be the only action India takes...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Will India respond?

The media is sounding its alarm bells - either our government planted it themselves or someone with interests in the piece (of land) process has planted it. US officials fear Indian response, or so it goes. Why would the US fear it? As a country which launched full blown attacks on 2 countries, what is the big deal for it?

But, in any case, dont worry. We will do nothing of that sort. Words, statements, committees and probability are our biggest weapons remember - not the army. The army is used to build security rings around our politicians, their sons-in-law and other important people. At other times, we simply run down our army by reducing their wages, ranks and what not... And blah, blah, we are a non violent nation, when someone bombs our city on the west coast, we just turn the other coast and ask them to strike there also. Wait for vermins from that side to be inspired by vermins from this side.

Ideally, we should be blowing up the LeTs (wiki entry) camps in Muridke and elsewhere, but you know we wont.

Go out and vote

Over the last two days you have witnessed how citizens of this country were attacked by terrorists for no fault of theirs. Many of us have thought what is it that we can do about it?

To begin with, simple answer, go out and vote.

Delhi, Mizoram and Rajasthan please go out and vote. Hit governments and parties where it hurts most. Make yourself herd. Go out and vote...

Point to think about while you vote: Might mouse called for the ISI chief to visit India (useless unless we had planned to arrest him and try him or something of that sort), but the Pakistan government refused. Let us go back to our hand wringing now...There is no strong law against terror on the flimsy grounds that "even POTA did not prevent terror attacks" By that logic, we do not need any law, police forces or rules including traffic signals - since people routinely break them while they are there, right? Think about it...

Update: Good show Delhi 60% turnout there...

Friday, November 28, 2008

The day after

It is a familiar story after any terror attack. Has been and will continue to be. Fiery editorials rule the roost.

Its War (TOI)
This is war waged against the nation (Pioneer)
Our nightmare, our wake up call (IE)
An affront to the Indian state (National Newspaper)
The longest day (HT)

We had a nice cut and paste speech by the PM which included the following words

We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people.

The TOI has already denounced it as an empty threat, though the Acorn has hope.

Thankfully, we have no tired edits on the "Spirit of Mumbai". As I have often argued, it is not spirit, it is simply helplessness (Brilliant post). Nice to see most people tend to agree with this - even Amitabh Bachchan does - a very sensible post there very aptly reflecting the sentiments of a lot of Mumbaikars - not necessarily the media.

And of course I have had the greatest pride in those from the forces that have and continue to fight for our freedom. Brilliant officers and police personnel have laid down their lives for us. I can only but salute them and respect their sincerity in the call of duty.

I have been at the receiving end of a million calls and an equal number of sms’s the whole day to come live on TV or on the print media to express my views on the current situation and am being lured by words such as ’we need you to speak to express solidarity and for the people to maintain their calm’.

This is disgusting !! I will NOT do that. TELL ME AND ORDER ME INSTEAD THAT WE REQUIRE FOR EVERY INDIAN TO GET UP AND WALK INTO THE FACILITIES WHERE THE ACTION IS ON AND I WILL BE THE FIRST TO WALK. But, please do not ask me to come and make sloppy statements [Amitabh blog]

Despite all this, the vacuousness of some media outlets wants me to want to puke. Read this post.

But in the meantime, what stands between you and me and death? It is probability. In a nation of a billion, the last 4 odd years terror attacks have taken a toll of some few thousands. If you think there is a long way to, you may not be completely way off the mark, but if you are in any place long enough, there will be a bomb under you or you will be shot. Politicians have reduced the probability of their being under a bomb by creating rings of security around them. Till they day their security reduces, they will not see our pain. In the meantime, we lose our best officers.

Meanwhile worse things can happen to us and we are grossly underprepared - not necessarily from a reactionary perspective - commandos can be called in pretty soon after a few people have been killed, but from being proactive. The intelligence lapses in the Mumbai attack are huge. Coastal security is a big hole (a trawler is missing since Nov 13 and nobody/heard saw any link).

Unless there is an attempt to identify the enemy, its ideology and a real effort taken at hitting them where it hurts, you and I are at the mercy of probability. The last few things India tackled, we went after them without mercy - Mumbai gangwars, Punjab terror or Naxalism of the 70s. There will be collateral damage, but please let us let the police and the forces do their job without politicising it. The one encounter that happened few weeks back has been madly politicised. (See this search and judge for yourself).

Another thing. Till now, we have always believed terror attacks, bombs are something that happens to somebody else. But as the years progress, the proverbial seven degrees of separation comes closer. Each of us knows someone who was affected by terror attacks or knows someone who does. The degree of separation keeps on reducing. Sadly it is only a matter of time before it comes closer.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

This is a war

They are fighting it in our cities and I hope (though I dont have too much hope) we take it to its logical finish...Mumbai is now the most attacked city in India - wait for the agencies to come up with more stories, dates, inane theories, headlines and statistics...

"The first attack of its kind"

"Indian Mujahideens revenge on the ATS"

This time with grenades, automatic weapons exploding taxis, hostages and hospitals and hotels. They have struck at our root - your root - the common man - even as you and I survive by mere probability...

Expect people to commend Mumbais spirit to get back on its feet the next day - but remember that it is not spirit, it is helplessness

Update: Mumbai shuts down - but what about all the articles you were drafting about the indomitable spirit (read helplessness) of the city? And how come there is a terror attack when that sadhvi is safely behind bars? 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

China skids

Link via Marginal revolution...

Exports constitute nearly 40 percent of China's GDP--far too high a figure. (By comparison, in the U.S., exports account for about 10 percent of GDP most years.) And the global financial slowdown is already taking a terrible toll. Some 10,000 factories in southern China's Pearl River Delta area had closed by the summer of 2008. Gordon Chang, a leading China analyst, estimates that 20,000 more will shutter by the end of this year. In the third quarter of 2008, Beijing also reported its fifth consecutive quarterly drop in growth, and several private research firms expect a sharper slowdown next year. Additionally, unemployment is skyrocketing; in Wenzhou, one of the main exporting cities, about 20 percent of workers have lost their jobs, Reuters recently reported.

This was inevitable in many ways I guess. When demand goes down, suppliers are bound to be hit. But the next question.

What about India? The FM has warned not to use the R word, so I will use the word recession. One thought is that India will ride out the storm - though I am less sanguine about us emerging completely unscathed. Politicians are living in denial (they need to do so only till the election).

But Niranjan has a good thought over at Mint: Seek happiness in recession...

What they are telling us is that a few years of modest salary hikes or a missed promotion is not really that much of a calamity. I am not sure the world is ready for a lotus-eaters’ paradise right now. But the very idea that there are other things you can do with your life in a stagnant economy—or even a slowing one—is a therapeutic thought.

We already see some of this in the reports of young professionals taking a break from the insanities of corporate life to work with non-governmental organizations. More of that could happen, as corporate animals slow and seek clarity in life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Countries buying land in other countries

This is very very interesting...(via Acorn)

Bio fuel land grab, Guardian...

Heres the map

Longer working hours = more output?

IT companies are going in for longer working hours...

One of my friends had this to say, "Ever heard of a restaurant that is open longer and hence attracts more customers?"

The logic is that 70% work is Time and Material - which means customers will pay for more work that is being done. But then, when your customers are affected by a slowdown the last thing you want to do is increase your billing? Would you rather not shrink your margin and share the pain?

Second, for people to work longer hours, more work needs to come in. When work itself is less, what happens? (I do agree that in the short run there will be more work coming in...)

To me, this is a patently bad idea. Working longer hours does not contribute to higher or better output. Fortunately everybody is not thinking this way.

Early morning security

The last time I went to Bangalore railway station, I was amazed at the security they had put in place. But this time, there was none. Unmanned metal detectors, no guards at the entrance - no sniffer dog, indeed it was as if everyone was on a break.

The big difference? Last time I was there late in the evening and this time early in the morning.

So, two possibilities. One that the day I was there last time they had some specific input and had put in higher levels of security. Second, is the assumption that mornings are generally "easy". I hope that the latter assumption is untrue...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Railways...

I guess I (or anybody) could start a separate blog and keep writing about the railways day in and day out. How much talent does it take to delay an 8 or 9 hour journey by 25%? Not too much evidently, as our train dawdled its way to Kerala.

In train announcements are imperative and as far as I know not very difficult to implement. Nobody has a clue whether the train is on time or on the right route. Back in the olden days railway stations had a board that announced whether trains were on time or running late - meant for passengers boarding it, but when the train stopped, I remember we used to check it to figure out if the train was on time...

Anyway, here is an example of jugaad. Door is misaligned, does not lock. Instead of refitting the whole door, just fit another lock at a place where the door is aligned. Problem solved...

Imitation is the best form of flattery

Of course, that could sound deceitful for some, but thats not the point.

Christianity in Kerala has adopted quite a few "Hindu" customs and symbols like the Kodimaram (see the cross on top) and a stone lamp (Wonder what it is called) - often seen in Kerala temples and never associated with churches in any other place other than Kerala. They even have a panchavadyam variation - our cab driver told me about it once.

Religions adapting to India is not a new thing, though of late, there are trends to the contrary...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cloud computing

I really believe that Cloud computing is one bus Indian IT service providers missed and missed badly.

With our inherent cost advantge, India was a logical place to do something like this. The only one that did so, is a company by the name of Zoho.


Look whos talking

The JD (S), an ex political party now reduced to a few chairs in the local assembly held a rally in Bangalore. The party which can be safely called Bangalores most hated party - after successively toppling two governments (including its own), crippled the city during its 4 year regime. Now, they crippled the city for a few hours by holding a rally in the city.

Times of India went hammer and tongs at them on Monday

Kumaraswamy's show of strength may be forgotten as time goes by; it's another matter if he'll be forgiven for the inconvenience he caused this manic Monday.

but the party honcho came out all guns blazing the very next day.

Let These Sophisticated Non-Voting Bangaloreans Learn Villagers' Problems, he said.

Well sir, I am one of those sophisticated Bangaloreans you talk about. For all it is worth mine and other "sophisticated" peoples lifestyle here is a lot more modest than your own. Want to count the number of cars and land and petrol pumps you own vis a vis the average "sophisticated" Bangalorean? You will win hands down.

And yes, I voted or perhaps you mean voted for your party. Yes, many of the so called middle class are apathetic, but this time they were goaded into voting by your successive governments non performance. Among the people I know (and this includes migrant types), there were very few who did not vote. And almost everybody who voted, pretty much voted against you. The results showed that did they not? Whatever miniscule little chance you had, you blew it up. Somewhere along the way during your CM ship, you did have goodwill, but you did everything in your power to ensure that it disappeared as the roads did during your tenure.

And before I forget, during your kindly regime we did know what problems villagers face. I think the entire state knew that. After all did you not treat the entire Karnataka as your village - with you as the Zamindar. Roads were dug up and left, projects were left incomplete - indeed projects were not even allowed to begin. But ho-hum that was a while ago; we moved on and elected a government which seems to be doing the right things - including splitting your non existent party.

The party spent 10 crore for the "suffering masses to voice their problems". Shabaash. And no, we dont need a traffic jam created by you to be "enlightened" on villagers problems. So, please spare us the pontification.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Utopia, Finance version



Says the quote, "Chidambaram asked industries to cut prices and maintain production levels to address demand slowdown"

Sure!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Core competence be damned

Cost cutting zindabad. Well, this is what happened. Arent IT firms supposed to be focusing on IT? But the hotel industry here has made them create their own hospitality divisions, becaue outsourcing is too costly.

First the rooms were too expensive and the hoteliers rubbed their hands in glee.

As Bangalore faced a shortage of rooms and IT companies found it difficult to get rooms they took matters into their own hands. They began to build their training centres, rooms for trainees and then went onto build rooms for visitors - and some of them better than these very hotels which overcharge them and using many of their staff. Now they crib.

I told you so: Iphone edition

The Iphone has sold about 11,000 phones in India. For all the hype, thats a mighty small figure.

The gray market for the old, 2G Iphone (pity they killed it) is much larger, I will bet on that...

But, we had foreseen it...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Google Books

Anybody taken Google books for a spin? Please do.

I spent some time a few days back seeking information on South Indian/Kerala history in the 1900s and I quite liked it. I loved that some of the books which showed up in the search were published in the 1900s (digitized from Harvard and other libraries). I like the ability to build a digital library, search through books et al. Neat. They have even created hyperlinks on digitized books - that let you go from the TOC to the actual page. Do note that every book is not available - some are full view (those that are considered to be in the public domain), some are limited preview while some are neither, but from a search perspective and considering many of these books would never be found by us, it is simply amazing. Sadly, publishers are not very happy with google, have filed a suit and settled it at some level. I wish Google converts this into some sort of subscription model and gets publishers to digitize and upload their content. Ideas that spread win, guys. Today many people dont even know your books exist. What better way than to make it available...

This is really a model that can run on a subscription model - imagine searching through all books digitally - that isnt possible in a library now. I mean, given the dearth of "real" libraries, something like this is a godsend.

To track how it is evolving, read their blog...

Now that is available on the google network (or the internet or your phone) - the logical next step is to read using your phone. Hmm. Is it a Kindle killer already?

IT and Autos

Bangalores auto drivers are not exactly not angels. But every now and then you find someone with a heart of gold. This happened a few days back as I got into a rickshaw. As the rickshaw pulled into a signal, he started off, "The software industry is going down no?"
I concurred and said, yes, possibly, not wanting to go into details.

He said, "If the software industry goes down, we will be affected."
Now that was saying something. And guess what, he is right. Each one of those who cribs about old Bangalore and new Bangalore misses the whole point that software has benefited Bangalore and Bangaloreans immensely. He continued. "Earlier, I used to get people so easily. Now, not too many people take autos. I hope it picks up soon."

Of course, thats partly because of many unscrupulous drivers, I told him. He agreed. He went onto sharing his story about he was from a nearby village, earning for himself and his family in Bangalore by driving a rickshaw. He has saved enough to purchase a site in Bangalore too. His kid goes to school here, he said and he sends earnings back to his village where they tend their farmland. He is grateful for the opportunities he has got in this city, unlike a few idiots who claim that the (ex) boom is bad for the city while they are happy with all the money that software gives them.

And that is the point of a boom like this, however it will go in the future. When you talk to people, talk to people like him who have benefitted from it, instead to talking to hypocrites. Otherwise with their small land holdings, they would have had barely anything to do in their villages. The countless drivers, restaurant workers, gardeners have benefited out of this boom miss the point. Not to mention software engineers from far off places, landlords and vehicle owners and many many others...

His final recommendation, "Companies should only reduce salaries. They should not layoff people..."

More power to people like you!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The government to decide what you wear

The idea is to have a Handloom day once a week for teachers and students. We can follow it by Synthetic day, Woolen day, Rainy wear day, Khadi day, Cotton Day, Terrycot Day, Silk day. What? The week has only 7 days? Lets divide it by states then. We have 28 states and 7 UT. Lets all assign them something...

New idea for a bailout. Decide what people can wear, eat so that every industry is saved, day by day :)

Robots

Whats worse than people forgetting your birthday?It is robots remembering your birthday.

Banks, phone companies and everybody else have discovered a new source of CRM. I can imagine how this must have transpired in a boardrooms meeting.

"We need to improve our customer relations" said the bearded honcho.
"According to psychologists, people love their birthdays the most." said the customer relations vice president
"We have all the customers birthdays don't we?" added the ever thoughtful network head
"Lets send them birthday presents." piped in the management trainee
"What sort?" asked the finance head, ever looking at cost
"A coupon for a kg of cake at one of their favourite outlets." added the management trainee
"Naah. Too costly." dismissing it with a "heard that so many times before" wave.
"Or a voucher from a restaurant chain." added the MT hopefully
"No, again costly." This time the finance guy does not even look at the MT
"Or a higher rate of interest on deposit." added a piece of furniture
"No, against regulations." dismissed legal
"Free chequebook?" said the fan
"Nobody uses them anymore." said the MT
"How about free SMSs?" added somebody in the room who could not be given credit
"Come again?" said the CR head
"Free SMS or email wish on their birthday. They will fall in love in with. They will simply be amazed that their bank - the nameless faceless bank remembers their birthday. They will rush with whatever money they have into the nearest branch. Wont that be great?"
"Brilliant." all the heads nodded sagely...

Except that the customer in question thinks they are spam. Stop it guys. If you really care, do something more meaningful...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Revisiting Performance

The standard performance rating in any corporate environment is a 4 or 5 point scale. Either alphabetical, numerical or some other variation with a nomenclature. Below Par Performance, Meets Expectations, Exceeds and Outperformer. And a bell curve. The bell curve is ostensibly to reduce the Lake Wobegon effect, but in reality, it does a lot more than that. But I digress.

The entire purpose of this tenacious exercise is to identify the people who have performed well in the last rating cycle. On the one hand the management or HR wants to fit the company in the bell curve, while they are fitted in the bell curve. On the other hand, every employee wants to be on the right of the curve.

How can someone get to the right? As long as they outrun their peers, they can, in theory. How? By allowing themselves to be consumed by the inferno of performance, they fuel the company into an orgy of delivering growth. Sometimes they sell the unsaleable, fit unimaginable amount of work into a smallish time frame to fit a customers budget or expectations, make the most outlandish promises that someone has to fulfil. Once that has been done by the sales outperformers, there are the delivery outperformers. They put in long hours, put in really long hours to justify somebody elses mistake, helping other teams in distress, creating "visibility" for themselves in the organization by engaging in initiatives over 16 hour workdays and ensuring that somebodys false promises are met. They achieve the same by interacting with their family and kids over phone and meeting them once a week. After a while they get bored of this situation and quit to take up another similar position at a higher salary so they can continue to outperform their peers. There are a few other methods, but lets keep that out, please.

And on the other hand, there are the losers. Losers because thats what the performance management system makes them. They work diligently from 9 to 5 and complete the tasks assigned to them. Occassionally they stretch to make up for some gaps. These guys are good, but unlike the former, they are there to earn a living. They usually have a life outside work. Alongwith work they take care of their families, pursue a hobby or two. They earn a little lesser than the outperformers, change jobs a little less frequently and often, are the rock solid base for the company.

When the outperformers have sold the unsaleable, promised the heaven and earth and moved to the moon to get a better salary, it is these "middle of the bell curve" who rise up to the task and deliver.

But the performance management system does not always provide for them. After the sycophants, loyalists, the "too big to fail" and some real outperformers have been rated, incentivized and turbocharged to deliver yet another record busting performance, the crumbs that remain go to the middle of the bell curve. "How do we retain the outperformers", the board mulls over in yet another meeting while forgetting the role of the performers.

The real question. Is growth (driven) the only way to measure performance?

Update: Two good links from Saravan. This and this. Take a look.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Traffic


















Overloaded sand trucks are a big problem in Bangalore. As it is roads are small, traffic enforcement is poor, roadsense is terrible - sand trucks add to the eclectic mix of traffc by breaking down in the right lane of a busy road, and staying there...

The things vehicles need to do in Bangalore to move that extra one metre in a kilometre long traffic jam includes going over "footpaths". This truck on the left completed a difficult maneuver.

Regardless of all the good intentions, unless rules are enforced and rule breakers fined, traffic here will continue to be a nightmare for a long time to come....

Sunday, November 09, 2008

HSBC Ad





Link via Churumuri, who in its finest tradition thinks, it is an urban legend, but I am not so sure...

Friday, November 07, 2008

American Born Communist Desi

You would have heard of them before, with the C as Confused, but this is a sub breed. ABCD - American Born Communist Desi

Those, who, are born in the US or spend a disproportionately long time of their lives in the US, enjoy (should I make it enjoyed now) all the benefits of capitalism and return to India as communists to prevent globalization of any sort including from one district to another.

The previous post actually referred to two such souls who with their Mac air books and latesht Wii want India and Indians to be stuck somewhere in a time warp nearabouts 1987, but with ample food and water and cheap servants.

When ABCDs write about I

This is what happens, they win awards.

The cliched writing award goes to...this piece in BW

In the early 1990s, before the world had heard of Bangalore, it was one of India's most pleasant cities, with great weather, cheap housing, and cultural and educational institutions that offered a vibrant mix of theater, film, literature, and music. Now, with 500,000 IT workers living alongside nearly 7 million other residents, the metropolis is choking on its own success. The roads have become parking lots for much of the day, rents are soaring, and small-scale theaters and bookstores are being shouldered aside by American-style malls.

Substitute Bangalore with any random town or city in India and it will be the same. (Ok, sorry about the weather part). Yes. Even Bombay - compared to the prices today.

The vacuous writing award goes to someone we have encountered here before...

But I am tired," I said. "It's not just working at a start-up. It's running the household, the uncertainty of water coming out of the tap, the driver showing up. And I cannot have one more parent-teacher meeting about my moral opposition to colouring in the lines. The school thinks I am crazy."

It wasn't the first time guilt consumed. There, of course, came reminders every day as beggars tapped on my windows or, if I happened to sit in an auto rickshaw, they touched and probed. I tried to pack a few extra rotis on some mornings to hand out but there was never enough. And moments abounded where I would be caught off guard. One night, my husband and I walked hand in hand after an amazing dinner at a Thai restaurant with a friend. It was just one of those times where the conversation and booze had flowed and we all were feeling good about the state of the world. And then I saw a group of street children. Suddenly, I hated the world.

On monks who dont sell their Ferrari

I read Robin Sharmas books - four of them actually. The first one was The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and the other two were his The Greatness Guide series. The fourth one, I dont remember. You will see why that does not matter.

The amazing thing about him is the consistency of ideas. He has a few ideas which he has continuously revised, recycled and put in different books with different titles. Every book of his reads like the other one. I am inclined to see his other books to see if there is any difference. That by the way is his Marketing Genius. This is not to say that his ideas are not good. They are. I love them. Practical. Simple. Get up early in the morning. Enjoy life, personal mastery. Very nice ideas. Very inspiring. Makes you sit up and think.

The other aspect of his books is the passing mention of his own la-di-dah life in it. His great moments are at some of the worlds most expensive places and restaurants. He has learnings while typing on his blackberry flying on business class. While jetting across the globe for his seminars or for his kids birthdays, he comes across the finer points of his life. In any case, he has not sold his Ferrari just as yet. But then again, why should he? Is there anything wrong in being rich? There isn't. Is there anything wrong in being where you are to enjoy life? There isn't.

It took me a while to think about this. I mean, the kind of stuff Robin writes goes something like this. "While sipping coffee at the French Riviera I was amazed at how beautiful the world is" Well, that may work for him. For you and me, it may not be the French Riviera, but it does not have to be. The nearby CCD will work just as well or your own balcony. But being dissatisfied about not being at the Riviera would be missing the point.

I thought about whether I liked or disliked that aspect and whether his writing was vacuous. Now I have the answer. Whether I agree or disagree with his preference for the good life or the places where he gets his ideas is immaterial. What I agree with are his ideas. That took me some time to reconcile :)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Prediction time

The US Presidential elections are on and the Indian media does not want to be left behind. So, there are newspapers endorsing Obama from here (huh? Does he need that?). But, an entire worlds media is fawning over one man, so our media surely does not want to be left behind.


But, in any case, whichever way the US presidential election goes, here is a prediction. Later next year, when the Indian Parliament goes for election, you can expect the papers to search for someone, anyone who is "Obama like". Candidates may or may not latch on the promise for "change" like him, but the papers will come up with some comparision to Obama. 

Who will that be? 

(Note: There are very very credible candidates for such a "change". But you can be sure the media will ignore one of them for sure. )

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Divisive powers trying to halt country's progress

In the aftermath of yet another serial bomb blast in Assam that was our Prime Minister.

Not sure if he was referring to his own government...

Meanwhile the 12 lakh illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about...

Chronicles of the moon, Narada and what not

Here is a landmark article on Chandrayaan. There are but two sentences in it on Chandrayaan, the rest is all the stereotyped, "India is a land of tigers and snakes type mumbo jumbo". Thankfully, he does not mention poverty or farmer suicides.

It looks like he is a specialist in connecting mumbo jumbo to everything.

(Note to myself from next month: Don't collect pieces you don't like and put them on your blog. Put stuff you like.)

Assorted links 1

Kerala is slowly going to be in the terror trap, if it already isnt. The current theme seems to be to blame everybody else. Don't blame those who are funding these idiots by the droves. Pull wool over yours and everybody elses eyes, bury your head in sand, live in denial. Wring your hands, but "Gods own country" is rapidly going to the dogs. Tourism, terrorism make for a very potent cocktail.

I don't believe this news that Chandrayaan is inspiring scientists to come back, though I have seen variations of this in many places. What takes the cake is the headline. The detail below the headline actually tells nothing of that sort :). Chandrayaan can send something to the moon, perhaps even people at a later date, but can it get scientists back to India? Perhaps not. The slowdown could, though. Did they go because they were disgusted that India could not send a probe to the moon? Unlikely.

A footnote in LICs insurance policy on terrorism is being used as a selling point. Sad reflection of our times, please note Mr. Home Minister. What if a suicide bomber buys a life insurance policy, will he be eligible?

Deny the competition

From Chennai to China, they all do this as Seth Godin says. Pretend that the competition does not exist. When you ask for information, they will tell you that they don't know. Hoping that you will compromise and buy whatever they have. Nope. Does not work. Ever. Not only do you not buy but you go away with a bad feeling about the market.

Yet, there are markets where shops will gleefully direct you to a place where your needs will be met - ultimately benefiting you, the referrer and even the market as a whole. But it is like rainwater harvesting - seems pointless if you are the only person doing it while others simply let the water run off. But when they all do, the benefit is very clear. Water for everyone, but until then, it is a drought.

Many companies do this too, but in a different way. I am marketing. I am not service. I am just a dealer. I cannot help you with a brochure. I don't know where your product can be serviced. Well, your customers are running away to someone who can help...

Terrible Columnist

Why are some columnists terrible? Here is one, peddling tripe after tripe.

"The state-run banks that were seen as sleepy, bureaucratic and prehistoric are the ones that the newer entrants might model to get service right " was the opening line yesterday. To write this in 2008 would require an enormous vacuum in your knowledge. Now let us see. Sleepy bureaucratic bank would be the nationalised ones - no prizes for guessing. The newer entrants would be the Citibanks, ICICIBanks, HDFC banks, right. Now out of those ICICI was founded in 1994 (14 years ago), HDFC Bank (ditto) as part of RBIs liberalisation initiative in 1994. Citi has been around in India longer than that. The newest bank which entered recently was perhaps Kotak Mahindra bank (2003) and perhaps Yes Bank (the only greenfield bank licensee in 14 odd years). But anyway, thats a trivial amount of detail to bother with when you have already made up your mind.

Previously, the columnist had commented on lack of innovation in pretzels and expressways India while eating at the nearby 5 star continental Dhaba which had not changed its menu since the English left.

This is what happens when you are paradropped into India because of the experience of having been born here and asked to be a reporter.

Read blogs people, they are far more authentic...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On Security

While the security of many politicians have been raised to Category Z; the security of the common man goes to Category ZZZZ.

Numerology

What do you think when you see a title like Yuvvraaj? When it really should be Yuvraj? Will people see it because of the title? Will the movie be good despite the title, because of the title or inspite of the title. It has a whole bunch of marquee names behind it, from the director to the actor to the music director. And now, of course, numerology. This movie has to be a hit...

To me, numerlogy smacks of lack of confidence in oneself. Or ones product. Will more people read Interim Thoughts if I spelt it, Iinterim Tthoughtts?

Now, numerologically, what can someone rename the Sensex so that it moves up? Sensexxx?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hand me down economy

Some (subjective) years ago, when I used to go to school, we had a syllabus change. Every year, our English textbook changed - that meant a fresh, new textbook was served up for us. That was bad news (for me and the teachers too, I guess).

Until then my textbooks were handed down from two students, each senior to me. So, two students had neatly marked out all the answers of the teachers questions. Teachers change their notes only when the syllabus changes, so when I got my textbooks, I got all the answers marked out. Especially important for English and History. With the changed textbooks, I had to mark all the answers, a pain when you want to finish your homework at the highest speed possible before you hit the playground.

The hand me down network continued, not just inside families and extended families, it continued within a community or just like minded people. So, we got used furniture from one uncle while we passed on some of comic books to another cousin. It wasnt barter, it was more of giving away something that was too good to throw away and had a considerable use left in them.

Even today while you will hear of phones and other stuff being handed down, usually within families, it has gone down. Many in the previous generation would agree with this. In any case, there was a strong element of a hand me down economy in a lot of our dealings - a natural thing for Indians to do, or so I thought. But as the country prospered, consumption increased and some of the hand me down things became part of trash. There is, still, undoubtedly a significant hand me down component in the economy. Most colleges for instance have a nice hand me down system in place.

And now that the whole world is talking about sustainability, reuse, recession perhaps it is time to revisit the "hand me down" economy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bored of small things

Got this link from Sandeep. Published in 2002, worth every word even today.

Thank the internet that you get to read a piece like this. Our local media still lionises people like this whenever they submit a skilfully written statement, readily publish any token activism that such people undertake without ever showing us the other side of the story.

Related post.