Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010, a requiem

The year 2010 has been a momentous year has it not? Let us take a look back at the year and thank a few of those who made it memorable.

First up, Gopikrishna (Pioneer - the man who felled a King) and Manu Joseph (Open Magazine) for breaking the spectrum scam and Radia tapes - they are intimately connected to each other. Gopikrishna, incidentally should receive a thanks from the year 2008 onwards since the spectrum scam was reported by him that long ago. 2010 will be remembered thanks to these guys as the year that the media came to known like it was always suspected the proverbial emperors new clothes came off thanks to these two gentlemen.

While on the tapes, a great thanks to Twitter for doing what most Indian media could never do - pressurize media into reporting about themselves - and acting as a watchdog for the media in general. Twitter will continue to be happening for a while now - much to the chagrin of traditional media.

A mention of Radia tapes without a thanks to Radia herself would be blasphemy. Thank you Nira Radia for all the hard work you put in while lobbying for your clients. Clearly, you were doing your job better than our government. I wish you were granted special entry into our cabinet of ministers. That itself would make it about 100% more efficient. Your tapes have showed how the government actually works and it ain't pleasant. Thanks for bring it out in the open.

While on women, thanks to Saina Nehwal for keeping the Indian flag aloft in the badminton sphere. Alongwith the womens relay team that got us medals in both Asiad and CWG.

A mention of CWG cannot happen without the mention of the ubiquitous Suresh Kalmadi. A big thanks to Suresh Kalmadi for pushing up the market price of rented treadmills, sports equipment and what not - if CWG shares were listed, investors would have got a few crumbs from the estimated 1575% appreciation. Also, a big thanks for creating world records in spending money for construction. Who said there is no money in sports? Those who say that are probably out there playing.

And there's another record in a sport that is not recognized - not legally atleast. It is surely a local record though world records may be challenged too. The government that currently rules us has been dubbed the "most corrupt government yet to rule India". Thank you government for squandering the aam tax payers hard earned money.Given that there is another couple of years of glorious misrule left, this record might leave Sachin Tendulkar gasping.

Speaking of the great man himself, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar for being the Duracell battery of Indian sports - a double hundred in one dayers and fifty centuries in test cricket. The man does not have a mid life crisis for sure!

Another person who does not seem to have a mid life crisis or does - depending on who you ask is our future prime minister Rahul G. We have to thank him for all the poverty tours he made, for the questions he dodged, jumped, evaded - surely he would do well as a sports person, if not prime minister. For many questions however, his mouth was zipped.

And speaking of zips - wikileaks opened quite a few by releasing some secrets. Many of these were already "open secrets" but the one that intrigued us most was the one on Rahul G - who bared his mind to an American Diplomat over lunch where he almost got the nation listed as a terrorist state. He has, however, not bared his mind to the nation which he could rule. For that one thing, thank you Julius Assange.

Thank you Lalit Modi - not for anything else but for proving to the media that the surname is the root cause of all ills in India. Thanks to Nitish Kumar for winning an election on a good governance plank and keeping Bihar scam free while the nation is neck deep in scams of all kinds.

Thanks to Rajani Saar for Robot and Munni and Sheila for keeping us entertained through this rather busy year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Cost for school to run a Secret Santa program: Zero
Cost of parents to search for Secret Santa program: A few headaches
Actual cost of gift: 25 bucks

As part of this event, the little fella comes home with a cheap Chinese made wooden butterfly that needs to be assembled. The instructions on the pack are the best I have ever seen "Get an general idea of the parts and assemble" it says in a Zen like statement. Using our knowledge of Entomology, which is about as vast as a pinhead on a needle, we manage to assemble it in a way that it resembles a dinosaurial ancestor of a butterfly.

Time taken to assemble said wooden butterfly: 20 minutes
Time taken for smile to become frown because said wooden butterfly a) does not stand on its own b) keeps falling apart: 0.00000000054 seconds
Time taken for parent to pacify little fella with a "brilliant" alternate solution: 2 seconds
Time taken for frown to settle down: 1 second
Time taken for frown to return - to implement said alternate solution: 0.0000023 seconds
Time taken for parent to really implement alternate solution: 1 week

Each time the little fellas eyes went onto the dissembled butterfly, his eyes would well up with tears as to how we were not able to assemble his gift. Finally, in a moment of brilliance, we figure out a way that the alternate solution can be implemented.

Cost of Feviquick glue: 10 bucks
Time taken for assembling said butterfly again: 20 minutes (after various permutations and combinations)
Time taken for glue to stick: Instant
Time taken for the glue on the fingers to be removed: Still to be established

Joy of seeing smile on the little fellas face on seeing the assembled butterfly: Priceless!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Mr. Rahul G - you are our future Prime Minister - one way or other. Either you will rule directly or you will rule through a regent like Mr. Manmohan Singh. Somehow, spineless regents- like spineless reporters- are never in short supply are they? Especially after one Mr. PV Narasimha Rao (you really do not remember him do you?) grew too big for his boots. But talking about him and other regents would be missing the point altogether. But as future prime minister, your present timeline looks rather uninspiring.

Mr. Rahul G - you seem to have the record of using the same speech for the maximum number of times - atleast as this blog notes. Even actors (who are given their lines) have a new line each time - the least you could do is to have a few speeches which you use by rotation. That there are no two Indias is nobodys guess - all of the country is equally badly governed. In case you forget, your party has ruled it for the maximum part since we won independence way back in 1947. Perhaps taking blame for the creation of a substandard India might be a good beginning?

Mr. Rahul G, you have a penchant from walking away from uncomfortable questions dont you? Atleast on two ocassions and with relatively lightweight opponents (one was a student  and one was a rookie reporter - since no names were given) you have chosen to run away than stand by your comments.

Mr. Rahul G, you also spoke to the US ambassador about a rather existential threat to the world from the Hindu radicals (or militants or equivalent) did you not? Heres a priceless piece in a phoren publication on the same. Taken at face value, it means something very simple - we harbour terror groups. And that in turn means, that we really should declare ourselves a terrorist state - without waiting for Uncle Same confirmation eh? And why are we exchanging those dossiers with the western neighbour. Your own party general secretary attended a function where a book was released on how Indias worst terror attack was an RSS creation. Do you also believe that the Parliament attack was an insider job too? (And by the way someone quite famous who I wont link, but who is given to protecting tribals rights after usurping a bit of their land has written a reader on it too.)

You bared your mind to a diplomat of a foreign nation - can your bare your mind to us? Would you let us know what exactly you think - beyond what your mentor(s) teach you to parrot? It would really help us to know what our future prime minister thinks! Thanks!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thank You Nira Radia

Till yesterday (or whenever the Radia tapes came out) the general public really believed a few truths you helped get out in the open.

That the leader of the "most corrupt government ever" could be an honest man. Perhaps personally he is, but in not preventing the corrupt from becoming ministers or looting from under his leadership, he is ineffective as a leader. In the private sector, I am responsible for anything my reportees do - I am accountable for everything they do. So too is MMS and his Supreme Leader. Then the question arises as to why is corruption acceptable to the Supreme Leader. The simple answer usually is, because there is some benefit in that to them. Unless your tap(e)s came out, the media made us believe that poor Mr. MMS was trying his best. Now we know he was not.

That, our journos are truly neutral. There were those who believed otherwise but were given the title of "Right wing loonies". Unless your tap(e)s came out, they supposedly passionately argued on every side of the issue. Their columns and programmes were the result of immense research into the Indian psyche and everything they did was purely selfless - like those spiritually enlightened folks, you know. Now we know that they lobby rather fearlessly so that the cause of good is maintained and the truly evil are kept out of power. And even amongst the good, they fight and lobby so that the creme de la creme of the good comes to power. And in fighting for their causes, they write so as to sway public opinion. And of course, they are not neutral. Thank for an attempt to neuter them.

That there were corrupt business houses and non corrupt business houses. Perhaps there are, perhaps there arent. I admire Reliance as much as I admire Tatas, but in playing the game of business you have to wrestle with the pigs and get mud on yourself in that process. And almost all of it is due to our arbitrary licentious Raj.

Thanks to your tapes we know that there are magazines and newspapers like Open, Pioneer and Outlook we know that there are atleast some sections of the Indian media who are still fiercely independent.

And for those who came in late, the new installment of the Radia tapes are here via Saikat Datta

Thank you Nira Radia for all your hard work. Clearly you were working hard for those who had paid for your services - I wish our government worked as hard as you did. True, you were working for Reliance and Tata (both the business I admire for various reasons - but more on that later), but in reality you were working for the people. The same mango people who the Congress claimed to work for and the same mango people for whom Rahul baba claims to work as a soldier (or did he say solder?).

All the nights and days you spent lobbying (you were doing your job and doing it rather well) over telephone has helped us like Wikeleaks. Wikileaks did a great job of bringing "open secrets" in the open.

Your tap(e)s did it for India. So kudos to that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On Complexity

There are always arguments on how or why a process cannot be made simple. Ask anybody who handles a complex process if it can be simplified and the answer (almost) always is an incredulous no. And if it is left to them, it will always be like that. But get a fresh pair of eyes, unconnected to the field, not bound by the "what should be" and you will come up with better answers.

Who would deny that photography was complex - it still remains for that 1% of photographers who are deep into that art. But that does not mean, it should be out of reach for the rest. And that's exactly what happened with the Digital camera boom.

At a wedding recently, I was amused that amidst the phalanx of photographers were two 5 year olds. The professionals had arrived with the flash bulbs (and repeaters) and camera and equipment. And it was all digital - I barely spotted one analog camera in there. But the kids were there, right upfront with their digital cameras (of their parents presumably) competing with the pros and some adults with mobile phones in getting a good shot. That's what digital has done to photography - made it accessible for 99% and more and thus increased the size of the market for all concerned.

Whats keeping your process complex? Why cant it be simplified? Why cant it be more accessible? Ask this question at your day jobs and you will get interesting answers.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Tweeples are here

Big media first missed the blog bus. Then it missed the internet bus - by and large. But then along came twitter. But more than twitter, what has enabled the adrenalin fuelled expansion of twitter and its role as a reflector of a social trends  is ironically, the 2G revolution that has been scammed by the Raja under the benevolent eyes of the Queen and her Regent. Blogs and the earlier internet "revolution" were really, no more than a half turn or smaller in India since both teledensity and broadband reach were not that great. But with people increasingly accessing the internet over their cellphones and blackberries - the early adopters and even many of the later adopters are highly clued in today. (And many of these are your normal customers of ELM by and large.)

And twitter is an easy medium to reach - just 140 characters and you don't need any degree in journalism or a licence (that's an idea) to put out your opinions. So, while celebrities and journalists and others made a beeline to twitter, guess who was with them? The common man - the aam insaan armed with her broadband or mobile internet - waiting for them.

So all Bachchan fans have to do is to follow the big man on twitter with the click of a button and you get to read what he says - unadulterated, without anybody putting words in his mouth or an editor using her scissors like a barber. What could be better for fans? Ditto for Tendulkar. And while Tendulkar is not exactly known for the his writing skills, he is still Tendlya - and his opinion is his opinion.

Before Twitter, there was no such medium. Sure you can watch Tendulkar play in a stadium or Bachchan peform in a show and they may wave to you while you seat in the audience, but hell, that's nothing like twitter - in case they reply to your queries. And that's the USP of twitter. You talk with real people and if your question or opinion was merit (and some timing), you might even get a response. Even in blogs or the old internet, there was no direct connect.

So, if your friendly neighbourhood big journo is on twitter, ask him or her questions - they may or may not respond to you, but when names are a trend on twitter - somebody who they have to answer will ask them the same question and force an answer out. And that's how it works. The same thing can happen in politics - Mr. Prime Minister will first see a wave on twitter. And regardless of how big media protects him and his Queen like Govardhana protected the denizens of Brindavan from Indra, they will have to answer them - clearly this not a dumb audience like those that sit in front of the idiot box.

The Tweeples are here - all 8 million of them and they are spreading like a virus on steroids. The most serious challenge to Mainstream media is here. Are you a part of it, yet?