Friday, September 23, 2011

The Ripple Effect

In the process of reading a rather awesome book on one of my favourite topics other than terrorism - water. The Ripple Effect is a nicely written book on the history and the state of water in the US. It makes for some intriguing reading - on how water supply works in the US.

I have only reached till about half way through the book, but the state of affairs in the US - makes me think about India in general and Bangalore in particular. The impunity with which the lakes in Bangalore are being destroyed (for a while now), both by pouring untreated sewage and by filling up dried lakes with real estate is appalling.

The book makes for some scary reading. The next wars could very well on water - watch China as it moves to dry up the Brahmaputra (Link from Chinas national newspaper and hence written with a footnote to India assuaging that the dam will not cause any problems to India). And when you read the book, you will realize that damming dries up supplies downstream - so India will be screwed up sooner or later - the question is not if but when...

A longer review when I finish reading the book, but for now, suffice it to say that a big part of our own eco friendly efforts has to be on water - reducing consumption, trying to use greywater and recycling wherever possible!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Came across this rather curious piece in the Economic Times. Modi-fiction seems to be the rage. A rather perfectly written opinion piece in the style and standard that is the staple these days - should make the Congress warm in the cockles of their heart. Savour this sentence. “of security for the minorities as patronage conditional on good behaviour rather than the fundamental political right the Constitution promises”.

I suspect this is true for everybody or does it mean that we offer security to gangsters and rowdy elements and terrorists just because they are minority? Or rich? Or whatever. AFAI remember – bad behavior will invite punishment – simple – regardless of my name - the law is supposedly equal to all.

Think about this:

1: Nobody denies that under NaMo Guj is making progress. 
2: And that the progress is being delivered without resorting to caste division or quotas.
3: If the situation is so bad as claimed – that minorities live in fear - why is there not a migration out of Gujarat? Do note that something that is rarely spoken about in the TVs in the drawing rooms of secular India -  In Kashmir, the situation was/is bad for Pandits – there was an exodus from Kashmir in the 90s to the extent that the Pandit population went down from 15% then to 0.1% now.  And for all these years, they have not been able to return to their homes - because of fear. So, do see what fear does.

All 3 of the above cannot true can it? Or is Modi doing something (or many things) right that is the antithesis of what our Central government is doing?

Given all these, don’t you think that something is burning somewhere?Or as part of Modi-fiction, this is their poetic licence?

Vayu Vajra

Lovely article this one in Moneylife - analyzing the need for an airport shuttle service in Mumbai.
The Bangalore airport is a good one – in general. Except for the part that is located a good 30-70 kms from various parts of Bangalore city – depending on where you start from. The airport is spacious, taxis are available, good food options, lots of counters – no fleecing and all that – which you pretty much expect – given that is a spanking new airport. But the BMTC has gone ahead and provided a great shuttle service – almost round the clock – from airport to various parts of the city. The shuttle service has put out of business many smaller cab based similar services. And except for the corporate types who book a cab or for those whom public transport is only a traffic obstruction for their cars – many people use it  - and I have seen it run full at some really odd hours.

The bus service has a superb dedicated parking bay – neatly demarcated and the conductors and drivers are really helpful – so the newbie in Bangalore has to just take the bus and by and large you get a drop that is very close to the last mile of your destination.

But when you go to a Mumbai you realize how this is sorely lacking – especially if you live relatively far from the airport – the only way to get there is a taxi or by rickshaws The bus is not even a real option there. So yes, this is one more point where Bangalore really scores over Mumbai.

And at the rate at which BMTC is offering services – there are many lessons in it for BEST to learn. In its handling of the working IT class crowd, the running of Volvo buses and their ability to convert a part of the population from own vehicles to buses, and to some extent their use of technology!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Book Review: My Friend, The Fanatic

My Friend, the Fanatic is a book I have wanted to read for long. And finally, I was able to lay my hands on it - and it did not disappoint. Before you guess why, if you are looking for a book that bares fangs for Islamic fundamentalism or fanaticism and its status in Indonesia - well, this is not the book for you. On the other hand, if you think that Sadanand Dhume, a reputed columnist for many journals and magazines - handles them with the naive sort of pink glassed optimism that often passes off as writing, you are wrong there too.

And that, in my view is what makes this book so good to read. It is really a travelogue across Indonesia - over a couple of years or thereabouts - that attempts to take a look at how the country is faring in the face of steady Islamization and projects how it could look at 10 or 20 years down the line. It starts off at the point of the Bali bombings in 2002.

As one of the most populous Muslim countries and a democracy to boot - the country has a Hindu-Buddhist past that it was not shy about (unlike India, if I may add). A country where Ganesha adorns currency notes and the national airline is (still) known as Garuda is actually the worlds most populous Muslim nation. As he notes in the Prologue (a beautiful one), “this was the only place in the world where you might call yourself Muslim yet name your children Vishnu and Sita”.

The book takes a realistic look at the society and its transformation - is not afraid to call a spade a spade or point out the hypocrisies that exist. As he travels through almost the length and breadth of Indonesia, including villages that have adopted Sharia law in parts, the observations add to the appeal of the book. The exchanges with a professor, the food on the way, street level notes make it feel like a travelogue across the country. But make no mistake - the book is quite serious in its treatment of the main topic. And except for a couple of places - the mandatory comparison with India is missing.

Sadanands book takes you across the country and its provinces - as he and his companion, Herry - an editor of a fundamentalist mag (tempted to say rag) - Sabili - and hence the title - meet many Muslims and non Muslims across the country. They also meet many of the influential Islamic voices in the country - preachers, teachers, principals, schools - and a few non Islamic influential voices - dancing stars, publishers, mystics et al. They hear the conspiracy theories (surprisngly similar), the frustrations, optimisms and the dualities of many voices. Which way the country will tip is hard to say - and the epilogue does well to give a muted warning of the future.

The book starts off with a quick reading on Indonesian history (which to me was foreign) and a walk down the various stratas of society (mostly political and religious strata - which by and large maps to the economic strata) while going to Islamic schools, meeting preachers, evangelists and beaches alike to explore the confusion that the country faces.

Yet, in the systematic transformation (or indoctrination) of the nation by virtue of politics and schools and petrodollars is a lesson. And it makes interesting reading - especially from an Indian context. One can almost feel the anguish the author (and some others who he meets) feel as many in the country want to disregard their past. They are those who want to desperately believe that Indonesian Muslims have an Arab past life, if you will and live in a state of denial of its rich ancient Hindu-Buddhist history.

Overall, a great read for anybody who wants to read about democracy and Islam. I wish a similar book came out on India. Anybody game to take it up?

(Posted in Centerright India, yday)