Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Traveller: John Twelve Hawks

The latest book I have read is The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks. It is very obvious that it is a pseudonym and what a weird one at that!

It seemed to be a broad cross of The Matrix (with Keanu Reeves), where everything is an illusion and The One (with Jet Li) where there are multiple parallel universes (Realms as per JTH)!

The book was interesting in parts and extremely inane in others… The characters are not well developed though the only character I really liked was Maya because of her human frailty – if you will! Maya was an interesting name to choose considering that she is half Indian (her mother is Sikh) and Maya in Sanskrit/Hindi means illusion – which is what the author was propounding – what we see all around is nothing but an illusion, which is something that Hindu mythology has been saying for centuries!

The theme of the movie was Governments controlling the general population through Fear and this is such a beaten theme – I thought Michael Crichton did a far better job in “The State of Fear” and of course “1984” written way back in 1949 by George Orwell.

There are way too many organizations such as the Harlequins, Tabula, Brethren and none of them have been properly introduced – In a way, JTH is been a complete anti-thesis to Arthur Hailey who I have always felt, loses the plot because of the way he introduces his characters – he gets so detailed that you need to go back to figure out where you are in the story!

All in all – a very average book.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kathy Sierra and misuse of the Democracy on the Internet

I am new to blogging and have begun to enjoy it a lot! It is indeed a whole new experience and the sheer freedom it lets us enjoy is huge!

It is indeed extremely sad commentary that Kathy Sierra is getting targeted for being a woman blogger and for expressing her personal views. Internet was supposed to be the new frontier for true democracy without the policing!

While the freedom is absolutely awesome, there needs to be personal policing – everyone has the right to air their comments – after all it is a free space – but there has to be some restraint to what they are saying. Agree that we cannot, as humans, like everybody or agree with their opinions, but death threats, cyber stalking against them should be stopped. This is misusing the freedom that we bloggers have.

I am against policing this wonderful medium called internet which gives us the right to rant – but this is going too far. Free blogs such as Blogger, Wordpress et cetera should not condone this kind of stuff and pull their websites off the internet as soon as they receive some complaint against a few bloggers. While the rest of the more experienced people who have their own blog websites – the servers hosting them should ask them to go take a hike!

It is against the law to post death threats – the medium of posting should not matter – whether it is the web or the phone – it is against the law.

I feel for Kathy and while a witch hunt is not going to stop this, and while I accept that censorship is not the right way, is there any other way of stopping this?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mediocrity and Indians

So we Indians did not qualify for the Super Eight stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup!

At the risk of committing sacrilege, we are a bunch of people who thrive on mediocrity. How else can we explain the fact that for a billion people, we do not excel in any thing? We do not have a single product for the size of our country – Look at South Korea – you have the LGs, Samsungs, Hyundais and even Finland has a Nokia! What product do we have – Nothing, nada, zilch!

The country has some great institutes, IITs, IIMs etc – Everyone who studies at these elite institutes are looking at options outside the country! Yes, in recent times, we have seen some people return, this is not happening because of the policies, but in spite of them!

We have sports facilities that are completely out of sync with the rest of the world! When I talk to friends about this dismal state of affairs – all everyone has to say is that we are not physically built for sports such as Football! This is but a bunch of horse manure! Look at Hockey – once upon a time we were the world champions but we have faltered in the last 20 years! The main problem is the fact that there is so much money in sports, despite what people say, is that politicians look at getting into the sports as administrators and eat the money! When politicians get into sports – what else do you expect?

Let me give you a simple example – In Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, there is a bridge being built in front of out offices – The bridge is built, however not tarred – The contractor says that the total cost of building it is 2.5 crores and he has got a payment of only 1.5 crores with the politicians eating the rest! The result – the bridge is half done with no hope of ever completing it!

We are a country where mediocrity is so acceptable that it has become a way of life! The only area where we have actually excelled is in the IT industry.

Sanjaya Malakar and the increasing influence of Indians in America

Sanjaya typifies the influence of Indians or people of Indian descent in America! What can I say – there have been people who can sing better than him who are already out of the show and the Sanjaya juggernaut continues unabated!

Whether this is because of Howard Stein or because of the influence of the Indian American community can be debated! We Indians tend to live within a community – whether that is dominated by language, caste or religion, when in India and when abroad as Indians – pure and simple. It goes on to show that Indians are really well connected never mind Howard Steins mission of sabotaging the American Idol show. The premise of the show is that people vote for who they perceive as the best – if that is the case, whether Simon Howell likes it or not, Sanjaya will be in, until voters are sick of him and/or his singing!

This has been so much fun – unlike a similar reality show in the UK, Celebrity Big Brother, which got derailed because of racial undertones! As far as I can see there are no racial undertones, but because voters are unwilling to vote Sanjaya off the show, he continues to thrive!

Live on and rock on Sanjaya!

Monday, March 19, 2007

300 - Just a movie!

I haven’t yet seen the movie – so it is going to be premature to respond to the all the hoopla surrounding it.

What is the issue with 300?

The one issue that the Iranians see currently is that it is historically wrong – well, Warner Brothers has already issued a statement that it is work of fiction. So if it does not show the right historical facts – Chill guys!

Secondly – they claim that it has a hidden agenda – well, what can I say? I agree that the Americans have been reckless with the fact that they are the sole super power and they are pushing their agenda everywhere in the world – but come on – I don’t think they are sending out any messages through a movie for God’s sake! I know and accept the fact that America is mostly run by Jews (and I don’t mean this in a derogatory manner at all – matter of fact!) – Wall Street and Hollywood are both dominated by them, all said and done they are really good business people – Frankly I really do NOT think that the Americans have enough in them to open up another front with Iran (considering the fact that Iraq is open and Afghanistan is open and of course the whole shebang with Osama Bin Laden) in a battle ground – if they do – they are not only stupid, but they will have failed to learn the lessons of history – remember what happened with Hitler in Russia (erstwhile USSR) – not enough resources and it was plain stupid! Also remember, the whole world will turn against them if they do and they already have too much going against them!

So my suggestion is enjoy the whole movie and its special effects and let life move on – we have too many things to worry in life and a movie should be the least of our priorities!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Work - Life Balance in India: A Chimera

With the opening up of the economy circa 1991, I have been privileged to be a part of a generation that has seen many firsts!

During the first Gulf War, we were privileged to see CNN for the first time and what a boom it led to! Today we in India have so many channels – though when you really sit down to watch some TV, you don’t see anything interesting, but at least we have the choice!

Cars – I remember the time we Indians only had the Ambassador, the Premier Padmini and Maruti! Today – Bentleys sell in India! The Japanese and Koreans auto makes are vying with each other to make inroads in the market. We have BMW and Audi showrooms in our cities. You would be surprised to see quite a few Ferraris and Porsches on pot-holed Indian roads!

Shops – There was barely any choice in India – Now with the retail sector opening up – We will soon see the Walmarts, the Carrefours and the Tescos of the world trying to tempt the great Indian middle class.

What drove this great Indian Middle class revolution?

Opening the Economy and the IT and the BPO/ITeS boom

Once the economy opened up, it was just a matter of time that corporates across the world began to discover the college educated English speaking droves that passed out our colleges every year!

Thanks to the Y2K issue – the IT boom really hit India – So many Indians were recruited in India and flown to the US to help Americans get ready for the doomsday scenario that never really materialized! That was when the floodgates opened with the BPO boom – What the IT boom did to Engineers in India, BPO did that to the rest of the country! BAs (Bachelors of Arts) who had no scope of jobs earlier – suddenly woke up to jobs that were paying Rs. 8000 ($ 177) – Rs. 10000 ($ 222)! So suddenly every kid who passed out of college had money to spend! MNCs woke up to this disposable income and started to vigorously target these kids with products never before seen in India!

Impact on family life

What impact did all this money have on Indian family life? Children started earning salaries that their parents barely heard of! Children began to move away from parents, workplace romances began to bloom because of the weird hours these people began to put in (Call Centers actually work American or European timings, which is night time in India). Kids suddenly had credit cards at their disposal and started splurging without either understanding the impact of the usage of the cards or the payment schedule! Debts of each household began to increase!

Impact on marriages

At around the same time, workplace romances began to bloom, a lot of people got married to their colleagues. This increasingly led to marriages on the rocks because of the pressures of the job, bad timings, and last but certainly not the least, competition with the spouse at work, which spilled over at home! Marriage counselors suddenly are in huge demand in a country where a divorce is still looked down upon! Offices began to employ counselors where employees can go and get things resolved!


Materialism has now become all pervasive and to satiate the urge of shopping, both spouses started working, started to delay having children – even led to an acronym (DINKS – Double Income No Kids)! A lot of couples started working American timings or one of the pair worked in the complete opposite shift – it was as if one of the couple was in India and the other in the US! With both the spouses working, children are increasingly being taken care by either parents or nannies! This is leading to the parents having to spoil children by giving them stuff, to satisfy the guilt of not having the time to spend with their own children, makes me question the whole concept of having children!

What disposable income?

While salaries went up, most of these people don’t realize that the effective disposable income remained the same because they are paying for the child's needs, the child’s education, mortgage on the house, the car and then their whole lifestyle, what they earn is already accounted for! By the time the 20th of a month arrives, the couple begins to tighten their belts, and wait for the salary to get credited into their account and the vicious circle continues…

Chimera: Work - Life Balance

I am 30 now and if I want to retire by the time I am 45, I conservatively estimate that I will need to have a nest egg of, at the very least, Rs. 3-5 crores ($666,666 - $1,111,111) for me to continue to have the lifestyle that I would have gotten used to by the time I am 45! A salaried person or couple will never make that kind of money in India – They will need to supplement the salaries with an additional source of income that is far more lucrative than a job! My parents will, in all probability, pop a few blood vessels when they read this!

So I have given up the thought of work-life balance – I want too many things in life for me to stop now!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Human Rights

US – Custodians of Human Rights or a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Someone please explain Guantanamo Bay to me where people are held without any charges for years? Or maybe you can try to explain CIA’s rendition flights across the European Union (EU), which the EU countries also seem to be condoning!

As per the US Department of State’s website, which states:

Because the promotion of human rights is an important national interest, the United States seeks to:

  • Hold governments accountable to their obligations under universal human rights norms and international human rights instruments;
  • Promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom from torture, freedom of expression, press freedom, women's rights, children's rights, and the protection of minorities;
  • Promote the rule of law, seek accountability, and change cultures of impunity;
  • Assist efforts to reform and strengthen the institutional capacity of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights; and
  • Coordinate human rights activities with important allies, including the EU, and regional organizations.

Aren’t Guantanamo Bay and CIA’s rendition flights a violation of the same policy stated above?

Haven’t they become a culture of impunity by their own definition?

Then, there was this piece in the newspapers the other day:

Woman raped and sentenced to 8 months

A woman raped in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 8 months in the Kingdom! Why? The judge has said the woman is responsible because she went out her way to meet a man, who was NOT her father or brother! Added to this her brother also beat her up!
In this age, of woman’s emancipation, isn’t this stunning?

The US does not say anything to the Saudi’s, do they? They need oil and cheap oil at that – and can therefore turn a blind eye to Saudi’s misadventures such as the above!

The US has given a new definition to hypocrisy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

News or what?

First and foremost, let me apologize to the Western media for taking a swipe at them recently in one my earlier posts: American Media, Trivializing News and too internally Focussed?

Our Indian channels are just as pathetic. Yesterday, when the main news stories were that of an earthquake in Sumatra killing at least 60 people and a lot of folks still trapped in debris, the other news story being that if at least 100 people being killed by suicide bombers in Iraq, guess what was a half hour special on one of the news channels!

A special on the wedding of Liz Hurley and Arun Nayyar! How has the value of human life fallen? Channels will do anything to sell to get more and more eyeballs and in a country like India which has such a huge population, so many people dying is hardly news! Some other channel will cover the tragedies of human life – We however need our profits to survive! This is really so sad!

Meanwhile on another channel – there was a special on the upcoming Cricket World Cup, where one of the fathers of Indian news analysis (at least as far as I am concerned), Prannoy Roy, was asking a panel of retired cricketers who is the best looking of them all? Imran Khan who was on the panel said that it does not matter how they look, but what is more important is how they play, but again is it really a topic of discussion – How low can channels stoop for profits is stunning! What also disturbed me was Prannoy Roy, was hosting this! I was truly amazed at how inane the whole program was!

Is this what news channels are to propagate? There is absolutely no sense in all this!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Business of Education

A friend of mine wanted admission in MDS (Master of Dental Sciences), in Bangalore, India and had to write the entrance exam COMED-K. She had to get at least 50% in the exam to get a seat and rank in the top 50 to get a government seat. The fee for a government seat is around Rs. 2 lakhs per annum (translates to around $4652). The fees for a management seat is an unbelievable 20 lakhs for the entire course plus the yearly fees (works out to be around $50000)!

Now, please help me understand, which middle class Indian family can afford this kind of money? Suddenly, education has become the prerogative of the rich Indian and the Non-Resident Indian (NRI)! India, needs educated people especially doctors, with our health services being among the worst in the world! Apart from which, a lot of these doctors pay this indecent amount of money and go abroad and our health services continues to be backward!

What can the government do? The government can increase spending on Education to make it accessible to the ordinary Indian and ensure that students that join premier and world renown Indian institutes such as the Indian Institute of Technologys (IITs), Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and other such premier institutes funded by the government of India, they stay and give something back to the country first – at least for a period of 5 years to ensure that the country gets what it has invested in them! I know that this sounds very jingoistic, but this is surely one of the ways to guarantee that the country gets back!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Male Bonding

I had a very interesting conversation with a close friend and somehow came to conclusion that women do not bond with other women as much as men do with men.

Why does this happen?

If you look at human kind’s entire evolutionary journey – you will find that men traditionally went hunting with other men, while the women stayed at home, protected the home while the man was away and gave birth and raised their children.

So while the men went hunting together, they spent time, made friends, depended on each other for safety and eventually bonded! The conjecture is that this has somehow gotten into the gene pool, which seems to have been replicated over multiple generations, which is why we see men bonding, even to date!

Women on the other hand, spent most of their time in their home, taking care of their offspring and thus did not either have the time or the patience (remember even at that point in time, it was survival of the fittest) to bond with other women! Therefore, we don’t hear as much about women bonding!

My apologies to feminists – this is just a theory and I thought it was too good a subject to blog about!