December 31, 2009

Ganga - Tera Paani Nirmal



Couldn't resist blogging about this!! Our dear Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment and Forests, often shoots from the hip.. but this is really the best I have read so far... He says very grandly that he will ensure a free-flowing and clean Ganga by 2020!!! His government will pump in 15,000 crores towards this. Wow, isn't it?

Does he read the papers about the alarming rate at which Gaumukh, the glacier from which Ganga gets its water, is receding? You can read his article that appeared in IE. Honestly, it should have appeared in the Comic Strip section:-)

Reasonable estimates suggest that by 2025, the Ganga will cease to be perennial river and instead become a seasonal river. But our man does nothing to stop the receding glacier but is going to pump 15,000 crores to save a river that will be non existent for most months in a year, if we don't take corrective steps.

What a bunch of ignorant people run this country.. we have one minister whose tweets make more news than his performance in office. We have another whose sense of priorities leaves one dumbfounded (the article above). We have another Minister who spends more time in her home state - as a CM-in-waiting role than the Minsitry she ought to run.

Media and their sense of right and wrong

Oh yes, I was not to post anymore this year but the news headlines about Ruchika and Rathore everyday for the past week has me irritated.... What's with the media and activists?? Why do we go after such stories like its the most important thing?? Alright, Ruchika was wronged and the culprit was influential and had his way in getting a light sentence.. So, what's new about this??

Often, the media simply goes beserk, thanks to so many 24/7 'news' channels and websites and each vying for some exclusive scoop. The Judiciary was always the system we learnt to bank on (they are sadly not so dependable), but when they pass a verdict, we raise a hue and cry.. Yes, we can protest against injustice, but media need not carry it as main headlines everyday... A colleague of mine very rightly remarked, "At this rate, we need not have courts to decide punishment, we can have sms polls and pass judgments much like the reality shows on TV".

Take the Arrushi case for example, nobody knows what happened to it, but the media behaved like they knew it all for one month and bored us to death. Now, why aren't they getting to the bottom of everything? Does the media want to play the role of the Police? Same with N D Tiwari. God knows if the news was real or it was a frame up, but before the truth is known, the media splashes it everywhere and he is declared guilty and the public is forced to read such news... And what really saddens me is that every media house has fallen to this sub standard journalism. The public has very little to choose..

I do wish the media barons get together and put an end to this nonsensical way of reporting. The media is a very powerful tool and can shape young minds and also has the power to change the mindset of public. I do wish, they have a conclave soon and decide to become responsible media channels and effect a positive change in 2010.

Am I asking for too much?

December 30, 2009

Its time to say Goodbye to 2009!

On the whole, its been quite a listless year, and if one were to go by what we read in the papers / internet, its a not a rosy picture anywhere in the world. There seems to be more chaos and greed and disasters and what have you, these past 12 months... Even, personally, its a year I am glad to see the back of. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I do hope for good things to happen to everybody and to the World, in general, in 2010.

There seems to be a big disconnect from the real big issues facing the world, instead we seem to be focussing on petty squabbles, therefore, losing sight of the larger picture. This seems to be a Universal phenomena and all of us are culprits and victims of the same thing:-). From food shortages to pointless wars to unwarranted war posturing by some countries to scary terrorism, its all there in 2009.

How to effect a change? As Mahatma Gandhi very nicely put it, "Be the change you want to bring about". If even a few of us take this quote very sincerely, 2010 will be a far better year than 2009.

On this rather optimistic note, here's wishing you all a Very Happy & Joyous 2010!

December 27, 2009

A wonderful initiative

The Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony (GFCH) organized the second edition of The Hindu Service and Spiritual Fair in Chennai this week. You can read the news clipping explaining the initiative, for details. Basically, this fair brought 122 organizations under one single roof, to showcase their service projects and objectives. I was volunteering in the Art of Living Stall and was interacting with the organizers. I am so impressed by the commitment to the cause they stand for. Each of them are professionals in different areas and have taken ~ two weeks off to put this fair together. I am so inspired and motivated by these people. Some have taken their annual LTA to organize this fair.
It was very nice to move around the stalls and learn about the various service initiatives done by so many organizations. It leaves one with one big Hope, that all is not lost. There are many people in this world who still are engaged in selfless service.
We, in the Art of Living, had a stall and I have uploaded some of the snaps taken at the stall. Check these links out to get an idea of the rationale for such a fair.

December 17, 2009

The Secret of Success in India


I was listening to an interesting discussion on Radio the other day and the topic was "Success in India is through Merit or Influence / Luck". They had invited an editor of a newspaper, there was Ganesh Venkataraman and Ms. Sabesh, both actors.

I realised from the discussion that it was a take off from my earlier post. While it takes merit to excel in one's area, its influence or luck that gives most successful people their first break or entry. This was echoed by all, albeit reluctantly by some of the guests. So, what's new, you may ask.. its certainly not new but its a very unfortunate, disturbing state of affairs.

This has big repurcussions on the social fabric of our society as this leads to the proliferation of corruption, people breaking rules, government unable to implement laws of the land, etc. etc. Its a big hindrance for India to break out and join the group of powerful countries.

Ever wondered why this culture has crept into our lives, yes, every one is responsible and party to this 'culture'. Its not fair to blame the politicians or X,Y, or Z for the state of affairs. Well, its because of a lack of adequate resources for everyone to get what he/she wants - right from choice of school, college, job, train ticket, etc etc.. And the big reason is our explosive population. If only, each of us can take responsibility and control our population, India has a great opportunity to become a force to reckon with, in the World!

December 16, 2009

Spiralling cost of Food! - my perspectives


We have all been experiencing steady rise in prices, from rice to pulses to vegetables. Papers are full of theories and so our our enterprising vendors:-). Its really amusing to hear them give their reasons so emphatically. Once I was told that the vegetable prices shot up since Karnataka and AP witnessed unprecedented floods and trucks couldn't move and so the prices were up... Three months later the same guy tells me very earnestly, there was heavy rain in Ooty and landslips and so vegetable prices have gone up! I am amused and also confused and I wonder where the vegetables to Chennai come from??

And if you readers remember approx prices of commonly consumed vegetables a few years ago, there is a very interesting trend.. Beans, carrots and potatoes and tomatoes, lady's fingers were all at one price band of Rs 15/Kg while capsicum, baby corn, broccoli, zucchini were all at Rs 35 / 500 gms. Now, this price rise has come as a great leveller, all veggies - common and rare, are now on par, >Rs 40/ Kg. Wonder why / how...

A year ago, any decent joint in Chennai will serve you a dosa, vada and charge you ~ Rs 50/ - whilst a pizza was Rs 100/- . The same dosa vada costs Rs. 100/-  now and regular pizzas at Smoking Joe's / Dominoes are still about Rs 120/-. Some kind of levelling is happening alright, for good or bad:-).

Also, this price rise, rather inflation, has other interesting observations too. Prices of essential commodities have gone up 100% in most cases this past 1 year while non essential goods like digital camera, dvd player, memory stick etc. are crashing... Reminds me of a conversation I was having with somebody who had returned from Tokyo. He said, a watermelon costs more than a fancy watch there!!

Like it or not, looks like we are heading in that direction

December 11, 2009

Perception and Relativity


A couple of months ago I had a post on Perception and Reality written on a light vein. But today, I am in a quite sombre mood and I wonder what is Reality, after all... I mean, our views and opinions are all about perception and completely relative. So what is real?

This question is particularly in the context of the TRS movement for a separate Telangana and their leader chose to dramatically do a fast unto death till their demands were met. Most people, from family to colleagues, all quite diverse, were of a similar opinion that it was unfair to put pressure on the Government and disapproved of the manner in which he almost blackmailed others to get what he wanted.

Now, this is exactly what Mahatma Gandhi used to do, I remember reading about his innumerable 'fasts unto death' and they were always referred to as an act of non violence / ahimsa and we were taught that it was virtue that only Mahatma had. How come this virtue, enacted by another, in this case, Mr. KCR, is called blackmail??

Now, it will be interesting to see how History books treat KCR:-)

December 1, 2009

MAD - Making a Difference


What triggers activity in people and spurs them to go one notch up or many notches up? I mean, very often, most of us love to get into our comfort zone and keep growing, career wise, but maybe only at a Hindu rate of growth:-). What makes or triggers people to make quantum jumps in their lives? Ever wondered? If you notice, its people who make these leaps who really make a difference in their sphere and get noticed and end up leading very satisfying lives.

Oh yes, you got it, your truly, is now contemplating taking one of those leaps soon. Time will tell, if I rise above the tide and ride the waves or just float like driftwood:-). There's something cooking in my head and still not ready to get off the diving board! Curious? then watch this space..

November 25, 2009

Indo-US relationship


I am sure many of us watched our PM, Mr. Singh read out from some prepared text, with the US Prez looking over, in my opinion, with amusement. I was ashamed of the way in which he read out the text in an emotionless, with a dead pan, in a monotonous tone, with absolute no voice modulation whatsoever nor any animation of facial expression. What's with him? Can he get more unimpressive?

I think one of the most important qualities of a leader is to be able to articulate and talk extempore and be natural with the camera. And Mr. Singh has been on this job for so many years now, he should be able to carry himself with more aplomb. I could not but wonder at the contrast we had, the US Prez who is such a brilliant orator and our PM who sounded like a mouse with the microphone. I was more shocked because he is an intellectual and a well read person and for him to be so pathetic, is very funny.

I really look forward to the day when we will have a leader who can carry and present himself and showcase our country to the world. From the current lot, I can only see Rahul Gandhi donning the mantle, the sooner the better it will be for India.

Yeh Dil Hai Hindustani

I was having a very interesting conversation at home couple of weeks ago... The context was when Nandan Nilekani was asked if people can choose the 16 digit unique number and have fancy numbers, like they do for their cars and phones:-). Some wanted a preference as they didn't want unlucky numbers and some wanted fancy numbers to flash around... Whatever the reason, this really fascinates me and also disturbs me, if you can understand what I mean:-). We, Indians are a peculiar lot, we always want to get around things and have our way and beat the system. However, Mr. Nilekani put a brave face and refused and said it would be computer generated and nobody will the option of choosing their numbers... It would be interesting to see if he is really able to implement that:-)

As Indians, we always have had a culture of inequality, be it in the bygone era of untouchability and brahminism to the feudal system of Kings and their opulent Palaces to a later mindset of colonial rule, where Indians played second fiddle to the British, to the present day scenario where the political class and rich businessmen are treated differently from the rest. And very surprisingly, and unconsciously, there seems to be an almost acceptance to this fate!

This might strike a foreigner as very odd as I don't think in any country there can be such prevalence of discrimination and VIP culture as there is, here. Be it at the airport, roads, courts, cricket, jobs, admissions to schools /colleges, anything and everything, the influential can always have their way and the rest, >90% have reconciled to this truth or destiny?

Its no surprise that often foreigners are able to notice this within their first week of stay in India. It must be a shock for Greg Chappell to coach Team India where we have players who are so big that they will not show up for training with the rest of the 'boys'. Our Indian psyche is indeed very different and will probably make a good study for psychologists:-). Any takers?

November 23, 2009

Erin Brockovich


This was one movie I wanted to see but never did till few days ago. Finally, managed to see the movie. My first impression was, no big deal. What was the hype about anyway, types. Besides, I must say I was put off by Julia's extreme foul language and loud clothes, by more than a mile:-)

But almost as an afterthought, I changed my mind completely, about the movie. I realised that this is one of those movies that lingers and stays in your mind. Yes, Julia's is a spirited role and movies based on true lives of people always tend to be powerful. But nonetheless, the expletives were a definite put off. Oh, I am not a prude, and I occasionally do use expletives, but after watching the movie, I probably don't want to use them anymore:-).

Its a movie that's worth a watch but I definitely think its over-rated and suffers from the hype. As one critic points out wryly, this movie was released in 2000 at a time when there were no good movies showing and this came as a breath of fresh air. Besides, today, we are more aware of our environment but, back in 2000, people were just beginning to get serious about taking polluting companies to task. So, I guess, the movie was more appealing at the time of its release but not as much in today's context.

Another Twist in the Tale - Climate Change, my foot, say some!


The papers and the internet is full of talk about Climate Change and Global Warming and Copenhagen Summit... everybody claims to be in the know... this has ceased to be a topic of discussion with the highbrow intellectuals and is now part of kitty parties, page 3 people to college kids to office and college canteens.

Given this overdose on the subject, I read a very interesting article that rubbishes most climate change theories. A group of Scientists from University of Bristol, UK, have a very different story to tell, based on their findings from measurements and statistical data, including historical records extracted from Antarctic ice, and does not rely on computations with complex climate models. Their data shows that the balance between airborne and absorbed Carbon dioxide has stayed approximately constant since 1850, despite emissions of CO2 having risen from about 2 billion tons a year in 1850 to 35 billion tons a year now. This data suggests that terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans have a much greater capacity to absorb CO2 than had been previously expected. They have published these findings in Geophysical Research Letters this month.

Given these new findings, it will be interesting to see how the discussions turn out in Copenhagen, as carbon sink is one of the key points of discussion at the Summit.

Sustainable Development

I was pleasantly surprised to read the latest mantra from the Management Guru, C. K. Prahalad - Sustainable Development! I never thought these words would ever interest Management people. I must confess that, Prahalad is one of the rare Management Gurus who appeal to me. Majority of them are full of jargons and more jargons. But Prahalad is an original, a thinker and definitely interesting. And when he talks about Sustainable Development, I am interested to know what he is aiming at.

Apparently, Sustainable Development is one of the four areas that Prahalad wants to link, other than globalization, role of connectivity, inclusive growth. Very interesting synthesis I must say and that is what makes him stand apart. In an interview in ET recently, he fielded some questions on SD.

To the uninitiated, Prahalad's  revolutionary mantras are Core Competence followed by Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid and now Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development, the term, throws a myriad of ideas, strings and means many things to many people. Often, we use it loosely and is probably the most maligned word as also the least understood:-). It will therefore be interesting to see how he gives shape to this idea and convinces Industry to follow the path of SD.

Scientists, policy makers, politicians have so far made little headway in this direction!

November 22, 2009

Kurbaan


Its been a long time since I wrote about movies. I was keenly anticipating the release of Kurbaan and I was not disappointed. Its a very well taken movie. Don't get me snooty, but very rarely do I like Hindi movies for their finesse or class, I usually like them for the masala and entertainment for the 3 hours and nothing more. If they do make the grade, then its often classified in 'art film' category and does not come under mainstream cinema. This movie, in my opinion, actually dissolves this artificial barrier created in Bollywood between commercial and art cinema. This movie is 'commercial' cinema in Bollywood vocabulary but has all the elements of 'art' movie, right from performances to direction and storyline. The web is full of reviews about the movie, I will stick to my personal observations.

I see Karan Johar in a new light after this film, I thought he was only capable of making mushy mushy romantic stuff. For once, this movie gives some 'food for thought', to use a cliche. And the film deals with a topic so relevant in today's times - global terrorism. I particularly like the way the movie stays neutral and presents both sides of the coin. I must add that everyone in the cast has done their bit to make this movie stand apart. Kudos to the entire team and I look forward to many many more of such Hindi movies!

November 8, 2009

Origin of Species


The year 2009 marks 200 years of Darwin's birth and 150 years since his seminal book called Origin of Species. All of us, irrespective of our backgrounds have heard of Charles Darwin and his theories of survival of the fittest and evolution. The British Council is doing exhibitions to mark the event across the world and in the UK, the HMS Beagle in which Darwin set out in his voyage to Galapagos Islands is being refurbished. The area around Down House is going to be declared a World Heritage Site etc.. to commemorate the occasion.
Yes, there are some gaps in his theory on evolution but nonetheless, its more than accepted as the most plausible of theories of the Origin of Species, to date. There are critics who mainly are from religious backgrounds who oppose his view that our ancestors were primates:-). Yes, its possible that God created all creatures simultaneously. But, what is important is to back your theories with observations. And Darwin did just that. He had amazing depth of observations and more importantly, the art of making inferences from the observations. Most people fail in making the inferences. Thomas Huxley's famous quote on Charles Darwin's theory was, "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that." Now, Huxley was not stupid, just that Charles Darwin explained the theory with his observations so convincingly, that led Huxley to exclaim in this fashion (much like Watson would say after Sherlock Holmes would explain his deductions:-)).
Recently, I was at a talk on "Darwin Now" and it was indeed interesting when the speaker pointed out that the Hindu religion is perhaps more scientific in that we have Hindu Gods appearing in the form of tortoise, fish etc (Dasavatharam). Quite insighful, it had never occurred to me. Nonetheless, the mark of a true scientist is to realise that there can be no Last Word on this subject of Creation.
I was also wondering if Man today is influencing evolution, in the sense that 'natural selection' is hampered due to man made selection and interventions; Man has become so dominant of the species on the planet. Also, I wonder if Modern Biology is going against the theory of Natural Selection. It would be interesting to synthesize Darwin's, Mendel's and Watson & Crick's works, together, and see how we are doing.
I leave you all with two of my favourite quotes from Sir Charles Darwin. These quotes are relevant today as well, in every sphere, meant for everyone. It borders on philosophy and is also used very often by motivational speakers and Management Gurus.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

Bon Apetit!

There are few restaurants that I enjoy dining at - the food and the ambiance play a big role in my selection. Some of the best places in Chennai are Annalakshmi, Cream Centre, Sanjeevini, Copper Point and Copper Chimney. You guessed it, most of them are exclusive vegetarian joints. Annalakshmi is very different in that the profits go for charity and the people who serve you are volunteers! A very novel concept and the food is delightful, very elaborate, yet mildly spiced and cooked to perfection! Cream Centre is a nice place for Bombay style food. I love it and its down my road, so convenient:-). Copper Point and Copper Chimney have dishes that taste yum and served in right portions. For the best desserts, I would head out to Mocha

In Delhi, my favourites are Neivedyam and Bukhara. Its more than a decade since I lived there, so there maybe nicer places now. Neivedyam had the best South Indian dishes in town and Bukhara serves the best Makhni Dal in country, so much so that its called Dal Bukhara all over India:-). In Kolkata, I used to like Zaranj and Maple, both serve excellent food.

November 5, 2009

Indian Heroes


Very often we use these words frivolous, feather-brained, scatter-brained, isn't it? Today, I saw a living, walking, talking person who personifies these words:-). Her name is not important, she is participating in some world beauty pageant. And very proudly she lists the names of people from India who are global icons, according to her, and how proud she is to be an Indian, bla bla.

Curious to know the names on her list? Well, she puts down A.R.Rahman, Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan!!!!! I have no problems with these celebrities, I admire them for what they have accomplished in their spheres. But, are they global icons? A. R. Rahman's music is great and he won two Oscars this year, but how many people will know him if he walks down a road in any country? Lets be frank, only people in music industry will recognize him. Sachin Tendulkar is a great icon in India and at best in ten cricket playing nations. Lets face it, he is no Roger Federer or Ronaldinho. The less said the better of the Bachchans.

This got me thinking. Who are our heroes? And why don't we talk about our heroes? Or do we have too many? Here are some of my heroes / icons I am proud of and who are truly known, world over. Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Aryabhatta, perhaps.

Ask any kid in USA, Abraham Lincoln will figure in his/her list; likewise a kid in UK will have Winston Churchill in their list.

Who are the heroes of India who will figure in every citizen's list?

November 4, 2009

Life is Risky!

Offlate I have been contemplating on probabilities for various everyday day events in our lives and I thought it will be an interesting exercise. The reason is the recent Bt brinjal controversy that is making headlines. The Wiki says "Probability is a way of expressing knowledge or belief that an event will occur or has occurred. In mathematics the concept has been given an exact meaning in probability theory, that is used extensively in such areas of study as mathematics, statistics, finance, gambling, science, and philosophy to draw conclusions about the likelihood of potential events and the underlying mechanics of complex systems."
Now,  probability of being involved in an airplane accident: 1 in 11 million;
Probability of dying in a car crash: 1 in 5000

But do these statistics stop us from using them for transport? Infact, people find it glamorous to use these modes of transport:-). I was talking to a medico and he was saying that a simple penicillin shot or a pain killer can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Do we stop taking these shots? There is so much talk about the ills of using mobile phones, can we do away with them? We all know the harm non vegetarian food / alcohol does to our human body, have we all given up non vegetarian food /alcohol?

Then why this hue and cry and 'holy cow' attitude towards Biotechnology in Agriculture? Some people are against genetic modifcation as it means 'going against nature". I would like to ask these people if they take medicines / vaccines when they fall ill? Most drugs today, are produced through genetic modification. I am shocked that medical doctors are expressing concerns over gene manipulation. Such ignorance:-)

A point all of us need to ponder is "How safe is living in this planet?" Our lifestyle from waking up with coffee /tea, to using mobiles, to driving cars, flying in jets /trains, walking in Indian roads, using PCs, eating junk food, popping pills when sick, are all extremely risky things we do, as part of our routine. We need to realize that life is all about taking risks, its a gamble

November 1, 2009

Youth Power

I went for a wonderfully staged play called "Death" by the Chinmaya Youth wing. I was told it was very well done and not to be missed. So, my expectations ran high and I must say I was not disappointed, a wee bit. They brought out the essence of Katho-upanishad  the way it would appeal to todays' generation. I really enjoyed my evening and those I brought along, thanked me too!

I must give the youth full marks for managing it all by themselves, right from the car parking arrangements to ushering in guests and seeing them off. Speaks a lot about the commitment and responsibility they have taken. We were told how working for a play gave them the opportunity to learn many important skills like working in teams, taking leadership roles, developing organisation skills, apart from the values and wisdom gained through the research in making the play. Apparently, a topic is given to them and the youth are asked to do their own direction, screenplay, casting etc. with help from the Seniors of course. So they research the texts (they learn and read books that they would not otherwise:-)), and decide who is best doing which role (learn skills like team building, talent hunt).

Its an excellent way of channeling youth energy and enthusiasm. They learn values and also develop skills required to work in today's environment. True Youth Empowerment!

October 28, 2009

Process inhibits Innovation

I happened to be part of the debate organized by the CII, as part of Knowledge Management Summit. I was quite surprised (appalled, perhaps:-)) that most people confused Innovation with Adaptation, Optimization, Higher Efficiency etc.. And I am glad one of the speakers pointed out the folly and corrected the misconception. He was obviously arguing for the motion that Process inhibits Innovation.
Innovation, once done, can then be processed and optimized and customized etc.. But talking of innovating via process is crazy and impossible actually! Mr. Dave Snowden brought out the point quite elegantly by asking us to wonder how come Start-ups didn't have a Process Department:-), and he also illustrated with the example of 3M. When they had 15% of their time for innovation, they had new products, but with change in management and removal of 15%, innovation died.
Typically, small organizations encourage innovation and as they grow bigger and large, processes take over and innovation suffers. We have seen it so often in so many organizations. What is the guiding principle to continue to innovate, while growing, is a challenge for any management.
Needless to say, Mr. Snowden won the debate, hands down:-)

October 26, 2009

Fall of Communism?

I have never been able to relate to the leftist' ideology and I always found it highly impractical and far too idealistic in this non ideal world that we live in (I often use the analogy of absence of ideal gas behavior in reality). I was always amazed that there were some people who believed in it and attempted at implementing them. Needless, to say, they have failed repeatedly, in every country such attempts were made - because man, by nature is unique and artificially clubbing them and homogenising them is a crazy adventure!

But I believe the best line that describes why communism failed is a letter written by somebody when the Berlin Wall was broken, to a newspaper editor. I read it in the Swaminomics column, yesterday in TOI. He has, in his inimitable style, chronicled the fall of Communism in World.

The letter captures the reason why so many people chose to leave 'the comfortable, full social welfare, and full employment, of East Germany and instead join the inequal, perilous world in West Germany' and I quote, "My daughter’s hamster (a pet white mouse) has food, water, shelter and even medical care, and a cage full of fun curly tubes. The hamster responds by constantly trying to chew his way to freedom. I think we all understand what freedom is, and it is not a gilded cage."

This is truly the Last word on Failure of Communism in the World

October 23, 2009

India's biggest internal problem today


There is so much going on in some states like Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and some parts of AP & Maharashtra, we hear in newspapers everyday, for the past year or so. The past two months have seen heightened activity and the news is alarming, to put it mildly. Yes, I am referring to Maoists' movement in these states.

What do they want? Who are they? Why are they resorting to such tactics? We all know the group started as a peasant movement in WB in a village called Naxalbari in the late 1960s, therefore the term maoists and naxalites are used interchangeably, I guess. But this movement has evolved with time and the groups are fragmented but loosely associated across many states and estimated to cover almost 50% of India's geographic area. Enough to get our Home Minsiter worried.

From what we are seeing, the locals seems to be on their side. This is a very interesting picture. If the locals are with them, either out of fear or because they are benefitting from the cause. If its the former, the support does not last and increasingly, the profile of these leaders suggest that they enjoy enormous local support.

To be frank, I have not been following their movement in media these past few years, but offlate, I am attempting to read up and learn about this movement. When Kobad Gandhi was arrested last month, there was a little story about his life and family which I read with great interest. And recently there have been quotes from two of their popular leaders - Maoist leader Kishneji told the BBC: "We will show the government what is people's power. No police or army can crush that." Another leader said, ""During a revolution, one does not see how many people or who are killed. Only when the goal is finally achieved, will this bloodshed be over," says Ravi Sharma, an agricultural scientist turned Maoist! And, what is that goal? "Our aim is to establish socialism in India to end the inequality between the rich and the poor."

Tall order, that. If you notice, it was interesting to hear our Home Minsiter drawing a parallel to a politician's role in society and a Maoists'. Both want equity, help the marginalized and want peace in every district of the country. But both are fighting each other!!! How ironical the situation is!

October 17, 2009

There is Hope for the Congress!

Those of you who have been reading my blog may inadvertently think that I am anti-establishment or may call me 'Angry young woman' a.k.a. 'angry young man' (Amitabh in movies), are in for a pleasant surprise... This post will debunk that reputation, if it exists in any of your minds:-).

I would like to bring your attention to the positive, grass root level connect, that Rahul Gandhi is doing. He is touring problem areas, all states and interacting with 'aam aadmi'. This, in my opinion is a fantastic way to understand real problems and concerns of Indians and also helps in developing an image and building a profile of a mass leader. To be fair, I would give him lot of credit for the work he is attempting to achieve. He comes out as a genuine person, only in a wrong party:-). If he is able to effect a change in his party, it will do India a lot of good. That, however remains to be seen.

Those of us who are not much into headline reading, he has been responsible for the good showing of the Congress in UP in the last election. Judging by the manner in which he is criss-crossing the country, talking to partymen, infusing his party with new blood and youth and also speaking to people in the street, he is sure on the right track. He didn't choose to don the mantle of his family legacy as was expected by many within, and without, the party. He is instead, really working and learning his way up the party and taking his time too! Besides, he seems to be doing things with a lot of strategy and planning, normally lacking among politicians.

Kudos to Rahul Gandhi!

He who plays the Piper calls the tune

I was so outraged with our Minister for Corporate Affairs last week asking CEOs to take salary cut and refrain from vulgar salaries!! Now, I have a problem with this call. Firstly, how can he interfere in this domain of internal company affairs? Secondly, who decides what is vulgar display of wealth and what is decent?

I wanted to shoot off a post immediately but got delayed:-). Today, the Times of India has carried an excellent column by Gurucharan Das and you all must read his article. He has articulated my sentiments so completely, and I could not not have put it down so beautifully.

Its a very disturbing trend I am noticing with this UPA government; during their previous stint, Manmohan Singh called for reservations in the Private Sector and that got canned for obvious reasons. Today, his colleague wants a cap on CEO salaries. There is surely a limit to which politicians can go with vote-bank politics!

How can we ever hope to come out of poverty and uplift or empower the poor, if we continue with such regressive, short sighted visions of politicians? How can industry and entrepreneurial spirit of Indians ever prosper and flourish in this warped and stifling environment?

October 15, 2009

China - as a neighbour

There are so many articles about the growth and development seen in China and the every analyst, columnist is always talking about China's growing stature in World Economy. A lesser dealt aspect is about China - as a neighbour. And India has excellent relations with our neighbours, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & China.

However, most of our attention is mostly towards Pakistan. I would say, we need to step back, look right and watch China more closely. A day may not be far when we will have more serious problems from China than any other neighbour. Why we may have a full blown war with them as against a guerrila-like war with the Pakis we are waging since the time I was born.

Last month, China was protesting Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh! Our External affairs Minister defended saying the Lama was free to move anywhere in India. Today, they have the audacity to protest Indian PM's visit to Arunachal Pradesh. What beats me is the reply our Finance Minsiter is giving. Why should we have to explain to China, Indian PM's movements within India?? By replying, we are undermining ourselves, in my opinion.

As recent as August 2009, China successfully blocked a ADB loan meant for development in Arunachal Pradesh. China pressurised US Prez Barack Obama not to give audience to Dalai Lama when he visted US last week. China seems to be having its way with influencing International Policy. There is a lot of hearsay that even the Nobel Norwegian Committee was pressurized to not award the Nobel Peace prize to a dissident Chinese leader, Hu Jia, this year.

In my opinion, we have to be smarter than those times of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and develop our capabilities to fight Chinese. We are currently grossly underprepared to fight any country, forget Pakistan or China.

October 13, 2009

R K Laxman

I grew up reading the Times of India and unlike many who read headlines or some who read the Sports page first, I would read the 'You said It' cartoon first. He is simply too good and his cartoon is as good as the reading the headlines.

Some months ago, I bought a Collectors' book of his cartoons. And as I was reading it, I suddenly realised, it was like tracing India's recent history - through these cartoons, from the time of our independence to present day scenario. Simply brilliant this man is.

I highly recommend it for all with a good sense of humor. I happened to have a few saved on my PC which I am uploading here. Enjoy!




October 12, 2009

Nobel /Noble Peace Prize?


Oh yes, the dust is settling on the outrage and shock recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. I wanted to blog that Friday itself but I was numbed by the decision of the Committee that I couldn't write:-). Ah yes! you got it, I think this year's decision is one of the most outrageous of all Nobel Peace Prizes. Now, having said this, I must tell you all that I was a strong and still am an ardent supporter of Mr. Barack Obama for Presidency. But Nobel Peace Prize is a different ball game.

My understanding is that it is given to a person or an organization that has brought about lasting resolution to conflicts in the world / region or atleast shows a potential to bring lasting peace to the region. Now, pray how does Barack Obama figure in these Qualifications. Yes, he made an impassioned speech and called for wiping out nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth! Wow!

Sounds great! And USA possesses the maximum nuclear weapons. They have always demonstrated double standards by having one rule for them and another for the rest of the world. They ask developing nations to bring down carbon emissions but will not sign the Kyoto protocol themselves. They will dictate terms at WTO talks and play Big brother. They will arm twist United Nations and dictate World policy. In my opinion, just by these acts, any USA politician gets automatically disqualified to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I am not a coloured comrade doing anti US bashing. I definitely admire a lot of things about USA and I also think very highly of the current President. I do think its amazing for a person to have overcome racial discrimination and risen to the highest office in that country. No denying that. But he has not done anything to bring Peace to any region, apart from a speech he made which at best can be dismissed as a gimmick.

The Nobel Committee member is supposed to have said and I quote, "The question we have to ask is who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world. And who has done more than Barack Obama?" Well, my answer is if there is none worthy, then we need not award the prize that year to anybody than by awarding it to a person less deserving and bringing down the credibility of the Award itself.

If I were Barack Obama, I would say, "I am extremely humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee but I would like to say that I have not done anything tangible to deserve this award, yet". Alas, I ain't Barack Obama and that is the bottomline.

October 11, 2009

A Century and Not out!



Guys, I just hit a hundred:-). I can't believe I have actually done 100 posts!! Appears to be quite a feat. And like most batsmen, I was looking at the score once I hit the nineties and was in a tearing hurry to race to 100. I just hope I don't get out like most batsman do:-)

Looking at the labels, I seem to lean on current affairs and philosophy, mostly. Science comes a close third:-). On the whole, my experience has been very satisfying, being able to put down my thoughts, in words. And its my friends and family who egged me on, by leaving comments and encouraging me to write.

At 100, if I am asked say one sentence, I would say, its very nice to blog and an excellent way to give vent to your views and opinions about anything and everything under the Sun. So, all of you out there, just start blogging if you haven't started yet.

I would really like your comments on the posts and the blog

Adi Shankara - Part 2

Adi Shankara was a great unifier of Hinduism and so he went in search of Mandana Mishra in Varanasi. When Shankara knocked on the door, nobody opened, as Mandana Mishra was performing Shrartham, a ceremony propitiating his ancestors. It was considered highly inauspicious for Saints or for that matter anybody to enter the home during the ceremony, more so if it was a Saint. Adi Shankara is supposed to have jumped from the roof of the house straight into the havan where the rituals were being conducted. This dramatic entry was chosen by Adi Shankara primarily to debunk the superstitious and ritual-bound Mimamsa practitioners.

The story goes that for days the two scholars debated and Mandana Mishra's wife Sarasawani, a scholar in her own right was appointed as the judge. Apparently, after days and weeks of scholarly debate, Sarasawani is supposed to have expressed her inability to decide a victor as both were equal and articulately justifying their school of thought. At last, she decided to put a garland of flowers around each of them and proclaimed that the one whose garland withers first, is the loser. Apparently, Mandana Mishra's garland withered first and he accepted defeat! How gracious people were in those days:-)

During the debate, Mandana Mishra is supposed to have challenged Adi Shankara that he is not eligible to debate as he was a Brahmacharya and therefore has not experienced life, fully. So, Shankara excused himself and left his body for a day and entered the body of a King and experienced the life of a King and returned back to continue their debate. Science was truly advanced in those ages:-)

Adi Shankara traveled the length and breath of the country and won over different schools of thought and unified worshipers like Kapalis to Mimamsis under one umbrella and codified Sanathana Dharma.

Adi Shankara - Part 1

Looks like I have got into a mood of story telling:-). This is another awesome story of a great Vedas exponent called Kumarila Bhattar who lived in Allahabad. He was a great Hindu philosopher, of  the Mimamsa school of thought. He was greatly disturbed by the progress Buddhism was having in India and the story goes that he joined one of the Buddhist ashrams as a Bhikshu in disguise. He went there to learn about their philosophy in order to refute them and propagate Sanathana Dharma. Apparently, he was found out to be a betrayor and he was to be thrown from the top of a hill, for deceit. Apparently, as he was falling down, he is supposed to have said, "If the Vedas are true, no harm will come to me". Kumarila Bhattar landed safely but he lost his vision on one eye. He was shocked and he exclaimed, how could this happen, how did the Vedas not save me? A celestial voice was heard saying that you used the word, 'if', which meant you had a little doubt, instead if you had said, "The Vedas are true and so no harm will come to me", you would have escaped injury.

Kumarila Bhattar was satisfied with this verdict and he went on to preach and spread Sanathana Dharma across the land. He was a complete believer in the Vedas and the Mimamsa theory which was to follow the rules and shastras, as prescribed in the Vedas. He actually didn't think there was God! As years rolled by, he was overcome with guilt about the betrayal he had committed by going in disguise as a Bhikshu. So, he decided to inflict punishment for this act of his. The shastras said for betrayal, he would have to roast his body in burning coal, unto death.

Apparently, Adi Shankara was passing by and saw Kumarila Bhattar in this state. He argued and debated with him on honoring the body, not torturing it, and that there are Rules and there was a God. Rules are not everything, the last word on any subject and that God was the ultimate truth. He is believed to have explained that extremism of any kind, be it in Buddhism or the Mimamsa was not the right approach and the moderate middle path was the way. Apparently, Kumarila Bhattar was convinced by the intellectual debate and he is supposed to have told Adi Shankara that his Guru, a greater Mimamsa exponent had also to be won over through debate. His name was Mandana Mishra in Varanasi.

Watch this space for his story:-), equally interesting and profound.

October 8, 2009

Devotion unparalleled

This is a very old story but one of my favourites. Its the story of an once obscure poet Poonthanam Namboodiri who later attained the unenviable status as one of the most favoured devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan. The story goes that Poonthanam wrote a poem in Malayalam in the Lord's glory and wanted the famous Narayana Bhattatiri to read it and offer comments and suggestions. Apparently, Bhattatiri who was the famous sanskrit scholar at that time, the one who wrote the Narayaneeyam, sneered at Poonthanam and said he would not read anything in as lowly a language as Malayalam.

The story goes that, that evening, when Bhattatiri was preparing to recite the Narayaneeyam, a small boy came home to join him. And after reciting the first verse, the small boy pointed out a mistake. Bhattatiri accepted it and moved over to the second verse. The small boy pointed out to two mistakes and three mistakes in the third verse and so on... Soon, Bhattatiri realised that this boy was the Lord Himself and prostrated before HIM. The boy then tells Bhattatiri that the Lord knows no difference between languages and what was more important to HIM was the Devotion.

Bhattatiri is supposed to have then called Poonthanam immediately and heard the poem which was flawless. It is said that this was the Lord's way of kindling humility in Bhattatiri.
This is the poem -

kaNDu kaNDen irikken janangaLE kaNDinennu varuttunadumbhavAn

reNDu nAlum dinam konDuruttanE tanDiletti naDatunnadumbhavAn
mAniDamuvEyil EriyEDa tOLil marappu kETTunnadumbhavAn
krSNa krSNA mukundA janArdhanA krSNa gOvinda nArAyaNa harE

eNNi eNNi kuraiyum idAyittum maNDi maNDi karErunna mOhavum
itta OrOru cindittirukkavE cattu kOvunnu shivs shivs 
krSNa krSNA mukundA janArdhanA krSNa gOvinda nArAyaNa harE 

kUDiyella pirakkum nerattum kUriyella marikkunna nErattum 
madhyE ingaNe kAnunna nErattum mattarikkunna dendinnunAmruta 
krSNa krSNA mukundA janArdhanA krSNa gOvinda nArAyaNa harE 

October 7, 2009

The Phantom of the Opera



Now, we all know that its the longest and most successful of all Broadway shows of all times!!! In 2004, this was made into a movie which I managed to see on DVD very recently... I must say I enjoyed it... there's not much of a great story.. but it nevertheless manages to be gripping, wonder how!! The music is indeed outstanding. Its amazing, with a low budget, unknown actors, the movie is still able to hold the audience... it must be due to the music and gripping story. I recommend all fans of musicals to watch this movie, if you can't see the Broadway show.
I hear a sequel to this is scheduled for release in 2010 and wonder if it will be as interesting to watch.

Norman Borlaug - a Scientist and a Humanist

Recently, I woke up to the news that Prof. Norman Borlaug - the man who saved Indians from starvation had passed away. It is only fitting that as many Indians today know the implications and magnitude of the contribution of Dr. Borlaug. Prof. M.S.Swaminathan recently gave an interview recalling the days of the 'making of the green revolution' in Rediff and I encourage all readers to read this interview

It really pains me when I hear people criticizing the green revolution and blaming it for extensive, consequent use of fertilizers and pesticides in growing these hybrids. Its is so easy to sit back and criticize. Very few realise that we had no food to eat and our then PM, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri called upon the citizens to have only one meal a day!! Such was the dire situation we were in, that, USA had classified us under the 'triage' principle, as a country, that cannot be saved with supply of foodgrains. To those who don't know, we lived a ship-to-mouth existence - when the ship arrived, we had foodgrains, else no food!

It was under such dire straits that the Green Revolution happened in India and our production multiplied dramatically, manifold, and therefore termed as a Revolution.

I would like all right thinking Indians to please read and educate ourselves before we get swayed by activists who only know to propagate 'don't do ecology'... If you notice, they never give solutions, they only criticize and are always against something.

Jai Ho! to Norman Borlaug, Prof Swaminathan and such people who have striven against great odds to help the farmers

Solution to global economic crises?

There was an interesting forward some weeks back that makes sense to share with everybody...

It was August. In a small town on the South Coast of France, holiday season is in full swing, but it is raining so there is not too much business happening. Everyone is heavily in debt. Luckily, a rich Russian tourist arrives in the foyer of the small local hotel. He asks for a room and puts a Euro100 note on the reception counter, takes a key and goes to inspect the room located up the stairs on the third floor. The hotel owner takes the banknote in hurry and rushes to his meat supplier to whom he owes E100. The butcher takes the money and races to his wholesale supplier to pay his debt. The wholesaler rushes to the farmer to pay E100 for pigs he purchased some time ago. The farmer goes quickly to the hotel, as he owed E100 the hotel for using hotel room for some family function in past. At that moment, the rich Russian is coming down to reception and informs the hotel owner that the proposed room is unsatisfactory and takes his E100 back and departs.

There was no profit or income. But everyone no longer has any debt and the small town people look optimistically towards their future. COULD THIS BE THE SOLUTION TO THE Global Financial Crisis?

Surely not... So what is the catch?? There was an intelligent reply to this mail which makes interesting read

Very interesting story – macroeconomists call this story the “Keynesian theory” – the hypothesis that additional money supply will stimulate an economy to come out of recession.

Unfortunately the Russian tourist has gone back. So there will be no one to eat the meat that the hotel owner has bought from the butcher. So he will not buy any more meat from the butcher. So the butcher is not going to buy any more pigs from the wholesaler. And therefore the wholesaler will not buy any more pigs from the farmer. Which means the farmer is not likely to use the hotel rooms for any more family functions. So the gloom continues.

Moral of the story – money supply alone will not help the economy to come out of recession. There has to be a genuine upswing in underlying consumer demand.
 
Do we see a deja vu here?? US is currently pumping in money and flooding the market... so, perhaps it appears as though things are looking up but actually, the gloom continues:( ?? Any comments?

October 5, 2009

Mayan Calendar & Solar flares


From the hits on my blog, I noticed that readers are fascinated by the Mayan Calendar and what holds for us in 2012... So, keeping readers in mind, and also my interests, I write this second post that continues where my original post ends.

More Likely scenarios:
What makes 2012 significant is that it coincides with the alignment of the center of the Milky Way galaxy, our sun, earth, and the large planets. If it was not for this fact, 2012 can be dismissed as just another Y2K hoax. But the astronomy makes it believeable. People say that this cosmic phenomenon could cause such a huge tsunami that could cause the sun to scorch the earth and kill all life forms and take away our protective magentic field unless we have the Divine intervening for us. Scary stuff??

Is it a coincidence that the next peak in the solar cycle is in 2012? The Sun operates on a 11-year cycle, alternating between active and quiet periods. We are currently in a quiet period, with few sunspots on the sun's surface and fewer solar flares, though the next cycle of activity has just barely begun. It is expected to peak around 2012, bringing lots of sunspots, flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs can interact with the Earth's magnetosphere, causing problems for satellites, communications, and power grids!! The next solar peak is expected to be more severe than the previous one in 2001 because when the solar magentic poles shift in 2012, we will see aligned and then anti-aligned fields with the earth's poles, amplifying the effects of the storms as they hit.

So, we can expect lots of action and thrill in 2012!! All amusement parks can shut down. Living on this planet will feel like we are on a roller coaster ride:-)

October 2, 2009

Crocodile Bank

A lot of Conservation efforts have been initiated by the Govt. of India, targeting ecosystems, species, flora and / or fauna etc.. but rarely have our efforts been very fruitful. But one such is the Crocodile Conservation effort that has paid off handsomely and we have been more than successful in breeding crocodiles in captivity. This was a challenge and I must say that the Crocodile Bank in Chennai under the able guidance of Dr. Romulus Whitaker has done an amazing job with different kinds of crocs. So successful have the breeding been with these crocs, that they are over populated and many have been gifted elsewhere and shifted. I recently went to the Croc Bank as a tourist and saw many croc pits full of them... lazying in the Sun and some cooling off in the waters. See some of them here

I was a bit disappointed to see very few snakes... Being such a great herpetologist (Dr. Whitaker), I was hoping to see lots of snakes too:). I guess I must go to the Snake Park for that:)

September 25, 2009

Netflix & a million USD

I read this very interesting article in the New Scientist today. Netflix announced a 1 million USD award to a team of scientists and mathematicians to improve an algorithm to recommend movies to users based on their past preferences. What' more, the algorithm must improve the firm's algorithm by 10%. The team worked with 100 million ratings of 20000 movies given by half a million viewers - now, that's a huge dataset.

And the competition was on since 2006 and it was finally awarded last week!! Such things fascinate me... I wish I had known about this competition:)

Save India!


What ails our country? Why do we eulogise the Gandhis so much? When will we get out of this mindset? If Rahul Gandhi travels by Shatabdi its news, if he stays at a Dalit woman's home in a remote village in UP, its headlines!! Surely everybody knows these to be stunts..., then why do we still glorify these acts?? Isn't it it shameful?

60+ years of Independent India and we are still so dependent on the Gandhis... Its almost as if we would collapse if that family decides to leave India. What's more appalling is that intelligent literate people are also getting taken by these publicity gestures... A politician today is therefore measured by these publicity stunts he is able to pull off, rather than any meaningful contribution to developing India.

I remember I was a kid of ~12 years when I used to see Indira Gandhi wear traditional clothes of the State she would visit and dance with the locals on TV. Everybody loved her, it didn't cut any ice with me then, I saw it as a gimmick. But I didn't expect her grandson to do the same thing 3 decades later... this family is taking our country for a ride. And what's with the media? Will they never grow up? To be fair to Rahul Gandhi, he probably stayed over at this Dalit woman's house as part of his UP tour to understand the problems of the common man but surely the media need not hound him and report his every move in the papers everyday! For God's sake, he is just a MP

September 23, 2009

Secularism anyone??

Some weeks ago, there was a good article in the Times by Gurcharan Das. He had brought out the dilemma that most liberal Hindus face in India. I for one completely related with what he wrote. For the benefit of those who didn't read this column, I encourage you all to read the full column here. Secularism is such a maligned word that nobody wants to be on the wrong side of secularism. But aren't we missing out on being honest with our feelings and actually lead very hypocritic lives? Like Gurcharan Das says in his article, I am completely fine with people following the religion they were born into, and likewise I be given the freedom to choose to live like a Hindu. Things have gone to such an extreme today that sporting a tilak means you are branded as a fanatic or a saffron or a rabid Hindu. If Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Lokmanya Tilak were alive today and entered parliament, they would be called communal:-). Do you see what I mean??
Also, its important in our country for people to read the Mahabharatha / Ramayana instead of only being exposed to Western thinking and philosophy. I really enjoyed the part when he says his desire to read the Mahabharatha was a subject of ridicule at a party - such is today's society.
Apparently, his latest book, "The Difficulty of Being Good: on the Subtle Art of Dharma" is written after his academic holiday in Chicago spent pouring into the Mahabharatha. I will definitely like to read this book. Meanwhile he was interviewed when he was here by The Hindu and you can catch the interview here.
I am glad to see such people stand up and speak and put us liberal Hindus at ease:-)

September 22, 2009

Art fit for only God


Firstly, I am not an Art connoisseur by any stretch of imagination... I can barely appreciate Art that is not Abstract /Modern, though:-). Very surprisingly therefore, with time, we have picked up some lovely paintings for our home. Secondly, I don't enjoy wearing jewellery!! I must be quite in a minority and my husband is very lucky, I must say. However, I love to see the Lord in all grandeur with the finest jewellery that is done through an Art form called Tanjore painting.
I recently got one done of our favourite God and its so beautiful and lovely!! Jewels and gold truly befit the Divine. I really 'wonder' at my interest and love to see the Lord bedecked in the finest jewellery and costume, as I really don't fancy jewellery on humans!

September 19, 2009

Environmental Activism

I have always been exposed to environmental activism as part of my job and I have heard their arguments in meetings and through their articles/posts on the net. And still I was appalled and shocked at their levels of understanding of the very cause they appear to be championing last week when I met one such!! I wonder what spurs them on!! I mean, I really appreciate the genuiness in some and the audacity and ignorance in most. But wouldn't one think that its important to study the subject thoroughly before championing the cause?? But time and again, these activists never make much headway because of the lack of substantiation.

But I must acknowledge that activism does play a positive role in many fields and has brought about some semblance of accountability. But most environmental activists worth the name has still to achieve the kind of credibility that would make policy makers /scientists sit up and take stock of what is being said/ written. My Professor put it very nicely, "the day these so-called ecologists shift from a 'don't do ecology' to a 'do ecology' mindset, that's when they will have succeeded in their job". So true, if you really notice, all they talk about is what not to do, they offer no solutions to the problems and what can be done..

So, why don't they just get their act together?? And what motivates them?? Anybody cares to answer /comment??

September 10, 2009

09/09/09

Well, I know what you guys are thinking, "You too Brutus?" But, hang on, its sometimes nice to do things we usually don't. Let me explain. I just happened to get a call from a Dutch national in Chennai who wanted to celebrate 09/09/09 with a meditation, dedicating to Mother Earth by the beach, with a bonfire:). She arranged for a small portion of the beach to be cleaned up, collected wood, called up her friends and arranged for dinner, post meditation. So, there we were, a few of us, at the appointed time, 9 mins past 9 pm and we did a nice meditation called Aura meditation (mail me for more details) for about 20 minutes, with the sound of waves for company and a nice warm bonfire (not to mention some incense sticks that were thoughtfully lit). And just as we finished and opened our eyes, we had a breathtaking view of the moon rising from the sea!! Needless to say, we were all overjoyed and stayed back for some more time enjoying the lovely breeze and the moon, for company:). Made me realise I could do this more often with my friends:)

September 9, 2009

New insights on Climate Change

So much is being said /written in the media about Climate Change, I am sure we all have read atleast a dozen viewpoints. Climate change and its implications fascinates me and I work on this subject and so its a topic that I read about almost everyday. Yet, a recent article by Prof. Mike Hulme of Norwich, UK, gave me fresh insights to the whole gamut of Climate Change. He very nicely begins his article "Climate change is everywhere. Not only is the physical climate changing, but the idea of climate change is now active across the full range of human endeavours". You can read his full article here - highly recommend that you all read it!
Its really amazing how we, from scientists to laypersons blame everything to Climate Change. Its become the most convenient punching bag and gives us an escape route to explain phenomena that we don't understand:-). Climate changes have been happening right through civilizations but as the article says, what is important is to see how we can get creative in our ways to survive these changes.. Now, as you all know, climate change has far reaching implications - from the way we grow our food, our lifestyle, to other living beings on this planet.
Climate change being a reality, requires some of us to introspect, and study human civilizations of the past, use our creativity to come out with out-of-the-box ideas, rather than the usual run-of-the-mill suggestions. I am going to attempt this seriously!

September 7, 2009

Perception and Reality

The other day we were a motley group of people discussing on how everything is based on perception... "Its all about perception, end of day", declared one.. and he went on to share a joke that had all of us in splits.. here it goes.
There were four men and a woman bragging about how great their child was... how well respected they were in society. The first said, "my son is good, whenever he steps out of home, others address him as Hello father" - he is a priest in the local church. The second man says, "my son is better than that, when he steps out, people address him as Your Excellency or Your Grace" - he is a Bishop. The third said his son was better than the previous two, "when my son steps out, people address him as Your Eminence" - he is a Cardinal. The fourth man thought he had the last laugh and he said his son was obviously the best, "when he steps out, people address him as His Holiness" - he is the Pope. So, all four then turned their attention to the quiet lady with them and asked her if she had nothing to be proud about her children. She said, "well, I have a daughter who is 32-26-32 and when she steps out of home, people say Oh My God".
Howzzat! Isn't it very true that its all about perception indeed!

September 6, 2009

Mayan Calendar, Earth Axis Tilt - A New World order??

Lately, I have been doing some reading and synthesis in my mind.. We all have heard of the Mayan calendar mysteriously ending on 12/12/2012!! If you google these words, you'll hit all kinds of websites - from wiki to blogpages... So, go on and do some esoteric reading!! One site actually reiterates that the mayan calendar doesn't predict the end of the world but rather, signals the beginning of a new order..

Another story that's going around which is very interesting is the tilt our earth axis has, and apparently its currently very unstable and is likely to topple over! The result will be cataclysmic for sure, and what the scenario will be is anybody's guess. Lot of science fiction books and movies are currently underway on this topic. But what was a little spooky was some of the webpages project this to happen in 2012... Now, things are getting a little interesting, isn't it? Apparently, Nostradamus also refers to this year (2012) being catastrophic, oh yes! Nostradamus so very conveniently wrote in a vague manner that we can attribute every event to Nostradamus prophecy - well after the event occurred:-)

Likely Scenarios

Science fiction is very interesting indeed to many of us - some say, the north will become the southpole and vice versa:-). Wow!! So, what happens to the land mass?? Will it follow the same route?? So, will Southern India become Northern India and so will the other countries and continents?? (On the flip side, what happens to our Vaasthu experts;-)).

Another theory says, the earth will start spinning in the opposite direction - clockwise direction!! So, will the Sun rise in the West after all?? Hahaha

Another theory says the toppling of the earth axis will have huge natural disasters like massive earthquakes and major tectonic plate shifts in the Earth and the current oil fields will get relocated to what we call South East Asia of today - apparently, Nostradamus has indicated some such thing too!! Ambani brothers, are you listening?

Wonder what Malthusians will say? "We told you so" :-)

September 3, 2009

From fat to thin - quite effortlessly

An interesting Editorial in the New Scientist last month caught my eye!! The headline was "Time for an ethical weight loss pill". Oh yes, I sure could do with some help and that's the reason I read the article in full:-). Apparently we all have two kinds of fat -brown and white and if we can somehow trick the body and increase the brown fat vis a vis the white, we will become thin!! Sounds great? Read the full article here.
A second article in the latest issue of New Scientist talks of a gastric bypass surgery:-). Yeah, they actually staple the stomach and leave just the size of a walnut, for the food... Apparently, its more successful than we think and many are claiming amazing results from this procedure. While you can read about the article here, I will advise readers to use their discretion before going ahead with such procedures. Maybe, In India, we haven't mastered the art well, as I remember a disaster story of a guy who opted for such a surgery in Tamil Nadu and he died in less than four weeks post surgery.

Nonetheless, it is very interesting and amazing to note that man (woman) is quite desperate - will even go to the extent of tinkering wth his life surgically, but not take the safer course to weightloss through a combination of diet and exercise and discipline....

September 2, 2009

Space

I would like to share with you all something very nice I heard from a friend - a couple of years ago!!
He asked a few of us "What are we paying for when we buy a glass - is it the glass or is it the empty space that the glass can hold"? This set us thinking... Indeed, what profound a question, isn't it? Then he explained that space is precious and priceless... He said, similarly, the more hollow and empty we were, the more priceless we are:-), in the sense, the lesser the thoughts and worries and doubts and conflicts we have in our mind, we become valuable. He then gave a brilliant example that struck me as so true.. He said, look at children who are three or less than three years of age. Don't you feel the divinity when you look at their eyes? When we nodded in affirmation, he explained that it was because their mind was empty (they were truly hollow and empty - like the meditations we do in the Art of Living)!! Brilliant isn't it?

August 22, 2009

Reel views for Real Views!

I am not sure many of you have heard of James Berardinelli. He is one of the acclaimed movie reviewers and is based in the US. I chanced upon one of his reviews of a film and found his reviews very similar to my taste. Since then, I simply swear by his reviews:-). My friends find it most amusing, and wonder how I believe his reviews and not more popular sites like imdb.com or rottentomatoes.com, that the rest of the world goes by.

Coming to think of it, its really funny, I am sure Berardinelli does not even know he has such a die-hard fan in Chennai (how would he?). But I must say his reviews and writing style appeals to me and I agree with his reviews. You see, what is a movie review after all? Its extremely subjective, often, I happen to enjoy films that don't run so well:-). And James thankfully does not review movies for a livelihood. He is apparently an engineer or something and reviewing is a hobby. So here goes the link to my favourite reviewer - check him out and tell me if you agree with me, his website is aptly called Reelviews.

August 21, 2009

The Namesake


I wonder if any of you got to see this movie, the Namesake. I am not going to post the review here. Just thought that I should share that its quintessentially so Bengali! and the Director Mira Nair has done an amazing job! Anybody who has lived in Kolkata will easily relate to this film and it has captured the tiny, small little details of life in that city very well, very subtly -you almost have to watch the film closely to notice them. I was transported to the days when I lived in that city, albeit very briefly. Tabu has done an outstanding job in the film and so has Irrfan Khan. Its these two who bring the movie to life. Although I haven't read the book on which the movie is based, the theme has been attempted before, but I must say that this movie stands heads and shoulders above the rest in the theme of cross cultural experiences and struggles of life of NRIs.

If you notice, Kolkata is a city that polarises people. Either we see die hard Kolkatans praise their city to the moon or its Kolkata hai hai! Its a city of absolute opposites (you have the best high-end appartments jostling for space with those that may crumble with a tremor in Andamans:-), the fastest mode of transport, the Metro vies with hand pulled rickshaws!) and I must say I enjoyed my stay there. Having lived, mind you not visited, all the four metros in India, I can say from experience that this city is completely different and the people living in Kolkata are made of a different psyche and don't conform to the general character you come across in Mumbai, Chennai or Delhi. Its kind of hard to put into words what I am saying but if you stay there for over a month, believe me you will understand how different the people are, out there!!

August 18, 2009

The colour of the WTO rules matters in its pursuit of mice!

Here is a nice article on China & WTO. We have all heard Deng Xiaoping's memorable quote, "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice". He would certainly have to eat these words in the current scenario..

China, as a country has always fascinated me and if you notice, its one of those topics that also polarises people. Either they go ga-ga over the progress and development in China over India, or they are extremely critical of the cost under which development has happenned in China and human rights violations that gets under reported in that country. I have had the fortune of listening to both sides of the argument. While I have not personally visited the country, I tend to agree and believe Dr. Guy Sorman whom I have heard on more than one occasion and on various topics. He is an extremely articulate and insightful economist and gave an excellent talk on How the West views China vis a vis India.. Among many other points he raised, he finally said that personally he was more happy with India's Hindu growth rate than China's, which he called extremely unsustainable. He elaborated with many examples and I will probably post on it, separately. Meanwhile, I just wanted readers to check out this article by D Ravi Kanth.

Manmohan Desai, are you watching:)

There's so much going on between the two brothers for the past few years that public has probably become immune and apathetic by now, like me. But today, I decided to get educated on the latest fracas between them, that is now threatening to spill into public sector company, NTPC. Oh yes, I am talking about Mukesh and Anil Ambani fighting like street children. Oh, there must be a lot of money at stake but is any money worth fighting like this!! I was just discussing this issue over tea this morning and I realised, such tangles and complex legal wrangles may have each side resorting to what they feel is right and this can go on... But its more important and intelligent to resolve issues than take strong, stands. It simply beats me how such simple truth and wisdom can escape such intelligent, sharp, businessmen.
If the two brothers would only sit and close the deal between themselves and get on with their lives... they will end up concentrating on their business and end up making more profits, than, spending all their energies fighting and lobbying with government to arm twist policy in their favour, not to mention the consequence of emotional turmoil within the family.
Very often, its not important who is right and who is wrong, what is important is to resolve the issue through dialogue and get on with our lives... This should be our guiding principle at micro and macro levels. Didn't want to sound preachy but I just realised the importance of conflict resolution over what is right / wrong:). Manmohan Desai would be itching to make a film on these two brothers and, for sure, it will be an all time hit:)

August 16, 2009

Road often travelled:)

Ah yes! We decided to take a short break to Pondicherry this weekend. All my friends were surprised with our decision - what will you do there and haven't you seen all of Pondy by now, having been in Chennai for 10+ years now, its got the same muggy climate as Chennai, etc etc.

I am so glad I didn't listen to any of them!! It was perfect weather - cloudy - almost threatening to rain, but didn't.. We landed late afternoon on the saturday and headed for the beach. We walked about, sat awhile, soaked in the festivities of Independence Day celebrations and it was also The Mother's birthday. We did the usual souvenir shopping to end the evening.

The festive mood caught onto us and we decided to dine in one of the finest restaurants in town - The Promenade. Awesome food and we enjoyed the ambience and the spread. We capped the day by dancing at Risque - the Disco! The next day morning drew us back to the beach for a short walk and some tea at Le Cafe was just what we wanted to round off the morning at the beach.

We had a late breakfast and drove back to Chennai in time for lunch.. A perfect holiday, with no agenda and no places to see - simply chilled and unwound at Pondy. Check out some of the snaps

August 10, 2009

What connects Indians?

This is really a wonder, isn't it? Is it just a line on the map carving out the boundaries? If that's the case, how did we arrive at this boundary? We are such a diverse group of people with more than 600 dialects and so many languages and different cultures... So, what connects Indians? My husband used to always talk about this with great fascination.. He of course, held (or is it holds??:-)) the view that we are all bound by the Hindu way of life and that is what is common among the people, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to Somnath to Shillong. So, he would argue the case for our country to be more appropriately called Hindustan.
I tend to more than agree with him on this point and I was therefore very excited when I heard my Guru say almost the same thing when he was on a temple tour to some of the most important temples in Tamil Nadu last week. HE spoke about the Jyotirlingas spread all over the country and the practice among devout Hindus to go to Kashi and bring the water to Rameshwaram and then again take this back to Kashi. HE said all this was one way of integrating the different regions and practices and HE further said that the practices can be different in the Shiva temple at Kedarnath and Rameshwaram but the essence was the same.
In my mind, this is the last word on the topic:)