April 28, 2010

Interesting insights

I happened to have very interesting conversation with a person from pharma R&D and we got chatting. I casually asked him his views on trials and placebo effect and then on the recent GM technology debate in the country. I asked him what the reasons could be for people to easily accept GM technology derived drugs but not GM crops. He said the difference is with drugs, its the doctors who decide for the patients whereas when it comes to food, the consumers decide. When I asked him about doing chronic toxicity testing over 30 year period as demanded by activists, he said, its not done for any drug and that there would be no new drugs in the market if that had to be done!!!

I knew this all along, just a re-affirmation from a person with 30+ years of experience in the field was reassuring. He also added that MNCs are all the more careful and stringent in their testing because they don't want to close down their operations with a wrong product. Obviously.. makes so much sense to me. I wonder what the problem is, with people:-). He then shared with me how an activist once began her lecture. She apparently said, "Drugs have killed more people than it has saved" !!! Can you make a more untrue statement? When she was asked in private if she really believed her statement, pat came the reply, "a little exaggeration is required to get attention". What is "little" pray??

April 24, 2010

Can we make Common Sense a Priority in New Delhi??

I wonder when our government will wake up to real issues and begin addressing them. These past two weeks, any tourist to India will think we have no real problem in the country and that's the reason we have news channels covering Sania's wedding, Lalit Modi's and Shashi Tharoor's lifestyles and now some phone tapping of leaders from the Opposition.

Well, lets wake up to real issues...I mean every year around April - May, we begin to hear forecasts from IMD on the monsoons in the country and the consequent agriculture scenario. We are all then educated on how we are an agricultural economy and more than 70% Indians do farming and ours is rain fed farming country, bla bla... We are also subjected to many articles on how its not the government's fault for rising food prices or increasing food shortages but its the weather Gods to blame and we then get to hear a series of Climate Change theories... Come on, we are not fools, you know...

Its common knowledge that one of the main problems plaguing India, in food insecurity, is lack of adequate storage of grains. We live in a paradox... our farmers toil, produce grains, these are bought at pathetic rates by the GOI and stored in apalling conditions - to rot. We have overflowing godowns and at the same time ~300 million people go to bed hungry, due to lack of purchasing power and inefficient PDS. Such is the paradox we live in... Little effort is spent on improving the conditions of FCI godowns.

Every year, fresh harvest of grains are stored over the unused, rotten / rotting grains... And when the grains need to be distributed, the ones on top (fresh harvest) is taken out!! What beautiful planning I must say! An average Indian blood will boil at the inefficient / indifferent / callous manner in which the grains are stored and distributed across the country. Being an eternal optimist, each year, I hope for the best and for good sense to prevail. So far, I have only been disappointed. This year seems no different - I just read the news that some godowns in Ludhiama are being used to store cartons of liquor and the open spaces in the godown houses the grains!! You ask why?? Well, its because they have let out the space on rent to the private parties:). Fantastic set of priorities, don't you think?

Our wheat crop has just been harvested and we are told its a bumper crop this year. Unfortunately, we still need to feel sad, rather than cheer our farmers and scientists.

April 22, 2010

Unintended Spinoffs from IPL

Like many Indians, the number of hours I spend watching the IPL matches this past month is more than what I would do in two years put together!!! So, naturally, there are some unexpected upsides for me... some of the advertisements are very creative and brilliant. I am not sure if they will make me buy the product but they do make me laugh and entertain while they last:-). The recent series of DOCOMO campaigns are lovely... my particular favourite is the interview... the interviewee is made to look like a total timepass youth and has typical answers of this generation. To as many as five important questions, his answers are in the negative... but he is hired!! Check this out

The Zoozoos from Vodafone are simply brilliant! My favourites are the ones on 'call filter', 'job alerts', 'train schedules'.. Those  of you who are not in India can catch them on the links here.

I am not sure if I will miss the cricket after 25th April, but will surely miss the commercial breaks and strategic time outs:-). Hey, I ain't part of betting mafia, just plain cricket buff;-)... (heard that commercial breaks these days have an all together new dimension:-))

April 21, 2010

To Ban or To not Ban!

In the background of the recent IPL scam, I think certain things are part of our social culture, for good or bad. One of them is gambling. I think, Indians, by nature, get a kick out of gambling. Knowing this, our government banned this and Casinos are not allowed to operate in Indian territory. One of the reasons for Nepal's popularity for Indian tourists is to head out to the Casino there:-)

In our attempt to play the moral police and ban gambling, our countrymen have devised ingenious ways to beat the ban. Gambling or placing bets in cricket, any sport, elections etc. continues to flourish - all under cover, though. When we get wind of it, like in IPL now, all hell breaks loose, the self righteous indignations apart, the whole country is shocked and in this case, cricket affectionados are terribly upset.

I wonder if we do allow Casinos to run in our country, would it bring down scams? Since there will be an outlet for those with gambling instincts, I think its possible that such unsavoury elements may not exist. I think by curbing or banning Casinos, we have not reformed society in any way, rather, we have suppressed certain qualities that get expressed in some other way.

This is all hypothetical, one can argue and I agree with them. This will open up the discussion on other issues that are banned, for eg., indulging  / trading in narcotics. Will lifting the ban be a boon or bane to India? I am not so sure:-). Its a tough call for policy makers I guess...

April 19, 2010

A void

Most of us may have heard of the Management Guru, C K Prahalad. He was one of my only favourites in the area of Management. With due respect to the rest, most played within their crease, in cricketing parlance (I sure am watching too much cricket:)), CKP always came up with theories that related to all spheres and sectors and was very fundamental and yet very original, in nature.

After he came up with his theories on Core Competence and Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, these past months he had been dwelling on sustainability that overrides all theories. I remember reading up his interview a few months ago in the Economic Times and doing a post.. Ah, here it is for those who missed it...

I wish he had given this theory more shape and direction. We are certainly poorer today as we don't have him around, to give us the vision that he had. I really think India has lost a mentor in him and it will be hard to fill the void. Hopefully, we live his ideas and vision and do justice to his contributions.

April 17, 2010

Popcorn Magic

There are always some movies that we missed watching for various reasons and one of them for me was the Gods must be Crazy. I had heard a lot about the movie and I had high expectations and I managed to finally get the DVD home (one of the rare times, I got to accompany hubby to the library) and settle down with some popcorn and peanuts. The IPL match yesterday was not to my interest and decided to skip it.

Its a nice movie taken from the perspective of the Bushmen of Africa. So, its quite entertaining mostly, except in some parts where it becomes a little too tacky. Its quite a short movie and easily gives us a lot of insights about the way we live from a bushman perspective... Made me realise how innocent their lives are and ours is so complicated... Quite cute and endearing the bushman becomes by the end of the movie..

And yes, ActII popcorn is delicious, don't ask me if its GM or not, I don't mind it.

April 16, 2010

Whose IPL is it anyway...

There is so much action 'off the pitch' with regards to the IPL this season, viewers have the luxury to opt for the most entertaining:).. This is actually a good thing - having so much choice. Personally, I am quite bored of the sub standard reporting in news channels and none of the other channels showing movies or soaps interest me. So, offlate I am glued to Sony Set Max every evening and this past week, have been switching back and forth, with news channels covering the Modi -Tharoor - Modi - Sunanda Pushkar drama.

Its really amazing how much muck there is for each one of them to hide!! Actually IPL has gone beyond a game of cricket, to an entertainment extravaganza, more on the lines of WWF shows that used to be a rage among boys few years back. It appears so stage managed, there is glitz and glamour and bollywood and now underworld nexus, not to mention the ubiquitous politicians... What more can one ask for!!

I happened to be chatting with somebody who very casually mentioned that everything is fixed and is done very discreetly. When I suggested that viewers may wane after a point, he said nonchalantly that viewers come to watch the game much like they go out for a movie.. they get their money's worth!! He may well have a point there but there is a big difference. Movies don't have any pretensions of doing anything for the sake and honour of any region /country etc.. they simply attempt at entertainment. But in cricket, IPL etc., there is this added 'playing for honour' that gives it another dimension and kindles some patriotic fervour... this may take some beating as people don't take kindly to being cheated..

My take of IPL 3 so far, has been pretty entertaining although some matches do seem to have very strange happenings and endings.. Be that as it may, IPL 3 can be hailed as quite successful. But the last week of the season is  marred with controversies and scams that may see some dipping in TRP ratings as we approach the grand finale of the IPL season.

April 12, 2010

Interesting fight

Its very curious to read about two regulators that under the same finance ministry, slug it out in the open! It must be most embarassing for the Minister or am I being very naive? Embarassments apart, the issue itself is very interesting. I think ULIPs appears to step on the SEBI's domain whilst being under the IRDA purview. So, the friction.. But the news reporting is very funny. They end by saying the government must intervene! But the two regulators are under the same Ministry and are part of the Government machinary already. Imagine the plight of confused investors!

If this is the case when its confined to the same ministry, imagine the ego trip when two or more ministries involved! Very often the issue takes a backseat and it becomes a ego issue of who is more powerful and whose muscles are stronger, be it among the Babus in the respective Ministries or the Ministers themselves. Sometimes, I wonder how any decision ever sees the light the day even if it does have the blessings of either the bureaucrats or the minsiters. I do think this British legacy we seem to have inherited has more minuses than pluses.

April 7, 2010

Awesome food joints in Chennai

'Been in this city for ten odd years now!! Seems a very long time, indeed:-). Being a strict vegetarian I will give my two bit on some vegetarian restaurants in town that I've been to. For the best South Indian food, one can safely head to Saravana Bhavan or Dakshin at Park Sheraton, depending on budget:-). Really delicious stuff there. For good North Indian /South Indian combo options, Copper Point at GRT Grand Days, T. Nagar is lovely. For an amazing dining experience with outstanding food, head to Annalakshmi, Mount Road. They have some of the most common dishes cooked and served exquisitely. For some good tasty North Indian food, my favourite is Copper Chimney.

For a healthy, yet tasty food, head to Sanjeevani in Adyar or Anna Nagar. I enjoy their Rajakeeyam thali at lunch - so elaborate and grand but so easy on the stomach.

For some nice Chinese food, Wang's kitchen will not disappoint. I particularly like their dessert - fried ice cream:-). And a fine vegetarian restaurant very near home is Cream Centre. Its got quite a huge spread from Indian to Continental to Mexican and Lebanese... and their thali is elaborate too!! Available only on weekdays one should ideally skip breakfast to do justice to the food. For a regular, standard buffet spread, I find the spread at The Park & the Raintree very good and yummy.

For great sandwiches, Coffee World and Subway are good. And the best pizzas are from Smokin' Joes. For chaats, its Shree Mithai or Gangotree.

For the best desserts, head to Mocha and chocoholics have plenty to choose from. I guess I have covered most categories of veggie food. Go ahead and indulge and do add to the list!

April 6, 2010

Bollywood shows the way for Hollywood?

I happened to watch a movie, The Proposal, last night. It was billed as a romantic comedy and I thought it might be good fun. It was alright, but I got the feeling that I was watching a typical Hindi masala film! While its good timepass, I was clearly expecting more from a romantic comedy. I realised I was under the wrong impression - that many Hindi movies are Hollywood remakes, or, atleast inspired by Hollywood hits!! Clearly, I am mistaken.. Reminds me of a discussion I had with friends some time back, who are ardent movie buffs of film festivals of Korea, France etc.. They enlightened me about how Hollywood copies movies made by French /Korean cinema and how awesome the original movies were!!

The bottomline is what we've known all along... that USA is very good in marketing whatever they do, originals or otherwise.. movies or machines or printers (recently I was exposed to a funda that Canon printers are 'value for money' but HP is the market leader and they don't even make them - they buy the Canon printers and simply market them:-)) All of us have a lot to learn from US.

The Great Indian (?) Summer Wedding

I wonder what interests us when we watch news or read the morning papers - do our politicians interest us?? I can hear a big No inside my head. Well, the Sports Page is probably the best part of the morning paper. Its definitely more pleasant to read about which team won and how and stellar performances from sportspersons - in any sport. I would rather read this than about politicians attempting reform, or road accidents, burglaries, and other city blues... The other entertaining page is the TOI page called "Times Trends". They have the funniest and vaguest research findings that will put the authors of Freakonomics to shame:-). If you haven't read this book yet, please do.

This week has been weird, though.. The front page, middle page and sports pages all have the same topic. Sania to wed Shoaib. So, what's the big deal? Sania has had a very indifferent Sports career for more than a year now, she is more famous for her off court appearances than on court. Infact if you have been reading the Sports pages, its always - "Sania crashes out of this -------- tournament" !! So much so, my friend remarked if she is doing some crash course:-). And Shoaib is a tainted cricketer from Pakistan and faces a one year ban from playing cricket for his country. So, he probably thinks he has some free time to start a family! So be it.

But here comes the spoiler... Ayesha Siddiqui claims to be Shoaib's wife and wants a official / formal divorce before he marries Sania. That's how it has found its way in every page of the paper... there is Crime, Cheating, Dowry harrassment, Police, Pakistan, Cricket and Tennis - oh what a heady mix!! I don't see what the issue is - I mean its something that happens in many families and its a personal affair.

Alright they are some kind of wannabe celebrities but big deal!! I think the media ought to leave them alone to sort out their family mess and do what's best for them. We can get back to watching IPL and Formula One and Soccer and Twenty20 World Cup please.

But while I am blogging about them, I feel sorry for Sania - she comes out as the dumbest in this issue!

April 5, 2010

Who doesn't love Limelight?

Our Central Ministers not only love the limelight but want overdoses of it each day:-). Particularly a couple of them... Every day, they come out with bombastic ideas that are anything from practical and implementable. I mean, if all it took was ideas, to rate a Minisiter, and not its implementation, >50% of the population are eligible and competent to become Minsiters!! See what I mean??

One of them goes into a function that doesn't have an Aircon and suddenly discovers India had archaic, barbaric laws!! Wonder if the thought would have occurred to him in a room with Aircon:-). He goes on to make headlines each day with the amazing assumption that he knows everything about everything!! He even makes a unwarranted statement that we must measure his Ministry's performance based on the number of Rejections!! I find him comical.. Political satirists and cartoonists are having a field day:-). How would we like it if the Visa Officer from US Consulate asks us to judge him on the number of applicants rejected!! Will we like to hear that??

And we have another who wants to transform education and the social fabric of India overnight. I was watching a debate or was it a discussion (how does one describe The Big Fight on NDTV?)... He was summarily dismissive of every question posed... If he has answered all questions and taken care of all challenges with the RTE Act, then why do academicians and education professionals have issues with the Act? Has he ever wondered?? Some weeks ago, he announced that Deemed Univs will be closed and  then he had to go slow and has almost retracted..

What's with these people?? Are they competing amongst themselves to see who is the more comical in the cabinet

April 1, 2010

Bollywood to CSK's rescue:-)

This IPL, as always, I am rooting for the home team - CSK. Its a great team and capable of coming out as a winner in IPL-3:-):-). Diehard optimist, ain't I? Having said that, we need an ample dose of self-confidence and discipline, particularly in fielding and bowling. Most of the matches we lost so far have been, by frittering away our chances, after being in commanding postions. We don't seem to be able to close out a match inspite of having great starts.

And I heard this conversation at Chepauk Pavilion yesterday....

Mr.X: All is not lost yet, the team needs to watch "My name is Khan" together, and sing Hum Honge Kaamyaab as a chorus, to reach the semis..
Mr Y: And then watch "The 3 idiots" as a team and say "Aal eez well!"

And who knows, we may become the IPL 3.0 champions!! Only, due credit will be the order of the day, to SRK, Aamir and team:-)