Friday, June 27, 2008

Presenting Sanjay Gere...

Canadians have such a great sense of humor. Below is a sketch from a Canadian television show mocking Bollywood.

Simply priceless...

Sam Manekshaw: The Passing Of A Great Soldier

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw is no more. He has died at the ripe old age of 94; at a military hospital in Tamil Nadu. It was he who led Indian forces into Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971: vanquishing the Pakistani army, resulting in the creation of independent Bangladesh. It's safe to say that many Bangladeshis from that era still hold him in high esteem. He retired soon after, capping a four-decade career. Manekshaw was a soldier to his last day, always donning the uniform when making public appearances.

NDTV has a nice news tribute:

He considered himself to be a soldier's soldier. Nevertheless, he was a rather charming and witty fellow, subduing superiors, colleagues and, on occasion, enemies alike with his trademark British mannerisms. India has lost a great soldier. He will be missed but not forgotten.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Reliance FRESH Is Good For India

I don't know what this Frontline article is suppose to accomplish, but if it is to discredit food chain stores like Reliance FRESH, it fails miserably. On the contrary, it has made the case for them. The article presumes farmers are just being exploited by greedy corporations, but farmers seem all to happy selling their produce to Reliance FRESH. Here's why:
Selvamani, a farmer whose family owns 30 acres (one acre is 0.4 hectare) and has been selling both to Reliance and in the auction market at Kozhinjampara, told Frontline: “On an average, we get at least Rs.2 a kg more for every commodity if we give it to Reliance rather than at the wholesale market. At the local market, as elsewhere, we have to pay a 10 per cent commission to agents in addition to the loading and unloading charges. Their weighing machines are almost always inaccurate. This is why a lot of farmers here prefer to sell to Reliance.”
Higher prices! Much more than what the government's Public Distribution System (PDS) will give farmers. Reliance FRESH also offers:
...electronic weighing, on-the-spot cash payment, extension services and, importantly, an assured market for their produce.
What does the government offer? Indifference and lamentation about high food prices; and blaming neo-liberalism as the main culprit seems to be the official preoccupation.

As I see it, the only way to reduce the cost of food, for the short-term, is to keep the cost of production and transportation low. And only efficient, mechanized organizations, combined with economies of scale, can accomplish this: they are mostly agro-businesses and retail chains like Reliance FRESH. And given the soaring cost of food, the Left (as they are the key players in this 'anti-Walt-Martian' drama) seems keen on keeping them high. I guess they hate the poor.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Life Of A Consultant: Sitting On The Bench

After a three-month assignment that ended prematurely, I'm back on the bench. This is the life of a consultant - feast and famine. Hope to get a new assignment soon, but given the weakness of IT spending by companies, I might be on the bench for awhile.

I hate sitting on the bench. For me it's a sign of weakness; a personal failure. I need to work all the time, otherwise I feel useless. In the meantime I'm taking some training to sharpen my skills. But what good will it do me if I can't apply it right away? It's like learning a language, I suppose: use it or lose it.

My malaise is also affecting my blog: I was posting almost every day while on assignment - evidence of my busy brain - but I have since dropped to few posts a week; and on the verge of giving up altogether.

Hope to get back in motion soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A View From Mars #1

Earth and the moon as seen from Mars:

A jarring perspective I never really thought about: how the Earth looks from other planets?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hinduism Will Survive The Love Guru

Hindu groups in the United States are demanding cuts from Mike Myer's The Love Guru, a film that purportedly insults Hinduism and its followers. The Hindu Janjagruti Samiti has written to anyone who will listen. This quote, however, made me scratch my head.
"Poking fun is one thing, but if it creates a sense of belittling one's faith, then it is wrong," it said in a statement.
Where does one draw the line? Where does poking fun end and belittling begin? It's like beauty: it's in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, I doubt Hinduism will fall because of one sophomoric comedy. I think the movie is, in reality, mocking the multi-billion dollar self-help industry which combines Hinduism with a New Age ethos: it's mumbo-jumbo monetized. Personally, the industry deserves a good ribbing.

Another interesting statement:
It said if the trailer was an indicator of its content, millions of Hindus worldwide who hold the guru-disciple relationship as sacred will be offended.
Again another gross overreaction. The guru-disciple relationship was undermined long ago when the word guru entered the English lexicon. Today it is a euphemism for genius, used liberally by anyone to describe anyone with the slightest hint of above average intelligence. No, I am afraid, the word guru went to the dogs long ago.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Irish Say NO!

Theodore Dalrymple is one of my favorite writers, and is a contributor to City Journal, a publication from the Manhattan Institute, where Dalrymple is also a fellow. In this article, Dalrymple talks about Europe’s political elites repeated – and rather forceful – attempts to create a new European super state, often over the wishes of its constituents. Recently, the Irish had rejected a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, which were inimical to Irish interests. Why? Dalrymple writes
Another explanation for the Irish “no” vote was that Irish citizens had been frightened by the proposal of the French finance minister to equalize tax rates throughout Europe, thus destroying unfair competition (all competition is unfair, unless the French win). No prizes for guessing whether the high tax rates of France or the low rates of Ireland would become the new standard. Ireland’s golden goose would find itself well and truly slaughtered in the process.
The Irish know that both France and Germany, by the virtue of their size, would dominate the European Union both economically and politically; and smaller (and richer) states like Ireland would be at their mercy. To make it more equitable, in my view, the European Union, instead of having a unitary system like a single parliament, should adopt a system used by the United States to check the power of its most populous states – bicameralism.

But such a balanced approach is an anathema to Europe’s political elite, who don’t take criticism too well. Bred to rule, they think they are doing God’s work - secularly speaking, of course. Much of the European media parrot what their political leaders say, rarely questioning the wisdom of their decisions or, for that matter, what the common people think.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Random Quote #4

I think I posted this on another blog long ago, which no longer exists, but it describes many second-generation, hyphenated Indians like myself:
India is for me a difficult country. It isn't my home and cannot be my home; and yet I cannot reject it or be indifferent to it; I cannot travel only for the sights. I am at once too close and too far.

--V.S. Naipaul, from his book India: A Wounded Civilization.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Naipaul's Impressions Of India

Currently reading V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness: A Discovery of India, a travelogue of the author’s first trip to India. Even though I have only read the prelude and first chapter, it is a book that is strongly resonating with me: trying to connect with a country that, for a long time, existed only in my imagination.

For any traveler, first impressions are important. In the prelude, Naipaul reounts his maddening ordeal trying to reclaim two bottles of spirits that were confiscated by custom officers on his arrival in Bombay. Naipaul was sent on a wild goose chase through the serpentine Indian bureaucracy: having to obtain this permit and that permit, to talk to this fellow or to that fellow, never getting a straight answer. And he never reclaimed his bottles. Naturally, for Naipaul, it left a bad impression.

As a young child and teenager, I remember the trips I took to India with my family vividly, if not always fondly. Our arrival coincided with my first impressions of India: the stifling humidity, the ramshackle terminal building, surly immigration officers, greedy custom officers; the usual malaise and apathy that afflict third-world, socialist dysfunctions like India. The custom officers, especially, took perverse pleasure in torturing fellow Indians, fleecing them for bribes, threatening them if they did not pay them.

This whole experience tainted my later observations of India, and I think it tainted Naipaul as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bring Your Own Toilet Paper

Cost cutting are reaching ridiculous levels at IT companies in India:
BANGALORE: Tough times ahead for techies in India. Pretty soon, they may have to carry tissue paper to office, for the US recession seems to have entered even the toilets of Indian software firms.

After slashing salary increments and travel budgets, many domestic firms and MNCs are now cutting on routine items like stationery, canteen snacks, even tissue paper. The once abundant stock of toilet paper, sanitary disposal bags and bottles of handwash are drying up now.

"Tissue paper rolls have disappeared from most gents toilets. Women colleagues say their toilets still have them, although the quality has dropped," said a tech professional working for an MNC.

Another professional, Meera Sridhar, said, "Tissue paper is found only in a couple of toilets out of the nine we have. The face tissues completely vanished a fortnight ago."

"Earlier, I would send a security guard to fetch a pen or writing pad from admin. A few days ago, the security man said I must go and get them personally. I went, only to be told the company has put a stop on stationery to cut costs," said Akhil D, a senior professional in an IT MNC.

The recession has entered canteens too. "We used to get free snacks, biscuits, popcorn with coffee or tea or badam milk. That has stopped now, although there's no official word yet," said Rajani Pravin, a young BPO executive. The cuts are being implemented very subtly. "Everybody wants to avoid panic and bad publicity," pointed out Lata Mahoharan, manager (admin), with a leading domestic tech firm.

"We heard that an American airline has cut a celery leaf from every burger it serves on board. Are companies being penny wise and pound foolish, or will they actually save?" wondered a senior manager of a BPO firm.
American airlines giving out food on flights! Where has this guy been? Kidding aside. How much are companies going to save skimping on toilet paper, notepads and pens? Small things, added together, have big impacts. If my company denied us toilet paper - which is just disgusting - notepads and pens, I would not only be demoralized but question my confidence in management and, at the same time, plot my exit strategy.

The 3G iPhone: Not As Cheap As You Think

The new 8 GB 3G iPhone is going to sell for $199. Sweet! I was going to buy one for my wife - who never had a decent phone in her life - when our contract with AT&T expires in November...until I read the fine print that is:
Everywhere you look, a new iPhone price hike turns up. At $199, the phones themselves may be cheaper — but Apple and AT&T, the phone's exclusive carrier in the U.S., are charging users by other means. The iPhone data plan by itself is going up $10 to $30/mo. In a GigaOm interview, AT&T wireless chief Ralph de la Vega reveals that the 200 text messages previously included will cost iPhone users an extra $5/mo. ($20/mo. for unlimited messages, which seem practically obligatory.) And then there's Apple's MobileMe subscription, without which the iPhone's new synching features won't work, at $99 a year, or just over $8 a month. Add it up, and iPhone users will be paying about $43 a month, or $1,038 over the two-year course of the AT&T contract they signed up for — all to get an iPhone at $199.
So to fully maximize the iPhone you have to pay $1,038 for the data plan, text messaging, and synching software; plus $199 for the phone itself. This doesn't include voice, taxes and other assorted fees. That's a pretty hefty phone bill to pay each month.

Slew Of Books On Sub-Prime Mortgages

As is my habit, I browse for the latest in books, DVDs, and music. Books about the sub-prime meltdown are already starting to come out.

Nothing sells books like misery.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Apple Releases 3G iPhone..Like, Whatever

Wow. Apple announces the 3G iPhone. Arguably one of the worst kept secrets in history.

Pakistan Begs For Cheap Oil

It has become tradition for any new leader of Pakistan, elected or unelected, to visit two countries as soon as possible: China and Saudi Arabia. And they often bring a begging bowl with them. Currently, both Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari are in Saudi Arabia to ask the Saudis for cheap oil and, while they are there, to perform umrah.

According to this article, they got it. Saudi will give them cheap oil, to a point. What they extracted from Pakistan in return is anybody’s guess – a good chance it was both Gilani's and Zardari's soul. After they return to Pakistan, Gilani and Zardari will make there way to China, who will lend Pakistan even more money. Since China already owns Pakistan, there is nothing Pakistan can give aside from being China lapdog.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Left Front Suffers In West Bengal Polls

Known to be in bed with the Left Front, Frontline offers a sobering assessment of the Left Front's rather underwhelming performance in recent panchayat elections in West Bengal. Choice quotes:
What possibly stung the Left Front and the CPI(M) the most is the defeats in Nandigram in East Medinipur district and in Singur in Hooghly district. All eyes had been on these two regions, considering the trouble the State government faced both from the opposition and within the Left Front over land acquisition in both places, in Singur for Tata Motors’ small-car project and in Nandigram for a proposed chemical hub.

...The party also realises that it was time for some introspection. Admitting that after 30 years of governance an element of “arrogance” might have crept into the party, Bose told Frontline: “Unfortunately, sometimes our activists, even myself, feel we know best. This has been a good alarm call for all of us – right from Left Front leaders to the cadre – that we cannot afford to be arrogant. There is still much to learn from the people. We have to understand the mood of the masses.”
Arrogance is right. The Left Front was reminded that West Bengal is not China: they cannot just shove industrialization down the throats of people by government fiat alone. Even though the Left controls the government, democratic principles still matter. The rule of law still matter.

If there's one thing that has been abundantly made clear about this election is that the Left Front is vulnerable to organized opposition. The opposition - BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress - combined their resources at the panchayat level to defeat the Left Front.

Friday, June 6, 2008

V.S. Naipaul: A Literary Monster Part 2

More evidence of V.S. Naipaul's unalloyed monstrosity on display:
Naturally, as Naipaul grew older, the bad behaviour grew to crescendos. But there is often a lordliness about it which some, such as I, may find redeems it. Two examples, one minor and one major: the minor – when he was first introduced to Auberon Waugh and was asked, “May I call you Vidia?”. His reply, worthy of Evelyn Waugh himself was: “No, as we’ve just met, I would rather you called me Mr Naipaul”; the second, which would win a prize for bad behaviour, but is also hugely comic, was his inability to inform Margaret, his mistress of long standing, that he had decided to remarry when Pat died of cancer. He sent his tall, mysterious literary agent, “Gillon Aitken to sort out the mess, taking the concept of agency to new lengths”.
I wrote about V.S. Naipaul here. The article condones Naipaul because a writer's life is a hard one. May be so, but this does not mean he has the right to treat people cruelly as he has. I will continue to read him even though I despise him as a human being.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama Wins Nomination.

Not surprisingly, Obama has won the Democratic nomination for president - unofficially. Clinton has yet to concede, but knowing her modus operandi, she's probably angling for VP.

I'm disappointed it has come to this. I consider politics to be a blood sport, the political equivalent of the MMA. So to see the event end so early has cheated me of the enjoyment I so desperately needed: to see Clinton and Obama beat each other into a bloody pulp by convention time. Alas, it is not to be.

On the upside, it's good to know who the contenders are. For me, both McCain and Obama are bitter disappointments. McCain, with his maverick persona long worn off, represents a party that desperately needs to renew itself ideologically. Obama is the feel good candidate, whose lack of experience (and ideas) seems secondary to his natural gift as an orator and schmoozer. For people who are voting with their hearts instead of their brains, Obama is their man. I'm much too cynical to fall for Obama's charisma.

I'm not saying I'm not voting in November. I am. Just not for McCain or Obama.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

need a one-day vacation for me

I haven't watched a DVD - from beginning to end - in so long. Too busy at work, helping the wife around the house, weekend events with friends and family (birthdays, graduations, etc.), and other things that take too much of my time.

I need a day just to myself so I can do what I want to do: watch a DVD, read without being interrupted, write a substantial blog post or two, even an article of publishable quality, or even play some video games.

For me a day off would be the perfect gift.

Monday, June 2, 2008

No Luv For Celtics from ESPN

The Celtics are being disrespected by practically all of ESPN's NBA analysts:

I sure hope these guys are proven wrong. I'll be bleeding Green starting Thursday