Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Thursday, December 27, 2007


a rather new indecent intruder to decent spoken english is this 'kind-of-a-thing'.
probably our own version of a thingummy.

commonly used adjacent to nouns like:
  1. i am standing next to this guy kind-of-a-thing.
  2. what is this bracelet kind-of-a-thing?
  3. he looks like musharraf kind-of-a-thing
but i hear it these days even without reference to 'things' or with reference to 'non-things'.
  1. we shall meet at 4 o'clock kind-of-a-thing
  2. what is this red kind-of-a-thing
  3. let's watch Discovery kind-of-a-thing
this drop in speaking abilities is a little bewildering kind-of-a-thing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

3rd anniversary

dec 26 2004 was a deadly day in the indian ocean.
with a 9.1-9.3 magnitude undersea earthquake striking somewhere west of sumatra - indonesia, a tsunami of unseen/unheard proportions was unleashed.
the devastation was mind-numbing.

the earthquake was so powerful that it moved the faultline by 10 meters horizontally and around 4-5 meters vertically. it has also marginally altered the earth's rotation, raised and lowered certain coastal areas, redrawn a few maps, etc.

3 years have passed. seems like much longer.
spent a lot of time in 2005 with tsunami related work.
spent a lot of time looking at the sea with fear and trepidation.
spent a lot of time marvelling at the human spirit.
spent a lot of time trying to understand the donor mindset.
spent a lot of time analysing the event.

not any more.
other disasters have come and gone and the mind has moved onto other matters.
while writing this, i just decided to try to throw away my disaster-fatigue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

donate rice and improve vocabulary

a win-win combination is on at FreeRice.

20 grains per word is seemingly insignificant, but trust me, it is not.
roughly 20 grains = 2-5 grams, which means 1 kg = 1000 gms = 4000-10000 grains = 200-500 words correct.

it says that the advertisers are paying with their banners at the bottom, but i don't recall even glancing at even a single one.
it is always fun to rip-off dumb marketeers.

do use if you want. it is not a contest :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

the physics of sneezing

i had a bad cold just days before the marriage.
bad sneezing attack.
with a sore back, each sneeze feels like a thor tandav (TT) down the spine.

after 2 days of TT, i was reeling with a rickety back with a mega sit down event to follow.

desperate times.
called for desperate measures, i had to resort to fluid dynamics (not the inebriating variety) for solace.

for simple fluid flow, Area x Velocity = constant (those who have used garden hoses will easily understand this equation).
so instead of the classic thin mouth opening stance, i adopted the wide cough stance. with instantaneous results.
as the velocity of the expunging air diminished dramatically, the resultant reaction (newton's third law) force diminished proportionally and hence converting from TT to throwball (sorry, could not resist).

mind you, it is not a visual/aural delight to be in proximity to anyone who adopts this new stance, but the adopter is awash with relief aplenty , aha...

wedding and all

1. dec 5 was the date.
2. simplicity was the planned theme.

well - one of the above was achieved.

landed into chennai on dec 2 and was immediately pulled into a series of mini events and rituals.

dec 2 - samaradhanai (Venkatachalapathi, the Lord of the Seven Hills and his spouse Alermael Manga Thayar are worshipped so that the couple are blessed with a prosperous life)

dec 3 - sumangali prarthanai (This pooja is done to invoke the blessings of the departed Sumangalis (married ladies). The pooja is done for the Mangalya aka Mangalsutra, which is to be tied around the neck of the bride. Sumangalis are invited for a feast and offered gifts. The sari used for the pooja is to be gifted to one of the Sumangalis)

dec 4 - vratham (The marriage ceremonies begin with the Vratham (fast) performed separately by the bride and the groom. The Kappu or the holy thread soaked in turmeric colour is tied on to the bride's wrist to ward off all evil spirits. The groom begins the Vratham with prayers involving Indra, Soma, Chandra and Agni. From thereon, the groom prepares himself for a new chapter in his life as a householder or Grihastha. The days of his bachelorhood or brahmacharya are now over and the acceptance of this is the essence of Vratham)

dec 4 - naandi pooja (Naandi is done to obtain the blessings of the Pithrus aka ancestors for a long and prosperous life, free of diseases and ailments and to ensure that the children get good food and education and lead a healthy life)

dec 4 - paalikai (In this fertility rite, Paalikais or earthen pots with grass and betel leaves at the base are prepared. Nine kinds of pre-soaked cereals called Vilvam are ceremonially sown in these pots by Sumangalis. After the marriage, the sprouted seedlings are released in a river or pool. This ritual is done to bless the couple with progeny and a healthy life)

dec 4 evening - nichyathartham (At the marriage hall, the bride's father and the bridegroom's father face each other and solemnise the betrothal ceremony, in the presence of bride, groom, friends, relatives and guests)

(all above definitions from

dec 5 - the big daddy day. tons of stuff got done that day right from 7 am to 12 noon.
see here for details and explanations.

end notes:
1. we managed to limit the plastic usage in the catering to 2 cups for kheer. but instead paper cups were used. we ideally wanted to limit all disposable items.
2. the food was excellent and like every other marriage, just too much and too rich. there was enough space to cut down the spread and still keep the excellence. one of my mamas said that - "the variety is there so that everyone can choose their favourite items and hence everyone can be satisfied". my take is that - it is not possible to satisfy everyone, so just do what you feel strongly about and that is that.
3. we got to limit the jewellery to near zero and clothes to just enough levels.
4. we got rid of the official video shooting, which was such a relief.
5. overall, it was fun and we thoroughly enjoyed majority of the time and were certain that the friends and families too had a blast.

to achieve point 2 mentioned at the start of the post would have involved more hands-on work during entire november with both families and the contractors.

we are back into regular mode.
dec 2nd-5th are now pleasant memories which will be with us forever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

wilderness camp

so we went to a wilderness camp called jungle lodges and resorts. a series of high quality tourist destinations in karnataka.
spent 3 days in K Gudi wilderness camp.

saw tons of birds and animals.
an experience in being in the middle of pure wild nature - raw, silent, powerful, thought-provoking.

highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

wedding bells are ringing

in 3 weeks, the bells will toll at my wedding.

the family circus has already moved into place with full scale 'dress' rehearsals.

many people are asking the standard question - 'aren't you excited?'
i say, 'well...i am not excited, but happy, content and looking forward.'

is it like a 'hey, how are you doing?' question? no answer is expected!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

back into bombay bustle

returned to the city as well as work and as expected, am swamped like before, like i never left :-)

as work expands, the time for extended analysis and wisdom shrink and with that the frequency of posting too suffers.

to return to tons of inspiration and motivation is definitely a tonic from the endless mayhem and monstrosity of media reporting that i have been immersed in.

Monday, October 29, 2007

sporting heroes

post 1982 Asian games in Delhi, the sporting scene exploded in India - coinciding with the induction of colour television and live telecasts.

the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics cemented this with the heroics of carl lewis and pt usha. and this was the olympics which saw the emergence of china into the world sports scene. and how they exploded. and one man - Li Ning in gymnastics was outstanding (lots of jokes like, "i am not standing, i am leaning" made the rounds).

as a goggle eyed teen, i was completely mesmerised.

the match which is etched in my memory is the 1987 world table tennis championship finals in Delhi. here it is on youtube.
jiang jialiang vs jan ove-waldner. jiang won - wildly cheered by me.

in that period, other than the usual suspects - McEnroe, Becker, Platini, Maradona and of course the Indian cricket team which won the 1983 world cup and 1985 B&H championships - here are my heroes:

Table Tennis (other the the 2 above)
Lui Guoliang (China) - of the unplayable serve
Kong Linghui (China) - he also beat waldner like JJ, but 13 years later.

Yang Yang (China)- the master
Zhao Jianhua (China) - see his sublime play
Liem Swie King (Indonesia) - the only non-Chinese
Han Jian (China)- the precursor to YY and ZJ
Joo Bong Park and Moon Soo Kim (South Korea)- the doubles legends

Vitaly Scherbo (Russia) - 1992 Olympics was all his
Shushunova, Silivas and Boginskaya - Russia, Romania and Russia - what a competition at the 1988 Seoul Olympics

Michael Gross (W Germany)- The Albatross
Matt Biondi (USA) - 7 medal winner at 1988 Seoul is now a teacher
Greg Louganis (USA) - diver exemplary

including the chinese, i remembered all their names (except silivas) and their accomplishments (not entire career, of course). the late 90s and this decade is not as resplendent in my memory.
those were the days.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

how da gowda ?

there is turmoil in the country now:
1. tehelka sting expose
2. naxalites on the killing prowl
3. the mega ego impasse over the nuclear deal.

plus sethusamudram row, SEZ land grab agitations, etc.

but the hilarious-est drama is unfolding in karnatka - it is called kya natak.
and it is helmed by the supple-est person for his age - dive howda - who heads the janitor dal mein kaala party.
supported ably by his son come-whore-sway-me and bed-your-appa

a. CWYM goes behind his father DH in 2006 and combines with BYA to form the government with a promise to drive halfway and hand over the wheels to BYA.

b. close to halfway, CWSM and DH (from back seat) scheme to eject BYA and continue driving. BYA and his bosses (wink-eye nerdu and raj-cant sing) throw an apoplectic fit and stall the car.

c. choice words are exchanged - DH+CWSM (here) against BYA+WEN+RCS (here and here)

d. with so much animosity and acrimony, royal divorce proceedings were initiated.

e. when the country was entranced by the tehelka sting, CWSM and BYA secrete away to resurrect the marriage; 'an-IIM-city' to be exploited and 'a-Cr-money' to be made.

f. in all this mandi-giri (marketing/trading), the pop-beta duo have kept the other MLAs in the dark. this man Prakash (not very bright though) had been sold a dummy.

when one thinks that politicos have plumbed new depths an have hit rock bottom, they show their stamina and that they were all born with silver spades.

update: the affronted frothing-at-nostrils prakash has worried CWSM. the latter has doggie-packed MLAs away to a resort - may be the same he and BYA conjoined.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

when fools thrive

or when editors are asleep, we get headlines like this:

'Early detection of cancer can save your life' - from rediff

when perspective comes

it is now almost 2 months of 'inaction' in my life.
2 months of 'house arrest'.
2 months of 'distance management'
2 months away from 'the people'.

- the nerves are slowly fraying
- the muscles are itching
- the mind is straining at the leash

and perspective happens - i read about aung san suu kyi and her efforts in myanmar's recent turmoil.
Aung San Suu Kyi – under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years – met for a little more than an hour with a Myanmar junta official
- no recourse to freedom
- no recourse to family
- no recourse to law

but the fight should not and has not waned, has not paused.

ah - when perspective comes...

Friday, October 26, 2007


the bse sensex is a short form of 'sensitive index'.

sensitive, my foot - says sainath in this typically scathing, sarcastic op-ed in the hindu today 26 oct 07. this is in synchrony with his earlier connection of the post-tsunami reaction in the stock markets.
The day the Sensex crossed 19,000, India clocked in 94th in the Global Hunger Index — behind Ethiopia...That’s out of 118 countries...Pakistan ranks ahead of us, too, at 88. China logs in at 47. All our South Asian neighbours do better than us on this index, except Bangladesh.
and here the classic sainath 'sarcatwistic'
None of the countries boasts an economy growing at 9 per cent a year.
and when the mega sensex fall happened and froze trading for an hour
It took minutes for the top guns to swing into action. Fingers were in every dyke. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram lost no time in reassuring worried investors via the media...What stood out, of course, was the swiftness of both government and media response to each twitch in the index.
No Minister came forward to calm the nation when India hit the 94th rank in the Global Hunger Index...You’d think it was an issue worth some attention. But it was hard to find panels debating this on television. Or any editorials in the newspapers doing the same. No Ministers or top babus soothing the nerves of the hungry.
and we top other dubious lists with aplomb
The United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation in ... Its State of Food Insecurity in the World report confirmed yet again that we have the largest number of undernourished people in the globe.
The 2004 edition of the report had shown that India had added more people to the “newly hungry” in the planet than the rest of the world together. ...Between the years 1995-97 and 2000-02, hunger grew in India at a time when it fell in Ethiopia.
Some 536,000 women died in childbirth in 2005. Of these, every fifth one of them, at least, was an Indian. That is, 117,000 of them.
and why do things look likely to worsen
Health costs still mount. They push people into debt even faster than before. A study done for the WHO in six Indian States found that 16 per cent of households it looked at were pushed below the poverty line by heavy medical costs.
Our answer to this has been: more of the same. More privatisation. Less and less of a public health system.

and he comes down heavily on his family of media-folks
In the world of the media, though, only one index matters: the Sensex. Watching which has spawned a whole little industry in itself. The numbers who pronounce on and debate it (in the media, anyway) are impressive. The oracles reading equity’s entrails for omens.
note to readers
reading sainath could be disheartening. the viruses of cynicism and apathy claw away at hope and aspirations.
- recall the battle he and his ilk face just getting these messages into mainstream.
- recall the immense personal strength and emotional courage to do this day in and day out.
- recall that these messages are there to shake the rust
- recall that these are just minor skirmishes being lost, the battles/wars are there to be won
- recall that 'we can help'

tehelka - sting - gujarat 2002

it is certainly the mother of all stings.
tehleka, aaj tak and headlines today bringing out the most gruesome confessions on live tv.
here is the total coverage.
since it is a lot, i would recommend reading in this order:
1. ashish khetan - the reporter who did the undercover job.
2. the editor's note - harinder baweja
3. the sequence - from the train burning onwards
4. the ahemdabad carnage - naroda patiya
5. the role of the police.

if you still have the patience and energy, read the transcripts of babu bajrangi, anil patel, and much more.

this expose is just blazing up the wires. since 12 hours, the vitriol, acid and all corrosive elements are on full flow.

some issues i have:
1. tehelka is extreme reporting and assumes culpability - which biases reporting
2. follow up stamina - they did the stings on defence deals and bangaru laxman which led up to nothing.
3. timing - with the gujarat polls coming upon in a month, mud-slinging, congress bankrolling are accusations to be battled.
4. could it polarise the communities further? some thinks this expose could make modi hand stronger.

whatever, it is great investigative journalism - the motives be damned - and a ray of hope for justice for the victims of 2002 gujarat.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

judgement day

1. judge V B Rai of the dehdradun special court - delivered the murderers of madhumita to life in jail. influential politician and his goons bite the dust. the details are here.

2. judge K Uthirapathy of the coimbatore special court - delivers the coimbatore bomb blasters to multiple life sentences. read a report from 1998. just after the blasts.

Judge Vinod Kumar of the patiala court - delivers corrupts cops who killed innocent businessmen in fake encounter to life in jail. the story unravels here.

judge S M Haseeb of the kanpur court - delivers murderous rioters (post 1992 babri masjid demolition) to life in jail. after 15 long years, someone is paying the price of the religious megalomania unleashed.

all in one report from the telegraph highlighting the sudden 'judicial assertiveness' of our lower courts.

the timing is interesting and irrelevant at once.
all these judges have ensured that there is still hope for the 'meek'.

all these cases are likely to go to appeal to the higher courts and one may even see these verdicts being reversed. but thats another story and another post.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

recommended sites - 1

in the series frenzy which i initiated here on heroes, i missed out an earlier series i had started and which by no means is over, 'where our taxes go' - post 1 and post 2.

this is the the third and the interim-last in the series of series - recommended blogs from topics i write about.
this is likely to be a selective, 'once-a-month' series.

here we start with - the most well read environmental blog - treehugger.
looks like catering to the masses and hence have a non-extreme philosophy.

1. see their 'how to green your...'. very readable.
2. section for teachers and educators.
3. the blog itself on the main page is interesting.

there are of course, the regular videos by the ton and forums by the millions.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

forest fires - nature's response

almost like a vengeful slap in the face of humanity for screwing with her sisters in brazil and amazonian countries, the californian forests have conflagarated. sending the human rats scurrying away - scalded and scared.
san diego has been torched and here are 'scaldalous' photos.
"This is a tragic day for San Diego County and for California," Schwarzenegger said. "As you know, 250,000 people have been evacuated."
At least 13 fires, whipped by dry, gale-force Santa Ana winds blowing unchecked over the lower half of the state, torching 200,000 acres (81,000 hectares), killing one person and injuring more than 30 others.
nature is unfair. just like life.

wheat wash

the public distribution system (PDS aka ration shops) is under severe scrutiny.

in bengal, people are going hammer and sickle against the system.

in maharashtra (as perhaps in most other states), the wheat import scandal is hitting people below the belt.
NDTV says that majority of the imported australian wheat is rotten.
Almost all the wheat in Malkapur, 80% of the 420 tonnes is imported and full of worms, evidence of the raging national storm over the government's decision to import wheat to buffer our stocks.
NDTV also says that the import price (of 5 lakh tons) is much higher
The import price was Rs 16,000 per tonne while Indian farmers are paid Rs 8,500 a tonne. And even worse, the Centre scrapped a cheaper import deal in May and later struck deals, which cost at least 25 per cent more.
in times of record food production as claimed by the government, to import such large quantities stinks. the Food and Agriculture Organisation statistics for india till 2000 shows a trend which could explain this dichotomy. (we imported only 4000 tons in 2000)
a. wheat production has shown tremendous growth corresponding to a steep fall in imports and steep rise in exports. of course, in the last few years, the growth has been more marginal.
b. export good quality and import poor quality - super recipe for corruption and deprivation of the poor.

even assuming a excess price Rs 5000 per tonne, it works out to Rs 250 crores of public money into someone's pocket. if this is a mind boggling amount, then check this one out from TOI.
In the last three years, Rs 31,585.98 crore worth of wheat and rice meant for the poorest of the poor was siphoned off from the public distribution system.
The North-East is in a class of its own.... Arunachal Pradesh can claim to be a little less corrupt as 96.2% of its PDS wheat gets diverted. Manipur takes the cake as 97.7% of its rice allocation is also siphoned off with Nagaland following close behind at 88.6% of rice being diverted.
ok, ok...can't trust TOI.

so i checked the CAG site and read the civil audit for arunachal pradesh in 2006 - chapter 3 is the performance review, from where i am giving selected audit findings:
As per the information furnished by the Director, Civil Supplies Department, 1,04,845.40 MT of foodgrains were required during the year 2001-02 for distribution to APL/BPL families ... at an average monthly requirement of foodgrains of 8,737.10 MT. But it was seen from the monthly progress report of PDS for the month of August 2001 ... by the Director of Civil Supplies to the State Government for its onward transmission to the GOI that 1,04,716.732 MT foodgrains were shown as distributed ... during the month of August 2001 alone out of 1,45,863.914 MT of foodgrains shown as distributed during the whole year 2001-02. Thus, the exhibition of monthly distribution of foodgrains 1,04,716.732 MT (August 2001) in the State seems fictitious and doubtful.
that the amount released by the FCI to the State Government for making payment to the contractors against re-imbursement of Hill Transport Subsidy increased from Rs.4.30 per kg (2000-01) to Rs.32.78 per kg (2003-04).
Scrutiny of records of the DSO, Lower Subansiri district revealed that four FPS (Fair Price Shop) dealers had lifted 471.39 qunitals .... for distribution to 1866 beneficiaries (1512 BPL - Below Poverty Line, 289 AAY-Antyodaya Anna Yojana and 65 Annapurna Anna Yojana) monthly, but did not issue the same to the beneficiaries. It was also noticed that no ration cards were issued to 728 out of 1512 BPL beneficiaries.
my mind is boggled.

Monday, October 22, 2007

heroes - 1 - krishnan

a series is something i have wanted to create and many topics have raged in me.
starts well enough in my mind, but with the high entropy levels, good ideas dissipate rapidly.

but here is a promising line. i have earlier posted on remarkable individuals this month itself - randy pausch, dimple bhatt, raju narayanaswamy and it is a simple extension to 'series it'

krishnan is an simple man from madurai. he cooks and feeds the destitutes on the streets of madurai. he has now organised under the akashya trust and very well at that indeed.
the part which makes him my hero, is that he cooks himself.

here is his story from the hindu.
"I started by using my mother's kitchen", he recalls. Single-handedly cooking three meals a day for 40 people, packaging and distributing them was no easy task. But Krishnan was determined in the face of his parents' worries about his new found "vocation".
his expertise is perfectly well defined.
He claims that he can chop one kilo of onions in five minutes flat, knows how to make 100 types of pickles and uses only homemade garam masala containing 30 ingredients for his dishes.
hope he does not lose his way in the mire of fund raising, multi-city expansion and PR.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

distrubing trends

i had commented on the the sugarcane industry of western maharashtra and gujarat which spark off mega migration of labour.

while that is easily understood, here is more - mass migration for education. read the article here.
Hundreds of farming families like the Manekars are making a beeline to Karanja from districts like Washim, Buldhana and even Yavatmal in the hope of a better education for their children
and at what costs
... education in town for the children has added a burden of about Rs.25,000 to Rs.30,000 to the family's annual budget, not including the lost income from the livestock.
and hell for the children
The transition from rural to urban life has its impact on the children as well. Rural children, especially those who have been admitted to expensive private schools, find it difficult to deal with the tougher syllabi and the added burden of the English medium.
and when the alternate choice (village school) is functioning
"Good education is possible even in villages. In my own village I ensured regular classes in the school through the village education committee. But town education makes a big difference in the way children dress, talk, behave and present themselves."
and what of farming and familiar livelihood options
"Agriculture means just endless hard work and debt burdens - no respect, no freedom, not even a decent livelihood. Everyone wants the farmer to stick to the land while they enjoy the fruits of development. If there is one thing I want in life, it is to see my grandsons in good jobs and my granddaughters married to officers."
and disturbing fall-out
"I turn to education in the hope of a better life for my children. But this is a different trap. I am losing income (Vijaya has had to sell livestock too, and her farming is suffering, left in charge of hired help), I am spending more than I can afford, I am tiring myself out with the dual responsibility, only to see my daughters, who were bold and free, turning into timid, clingy and difficult little girls."
this episode is just a fractal image of the trend i anticipate to escalate.
along with the well-known bugbears that afflict rural education (infrastructure, teachers, etc), the curricular and reality mismatch is fracturing rural society.

Friday, October 19, 2007

how to torture bush

get the president of turkmenistan to pay a visit to washington.

the said gentleman is the honourable Gurbanguly Malikgulyyevich Berdymukhammedov.
he was recently elected to the presidency of the republic of turkmenistan.
it is a whopper of a name - no offense at all.

his victory is quite easily explained:
his opponents choked to death during the presidential debates.
all his class-mates and college-mates love him to no end. you can imagine the scene during class attendance.

washington ahoy - mr. urban ganguly

Thursday, October 18, 2007

tough decisions

the dalai lama receives the prestigious US congressional gold medal. here is the news report on rediff and fox news.

this is a list of all the awards and recognitions he has received. almost half a century of awards and recognition.
the dalai lama is an incredible person - there is no questioning that.
but to receive any award from bush... i wonder if he ever thought about.

and today bush is at his cowboy best on iran. world war 3 indeed... iran rebuts as expected.
the growing russian connections may be unsettling bush.
ok ok, i digress.

the credibility and support that this gives the tibetan cause is undeniable. this potential leverage over china probably weighed his mind.

tough decisions.


this piece on 'The Amazon burns once again' in the hindu columns caught my attention.
the original article from the guardian has a photo (the quest for which has lead me this morning onto this post).
In August, government satellites registered 16,592 fires across Brazil, the overwhelming majority in the Amazon.
world war?
Three thousand feet over the burning forest Paulo Adario, the Amazon director of Greenpeace, let out a sigh of resignation. “It’s like a scene from a world war,” he said gazing down at the forest, which now resembled the aftermath of a napalm bombing.
ok, greenpeace is extreme sometimes.
i think world war scenes would have been much less disturbing.

these are some wonderful imagery from the mongabay site.
don't miss.
the amazon rainforest slideshow
deforestation pictures
the forest destruction statistics (also referred to as forest usage)

and a whole kids section which has very nice presentations.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

sufi-ism and religious pluralism*

the famed ajmer dargah of khwaja moinuddin chishti is recently in the news for the wrong reasons.
what is a dargah? (from wikipedia). it is the abode of the saints (usually sufi).
staying in bombay, one cannot miss the geographically outstanding haji ali dargah.

my interest in sufism arose with the album by rabbi shergill which featured the moving 'bulla ki jaana main kaun' (watch on youtube). a seering philosophical kafi - a verse form written by baba bulleh shah.
here are more examples of bulleh shah's kaafiyaan.

the feature of all of the above is the pluralism - in thought, philosophy, acceptance and practice.

and it seems like the radical muslims are not very supportive of sufi-isms and the extensive popularity of the sufi saints. praveen swami writes in the hindu on this phenomenon.

in my younger days, though living in a typical religiously insular setting, studying in a christian missionary school (i guess) gave some of us a slightly 'outsular' perspective. i recall going to the school chapel with pals before exams for prayers.
small acts but great meaning.

* - never expected to use such words

Monday, October 15, 2007

KISSmat ki baat hai

the media went ballistic over the tribal boys from kalinga institute of social sciences (KISS) winning the under-14 rugby world cup.
i wrote about it here. and that it was smelt.

the cat's out of the bag.
asian age has uncovered the real story.
http:\\\archive\htmlfiles\\India/Under-14 Rugby Cup victory raises doubts.html
some issues with the way the link is named and hence the full URL. cut and paste link into browser and will come up.

the tournament background and details of the finals are here.
with all this subterfuge and wool over the eyes, i think the indian over-age trick is almost a certainty.

well, hope the poor boys don't get the flak and the real perpetrators are shamed.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

grilled olmert

it is not a new sandwich item.

ehud olmert is the PM of israel.
he is under investigation in a corruption case.
well thats not abnormal - happens to politicians all across. also it is likely that olmert will walk free after all this.

if you read the first news item carefully, it says that the police questioned him for under 4 hours and for the second time.
can you imagine the same happening in india?

Friday, October 12, 2007

randy pausch - a posh life

i briefly read on dilip's blog here about a randy pausch. did not pay much attention.
i read the same stuff on dilip's article in tehelka magazine.

so i thought, dilip recommends, so might as well check. (the power of the printed word)

in brief here is the story. randy is a great student, becomes a CS professor at carnegie mellon, is a wonderful teacher and human being AND has terminal cancer BUT none of the above matter.

in this blitzkrieg speech/talk/presentation, randy rocks the world with his wisdom. speech of the decade.
the video and the report is available on wsj site.
the transcript of the entire speech is what i read.
am reproducing some stuff here as it is a long speech (1.75 hours or 26 pages).
weekend is coming and certainly certainly worth it.

1. on obstacles
……I dashed off my letters of applications to Walt Disney Imagineering, and they sent me some of the damned nicest go-to-hell letters I have ever gotten. So that was a bit of a setback. But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

2. on coaching
…I had a coach, Jim Graham,…he showed up for practice the first day, and you know, there’s big hulking guy, we were all scared to death of him. And he hadn’t brought any footballs. How are we going to have practice without any footballs? And one of the other kids said, excuse me coach, but there’s no football. And Coach Graham said, right, how many men are on a football field at a time? Eleven on a team, twenty-two. Coach Graham said, all right, and how many people are touching the football at any given time? One of them. And he said, right, so we’re going to work on what those other twenty-one guys are doing. And that’s a really good story because it’s all about fundamentals. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.

3. on coaching (again)
…the other Jim Graham story I have is there was one practice where he just rode me all practice. You’re doing this wrong, you’re doing this wrong, go back and do it again, you owe me, you’re doing push-ups after practice. And when it was all over, one of the other assistant coaches came over and said, yeah, Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he? I said, yeah. He said, that’s a good thing. He said, when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. And that’s a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. Is that when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

4. setting the bar
The first assignment, I gave it to them, they came back in two weeks and they just blew me away. I mean the work was so beyond, literally, my imagination, … I had no idea what they could or couldn’t do with it as undergraduates, and their tools were weaker, and they came back on the first assignment, and they did something that was so spectacular that … I had no idea what to do next. So I called up my mentor, and I called up Andy Van Dam. And I said, Andy, I just gave a two-week assignment, and they came back and did stuff that if I had given them a whole semester I would have given them all As. Sensei, what do I do?
And Andy thought for a minute and he said, you go back into class tomorrow and you look them in the eye and you say, “Guys, that was pretty good, but I know you can do better.”

5. indirect learning - the head fake (i love this part)
experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And I think that’s absolutely lovely. And the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important.
And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.
The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they’re learning something else.

6. on parenting
… but when I was in high school I decided to paint my bedroom. I always wanted a submarine and an elevator. And the great thing about this is they let me do it. And they didn’t get upset about it. And it’s still there. If you go to my parent’s house it’s still there. And anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me let them do it. It’ll be OK. Don’t worry about resale value on the house.

7. on communication
And I was quite an arrogant young man. And I come bounding in and you know, I’m just going to save the world. And afterwards, Andy put his arm around my shoulders and we went for a little walk and he said, Randy, it’s such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant. Because it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish in life. What a hell of a way to word “you’re being a jerk.” Right? He doesn’t say you’re a jerk. He says people are perceiving you this way and he says the downside is it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish.

generation Q

tom friedman is a renowned columnist and is actually tom flatman after his infosys-worship laden 'the world is flat'. i could not make it through the book. nilekani overdose.

here is his nice article on american youth - the generation Q.
he says
But Generation Q may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country’s own good.
too online...
America needs a jolt of the idealism, activism and outrage (it must be in there) of Generation Q. That’s what twentysomethings are for — to light a fire under the country. But they can’t e-mail it in, and an online petition or a mouse click for carbon neutrality won’t cut it. They have to get organized in a way that will force politicians to pay attention rather than just patronize them.
he is saying america, i am reading world.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

remarkable turnaround story

rediff carries this story of a certain remarkable gent - dimple bhatt.
the life-cycle is stunning - dont pull butt to damp ill butt to damn cool burt.

here is the same story from ny daily news.

should complain less.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

loss of vision

there are tons of NGOs working in the area of education and children.
fundraising is as competitive as in dalal street.

to facilitate the personal connection, some orgs offer a 'sponsor a child' scheme where the sponsors can 'see' their child who is being 'educated' on their donation.
and the medium to large orgs claim to connect to more than 10K children,
and they end up in a mess like this.

the level of tracking and monitoring required for such a intensive donor-child connection is enormous and requires lots of people (needs tons of money) or smart technology (need smart people).

Monday, October 08, 2007

where our taxes go - 2

the tamilnadu government has a chief kazi.

here he announces the Ramzan Id date in Nov 2004.
here is him gracing an iftar party this sunday. we have visual sighting.

my subsequent research is showing that there is a Chief Kazi for the shias as well as the sunnis.

will you kill yourself

saawariya is the most anticipated movie of the year.
i am certain that it is likely to be constipating.

while it means a well intentioned "beloved/darling" in hindi, it means "will you kill yourself" in tamil.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

raju narayanaswamy

i joined college in 1991.
at the convocation that year, the usual awardees like the president's gold medallist (same for each iit) and governor's gold medallist where eating humble pie to my subject.
raju topped the IAS that year. an unheard of occurrence in the annals of iit madras.
he was the toast all along the place.

obviously, the euphoria and the memory faded rapidly.
till i saw this article in tehelka.

obviously raju was thriving and swimming strong against the sewage.
and in the meanwhile, we heard a lot of the famous munnar demolition drive initiated by kerala cm - achuthanandan. almost ruthlessly, illegal encroachments were being razed to ground.
and guess who was one of the lead men - correct - rns was the collector of the district.
no one was spared - tatas, CPI, CPI(M) were all deemed to be illegal squatters and rapid action was underway, when money power spannered everything.

he has been covered by mainstream media in his struggles.
indian express from sept 2007
telegraph from sept 2002 on his move to the UN
the week (latest news) on the dismantling of the elite squad.
the hindu from july 2007 where CM shows true colours.

this is a connection that has been re-established after 16 years and i am not hanging up soon.

Friday, October 05, 2007

troubled bridge under waters

ok. i have avoided the sethu schema all this time as there is more muck than the dredgers can rake up.
its all over the place.
the hindu

this is the official site, but doesn't open.
this site looks really official, but is surely a smart bunch of anti-sethu activists.
they have a news blog site too

what got me starting was this rediff interview with a mariner. he says that the sethu project does 'naut'ical make sense :-)
i was waiting to see the financials and 'if this report is correct', then this is a classic fill the pockets project.
i feel that any opposition from the opposition parties at the center and the state are purely due to the fact that they missed a golden goose.
am now trying to read all the official documents to get a further grip on the technicalities.


this is not about the infamous cooum river of madras.
neither is it about the just as infamous mithi river of bombay.

it is about a private US military firm - blackwater on wikipedia and their own site.
they were in iraq, ostensibly helping out in the military operations.
and by that it is meant that they were protecting the US military forces. weird.

and this is what they are accused of doing.
Blackwater members accompanying the convoy returned fire, leaving nine people dead, one of whom was an Iraqi police officer.
this is from here.

they obviously retort that they were doing a fair job.

while we all understand the mess that is iraq today and the gargantuan economic looting that is happening on iraqis as well as the US taxpayer, this takes the cake.
now what the hell is a private military firm doing in another sovereign nation.

and how is the UN ... sorry.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

where our taxes go*

the ministry of defence - government of india had released a tender today - which flummoxed me.
the title read "director general married accommodation project (MAP), ministry of defence, government of india"

director general !!
married accommodation project !!

typical a director general (of police) is responsible for the police force of an entire state. that's all the cities, towns, villages and assorted administration and recruitment and training. in short a CEO level.

and the MoD has a DG for building apartments and houses and that too only for couples.
christ, allah and ishwara.
do we need external agents to spawn confusion at all...

* - borrowed from indiauncut

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

the KISS boys

the students from the kalinga institute of social science (KISS) have won the under 14 rugby world cup.
here it is from:
the hindu front page

the pride is multiplied many times over as the boys are from the tribal zones.
all that is perfectly fine and i laud the team for doing themselves, KISS and india proud.

but tell me,

how do you have 13-14 year olds in an 'institute of social science'. should they not be in school.
or did we pull of the classic indian overage trick.

retiring gandhi

sonia was at the UN general assembly on the occasion of Oct 2 'gyanning' (giving gyan) on non-violence. here are news report: AOL and rediff
wondering what was her standing to represent
a) india
b) non-violence
as chairperson of the UPA coalition, she enjoys no constitutional power.
but looks like even the UN will not stoop to indulge in "kehdo na, kehdo na, you are my sonia".

i would like india to retire the surname gandhi to prevent such blatant misuse (like they retire jersey numbers of Sports Icons in american sports).

here is something for all to chew on. classic conspiracy theory.
look at these 2 images and tell me if you are thinking what i am. click on them for larger images.
sonia is from the rediff news item and IG from google image search.

three gorges dam - disaster in making

the three gorges dam project is one of the modern day engineering miracles.
being built on the Yangtze river, it is china showing its muscle to the world.

we are familiar with the sardar sarovar project on the narmada river and the narmada bacho andolan fighting for the rights of the displacement and questioning the disputed benefits of the project.

3G is almost 15 times the size of the SSP (in terms of design hydroelectricity production capacity).
massive does not even start describing the project.

just with above info, one could hazily visualise the kind of impact that 3G will have on the environment.

the chinese government has come clean and have said exactly the same.
here are the reports from the times, london and planetark.
A report issued by the Xinhua news agency, mouthpiece for the Government, said: “There exist many ecological and environmental problems concerning the Three Gorges Dam. If no preventive measures are taken, the project could lead to catastrophe.”
"catastrophe" in an official press release.
it takes tremendous courage to publicly own up mistakes.
good show china.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

day of gandhians

oct 2 is a special day.

and not only the in the well known way.

it is the birth anniversary of lal bahadur shastri - 2nd prime minister of independent india.
it is the memorial anniversary of kamaraj - the 3 time chief minister of tamilnadu and 'kingmaker'

both these stalwarts were born within a year of each other at the very ends of the country, but shared a destiny which gave india the answer to one of the most intriguing (and impertinent) challenges - "after nehru, who?"
it is a history worth digging into. lots of links given at the end of the wiki.

i think one of gandhiji's greatest leadership traits was succession planning. think of the next-in-line he groomed. thank god.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

cost of education

my general regard to the times group publications is usually in the range of disregard.
the economic times has still not plumbed the depths of the other 'esteemed' publications yet and the local editions are perhaps just notches above the bombay/delhi editions.

so this article is interesting in its premise and values thrown up:
Educating your kids is no child's play
Our estimates indicate that it could cost on an average Rs 21 lakh (at today's prices) on education of a single child from school to college. This includes expenditure on school fees, coaching classes, books, stationery and so on. If you have to include post-graduation studies as well (MBA, for instance), the cost is even more. It reaches Rs 98 lakh.

while the 98 lakhs seems out of proportion, there is certainly some validity in the 21 lakhs.
i think private education is the sciences (engineering or medicine) will cost more than 21 lakhs.

and my estimation indicates that the majority of this cost (during the K-12 period) will be spent on private coaching/tuitions and the actual cost of school fees will be less than a quarter of the total cost of education.

one of the primary tasks of parents in the USA is to save up for their children's college education and looks like indians are headed that way too.

good luck mates.

Friday, September 28, 2007

where the streets have no name

this song is a classic from the U2 stable. from the album joshua tree.

just figured out today that they were actually singing about japan.
see para 4 under the address elements heading.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

understanding men

in continuation with the theme, lets try to understand this one...

a man, well educated and 'on the road to enlightenment', closing in on equality and other virtues.
is put in a tough 'grinder' situation.
after extended back-and-forth negotiations, some decisions are taken, most of which is in his mind ....'serious concessions'.
he has not had the best interaction with either gender participants.

but he goes on to selectively disparage his opposite gender in a public forum.

out of character, or is it...?

understanding women

lets try to understand this...

an educated, earning woman who has spent her best years in an unequal married life, always aspiring for more say in decision making, etc.

when it comes to her son, she wants her clone (or even better, even more subjugated) for a daughter-in-law.

at an elevated level, we have the gut-churning female foeticide issue.

with the numbers at play, it could not even be termed non-average behaviour.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

india, china on top

of economic growth

of corruption

of pollution

it is a imbalance, as topping in all 3 spheres is unsustainable.
i predict that economic growth will lose out top sheen.
india and china will continue to dominate the other 2 lists.

thats the way - Mahi ve

i was watching dhoni's interview on NDTV today after the bombay safari and wankhede ass-licking.
very impressed. aplomb is a word i have not used in this blog and am debuting the word to celebrate how dhoni handled sreenivasan jain.

also his pithy start to his speech at wankhede is very funny considering how tired he must have been
"A lot has been said in English and Marathi. Now let me stick to Hindi."
for the record, i have to state that i did not watch the final of T20.
partly to blame was the cable TV fiasco in tamilnadu and that my favourite team was not in the final.

a fantastic analysis of the win was by rajan bala in deccan chronicle.
he says this:
Gautam Gambhir top-scored in the final, but he might well have to watch the duo of Tendulkar and Ganguly going in first. How would he feel?
how indeed?


Tender – delicate, soft, fragile

Also 'tenders' fill up at least 2 pages of the newspapers everyday. Really wonder how this usage originated. (or if this was the original, then how did the soft meaning arise)

In my indefatigable news-quest, I have expanded beyond the reported word to the paid-for words (namely the ads). And dominating this spectrum are our PSUs imploring contractors and businesses to come and partner in nation-building.
For example, in today’s Deccan Chronicle – Chennai Edition
1. Ordnance factory (makes ammunition and stuff) in Hazratpur, UP wants a 500 KVA DG set to be commissioned.
2. The National River Conservation Directorate wants consultants for Organisational Development, E-governance and Financial Management.
Come on guys, get real.
And all these are online on
search for "tender" on google and above site is tops. in fact the first page is full of india based sites.

For the readers who are not familiar with this system, tendering is a method to prevent corruption and ensure fair practices, and is a compulsory procurement policy.
Wonder why private sector purchase managers, almost as a rule, ignore this system.

Ok, here is where it gets more interesting.
Those who respond with offers and quotes, have to furnish something called and Earnest Money Deposit – which amounts to 2% of the total project cost (which interestingly has already been calculated to a rupee).
So in theory, if there are 10 respondents, the government automatically recovers one-fifth of the project cost via EMDs.
Through all this, it is so apparent that the very system aimed at eradicating corruption, is like a petri dish for bacteria.

wikipedia has more on tender.

Monday, September 24, 2007


agumbe is a small town in karnataka.
it caught my attention when i was closely perusing the climate news in the hindu. (yes, i know i have a lot of time to kill).
among all the towns in south india, agumbe is by far the tops when it comes to total annual rainfall.
we all know the cherrapunji story. worlds wettest region with over 10000 mm of annual rainfall (i.e., 1000 cm or 10 m). which is a lot mind you.
by comparison, bombay gets peanuts - say 2500 mm a year.
to refresh your minds, in bombay on july 26 2005, it rained around 944 mm in a single day.

so....after cherrapunji, who? it is this humble town. nearly 7.5 m of rain a year.
ok, now back to more details on travel in agumbe . and here it is on wikipedia.

should go there sometime.

Friday, September 21, 2007

tsunami and stock markets

this curious connection was highlighted in a speech by sainath at an awards function yesterday.
here is the article where he briefly mentions this connection to bolster his arguments on the inequality inherent in today's much lauded 'india growth story'.

....he recalled how when the 2004 tsunami struck, the stock markets of five badly affected countries—India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand—boomed.
i found these archives on the sensex in december 2004. it is quite interesting to see the daily commentary towards the last week of the year.
on dec 27 2004, which was the first trading day after the tsunami hit, sensex and nifty hit new highs of 6567 and 2079 respectively.


for all the hours spent staring at it.

The forgotten face of the room.
The poor, dark underside of the popular roof.
Once feted and caressed by the likes of Michelangelo, you now gaze wistfully at the Porcelano and Italiano.
Gone are those glory days. Of slopes and domes, of frescoes and inlays, of majesty and grandeur. Reduced to a laughable untruth….false ceiling.
Like the carpet, you also get the ‘sweep under’ treatment.
At least the carpet’s a looker.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

what i had and what i did

this is the x-ray picture of the problem i had (representative):

and this is the current state of my spine (representative):

the explanation is available here (pics are from here) and here.
my slippage level was just over grade 2 (as per the diagnosis in july 07) and into early grade 3 (just before the surgery).
along with the implants, there is a thick bone dust formation which has been created between the same 2 vertebrae (L5 and S1) which will eventually solidify into a bone providing a unshakable solidity to the region.

Monday, September 17, 2007

am back

greetings to all.
exited the hospital yesterday and in one piece and good spirits.
so far the progress has been good and on track.
needs another month or so of kid gloves treatment.

will return to my home in madras tomorrow and recuperate and relax over 4-5 weeks.

hope to be able to write more.

Monday, September 03, 2007

brief break

i will be more intermittent in my blogging coming 2 months.
will be undergoing a minor medical procedure.

happy gokulashtami to all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


was coordinating from mumbai some house spruce up work in bangalore being done by an agency.
was given a number of a krishnan, could not get through.
got another contact of a sayyed and got through.
spoke to him and fixed up the matter.

ending the conversation, i asked if i could get the number of krishnan.
sayyedbhai said, "krishnan, my assistant?"
i said, "oh, then i dont need, will be in touch with you."

my inbuilt bias assumed that the brahmin/hindu krishnan would be the boss of the muslim sayyed.

shame, shame...

Friday, August 24, 2007

somebody stop me

its evening and i am sitting at the entrance to the office (reception types).
2 agitated women walk in.
from the plastic hanging tags, i guess they are from the office in the nearest building.

they stand in front of the desk (around 10% of me is hidden by the monitor) and frantically look everywhere except at me.
they cry out plaintively, "somebody here?"
in my own style i reply, "i am somebody."

oops, they must have wanted to kill themselves (well at least an eye check-up...).
desultory enquiry about having some extra/left-over food (for at best 10 kids) and wanting to give it away to kids. how sweet and kind of them.
gave them some contacts of orphanages.
they ask, "will they come to pick up"

the bloody cheek, i say. again.