Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What do the stars say?

4 stars --> New York Times


3 stars --> Times of India


Going by this trens, NYT should have recommended baghbaan as a must see. Any Americans who can confirm?


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Traffic Policemen…

…in Bombay wear coffee coloured trousers, white shirts, angled blue caps and direct traffic very vigorously; one gets the impression that they either care a lot for the city and want to see people get home quickly and thereby keep the arterial roads clear, or they get an absolute high by making vehicles move at their command!!!

…in Bangalore wear coffee coloured trousers, white shirts, a white hat with a strap around their jaw and direct traffic with a lazy wave of their hands or in regal aerobics fashion. One gets the impression that they want people to take it easy and relax in the Garden City!!!

…in Delhi wear blue trousers, white shirts, a blue cap and are generally unseen at traffic junctions. One only gets the impression that they are not traffic policemen, but traffic observers; or worse, a vehicular density counter which feeds information regarding density to the digital traffic signal counter!!!

Orhan Pamuk's Nobel acceptance speech

Prior to this, about six years ago, I had tried to read a re-print of Erwin Schrodinger's Nobel Acceptance speech published in a magazine called Resonance, published by the Indian Academy of Sciences. It contained all his head-spinning equations with lengthy explanations. It really psyched me out and I used to wonder ‘How on earth can anyone tolerate Nobel speeches?’

As I write this, I have just finished reading Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Acceptance Speech and to keep it simple and honest, I am speechless. How beautifully has he weaved through descriptions of his personal and professional personalities; his present and past; his fears and joys and most importantly, himself and his dad!!!

The beauty of this speech is that it is a thanksgiving speech, a memorial speech, a ‘wish you were here’ kind of speech and a journey down memory lane kind of speech all rolled into one. And believe me; it takes enormous talent to do that!!

Orhan tries to trace the defining point of his life which set him on the course of writing and zeroes in on the handing over of a suitcase containing his dad’s notebooks as that defining moment. And yeah, Orhan’s dad redefines the dreamy-introspective-chillax attitude!!!! You rock, Orhan Senior!!!

I loved some of these lines, and its an honour to have it on my blog; so here goes

Selection I: I love this because it describes something I used to do as a kid after my father returned from any trip:

“I was already familiar with this small, black, leather suitcase, and its lock, and its rounded corners. My father would take it with him on short trips and sometimes use it to carry documents to work. I remembered that when I was a child, and my father came home from a trip, I would open this little suitcase and rummage through his things, savouring the scene of cologne and foreign countries. This suitcase was a familiar friend, a powerful reminder of my childhood, my past,”

Selection II: I love this for the way he defines writing:

“A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man – or this woman – may use a typewriter, profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I have done for 30 years. As he writes, he can drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time he may rise from his table to look out through the window at the children playing in the street, and, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or he can gaze out at a black wall. He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy. As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone. The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.”

Selection III: I love this because it breaks away from certain paradigms of ‘possession of literary skills’

“The writer's secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience.”

Selection IV: I love this for the DEADLY FUNDA factor:

“My confidence comes from the belief that all human beings resemble each other, that others carry wounds like mine – that they will therefore understand.”

Selection V: Why does Orhan Pamuk write? This is his reply,

“…….why do you write? I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can't do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life's beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but – just as in a dream – I can't quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.”

Way to go man, and of course, congratulations on your Nobel!!!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Great Debate....

....to decide the best metro in India must end. Delhi wins hands down. Madras, Calcutta and Bombay, all British legacies can slug it out for second, thrid and fourth spots. The clinching arguments are in this article, in The Frontline and are reproduced below:

"The city's development plan has earmarked lands for gardens and playgrounds
within the city limits. These are being de-reserved at a phenomenal rate. As
Chief Minister, Sharad Pawar de-reserved 285 plots; Manohar Joshi 300 plots; and Narayan Rane, in his eight-month rule, de-reserved about 180 plots, one of which covered 660 acres (264 ha) in Mankhurd (an area that was severely affected by flooding with water rising to 12 feet). Vilasrao Deshmukh continued the trend. Sushilkumar Shinde de-reserved 67 plots. All these put together would perhaps amount to almost 50 per cent of the space for amenities. On paper, the
development plan's amenity spaces ratio is 0.2 acres per 1,000 population. Of
this, 82 per cent is taken over by slums so that the actual ratio is 0.03 acres
per 1,000 population. This is the lowest in the world. By Indian standards it
should be 4 acres per 1,000 population. If you take international standards it
is 12 to 14 acres per 1,000 population. The other metropolitan cities, Delhi,
Chennai and Kolkata, have a ratio of about 4 acres each."......


which means that Bombay gets the wooden spoon, leaving the great east coast cities, Calcutta and Madras to slug it out. My wish is that Madras become the second best city.

I would also recommend you to read this article in The Hindu Businessline about the need for open spaces. The following extract says it all:

Open spaces are therapeutic. All cities and towns need green spaces as much as
other amenities like hospitals, educational institutions, roads, and public
chowks, stated the court. "Health of the residents is directly related to the
ratio of built-up area and open area, inasmuch as in a congested area, the
occurrence of respiratory ailments is much more compared to the places where
there is sufficient balance maintained between the built-up area and the open
spaces. That is the reason these green and open spaces are called lungs of the
cities."


Also check out the following statistics from the same article:

The court cited a few global statistics to show where we stand, assuming we have at least standing space! "The ideal ratio recommended for the open spaces for
Mumbai is 4 acres per 1,000 persons. New York has 5.33 acres of open space per
1,000 persons, whereas London has 4.84 acres per 1,000 persons. On the contrary, when the study was conducted in the year 1970 the city of Mumbai had a shocking 0.03 acres of open space per 1,000 persons, whereas, today, the ratio would be 0.015 acres per 1,000 persons which should be approximately 540 times less than the minimum recommended."


I also love the judgement which is being referred to in the Businessline article. There are references to Aldous Huxley and Shakespeare.

So, whats my ideal city? It would be one having the infrastructure of Delhi, the weather of Bangalore and the life of Bombay. Let me just call it Ideal and sign off with my dad's words, "Ideal does not exist in the real world. Ideal is only in your mind."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My state of mind

Is similar to what is written here

In his classic book Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies (Basic Books, 1984), the sociologist Charles Perrow describes a day when everything just goes wrong. You lock yourself out of your house, leaving your car keys inside. The spare, normally hidden, house keys have been lent to a friend, and your alternate ride, a neighbor's car, is in the shop. A strike has shut down metropolitan bus services, swamping the taxi fleet. On and on goes the litany, and in the end, you miss an important meeting. Perrow then challenges the reader to name the cause of the foul-up. The answer, of course, is everything and yet no one thing.

This came in an issue of IEEE Spectrum. Well, my state is not exactly the same, but some turmoil of the same type is in my mind. I'm losing the mindgame, and I better do something fast.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Health is indeed wealth

Healthcare in India is a much neglected topic with the occassional epidemic outbreak and the occassional op-ed article in The Hindu keeping the flame of discussion on this topic alive. Read this article from The Frontline describing how a left-front government of all governments is forced to rethink on a populist move set in motion by the UDF government in Kerala.

Whether the UDF government has gone ahead with this populist insurance scheme for the BPL families in blind faith in its statistics and the centre's paying power; or has gone in with outright confidence to win the assembly election and cover up its shady dealings, one thing is certain. The succeeding LDF government is in a catch-22 situation which is beautifully explained by the finance minister Mr. T. M. Thomas Isaac.

"There will be problems. It is indeed a catch-22 situation.We are now trying
to introduce a curious instrument that would undermine Kerala's public health
care sector, which, unlike in other States, is well established. But the State
government cannot also go back fully because individuals (among them people who have already paid the premium) would now be looking at what he or she can get from the scheme. It is no longer a collective choice. Every individual member
who has been promised cashless medical treatment for the next three years would
not be bothered about the long term implications. They would now be worried only about losing their short term benefits. So we cannot take a position on it
outright."


If I were a politician, I would say this to Oomen Chandy, "Eda Oomen, you have played your trick like a professional billiards player, who knows that if he has no chance of continuing on the next shot, places the cue ball in such a position that his opponent is forced to make a mistake if he uses the cue ball to strike; but strike he must, because withdrawing is not an option."

But being Deepak, I only say, "Health is wealth dude."

PS: Read this wonderful article by C P Chandrashekar and Jayati Ghosh in The Businessline arguing for higher public health funding.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where do the great economic theories stand?

I was reading an article titled 'Stolen Childhood', by Jayathi Ghosh in The Frontline dated November 17th 2006. The article dealt with the prevalence of child labour, and worryingly it is a curse which is rampantly prevalent in India.

Her opening lines are like pin pricks:

"It is not new for economies to use the productive labour of children. The
history of capitalism is replete with such instances, especially in phases of
rapid industrialisation. Dickensian stories of cheap child labour being
exploited by rapacious early capitalists were some of the cultural staples of
the industrial revolution in England. More recently, child labour has been
widely associated with poverty and seen as a sigh of backwardness."


The last line is true indeed. Human life is something like the famous acceleration-constant speed-deceleration speed vs time graph that one is taught in elementary physics. Childhood is the acceleration phase wherein one gains momentum and learns the tricks of the trade to sustein oneself through the productive phases of life. The constant speed phase can be likened to the earning and active phase and deceleration can be roughly likened to the time between which one loses interest in activity/life itself, to the end of one's life.

Now imagine that someone tries to shorten your acceleration period and tries to make you reach the same speed that you would have achieved in the normal course of time. Definitely, it will lead to stress/strain and most certainly you will be robbed of precious time in which you could have assimilated something more useful.

This is a sign of desperation which is a direct fall-out of poverty. Its only when you are in poverty that we observe the incidence of child labour. At the other end of the spectrum, lies the ogre of wealth and greed. So, child labour is not only a result of poverty alone, but a result of poverty which comes into direct contact with 'greedy wealth'.

Why does poverty exist? Capitalists blame the communists and the communists blame the capitalists. In the middle of this great circus we have numerous economists who are worshipped by many (students, Nobel prize committees, bloggers etc) who try to explain why things are so.

But people, you just forgot that for all the sophisticated models that you build trying to explain which way the quantifying numbers of an economy swing, there is one thing which you can never model..naah, make that two.. HONESTY and SCRUPLES. With these two quantities assumed in your models, but most of the time absent in real life, it isn't a wonder that the growth that you perceive doesn't percolate to all strata of society.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Birthdays THEN and Birthdays NOW

Seems like only yesterday
Life was just a sunny day
And we never had to worry
About a thing

Running Free, Stillwater

Every period in history has a defined pre and post period. Say for instance, the pre-Mughal
era and the post-Mughal era; pre and post British named after the ruling entity. Sometimes
the charisma of a person is so strong, that there are eras like pre and post Hitler, pre and
post M.K.Gandhi (for a Congress party worker, every Gandhi is entitled to this honour) etc

In a similar vien, birthdays, i.e. only with respect to the way our acquaintances come to
realise that a particular day is our birthday, and how we are wished can be classified into
the pre and post Orkut era. ( again, this is unique considering that Orkut is at a time a
person, an entity and a phenomenon)!!!

The pre-Orkut era:

This era can be sub-divided into (from my personal experience) three phases:

1. The school phase: Covering the 12 years I spent from LKG to 10th standard at VVS Gandhi
Centenary School and VVS Sardar Patel High School.
2. The pre-university phase: Covering the 2 years I spent at MES College of Arts, Commerce
and Science
3. The university phase: Covering the 4 years I spent at KREC (prefer this name over NIT)

The post-orkut era:

1. The post-grad phase: Covering the 2 years spent at IIT Delhi
2. The worker-bee phase: ongoing, just celebrated a birthday in this phase

School Phase: This was a time when the onus for informing others about your birthday was
upon us. The code for declaring a birthday was to come attired in the so called 'colour
dress' (as if the uniform was colourless), the school slang for informals. The birthday
boy/girl was expected to bring along chocolates for the entire class and the teachers and of
course there were the extra chocolates for 'best' friends. The birthday chap was made to
stand in front of the class and there used to be a rendition of the Happy Birthday song
followed by distribution of chocolates.

Pre-university phase: This was a slightly sobered down period with the impending tensions of the public and entrance exams weighing down on people's minds. More or less it involved a
small treat for select friends.

University phase: Life at KREC meant that the birthday had to be told only once, and someone or the other would make sure that they remembered it for the next four years.In my case, the man with the memory was Adi the God or simply, Devru.Celebrations were awesome. GPLs (Birthday bumps) followed by the mandatory visit to the night canteen were the order of the day.

Orkut brought in a new facet of birthday wishes. Everyone who was on orkut could see your
birthday and more often than not, they didn't forget to wish you because your picture would
stare them right in the face. The time for compulsory wishing had arrived, a far cry from
the old days, when it was OK to forget wishing someone.

So came the post grad birthday celebrations which were muted due to Mother Nature lowering
her temperature to a 'kewl' single digit. A few select pals in the hostel got a treat at
Nescafe and the others had to rest content wishing me on orkut or over the phone.

The worker bee phase as of now has recorded a huge spurt in Orkut wishing. So many scraps,
they outnumbered the mails, phone calls and perosnal wishes by a ratio of almost 20:1.

At the end of the process, its imperative that anyone would feel happy, but being
'overwhelmingly happy' by seeing the huge number of scraps is something that i would anyday
swap with shaking hands, getting my arse kicked, going out in the biting cold or standing in
front of my peers dressed radically different from all of them.... I know, "grass is always
green on the other side".

Monday, November 13, 2006

IST - 5 1/2 = GMT

In 'The Satanic Verses', Salman Rushdie says, "Five and a half hours of time zones; turn your watch upside down in Bombay and you see the time in London"

Its so true..Try it!!!

Is this another of the mysteries that nature plays upon us? Never know man, never know....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Heartbreak through a routine break

Sweet November
Is out in its splendour
But the harsh Bombay sun
Burns thy skin tender

In the black chariot
Sat the future visitor
To a sweet shop
Called Sweet Chariot

Eyes met, Signal turned green
Away sped the chariot
With shattered dreams
Of a date at JW Marriot

O, saffron and white clad
Dame at Amarmahal
Be mine,
I'll build u an Amar Mahal

PS: I happened to change my usual route of going to office and saw this extremely beautiful
woman wearing a white salwar with a saffron dupatta crossing the road. How I wished at that
moment that I knew her!!!

I console myself with the following,

But life still goes on
I can't get used to living without living withoutL
iving without you by my side
I don't want to live alone hey
God knows got to make it on my own
So baby can't you see
I've got to break free

Queen, I want to break free

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Feludian Slip??

I complete a century of posts with this one and I'll also be hitting the second anniversary of my blog in about a week's time. The journey so far has been awesome and I only have myself and the world around me to thank. Myself, for putting in the effort and sustaining the interest to write and the world around me for providing me with the topics. Of course, I should not forget my dear friends (who also double up as readers)...

Anyway, I felt that this century could be celebrated with Feluda, the Indian Sherlock Holmes. And what I read today, seemed slightly 'deviating from the realms of probability'. In the story 'The Mystery of Nayan' Satyajit Ray writes about the protagonists having lunch in The Mysore theme restaurant of Hotel Coromandel in Chennai. He says that this restaurant specialised in Moghlai cuisine. Donno man!!! But something seems out of place.. what is it?

1. Either I haven't been to Hotel Coromandel and tried out this Moghlai speciality restaurant which means I am out of place

OR

2. Ray mixed things up slightly which would mean that the facts are out of place

Whateva, it does not take anything away from the sheer pleasure of reading this book. I love it, and I would suggest you to check out The Complete Adventures of Feluda, Volume 1 and 2, by Satyajit Ray.

Errata: Apparently I didn't read the story properly. The restaurant hall was called Mysore. Had nothing to do with speciality in dishes.

Dalrymple says....

.........."Delhi was the main theatre of action"

Read this intellectually stimulating interview with William Dalrymple. Check out Dalrymple's homepage.

I posted this blog, just to serve as a notice to all potential (and kinetic) email forwarders who send forwards about the Taj Mahal being built from the ruins of a destroyed temple. This is what one of the best historians says....Read it and please stop forwarding a pack of lies.

Over the last year, I must have received 20 or 30 e-mails saying that the
Taj Mahal is a Shiva temple dating from 400 BC. There should not be a situation
where the intelligent middle class believes this rubbish. And it seems to me
that historians are failing in their duty if, alongside with their detailed
specialist work, they do not provide accounts which engage, interest and teach
people their own history.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Anatomy of a BEST ticket

Courtesy: BPL Mobile's In House Publication

The world is full of things that we don't know. One such thing was the meaning of the different symbols on the humble bus ticket. I got an opportunity to know what each item meant while i was at my mobile gallery waiting to pay my bill. Some of them have been erased from my memory in the course of the last 4 days, but the others are a faithful reproduction of the article in BPL Mobile's in-house publication. (anyone who knows the name, can write in my comments section)

This is for public gyan and applicable only to BEST tickets...

1. The serial number of the ticket

2. The cost of the ticket

3. The number of stops from the point of boarding.

4. The 15 paise surcharge collected in the name of starving Bangladeshis during the 1971 war. Wonder why we are still paying it. Does it go to our poor? If not, please don't withdraw this surcharge, but transfer the donations to help Indian poor.

5. Indicating that you are under the age of 'full' tickets

6. Literally translated, "khaas" means special. Not sure about this, any pucca Bambaiyya may help me out!!

7. Indicates that the ticket has been purchased for carrying luggage.

8. "jodi" meaning connection. Pucca Bambaiyya, ur help is needed

9. the up arrow indicates an upward journey, the down arrow indicates the downward journey

Further info always welcome!!!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Go West

Got a mail from my firm's partner today with these words:

"Go West, young man, and grow up with the country"

I thought that he had quoted it from the Pet Shop Boys song 'Go West', but turned out, that the history of the phrase is this. I also found a counter article (partially), here.

Albeit, my partner meant it in a different context and I second his views. Well, I am in Bombay, on the West Coast of India. India is growing and so am I...

My day is made!!!! And I need to qoute this

(Go West) Life is peaceful there
(Go West) In the open air
(Go West) Where the skies are blue
(Go West) This is what we're gonna do

The next question is, what will be the western boundaries that I can go upto? Only time will tell...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Secrets, Death and Exposes

Regional literature in India is much more powerful and open minded than what it is thought to be. People seem to have this impression that only English literature has the power to tiltillate, thrill and hold the reader in rapt attention. This is because of the elitist treatment given to English in Indian schools. True, English is essential for survival and should be patronised to maintain our worldwide edge. At the same time, English cannot cover all the social aspects as thoroughly as regional literature can.

I was reading the play Wasansi Jeernani (Tattered Clothes), a play by Mahesh Elkunchwar translated into Kannada by Girish Karnad. It essentially deals with a simple theme of a family, where the father is on his deathbed and the other family members gather around him. The scene shifts from grief to internal bickering and finally to confession mode.

The gist that I gathered from the play was this:

The Dad --> learned scholar, loves his children. Yet, suspects that his eldest son is not born out of his loins, but by the union of his wife with someone else. On his side, he silently desires his sis-in-law (desire in the sense of bodily and through the soul. Also, I am not sure if this female is actually his sis-in-law. I can say with assurance that she is a relative whom he has given shelter after she was widowed). Infact, this desire is manifested by the statement "I was happy when her husband died the day after her marriage". Of course, living in the 'virtuous and moralistic' society of India, they don't go all the way, and silently desire each other.

The Mom --> She is trapped in a marriage where her husband does not ill treat her, but at the same time there is no sexual or soulful joy. She tries to quench this thirst by indulging in a fling with someone else and her daughter is born out of this union. Of course, she still remains unhappy.

The sis-in-law --> She is widowed the day after her marriage. She desires the man who sheltered her, but in the absence of any moves, she becomes close to the children, treats them as her own and thus mentally satisfies herself as having borne those kids.

The eldest son--> A decent chap, not as successful as his dad, but frequent comparisons have disheartened him. Also, his dad doesn't get close to him being under the impression that he is the fruit of someone else's seed. This chap is recently married but has left his wife behind at her parents' place so that she can complete her doctoral thesis. He lives under the constant shadow of self-pity and occasionally doubts the chastity of his wife.

The daughter --> The "najaayaz" aulat (illegitimate child). The irony is that her dad regards her as his own and bestows all love and favour on her. She ends up being a good-for-nothing and marries a mechanic who drinks often and beats her. She is the prototype of the 'ungrateful child'

The youngest son --> A complete wastrel who is neck deep in debt and is worried about repaying it.

All these confessions unfold in the minds of the protagonists as each one sits next to the death-bed. The suspsense is maintained till the end, and I promise, you will have no inkling of whats going to happen next.

The spoiler? This is only for those literate in Marathi or Kannada.....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Maaja Blog Naav.."From the Capital"

By now, i have been in Bombay (Mumbai) for three months and counting and must say, I like this place. (much like I liked Delhi and Bangalore; which means that I'll have a romantic view of the city, but find no romance in it!!!). As for the city, same for the language. Therefore.........

..........Marathi is a very fascinating language. Its not 'melodious' like Telugu or 'homely' like Tamil. Nor is it so 'chummy' as Kannada or 'easy' like English. But still its nice in a strange way that I cannot explain. Why I am I fascinated by Marathi? These are the following reasons:

1. The names of the buildings where I work in. Regularly - Prakashganga (The River of Light) and occasionally Prakashgarh (The fort/house of Light). Gives me the feeling as if I am in Shivaji's era.

2. The statement I see on almost every autorickshaw's rear: "Veej Vaachwa Bhaarniyaman Tala" --> Save Electricity and Escape Darkness. (I am damn sure about the first half, not so about the second)

3. My visit to Nagpur. I don't know why, but it struck some hidden memories of the good old Bangalore of the 1980s and 1990s.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Map is not the Territory

So goes a famous saying. Basically it means that the diagrammatic representation of an area does not constitute the area itself.

Some food for thought for Kashmir fanatics on both sides of the Indo-Pak border.

POM=Piece of Mind

POM to Indians: However hoarse you scream, you are not going to get back PoK. Infact, it is not worth the effort. Simply drawing maps which represent the whole of Kashmir as Indian is not going to serve any purpose.PoK is gone forever. Instead concentrate on the remaining area and bring in law and order.

POM to Pakistanis: Someone rightly said that Indians and pakistanis are very much alike. Extending the logic, you guys can do what we can do, and cannot do what we cannot do. Just as India cannot throw you out of PoK, get rid of all delusions regarding removing India from J&K.

POM to both: Is it worth fighting over kashmiris who owe allegiance to both the parties, but claim independence just to create a temporary viel until the time they take the final opportunist decision?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Gulab from the Gulag

I love this description of engineers.....

"An engineer? I had grown up among engineers, and I could remember the
engineers of the twenties very well indeed: their open, shining intellects,
their free and gentle humor, their agility and breadth of thought, the ease with
which they shifted from one engineering field to another, and, for that matter,
from technology to social concerns and art. Then, too, they personified good
manners and delicacy of taste; well bred speech that flowed evenly and was free
of uncultured words; one of them might play a musical instrument, another dabble
in painting; and their faces always bore a spiritual imprint."


Aleksandr I Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On my way to become the BEST Union Leader and Other Bombay Stories

Firstly, a summary of the routes I have been taking to reach my offices; one in Shivaji Park, Dadar and the other at Bandra Kurla Complex.

Route 1: When I was staying in my company's Worli guest house during the initial few weeks of my stay in Bombay

Worli-Prabhadevi-Dadar(spend some time here)-Mahim-Bandra-Bandra Kurla Complex

Route 2: When I shifted to the project guest house at oshiwara (which i call, O! Shit War eh??)

Oshiwara-JVPD-IRLA-Milan Subway (u need to see this)-Khar-BKC

Route 3: After I have shifted to Chedhanagar, Chembur

Chembur-Sion-Dharavi-BKC

All this travel has shown me the sheer size of Bombay.

That apart, the last 4 days starting from Sunday have seen various run ins with BEST. And all of them were hilarious considering the context.
1. Sunday, 20th August: I was going from Chedhanagar to Andheri East. I boarded the 533 Ltd bus and asked for a ticket to Andheri Station. All of a sudden the conductor started cursing me in marathi. I thought that he was asking me to go in front, and I added fuel to fire by refusing to do so. At the same time it struck me that the bus was not moving. Then, someone gently pointed out that I was holding the rope used to signal to the driver to stop/move and my holding it was interpreted as a STOP.

2. Monday 21st August: On the 348 bus towards Rani Lakshmi Chowk from kalanagar, I found a seat at the end of the bus, and guess what, THE ROPE was hanging ominously in front of my eyes, as if BEST was gonna hang me to death!!!
3. Tuesday 22nd August: I was supposed to go to Shivaji Park from Chedhanagar for which I had to catch a 354. Accordingly a 354 came, but i disregarded it cos it was jam packed. Right behind it was a 368 Ltd with the board Prabhodhankar Thackrey Chowk which I remembered having seen somewhere. I assumed that it would go to Dadar and asked for a ticket. The conductor stared at me and said, "Age 354 hai. Woh Shivaji Park jaati hai. Usko chod ke, mere bus main chadke, meresehi Shivaji park ka ticket maang raha hai!!!! Utro agle stop main...." (There is a 354 in front which goes to shivaji park. you leave that bus, get into mine and to top it all, you ask for a ticket to shivaji park.. Get out!!!!)

4. Wednesday 23rd August: On the way back from kalanagar, i got into a 373 Ltd which would drop me at a place near home called Amarmahal. And as fate would have it, the bus broke down at Sion-Trombay Road near Chembur colony. Great!!! Soon the announcement went, "All guys get out and push the bus". And so dear reader, it is because of this noble endeavour that i have performed that i am writing this blog with great difficulty.....

Wonder whats in store for me on Thursday the 24th of August.................

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bimba

Confusion about one's TRUE identity can be frustrating at times. Specially if you are forced to defend the identifying factors (irrespective of their proportion) and sometimes make a choice at the cost of the others.

I am referring to my roots. Hailing from Palghat, speaking Tamil at home and staying in Bangalore for 20 years should be an advantage in my opinion. But at certain times, the devil raises his/her head and plants the question, "Where do you belong?" At other times like say, when the membership of the different language sanghas in IIT Delhi is concerned, the question that arises is "Which sangha do I become a member of?" Obviously, becoming a member in all the different sanghas (I am referring to the Kerala Sangham, Tamil Mandram and the Kannada Sangha, which for some strange reason was christened Aravali Kannada Sangha.) was not feasible keeping the wallet factor in mind. (all these sanghas charged approximately Rs. 100-150 per year, a princeley amount for a student). Hence, one had to choose. My reason to join the Tamil Mandram was due to the fact that most of the guys living in my wing were Tamils and i had met all of them and even had a nice jolly friendship with most of them. In contrast, I hardly knew any one who spoke kannada on campus. The kannada sangha hardly promoted its activities (if they had them) and when I did get to know a few Kannada guys, it was too late!! I had already committed my cash.

Thus, it was with a feeling of guilt at having betrayed kannada that i went to the book exhibition at pragati maidan in delhi in january this year. The english section was given my best effort and I ended up purchasing Foucault's Pendulum and The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes. I then decided that i had to purchase a kannada book. if I were to lie, I wanted to purchase a Kannada book because i had interest in kannada literature. On the contrary...the feeling of betrayal was gnawing inside me and plus, I wanted to show off in the hostel. Accordingly I went ahead and purchased a few plays by Girish Karnad.

As Jan went into Feb, Feb into March, then April, May and even June and July, I found that i had covered only Foucault's pendulum...I then put my hand inside my bag and extracted the first book that I found, and it turned out to be "Bimba Mattu Itara Natakagalu" (Bimba and Other Plays) by Girish Karnad and Mahesh Elakuncharvar.

The first play in this collection is Bimba meaning reflection. It is a title that refers to the reflections of the protagonist Manjula Naik a renowned Kannada writer. The play opens in a setting where she is providing an introduction to the serialization of her latest work, which is surprisingly in English and very well written. It is about a beautiful talented woman who is paralysed waist down, is extremely talented and is very nice by nature.

Once the introduction is done and manjula is about to leave the studio, something strange happens and her image appears on screen and then begins the best introspective investigative piece of writing that I have read till now. manjula's image is her conscience which probes her logically and peels her layer by layer, exposing her frailties, her hatred and jealousy for her sister and finally makes her admit something (I will not spoil the thrill) which one would least have expected.

More than anything, I am of course impressed by the language used, but also appalled at the fact that I have missed out so much in the only southern regional language that i am literate in. During course of reading the play, there were a few sentences that i feel will hit you instantly. I am reproducing them below:

1. "Naanu..andare neenu.." {Me....implies its you..} --> this reminds me of a poem called Me kidnaps me or something to that effect authored by Nitin Kashmikandy in NITK.
2. 'aake tonkadinda kelagina bhagadalli nirjeevavagiddalu. paralysed. daihika sambanda sadhyave iralilla" {She was paralysed waist down. There was no chance of her having sex}

3. "Ee sala, nanage ondu maatra anukoola ittu. Aake sattu hogiddalu. Naanu badukidde" {I had only one advantage. She was dead, I was alive}
4. "naanu english lekhaki malini naik. nanna akka, suprasiddha kannada kategarthi manjula naik nanna kadambariyannu odidodane naashavagi hogi naanagi hosa avatara talidalu. She has morphed into me." {I am the english author malini naik. my elder sister, the famous kannada novelist has disintegrated and assumed a new form after reading my novel. She has morphed into me}

And the final punchline, of which I provide only the translation:

...Meaning, I have to continue my life only as Manjula Naik. After all, my passport, bank accounts, property and financial papers are all in that name. But, to tell you the truth, I am malini naik - my brilliant sister, the one who loved and made love to my husband, the one who did not know kannada, the one who authored the English bestseller............
Bimba..somebody please enact this, and invite me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Beauty and the Beast

The following link is taken from the increasingly informative and oceanic blog of Sharath Rao.

Why Do Beautiful Women Sometimes Marry Unattractive Men

So, the next time anyone says "Mangana kainalli manikya kotta hage" (It is like giving a gem to a monkey) when u see a beautiful/sexy woman marrying an unattractive (in ur eyes, mind you) man, remember that the dice is statistically and probabilitically and naturally loaded in favour of the unattractive guy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Goodbye Comrades?

I only dream in black and white
I only dream cos I'm alive
I only dream in black and white
To save me from myself

It was the same story repeated all over again in the wee hours of August 3rd 2006, Thursday. The only change was in the colour. Black and white transformed into blood red. Yes, my dreams (I remember all of them) were red yes, but not the red of the rose. It was the red of blood, the red of the Maoists!!!

Every exposure to a topic returns to haunt the same person at some point of time. For some, it returns as a serial haunter in real life, whereas for some it returns as a nightmare.
People might say that dreams are just a sub-conscious working of the mind, while some might say that they are bound to be true if they occur in the wee hours of the morning. I was also taught by my Sanskrit teacher in PUC, Mr. Venkatesh that there are some dreams which are future indicative. For example, if you see someone dying, then that person will live a long life. If you see a poor, contented Brahman, then you will have a long life etc. I am no Sigmund Freud, but all that I will vouch for is the 'will happen only in a dream and not in real life' nature of the erotic or so called wet dreams which provide so much of joy and lotsa 'what-if' questions. I remember one very vividly, wherein all the porn stars from different websites and magazines and movies appeared before me in their most erotic glory, and made me promise that I would stop watching porn. I did eventually though and this lack of "Pondy current affairs" knowledge showed up when I was asked to make a selection of latest porn for a friend.
Anyway, coming back to the dream on hand, it was about the naxalite threat in the jungles of Andhra, Chattisgarh and Jharkand.

In the Andhra episode, I was a police officer responsible for the extermination of these guys. It was a story of how I walked into an ambush, lost most of my men, emerged out of the jungles safely and finally turned the tables on the naxals and sent them packing from the face of the earth.
The Chattisgarh episode was about me being a big time businessman who gets extortion cum death threats from the naxals. The whole story was about how I uncovered the naxal spy in my household in the nick of time and escaped with my money and documents before the naxals mounted an all out invasion. With the benefit of hindsight and past movie knowledge, I feel that the only person who is missing is an equivalent of the sensuous Nandana Sen (see Tango Charlie, a hindi movie for further gyan).
The final dream trailer was one where I was a journalist from The Hindu (which other commie paper can I quote?? HA HA HA) who was living with the naxals in Jharkand and reporting on them for the Sunday Magazine. It so happens that unwittingly I give out some location details in one such report and a crazy local commander orders my execution. The story goes about how I manage to escape from the loony guy and end up in Chennai under Z plus category security.
Hmm..wonder what I need to make out of this. The only underlying theme is "Escape", which brings in other ideas in my mind..something involving Anna Kournikova...If wishes, were horses!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Changing times

I was reading Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" where he was making a point about the major decisions that shook the world being taken by a few people who genuinely wanted to see their countries progress ahead. A few examples are:

1.Deng Xiaoping tossing aside communism with the sentence "Black cat, white cat, all that matters is that it catches mice"
2.Dr. Manmohan Singh opening up India's market without indulging in any major debate. 3.Ernesto Zedillo, the formaer president of mexico remarking that all the decisions to open the Mexican economy were taken by three people.
4.Similar case with Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher.

Dr. Manmohan Singh has come a long way since those path breaking times of 1991. Infact now, technically speaking, he has gone one step higher, to become the prime minister of India. Again, technically, he has higher powers than what he had in 1991. But are these 'technicalities' consistent with the 'practical realities'? Lets have a look.

In 1991, as far as I remember, there was not much of significant opposition to these reforms. That was when India was almost bankrupt, and even our gold reserves were pledged. It was a shameful period indeed, but the 9 year old me could not make much out of it. But I am thankful that these reforms came about. The overall access to education, employment opportunities, choices as a customer have increased tremendously and I can have a life on par with that of the western Europeans/Americans staying in India itself.

Fast forward to 2006, where Dr. Manmohan Singh is forever on the defensive courtesy of the fractured mandate given by the ever confused and ever confusing Indian public. Every decision be it political or economic has to pass the seal of approval of the biggest thieves in india, the left. (this should be proof enough that I am moving towards the centre from my leftist leanings.) On top of this are the biggest hypocrites in India, the BJP who are behaving like true spoilsports. Add to this the minority appeasers like Mulayam Singh yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and the Congress itself, its still a wonder that Dr. Manmohan Singh has not gone mad yet. Hats off to you sir.

Why is this so? Do we need to go to depths like bankcruptcy to start taking tough decisions? Can't we make hay while the sun shines? These, I know are questions that will elicit no answers. But I still ask them.....the eternal foolish ideal optimist that I am.....

Monday, July 24, 2006

Loco Poco, Take Action

In the July 3rd issue of Outlook, there is an article on Reliance Infocomm branching out into GSM technologies in Delhi and Mumbai. Apparently Reliance does have a 2.6 million GSM base covering states like West bengal, Assam, MP, Orissa, Bihar and also parts of Calcutta. If it is popular in these areas, I certainly have not heard of it.

The obvious question that is gonna be raised is, "Why the hell is Reliance, which is a hardcore CDMA based company dabbling in GSM, which already has major players like Bharti, Orange, BSNL and to some limited pockets Idea, BPL, Spice etc?"

The first reason that is quoted by the article is the Anil Mukesh rift. Seems Anil wanted to chart his own course in the telecom sector, and when he wrested control of Infocomm from a CDMA obsessed Mukesh, he immediately chartered a cruise in the GSM seas. The second one is that, since Reliance already has a small GSM base, it hopes to pick up from that and have a massive advantage when it comes to a situation when the whole world converges to the future common standard called WCDMA. They also plan to use the existing CDMA basic infrastructure as a base for the GSM equipment. A few things that I can think of are towers, billing centres, outlets, call centres etc. Of course, some tech differences will surely come up.The clinching factor for Reliance would be the higher returns per customer from GSM as compared to CDMA (Rs. 362 vs Rs.256). Not to discount the smart choice of Delhi and Mumbai..the two richest cities in India. Having stayed at both places, I can be a guarentee for the richness quotient of some Delhiites and some Mumbaikars.

But, the reason for me writing this blog, is to bring to my friend Kirankumar H. N's (Loco's) notice that this could possibly be a means of taming Qualcomm into submission as regards royalty. Indian CDMA players pay a royalty of 7% to Qualcomm for using the CDMA standards set by them, whereas markets like China and S. Korea pay 2% and 2.9% respectively. And of course, since USA is the home of Qualcomm, no royalty funda exists. Supposedly, Reliance accounts for 8% of Qualcomm revenues, and Anil obviously aims to use this to his advantage by threatening a move to GSM. As of the article going to print, Qualcomm had not blinked and said that the question of reducing royalties did not arise.

As is the norm, sceptics do exist who say that Reliance should have gone on the acquisition path, going for Spice, Aircel and Idea who are marginal so called "5th players"; instead of starting afresh. Also, there are doubts about whether they would be able to sustain the massive competition.

Finally, the article concludes by saying that this GSM journey is a test for Anil, specially to get rid of his "playboy image" and to prove that he is a hard-nosed and smart entrepreneur.

My take: GSM or CDMA, as long as it benefits you, for as long as you have a choice, and for as long as there exists the concept of fine print, you are the king who is at the mercy of kingmakers. You will be subject to the same connectivity which fails enmass when something like 11/7 occurs. You will end up paying the same amount as bill inspite of companies' efforts to be different. But, the spirit lies in sticking to your choice and caring a damn for whoever criticises your choice of network provider!!!

PS: Since I don't have internet connectivity at home and I can't do extensive surfing at office, there are going to be a spate of articles which are not researched extensively on the net. The articles will be based on what i read or see, which in any case has been the norm. I somehow have lost the enthu to link to others and comment upon what they have written. And providing hyperlinks seems to have become an alien art!!!!

Anyway, this entry is going to be posted on two locations

1. My own blog 'From the Capital'

2. The Bangys of NITK 2004 blog, 'Chappargaandus': this is because of the Qualcomm connexion in the form of the roly-poly Loco, the IT CR of 2003-2004................dude, mebbe when u go to US, u can talk to ppl to remove the royalty bullshit!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hot Pursuit?

After every terrorist attack, the most gung-ho statement that is made is, pursue the terrorists to their dens and finish them off. Another variant of this is, launch missiles/air strikes against the camps in PoK. And I find, the repeated comparison with Israel.

Fine, agreed that hot pursuit and butchering of the militants is the best way to take revenge, but in that process one cannot skip over the status of the neighbouring country's arsenal. Lets analyse the situation in both cases:

Israel has been adopting this policy right from its formative years. It also ensured that future generations would not have to deal with neighbours armed to the teeth by subduing the enemy completely. See how Syria is still struggling to get Israel out of the Golan; see how Egypt and Jordan went in for a peace treaty; see how toothless Lebanon and Palestine are...

Contrast this with India which had the opportunity to finish off Pakistan in 1971, but didn't and instead went for the Shimla Agreement. Bangladesh is small but a significant thorn in the flesh. Out of these two, Pakistan has gone all the way to become nuclear too, and their army is not a pushover.

So, my dear GI Joes who want 'hot pursuit', how do we go about solving this problem? Back to square 1 aren't we???

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Reflections on a Vidharban travel, being alive and a ride on the western express highway

In everyone's life there is bound to be a phase or a journey of self discovery where you are all alone inspite of having people with you; when you wish that there was someone with whom you could share all thoughts, feelings and emotions. Someone who would not break your thought just because she is feeling bored. Someone, that perfect (or imperfect?) her!!!

These were precisely the thoughts that came to me as I was travelling on the last leg of my journey to Nagpur from Chandrapur. The VCR was playing Krrish, with hardly anyone in the bus interested in it; but yet watching it to get their Rs. 130's worth. The 3 hour journey was over in a jiffy with my time spent in watching portions of Krrish, watching the Vidharban landscape and reading Foucault's pendulum. I was still in a state of trance when I was dropped at the entrance of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Airport, Nagpur from where I was made to walk about 2-2.5 kms to reach the departure terminal all because the police would not allow me to flag down a vehicle. The reason? Manmohan's departure to Delhi.

And as I sit to write this on the 12th of June, I am more grateful than ever to be alive...I can follow my passions, take my evening strolls, talk to family and friends, watch TV and what not. I am thankful to my sixth sense, God and the presence of three of my friends that I took the taxi to Andheri rather than the local, which I had taken on the 10th, from Dadar to Andheri..a bone crushing ride wherein I found my laptop bag's strap around my ankles, and the bag itself in my hands above my head, with 3 of my fingers holding on for dear life so that I didn't get swept away by the surging crowd. I could not believe that on the 11th, someone would stoop down so low to attack honest, working people who just don't care beyond expressing solidarity with or expressing vocal opinion about whether there has to be a temple in Ayodhya or a mosque; whether Kashmir stays with India, goes to Pakistan, becomes independent or goes to hell; whether there are cartoons denigrating the prophet, whether goddess durga appears on a whiskey bottle or a panty, whether Anne Frank is shown in bed with Hitler or what not. And most stunning of all, the same Western line which I had made my lifeline...this line was mercilessly bombed!!! Fuck terrorism, fuck terrorists!!!

Being alive has other benefits, like for example, the long ride from Goregaon to Nariman Point. But I must warn you that your arse is going to scream in pain, and the first few steps that you take at Nariman are going to be like that of a freshly deflowered virgin. I recommend this ride for the following reasons:
1. To watch how the social topography changes while travelling from North to South Bombay.
2. Experience the thrill of whizzing along the Western Express Highway at top speeds and experiencing the thrill when your pillion rider's balls crash onto the seat when you take the bike along pot holes which he cannot see. Of course the favour may be returned some other day with compound interest!!!
3. To end up thirsty and tired at Haji Ali juice centre on the return journey and have some of the best fruit juices in the planet.
4. And for me, the most important reason...to see if a certain hazel eyed female with flowing hair frequents marine drive.

All said and done, the train has to be taken from someday. I cannot continue contributing voluntarily to the Autorickshaw and taxi drivers union indefinitely. Till the time I buy a bike, Mumbai Suburban Railway Zindabad!!!

PS: Someone (Abhyuadaya, I guess) questioned me regarding the fate of "From the Capital" once i moved out of Delhi. Simple, I have just shifted from the political/sex capital to the financial capital....

Monday, July 10, 2006

Nagpur, a city ahead of its time

The night of June 28th was spent in fitful,`partial and fearful sleep. Fearful because I was afraid that I would miss my 07:05 Jet airways flight to Nagpur, on my first ever business tour. Wake up finally I did at 04:00 and completed the usual stuff that all human beings are supposed to do when they get up every morning.

The early morning drive from Worli to Santa Cruz in incessant rain, with all the road to me, my driver and my taxi, was awesome. The best part of this city Bombay is that, even at such an early hour, there is life, proving that this is India's answer to New York as the 'City that never sleeps'.

Bombay airport domestic terminal B is a deadly piece of architecture with the mere sight of it enough to knock you out of sleep. The same happened to me. Once I entered, I began by old dirty habit of criticising Bangalore (I need to overcome this, after all its my hometown). Spotted my colleague, checked in and finally was on board the flight awaiting the journey to Nagpur.

I was supposed to stay at Hotel Chidambaram in some area called Ramdaspeth. The journey to this place showcased some of the best roads that Nagpur has got and I guess, the only flyover.

Later on, my work took me to areas to get to which I had to travel through some of the best landscapes of Nagpur. I mean it was as if I was in the US where you get to see acres and acres of space with hardly anyone in sight. Atleast for me, having come from some of the most crowded cities of India (Bangalore, Delhi and Bombay), this was a sight in contrast.

My manager summarised it by saying, "This certainly looks like the city of the future." It well might be, but I attribute the emptiness to the heat and nothing else but the heat...For a moment, when I saw females all wrapped up like the Saracens, I felt for a moment that I was back in Delhi..

Next blog would probably be on one of the following topics:
1. My journey from Amravathi to Chandrapur
2. My stay in Chandrapur, one of the bastions of the naxals.
3. My enjoyable stay in Bombay..specially the night ride from Haji Ali to Goregaon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Delhi-Bangalore-Mumbai-Nagpur

it has been a whirlwind trip for the past 15-20 days. rushed back home from delhi on the 9th. had a nice 10 day break at home and then joined work on the 19th at bangalore. flew to bombay on the 22nd and am now in nagpur on business.

bombay has been awe inspiring speciaslly the airport. i just love the city..until i saw nagpur. its the exact opposite of mumbai. wide empty roads...lotsa greenery and yeah, awesome landscape...i love it...i love it...

a detailed blog is due..will try to update ASAP

Saturday, June 10, 2006

To Right or to Reed?

BJP is right, Republicans are right, BNP is right and so are the jihadi entities. And needless to talk about reeds, because I do not know what to talk with respect to them.

So, I'll cut the crap and just say that I want to say "To Write or to Read"? I met one of my friends who lectures on English literature in one of Bangalore's best colleges. Our conversation started off with the general exchange of pleasantaries and catch-up stuff.

We even discussed James Joyce whose Ulyssyes, I am struggling to go beyond the fifth page. I asked him, "Man, sometime I want to see you writing." To which he said, "No, please. To write, one needs to stop reading, and at this point of time, I cannot afford to stop reading."

Why??? This is what ran through my mind:

1. The time factor: Authors' might not be good at multitasking.

2. The 'avoid Kavyaa Viswanathan' factor: the more you read , the more influenced you might be by the other author, leading to chances of plagiarism.

3. The I don't wanna write, thats all line of thinking....

What do you think?????

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Effed up Gujarat

This, should be the last word on the Gujarat riots. Irrespective of what you may say, "It was necessary", "This nation will be ruled by Muslims" yada-yada, all that I have to say is, "No Sir, siege mentality is not the way to run a country. Remove hatred or else be consumed by its flames."

As Basavanna, the great Veerashaiva philosopher said,

"Maneyolagana Kicchu Maneya Suttitallade, neremaneya sudadu Koodalasangamadeva"

Meaning: The fire within one's house will burn only his/her house and not the neighbour's, hear this, O Lord of Koodalasangama.

Ashis Nandy Link courtesy: Chandrahas

Tears of 'senti' fall down my face???

Crying is a phenomenon which is normal for any human being. But overdoing the tears part is something that I don't like.

What am I hitting at? If you are a KRECian (present or ex) you will be aware of the large deluge of tears that are shed whenever people from the final year batch quit KREC for ever. You need to see it to believe. People whom you would never have associated with tears breakdown like kids.

My only question is, why all the tears when in any case after a couple of months all that you will do is meet them on orkut/yahoo/gtalk and have the occasional 'meet up' business for lunch/dinner at some mall/restaurant??

Never seen any of the final years here in IITD do that. (be they BTech or MTech)

Bliss, as they say, is found here.......

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Post Graduate

It’s been nearly two years since I set foot in Delhi. I had anticipated a long, protracted struggle. But to be honest, these two years have sped by at a pretty healthy clip-clop.

Getting sentimental is something that I have promised will never happen to me. Hence, whatever I feel about the two years here may seem stoical and cold to some, but believe me, its not so. It’s just being objective and matter-of-fact about certain things.

I had this chat with one of my good friends, advisors and occasional Chetak baiter, Sharath Rao. What followed was an introspective discussion about how I found M.Tech now that I had the ‘wisdom’ of two years.

This mail, which I had written in May 2004 started it: (if you are wondering where this came from, let me tell you that Sharath is one of the best archivists that I have known. It’s a surety that whatever you have communicated in writing to him, will be there forever, and may haunt you some time too!!!)

Date: 18 May 2004 10:00:09 -0000

Hey man

Thanks for the mail. You have really cleared all my doubts. I am now more convinced than before to do my M.Tech.

My joining is on July 29th. I have also got an interview call from BARC wherein if I clear the interview I get to study in IITD on a BARC stipend and at the end of it get to join BARC. I'm giving that a shot as well because
1) Its a good chance to get into NPCIL (nuclear power corporation)
2) I can also drift into the high tech areas like particle accelerators, power electronics,
robotics etc

Let’s see how it goes.

By the way
Smriti came out. The printer fucked up the book but still its grt. The cd is even better. I'll show it to you when I come home. It has a 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' special. Vitruvian is supposed to come out today.

Only Rao's paper left.

Nothing else here. What’s up on ur side?
Deepak


What follows is ‘declassified’ chat conversation, which we believe will hurt no one, specially after 2 years!!!

krishnandeepak1: man, those were the indecisive days..
krishnandeepak1: i might sound senti..but believe me..u were a catalyst in my decision..
sharath rao: huh....i was trying to dig out the mail i wrote to see what i wrote...but cant find it..
sharath rao: but thats interesteing...who else did u talk to abt this ?
krishnandeepak1: my dad
krishnandeepak1: and immanuel
sharath rao: oh...what did they have to say ?
krishnandeepak1: dad was mostly like "there are advantages of doing ur degree immediately after BE. but go only if u are sure 100%"
krishnandeepak1: immanuel was also more or less the same
krishnandeepak1: but he also added his IISc exp
sharath rao: that is ...?
krishnandeepak1: in addition to his tata days
krishnandeepak1: so he too showed me both the paths
krishnandeepak1: so with my dad and immanuel it was like i was able to see 2 paths after getting thru a fog
sharath rao: okay..okay..
krishnandeepak1: but final path, i owe it to ur mail..
sharath rao: do you have that mail man ? i cant find it damn ...!!
krishnandeepak1: wait
sharath rao: i feel honored
krishnandeepak1: lemme see
sharath rao: but how do you look back at it ....now that you have the benefit of hindsight....
sharath rao: okay..am waiting

krishnandeepak1: hmm..mixed feelings..one moment lemme get rid of one of my sleepy frns by giving him an address that he wants..

krishnandeepak1: i guess that mail exchange was in the bad old days of rediff when there was limited space...so lemme check thoroughly
krishnandeepak1: which id did i send my mail to??

sharath rao: lets see wait..
sharath rao: i have ur reply..in which u havent included my mail

krishnandeepak1: fuck..rediff is so unfriendly..i have to navigate a lot
sharath rao: i dont know..i had it an archive acc. i maintain ..which got disabled due to not loggin in for months together..
krishnandeepak1: ok
sharath rao: its may 18, 2004 ..around that time.
sharath rao: take it easy..take your time
sharath rao: some other day..
sharath rao: but continue...on but how do you look back at it ....now that you have the benefit of hindsight....
krishnandeepak1: ok..
sharath rao: fuck you ...
krishnandeepak1: well after 1st sem i was convinced that i had made the right choice
krishnandeepak1: though there were issues like distance, new ppl to tackle
krishnandeepak1: weather was another issue
krishnandeepak1: 2nd sem sowed the seeds of doubt
sharath rao: okay...okay..
krishnandeepak1: this was when all the guys started getting salary hikes
krishnandeepak1: and when my project also started (a mini proj)
sharath rao: guys as in ur krec peers in corp. world ?
krishnandeepak1: yeah
krishnandeepak1: plus faced real pressure and long periods of no-results in my project
krishnandeepak1: this was when thoughts like "what if" crept in
krishnandeepak1: then in the summer of 2005 i went home en-route Hyderabad
sharath rao: okay...okay..
krishnandeepak1: and asked my batchmate Bharath (chemical guy) to show me the oracle campus
krishnandeepak1: where i wud have been working if i had joined
krishnandeepak1: what i saw there was lotsa comforts..but none of the corporate guys were having a challenging life
krishnandeepak1: i mean all they did was code
krishnandeepak1: eat
krishnandeepak1: go to multiplexes
krishnandeepak1: and sleep on weekends
sharath rao: i know bharath...was ur partner on few occasions..nerd looking bespectacled
sharath rao: okay..okay..
sharath rao: okay..
krishnandeepak1: whereas i felt that i was doing something different atleast
krishnandeepak1: plus bharath also talked abt how i made the right choice etc etc
krishnandeepak1: so that was the story of 2nd sem
krishnandeepak1: 3rd sem was a mix
krishnandeepak1: that was when i started doing lotsa things at the same time..like games, music, project, studies etc
krishnandeepak1: it was a real hotch potch wrt time management
sharath rao: okay...interesting
sharath rao: then ?
krishnandeepak1: things went downhill..
sharath rao: blog
krishnandeepak1: and i also showed signs of cracking
krishnandeepak1: i even went to the extent of alomost quitting my course
sharath rao: OMG !
krishnandeepak1: luckily i stopped at the moment of paying for my train ticket..some inner voice..
sharath rao: dont tell me..you came that close to quitting it !!
krishnandeepak1: then the winter of december 2005 and the new year week proved to be my boost
krishnandeepak1: things came together
krishnandeepak1: just in time before the final sem started
sharath rao: okay..
krishnandeepak1: final sem proved to be a slightly bumpy ride for the first half
krishnandeepak1: but smoothened out towards the end
krishnandeepak1: the job helped things a lot...i must say
krishnandeepak1: took off a lot of pressure
sharath rao: true ..true...
krishnandeepak1: 4th sem was when i discovered myself as a person
krishnandeepak1: what i am capable of

krishnandeepak1: what my dark side is..what can really crush me

krishnandeepak1: what weaknesses i have
sharath rao: 4th sem is final sem..post feb 06 ?
krishnandeepak1: so in hindsight, i am glad i did this
krishnandeepak1: yes..Jan 2k6 to may 2k6
sharath rao: jan 06 i guess..
sharath rao: okay...i see..man some journey uuh..
krishnandeepak1: it has been a journey of self discovery..which i wud not have made if i had been in oracle
krishnandeepak1: i mean it wud have been a different journey,
krishnandeepak1: but not as varied as this
sharath rao: i guess that wud have been a different kind...
krishnandeepak1: yes yes
sharath rao: but u wudnt have a got an extra degree for making a journey of self-discovery..
sharath rao: u wud have gotta few bucks
sharath rao: but big deal ...!
krishnandeepak1: yep..but bucks are not that big a deal...thats one more thing that ahave realised

krishnandeepak1: they don't give u as much pleasure as a happy mind

sharath rao: Certainly the difference between happiness on the one hand and a good and meaningful life on the other can’t be overemphasized. Last year when I lectured to my introductory psychology class about happiness I made this point using a set of thought experiments from the late philosopher Robert Nozick.

sharath rao: If a genie offered you the possibility of living the rest of your life in a state of sublime happiness, but you had to be asleep the whole time and dreaming, never to taste reality again, would you take it? How much extra happiness would you agree to if you had to lose a unique talent, like athletic or musical giftedness, or if you had to give up 30 IQ points?

sharath rao: To take an extreme case, would you agree to a lifelong increment in happiness on the condition that you would be transformed into a pig? Would you agree to become happier if it meant that one of your siblings had never been born or one of your children? All these examples, I said, show that happiness is not our only goal, perhaps not even our main goal, in life.
krishnandeepak1: i wud prefer the reality roller coaster
sharath rao: http://happinesspolicy.com/
sharath rao: blog dedicated to economics, policy , happiness etc.

krishnandeepak1: ok

sharath rao: harvard eco. prof.amazing chap ..
krishnandeepak1: ok
krishnandeepak1: one of the blogs u link to?
krishnandeepak1: now lemme see what PWC teaches me..
sharath rao: too late perhaps but read this http://post.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/mankiw/papers/My_Rules_of_Thumb.pdf
krishnandeepak1: too late for what?
sharath rao: "Doing research is not like digging a ditch. A person can dig a
perfectly fine ditch without enjoying his job for a minute."
sharath rao: "Doing research is not like digging a ditch. A person can dig a
perfectly fine ditch without enjoying his job for a minute."
sharath rao: thats for grad students
sharath rao: A book I read long ago revealed to me the secret to a happy life:
find out what you like to do, and then find someone who will payyou to do it.


sharath rao: u shud put on record what u told me abt ur Mtech exp...
krishnandeepak1: i'll do that..

That, my dear friends, is the inspiration behind this entry. Now, in case you are wondering about the mail Sharath sent me, here it is: (does this make me an archiver too?)

Hey fella...

Firstly about IIT-D ...I heard from people about it being really good for PowerSystems and alsocos its the only IIT with a Mtech ( integrated ) for Power System among the options in the JEE. Sothat is kinda their forte...plus I think one of nagrath or kothari is at IITD the other being atBITS...this I guess you already knew.........

About if I know someone there, I dont. But just talked to one chap here ...he is a summer studentfrom IT-BHU and couple of his friends are there. Will pass on their IDs tom, so you can get intouch.......Hope that helps........:-) Besides its very likely that one of Delhi party gang atKREC itself will have their school mates studying there....check that out as well......

About the idea of taking a break Vs joining right away.......

Lets really look at reasons why people go one way or the other.....

*****Some people take up jobs because they have concluded at the end of their BE that they have had enuf of technical stuff and they are not made for technical things. you DONT belong here anyway so forget it....This wont make you go for a job..

*****Some do want to study further, but want to take a break from studies and work for a while,they are fed up not of studies but of the system - of sessionals, exams, projects.....they want toget fresh in the industry and return at some undefined point in time. you DONT belong here anyway so forget it....This wont make you go for a job..

*****Certain others take up a job cos they actually wanted to take up CAT/GATE in final year butdidnt cos they also wanted to have a good time in 7th sem and so dont clear it. you DONT belong here anyway so forget it....This wont make you go for a job..

*****And finally those who take up jobs cause of financial problems, family compulsions, not beingable to find a groom upto their educational qualifications etc. This is a miniscule number and youdont belong here either. :-) This wont make you go for a job..

***** Finally, some get irresistable job offers - generally reputed MNC and well paying. They areunder tremendous pressure from peers, seniors and relatives etc. to take it up and feel foolish tolet go of it. Now since you asked me this question that I am answering, you appear to be slippinginto this category :-) THIS MITE JUST MAKE FOR GO FOR IT. Bear with me if my assessment is off the mark.

Look at reasons why people take up studies :

***** They simply love a certain/ a few subjects and feel they are made for it and want tospecialize here. You do belong here. THIS MITE JUST MAKE FOR GO FOR PG.

*****Certain others take up studies cos they have few well paying job offers and they would ratherbuild their resume and try for job after post-graduation ...typically civil, mining etc. Well youdefinitely dont belong here. So this wont make you go for a PG degree.

***** Or They 'fear' that if they take a break, they may not feel like coming back to studies andso want to finish off with it.

***** Or THey got into one of the top Univs In india or abroad and dont want to let the offer go.So they go study.

So final analysis what do you have left,

** you mite go for a job if :since you have a real good offer. reputed MNC and well paying.

Not too sure its a good choice ...firstly am not too sure you like ERP, Database etc. and secondlyyou dont want to head for Oracle and simply dilute your learning at this stage. and dont worryabout well-paying, post Mtech ( and maybe PhD ) too you will get good offers....

if you want to get into academia i.e . do a phd and get into teaching and consulatancy, youcertainly musnt go to Oracle.

** and since you also arent against MTech and the area in principle, you will really enjoy yourprogram. So you can very much go over.

I am recommending this cos I have known you as a rather academic person and dont burn my head if you have changed over time and I have got all the above fundas wrong. :-D

Finally, even if you have a slightest of doubt that you arent as interested in power systems ( orElectrial Eng. ) as you think and that someday you might want to come over to things like Computer Eng, Information Systems, or ERP or Management etc, take a break ...check out Oracle and give yourself time to be sure.

But for the above situation ( which is perfectly justified if it is true ), I dont see any reasonyou shud back out of IIT-D.

In one sentence : It wont harm to 'try out' Oracle, but it will if you 'try out' IIT-D......

Let better sense prevail.

Cheers,
Sharath

P.S: If you havent already slept off by now, :-), good night !

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Huccha Baccha!!!

1 AM on a cool summer morning on the 28th of May 2005. My penultimate official day at IITD. I have to make a presentation to present before The Execution Squad on Monday, the 29th. I find that all the graphs that I have are in black and white and have to convert them to color. Not wanting to waste time clicking on each waveform and changing its color, I decide to run the simulations again and get all my 'rang bhari' results.

The only company that I have is Dire Straits singing 'Telegraph Road' and "In Those Days There Was No Coffee", a book by A. R. Venkatachalapathy. Was going through a chapter named 'Consuming Literature: The Contemporary Reputation of Pudumaipithan'. (Pudumaipithan = pen name of C. Vridhachalam, a Tamil short story writer).

Pudumaipithan literally means 'the one crazy about the new/modern'.

After reading that line: "Aw shit!! I knew the meaning of this Tamil word even before I could speak properly." How, you ask my dear reader? Simple, in the good old 80's I could not pronounce the word Chitappa (father's younger brother) and instead willed my tongue to pronounce it as, you guessed it right (if you did) - "Pithan".

Forgive me all uncles, whom I have labelled crazy in the innocence of my childhood. But you got to admit, God sensed my literary potential!!!

Another childhood gem:

Q: "What is your name?"

My answer: "Deepak Krishnan I love You!!!"...and just when I remember this incident, my Orkut fortune for the day says, "Our first and last love is...self love"

Stranger things have happened!!!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Venkatachalapathy, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of “In Those Days There was no Coffee: Writings in Cultural History” is called ‘Caricaturing the Political’ and is about cartoons in pre-independence Tamil journalism. ‘Tamil’ cartoons, (well cartoons are just pictures and cannot be classified by language, but what I mean is cartoons that appear in Tamil magazines) have been a regular with magazines like ‘Ananda Vikatan’, ‘Kumudam’, ‘Kalki’, ‘Mangayir Malar’ circulating between the ‘mamis’ of Rajajinagar. Most of the times, it used to be kids like me who used to be the errand boys to deliver those magazines to another house and get the exchange set. Exchanges also used to take place at vegetable shops. Since I was (and am) illiterate in Tamil, the cartoons used to be the only thing that I could understand. Sometimes they used to come with dialogues, which I would ask mom or grandma to read out.

But this particular chapter is about pre-independence cartoons which would mean tremendous focus on the British, freedom fighters and the like. This chapter is a quizzers delight with names of many firsts dropping off nearly every paragraph on every page.

The author attributes the English magazinePunch’ as being the inspiration for all Indian cartoons. Read this extract,

“However, as Partha Mitter, the pioneering historian of art in colonial India, has rightly pointed out, “no single humorous publication made a deeper impression in colonial India than the English magazine Punch. A riotous procession of its offering greets us in the second half of the last century”1 –and it is perhaps from here that one should begin a history of cartoons in India. A series of journals, evidently inspired by Punch proliferated across India: the Delhi Punch, the Punjab Punch, the Indian Punch, Urdu Punch, Gujarati Punch, Hindu Punch. Parsi Punch, Hindi Punch and even a Purnea Punch.”

1--> Partha Mitter, “Art and Nationalism in Colonial India 1850-1922: Occidental Orientations”, Cambridge, 1994, p. 138

The pioneer of cartoons of cartoons in Tamil journalism was Subramania Bharati. The novelty of cartoons can be gauged by the following notices in the Tamil publication India.

A New Development in India: Readers would know that ours is the only magazine in Tamil which publishes cartoons. However, from the coming week onwards, we propose to add another adornment. Apart from the cartoon on the title page, we propose to publish other drawings and pictures to illustrate important news items. Such an arrangement is unknown in the Tamil, English, Telugu and Kannada language journals of South India. It is we who are introducing this novelty. Initially we can proceed only little by little. But in the coming days further embellishments will be made.”

The second notice was in English, though ‘India’ was a Tamil magazine, “A Weekly Tamil magazine on modern lines. Published every week with cartoons.”

Bharati’s typical style included the usage of animals and birds. In fact the author states, “Bharati’s cartoons constitute a veritable zoological garden teeming with lions, tigers, elephants, crows, bulls, goats, horses, dogs, cats, owls, fowls, crows, foxes and rats.”. He also goes on to describe some of the cartoons that Bharati had drawn/commissioned someone else to draw.

For example, England is portrayed as a plump Englishman in a bowler hat who is seen milking the cow (Mother India) dry while the small children (Indians) starve.

He then goes on to trace the path that he cartoons took in India,, reaching a peak after the civil disobedience movement. He also states that in the early days, if cartoonists didn’t want to print their name, they started doing so and in the process earned a lot of fame. At this point, the author adds quoting Mannikodi of 10th June, 1934, “Most of the cartoonists do not express their own opinion on day to day happenings. The editorial department asks them to draw such and such an incident and such a manner in order to express such and such an opinion.”

Another important characteristic of Tamil cartoons that the author draws attention to is the “predominance of the political in pre-independence cartooning. When Partha Mitter states that ‘The most popular Bengali cartoons were social’ it does not sound exceptional to the Tamil reader. The hypocritical zamindar, henpecked husband, pompous professor, obsequious clerk, illiterate Brahmin – such caricatured identities are strikingly absent in Tamil cartoons. Tamil cartoonists seem to have stuck to indicting the English.”

How long could the indictment of the British go on? The answer was ‘till 1947’. What after 1947? To quote O.V. Vijayan from Ibid pp 56-57

“the pre-independence cartoonist had simpler challenges to take on. The reality he was called to comment on could be separated into neat sets of black and whites. His characters were not so much precise political personae as they were folk totems. And he himself was not so much communicating as participating in the struggle along with the vast majority of his readers…The nationalist consensus, which made these primal totems viable, collapsed with the post-independence polarization. ..The cartoonist from now on would have to abandon his folk symbolism, and settle for the less apparent but more demanding job of analysis.”

Hmm…post-independence Tamil cartoons would sure be an interesting study. The rise of the Dravidian movement, the anti-Hindi agitation, the emergency, the emergence of MGR, the Cauvery issue with Karnataka, all will be an interesting study. Also, from what I have seen till now, Tamil cartoons have turned the social page………

Also, talking of the issues of ‘black and white’ that a cartoonist has to face, read this blog by Rajdeep Sardesai about The Middle Ground.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

M.Balaji, L.Balaji, T.Balaji...yella OK aadre V.Balaji???

There used to be a serial on Lord venkateshwara on DD with the song,

"Balaji..Tirupati Balaji
Tirupati Nayak Balaji
Tribhuwan Palak Balaji
Jeevan Poshak Balaji......"

I read this in the Deccan Herald. Got me wondering, I know or have heard of M.Balaji (my friend in IIT), L.Balaji (ex(???) Indian bowler) and T.Balaji (Tirupati Balaji of course)...

And now, I can only sit back and say, "I've got the visa power".......................

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Acidic oder Basic!!!

The ball is passed on the right flank, DK is onto it, so is the opponent X. DK tries to nudge forward, X cuts off the angle. DK takes it back fakes a pass and when X is thrown off balance, kicks it, runs down the line and passes into the D.

As he makes his way back into his D (he was the defender u see) a strange feeling of having dribbled and fooled an opponent sunk in. So did the following dialogues...

Dr.Anand:"You started playing football pretty late I suppose.Your running indicates that.Your upper torso just follows your lower torso.Why don't you try to lower your CG as you run?"

Ahsay:"Man,you have improved a lot ever since you came to play with us."

Ah bliss!!! Now, the dialogue that I am waiting to hear from my prof is,"You have improved after coming to this M.Tech program,now start typing your thesis."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dum Maro Dum

One skill I have tried to learn unsuccessfully (and I am now thankful for that) is that of smoking a cigarette. Maybe it was a sub-conscious impotence imbedded in my lungs, but I just could not draw the smoke inwards. Maybe it was the 'warnings' that I had been fed with. Whatever, the cigarette stayed as anathema unlike alcohol which I enjoy in small amounts at treats/parties.

For all the smokers who swear by their malboro/wills/kings and the non-smokers who curse the existence of tobacco, A.R.Venkatachalapathy's book "In Those Days There Was No Coffee: Writings in Cultural History" has a chapter on tobacco. This blog-entry is the second in the series of 'chapter-wise' review of the book. A little slyly titled chapter is:, "Triumph of Tobacco: The Tamil Experience". Sly wrt to what?? Before you get any Madrasi vs Hindi debate, let me put it straight that the slyness is wrt to the word 'triumph'.

The obsession that Indians have for tobacco is to be seen to be believed. It is consumed in three forms namely inhalation by burning (cigarettes and bidis) and chewing (tobacco leaves) and inhaling snuff. Historically, it is proved that tobacco came from shores far away but got Indianised sufficiently. As an extract goes:

"Tobacco, along with pineapple, cashewnut, papaya, guava, chilli and potato, came with the Portuguese to India in the sixteenth century. But tobacco has become so much a part of Indian society, that, following Ashis Nandy on cricket, one could almost say that tobacco was an Indian crop accidentally discovered by the Europeans!..."

There is another extract which proves that economics played a vital role in tobacco fanning out all over:

"...Newcomers always do indeed face resistance from existing crops and consumption habits.But K.N.Chaudhuri observes that tobacco(and maize), unlike potato, was readily accepted and from this he surmises that it found 'an immediate opening in the economic and social surface of existing farming practices.'. Irfan Habib calls the rapid extension of the cultivation of tobacco 'one of the most remarkable changes in the crop pattern that occured within the course of the seventeenth century' and, contrary to received wisdom about pesant traditionalism, sees in this a 'remarkable readiness' on the part of peasants to cultivate anything that could sell well"...

Another interesting extract is this: "A crucial aspect of tobacco cultivation in India was the fact that it had no export market. '[N]early the whole of tobacco produced in India is consumed in the country, the great bulk of it in the district in which it is grown'.In fact it was not quoted in the London market at all......"

Francis Buchanan in 'A Journey fron Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar', 1807 (AES Reprint), Vol I, p 52 says about the differential response to tobacco:

"In both the upper and lower Carnatics, taking snuff is much more common than in Bengal: indeed, I have never been in a country where the custom is more prevalent. Smoking, on the contrary is in great disrepute..."

All the above statements have been taken from the Government records. More info is found in the Tamil literary texts. They are mainly in the form of poems disguised as odes to Gods but which contain huge references to tobacco. Example?

"Seeni Chakkarai Pulavar in 'Pugaiyilai Vidu Thoothu' (Tobacco as the Messenger) in an innovative move, presses tobacco into service. Tobacco is given the task of taking the message of the pining lady-love to Lord Murugan of Palani. However, the message is only a pretext. For, of the 59 couplets (kanni),53 are in praise of tobacco with a mere six forming the text of the message".

The blind-love towards tobacco was broken with the advent of the English educated middle class and the rise of the national movement.But, see the irony..."..While the mahatma (Gandhi) went about condemning tobacco, enterprising traders marketed 'Gandhi Cigarettes'!!..."

All in all, this chapter was pretty dry without the thrill and feel-good factor associated with the coffee chapter. Or is my inherent dislike towards tobacco proving to be a mental block??

Friday, May 05, 2006

Kapi Sapidaraya?

Translation:
1. Literal: Will you 'eat' coffee?
2. Actual: Will you consume coffee?

Why has a blog that has of late focussed on social issues like the environment, rising religious intolerance yada-yada suddenly shifted to the mundane issues of coffee drinking? Has Deepak finally decided to go the way of 'abstract' writing? Has he decided to write about coffee in a cryptic fashion which does not give out the hint that the writing is about coffee till the very end? Has he decided to earn applause and have his blog link circulated throughout the WWW?

The answers to the above are NO. I am currently going ga-ga about this book "In Those Days There Was No Coffee: Writings In Cultural History" by A.R.Venkatachalapathy (ARV). This is part of a series called 'New Perspectives on Indian pasts' published by Yoda Press. I picked this up at the Pragati maidan book fair in New Delhi in January.

FROM THIS POINT ON, THIS BLOG IS GONNA CONTAIN SOME DIRECT QUOTATIONS FROM THE ABOVE MENTIONED BOOK. BEFORE YOU ACCUSE ME OF PLAGIARISM, PLEASE SEE THIS DISCLAIMER, "SOME OF THE FOLLOWING LINES ARE NOT MY WORK. I DON'T WANT TO BE ANOTHER KAAVYA VISWANATHAN".

The coverage of topics in this book is awesome. It begins with the divide between one's mothertongue and English in the study of history. He begins by quoting a Bengali historian named Jadunath Sarkar from a piece in The Modern Review of December 1915 from an essay titled "Confessions of a History Teacher",

"Our boys have to attend lectures and write answers in an alien tongue of which the immense majority of our freshmen have no such mastery as breeds confidence and facility in using it...Their limited power of English composition makes it practically impossible for them to express themselves in their own words freely"

"This unnatural arrangement of boys having to read and write in a foreign and imperfectly acquired tongue, is responsible for a twofold mischief: the meagre acquisition of knowledge..and the inadequate expression in writing".

Mr.Sarkar also bemoans the abscence of advanced historical in the vernaculars as an 'insuperable difficulty' that compounded the problem of lack of knowledge in English. He also confesss that it was beyond his power as a mere teacher to abolish the unnatural system of teaching and examining students (a clear dig at Lord Mccaulay's educational system which aimed to make Indians clerks to the British Crown); but he claimed that he had experimented with the method of 'vernacular seminar'.

This argument was countered by K.A Nilakanta Sastri whom ARV names as arguably the most distinguished historian of twentieth century Tamil Nadu. Supposedly Mr.Sastri is the author of 'the magisterial' The Colas (Cholas) and 'the synthetic' A History of South India. ARV even adds tongue-in cheek "...In the 60 long years that he (Sastri) lived after responding to Jadunath Sarkar, he wrote no book, nor to the best of my knowledge, even an essay, in the Tamil language".

What did Sastri reply in response to Sarkar's article? He wrote, "...I cannot confess to better success with a vernacular medium atleast in my college and in this district (Tirunelveli....this place is famous for halwas)....". He also went on to add that inspite of committing grammatical mistakes, his students spoke and wrote English better than Tamil.he also says that he himself found English a better medium of instruction than Tamil atleast in handling historical subjects. The last straw was the words, "..perhaps the vernacular is not so well off in this part of the country as it should be".

Sastri was cut to pieces by none other than Subramania Bharati, he of the "Acchamillai Acchamillai" (no fear! no fear!) fame. He wrote, "I must pity Sri Nilakanta Sastri. The wonder of persons who cannot speak their own language straight, teaching the sciences may be seen only in our country". And in the characteristic way linguistic fanatics ask questions, Bharati wondered why Sastri had to proclaim his ignorance of Tamil in a Bengali journal.

ARV also recounts the struggle between the two schools of thought: English and vernacular history writing, and how they missed the bus on some creative history writing and the social history bus.

Such is the mouthwatering preface to this book. ARV has divided the book into two distinct sections. According to him, the essays in the first section "contribute to an as yet unwritten history of consumption in colonial India." He takes up "both material (coffee, tea and tobacco) and cultural (cartoon, the city and modern literature)" consumption issues. In the second part he concerns himself with "the politics of language, literature and identity in colonial Tamil Nadu."

I'll provide a review of each chapter starting with the chapter on coffee from this blog onwards. Hope you like it....

Chapter 1: In Those days There was no coffee: Coffee-Drinking and Middle-Class Culture in Colonial Tamilnadu

Coffee was regarded as a modern intruder into the Tamil life. Sample a quotation like

"In those days there was no coffee",Va.Ramaswamy Iyengar, "Aimpathu Varushangalukku Mun" (fifty Years ago), 1943.

Coffee was seen as an essentially British and upper caste drink and its consumption by other Indians was seen as an intrusion, nay, a curse if I may say.H.R. Pate wrote, "The old practice of taking kanji, or cold rice-water, in the early morning is rapidly giving way to coffee drinking, a degenerate innovation at which the older generation shake their heads. Even Pallans [a Dalit caste] in some parts insist on having their cup of coffee before they go out to work; with the younger members of the richer classes the custom of drinking coffee is almost general."

The author beautifully says, "The incursion of coffee into Tamil society was marked by a cultural anxiety which was matched only by the enthusiasm with which it was consumed. This ambivalence and tension, bewteen the threat that coffee was supposed to pose to both Tamils' physical and cultural health on the one hand, and the fascination with coffee as a beverage with all its attendant cultural associations on the other, is something that the tamils have yet to get over."

The volley of criticism that coffee had received is to be seen and heard to be believed. probably we missed out a lot by not being in that generation. Sample the following points:

1. Fundamentalist Gandhians christened coffee as 'kutti kal' (junior alcohol)

2. Anjanenjan, "Filter coffee is more addictive than even beer and arrack".

3. Stri-Dharma, the organ of the Women's Indian Association, "These days the enemies called tea and coffee have entered all homes, wreaking havoc. They are not food. They seem to stimulate cheer for a little while after drinking, but gradually subvert the vitality of the digestive organs, and when the body is weak, they create all sorts of unknown diseases".

4. A 1914-chapbook titled "Englandu Kappikkum Indian Palayathukkum nerntha Chandai Chindu" (the battle between the English coffee and the Indian soaked rice) there is a debate between Cold Rice and Coffee where cold-rice potrays coffee as an immoral woman, who has led people astray and disturbed the (fasting) austerities connected with amavasai (new moon day), karthigai and ekadasi.

5. A letter from a correspondent to Gandhi, "The greatest obstacle in the way of success to our [non-cooperation] movement in Madras are our women. Some of them are very reactionary, and a very large number of the high class Brahman ladies have become addicted to many of the Western vices.They drink coffee not less than three times a day, and consider it very fashionable to drink more."

6. Stri-Dharma agin accused coffee by saying, "emaciated by coffee-drinking, young women are unable to suckle their children with the god-given, ambrosia-like breast milk and instead feed them with bottled milk bought with money."

If this was the scale of abuse, how did coffee entrench itself? The answer lies in the words of Maraimalai Adigal, "People who claim accomplishment in education, wealth and culture have begun to see the consumption of beverages through the day as indispensable and a matter of pride." Steven Levitt will be definitely happy to see his 'principle of incentive' leading to the success of coffee in winning the hearts of the Tamils!!!

From the war against coffee, the issue shifted to the caste wars over coffee. Brahmins considered themselves the high priests of pure coffee made out of cow's milk. Buffalo milk based coffee was considered a sign of cultural and moral degradation. Consider this writing by A. Marx, the tamil critic, "...signboard of 'pasumpal kapi klub' (cow's milk cafe) in Kumbakonam, the stronghold of Tamil Brahminism; whereas in North Arcot district, historically at the margins of Brahminism, this phenomenon is not only absent but also 'beef biryani' is widely available and advertised."

The consumption of coffee reached such proportions that, humorist S.V.V. wrote in an essay titled, 'Don't Meddle With Coffee', "..I cannot understand why every domestic retrencher starts with coffee. But that he does;...the step develops in the human body canine tendencies of the most ferocious character. I tell you seriously, and after bitter experience; whatever you do, don't cut out coffee. You may cut out food, you may go out in rags, or walk three miles to your office, but don't meddle with coffee."

Coffee also became a metaphor for writers to put forth their ideas. Invariably the metaphors were of both kinds, coffee as an enhancing metaphor and as a degrading metaphor. It also came into arguments about Tamilness - what constituted tamil identity, how the tamil language was to keep pace with the demands of modernity etc.

With coffee, came 'Coffee Hotels' a few of which in bangalore i can proudly say are the Janatha Cafe in malleshwaram and India Coffee House on M.G.Road. Nowadays, they serve tea also, but I don't think they would have done so at the beginning of the last century.

The setting up of these 'hotels' was at about the same time that the Dravidian movement against the Brahmins started to take roots in TN. The Tamil equivalent of the Devil's Dictionary defined a coffee club as, "A Public tavern instituted by Brahmins. A messenger from God to break Brahmin orthodoxy." This was because these 'hotels' were generally set up by Brahmins.

Bharatidasan, the fiery poet of the Dravidian movement called Brahmins as 'kapi kadai mundangal' (the wretches of the coffee hotels).

Caste divisions were practised in these 'hotels' by way of seating arrangements and it needed Periyar Ramasamy to eradicate this menace by symbolically tarring the word "brahmin" on the nameplate of Murali's Cafe in Tiruvallikkeni (present day Triplicane), Madras (present day Chennai).

The chapter also traces the effect of tea in a similar way to coffee. Tea was to the urban working class as coffee was to the Brahmin, middle class.Advertisements for tea also highlighted this fact.

The author quotes an interesting statistic at this juncture, "..in the Buckingham & carnatic Mills of Madras, the management had made arrangements in conjunction with the Indian Tea Marketing Board for a tea canteen which supplied a daily cup of tea to all workers at 4 annas per month. By 1943, as the factories Act: Administration report recorded, scores of mills across Tamilnadu, in Coimbatore, Madurai, Tuticorin, Tiruchi and Madras, served only tea to its workers. Only the Hindu, the acknowledged seat of Brahmin-hood, served coffee to its press workers."

The author also makes an important point about tea being widely consumed cutting across caste and class barriers in north india. I have experienced this personally. Tea is the staple drink in my mess at IIT Delhi. Coffee is provided only during special dinners. Contrast this with NIT Surathkal where there was an option between tea and coffee. Of course plain milk is an option in both places. (except that at the NIT we had to obtain a special permit to get plain milk).

The concluding remarks of this chapter draw the contrast between coffee and tea in the following manner, "..If, as we have seen earlier, the coffee hotel was seen as a Brahmin institution,and serving and consuming good coffee a Brahmin habit, tea had another derisive association apart from its working-class patronage. To this day, it is generally accepted that the best tea can be had only at Muslim households and non-vegetarian restaurants, run often by muslims (popularly called 'military hotels')...."

Such is the brilliance of this historian's writing. Now, if only our history textbooks were so interesting!!! I pat myself on my back for selecting this book and expect your congratulations too, my dear reader.(my, my, what a modest man I am!!!)

Looking forward to writing the second installment of this series, and hope that you are looking forward to reading it..........