Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rehan and Mayanti

These were the people who made my Sunday.

1. Rehan Butt must get my salute/salaam/sashtanga namaskaram of the day for THAT beauty of a pass he made to Sandeep Michael which culminated in the winning goal for the Bangalore Lions against the Chandigarh Dynamos. He made a magnificient run from the half line, dodged three defenders and made that rasping pass to Sandeep from the edge of the D.... All this in spite of running a high temperature.

3. The beauteous and knowledgeable Mayanti of Zee Sports kept me rooted to my chair from
19:30 to 22:30. It also helped matters that Theo Walcott opened the scoring for Arsenal in
the Carling Cup final. Nevermind the fact that Drogba scored 2 to screw Arsenal, but dear
Mayanti, you have made my evening and possibly the whole week ahead!! You have rekindled my interest in Indian football too!!!

Who is Mayanti you ask?? O, ignorant one, here The Goddess appears before you:

Saturday, February 24, 2007

An evening to remember

The evening of 24th February 2007 saw new additions to my favourite singers' list. The occassion was the Carnatic Classical Festival called Indradhanush Mahotsav 2007 organised by the Fine Arts Society, Chembur.

The artists in question were the sisters Ranjani and Gayatri. Brilliant, melodious, uplifting are some of the words that I can come up with to describe the music of these ladies. The alapanas, the gamakas, the choice of songs and ragas were just right.

I simply loved the last bit, a Marathi abhang composed by Sant Tukaram which in the words of Gayatri is, "..a ninda-stuti..." (prayer by way of criticism). Somehow managed to locate the lyrics for this song from here:

Pandhari Che Booth Mote
Aalya Gailya Zhadapi Vaatay
Bahu Ghethalicha Raana
Bagha hey Veeday hoya Mana
Thethay Jaavu nakaa konnee
Gailay Nahi aalay Parathoni
Tuka Pandhari see gailaa
Punha Janma Nahi Aalaa

Roughly it translates as: (courtesy Gayatri...)

"There is a demon in Pandharpur; Those who go there never return; Please don't go there... Tukaram went to Pandarpur, And never came back to this earthly life"

Before the last line was quoted, I was under the impression that she was referring to a ghost being tamed by Tukaram; but turns out that Lord Vitthal himself is being referred to as a ghost to suit the style of poetry...

There was also some Tamil poetry and a Purandhara Dasa 'rachane' (composition) in addition to the Carnatic numbers.

Some other facts also presented themselves before me:

1. The true meaning of the music 'Rasika' hit me only today when a majority of the huge audience followed the lyrics in addition to the tune and were able to appreciate the finer nuances of the song, while I was left just appreciating the tune.

2. Listening to Gayatri sing and speak has led me to this generalisation, "Any female who sings should be the emcee of any function." Her voice was kinda magical. Sweet, rich and commanding attention at the same time.

All said and done, this evening should motivate me to get back to my violin!!! Lotsa catching up to do.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Defensive Enigma

Its been a perennial wonder as to why Indian teams lose matches when they are supposed to just play normal cricket without being too flamboyant or too defensive. An example of flamboyance would be the 3rd test against England in Bombay, the 2nd test against SA in Durban etc. Examples of defensive play would be the 3rd test against Pakistan in Bangalore, the 3rd test in the recently concluded series against South Africa etc.

Atleast to illustrate a side losing due to a defensive approach, India need to look no beond than the 1998-1999 Ranji season where Karnataka punished Madhya Pradesh for being too defensive in the Ranji final. MP chose to win the Ranji trophy by virtue of its first innings lead by batting out the last day. Instead they lost due to the web they wove for themselves.

Maybe Dravid needs to talk to people like Sujith Somasunder, Chandrakant Pandit, the lost wonder Vijay Bharadwaj, Sunil Joshi and the run machine J Arunkumar. The wisdom that he gains from this talk could be passed on to the Indian team; rather drilled into them that there is something known as a middle path between flamboyance and going into one's shell.

I am not able to recollect any examples for flamboyance, but one thing I can tell India is, you are your own teachers, so learn from your experiences.

Plagiarism by the Times of India

There are limits to copying. Or should I say, there are methods of copying. One is where you copy the meaning, the message whatever but not the words verbatim due to which no one's aware of the act of copying since they are unable to trace the source.

The other which is the more foolish of the methods of copying, is what the Times of India adopts i.e. reproducing articles verbatim. Today's i.e 23rd Feb,2007 main paper, sports section carried an article on Heartbreaking Moments in the cricket world cup. There was a section on the 1992 England-South Africa farcial semi-final where SA were left to score 22 runs of 1 ball due to some dubious calculation.

TOI wrongly assumed that none of its readers follow Cricinfo. The same article appeared in Cricinfo early this week. Read this article by Andrew Miller first.

Now check out this image from the e-paper version of TOI. Since I was unable to obtain a permanent link, I took the image of the offending article and underlined lines which were copied from Cricinfo. Turns out, it was the whole article!! Shame on you Solomon S Kumar.

The least that could have been done was to acknowledge Cricinfo!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Replying to SriVishnu

Srivishnu Mohan, my junior from NITK asked me here as to why Arjuna is a hyper-polygamist. Well, the polgamy part is self explanatory. As far as I remember, Draupadi, Subhadra, Uloopi and Chitrangada were Arjuna's wives.

The hyper part is just for added effect !!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Interpretations of Autism

The IEEE Spectrum edition of October 2006 has an excellent article on autism, new viewpoints regarding autism and different classifications of autism. What drew me to this article was the magazine contents using the heading relating engineers and autism. And this is what I saw at the beginning of the article:

Among the children of engineers, autism and related conditions are found twice as often as in the general population, according to British studies, and are unusually common even in the grandchildren of engineers. Anecdotally, hot spots of autism have been reported in major centers of engineering, including Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; and Boston’s Route 128 technology ring.

The article goes on to describe a new theory on autism which tries to explain autism as something not resulting from only external causes, but as merely the extreme of a continuum on which all of us reside. To quote the authors, In this view, autism is a difference not in kind of thinking, but in degree.

The psychologist behind this theory, Simon Baron-Cohen, from the University of Cambridge starts off with firstly classifying two poles of thought: the systematiser and the empathiser. The systematiser looks for recurrig patterns or attempts to classify everything under some pattern or the other, but the empathiser understands occurrences as a result of action of agents, i.e. minds like our own. He takes the example of an unkempt but designer tie and the article then delivers the statement which should put engineers on guard,

And, if Baron-Cohen is right, today’s male engineer is more likely to leave the house wearing a stained tie than his professional forebears, simply because he is more likely to be married to a woman who is herself of the systemizing persuasion. In Baron-Cohen’s interpretation, the flow of women into the universities has sorted them, as it long has sorted men, according to inborn mental proclivities—greatly increasing the chances that two systemizers will meet and marry. Such “assortative mating,” as he calls it, would have served to concentrate the critical genes, increasing the chance that such a couple will give birth to the most extreme systemizers of all: those with autism.

Well, the theory is interesting, but I have to take it with a pinch of salt!!!

My only point of argument against such experiments and classifications is that the control period is too long to arrive at any definitive conclusions. If I may be allowed to place an estimate, the control period for such experiments cannot be less than 3 years; and in 3 years lifestyles can undergo a sea change. Case in point?? Check out the way Bangaloreans lived in 1999 compared to the early 2000s. Hell, consider 2002 or 2003!!!

This is not to criticise the scientists, for whom I have utmost respect, but in an already paranoid world, unless you have an understanding population, such articles can set off ripples. Thank God, this article is in Spectrum and not in Times of India!!!

And Spectrum being Spectrum, provides gems like these:

So intently do those with autism focus on the trees that they often cannot see the forest. “What happens if you have such an extreme systemizing style that you study a rotating wheel close to your eye, looking at the tiny details, not playing with it as a typical child does,” says Baron-Cohen. “Your systemizing is so extreme that you learn everything there is to know of that wheel, but a psychologist giving you a test would find a learning disability.

Going by the above, Arjuna should have been an autist (remember the famous "parrot on the branch: take your best shot" test conducted by Dronacharya for the Kauravas and Pandavas, which, only Arjuna managed to pass out of the 106 present in total (including Drona's son Ashwatthama). Luckily Drona was not like the psychologist described in the previous paragraph, because if he had looked at Arjuna's concentration as autism, mythology would have lost its best archer and hyper-polygamist.

The next paragraph should be an eye-opener for the ignorant many in Indian society who tend to classify autists as people with inferior intelligence. Nothing could be further from the truth!

With high-functioning autistic people—those who tend to fall into categories six and seven—a slightly weaker systemizing tendency allows them to tolerate irregularity enough to cope with the world. They can master self-contained bodies of knowledge, such as calendar calculation, or the ability to name the day of the week on which a date centuries into the past or future falls. This trick is commonly found in savants, such as the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man.

All said an done, the article is good, and the research, like all other research is aimed at the betterment of mankind. And in a sense of deja-vu for me, the article ends by saying:

Perhaps we must accept certain psychological extremes as inevitable side effects of essentially beneficial genes. “If we were to get rid of the autism genetics, we’d have no science,” Grandin says. “We’d have a lot of talented people but nobody who could make things.” And maybe this publication wouldn’t have many readers


"Radioactive cats have 18 half lives"

--- PwC Mail Server

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Its been a long time since I felt for any cause after I left college. Dealing with work pressures, adjusting to life in Bombay and a general indoctrination into hi-fi fundas of commercialisation, I had almost forgotten my socialist leanings of the past two years. Time to unleash them!!

Maharashtra as on today is facing a major power crisis. The deficit has risen to 5700 MW without any respite in sight. The only generation that is in sight is too less and some time away. The infamous Dabhol project which is now called RGPPL is still some way off.

The only viable alternative is load shedding; which, though hated by all is something which is unavioidable in a power deficit country like India.

Moving on, if you read the article, you will find one small line saying "Mumbai metro region has been excluded from power cuts"

Why are the rural regions and outer suburbs of Bombay like Kalyan, Dombivili etc facing massive power cuts while the main city stays chilled out to the max possible extent?

People in other places of Maharashtra also pay the same electricity charges as the citizens of Bombay. It certainly is not fair to screw others just to make Mumbaikars happy. It is a typical case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

True, there are essential services like railways which one cannot afford to shut down. But there are less critical sectors which can take ONE hour of load shedding a day giving allowance for emergency backup for elevators, alarm bells etc!!!

It would be a shame if people complain about a small amount of load shedding which would help the state. There are people who are suffering worse!!!


Was humming Zehreeli Raatein in the bathroom and wondered that I had not listened to this song for a long time. Guess whats the song that starts playing on the radio when I turn it on?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Doing Business in India

The latest Doing Business in South Asia report released by the World Bank has some interesting statistics. India is the top performer in the region while Hyderabad is the best performing city out of 12 Indian cities ranked.

The final rankings were: Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Lucknow, New Delhi, Patna, Ranchi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

The rankings surely had the Mumbai edition of the Times of India feeling aghast as to how the commercial capital of India could bring up the tail. Well, the report has a justification: "These cities impose the most complex and costly business regulations. Typically large urban centres such as Mumbai and Calcutta have a high volume of business, so regulatory and administrative bottlenecks there create serious congestion."

Well, ease of doing business apart, firstly to do business easily, you must have someone to do business with in the first place. This is why I find the inclusion of places like Patna and Ranchi baffling. The report could have checked out the viability of Gurgaon and Noida (assuming that they are not bracketed under New Delhi by way of the NCR label).

Hyderabad and Bangalore justify their rankings, because for all the flak that their politicians receive, they are a progressive bunch. Jaipur is the next big story to watch out for. So would Lucknow, provided it ramps up its public transport system, which according to my visit in January 2005 was non-existent. Hell, if the whole city is reliant on either private transport or on the IIM bus, then "something is wrong in the state of Uttar Pradesh" and businesses might start thinking "To be or not to be". Bhubaneshwar is a potential destination too. Wonder why Chennai slipped up.

Mumbai I feel has really suffered from being ruled by an incompetent corrupt bunch who literally look lost with a plethora of problems: rising power shortage, absymal roads, a potential flooding problem and what not. In spite of all these difficulties now being compounded by a World Bank rating, if people still stream in to the city, there must be something...

Maybe everyone follows what my mother said, "Bombay yaarem kai vidadu" (Bombay never forsakes anyone).... Right said Mom!!!!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Play time

Went to see When the Pythons Followed the Actor at Rang Sharda, Bandra by Version One Dot Oh. They are pretty famous in Bangalore and made their debut in Bombay on Friday at Matunga!!!

Memorable dialogues of the evening:

1. Female Actor: "George, when I cough three times, it is a signal for you to unzip my dress......... (Male actor smirks).... And I slap you"

2. Michelangelo to the Pope: "Bloody Fascist!!!!"

3. Some kid in the audience: "Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii George!!!!"

Happened to catch up with friends..

1. Ashutosh Dixit --> after 7 years
2. Mahesh Sudhakaran
3. Guneet Bedi
4. Vikram Balakrishna --> after 10 years

Watch them if you can.... the theatre group, i mean!!!!

Stony Abhimanyus

Abhimanyu was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra. Legend has it that Arjuna, the exponent of piercing the Chakra Vyuha/Padma Vyuha (Wheel/Lotus formation) was explaining the technique to a pregnant Subhadra. Supposedly, the lady went off to sleep at the halfway point which meant that the foetus aka Abhimanyu also gained only half the knowledge. That is, he learnt how to pierce the formation and force his way in, but didn't know how to get out safely. Ultimately, his heroic but tragic death became a prime example of the saying 'Half Knowledge is Dangerous'.

Loose stones on the road are what I would classify as 'parasitic Abhimanyus'. They know how to get into any small gap created by my sole and the slipper. And they just don't know how to get out. But, do they die a tragic death? No way; no. They kill the walker by piercing the soft part of his foot and the only escape is to disband the "formation" aka remove the slipper and force them out.

That brings me to an interesting question and if you have any views on this, please do leave them in the comments section. "How would the course of the Mahabharata have changed if Abhimanyu had survived?"

My opinion is this:

1. The fake sunset illusion created by Krishna would not have been necessary to kill Jayadratha
2. Esteemed gurus like Drona and Kripa would not have had their name sullied.
3. The war would have got over sooner with a victory for the Pandavas.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Almost Famous, Misquotable Misquotes, Kaveri wars and a PJ

I) Evergreen soundtracks by Stillwater, Jethro Tull, Lynrd Skynrd, Led Zeppelin from the soundtrack of “Almost Famous” took me back in time; about a couple of years back, when I first saw the movie at Delhi on a cold winter night; wrapped up in my quilt, with all the lights off and the volume just at the right level. I still remember the moment I fell in love with the angelic Kate Hudson. How I wished I was a rock-star, with her as my muse/arm-candy/love all combined into one. How I wished….. until today I was rummaging through the folders of my laptop and came up with a poster of the movie which had the catch phrase – “ALMOST FAMOUS…. Experience it, Enjoy it, Just don’t fall for it.” Sorry Cameron Crowe, your movie and your heroine are just too good not to fall for both!!

II) Sharath Rao writes about Mumbai Mirror (mis)quoting his article on a Manglik Aishwarya Rai. I have this to say to him: ‘Sharath, atleast you have only been quoted. I have had the misfortune of giving a 10 second soundbyte to this Cousin-of-the-‘TOI’let paper near VT. I was asked about my views on our esteemed Censor Board’s decision to have night viewing slots for adult content and I blabbered some crap. Don’t worry pal, you are higher up than me on this totem pole of “Those whose life is influenced by TOI and its concerns.” ‘ BTW, what happened to the TOI sucks community on Orkut?

III) Received this SMS going around after the Kaveri Disputes Tribunal awarded a just/biased (depending on your point of view) judgment on the sharing of the river waters:

“Sakkare Kelidare Payasa Kodthivi
Neeru Kelidare Panaka Kodthivi
Aadre Kaveri kelidre thikka hodithivi”
Jai Karnataka, Jai Kannada”

Translation: Ask for sugar and you will be given a sweet dish, ask for water and we’ll give you nectar (rough translation); but ask for Kaveri and we’ll sodomise you!!!

My only doubt is: Isn’t Kaveri also water (aka neeru?). So, by the logic of the second line, shouldn’t you share it like nectar?

On a serious note, it is high time the tribunal functions like an Electricity Regulator and shares with the general public all documentation related to issues that come to it for decision making. Makes life simple, uncomplicated and a little strenuous considering the number of petitions. But let me tell you, it is worth all the extra effort.

Basic questions that have to be answered:

What is the extent of land that has to be irrigated in both states?
What are the crop cultivation patterns in both these states?
What are the storage capacities of their respective reservoirs?
What is the working methodology adopted by the tribunal?
Who has validated the formulae, assumptions etc of the tribunal?

Publish the answers to these and see how trouble makers like Vatal Nagraj who flourish on creating a fear psychosis in ignorant minds; scurry off without a whimper. It will also put and end to that smirk on Karunanidhi's face as he speaks about "Justice being done."

As someone who has roots in Karnataka, Tamil nadu and Kerala, I find myself in embarrassing situations when i have people baying for my loyalty to a particular state/language. Hard data can enable me to drill in some non-partisan sense into people. So, commissionji, please put out data in simple understandable form!!

IV) In the song ‘Eh Aithathe Ashiqui’ from Guru, imagine this

Aish: “...Kyun Urdu Farsi bolte ho....”
AB Jr : “Mujhe uske alawa aur kuch nahin aata”

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tension nahin lene kaa...

I guess this is one of the sentences from The Satanic Verses which had caused such widespread fury; followed by bans and caused Rushdie to scamper for his life. There are others, the contents of which I leave it to your hard work in locating the book first and then reading upto the chapter where I found these lines.

“….because he recalled that of course Mahound himself had been a businessman, and a damned successful one at that, a person to whom organization and rules came naturally, so how excessively convenient it was that he should have come up with such a very businesslike archangel, who handed down the management decisions of this highly corporate, if non-corporeal, God…..”

Replace Mahound with Mohammed and then see how all Islamic tenets are attributed to corporate mindsets. An economist might find it logical, but try explaining logic to a mob!!!

Just as there are many rights for every human, the right to dislike something is also part of that bunch of rights. But violence, threats don't come into this family!! No, sir!!!

Its as simple as this. Just because someone calls you by a real bad name, it does not mean that you become that. In a similar fashion, protestors world-over; the Indian government which was eager to ban The Satanic Verses and other 'affected' people should understand that just because Salman Rushdie has given his interpretation of Islam, it does not mean that Islam turns out to be so. By carrying out such protests, bans etc you are basically insulting the intelligence of the masses. You are basically saying to them, "Look dude, I don't think you have a mind to decide for yourself. You better listen to me.".. which in my not-so-humble opinion is not correct.

I personally have seen people in my hostel possessing crappy literature about Hindu Gods. Did I wallop them? No. Did I argue with them? No. Why? I knew that my beliefs could not be shattered by such literature.

The same holds for all those who protest against a book on Shivaji, the Mitrokhin archives, some book on Indira Gandhi, a video on Gandhi, some crap Orkut communities etc.

Fanatics, please don't sweat the small stuff. Its as simple as that!!