Saturday, December 10, 2005

NYtimes story on India's highways

NYtimess has done a wonderful series on India's Golden Quadrilateral highway project, the most ambitious road building effort ever undertaken in independent India. Wonder why our mainstream newspapers and magazines fail to do something like this.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bhiku Mhatre Haazir Ho

Satya is probably the best mob movie ever made in India and in my humble, relatively uneducated opinion, one of the best mob movies ever made in the world, right up there with the Corleone family saga . It isn't so much about the gangster side of the story, which happened to be the profession of our lead characters, but the human relations depicted in the movie which really mesmerised me. More than a crime-saga it is a story about friendship, love, betrayal, sacrifice, duty, politics and many other themes of human relations which lifted this movie several notches above any regular crime-drama and put it into a pedestal along with the great movies of modern times. It is Ram Gopal Verma and Manoj Bhiku Bajpei at their best.

Speaking of Manoj Bajpei, in my humble opinion, his performance in Satya is the best performance by any actor in Bollywood during past 20 years. Right from his introduction scene, where he picks up his mobile to answer a call from one of his goons, to the scene where he is shot dead by Bhau , you can feel the intensity in his portrayal of Bhiku Mhatre. Like all great actors, more than the words, it is his eyes and mannerisms which do the talking. It is the kind of performance which you can not describe in a blog post, you just have to see it to believe it. He brought the character of Bhiku Mhatre alive on screen in a way I don't think any other Bollywood actor has the talent to do.

I recall he had some really good performances post Satya as well. His portrayal of a psychopath in Kaun and an honest police officer in Shool were great too, even though it did not bring him that much acclaim. Post Shool however, he does not seem to have done anything of substance. A simple search on IMDB tells me roles in Zubeida, Road, Pinjar and some other very forgettable movies. It is a pity indeed that an actor of this amazing caliber has not got the kind of roles he deserves, but this really is a problem with Bollywood , which is nothing more than a glorified crap-machine churning out garbage day-in and day-out having no place for fine actors dedicated to their craft.

India-another missed opportunity?

Textiles is one of the few manufacturing sectors , where India can hold its own against great Chinese maufacturing machine. It has a huge domestic cotton industry, plenty of expertise and low labour costs which are at par with China's. With the ending of global quotas at the start of this year, India has a golden opportunity to take an early lead in market share for global textile market, however whereas China's exports this year in textile have surged 59%, India's have increased a very modest 5%. The culprit- India's ancient labour laws which are completely out of sync with modern times. For starters, in India you need government permission to fire workers in a factory employing more than 100 workers, which imply that in a labour intensive sector like textile businessmen are afraid to hire in anticipation of demand because firing workers later will not be possible if demand does not materialize. Plus labour laws place restrictions on contract labour and overtime thus unnecessaily increasing labour costs. The result of these archaic laws is that Indian companies are reluctant to expand, operate in smaller units of less than 100 workers which makes economies of scale difficult and in general become less competitive than their chinese counterparts. The macro effect is that India is unable to even take advantage of situations which are apparently tailor made for its strenghts.

I just fail to understand why Indian politicians can not see the obvious example of Chinese model which has been so successful in creating wealth in our giant neighbour. India has almost every advantage which China posseses plus some more like rule of law, large english speaking population and democracy. All politicans need to do is to get rid of old rules and regulations, relics of our Soviet inspired socialist past and take advantage of the globalized world which clearly has the potential of creating enormous wealth for us as chinese have demonstrated. The reason our software or outsourcing industry has grown by leaps and bounds is because senseless government regulations have been kept out. India clearly has the potential of creating the same miracle in manufacturing as well, if only sensible economics can prevail. The stakes are even higher in the battle for manufacturing eminence because manufacturing can provide millions of jobs to vast number of semi-literate or illiterate people in India, which outsourcing and software industries will never be able to provide. A failure to create jobs for these underpriviliged can create social unrest which may hamper India's future prospects. The only way to create more opportunities for India's poor is to open up economy further, allow indian enterpreuners to form companies, allow foreign investors to invest not only in markets but in factories , improve the physical infrastructure. A failure on these fronts has very high cost for our future. We may miss the globalization bus just as we missed the industrial revolution.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The next Bangalore

Bihar has arrived, in international media that is. India's poorest and most lawless state has voted for development proclaims Business Week. The magazine goes on to state-

Biharis voted for economic development and rejected the candidate who had ruled the state on the basis of caste for 15 years. The meaning is clear: Bihar aspires to be like Bangalore, India's tech capital. That brings Bihar into the mainstream of the new India.

Pardon me for puncturing the unbridled enthusiasm of an international magazine which presumably knows next to nothing about political equations in India's own wild wild west. According to some reports, Lalu Yadav suffered a vote loss of only 0.87%, hardly the stuff of categorical rejection, however this being India's coalition politics, it cost him a very disproportionate share of seats benefiting Nitish Kumar led NDA immensely. India's public has rarely rewarded growth or sensible economic policy focusing on more down to earth issues like who is providing free electricity, what is the caste of the candidate, who is providing daaru for votes or who is building a Mandir at God knows where. I , for one , do not believe that Bihar public which as recently as February voted Lalu's RJD as single largest party is suddenly aspiring to make Patna the next Bangalore. Anybody proclaiming otherwise just needs to look up Marxists' non-stop victorious record in West bengal or NDA's heavy defeat despite a very strong economic growth , which by the way did make a nice omelette on the faces of pollsters or Chandarbabu Naidu's heavy defeat in Andhra. Electoral politics in India is very complex and interplay of many factors decide the final outcome but I doubt that development or growth is a very significant one among them especially in India's most BIMARU state.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Nostalgia revisited

Thanks to the generosity of my friend Neeraj I have got a very good collection of Sachin Dev Burman's songs . Listening to these unforgettable gems again made me realise what I was missing. The man from whom Sachin Tendulkar got his name is probably the greatest hindi music composer India has ever produced. Only a genius can compose songs like Din Dhal Jaye(Guide), O Re Maajhi (Bandini), Khoya Khoya Chand (Kala Bazaar), Jalte hain jiske liye(Sujata), Waqt Ne Kiya (Kaagaz ke Phool) and many many more. SDB's music is no ordinary melody. Inspite of being within the constraints of a 4-5 minute time-frame of hindi movie song, his music is capable of seeping into your heart & soul and stirs emotions from within. Fortunately I have this great music now. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

IIM graduate murdered for honesty

IIM graduate Manjunath Shanmugham shot dead in cold blood by UP's petrol mafia for doing his duty. Manju was 27 years old and a recent graduate of IIM-L. He was working for Indian Oil Corporation where his work entailed checking the petrol pumps in his purview for any adulteration in the petrol they sell. One petrol pump was reported by him for engaging in rabid adulteration and he recommended to revoke the license of that pump. The result- Manju was murdered in cold-blood by the petrol pump owners. At the risk of sounding callous, I would like to say that I am not surprised, yes shocked I am. Shocked at not why this happened but shocked at why this fine young man had to join a Public Sector Company in India when he could have picked and chosen cream of jobs in Indian corporate world, why if he had decided to join a PSU he had to show courage and honesty when he could easily have turned the other way and why unlike everybody else he did not care for his personal safety . But then these questions are the ones which feeble minded people like me who take the easy way out will probably never understand. Manjunath Shanmugham was a great man and deserves a big salute from everybody who values honesty & courage. May you rest in peace, Sir.

PS: Gaurav Sabnis writes about Manju, whom he had the good fortune of meeting during his IIM days

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ode to Prabhuji

For lesser mortals Mithun may be another flop hero of B-movies however for the true devotees, who have had enlightenment , he is the one and only true God in a world full of false gods. An ode to Mithun aka Parbhuji and the religion of Mithunism can be found here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thomas Friedman's talk

Thomas Friedman of NewYork Times was at Georgia Tech today giving a highly eloquent and entertaining talk on outsourcing and globalization-the theme of his latest book The World is Flat. Personally, I haven't read Friedman 's columns much on NYTimes, ( I usually read WSJ because of its bent on my favourite topic finance & economics), but he is believed to be a very insightful writer & a tremendous speaker. In his talk , he started out with how he got the idea for his book which he attributed to a conversation he had with his friend Nandan Nilekani, the CEO of Indian outsourcing giant Infosys. Most of his subsequent talk was focused on how the world has become a level playing field with nobody having a location advantage any more. Any job which can be done in sillicon valley can as well be done in Bangalore and with a fraction of the cost. Thus, the world has become a level playing field hence the term 'Flat'. Much of what he said may have a ring of common sensical familiarity to any follower of world news, however it was laced with humour and interesting anecdotes apart from his interesting analogy with a flat world which made this talk a very worthwhile one to attend. I came away really impressed with Friedman's eloquence and the ability to hold audience's attention for a significant time. All in all, a very well spent 90 minutes.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Other side of China's rise

China's rapid rise in past couple of decades is undeniable. The country's spectacular success in embracing atleast some of the ideology of free markets is a lesson to many other developing countries like India. However, most of the success of China as a rapidly rising power can be attributed to its unique situation of having a "benevolent dictatorship". Chinese leadership had long ago realised that if it has to maintain its stronghold on power and prevent social unrest then they have to make a serious dent into poverty. It has certainly managed that task extremely well by embracing its own version of capitalism but advances in the free market ideology has not brought commensurate progress in the form of a modern legal and politicial system. Government still is the law, police, judge and jury. This system certainly makes building up infrastructure or bringing about big policy changes much easier than it is in a democracy like India but it also has a huge cost on the ordinary citizens or people who fall on the wrong side of China's all pervasive government. The story of David Ji, a Chinese born american citizen is a case in point . David Ji founded the hugely successful Apex Systems, an importer of Chinese made DVD-players. He ran into a contractual dispute with his chinese supplier Changhong, a government owned company masquerading as a publicly traded one. Ji made the grave miscalculation by deciding to travel to China for settling the dispute even when advised against it by his executives. He was confident that his US citizenship, money & status in US and Chinese connections will guarantee his personal safety. On arriving in China , he was arrested, detained for months without any charges being filed, humiliated and made to sign papers handing over the controls of his company to Changhong i.e. the government (more about this appears in NYtimes ). Ji's is not an isolated example of government high-handedness in China in matters of legal disputes. China's legal system is a far cry from what it should be for a modern , business friendly society. Government rarely loses a case, trials are dispensed with in a day or even less, police routinely tortures citizens to extract confessions and abuses by government officials are rampant. India, for all its flaws in the legal system, still has an independent judiciary and check & balances against the abuse of government power. There is atleast one count on which China can learn from its formidable neighbour, which is how to have a rule of law not rule by law.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

IIPM-an educational fraud?

A few days ago , Mumbai based youth college magazine JAM did an expose on Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) , a "renowned" management institute in India. Apparently, the institute is putting false claims over its credentials in the newspaper ads all across India and JAM exposure seemed credible enough to warrant attention. Another fellow blogman Gaurav linked to this particular story and questioned the qualifications of its dean Arindham Chaudhray, supposedly a "Management Guru". Now, as very eloquently put forth by Ashutosh, if the allegations of Gaurav and JAM magazine were true, all IIPM had to do was to provide a proof contradicting them, which should not be hard to provide if they really have the credentials which they claim. Instead, they resorted to bullying and threats resulting in Gaurav's resignation from his employer IBM (more about this here). From what I have read and heard of IIPM's conduct , they seem to behave more like a cheap gunda outfit than a "renowned" management institute. Arindham Chaudhary' s website, admittedly very snazzy, is full of tall claims for this economist(?), management guru(??), visionary intellectual(????) (more about it here). In my view, IIPM is shooting themselves in the foot with their conduct. IIPM would do their already suspect credibility some good if either they come out with the truth about their claims or else stop playing with the lives of kids who are looking towards them for a quality education and bright future.

Update: The whole matter seems to have evolved into a major issue against IIPM by the blogging community. Here is a blog detailing the latest happenings on the subject.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Indians 4th Happiest in the world?

A recent news item on Rediff quotes a survey in which indians were found to be the 4th "happiest",
in the world. I just wonder what sample population was chosen for this survey. Surely, it could not have been numerous victims of riots & terrorism, people living in abject poverty in Bihar, UP, MP among others, people living in the slums of Delhi & Bombay, people fed up with corruption or people caught up in the grind of life in India. That must cover almost all the people . I am still wondering who were the people in that survey or is it that we indians are still happy and content inspite of all the hardships we endure in day-to-day lives.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More on India & China

Here is another article pointing out the no contest between Chinese and Indian infrastructure. There are many who would argue that China being an authoratarian nation can move things much faster than India, a democracy. There certainly is some truth to these arguments when we are talking about fundamental policy changes, where it is extremely hard to get everybody at the same wavelength. This argument does not hold any water when we are talking about issues like building good infrastructure on which I believe there is no contention. Everybody agrees, has been agreeing since last 60 years that India needs good roads, sufficient power, good airports , good railways, but one does not see great urgency in building them. The reality is that path from intent to implementation is a very rocky one in India, marred by red-tape, corruption, lack of foresight& professionalism, apathy, the list can go on and on. Indians certainly can not blame their democratic set up for this, they have only themselves to blame.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

India & China

In past couple of years, international media, especially Business Week ,has placed India's economic status at the same pedestal as China's. If you go through Business Week's recent cover story on these two emerging economies you would get the impression that India is not far behind from China. China is the new economic powerhouse of the world followed 'closely' by India goes the popular phrase from these media houses. The reason for this apparently equal treatment is that China has built its economy on non-glamorous manufacturing industries and has clearly become the factory of the world. India's reputation has been built on the more visible and glamorous high-tech(if you can call outsourcing that) industry. What is forgotten is that while China's manufacturing growth is fueled by sensible policy making by its government, India's growth in high-tech is largely the case of being at the right place at the right time and has very little to do with any sensible planning or vision from its government. This hyperbole of China and India has already led to a sense of complacency in Indian government circles witnessed by a very sluggish growth in economic reforms in past 2 years in India. If anybody thinks that India's economic status is quite close to China then he needs to do the math. Economist Shankar Acharya has provided the numbers . On every important economic parameter, India is not even close to being close to China. On same parameters, it is so shamefully far behind that the only relevant comparison could be with the most backward third world countries. True, India has made very impressive gains in past decade and a half, especially in the information technology industry. The reality, however, is that given its vast population and potential it is just not enough. India needs to do a lot lot more to get anywhere near to where China is today. It needs to build a halfway decent infrastructure, provide a quality of life fitting to humans for a vast majority of its people, remove bottlenecks for enetrpreuners, privatize the inefficient state enterprises, start a crackdown on corruption, introduce some social reforms. The to do list is long. It has those proverbial thousand miles to go before it can so much as take a nap.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Tabloid of India

Pardon the poor stale headline for this post, but I did not want to waste any fancy words or my precious little grey cells thinking of a nice headline about the junk of which I am about to write. Almost every indian with even half a brain would agree that Times Of India is probably the worst newspaper in the world which still has name of a nation in its name. Normally I would not prefer to write about the cheap sleaze show Times of India really is, but a couple of nice posts on the web convinced me that there are people out there who care about the abysmal lows ToI has hit and is "affectionately" being referred as ToI-let paper of India. Hopefully some kind of buzz can be built on the web which (hope dear hope) may be an agent of change for the ToI-let paper because seriously, name of India on a ToI-let paper burns my heart.

nice article on Indian Classical Music

A simple google search on Indian Classical Music yielded this highly readable introduction to Carnatic Music, name given to South Indian Classical Music.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Steve Jobs on death

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, is, as we all know, a great businessman. What is less well known that he is somewhat of a philosopher as well. As a believer in Karma and ancient eastern philosophy, he certainly is the guy who practices what he preaches. His recent address at the convocation of Stanford University is a very worthwhile read. One quote from this address which I find very illuminating is about death. "Death is very likely the single best invention in life,” Mr Jobs told his young audience. “All external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” Sums it up for me.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Blessed were those who were awake on Wednesday night to watch the dual between Agassi and Blake. If ever there was a match which lived up to its hype then this was it. The potential match up was being hyped from the day Blake overcame Nadal and fans were not disappointed in the least. The intensity and quality of play were all in evidence from Game 1 of first set. Blake came out firing and with some Federerisque forehands , returns and speed , he was up 2 sets in no time. Agassi, a true champion, was never going to let it go without a fight. The old warhorse switched gears and started playing like the Agassi of yore. His speed, agility , accurate serve and thundorous returns were all in full display in hard fought 3rd and 4th sets which were closer than the scoreline may suggest. The stage was set for an epic fifth set and what a set it was! Blake found the energy and agility of first 2 sets , broke Agassi to lead 5-3 and a chance to serve out the set. Agassi decided to go for the kill , a couple of unplayable returns later , he had a break point which he seized with both hands (no pun intended!)with a two handed backhand winner. Inevitably, the match drifted towards a tiebreaker afterwards. The tiebreaker was as hard fought as everything else before it. Blake got off to a good start again ,was up 3-0 and true to the theme of the night Agassi had to fight back again, which he duly did. At 6-5 , Agassi had a match-point which Blake saved with a thundorous forehand winner, kissing the corners of the sideline, but Agassi was not to be denied a thoroughly deserved victory. Couple of points later, Agassi was one more step closer to realising his dream of retiring with one more Grand Slam title. The bonohomie between the two warriors was evident in the way they hugged each other at the net. As Agassi rightly asserted afterwards, "Tennis was the biggest winner tonight."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Tennis- The toughest sport?

Is Tennis the toughest sport on the planet? Justin Gimelstob of Sports Illustrated certainly thinks so.

Monday, August 22, 2005

India's Employment Guarantee Scheme

Poverty is the biggest problem facing 3rd world countries like India. Like almost all governments in these countries, in India too, rhetoric & populism always triumph over practical sensible approach to poverty alleviation. Thus, true to tradition, Indian's coalition government has come up with the idea of providing guaranteed employment to the rural poor (Here is another take on this). If this smacks of long buried communist socialist ideology of yore then this is because it is. If 50 years of India's experimentation with socialist model should have taught us anything then it is that free lunches do not work. How is government going to create those millions of promised jobs out of thin air is anybody's guess. What is really going to happen is, most of the money is going to end up in the coffers of corrupt officials, and whatever is left will go as "salary" for non-existent jobs, thus hardly contributing to any meaningful sustainable employment. It is a pity that we have two of the most brilliant economists heading the government and the ideas they come up with are these socialist nonsenses. They really do not have to look far to find ideas that work. A cursory look upwards towards Beijing or Shanghai is enough to find a model which will assuredly provide much needed employment to millions. India needs to open up its economy more to let retailers and manufactures come in, bring billions of dollars into the economy & give it a much needed boost. Software and outsourcing industries can provide jobs only to high skill english speaking graduates. Inspite of all its hype, this industry provides jobs to only close to a million people out of a potential workforce of 300 million. Manufacturing and retail companies require a large number of low-skilled, low wage people to work at their factories & stores thus automatically creating jobs for low-skilled semi-literate people. If Indian government can just let free market work & get out of the way then those jobs will be accessible to millions of Indian poor. That will be a real "employment guarantee."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Einstein's Cosmos

A few months ago, I had the good fortune of laying my hands upon Brian Greene's wonderful book, Fabric of the Cosmos. The book fascinated me enough to write a review of sort on my puny little corner of the web world. It turns out that this book had really woken up a dormant physicist somewhere inside me and I have been itching to know more about this wonderful pet subject of physicists called the Universe. A name which is synonymous with physics is that of Albert Einstein, the iconoclastic genius, arguably the most influential scientist of all times. Brian Greene had spurred me enough to know more about Albert Einstein and his revolutionary theories. So, I headed to Fulton County public library to pick up whatever I could find on the Man of the Millenium according to Time magazine. Two books lay there, side by side, both remarkably similar in their outer appearance, similar cover, similar titles and almost the same number of pages. The similarity did not end there, both are written by scientists, one by Barry Parker other by Michio Kaku both physicists, and aspire to fill a gap in the vast popular literature on Einstein by focusing more on his life as a physicist rather than being run of the mill biographies. The book by Barry Parker, though self contained, is part of a trilogy on Albert Einstein and the one by Kaku is not, that probably is the only difference between the two. So reading one book was as good as reading both.

I decided to start out with the book by Michio Kaku, Einstein's cosmos, for no other reason than that his is a name I had heard before. The book is divided into three parts, corresponding to three pictures which Einstein came up with in his quest to understad the Universe. The first picture, that of racing a light beam, inspired him to come up with Special Relativity. The second one , on the equivalence of acceleration & gravity, gave mankind General Relativity and the third one was his unfinished quest for a unified theory combining Quantum Theory with General Relativity. The book is very well written and gives a basic grasp of Einstein's ideas and true magnitude of his genius. Einstein's contribution to science , and consequently to humanity, is unfathomably deep and far reaching. His theories have opened up vistas unknown before his time and so fundamentally shaken the roots of science that modern science would have been decades , if not centuries, behind if not for him. Kaku is successful in his attempt to provide basic insights into Einstein's work and also the thought process Einstein may have gone through during the course of his discoveries.

Equally interestingly, Kaku gives a fairly detailed description of Einstein's personal and public life well enough for this book to qualify as a semi-biography. The anecdotes from Einstein's life are quite informative and entertaining. The book is full of famous quotes from Einstein who incidentally was quite a genius at making a smart quip as well. To sample some of those, when Einstein was troubled by the inherent randomness in nature implied by quantum theory, he quipped "God does not play dice." When asked to describe relativity for a lay person, he replied "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." Writing about the importance of time, he remarked, "The only reason for time to exist is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Emphasising simplicity in the matters of science Einstein said, "Things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler." There were many many more which will need a couple of more posts if I desire to dwelve into them.

One thing which came off as something of a great surprise to me was Einstein's disdain for pure mathematics. Einstein was no slouch in mathematics but his skills apparently were a far cry from the likes of Newton, the scientist & mathematician who alone can qualify as Einstein's equal.To Einstein, abstract mathematics was "superfluous erudition", and the physical picture was the king. After his discovery of Special Relativity, a theory which came in for a lot of attention of mathematicians because of its inherent "beauty", he famously remarked "Since the mathematicians have started to tackle Special Relativity, I myself do not understand it." Einstein was the kind of genius who never thought in terms of mathematics. He always thought in terms of vivid physical pictures , mathematics to him was merely a book-keeping device invoked only when he needed to work out tedious details. It was quite a contrary to his contemporaries who got so lost in intricate mathematics and the intellectual entertainment it provided that they forgot what they were dealing with are physical objects not mathematical constructs.

Another surprising fact is regarding his Nobel Prize. Einstein had done enough work to get 4-5 nobel prizes in his lifetime and his theories are still generating nobel prizes for other scientists. Interestingly enough, Einstein did not get his Nobel for General Relativity, the work he is best known for. His Nobel came for his explanation of Photoelectric effect, a relatively minor work in his long & distinguished career. According to the book, the Nobel committee could not understand General Relativity and did not want to award a Nobel Prize in something they themselves did not understand. In his acceptance speech, Einstein completely ignored photoelectric effect, and talked about his most cherished creation General Relativity instead.

After finishing up the book, I could not help but get philosophical again. The Universe is trillions of light years vast, billions of years old and full of exotic things like stars, planets, black holes, atoms, quarks, electrons and what not. However, inspite of all its apparent complexity , there is a strange order , an order which unbelievably can be described by few mathematical expressions. Isn't it incredible that one man sitting in a quiet room on an incredibly small & insignificant planet can figure out that order underlying the Universe. Not only he can discover an order in a mind numbingly chaotic world, he can make predictions which fly on the face of common experience but are still startingly accurate. To me this is simply exhilirating.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Saving us from ourselves

Today is the 60th anniversary of that fateful day when Little Boy created the biggest cataclysm known to humanity. The day when time stood still and death danced in all its naked glory. 6th August 1945 was a defining moment in the histroy of mankind as it showed that how much power man has mustered in its short stay on earth. Luckily, the last 60 years have not seen anything like those fateful days in Japan, but is it possible that we will be so lucky for next 60 as well. The major nations of the world have enough nuclear power in their arsenal to destroy the world several times over. The potential to cause utter destruction exists, more than ever, so consequently a threat exists. How far-fethched is the scenario that some day this potential may fall into the wrong hands? Can one ever be sure that this is not possible? It is certainly possible because there are enough nuclear weapons & there are enough mad men on the loose (For an extremely well-written take on this, go here). Some of those mad men have great political power & enough resources to be able to acquire those devil's toys. A positive probablity, however small, can not be ruled out that one mad man may have control over a significant amount of nuclear power one day. On a long enough time line, any event -however improbable- is going to occur. The scary part is that we donot know how long that time line is simply because we can never have a realistically accurate estimate of the threat. The only way to be sure of avoiding another Hiroshima or Nagasaki is to completely destroy all nuclear weapons & impose a worldwide moratorium on their development. Ironically though, it may take another one of those to save humanity from humans.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

National Awards

One would think, and be completely reasonable in thinking so, that when a national award is given in a particular field, the recipient of the award has done something which deserves recognition on account of being of great importance to the country. For example, some works of great national importance & hence deserving of a 'national award' could be laying out your life as a soldier, making a great discovery which solves country's energy problems or spearheading a revolution which wipes out corruption in the country! Less dramatically, in the context of cinema, it would be perfectly 'reasonable' to assume that the kind of movie which may deserve a national award will have some important social, political or economic issue at its heart. However, as it turns out, 'reasonable' could mean different things to different people. Your and my idea of reasonable could be completely different from the idea of a dumb-witted lunatic or the committee deciding the national awards for that matter. So, the commitee in all its 'wisdom'(giggles) has decided to bestow the honour of national award to a movie which displays the lives of the rich & the famous in all its naked glory.To top it off, the national award for acting went to a wooden actor for playing a casanova in a rehash of a stale Hollywood movie. But, what really had me in splits was a comment from one of the esteemed jurors lauding the actor for "his sheer ease, subtlety and spontaneity in portraying a complex and demanding role." I can't help but think what if we put these esteemed jurors in other national award committees. In that case, national award for sports may go to KPS Gill for "his valuable contribution towards Indian hockey", national award for journalism may go to Times of India "for their painstaking & thorough coverage of matters of national importance like sex lives of Britney Spears & Angelina Jolie" and national award for social service may go to Dawood Ibrahim for his "relentless zeal & passion for an extremely difficult job of controling India's population by exploding as many bombs as possible." As I said 'reasonable' can mean different things to different people.

Outlook India's Sci-tech edition

It is not everyday that a popular magazine considers it worthwhile to devote an entire issue on Science & Technology, so when that happens , the event does deserve some sitting up & taking notice. OutlookIndia's effort is certainly commendable and is guaranteed to sell more copies as well in an Indian middle class society, which covetes scientific & technological achievements.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Swiss juggernaut rolls on

Another Wimbledon, another title, another bemused opponent and plenty of happy Tennis fans all over the world. The story reads the same, as it has been for past 2 years running, what made it different this time that Roger played better than what he did at last year's Wimbledon Final (as if that was even possible!), 49 winners, 12 unforced errors, only one service break and plenty of "how did he do that!!" shots. The statistics are notorious for lying but this time they did not. Roger's astonishing game has prompted debate over his greatness, Hewitt calls him "one of the greatest", Mcnore says "the most talented person ever to pick up a Tennis racquet", Laver is honoured to "be compared with him"! Roche calls him "the most complete player of all time" and Roddick hopes "he gets bored or something" so that he may have a chance. Well, he does not seem to be yawning as yet and till then Roddick & co. will have to figure out some way to atleast make him sweat on the court. Until that happens, the juggernaut will roll on, the trophies will pile on and Roddick will have no need to buy that extra seat on his trip back home.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hazaron Khwahishe aiseen

There have been very few Indian films , if any, which go into or even touch upon the subject of Emergency in India during late 1970s. Numerous movies have been-and continue to be made-about the pre-independence India, about 3 wars India fought after independence even about Terrorism in Punjab & Kashmir. However, the dark period of late 70s has continued to be taboo in Indian Cinema. Finally, a filmmaker has come up with a brilliant movie covering that period of India's contemporary history. Sudhir Mishra's "Hazaron Khwashishe Aiseen" is a superb movie which dwelves into Naxalite movement of 70s with the emergency making an apperance as a backdrop. The movie chronicles the lives of 3 main protagonists Siddharth, Vikram and Gita from their days in St. Stephens College in Delhi to the life changing transformations they undergo during the course of the movie. The movie is a triumph in all respects. Performances are first rate, story is fascinating & screenplay is outstanding. Even though the movie has a political movement as a backdrop, there is never a dull moment and for sheer enetertainment value too, it is pretty good. Overall, the best movie of the year from the staple of Hindi Cinema . Hope they make more such gems in future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fabric of the Cosmos- A fulfilling experience

Here is something I did not know before I started reading Brian Greene's 'Fabric of the Cosmos'.

(i) Time is not absolute. It is relative, your clock (even the body clock) runs depending on how fast you are moving. Thus, faster you travel slower you age! If you can tavel at the speed of light you will never age! (So you can safely throw away your Botox injections)

(ii) Time at moon moves faster than time at earth, because moon has smaller gravity. So, if you ever have a choice to live on moon, don't, you will live longer.

(iii) The actions you take "now" can effect what happened billions of years ago, light years away from earth or so it seems!

(iv) Universe at scales billions of times smaller than a centimeter, behaves in fundamentally different way to what we experience in our day to day lives. For example, particles at those small sizes(like electrons or protons) seemingly have no definite position or speed , in fact, they don't have a definite anything. The reality at those scales is subsumed in a cloud of uncertainty.

(v) Universe probably started out as a lump of matter weighing a meagre 20 pounds!! That lump of matter gave rise to billions of galaxies and billions of stars in each one of them. The universe at Big-Bang did not weigh more than Brian Greene's dog!

(vi) Gravity can create waves in the fabric of space & time. These gravitational waves can stretch or compress space around you and yourself. Thus, we may get flatten or ballooned if a strong enough gravitaional waves from a distant supernova happens to pass by. Not a great way to get in 'shape':)

Well, Thanks to Greene that era of darkness is over and finally there is light;). Now, I know all that I mentioned above and a lot more.

Brian Greene's wonderful book takes us to a journey called 'Man's understanding of the Nature'. During this journey, we encounter startling discoveries which forever changed the way we (or at least the physicists) look at the universe. All along this journey, Greene is carefully holding our hands, making sure we don't get lost trying to understand the daunting complexities of nature. He is a very kind & gentle explicator, explaining the concepts in a colloquial language with liberal use of metaphors and analogies. His enthusiasm for Physics shines through every page of the book. However, even with a guide as good as Greene, this journey is not an easy one to undertake. Some of the concepts (like Entanglement in Quantum Physics) are so counterintuitive and cause such an upheaval to our intuition towards the world that it takes a great deal of faith, provided in no small measure by staggeringly accurate experiments, to believe in those. However, it does help to know that even as great a scientist as Einstein had a lot of trouble accepting the notions of reality as envisaged in Quantum Theory (Infact, he never accepted Quantum Theory as it is ) .

There are many places in the book where one can't help but get deeply intrigued. For example, during the discussion on the Flow of Time, Greene seems to assert that time does not pass by, it just seems to! Every moment in time is frozen for ever, every moment in time exists as it is, nothing is past & nothing is future, everything just is. This smacks of the concept of Fate, a design which is already in place and all we do is just live through that design without changing it (matrix, anyone!). To me, this was deeply intriguing . It looks like believers in Fate have finally found scientific evidence for their beliefs! However, Greene is kind enough not to thrust his opinions to reader's face, and points out alternative viewpoints & more elaborate explanations at such controversial (and other) junctures.

The book ends with delightful discussions on topics which are more like Science Fiction than Science. Greene dwelves into the topics of Teleportation and Time-Travel. It is encouraging to know that theoretical physics has not ruled out time-travel, yet. So, as of know traveling to the past (traveling to the future is possible, thanks to special relativity) is still a possibility, albeit a highly unlikely one, but if you are thinking that this will give rise to mind-bending paradoxes then think again. The past you may be able to travel will exist in a universe different to what you currently reside in. So, nobody can go to the past and erase you(ala terminator) because that past will take place in a different universe. Thanks to Quantum Physics, teleportation (actually it is more like cloning) is already a reality, although at a much smaller scale. The day when we may have the capability to teleport humans or even small objects "exists"(if it does) somewhere far far into the "future".

Finishing up the book, one is sure to gasp at the wonder nature is. One also can't help but wonder at the distance we have traveled since the dawn of civilization. The distance we have traveled from the days of Copernicus , Galileo or even Newton is surely impressive. Not too long ago, people just used to look at the sky and theorized about what lies out there. Now, we have giant telescopes which can look almost at the edge of the universe. We know that we are part of a solar system which is only one of hundreds of millions in the galaxy milky way, the galaxy we are part of is one of only a billions out there, and if current theories are right, the universe itself may be part of one of only infinitely many universes out there. All this, if it were not true, would have made great science fiction. Achievements like this make me think of the most wondrous thing in the nature , the human mind. The human intellect is the biggest marvel of nature. It is surely staggering to realize what pure thought combined with passionate curiosity can achieve. Physics's monumental achievements are a great proof of that.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

iTrip is cooooollll!!

I am a self-confessed Ipod junkie, just like millions others. Ipod has changed my life for the better. The idea of carrying all my music collection in my pocket and be able to play at anytime anywhere is captivating and thanks to Apple it is a cool reality. However, once all your music collection is at the palm of your hand, there is a strong urge to be able to play that music on the speakers of your choice. The headphones seem too restrictive. If you have "state of the art" music system with yourself (like I do with my Bose speakers!) you want to be able to use it. Enter Itrip, a wonderful little device which attatches on top of your Ipod and transmits a radio signal at the frequency of your choice. That radio frequency can be picked up by any radio device within 30 feet range. The most wonderful thing about the whole thing is that I have my own personal radio station , commercial-free I might add, at which I can play any song of my choosing from my vast 20 GB collection. That degree of control is thrilling to say the least. The device is ideal to play your music in a car. Unlike its bulkier, more general purpose counterparts in market, Itrip doesnot need any batteries. It draws its power from Ipod and is as light as a feather. Moreover, there are a lot more frequencies to choose from unlike some other devices (like Irock) . The only possible drawback is that of a general FM-transmitter. If you are on a long drive through the cities then you may have to change frequencies quite often, however a long drive through countryside should give no trouble at all. If you are playing it at home then there is no problem whatsoever. All in all, a great Ipod accessory.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

ESPN- The Villain

ESPN has done it again. For no apparent reason , they decided not to show live the French Open semifinals. They were happy to show the recordings in the evening though. Makes me wonder whether it had something to do with the fact that the tournament was in France or it had something to do with the fact that no American could make it that far in the tournament. May be it was both, but neverthless Tennis fans were undone again by ESPN. It reminds me of the Australian Open this year when they decided not to show live the epic semifinal game between Marat Safin and Federar thus robbing Tennis fans of one of the best grand slam semifinals games ever. The reasoning at that time -as far as I could make out- was since it was a game involving two non-americans, it was not worth showing, because they did show the other semifinal between Roddick (american) and Hewitt. This strange behaviour from ESPN is baffling because even commercially it does not make sense. Tennis is a very popular game in US and a grand slam semifinal is sure to find a substantial audience, whether an american is playing or not. It is just unfathomable that ESPN can not (or may be does not want to) acquire rights to broadcast live the semifinals games of a Grand Slam event. Even the puny old National TV in India broadcasts grand slam Tennis live.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Pheonix Suns - Loved it while it lasted

So finally the juggernaut called Phoenix Suns has come to a crashing halt. Phoenix Suns were like a 'breath of fresh air' (cliche alert) in this era of diffensive basketball. They were great fun to watch and played basketball like it is meant to be played, great athletic game full of spectacular dunks, layups and terrific shooting. It worked wonderfully well as Suns managed to win 62 games in the regular season & reached the conference finals. However, their flamboyance could not come to terms with the playoff experience of San Antonio and the awesome talents they possess. My friend Neeraj had pointed out to me that even though Spurs are primarily a defensive basketball team, they can play offensive game as well as any, however, Suns do not have the defense to challenge the likes of Duncan and Ginobili. Spurs proved that beyond any doubt in the first two games as they beat Suns in their own game and that too in their backyard by playing a full throttle fast-paced basketball. Suns did score their customary 100+ points, but Spurs proved more than a match. In game 3, Spurs were back to what they have been doing all along, great defense combined with a measured offense to hold Suns below 100 points for the first time in the playoffs & go up 3-0. Suns did really well in Game 4 to snatch a come from behind victory, but everybody knew that the series was as good as over . Spurs came back to Phoenix and completed the formalities by giving another all round display of basketball. Spurs look really good right now and my money is on them to win the championship for the third time in 7 years.

Even though Suns lost they do take a lot of positives from these season. Getting Steve Nash from Dallas proved a masterstroke as not only he was the MVP for the year but also took his game a couple of notches up(as if that was possible) to give one of the best performances by a point-guard in playoffs. Their draft- pick Amare Stoudemire is finally coming on his own, as he averaged 30+ points in playoffs and gave one spectacular performance after another. The wonderful combination of Stoudemire and Nash ensured one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history. Phoenix Suns went from 29 victories in 2004 to 62 victories in 2005. Suns are sure going to be a force to reckon with for next few years.

French Open- Federar Vs Nadal

This one promises to be one of the best games of 2005. Ever since the draw for French Open came out, fans have been salivating over the delicious potential match up between the current number one and the spanish sensation. The last time the two met, at Nasdaq-100 open in Florida, they produced a crackling game of tennis full of flamboyance and elegance. Federar did win the contest but not before sweating it out in sweltering Miami Heat. The upcoming game in Paris promises to be no different only that the stakes are higher this time around. Federar, the world no. 1 by about 100 miles, and Nadal, the most sensational young player in the ATP circuit are players of almost equal calibre & style but contrasting personalities. Federar is the epitome of calm concentration and Nadal is all about letting himself all out in the heat of the battle. Federar, because of his experience and calm head, certainly has more than an edge, however it should be remembered that Nadal is the only player to have come close to beating Federar after the Australian Open. Tradesports has given Federar 60% probability of winning which to me is underestimating Federar's chances, however Nadal has been nothing short of spectacular on clay this year with a 21 game winning streak so far, so even if Federar's chances are being underestimated it probably is not by much. All in all, it is going to be a mouth watering clash between these two supremely gifted players. I just can't wait for Thursday.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Came across this interesting site buzztracker by following a link from this one. What this site does is gives a snapshot of places in the news today. The way it is done here is using the indexing approach followed in the Google search engine. The site assigns a weight to different locations, depending on how many newspapers referred to that location in their daily news. Higher the number of newspapers referring to the location, more the weight assigned (in this case a %) and bigger the red circle over that location in the global map. Different locations are linked by a line, this link depends on the number of times the news stories cross reference two locations. Higher the number of cross references, darker the line linking two locations. The idea is to capture places in the news and emphasise the effect of happenings in one place with the other. Overall, an interesting effort.

Monday, May 23, 2005

blast in delhi over screening of a movie. This again serves as a reminder that even after almost 60 years of democracy , we still have a long way to go before we truly become a democratic, open , modern society. We still have to learn that dissent is essential for the health of society & violence is not the right way to express disagreement.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

outraged beyond words

It takes a lot for an ordinary Indian to be outraged. I would imagine that most of us who are born and bred in India know how it is. Sure we are the largest democracy in the world, we have an independent judicial system and yes we have a rich & ancient culture as we love to tell every american over here. We have that and what we also have is a lot of superficiality, hypocrisy , corruption and utter apathy. Our democracy is a sham and we are a borderline banana republic if we have not crossed the boundary already. This example displays this ugly face of our political and civil system in all its naked glory.

Outrageous is the mildest word I can think of to describe this . It doesnot need any reminder to anybody that indian political class is as soulless and corrupt as one can imagine in one's wildest dream but I underestimated their boldness and lack of respect for public opinion. I am sure that even Buta Singh is not stupid enough to realize that this order is going to lead to a wave of protest from all over the world. The fact that he still dared and went ahead with it shows that public opinion does not have any meaning in Buta Singh's(or more appropriately Congress's) dictionary. This decision is a blow to morality & idealism of all right thinking individuals. Buta Singh has just told all honest and upright indians "To hell with you."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

So the summer is here and finally I am getting the chance to catch up on my reading. First on the list is Brian Greene's fascinating account of state of the art Theoretical Physics "Fabric of the Cosmos" written for a well-educated but more or less lay person on advanced physics. I have read only a quarter of some 500 odd pages of the book & to put it mildly I am fascinated beyond words. The concepts covered in the book are not at all easy to convey without use of heavy duty mathematics and mind bending jargon but Brian Greene does an extraordinarily difficult job outstandingly well. He conveys the essential features of such profound concepts as General Theory of Relativity , Special Theory of Relativity and entanglement with amazing clarity without dumbing down the ideas ( I think, or may be he did dumb them down without an explicit realization by dumbos like me:)). So far I have gone through about 120 pages and I feel like I know so much! I just cannot wait to cover the rest of the book. More on this topic will follow soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ours is a really ban loving country. You may be aware of fundamental rights given to us by the indian constitution like mundane rights of freedom, right of equality before law yada yada, but what you may not be aware of an even more fundmental right given to us as a birthright is the right to ban or atleast right to demand a ban. We really love that right, for most of the political parties it is their favourite right especially of the parties you don't even know exist. Now another of these nonexistent parties have come forward (pun intended) to exercise that right . This is what democracy is all about, right to ban things -doesn't matter whether you like those things or not. Gandhi, Nehru, Bhagat and especially Bose must be really happy that they fought with British so that every once in a while some nonentities can wake up from their deep slumber & decide that they should demand a ban on some particular movie, book or whatever else they can think of. Our governments have also been very encouraging with the idea of bans. Whenever somebody demands a ban, they are more than happy to oblige. Some years ago some very 'religious' fellows decided that a particular book hurts their religious feelings way too much and they demand a ban. Indian central government was very happy to accede to that demand, how can people's most basic right be voilated. A very healthy precedent was set and since then our governments have either banned or censored numerous movies, TV shows, books, plays , onions, tomatos and what have you. We all hope that this great tradition will continue and we as a nation will find more & more things banworthy. As they say, if you can't beat them, ban them.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Indian Aviation ready for takeoff

A revolution is underway in the domestic aviation market.

Judging by a slew of new players entering the domestic aviation business it would seem a metamorphosis is forthcoming for this important sector of the economy. Consumers never had it so good, with airfares for some routes being 5oo Rupees($10). Are indian skies headed the same way as the mobile phone industry? It could but there are some serious bottlenecks. Airport Infrastructure in India is one of the worst in the world, which automatically increases the cost of flying. Fuel Prices have been hitting the roof which invariably hits private airlines the hardest. Indian market is still not big enough to support 10 doemstic carriers, so for a first few years most of the new entrants will be loss making enterprises.
Airline business is one of the most competitive business all over the world. Very few players have made profits consistently over the years (only one example comes to mind SouthWest Airline in US). Big Size is a big hindrance in this business , as the examples of American Airlines, United Airlines will amply demonstrate. Only a smaller, nimbler player has the best chance to survive in this highly volatile business. Indian private carriers will do well to learn the dos from the likes of SouthWest, JetBlue etc. and from American, United to learn the donts. In the short term, indian market should see a lot of bloodbath with mergers, acquistions, bankruptcies, consoildation but over the long term future is bright. Indian economy is growing at more than 7% a year so a lot of people are having a lot more money to spend. If airline prices can come close to the second class AC train prices in India, then the market would really explode. All in all future of aviation is really bright in Indian aviation sector. The civil aviation minsiter Prafful Patel has done a marvellous job in his brief tenure so far. Now if only he could make indian airports world class, allow more airlines to fly to India then the prices of ticket to & from India would also fall. This would give a big push to Indian tourism industry and international business. Going by his track record, that must be at top of his to-do list.

An addendum on this topic. How to run a low cost airline in India?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Quotes I love

They say that a wise man can express wisdom of a lifetime in one sentence. Each one of the quotes below make me feel that way. I will keep adding to this list as I unearth more gems.

1)"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." -- Vaclav Havel

2)"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein

3)"The difference between a smart person and a wise person is that a smart person knows what to say and a wise person knows whether or not to say it." -- Quote found on the wall of a recreation center office in Berkeley, California

4)"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get." -- Dave Gardner

5)"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." -- Talmud

6)"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. " -- Helen Keller

7)"This is the true joy in life: the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." -- George Bernard Shaw

8)pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.- unknown

9)"The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts."
- Marcus Aurelius

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The importance of Cricket

Raju is an ordinary coolie on the Victoria Terminus station in Bombay. He has a hard life, he works 16 hours a day, from 8.00 am to 12.00 am on the station. He is 31, has a wife who is pregnant again , 3 kids in a small kholi in Dharawi. He is oblivious to the world around him, he is just too busy with his life. He doesnot know and care about India-Pakistan peace process, his life is untouched by India's "booming" economy & he could not be least bothered whether it is Congress or BJP who rules Delhi. All he knows is that he has a wife and 3 kids to support & he is doing his best to do just that. He has one passion though, that of cricket. The game has a special place in his heart.This is hardly unusual, most of his friends at VT are avid cricket lovers. He has his own pocket transistor which he listens to in his off hours whenever India is playing Cricket. He is a very happy man today. India has just beaten Pakistan in a cricket game. He is all the more happy because the Man of the Match was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, an up & coming player in this very talented Indian cricket team who belongs to Raju's home state of Jharkand. Dhoni hit Pakistan's bowlers to all parts of the ground today scoring 148 runs. Nobody from Jharkand had ever broken into India's national eleven before Dhoni. Today is a day of great joy for Raju. He can smell sweetness in the air. His mood is very upbeat. For a brief moment, he will forget his daily troubles. He will forget how hard he had to work today to manage food on the table tomorrow, he will forget that there is a no electricity at home today for 4th consecutive day in the middle of a sweltering summer , he will forget that he has to commute back to home jostling for space with 300 other people in a train which has capacity for only 100 people, he will forget that he has to wake up at 3.00 am in the morning to fill up his familty's share of water from a community tap, he will forget how his family of 5 is living in that small kholi & paying half his income for it. Yes, cricket is that important for him, this is the day when he feels content, even happy. For a brief fleeting moment life seems beautiful, there is a feeling of joy deep in his heart, someone up there still listens to his prayers. He still has a place for him. Tonight he will sleep feeling content with himself. Tomorrow is another gut-wrenching day in his hard life but atleast today was worth living.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

amazing story

I had a look at this incredible story today.

Just sets me thinking what is it that humans cannot achieve! The whole concept of "impossible" seems so relative as rightly put forth by Tim Cordes " something seems impossible until it is done." Absolutely amazing and so incredibly motivating for us lesser mortals. Too many times we hamper ourselves by being a victim of our circumstances and not really using the gifts we have been bestowed with. People like Tim Cordes are a gift to humanity. They show us what can be achieved, they inspire us to go ahead & stretch the limits of possibilities a little bit more.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ganguly and Dravid

Following exchange takes place between Ganguly & Dravid in the second innings of third test between India and Pakistan just after Sehwag gets out.

Dravid: Ok captain. Its time for me to go. What do you think our strategy should be?

Ganguly : Hmmm. The pitch is a minefield and bowlers are throwing grenades, just look at the
way Sehwag got run out. I want you to go out there, and go into a shell, you are no
strangers to this , are you ? (smiles)

Dravid: But Dada, we are cruising along pretty well. Dont you think we should try and go for the

Ganguly:(visibly annoyed) Who do you think we are? Australia? We should not kid
ourselves. Just like any other bowling attack these are one of the most dangerous
bowlers I have ever seen. That Shahid Afridi gives me goose pumps. These days even
spinners are throwing bouncers at me, I dont understand why is that? May be
something to do with my dislike for short stuff (sighs).

Dravid: So I go out there and block as many balls as possible?

Ganguly: No, block every ball. No ball should be left behind. Every run you score can be and will
be held against you. One more thing, no matter what happens stand your ground. Do
not come back to the pavillion.

Dravid: You mean I should stand there even if I am given out?

Ganguly: Are you kidding me? This is Bucknor we are talking about. The man is as blind as a
bat. Stay there even if all 3 stumps are upooted. There is no way we will survive this
test unless we have some help from Bucknor. Listen to me carefully, we will have to dig
really deep today and once we have done that we can easily bury ourselves.

Dravid: Dada, I still feel that we should try and chase the target. Even if we lose we may still
have the glory.

Ganguly: How much more glory do you want? There is only so much glory a man can handle.
Remember we consider ourselves number two in the world. We should not do anything
which may look like as if we are number one. The Australians may really get upset,
you know & may clobber us in our next series. Just trust me on this.

Dravid: Ok captain. I think I should get going now lest I am give time-out.

Ganguly: Thats like my boy. Go on , be a wimp. I will see you in a bit.

Monday, March 21, 2005

No Visa Power for Modi

It is hard to sympathise with the plight of Narendra Modi. The denial of Visa by US government
has reaffirmed the way in which the world and many Indians percieve him, that of a religious bigot who played the role of Nero when Gujarat was burning. Indian government is understandably concerned with this because after all Modi is a constitutional authority elected by the due process of democracy and not a wanted terrorist (though he may well be). However, US governement is well within its rights to deny entry to any person they deem not worthy. Not withstanding the NDA rhetoric calling this 'A National Shame', I believe that NDA's idea of National Shame is a little muddled. The real National Shame was what happened in Gujarat and afterwards, this is nothing but a minor snub to India by US and yes, may be a small justice to Gujarat riots' victims.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


I have been feeling a lot philosophical today as it can happen to anyone on a beautiful Saturday morning with a lot of free time to be in touch with your inner self. So, this fine morning, I just started wondering about something incredible which sometimes we take for granted. That incredible is Life, and each one of us has sometime or the other have wondered about the beauty of it, the genius of it & many times about the meaning of it. And though I do not pretend to be anything remotely resembling a poet, I dared to put that sense of amazement into an unpolished draft which sort of rhymes at some places.

Don't you wonder?
that birds can fly
rivers can flow
Sun can set
and moon can glow

Don't you wonder?
that rain can fall
love can enthrall
that heart can bleed
for someone's aching needs

Don't you wonder?
that joy can be spread
pain can be shared
that happiness can grow
with love's constant flow

Don't you wonder?
that a heart can love passionately
and hate with ferocity
The same hands which bring life
can kill with impunity

Don't you wonder?
that man can demystify distant stars
but still be far apart from those on earth
that he can bridge distance to moon
but still may not bridge distance to hearts

Have you ever wondered?
That there is so much to wonder.
Have you ever wondered?
That you can wonder.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Black- a triumph of mind over matter

Black, the color of darkness, is the story of a girl whose life is defined by darkness. The main protagonist in this latest masterpiece from the very gifted indian director Sanjay Bhansali is a deaf and blind girl, Michelle, who is struggling to establish an identity for herself in a world which is not built for her strengths. Helping her in this struggle is an eccentric, but very dedicated, teacher Devraj played by superstar Amitabh Bacchan. In terms of basic premise, the movie deals with the oft-repeated concept of differently enabled people and their struggle to live with dignity & respect in a world not suited for their different abilities. What sets this movie apart, however, is the emotional punch it packs in frame after frame never letting the audiences' attention waver. For example, in arguably the best sequence of the movie, when Michelle's sister gets married she is overcome with the desire for physical love. She asks for that love from the only man she knew, her teacher, who dedicated his life to her well-being. That was too much to ask for even from the man whose only goal in life was to see his student be able to face the world on her own. He tries to kiss her and is filled with the emotion of guilt. It was a supreme sacrifice, he gave up his self-respect for his student.

Performaces wise, every artist gave their career's best performances in this movie. Certainly so for Rani Mukherjee, playing Michelle, who deserves an award or two for her role. The performance of child artist Ayesha was very good too. Amitabh who has often not got the roles commensurate with his talent finally gets one and doesnot let this chance slip away. Bhansali proves yet again that he is one of the best directors in Indian Cinema, both past and present. Black is his best work so far, a movie rich in color, content and emotions. A must see.