Friday, December 29, 2006

my affair with the television!

i am a confirmed tv addict. ask my wife (she's an authority on this. she's actually the highest authority on most things at home! and i'm not saying this just because she reads my blogs! :-))

we have not had a tv set in our house ever since we got married and moved into our own house (i.e. from sometime in 1997. and for my own sake, i hope i got the year right!). we both decided that if our marriage had to survive we would have to do without a tv set at home!

why do i call myself a tv addict then, you ask?

i used to be the kinds who could sit up and watch hbo till the wee hours of morning every single day and then manage to go college/office the next day, albeit much later than what you would call a 'decent' hour. even now when i sit facing a tv set i realise that i have not managed to kick the habit even after such a long hiatus. i have absolutely no sensory perceptions of the entire external world; my jaws slacken; i cease to perform whatever activity i am performing, no matter how critical or interesting and stare at the screen with awe. even if it is an ad for super-absorbent diapers playing for the umpteenth time!

and i also am guilty of, if you are a stickler for technicalities, what you might label as, 'cheating in marriage'. i catch up on all my tv viewing when i am travelling. i sometimes end up watching 3-4 movies back-to-back especially if the next day is a non-working day. and if the next day happens to be a working day, i severely restrict myself and watch only 2-3 movies. (but before any of you get any ideas of squealing on me, i have already confessed to my wife!)

till we had kids, people who visited us used to be amazed about the fact that we didn't have a tv set at home. some even thought it abnormal and wanted nothing to do with us, in case they caught the bug too!

and now that we have 2 kids there is this constant barrage of advise, that we are at the receiving end of, about our 'no tv' status. there are many people who also have kids who feel it is a very healthy idea since the kids are not glued to the 'box' throughout the day. and there are an equal number of vocal representatives from the opposite camp who believe that our kids are being deprived of some very valuable inputs during their formative years. (and i am sure they are not referring to the 'k' soaps, or the wrestling mania, or the raunchy music videos on most of the channels!)

so i've decided to put this up for inputs from the 'discerning, mature, balanced readers of my blog with a world-view' (i hope all those adjectives do the trick!) and see which way this debate swings.

so do send in your comments. the world is waiting to hear you! (well, at least i am.)

p.s. yes, i do miss tv the most during the world cup season (football & cricket) but that also gives me an opportunity to drop in and bond with friends in the neighbourhood; who are also grateful for my presence since it gives them an excuse to play the graceful host and not get told off by their wives!

Friday, December 22, 2006

delhi vs. mumbai - III (the final chapter)

in this posting i share my two-bits about people. and i also attempt to cover the topics suggested by some of you.

8. people - its finally the people that define a city. and this is where we see most of the stark differences between the mumbaikar and the dilliwala.

a. clothes - i've noticed that the average the average dilliwala (especially the ladies) are much better turned out than their mumbai counterpart. even if a tad louder than my taste, the delhi youngster is wearing trendier clothes (most often branded) and accessories.
in mumbai - you wouldn't be surprised to find youngsters wearing some casual jeans and t-shirts unless they are going out for a party or occasion.

b. attitude - the average dilliwalla on the road is a lot more aggressive than the mumbaikar. he is louder, brash and pushier.
but the mumbaikar is a survivor. and when push comes to shove, they stand by each other. (remember 26/7?) the mumbaikar is a lot 'cooler' and has a more easy-going take on life. but don't let that fool you. you will find the average mumbaikar fairly sharp, professional, and a no-nonsense person.

c. ostentatiousness - no guesses here :-)
the dilliwalla loves spending and showing it off. with flashing pink neon strips added on, just in case you missed the new 'big' car. 'big' is the operative term here. everything is usually bigger in delhi as compared to mumbai - bigger cars, houses, television sets, bigger appetites, and bigger egos!

d. connections - do you know any dilliwalla who is not connected to someone, somewhere (where it matters). its almost de rigeur to know someone if you want to get something done. and the 'something' is usually something 'not exactly legal or according to the book'!

e. fine arts - delhi has a much stronger theatre culture among the people than in mumbai. and you will also find more artists, writers, poets, etc.
but in mumbai you will find a lot more music appreciation than in delhi - be it classical (carnatic or hindustani), light (ghazals), rock/pop/jazz, western classical, etc.
and finally in mumbai you have bollywood. that you just can't beat!

that about sums up my very own biased version of the difference between the two great cities.

for me the verdict is very clear - give me mumbai any day!

what's your vote?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

delhi vs. mumbai - II

in my previous post i had started this series of comparisons between the national capital and the financial capital of india. i had identified some parameters including 'infrastructure', 'public transportation' and 'power'.

i had promised to cover 'work ethics', 'people', food', 'water', and 'academics'.

i got some mails/comments asking for some parameters to be included - real estate, girls, mms scandals, and the night life. well, i am not sure i would be able to do justice to these subjects but i will bravely attempt them.

4. work ethics - mumbai scores way over delhi on this parameter. mumbaikars are a far more professional bunch when it comes to work life. in fact you could call them professional to the extent of being 'cold'.

its a pleasure doing business with mumbaikars across all walks of professional life; be they people from a corporate, a public servant, a shop-keeper, a service-provider, an artist/entertainer, a laborer, a maid... almost whoever!

its quite a different story in delhi. and i'd rather not get into the details. most of the people i came across, especially in the government sector, ran some parallel business which obviously took priority over work. the most popular side-businesses omcluded travel agencies, car rentals and trading in tyres.

5. food - you can't beat the chaat that you get in delhi. and the sweets. the sheer variety and sinful taste are just unmatched. the options available in mumbai are but poor cousins. i love the hot 'gajar halwa', 'rabdi jalebi' and 'masala milk' you get during winter.

but for the carnivores, the choice of sea-food is far better in mumbai.

delhi also doesn't have the ubiquitous 'udupi' restaurant which you'll find on almost every street in mumbai. nor can you find a respectable 'vada pav' anywhere in delhi.

6. water - i don't know if you have noticed, but you just can't do without a bottle of mineral water in delhi. the regular 'potable tap water' is hard water in most places. and the mineral residue in the tap water creates havoc with the sanitary-ware in bathrooms and toilets.

and mumbai has the glorious sea. the beaches can be cleaner and less smelly. but then you can't beat the uolifting feeling when you are pass by marine drive, or worli sea-face or band-stand or any of those roads adjoining the sea-face and you can see the sea all the way to the horizon, in all it's glory.

7. academics - this is one area where i would humbly doff my hat off to delhi. students have far more and much better choices in terms of schools and colleges. and most schools in delhi have, what i consider very basic & essential, but sadly lacking in most mumbai schools, - playgrounds!

the quality of faculty and the academic rigor also happens to be far better in delhi than in mumbai. and i have noticed that students in delhi tend to be a lot more focused on education with most of them planning to do post-grad courses or research, etc.

but in mumbai, most students look at education as a chore to be completed so that they can get a job and start earning. i think more students in mumbai are working part-time jobs along with their education than their delhi counterparts.


i'll cover the last few parameters (including the most interesting one - people) in my next posting.

as always, please keep your comments and suggestions coming in.

Monday, December 18, 2006

good bye to SM

sunil mehta, vice president -nasscom, died of a heart attack on saturday (16th dec 2006) while on his way to work. this posting is my way of saying farewell to him.

sunil (SM as he was popularly known) was my first boss. i had joined infac (the company that he founded along with sv) as a complete raw green-horn in 1990. i had no clue of professional life and to make things worse, i had no clue of what i wanted to do in life. and infac was just taking off and things were very exciting and the pace was frentic.

it was a feast and a great learning experience to watch sm go about building the place from scratch. he was tough and stern when required. but he always made me feel useful. he inspired the whole team with his quite, efficient and professional approach to work.

he also made it a point to give personal attention to individuals, even if it meant discussing things which had nothing to do with the job. i distinctly remember sm having a chat with me one evening about my progress in preparing for the mba entrance exams. he patiently discussed the various alrenatives i could look at and made me feel a lot more confident about myself after the session.

and to a large extent, i owe my decision of becoming an entrepreneur to my stint at infac and to sm in particular. i wouldn't hesitate to say that, in this aspect, he was my role-model.

thanks sm, for coming into my life; for inspiring me to get to where i am and for being a wonderful human being!

Monday, December 11, 2006

delhi vs. mumbai - I

this one's going to rub some people the wrong way! (all views expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer and may or may not necessarily be a true reflection of reality! but here goes, nonetheless.)

the comparison between delhi and mumbai is one of the oldest debates known to mankind and will continue till doomsday with neither side willing to budge an inch. i'm not surprised there are numerous blogs on this topic.

what i'd like to do is compare the two cities on certain parameters based on my personal experience.

1. infrastructure - delhi beats mumbai hands-down here. and that's a bug-bear which most mumbaikars hold against delhi. there's always a lot of animated debate in the media about the revenue contribution by mumbai to the centre as compared to delhi and the proportion of funds that gets allotted back to the city.

2. public transportation - the metro is something mumbai is aspiring for. but apart from that, public transportation is far better in mumbai. 'best' buses and the 'local trains' are more reliable and safer. (ask any lady in delhi if she would travel alone in a bus or train in delhi after 8 pm.)

even the taxis and autos in mumbai score much better. they are, by and large, reliable, relatively more honest and its unlikely that they would take you for a ride, literally and figuratively.

3. power - the situation in mumbai is threatening to get worse. but the situation in delhi is much worse with no signs of any significant improvement in the near future. one expects the capital of the country to have adequate power. the state government just doesn't seem to manage to fix the 'power pilferage' problem.

in my next post i will cover 'work ethics', 'people', food', 'water', and 'academics'.

do let me know if there are any other parameters that you would include!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

being vegetarian in india!

being a vegetarian in india is a piece of cake (the eggless variety, of course)! i didn't realise how easy it is to be vegetarian in india as compared to other parts of the world till i started travelling.

here in india, whichever part of the country you are in, you will find enough choice available to you for vegetarian fare. even if you don't find a 'pure veg' restaurant you will find enough options on the menu even in a non-vegetarian restaurant. (for those of you readers who are not from india or have never been here, these are how the regular restaurants are classified!).

in india, we also have regulations which require all packaged foods companies to clearly color code their product with 'green' and 'brown' dots on the packaging to differentiate veg and non-veg foods. in many restaurants you will find separate kitchens or separate vessels, cutlery, etc being used in deference to the sensibilities of the vegetarians. (the vegetarians in india, i have come to realise, are very well taken care of!)

but the moment you set foot outside the country and you realise how different the world out there is as far as this distinction in culinary choice is concerned.

in most parts of asia vegetarian dishes include fish or egg. some places even do not think anything wrong in topping your vegetable fried rice with fried shrimps, shredded pork or a fried egg.

you can't even walk into a mac-donald's and hope to grab a quite bite like you would do back here in india. you will not find a single veg item on the menu there, except for the sodas and the ice-cream. while in india almost half the options on the menu are vegetarian. (i think it was a smart move on the part of mac-donald's to cater to local tastes!)

most of the people i meet and interact with in places outside india wonder how i survive as a vegetarian because they cannot think of managing it in their own countries. thats when it struck me that in india we have so many different choices and cuisines and there are so many different ways in which the veg dishes are cooked with all the myriad ingredients. a vegetarian doesn't ever find it challenging or boring to be one in india!

and i don't know if it is completely true, but i believe that even the non-vegetarians in india do have 'pure veg' meals more often than they have non-veg meals. and in indian we also have many occasions and festivals where non-veg food is avoided.

i believe that 'vegetarianism' which has ingrained itself as a value in our collective psyche (even if we don't adhere to it) has strong cultural and traditional roots. its as deep and strong as our value for the divinity in ourselves and others around us - don't we all touch the other person with our fingertips and touch our foreheads when we accidentally kick or brush our feet against them? i think our sensitivity or appreciation of vegetarianism is also as deep-rooted!

p.s. i think india must be the only place in the world where pizza hut has a 100% veg outlet. (the one at marine drive towards chowpatty. i am not sure if there are any more of them.)

do you have any interesting stories about food that you would like to share here?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

elevator pitch!

it's very interesting to observe how people interact with elevators/lifts in their daily lifes. it ranges from the bizarre to the inexplicable and even outright hilarious! i believe these actions clearly reflect our personality, as well as our attitude towards life in general!

the sceptic - this person will walk up to the elevator and press the 'call' button, irrespective of the fact that there are about 5-6 people waiting before him and that the button is already lit up indicating that someone has already done the needful! i guess he assumes that all the the others assembled there love to stand around all day and watch the elevator doors opening and closing.

the hyper-active - this person will not stop at pressing the button like the sceptic. he will continue to keep jabbing at the button every 30 seconds or so. i'm sure the people around feel safe that he prefers to jab at the button, to keep himself occupied, than jabbing at them!

the aggressive - this person takes the cake! he will lean on the button continuously. i suspect he believes there is some correlation between the amount of pressure exerted on the button and the speed with which the lift moves!

the zombies - these are the ones (i'm one of these) who, after summoning the lift, keep staring at the floor indicator with such intensity as if some great truth is going to flash on the screen!

the hummer - this person is a chronic type who will keep humming some inane, obscure tune in a patently off-key fashion and somehow believes that the others cannot hear him. i am sure they do the same whenever they get into any closed cubicle space, whether its at their work-place or in the bathroom.

the starer - you've seen this one. and many of us also do this every time we get into a lift. we stare directly ahead at the door as if nobody else exists around us. we keep staring, with sudden interest, at all the minute details and intricacies of the door. and if there is any 'politically incorrect' graffiti on the door, we stare right through it as if it doesn't exist at all.

so which one are you? or are you a type which i have not listed above? do tell :-)

Monday, December 04, 2006

comments unplugged!

the posting on 'my fascination for plastic' generated some 'interesting' and insightful comments from friends and strangers. i wanted to share those with you so that i don't feel guilty of depriving you of some wholesome entertainment and a good laugh! but what strikes you and stays with you at the end of the day after reading these comments is the 'truth' that they convey. (thanks guys, for these comments. please do keep posting them in the future too!)


Booyakasha said...
Remember the timeless line from "The Graduate"-the future is plastic!!


Zhen said...
When we travelled to Holland, I insisted that we have a bucket (they call it a pail) and a mug (pitcher) in the bathroom. I simply don't get the satisfaction of a bath in a shower!!!
I also believe that we Indians who have higher comfort levels in the 'Indian toilets' should insist in big companies to have separate INDIAN toilets rather than suffer the discomfort of climbing up on the toilet seat and balancing critically on shoes!
Also, I have stopped being ashamed of dunking bread/biscuits (they call it cookies) in tea because that is how I like it.
Everytime, I have a 'hi-fi' dinner abroad (or with some Indians who consider themselves always 'abroad' even if all they have ever had is a trip to Nepal), I moisten a napkin and clean my hands with that; I just don't seem to get a clean sensation unless I wash my hands with water.
I have more, but let us do it at another venue...!


nani said...
i hate plastic smiles though.


Anupam said...
Oh, I think of innovative ways for the mug in the toilet. I found one perfectly-sized plastic water jug in my hotel this time, which served the purpose very very well (I am not talking about bathing).

Usually, I simply manage with mineral water bottles!

And when it comes to the long haul flights, when you have fewer resources to deploy - especially when the flight attendant informs you that all they have are 150ml mineral water bottles, and nothing bigger - you got to be a lot more creative in those aircraft toilets! Unless you have done prior preparation, those paper cups above the sink will have to suffice ! It takes a lot more time to do the chore, but it does serve the purpose finally.

And regarding the plastic bags, and the hierarchy in their usage and also in the choice one exercise when giving them out, I could not agree with you more Guru !!! It's ditto with me - all of it !

Sometimes, when I am changing apartments, and I am forced to throw away stuff, it pains me to throw away those beautiful bags from LifeStyle, Shoppers Stop, etc. which I have been saving for some big occasion that never came !!


Saturday, November 25, 2006

are you a man or woman?

this was a very fascinating question i heard ages ago. but before you start getting strange ideas about me, let me clarify.

this question was popped at me during a spritual/philosophy discourse i was listening to.

the question went something like this - when you are in deep sleep, are you a man or a woman? are you hindu or muslim? are you fat or thin? fair or dark? young or old?

and if your answer is 'yes', then it only means you were not in deep sleep :-)

and if your answer was 'no' to all of the above, then what or who are you?

any answers, anyone?

Friday, November 24, 2006

my fascination for plastic!

i think we must be the only country in the world where majority of the population are so fascinated with plastic. and i don't mean 'plastic money'!

look around you, and you won't need to go beyond your own house, and you'll know what i mean.

i don't know about you, but i still collect plastic bags. i just can't bring myself to throw away the plastic bags which you get when you buy almost everything ranging from clothes to food to jewellery and more. i firmly believe that some of these bags, especially the ones from high end stores, have been designed for you to collect and reuse. and being seen carrying these bags is almost like being seen wearing some designer clothes! ok, maybe thats carrying it a bit far, but i'm sure you will agree that we do have some kind of class hierarchy associated with the bags we collect. we would not want to use certain bags for some chores which we believe are far below the status of those bags. we would also not want to give away certain bags when we want to give some stuff to your friends/neighbours/relatives to help them carry it; unless you wanted to impress them in the first place, of course!

and i am also the kind who still feels that there is something very basic missing when i use the bathrooms when travelling overseas. i miss the ubiquitous plastic bucket and mug in the bathrooms. and in these places you don't get them even if you wanted to buy one. trust me, i've tried! unless you were living in an indian neighbourhood! and i realise that it is again a very indian phenomenon. (could those of you living in other parts of the world like the us and uk tell me how you manage life without these critical appliances in your bathrooms?)

and to be brutally honest, i have, on more than one occassion, been tempted to buy some of the plastic plants and flowers and trees that you find in our part of the world. its the picture i get in my mind, when i think of my wife's reaction when i walk home with one of these fascinating creations, that reins in my enthusiasm. but i am convinced that there are millions of people out there, my brothers and sisters with like tastes, since there are tons of such plastic macrocosms being picked up from the shelves across the country.

so there, i feel much better now that i've got that off my chest! you should also try this sometime!

do you have your 'plastic' stories you'd like to share?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

here's one way of ending corruption!

i was introduced to anil bokil in an article written by sandesh kirkire (ceo of kotak mutual fund) called 'abolish all taxes and kick out corruption'. this was a revolutionary idea proposed by anil bokil and i was intrigued enough to get more details from his website -

some of the startling facts mentioned in sandesh's article include :
- the fact that less than 3% of india's population pay taxes.
- the fact that mumbai's population is 1.2 crore but has only 17000 taxpayers with income above Rs.10 lakhs.

in this context the article mentions the proposal suggested by anil bokil which seems deceptively simple and is definitely 'out of the box'. what it does achieve is getting you to think and wonder if there is a catch in it somewhere.

the key highlights of the proposal are :
- abolish all taxes in the country except import and customs duties.
- remove all currency notes above Rs.50 denomination from the system by asking all holders of this currency to deposit it in the bank.
- make it mandatory for all transactions above Rs.2000 to be done through the banking channel, i.e. through cheques, or credit/debit cards.
- introduce a flat transaction tax of, say, 2% on every transaction in the banking system in the recipient's hand.
- such tax amounts recovered to be transferred daily to the central government, state government, municipalities in a pre-determined proportion at a fee.
- cash transactions of a lower value not to attract any transaction tax.

some of the implications of this proposal are :
- reduction in actual tax paid by tax-payers; but increased tax collection by the government
- tremendous pressure on the parallel economy which thrives on the large denomination currency notes (ever wondered why you do not see the Rs.1000 denomination notes?)
- huge growth of the banking industry - higher deposits; rise in banking transactions; easier accessibility to funds for lower credit borrowers; cheaper sources of finance for the rural economy.
- fall in inflation since taxes/duties make up a huge component of prices of all goods/services
- resultant growth in demand for manufacturing sector
- complete removal of the entire bureaucracy managing the tax processes; also huge savings of time spent on tax management by corporates and tax payers

though this proposal sounds fantastic there are many questions and issues it raises :
- the parallel economy would move onto other foreign currencies like dollars
- the banking system would need to be geared to handle this enhanced role; it would also need to be able to reach out to a much wider audience than it does today
- even though funds would be available at lower rates it would not necessarily translate into credit for the farmers and lower credit rating borrowers; such segments which today depend on the cash economy would be starved of any funding
- the huge inflows of liquidity into the system (especially in the beginning when cash is converted into bank deposits) would put upward pressure on inflation
- government spending would still not necessarily become more accountable or efficient
- and most importantly - 'where is the political will to carry through such a revolution in the country'?

but what you cannot deny is the simplicity of the idea, and the fantastic scope of the vision behind this proposal.

i believe that with this proposal mr. anil bokil has at least suggested some solutions and has made me sit up and think. and that, in my eyes, is far better than my just griping about the problem of corruption!

do you have any similar, 'out of the box' solution to this problem?

Monday, November 20, 2006

how corrupt is the mumbaikar?

for those of us who live in india, especially in cities like mumbai, corruption is something that we see all around us. in fact it is almost a way of life; the fuel which seems to keep the city going. it is so strongly established and deeply ingrained in the psyche of the common mumbaikar that you wonder if most things would ever function without this all-pervading corruption! :-)

not for one moment am i claiming that everybody is corrupt and that there are no individuals untouched and untarnished by this scourge. but such individuals are more the exception than the rule!

and i have noticed that corruption is the greatest equaliser in our city where everybody from all strata of society have to make their offerings to this modern-day demon with an ever-increasing appetite.

and the corruption juggernaut is so amazingly well-organised and functions like a smooth well-oiled machine. i can not think of any walk of life which is not touched by the long arm of corruption (it most definitely reaches far beyond the 'long arm of the law'!)

let me list some of the places which seem to be so completely sold out to corrupt practices that it seems to have become the norm.

1. rto - have any of you readers ever managed to get your driving license or got a duplicate copy of your rc book in the recent past by going through the regular channel? i think the regular channels have long been sealed with over-grown weeds and thick cobwebs!
but mind you, you could never approach the rto officials directly and attempt to bribe them! that would be unpardonable and you could serve time because of attempts to bribe a government official.
there is a network of 'rto agents' who will get you a driving license or any similar such document for a fee, part of which feeds the entire rto bureaucracy in a very well-organised manner, with the money (rumored to be running into crores) reaching up into all the levels within the rto, all the way to the top. (i honestly don't know where the top is!). and for a fee you could get a driving license even if you didn't know your left from your right! i mean, what does that have to do with getting a license?

2. stamp duty/ deed registry office - this is another place where you could end up running in circles for days without getting anywhere close to registering your document/agreement if you want to buy or sell any real-estate! all the real-estate deals that i have come across, have had to use the 'services' of the friendly neighbourhood 'agent' who manages to move through the registration office as if he is the lord and master of that place! but you must give credit where it is due! they manage to get your registration process completed in the shortest possible time. and i am told that the amount of money the officials here make if far more than they could hope to make in the rto office. here too the money apparently moves all the way to the 'top'!

3. but the award for the most corrupt set of people i have ever come across goes to the customs department! i am told that many of the officers have to pay a hefty amount of money as bribe to get posted into this lucrative department. for the official it is now a matter of recovering his 'investment' and making a neat margin without over-exerting himself in the process!
i had to pay a princely sum of 1000 rupees for bringing in 'commercial' quantities (as defined by the customs officer) of some shawls which a friend had sent with me to be donated as gifts to some senior citizens! but he didn't want to dirty his hands and got a constable on duty to do the disagreeable job on his behalf. the constable told me that he would get a 10% cut and the rest of the money is shared by the officers all the way to the 'top'! he also confided that the daily earnings of the officers ran into tens of thousands of rupees!

4. the saddest form of corruption i have witnessed is the 'hafta' or weekly bribe paid by the street vendors in mumbai to representatives of various agencies including the municipality, the local police, the local don, etc. the vendor has to pay his share of hafta whether his business has done well that day or not. and in spite of paying this 'protection money' they are not assured of any protection when there is a drive by the local municipal ward to clean up the footpaths of the vendor menace. the truth is that these drives are just subtle reminders from the officers at the 'top' to keep coughing up the 'protection money'! the only protection this bribe provides to the hapless vendor is from the people who collect the money!

so whats the point i am trying to make here? that we must fight against corruption? that we must learn to accept it as a necessary evil which oils the wheels of bureaucracy?

i think corruption in society is a reflection of our own greed and selfishness! i think corruption will thrive and will always be present as long as we continue to opt for the easier way in life!

i think corruption in some way is also an unconscious, social mechanism of rationalising the disparities that exist. for example, the government would like to offer free or subsidised services to society. but corruption ensures that the beneficiaries have to finally end up, directly or indirectly, paying more realistic prices for the services they use. (most often they end up not receiving the services at all!)

no that doesn't justify corruption. i think there's definitely some lesson in here about proper governance, but i can't see it! can you?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

has the internet changed your life?

tons of newsprint and billions of data-bytes have been used up detailing the impact of the internet on our lives.

when i think about it, i realise the impact in our own personal lives is so immense and so pervasive that very often we are not even aware that we are experiencing one of the benefits of the internet.

the internet (and the more popular 'world wide web') is a phenomenon that we have witnessed in our own lifetimes and is something that has touched all our lives in some form or other.

let me list out some of the benefits of the internet that i have personally experienced. i am sure you would be able to add to this list. please do so and lets see how many diverse benefits we are able to come up with!

1. communication - do you remember the time when we used to write letters (i mean the handwritten ones!) to our friends and relatives all over the world? and i also remember wincing at the cost of sending a birthday card by courier to a friend in the us.
the internet has changed all that, and how!

today i can not just write instant emails which i can zap to a mailing list, but i can also talk to friends and even see them through a web-cam. and all this for free. i can send virtual cards for all occasions for free. some sites also remind me of birthdays/anniversaries for all the people (including my own!).

2. business - in my line of work the internet allows me to sit in office and get information on new markets that i would like to enter, i can identify business partners, i can contact potential clients, demonstrate our solutions and make presentations, send proposals, send and receive payments, etc. all this through the internet.

our software team is able to do product implementation, provide support by tracking the functioning of the application at client end and fix problems without having to move out of our office premises. all through the internet!

when i am travelling the internet allows me to keep in touch with office, clients, my team and my family on a real-time basis. i am also able to keep in touch with all the news through the net.

3. collaboration - i personally know a few medical cases where my friends and the doctors sent across all the test results and images across to doctors in the us or other countries who in turn have sent it to a network of other specialists and have got advice on the best course of action to adopt. all this through the internet and without spending a single rupee.

4. entertainment - today i am able to use the internet to download/share/swap music, videos, films, books using sites like napster, limewire, etc. and this has had a tremendous impact on the media and entertainment industry. (no, not because of the fact that i am doing this, but because such services exist and are being used extensively!)

what i've found even more fascinating is the phenomenon of MMOGs (massively multiplayer online game - where millions of people across the globe are playing online games where they take on 'avatars' and interact with each other in virtual worlds. i've never tried my hand at these but i can imagine how addictive they can get.

5. social networking - here i would include all the sites focused on dating, online communities, matrimonials, jobs, etc.

i personally know at least 5 people who have married people they have met through the internet, including a friend who married a bulgarian! if that doesn't count as significant social impact of the internet, then i wouldn't know what does!

most of the hiring that we are doing in our company today is through the services offered by various online job sites.

8. finance - when was the last time you visited a bank branch? i haven't been to one for almost 8-10 years! haven't ever felt the need to go to one. almost everything i ever needed, i could manage through the atm, phone or the internet.

i can pay for transactions online, i can send money online, i can request for a cheque book online, etc.

i can even (if i had the money :-) ) do all my stock market/mutual fund investments online and keep track of these investments online!

9. travel - one of the biggest benefits of the internet i have personally experienced is in the area of travel. i can plan my trip online, do all my train and flight bookings online (and get much cheaper fares), pay for them online and even do hotel bookings online.

10. charity/ religious activities - now i can make donations to various charities online, i can book poojas at key temples online, and even do online darshan!

11. information - there's more information out there than i can handle in my lifetime. my wife was able to help my son with his project on bears thanks to the internet with most of the credit going to google.
i found the lyrics to some of my favorite songs (which i couldn't decipher when listening to them) on

i believe we are experiencing only the tip of the iceberg here. in the near future, during our own lifetimes, i'm sure the internet will be impacting our lives in a far greater manner than we can even imagine!

Friday, November 10, 2006

at the end of the day, we're all driven by selfishness!

if you think about it, every thing we ever do, right from the moment we wake up till the moment we drop off into the sweet world of deep sleep, is driven by our own selfish desires.

i cannot think of a single thought, word or deed that is not driven by some 'essentially selfish motive'.

even the so-called altruistic actions that we perform and social service causes that we associate with are finally driven by some deep-rooted selfish desire in us. we feel noble/good/proud/useful/less guilty when we do such selfless activities. we often firmly believe that we have absolutely no personal agenda in performing such activities. but if we look deep within ourselves and are honest to ourselves we realise that we always do have some personal motive, some rub-off.

you may say that there are some relationships which are not based on selfishness. and the most popular oft-quoted example, of course, is that of the the relationship between a mother and a child. the argument is that the mother does things for the baby without expecting anything in return. i mean, how could you expect anything in return from the baby? but if you ask a mother, she will tell you that she too gets a lot from the baby; and that her actions for the baby too are driven by purely selfish (maybe not as selfish as wanting that irresistible diamond solitaire you've been eyeing, but selfish nonetheless!) motives. these motives could be as basic as the sense of satisfaction or fulfilment; or as far-fetched as wanting to be seen as a wonderful mother by the people around her!

ok, now the pertinent question is - is this bad? is being selfish a bad thing? (i know those are two questions, but they actually mean the same thing!)

in our society we are brought up to believe that selflessness is a far nobler state of being, something that we should ideally aspire for. but the problem is that there doesn't seem to be a practical, sure-fire way of achieving that. that's assuming first that you are convinced that selflessness is the way to be!

so how do we reconcile these apparently conflicting scenarios?

i believe the best thing for us to do is to work towards selflessness and try do the few 'selfless' activities that we do with as much sincerity as possible. my view is that it is far better to be doing some social service or working on some noble cause, even though you may be doing it for some purely selfish reason, than not doing anything even remotely selfless!

i firmly believe that slowly over time we will start widening the circle of beneficiaries for our actions and genuinely start becoming selfless in our day-to-day lives!


p.s. i must add here that the above observations do not apply to the great masters in our country who rose far above their 'selves' to a much higher plane of consciousness where they no longer operated on the 'plane of selfish motives' like us. they had risen so high that any action they performed automatically benefited a much wider circle of people beyond themselves.

their lives can be inspiration for us to try bring, in our selfish way, some selflessness in our own lives!

everybody was once a stranger!

if you think about it, every person you know today was a stranger once! every person you know from the day you started becoming concious of yourself as different from the people around you, from the day you became aware of your own identity, was a stranger to begin with.

and this is true whether the person is your best friend, your spouse, your relative, your acquaintance, your colleague, your teacher, almost everybody you can think of.

even your parents were strangers as far as you are concerned till you became aware of them and accepted them as your parents. (how do you know they have not adopted you and raised you as their own child?)

the only people who do not start as strangers from your perspective are your own children. you know them from the moment they are born. you don't need to be introduced to them, you don't need to get to know them and start accepting them within your circle of 'known' people. they become part of your life from the moment they arrive. no, they become part of your life even before they are born!

your child is not a stranger to you as much as your reflection in the mirror is not a stranger to you!

do you agree, my friend-who-was-once-a-stranger?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

i'm amazed at the investors!

my job requires me to travel around a bit, including overseas. now before you start saying 'wow' wistfully, let me assure you that this is not exactly the kind of travel that you would be enamored about.

i travel to a lot of third-world countries (the politically correct term is 'emerging economies'). these include places like sri lanka, thailand, philippines, indonesia, etc. i don't know about you, but my image about these places was very different from reality. i assumed that these places are worse off than india in terms of infrastructure, amenities, living conditions, standard of living, etc because of the fact that they are much smaller than india. but i was quickly disabused of these notions.

one of the first things you notice in any of these countries is the airport in these countries. and i completely agree with the phrase that 'first impressions count'. the airports at singapore and hong kong are, not surprisingly, very, very impressive. but what is definitely surprising is the fact all the other countries i mentioned above, no matter how small, have far more impressive airports and facilities than the key indian airports at mumbai and delhi.

right from the moment you step out of the aircraft you become painfully aware of the differences. right from signages, to baggage handling, to help & information, to transportation services, to staff, etc.

but stepping out of an aircraft in mumbai or delhi for an indian is such a depressing experience.

let me take the example the airport in my home city, mumbai. to be fair, i must mention here that the customs and immigration facilities in the mumbai airport have improved phenomenally. its far more efficient and speedier than it was a couple of years ago.

but once you step out of customs you feel like you have landed up in some jungle. there's absolute chaos all around. and the worst of the lot are the touts who are trying to catch hold of unsuspecting people and make a quick buck by offering you taxis, hotels and whatever else they can push at you. and the police obviously are nowhere in sight. there's no clear planned demarcation and signages for visitor areas, car drop and pick-ups, public transportation, etc.

and even if you do manage to extricate yourself from the crowds milling around the exit gates and reach the taxi/auto stand you still have to deal with the unique specimen of the indian taxi/auto driver who will measure your worth based on your luggage and the distance you want to travel. and they would always assume that it is their god-given birthright to charge you a fat premium because you happened to have just returned from a trip overseas! and, of course, the assigned policeman is very considerate and is studiously involved in something far more interesting at a safe distance so that your negotiations with the driver are not disturbed!

and once you manage to arrive at some understanding with the immovable mountain and sit in whichever mode of transport you chose, you then get to see the first sights of the great city of mumbai. and that's when you realise that the depression you experienced at the airport was nowhere as bad as what you are felling now as your vehicle navigates through chaotic traffic, slums, beggars, children defecating along the roads, foul-smelling gutters, etc.

now what does all this have to do with investors i mentioned in the title, you ask? well i always wonder what my reaction would be if i were a foreign investor visiting india for the first time to evaluate the investment climate and opportunities here? i shudder to think of the first impression created in such an investor's mind based on the experience of the airport and the ride from the airport to the hotel. i am surprised that most of them do not want to turn and head back home.

it speaks volumes about the companies, the people and the markets in india that the investors continue to flock and pump money into our country inspite of all the drawbacks. but there's so much more to do. and so much of it depends on the will of the government and the attitudes of people.

some of you might say that the focus of our government should not be in improving infrastructure in metros and cities to make india an attractive destination for foreign investments but in removing poverty in the villages. the money that flows in as investments into the country could also flow into the villages, but for that we need a government which works honestly to make this happen!

but all said and done, i still feel restless when i am away from india for some time and its a strange mix of gladness and pride and comfort i feel when i finally land in india. and i realise that i would rather be here than any other place in the world! i look around and i see the energy, the enthusiasm, the confidence, the buzz, and most importantly i see the hope of a new and better tomorrow in the eyes of people!

do you also see what i see?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

why are the trains cleaner down south?

i know this posting is going to sound controversial and offend some people.

but its just another theory that i have, and i couldn't resist sharing my views with you. i mean, what choice do you have? :-)

i believe there is a strong correlation between the levels of cleanliness in our trains and literacy levels in different regions in our vast country.

i have been fortunate to have travelled by trains from pune and mumbai to most parts of the country including kerala, tamilnadu, karnataka, andhra pradesh, uttar pradesh, west bengal, gujarat, delhi, punjab, himachal pradesh, madhya pradesh, etc. and of course within maharashtra.

i have noticed a clear correlation between literacy levels and the levels of cleanliness in trains!

the trains going to or originating from states which have literacy rates higher than the national average tend to be cleaner than the trains to/from other states. therefore as a general rule the trains down south tend to be cleaner than the trains up north. do you agree?

i have come across mails earlier which tell us that we are fairly hypocritical when it comes to cleanliness. we are paranoid about cleanliness within the four walls of our homes but don't care too much when it comes to civic cleanliness.

these mails also remind us of how we are very particular about littering and using dust-bins in foreign lands while not giving a second thought to dropping the candy wrapper (or gutkha pouch/ cigarette butt, etc) on the street/pavement in our country.

but i think this is not completely correct. its a very small proportion of such people who tend to do this. i think most people who have a basic understanding of civic sense (and i firmly believe its not to do with literacy alone) are equally careful about civic cleanliness, whether they are in the country or travelling abroad.

i think, in the final reckoning, its got to do with your attitude towards your surroundings. the sense of responsibility and sensitivity that you demonstrate when you realise that all the amenities around you are meant for the general public, including you.

if this sense of belief is not deeply and strongly rooted in you, you could be easily shaken and disheartened when you see the law-enforcers and custodians of public property themselves breaking these same laws with impunity!

i think the way you and i can make a difference is by ensuring that we do not demonstrate such hypocrisy in our conduct and also ensuring that we educate the people we can in our circle of influence!

lets start with ourselves and clean up our country!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

one man can make a difference

most of us usually feel that there is not much change in society that we as individuals can bring about. we blame the system/government/bureaucracy/lack of infrastructure/lack of time for our 'inability' to make any significant, meaningful contribution.

but its amazing how one man with vision and inspiration can make a big difference and a significant contribution to society!

today i happened to read the brochure of the 'parivaar education society' and was not just thoroughly impressed but also deeply touched and humbled.

i was introduced to parivaar through my wife who's an iim-kolkata product (read on to know why this bit of info is relevant). she is a regular contributor and used to keep trying to share details of parivaar with me. i only had a vague idea about what it did. it was only after reading the literature today that i realised the scale of the work being done. i would like to share some of the details of this institution with you and would sincerely implore you to check it out for yourself at (most of the info that follows is reproduced from the brochure.)

parivaar was started by an iit-kharagpur and iim-kolkata alumnus, vinayak lohani (1991-93 batch) who was inspired by the teachings and ideals of sri ramakrishna paramahamsa and swami vivekananda. he did not take up final placement on campus and instead decided to dedicate his life to the upliftment of homeless children. parivaar's motto is to provide 'home, family and future for homeless, family-less children'.

starting in january 2004 with just 3 children in a small rented building with almost no financial resources, there are currently 204 children at the parivaar ashram at bakhrahat (quite close to the iim-c jokha campus). a facility is now under construction to accommodate almost 500 children!

the children admitted into parivaar ashram are destitute/homeless/family-less and are from categories like orphans, street/pavement dwelling children, children of critically/terminally ill mothers (with no father or other family support), abandoned children, children from rural areas and also from red-light areas. the children are admitted at a very young age (3-8 years) and they come with no educational background. they are then trained in the ashram to get them admission into a quality formal education school.

since parivaar works for total rehabilitation of the children, it provides everything a child needs including food, clothing, education, recreation, etc. parivaar focuses on the all-round development of the child, including physical, emotional, intellectual as well as spiritual growth. parivaar works with the idea of providing support to each child with a minimum commitment of 12 to 15 years, right from their kindergarten stage till he/she grows up and makes good in life.

parivaar has been fortunate to have many contributors (over 350 iim alumni itself). (you can contribute through their website where details are provided.)

vinayak could have become a successful professional like most of us. but he chose to do something far nobler, and something much bigger in life. and according to me he has achieved far greater success in life. how many of us can claim to have positively contributed and changed the life of another human being?

what i also appreciate about his model for the organisation that he has founded is that he has very clearly established the spiritual principles that seem to be inspiring and driving the ethos of parivaar. he very openly acknowledges the spiritual support that he receives from the ramakrishna mission. as part of their spiritual development, the children are exposed to pranayam, dhyana and a 'sanskar siksha upadesh' session which includes imparting teachings on moral and spiritual lines. they have a prayer hall with images of sri ramakrishna, mother sarada devi, and swami vivekananda. they celebrate the anniversaries of these saints.

but vinayak has clearly established parivaar as a non-spiritual organisation with no formal, direct involvement of any of the above-mentioned spiritual organisations.

and thus he has managed to achieve a wonderful balance between the secular and the spiritual and managed to beautify the lives of so many deserving children.

i only wish there are many more such vinayaks who get inspired and create many more such parivaars across our country. and that could bring about a revolution - an educational, spiritual and nation-building revolution!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

what's wrong with our temples?

hi folks!

i'm back after my vacation - which was a mix of visiting friends, some family functions and a vacation. (check out the pics at

after visiting some dear friends in chennai, we joined a bus-load of relatives for some serious temple-hopping to celebrate niru's mama's sashtiapatha purthi (60th birthday celebrations). we started with the shiva temple at chidambaram ( followed by the vaitheeswaran temple along the chennai-mayavaram route ( this was then followed by the amritaghateswar-abirami temple at tirukkadaiyur ( where people perform their 60th, 70th and 80th birthday celebrations. we then finally went to the karuvazhakarai amman temple which is near mayiladuthurai.

contrary to my belief, we had a great time visiting these temples. and we had loads of fun travelling to these places, mainly because of the intense card games in the last few rows of the bus!

but there was one thing which kept bothering me throughout the trip. some of the temples we visited, especially the old, large, grand ones were very poorly maintained. they were smelly and dirty and the priests and workers did not seem to be in the least bit bothered about the state of affairs all around them. the only enterprise and enthusiasm they demonstrated was when they could spot some opportunity to make some additional income from the visitors and pilgrims.

and these temples rake in crores of rupees every year through donations, hundi collections, pooja fees, etc. but most of this money is apparently siphoned off by the corrupt officials on the boards of the temple and devaswom trusts, most of which are government controlled. a paltry amount makes its way back to the actual running of the temples.

and then i paused to think. correct me if i am wrong, but i have not come across a single old/big/important church, mosque, gurudwara or fire-temple which is treated so shabbily and maintained so poorly. i am not being communal here, but i wonder why is there such a stark difference? is it sheer indifference or apathy among the hindu populace? or is it because of lack of a central controlling body? or lack of pride in our temples? or maybe our faith in our gods is so powerful that we believe that the gods will perform miracles and clean up the unholy mess at the right time?

but then i also think of some of the beautifully and meticulously maintained temples run by organisations like the chinmaya mission, the swaminarayan sect, etc.

and then the answer became quite obvious. the difference is the pride and devotion instilled among the care-takers and visitors of the temple by the vision of one man/group/organisation. if only some of the political leaders/ temple board trustees
could provide that vision!

Friday, October 20, 2006

there's this other theory i have. this one also might sound a little whacky. but if you think about it, it will start making sense to you too! (i think it would. but if nobody agrees then i might have to agree with your opinion about me being whacky :-) )

take the colour 'red'. why red, you ask? and why not, i counter! actually that's the first color that came to my mind. its also the title of a beautiful song by chris rea from the album 'espresso logic'!

but we're drifting. coming back to the point i am trying to make here. lets take the colour red.

you have been taught since childhood that a particular colour that you see is called red. but is the colour you see actually red? isn't it possible that the colour you see is not the same colour as i see? you might actually be seeing the colour red while i am seeing the same thing as a deep shade of green! but i have always associated this colour with red because that's what i have been taught since my childhood. so the shade that you see and call red is actually a different shade that i perceive but i too call it red. so though we both call it by the same name we are actually perceiving two completely different things. so our experience might be completely different but we call it by the same name.

now this can be extended to almost everything that we experience around us - colors, shapes, sounds, taste, etc. in fact all sensory perceptions would be victim to this confusion of definition.

you might say that even though our sense organs might perceive things differently, the instruments that we have created to measure the phenomena around us would not have such problems. each measuring instruments would measure the measured object in exactly the same way as another similar instrument. while that might be true, it still is a human being who is observing & reading the results and interpreting it. and that is where the subjective element again comes in.

so though the measured numbers are the same to both of us who are observing the phenomena, the actual observation might still be completely different. and yet we would still agree with each other about the observation because both of us believe that the other person is seeing exactly the same thing that you are seeing. so when both of us see the colour red as a certain measurement of wavelength of electromagnetic radiation within the visible spectrum (wavelength interval of the colour red is ~ 625–740 nanometers and its frequency interval is ~ 480–405 TeraHertz) we are actually seeing two different colours and calling it red!

is this possible?

if that is the case then the possibilities of confused definitions are mind-boggling! i might actually be seeing a monkey when i look at you and i have always labeled moneys as 'human beings'; and you actually see a donkey when you see me and you always labeled donkeys as human beings! how's that just for starters?

maybe you can come up with something wilder! ;-)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

my wife and i finally saw 'lage raho munnabhai'! i am not sure it is oscar material, if you were to comapre it with movies that won the best foreign language film award, but we had a blast watching it.

the funniest line in the movie was when circuit beats up someone and then asks him to get so that he can sorry to him! what made it extremely hilarious was the cool way in which the dialogue was delivered.

there was one loop-hole i found in the picture, i don't know if i misread it. correct me if am wrong. there is one part where 'lucky singh' calls for a press conference to prove that munnabhai has lost his head and is seeing visions. there in the conference the psychiatrist proceeds to prove that the 'bapu' that munnabhai is seeing is his own mental projection. he demonstrates how munnabhai's bapu can answer only those questions for which munnabhai already knows the answer. he does this by producing a list of 3 questions which bapu cannot answer because munnabhai himself does not know the answer!

but my question is - how did the psychiatrist know that munnabhai did not know these facts in the first place? he was not the one who provided all the other facts in the first place!

i couldn't come up with an answer. could you?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

what is it about us indians and road sense? many people label our behaviour as 'road rage' but i don't think that this term describes it completely.

i mean, picture this - you're driving along on a single lane road with a single lane also for oncoming traffic with no road-divider separating the two streams of traffic, but obviosuly.

you suddenly pull up since the vehicles ahead have stopped moving. and you notice vehicles lined up ahead as far as eye can see. now you fret and fume and curse the antecedents of whoever has caused the pile-up and throw in the weather, the politicians, the traffic police and the local municipality for good measure.

and then while you are waiting for the vehicles ahead of you to start moving you notice that some intrepid cowboy has decided to drive his auto-rickshaw/car/taxi/tempo/van/whatever in the next lane which was traditionally meant for only oncoming traffic! but then who's following the niceties here?

and suddenly, like the rats following the pied piper, a long line of vehicles zip along behind the leader in crime, with this firm belief that the afore-mentioned leader would have miraculously found some secret path ahead which would lead them all out of this jam into instant 'traffic nirvana'! within no time you have two serpentine columns of traffic facing each other on both sides of the road, resembling batallions lined up and facing each other for some unholy war!

this is approximately when some members of this frustrated, frazzled fraternity believe that the incessant blowing of their horns would clear the way ahead through sheer decibel power. there is obviously no such unfolding of events, much to their dismay!

what never ceases to amaze me is not the creation of such log-jams, but the fact that, eventually, they manage to unravel themselves. i wonder how that happens because none of the characters in this story budge from their seats to contribute to the unravelling.

and the amazing thing is that most of the people who created the problem in the first place or worsened it were hoping to save time but extricating themselves from the jam. but they only end up spending much more time in the entire process!

i have also noticed this irrational urge (even the author admits falling prey to this urge) among usually-sane drivers suddenly displaying blood-lust whenever some pedestrian (read jay-walker) is stepping off the curb to cross the street before your vehicle reaches him/her. the driver suddenly leans on the horn and accelerates lustily and feels some perverse satisfaction when the pedestrian starts and retreats to the safety of the footpath while the vehicle roars ahead only to stop behind a vehicle or at the stop-light just a few feet ahead!

i am sure you would have many similar examples to narrate!

why do well-educated, peace-loving, rational individuals resort to such self-defeating, irrational, almost violent actions like this?

if you were excepting some answers or theories to this phenomenon at the end of this piece, then i must disappoint you. i have none... but maybe you do?

Monday, October 09, 2006

someone once told me (or maybe i read it somewhere, i don't remember and it doesn't really matter) that the male of the species is the more attractive/colorful/etc. look at peacocks, elephants, panfish, etc.

but whoever arrived at this conclusion obviously did not take homosapiens into consideration! i personally believe that it is just the opposite among human beings.

why else do women models adorn more hoardings and magazine covers than male ones? but when animals are to be used in any picture, not necessarily for endorsing a brand, it is usually the male of the species which is used. have you ever seen a pea-hen being used instead of a pea-cock in any picture?

doesn't prove my point?

ok let me try present a word-picture of a very common phenomenon that all of you would have experienced at one point of time or the other. which irrefutably proves the point i am making.

imagine a couple walking along a beautiful promenade, as couples are usually wont to. they are chatting about things that couples usually chat about. now to avoid confusion lets label this couple as Couple A. now imagine another couple, lets call them Couple B, approaching Couple A from the opposite direction. as they get closer and are about to cross each other what do you think happens?

ok let me try describe it. and what i'm about to describe, i believe, is a universal phenomenon!

man-A looks at lady-B and for now lets not get into what man-A is thinking about her. man-B in the meanwhile is doing likewise with lady-A. but now it gets really interesting. lady-A is looking at lady-B and lady-B is also looking at lady-A. and chances are their thoughts are running along one of these courses -

1. she's fatter/slimmer than me.
2. the dress does/doesn't suit her. it think it will look better on me.
3. the chain/ear-ring/bracelet/etc looks cheap/expensive.
4. her hair is/isn't cut well.
5. why doesn't someone give her honest feedback about her dress/hair/make-up, etc.

but then i'm drifting from my point! all the parties involved in this example are looking only at the ladies! point proven, case closed!

Friday, October 06, 2006

i have this theory about parallel universes. you might think its rather warped, but i obviously think not.

i remember learning long, long ago in school that the human eyes are capable of seeing colors only between a certain frequency band. similarly we've also learnt that we also hear sounds only within a certain frequency band. and we are told that other animals can see and hear colors and sounds even beyond these frequencies. now this must be true for all our senses - sight, smell, taste, sound and touch.

this means that we are experiencing a part of the universe/world around us while there definitely exists another part which we do not experience. and just because we do not experience it does not mean that it does not exist! so we could say that we exist at one plane which we experience and there exists one or more other planes that exist which we are not aware of! or to put it differently, we experience a sub-set of the universe and we exist (or at least we believe) within that sub-set.

ok, now here's the hypothesis/question. is it possible that there is an entire universe existing parallely with our universe which we are not aware of, which is beyond the scope of our experience? and is it possible that there are 'beings' in those planes which may or may not be aware of our existence?

i agree that we have devices which are able to measure signals beyond those of human perception. but just like the limitations of our sense organs i believe these instruments would also have a limited scope of 'perception'.

imagine, there must be another 'being' sitting here next to me and chuckling at these conclusions that i am arriving at and another one sitting next to you reading this with you :-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

for those of you who do not know, i am a mallu. but except for having been born in mallu-land (or so i am told) i have had no major exposure to mallu-land. i did my entire schooling in pune and then college education in mumbai. even my accent apparently doesn't give away my mallu origins.

but, without sounding parochial, i find mallu-land a beautiful place. and i look forward to each visit there, official or personal.

ok, now apart from maharashtra i also spent a year in shonar bangla (kolkata, to be precise). and i was amazed to see the similarities between kerala and bengal. here're some that came to my mind -

1. both states are coastal states with very similar weather and the country-side looks very similar. people also dress very similarly - whites, dhoties, plain cotton sarees, etc.

2. the staple diet in both states is rice and fish.

3. politically both states have a strong communist base.

4. people declare strikes at the drop of a hat! both states have a strong labor movement.

5. both states have high literacy rates.

6. people from both states are football lovers.

7. the women in both states are strong & assertive. women's emancipation must be the highest in the country in these two states.

8. the people in both these states see themselves as the protectors of culture and arts in the country. they have a very high opinion about themselves. very high percentage of national award winners in art/film/literature come from these 2 states. most of the art films in the country emerge from these 2 states.

9. people of both states are devi worshippers - bhagawati in kerala and durga/kali in bengal.

10. people from both states have a large migrant population working outside the state. i would even go to the extent of saying that people from both states do very well outside their own states!

any more similarities you know of?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

hi world :

its good to be back after ages!

to be honest, i got inspired by vipul's newly created blog ( to check out and see if my blog i'd created ages ago (in the days of my youth) was still available. well it was still available (which surprised me) and there were still no comments or visitors (which didn't surprise me).

i have noble intentions of posting on a regular basis and building up a fan club of mythical proportions. my first challenge is to to get it to increase it from the current count of one! (i am my biggest fan)

while we are on the subject of being our own fans, have you noticed how we tend to go very easy on ourselves when it comes to problems/shortcomings/faux pas/etc? most of us have this amazing capacity to pat ourselves on our oft-patted backs for things that go well around us. but at the same time we also always manage to find fault with some person/place/animal/thing when things don't go exactly the way we wanted it to. even on those rare occasions when we are blaming ourselves, we tend to take pity on ourselves and have a solid reason why we messed it up in the first place.

you might say that you are one of those extremely rare breeds who tends to always blame yourself when things go wrong around us. even when there is a sudden thunderstorm which messes up our dinner plans at some newly opened eating place you always wanted to visit. well, if you think about it, even here you will be able to trace an extremely high sense of self-worth. we take comfort in taking blame for all the problems around us. it gives us a sense of identity and purpose. in fact you might even firmly believe that the planetary positions in your horoscope were responsible for the freak thunderstorm. (so what if about a few million poor souls also got affected by the same thunderstorm, you firmly believe you, or your 'bad luck' caused it!).

but if you look at yourself carefully and honestly there's only one irrefutable conclusion that you would arrive at - you and only you are responsible for the situation you are in, no matter what the situation!

think about that!