Friday, November 30, 2007

good cop, bad cop!

(came across this post on india uncut which prompted me to write this post.)

i recently came across a news article about someone we know being stopped by cops when he was driving to lonavala. though the papers were in order and he had a valid license, the cops accused him of being a private taxi operator without a permit and wanted him to pay up. when he refused they then found that he hadn't renewed his puc license. when they realised that he was a tough customer and one his co-travellers was calling up various people they drove off with his license.

and then there was this time when i spent a few hours in a police station when a friend and i were rounded up by the cops. our crime was walking in a group on the road during holi. we had to pay a fine to be let off. later i heard that the cops have a target of people they have to round up on days like holi.

but i've also had my share of 'good cop' experiences. the most memorable one being an incident at the delhi airport.

i was carrying my hp laptop in a bag which looked like exactly like what at least a dozen other people were carrying. after the x-ray scan in security i noticed my bag was missing from the x-ray machine belt. and there was another unclaimed laptop bag of a different brand. i reported this to the cops on duty.

one of the cops then mentioned that he recollected a man in a light pink checked shirt picking up a laptop bag which he felt was not his. he then came along with me to help identify the person in the large busy concourse. and he managed to identify the passenger too, who happened to have picked up my laptop bag my mistake.

i was completely dumbfounded and thoroughly impressed.

Monday, November 26, 2007

bob's my uncle!

a friend recently shared this very interesting observation. and it hit me when i thought about it. and i'm sure it will hit you as well :-)

we were talking about the recent trend of many recently married couples who willingly choose not to have children or to have only a single child. earlier i had written a post about the benefits of having at least two kids - the second solution!

my friend then said that we will soon have a significant number of kids who will not have brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, no brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law, no co-brothers or co-sisters, and so on and so forth! and as this trend continues it will be even more stark.

most kids will only have theoretical knowledge about such relationships and will not be able to understand what these actually mean in real life. in fact, over time, they would start wondering whether such people and such relationships actually existed!

i guess it would be similar to our understanding of kings and queens and dinosaurs too!?

such kids would lose out on the joys of visiting relatives, vacationing with cousins, the scores of marriages in the family which are usually an excuse to fix some more marriages and also have a feast with good food and the company of near and distant family for a comfortably short period of time!

i wonder what fond memories the children in the future would have

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

mosquito magnet!

my wife and i never let go of an opportunity to pat ourselves on our back when we see one of our kids do something which we believe is a trait they have inherited from the 'self-back-patter'! nor do we miss an opportunity to rib the other party whenever there is some embarrassing or awkward trait noticed in our kids and are convinced that we ourselves had nothing to do with that particular trait. and we all know where that came from and all that!

well here's a bizarre one where both my wife and i have the same view, one of those extremely rare moments :-)

my daughter is a 'mosquito magnet', just like i am!

before she was born, if there was one solitary mosquito which was in the mood for some human blood sampling it would unfailingly find its way to some exposed part of my anatomy and proceed to go on a binge on my vital body fluid! the said mosquito would choose to ignore the presence of an entire brood of family members present in the vicinity at the same instant. i used to console myself by claiming that i was a 'pure blood' which even the discerning mosquitoes vetted! ('pure blood' of what species, don't ask me!)

and now i've noticed that our daughter is a better mosquito magnet than i can ever aspire to be. the solitary mosquito now makes a bee-line (shouldn't that be 'mosquito-line'?) for her. that explains the ever-present tube of mosquito repellent in our household.

till recently i thought there must have been something unique about me which makes us more attractive to the animal kingdom. (nonetheless, i would have preferred doves and cats and other representatives of the animal kingdom expressing their allegiance to a royal personage than just some measly mosquitoes!)

now medical science throws some light on this mystery. scientists believe that genetics account for about 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. people with concentration of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface; people who produce excess of certain acids like uric acid; these are the people mosquitoes like best :-)

researchers are still trying to pinpoint what compounds and odours people exude that might be attractive to mosquitoes.

so next time the mosquitoes prefer you over the others in your company - blame your genes!

p.s. here's an interesting fact - mosquitoes have been around for more than 170 million years. basically tells us that they are not going to disappear in a hurry :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

frozen food!

i stumbled upon this news item on the bbc news site - Doomsday vault begins deep freeze.

engineers are building the svalbard international seed vault in a mountain on one of the islands of svalbard, norway, where they will store seeds from all known varieties of key food crops by freezing them at -18C. built to hold about 4.5 million seed samples the vault aims to safeguard the world's crops from future disasters such as nuclear wars, asteroids or dangerous climate change.

the concept is amazing and i could think of somre more such vaults for :
- books
- art
- films
- recipes
- animals/ birds/ insects

... a post-modern noah's ark of sorts!

but a few questions come to mind -
1. what if nobody survives doomsday to pull out the seeds from the vault?
2. will there be any arable land left for use?

Monday, November 12, 2007

drink & drive!

after a series of high-profile drunk driving cases, some of which resulted in deaths of pedestrians, the mumbai police had launched a campaign and passed an act to address this problem.

according to the official website of the mumbai traffic police more than 9000 cases of drunken driving have been registered since jan '07 and fines amounting to more than Rs.1.5 crore (15 million) have been collected.

and this had a huge impact on the sale of alcohol in mumbai. there were reports in the media about beer sales dropping by more than 3 lakh litres and imfl (indian made foreign liquor) dropping by one lakh litres in september '07 itself.

why am i talking about all this here?

last night on my way back home after a late dinner i noticed a man, who was obviously drunk, on a motorcycle with his wife and son weaving dangerously on the road. he stopped at a traffic signal and after a few lurches collapsed on the road. his wife and young son were also thrown off the bike. fortunately this happened when the bike was stationery and all three escaped unharmed. but i shudder to think what would have happened if he had fallen while they were speeding on the highway with vehicles zipping by at break-neck speeds.

what is tragic in most cases of drunken driving is that most of the victims are innocent pedestrians or co-passengers.

the dna campaign for responsible driving is very apt - 'die for your country, not by drinking & driving'.

and the manickchand ad campaign capitalised on this high awareness by launching their bottled water with their brilliant tag-line - 'drink and drive!'

Sunday, November 11, 2007

oso vs. saawariya

this was surely one of the biggest wars in india in recent history! both oso (om shanti om) and saawariya released on the same day).

and the battle lines were clearly drawn weeks ago. and both camps pulled all stops. no trick in the book were spared. for the first time blogs were used to build up the tempo. and all radio and tv channels have been airing viewers' initial reactions for the last two days. (i heard that there was a special 7.30 am screening of saawariya at one of the multiplexes... another first!)

i happened to watch oso on friday itself, thanks to a treat from bil (bro-in-law). here are a few thoughts ...

- quite disappointing.. considering the hype. (if you look at it shorn of all the hype n hoopla, then its quite a fun, mindless kind of film).
- deepika adds a freshness to the film but has some way to go before she makes her mark.
- i think it will do better than saawariya (srk power and the 'timepass' quality will prevail!).

but for me the winner, without any doubt, was 'jab we met'! we happened to watch it earlier today. and it was miles ahead of oso in terms of screenplay, direction and production values. kareena literally carried the film on her shoulders. and even though both the story-lines were hardly original, 'jab we met' managed a much better job at the retelling.

(and the kids thought that 'tara rum pum' was much better than oso! well, there you have it!)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

my hoarding is bigger than yours!

one of the most conspicious things that hits you in your face in most cities in india is the number of hoardings all around. you see hoarding of all shapes and sizes. (no, most of them are rectangular actually.) on bus-stop shelters, road-sides, across the roads, on buildings, on boats, on airplanes, on train coaches, on vehicles, on helium-filled balloons, and even mobile ones!

the number of hoardings have been reduced to a large extent in places like delhi, thanks to the state government strictures. but i guess in cities like mumbai, the income generated from these hoardings is too lucrative for the municipal corporation to ignore.

have you noticed how the hoardings change over a period of time depending on various factors like :

- the economy - remember when most of the hoardings in cities used to talk about equity ipos? and then there was a phase when many insurance companies and mutual funds shouted at the top of their voices from the hoardings. and now as the real estate boom simmers we see many hoardings for residential and commercial projects all across the country.

- trends - there was a time when all we saw around us were hoardings of mobile phones and mobile operators vending their fare. and now all we see are hoardings announcing various tv soaps, tv contests, sporting events (only cricket actually), and reality shows. and i can't for the life of me remember any of them except for the 'biggest loser wins' hoardings.

- hoarding war - when dna was launched in mumbai almost all hoardings were taken over by them. this was then soon followed by a series of campaigns through hoardings by the times group. it was war out there!

- launches - this could be anything ranging from films (its oso vs saawariya now), to shampoos, to tv channels, to music albums, to malls, to foods and more.

- regional bias - have you noticed the hoardings for dhotis (mundus) & set sarees in kerala? and the numerous gold shops/ souks. or the gigantic hoardings in chennai of actors which overshadow the film they are acting in?

you can feel the pulse of india through its hoardings! (personally i find them an eyesore... especially the temporary ones put up by political parties during festivals, anniversaries, birthdays.... any occassion is an excuse enough!)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

we are smart and dumb

i came across this article (actually an interview) of 'why indians are privately smart and publicly dumb' based on a book by the same title authored by v. raghunathan. (thanks for the link leya.)

in this interview the author talks about why indians are reasonably smart in private but publicly are dumb. one of the traits he describes is our 'low trustworthiness'. according to him we indians tend to believe that if we do not co-operate then we benefit more.

our normal mode of thinking goes something like this -
'what if i co-operate and the other person doesn't? then i end up a loser.
but if the other person co-operates and i don't, then i win.
similarly if the other person doesn't co-operate and i too don't co-operate, then i am not worse off.'

and then based on this infallible logic, we choose not to co-operate.

this is reflected everywhere around us in all our actions - in the queues we disregard, the traffic signals we jump, the litter we throw on the streets (while our homes are spic and span).... i could go on and on :-)

according to the author, the line of thinking we should ideally be adopting should be something like this -
'what if i co-operate and the other person doesn't? then i end up a loser.
but if the other person co-operates and i don't, then i win.
similarly if the other person doesn't co-operate and i too don't co-operate, then i am not worse off.
but if the other person also is thinking like me then he too will choose not to co-operate (and given that the other person is also an indian you can be sure he will think along these lines!)
this means that both of us would be losers.
but if i co-operate and the other person also decides to co-operate then both of us win. and this is the best option for both of us.'

now this might sound like an idealistic situation. but if you think about it, this is the most practical option. but how do we get to this state of existence? how do we get people to understand that cooperation and not defection is the best option available to us at any point of time? this actually means taking a big leap of faith and drastically changing our outlook about people.

is that about to happen? not in a hurry, i think. but i agree with the author, v raghunathan, when he says that possibly with the improvement of the economy and increase in education people will replace defection with cooperation.

Friday, November 02, 2007

the language of thought

this post is about dreams & thoughts.

but don't worry, its not about your 'aspirations'. nor is it about the contents of your dreams which i propose to analyse. and i am definitely not going to share the details of my dreams and scandalise you in the bargain! :-)

have you noticed that, irrespective of what we dream about, we dream in a particular language? and we normally dream in the language we think in.

now you might say that dreams don't have any language. its only a series of images passing through our sub-conscious mind. but by that logic everything we see in our waking state is also only a series of images. in fact, if we think about it, everything we think about in our waking and dream states are composed of nothing but thoughts. our dreams are also, therefore, a series of thoughts. (for more about thoughts read 'bundle of thoughts')

and we think our thoughts in a chosen language. and for some, this is not necessarily the language you speak in. some of us think in one language and then translate these thoughts into another language before we speak. and therefore, the language we speak most comfortably in is the language we think in. even if you are a multi-lingual person, you would still be thinking in one default language.

and the most amazing thing is that we even see objects in a particular language! because whenever we see anything we always label it and then use these labels to relate, recognise, understand and experience the objects and events revolving around those objects.

imagine watching a 'rose'. in your mind you see a 'rose', if your default language of thought is english. alternately your mind would see a 'gulab' or a 'roja-pu' or a 'rosa-pu' or any other such name depending on your own language of thought!

but then, these are all my own random thoughts (in english :-) ). how about you? what's your language of thought? what language do you dream in?