Friday, December 28, 2007

Go Open Source: My policy for the New Year

Yes, that's the plan, my policy and resolution for the year 2008, and possibly in the years after that. Down with proprietary software!! But, I'm not putting all my eggs in a single basket!! All my non-core activities will be done through open source software. In addition to that, I'll also do some of my core work through open-source. But, most of my core-work will remain through proprietary software.

Why open source suddenly? Well, for one, some open source software have matured enough so that they can replace their proprietary counter part for almost all my needs. For e.g. I'm now going to replace the Microsoft Office suite, that I've got, with Open Office. All my presentations shall henceforth be in OO Impress, rather than MS PowerPoint. Most of my writing, being technical in nature, I've already stopped using MS Word. I, instead, use LaTeX to do the job for me. For that matter, Word was not built with an intention to be used for scientific writing. It was for general writing and preparing thesis in non-tech fields.I am experimenting with LyX for my report writing, but I generally prefer writing in Emacs and compiling the stuff at command line in Linux.

I'll be using more of Linux, than Windows, but won't entirely give up on Windows. Why? That's because I have a licensed copy of Windows that came preloaded on my laptop. While Linux is great, stable and free, it hasn't reached a stage where it can completely replace Windows, when the user is a non-techie.

But, my core activities will go on in proprietary software. My research work and coding will continue in Matlab. I'm not switching over to SciLab. That is because Matlab offers loads of documentation and has far more user friendly features as compared to SciLab.

I am open to suggestions on more use of open source software. I would love to use open source software as much as possible. The world outside can help me broaden my horizon.
Go Open Source: My policy for the New YearSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

ITC or DOW Chemicals: The bigger picture

Disclaimer: I am not an advocate for Dow Chemicals. I hold Union Carbide solely responsible for the Bhopal Gas Disaster and support all efforts to persuade Dow Chemicals, the current owner of Union Carbide, to clean up the entire area in and around the site of disaster and make it a safe place for the future generations. However, in this process, we must not forget the people who are dying daily due to consumption of tobacco in any form.

Tobacco related deaths in India for citizens between the age group of 25-69 hovered around the 600,000 mark in 2006. In the cigarette market of India, ITC has a 70% share by volume. Thus, out of every 100 cigarettes sold in India, 70 are manufactured by ITC.

Now let us look at the Bhopal Gas Disaster. The worst of all claims put the number of deaths due to the gas leakage and in the aftermath at 20,000. The number of chronically ill and suffering due to disorder is around 150,000. These deaths have happened over a period of more than 20 years. The owner of the factory, Union Carbide India Ltd. sold its assets to Eveready and part of the proceedings from the sale were pocketed by Union Carbide, the parent company of UCIL. In 2001, Union Carbide was taken over by Dow Chemicals.

Now that Dow Chemicals has setup its shop in India, it wants to tie up with local academic institutes for recruitment purpose as well as for carrying out research work. Many people associated with the Bhopal Disaster movement, plus IIT faculty, students and alumni are opposing these tie-ups, on the grounds that Dow Chemicals should first, own up for the mess in Bhopal and second, either clean up the existing mess or pay for cleaning the site and decontaminating the ground water. Some groups have been successful in stalling Dow's efforts of campus recruitment.

At this juncture, I would like to pose the following question to people who claim to be fighting for justice to the humankind of Bhopal. If Dow Chemicals is being banned from recruiting people from IIT campuses because it is responsible for the death of more than 20,000 people and the injury and illness of more than 150,000; why isn't the same law applicable to companies like ITC? ITC has a major cigarette business. It earns a lot of revenue from sale of various kind of cigarettes. Cigarette smoking has killed and is killing a lot more people than those who died in the Bhopal Tragedy. Yet, we see IITs welcoming ITC with open hands for placements. ITC recruits talented young B.Tech./Dual Degree students from IITs who might someday end up working to increase profit from cigarette sales. The company usually gets a slot in the first two days of placement, which indicates the kind of pay it offers to the students.

Do we fail to realise that ITC is as big (if not more) a killer as Dow Chemicals? Or as Freakonomist Steven D. Levitt says, our reaction is based more on the perception of threat rather than its actual impact. We do not feel threatened when someone smokes a cigarette standing next to us. But just the very idea of MIC hanging around our neck makes us feel that Dow is threatening to human kind. Can we get beyond the perception of threat and see the actual one? Also, can we evolve a sustainable path (the golden-middle path) so that all parties involved get maximum benefit at least costs to them? Is the government willing enough? Are the people willing enough? What is the golden-middle? These are the questions that need to be answered by the stakeholders- the people, the activists, the industry and above all, the government.

ITC or DOW Chemicals: The bigger pictureSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, October 15, 2007

Down the city's history lane

The beauty of a city lies in its history. History has a lot to explain about the character of the city, the way it lived the way it developed. It also throws light on interesting facts that one cannot imagine. For e.g., the Charni Road station (a railway station on Western Railway in Mumbai) got its name from the fact that there were large tracts of land where cattle belonging to the natives used to graze on. The name "charni" is derived from the Marathi word "charne", which means grazing. Or that the entire Girgaum area was once nothing but a swamp filled with plantations. Life was so much functional then. In Girgaum, most streets or areas are named after the type of trade or plantation that existed in the area. For e.g. Phanaswadi meant that it had plantations of jack fruit around the homes, Kandewadi dealt with onions and so on.

The past Sunday, I set out to learn something about the city's history. Thanks to the people at Bombay Heritage Walks, I undertook a tour of a small hamlet in Girgaum known as Khotachiwadi. Two wadis- Khotachiwadi and Angrewadi- are the only wadis in Girgaum, that are not named after any trade or plantation. The Khotachiwadi is named after Dadoba Waman Khot, a revenue officer who worked for the British. When we started, our guide Ms. Brinda Gaitonde told us that the Girgaum area is situated between two hill-stations of the yester-yester years!!! Hard to believe, but true. On one side was the Malabar Hill and on the other was Dongri. Now, none of these bear the looks of a hill station at all. Neither has Girgaum remained the same.

So, as I walked along with the entire group, listening to the history of Girgaum, I realised that this area has been responsible for the birth of a lot of cultural activities that go on in Maharashtra. The chawls of Girgaum provided a platform for various social activists, freedom fighters and reformists. The Majestic theatre hosted a still on-going series of Marathi talks known as Majestic Gappa (discussions at Majestic). This provided a forum for socialists and freedom fighters to put their views across to the general public that attended the show. The Majestic Gappa still runs at Vile Parle. The Majestic theatre, however, no more exists. It has been torn down and a new sky-rise has come up in its place.

Opposite the erstwhile Majestic theatre, is a you-blink-and-you-miss board that points towards Khotachiwadi. Enter the lane and there is a feeling that you have stepped out of the city and entered a village. The hamlet, whose residents are East Indians and Maharashtrians, was established over the later half of the 19th century. All the houses are single or at the most double storey. Most of them are over one hundred fifty years old and the construction is mostly of wood or cast iron and built to meet the requirements of traditional Indian homes. For e.g. most homes have an inner courtyard, a small balcony in the front and extensive ventilation to allow ample light and air circulation. The roofs too are designed in a sloping manner, which is de facto in places that receive heavy rains. All this was accomplished without the help of an architect, the person who knows best, how to design a livable house.

The hamlet of Khotachiwadi has not as yet been declared a heritage structure. Individual homes have, however, been given heritage status. This means that the powerful builder-lobby can force residents to sell their homes, so that high rises can take their place. The area of Girgaum is a prime area in terms of real estate, where the ongoing rates are more than Rs. 20000 per sq. ft. The houses in Khotachiwadi are very old and therefore require a lot of maintenance, which costs. Also, most families residing in Khotachiwadi are senior citizens, whose children have moved to other cities to pursue their career or into their own homes. Thus, many houses get sold off, because the owners are themselves not interested in residing there.

The residents of Khotachiwadi have come together to form an association (The Khotachiwadi Heritage Trust) that works to preserve the identity of Khotachiwadi. The association functions from the Ferrera house, which acts a headquarter for the association. The Ferreras have also preserved many antiques from the yester years. The association has been organising the Khotachiwadi festival every year, since 2005. The festival is The festival aims at bringing awareness about the Khotachiwadi and introducing the new generation to this fabulous heritage of ours.

The Khotachiwadi needs the support of the citizens of the nation in order to preserve itself. We need to rise to the occasion and thwart every attempt of erosion of the Khotachiwadi. However, nothing much can be done against the will of individuals. If an individual decides to sell the house based on his/her free will, we cannot interfere. But the society can support the attempts of those individuals who intend to preserve the heritage. The hamlet can serve as a good model for functional existence as well as building houses that give a sense of living. It keeps reminding us about co-existence with nature and the ability of our forefathers to build communities that are social, but still provide for the requisite privacy of the individual.

Photos of Khotachiwadi can be found over here.
Down the city's history laneSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Great Indian Cricket Tamasha

With India winning the T20 World Cup in South Africa, came to an end two weeks of good cricket. It was good because teams were able to beat the Aussies, who were unbeatable in the ODIs, we beat Pakistan twice, and are the current World Champions. The same Indian team which was isolated for all the criticism in the world five months ago, is now the darling of every Indian. If you adored the team six months ago, you were a good-for-nothing fellow. However, today if you do not adore the Indian team, you are not patriotic. The same fans who demolished Dhoni's under-construction house, burnt effigies of players and bayed for their blood are now running around to get a glimpse of them. The players now find a place in every nook and corner of the house and nobody gets tired drooling over them.

The media had endless hours of news time dedicated to how World Cup 2007 (50-over version) has spelled dooms-day for Indian cricket. The same media is now drooling over the Indian team, again devoting endless hours of news time to every minute detail about the players' off-field life during and after the T20 Cup. Details to the extent of where did a particular players kith and kin position themselves during the final game were presented elaborately with the anchors and news-reporters dramatizing the entire piece of news. And at the end of all this, we came to know a lot lot lot more about players like Joginder Sharma, RP Singh, etc. But what did we come to know? We were enlightened about what Joginder likes to eat, where did he play in his bachpan, etc.
The unimaginative media-- both print and electronic-- hijacked Chak de India, the slogan meant for the hockey team and used it as if it was their own creation.

The sponsors, who were rethinking about their committement to cricket, are now back with their full financial might. Ready to pay unimaginable amounts to be associated with the Indian cricket team for a few seconds every day. Ask these sponsors to spend some money on research for the betterment of their company, and they will come back saying that they have not much funds to carry out research.

Finally, the BCCI. This governing body of cricket should be working for the welfare of the game and players. However, time and again it seems to be working for its own welfare. After the first round exit from the World Cup, it sought to discipline the players in an innovative way-- restrict their endorsements. They thought of scratching off the centralised contract system and pay the players on a per match basis, with bonus thrown in for every win. Now, after the team has won the T20 World Cup, it has announced centralised contracts for the team members with enhanced retainorship fees. A u-turn on its own position in less than six months.

The attitude of everybody-- fans, media and BCCI-- in this incident lacks professionalism. The fans do not professionally respect the players and the fact that they (the players) too can have a bad day in the office (exit from WC-2007). The fans get emotionally outraged-- if the team doesn't perform as per their expectations-- and get into a rioting mood. However, once the team wins a series or a major tournament, the same fans transform the devils into Gods.
The media too plays into the hands of fans' emotions. Instead of professionally reporting any cricketing event, they report it as if the tournament is an equivalent of World War 3. For e.g. WC-2007 used to be reported as War in the Windies. They report a single defeat as if Yudhishthir lost his kingdom to Duryodhan and every victory as if Arjun has killed Karna. Then there are those endless chat/debate shows, where even a player who has played just a single test match or ODI starts ranting on what the players feel, what should the BCCI be doing its job, how should Tendulkar play the hook shot, etc.

And finally the BCCI. Well, the less said about its professionalism, the better. I need not say anything as the over-enthusiastic media has already spent lot of air time and newsprint on this issue. But, after the T20 World Cup, nobody is bothered about the BCCI's method of functioning.

In the end, we all should understand that after all cricket is a game. Yes, I love it when India wins a match. I do not like to see India losing. But let us accept, this is a game, sometimes India will lose, sometimes it will win. However, we fans and media should not get to the extremes of adulation or rioting to prove our point. Congratulate the team on winning, support them when they lose. After all, the team is also made of humans. They have put in a lot of efforts to reach at that stage and are continuously putting in more efforts to remain there and progress to better stages.
The Great Indian Cricket TamashaSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, August 20, 2007

Him and us: The difference is visible

The day was sunny, although it was mid-monsoon. However, not taking an umbrella is a risk in the city of Mumbai, where the rains can keep pounding for minutes together. I had submitted my report to my advisor and armed with my belongings and the all-important umbrella, I started marching back towards my hostel. The sun was making its appearance from behind the clouds like commercials during a cricket match. Suddenly, it happened. Many failed to notice that it could happen. The sun was shining brightly behind us. But directly above us, the clouds were all ready to dispatch their contents onto mother earth. And by God, they did it with all the energy they had. Umbrellas started coming out, people started running helter-skelter, to protect themselves from the onslaught.
In a few minutes of the rain, I found myself worrying about my laptop or mobile phone getting wet in the rain. So much so, that I was more careful about keeping the laptop bag under the umbrella at the cost of my left rain getting wet due the water dripping from the umbrella. Looking around me, I saw people busy in taking care of their clothes, notes, books, etc. regardless of what happened to the hands or feet. That is probably the beauty of nature. Man created clothes, mobile phones, laptops, but these are most fragile to the vagaries of nature. But the human body is very robust to changes in natural conditions. My wet arm dried in 10 mins, without any damage, but my wet trouser (wet because of the rains, not because of you-know-what) took more than two hours to dry. Fortunately, my laptop bag remained dry under my umbrella and my mobile phone in my pocket.
Doesn't this event point to something? We humans, the intellectually most gifted species on earth, cannot make things that are robust to nature's forces. However, our own body is robust to such forces by many orders of magnitude. This is true of all other species too, everyone in the plant and animal kingdom. Doesn't this say something? To me this very difference means, that there is something or someone who is more knowledgeable than the entire human species on earth who can create such wonderful things. That something/someone for me is GOD. This small event is enough to prove his existence for me. We humans are still nothing when compared to him.
Him and us: The difference is visibleSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, June 18, 2007

Orkut, testimonials and bonding

Now someone might ask, or rather will ask, what does this title stand for? What am I trying to indicate. Ok, the first two words seem to be related. People write testimonials for their friends on orkut. They write good things about their friend, never anything bad or anything that might expose the grey shades of his/her character.

So, what is the relation between writing testimonials and bonding? If you carefully look at testimonials that are written seriously, you will find that people articulately mention their friend's characteristics, how he/she been progressing in life and how he/she has been helpful in shaping their life. This is an indication of the bond the two friends share. One might argue of the possibility of the person being a good, skillful writer and not a good friend. While this possibility cannot be ruled out, the inherent assumption here is that the testimonial is a sincere reflection of the friend's characteristics, and not an attempt to glorify those weakly observable traits. A nicely written testimonial, in high probability, indicates that the two persons are very good friends. It indicates the depth of friendship. I mean, only a true friend would present a fair picture of his/her friend's traits. Good friends are known to be very observant about their friends' activities and mannerisms. The only other people who are constantly observant about others are detectives and people from the intelligentsia.
This, however, does not mean that people who do not write a good testimonial are not good friends. It is quite possible that a person is not able to express his/her views in writing. The person may not be a good writer. He/she may know a person better than everybody else, but may not be able to put it down in words. So, all those who feel they are not good testimonial writers, do not get disappointed. You may be the best friend. After all, orkut is not to show who is the best friend, it is just to make friends.
Orkut, testimonials and bondingSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, May 11, 2007

Who rules this country?

"Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people"
-Abraham Lincoln

This is what everybody was brought up to believe. However, an interview by the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh might change the definition of democracy. In India, especially in the Congress ruled states, democracy is the government of Sonia Gandhi, by Sonia Gandhi and for Sonia Gandhi. It is she, who chooses the Chief Ministers, she who dictates state policies and she who decides which projects a state should undertake. A few excerpts from the interview of the Arunachal CM would reveal how the Congress-men (and women) strive just to keep 'Madam' pleased and remain in her good books.
"Q: Strange things are happening in Arunachal. The whole cabinet recently shifted its loyalties to you.
A: It happened due to the allegations of huge corruption charges against the former government.........
Hence, the MLAs were unhappy and chose me as their leader. (Congress president) Soniaji (Gandhi) is completely against corruption and wanted a clean and result oriented Congress government. "
So, the people of independent India will get a corruption free government only if Sonia Gandhi wishes so. Couldn't the MLAs of the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Party change the government because the people desire a result oriented and corruption free government? What is the CM trying to convey? That he headed the cabinet only because it was Sonia's wish to have a clean and result oriented government. Isn't the CM and every MLA answerable to the people of the state?
"Q: What have you done so far?
A: My first priority is to improve the Public Distribution System.........
With Soniaji's blessings we have also started a mid day meal scheme for poor tribal students.
The mid-day meals scheme was an initiative taken by the central government way back in 1995, when Sonia Gandhi was not even participating in active politics. Providing mid day meals to poor children in school is the responsibility of every government. Why, then, does Mr. CM require Sonia's blessings to start this programme, which is not her initiative at all. And if she does not 'bless' this project, it means that it will not be implemented. This means that the state government has to seek Sonia's permission for implementing projects. Is the approval of the state legislature not enough to implement programmes? If Sonia's 'blessings' are sought on implementing projects, this means that extra-constitutional powers are governing the country rather than the people who have been elected to do so.
Sonia's high-handedness is well known. In Maharashtra, she directed Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to not demolish the hutments that had come up between 1995-2000. This is a straight violation of the court order that has declared the cut-off date for rehabilitation as 1995. Are the governments of the day supposed to take directions and 'blessings' from the lady at 10 Janpath, who does not even hold a constitutional position, so that she can issue 'orders' and 'bless' projects. Or are the governments supposed to implement what has been decided by the law of the land? While suggestions are always welcome, and should be encouraged, why is Sonia trying to govern the country as if it is her fiefdom? Political parties are known to indulge in glorifying a particular person and worshipping him/her. The Congress has this culture right since Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. So, the Congress cadre always looks up to Sonia as their queen and saviour. Why can't these 'leaders' take their own decisions and act as per the law of the land? If this continues unabated, tomorrow we might have Sonia deciding the number of acres that should be allotted to a particular crop.
Who rules this country?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, May 07, 2007

Orkut: Some funny communities

Disclaimer: This posting is meant for humour. I am not responsible if you are offended by the post after reading it.

Just came across a community on orkut- GSBs in IIMs. Was just thinking what purpose would this community serve? It would end up having the same topics that go on in other communities, viz.

1. Let's introduce ourselves.
2. Why did you join IIM?
3. What do you think of the above profile?
4. IIM vs. Wharton

IIMs do not have more than 2000 students at a time. Include alumni and even then, the strength of GSBs in IIM would measure upto 2%. Of those, how many would care to join the community?

It then occured to me about this ghettoisation, forming communities to become the elite self. Probably trying to look for something that distinguishes oneself from the others. While I was trying to control myself from taking a stand, Naina posted an appeal for joining the community. That was it. I just couldn't control. I let myself off. Came up with a humourous list of communities and put them online.

But then, decency prevented me from taking further potshots directly. And why target one person/community, when everywhere on orkut there are stupid communities which serve no purpose except giving its members some distinguishing feature to cling on to. The Pepe Jeans community, with more than a thousand members, has no single discussion thread. So, with imagination at work, I came up with a list of communities that might find their way into orkut. Well, some might be already existing-

1. People who use their Citibank credit card to pay their Hutch plan-xyz bill.
2. People reading newspapers, starting with Sports page first.
3. People who use their yahoo id while looking for a job.
4. People parking their bikes on the main stand only.
5. People boarding the local at Kalyan and exiting CST from the BMC side door.
6. People ordering butter chicken and naan at a particular restaurant.
7. People who are angry about idiotic communities on orkut.

The list goes on... People are free to add to this list.

Orkut: Some funny communitiesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, May 04, 2007

My photography tastes

"His album consists only of flowers, buildings and animals!!", exclaimed my friend's friend to him. She was trying to point out the absence of chics in my photographs. This comment of hers made me deep dive into thinking about what exactly I like about my photographs. I sifted through my collection to look for those one or two particular elements that make my photographs.
One thing that stood out was that the photographs were as natural as they can be. Nobody had put them in place. No flower took position to be photographed, nor was any animal or bird posing for one. I then looked at a few photographs that I had taken at some family functions. In most of those, people had posed for photographs. Now, there were a few photos that were taken without the subject having prior knowledge. I tried to give a hard look to the impact these two types of photos generate. The emotions, the expressions were better when the subject of the photograph was unaware that he/she is being photographed. While the ones where people were made to pose did not have the 'natural' flavour of the photograph.
I arrived at a conclusion. Most people appear best in a photograph when not aware. However, the people whom I photographed in their unawareness, were my relatives. I had the privilege to do so. But what about others, who might be in a very good pose for a photograph, but who are strangers. Is it ethically correct to photograph them? Will it mount to invasion of privacy? I haven't been able to satisfactorily answer these questions.
However, I had to arrive at a conclusion about my photography tastes. Once again, sifting through all those photographs, I realised that my photography is at its best only when the subject of focus exhibits its natural behaviour. Thus, I will continue to photograph buildings, flowers, animals and my relatives, but as of now, I may not photograph strangers, without them having prior knowledge.
My photography tastesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mumbai Restaurants: Part 1

My recently cultivated hobby of photography takes me to South Mumbai almost every Sunday morning. From CST or Churchgate, I walk up to the point of interest, so as to develop some kind of familiarity with the area. What I also love about the journey is the breakfast at some famous restaurant before heading back to IIT. This is an n-part survey of restaurants. I do not interview the restaurant owners, so no history about who established the restaurant, when did he/she do it, etc. Just my views on the menu and the overall ambiance of the area.

Ram Ashray Udipi Restaurant

Ram Ashray Udipi Restaurant

Located off Matunga railway station (Central Railway). Get out of the station on the eastern side and walk towards King's Circle. The restaurant is a two-minute walk from the station. Authentic Udipi cuisine for breakfast. If you go there on a Sunday, beware. The rush hour starts pretty early. The restaurant gets crowded and even if you are two people, you may have to wait for at least 15 min. But, I guarantee the wait is worth it.

Once inside and seated, do not expect a menu card, they don't have one. So, you either ask the waiter what's on the menu or just rattle off your order. While every dish served is awesome, I would personally recommend vada-sambar and onion uttappa. The sambar and chutney served are amazingly tasty and the good part is that you are served as much as you ask for, at no extra charges. The dosa preparations are a bit oily, but the dosas have a thin crust and are very crisp, an indication of a good preparation. Now, since breakfast always ends with a hot beverage, and this being a Udipi restaurant, do not forget to have coffee. This is not the regular nescafe, but it is filter coffee made in the tyipical Udipi style. And the cost of all this, not too much. A breakfast consisting of one plate idli-sambar, one plain dosa and a cup of coffee is just Rs. 35/-

Once you are done with your breakfast, you can sign-off with a 'pan' placed at the cashier's desk. And, while going back, do not miss the weekly commentary by Nana Chudasama, put up on the banner in front of the restaurant. The day I visited the restaurant, the banner was as shown below-

Nana Chudasama's banner

Mumbai Restaurants: Part 1SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The golden olden times

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a nostalgic world. I mean, I love to remember the time when there was not much television (only D.D.), or when telephones were a luxury, or the time when the use of the internet was not so prevelant. There is some charm in the old ways of doing things as compared to the newer ways.

I agree to the fact that technology has made life a lot easy. For e.g., various kinds of searches are just a click away. Everything ranging from the latest scientific papers to the recipes of exotic dishes from the least heard places is available on the net. Television allows us to view events from any part of the world in real time. A lot more can be said in favour of technology.

However, when I try to remember, when was the last time that i sat down and wrote a letter to a friend? Or when was the last time that I really felt excited about a weekly programme that is going to appear on television? There was a time that I can remember when letters were carefully worded so as to convey the exact emotions that the writer had in mind. With the advent of e-mail, people stopped writing letters and got hooked on to mailing. And with it came a new new style of writing. 'Your' became 'ur', 'great' became 'gr8' and many more such changes. So, people stepped on to mailing to greet each other on all festivities. The charm of selecting a greeting card for someone special was all gone and taken over by e-cards. Now, with the advent of social networking groups like orkut, we do not even take the efforts of sending a mail. Just mention it in the scrap book of the person. Important events like b'days and anniversaries do not deserve such a treatment.

Another technological advance that irks me to some extent is the mobile phone. This instrument means that you can be contacted at any place any time. However, it acts as a spoiler in many ways. Go out in a group, atleast one amongst you will be busy on the phone, either talking or busy SMSing. This person has no consideration to the fact that there are people with him/her in the group who have come along to enjoy time together. He/she is just engrossed in conversing over the phone or over messages.

One of the final phenomenon that I am going to talk about is the time between when the marriage is fixed and the actual marriage. Over the past three years, whenever I hear that a bride/groom has be found for a friend/relative, the accompanying advice is- "Now buy a phone connection that allows free calls between your number and your fiancee's number". Well, well how nice. This saves a lot of money for both parties, particularly for the groom. However, unlike a letter, we cannot go through telephonic conversations to revive memories sometime down the line. My mother once showed me a letter that my father had written to her. She said, this was the only letter he ever wrote to her before marriage and I was suprised at the happiness on her face after reading that letter. This is not going to happen in today's mobile age. What are today's mobile-happy couples going to talk sometime down the line? "Honey, do you remember that you said such and such thing to me on the telephone on 17th May at 6:05 AM?" When they grow old and retire and try to look back at life, even the mobile handset and connection that they had used when they were "dating" would be lost and lying somewhere in some obscure place. I mean the old person can't even say, "Honey, a lot many times, I've kissed this phone while we were coochi-cooing."
Letters, or even e-mails, have the ability to last long, really long (a-la Amaron batteries). You can always pull out the letter from deep down in your cupboard and drool over it, remembering those times, just like my mother did.
At the end of all this, am I free from all what I mentioned? Well, I'm not. After all, I am also from the generation that has witnessed such rapid technological changes within a short time. The generation which has a lot more money to spend on instant gratification of needs and desires. The generation that feels that use of language like "gr8", "urs", etc. is cool. The generation that does not believe in giving time for relations to develop. I am a member of that damn generation. But, change has to come from within. I try not to use the mobile phone in public, unless I receive a call or message. I try to call up people on their birthdays, if not possible, I send an e-mail. However, since I am still single, the need (or situation) to write letters to my fiancee or to call her in the middle of the night and coochy-cooing with her has not as yet come.
I have now started realising the meaning of the adage- "Old is gold". It is not without any reason that this adage came into existence.
The golden olden timesSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, March 16, 2007

I miss those days

It was one of those days when I was having dinner in the mess alone. The atmosphere was peaceful, as there were a very few people in the mess (for statistics purpose, the mess has a seating capacity of >800 and there were hardly 50-70 people present). My mind generally wandered off into the days when we were doing our M.Tech. H-12, B-wing, 4th floor represented one of the largest groups that ever went for dinner together. The entire process was fixed. At around 8:00 PM, someone would start calling out for dinner. Then, from one end of the corridor the shouting used to begin-"challlllllllllaaaaaaaa". Kaduskar used to pick up Pamya and Dani en route, where Faddy, Mamu, Nandu and myself would join them. The process of gathering would end with someone banging on Dr.'s door resulting in a sleepy Dr. trying to come to terms with what is going on. Then a troupe of 8-9 inmates used to barge into the mess.
A lot of times, we used to be joined by fellow inmates, taking the group strength to around 12-15. The group size was so large, that a lot of times, we had the entire set of two tables for us, with 2-3 extra chairs thrown in. It was a lot of fun over dinner. All in the group were Mechies doing their masters. I was the only odd one out-- the Chemie. Conversations were pretty diverse. Right from jokes, to serious issues such as economics or politics, every topic under the sun could be discussed over dinner.
However, what used to be, in Navjyot Singh Siddhu's language, the cherry on the pancake was the post-dinner unwinding session on the the 4th floor terrace. Here too, we discussed a lot of issues, ranging from the Marine Drive rape case to whether Air-India should be buying Boeing aircraft or not. Some of these sessions have been self inspecting sessions too. A lot of crushes, heart-breaks have been discussed and dealt with in these sessions. The updates on the latest chics in IIT used to be shared at this meeting. People have been the butt of a lot of jokes. We have ridiculed each other, made fun of everybody within the group at some point of time. We have agreed, disagreed over a lot of issues. However, everything was forgotten at the end of the session and people were back to work. No matter whatever conversation transpired at these sessions, all of us were pretty sincere in our friendship. Whether it was Pamya taking Faddy to the department daily, when Faddy had a surgery on his leg, or Kaduskar regularly filling the rebate forms for all those leaving on Friday afternoon, we were always ready to help each other.
Today I'm back in IIT for my PhD. However, days have changed. No more are there these friends with whom I could have shared my heart and who would have shared their heart with me. Everybody is busy in their own world. While we are in touch with each other there is no more of these open-heart sessions. Although I hope Pamya, UK and Dani would still be holding their sessions. The new friends that I've made here, have no time for such sessions. Now, it is no more of sincere open-hearted discussions, sharing of joy, guilt, sorrow. Everybody is busy meeting their goals or their personal world. Those true friends are now truly being missed.
Guys, this article is a tribute to our friendship. We were and are still true to each other. I still miss those days, and will continue to miss those days. Wherever you are, whatever you all are involved in, I miss you all. I miss those days, I truly miss those days.
I miss those daysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It is all about being there

Yes, I realised this two days ago and my views were confirmed today. There's this advertisement by Nikon about photography. I've seen it only once, hence do not recollect the exact content, but the gist is that photography is not only about the camera and your skills, it is also being there at the right time.

Now, if you take a look at this photograph, you can see a streak of light appearing at the left top corner of the Renaissance building. That streak is of an airplane taking off from the Mumbai airport. Now, considering that I am in Powai and that the point of take off is more than 12 kms by road, this streak appears bright enough. This is a classic case of me being present when the plane was taking off. While my intention was to capture the Renaissance Hotel building during night time, the focus has now changed to the airplane, which is just a streak in the photograph. The meaning conveyed by this photograph has changed completely from the intention with which it was clicked.

Another example is this photograph of the monkey. This was taken from the stairs leading to my department. It was an exceptionally cold morning in Mumbai and most monkeys were trying to warm up. This monkey too was doing the same and I thought of capturing it with my camera. Now, the moment I turned my camera on and clicked the button, this monkey turned his/her head and voila!! The resulting image was as if the monkey is posing for the photograph. Well, these two incidents have convinced me that the beauty of a photograph also lies in its timing. Being there to see that is also very important.
It is all about being thereSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, January 12, 2007

This is outrageous

The media is at it again. It always loves to make heroes or villains out of nothing. For the media, anybody who has been along with the Shiv Sena or BJP is communal and therefore a villain and menace to the society. Whereas those who are not affiliated to the two organisations or are Dalits/poor are the underdogs who need to be made look like heroes. Sample these two pieces of news from

1. Enraged over the alleged desecration of a statue of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray's late wife Meenatai on Sunday morning, Shiv Sainiks went on the rampage in Mumbai and other cities and towns in Maharashtra throughout the day. (click here to read the article).

This was rediff's comment on the incident that took place when Meenatai's statue was defiled. Portray the Sena as villains who cause nothing else but nuisance and damage.

2. Atrocities on Dalits
As Indians, we often gloat about our glorious ancient wisdom. We harp on the modernity of our ancient forefathers.
And then, we skim through news snippets about some woman being paraded naked, or some people being killed -- because they are Dalits, the lowest strata of the caste hierarchy.

This is the introduction to the killings in Khairlanji and the protest. To emphasise the effect of the protest, rediff shows the image of Deccan Queen burning. Now, here the rioters are projected as if they were freedom fighters. These rioters caused more loss than the Sena did during their 'protest'. Yet, none were booked, no venomous protests from the so-called secularists or socialists.

The media has always been known to take sides with 'under-dogs'. However, why should they sacrifice the neutrality of a situation? I personally do not like riots of any kind, but the portrayal of Hindu rioters has always been as if they are villains, while the so-called 'underdogs' such as the Dalits involved in burning the Deccan Queen are shown as a people who vented out their frustration against the oppressors of the upper-caste.

On a finishing note, the most foolish and senseless comment made by an "intellectual" Dalit poet, Mr. Arjun Dangle-

"For many decades the Deccan Queen was the symbol of Pune, seat of the Peshwa Brahminical rule. There is a meaning behind the burning of train."

Now, the Peshwas are out of the rulers' seat for the past two centuries. So, they are trying to say that we burned the Deccan Queen (which is a property of the tax payers) to as a protest against the upper-caste Brahmins. Now, that should win the best logic of the year 2006 award. The rioters burned national property, causing damages running into several lakhs of fixed capital and operational revenue.

The media should rise to the occasion and take a stand against such damages, whoever causes it. And please, stop publishing such useless and senseless comments. They are good enough to instigate those who have not received much education, but do not stand ground in an educated society.

Mr. Narayan Murthy aptly said-- "India is perhaps the only country in the world, where people fight to be called backward."
This is outrageousSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, January 08, 2007

Namaste London: Is this movie needed?

The other day I was reading about the movie Namaste London. Apparently this is a movie about the difficulties faced by first generation Indians in instilling "Indian values" in their children, i.e. their second or third generation.

Now, at the first look why do Indians have to be obsessed about their culture and its superiority? I belong to the community of Gaud Saraswat Brahmins (GSB). Generations and generations ago, this community which is said to have dwelled on the banks of the mythical river Saraswati had to migrate because the river started to dry up. In the process the community ended up migrating to the west coast of India. Now, the majority of GSBs reside along the coastal areas of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Now I feel there will be a very very few people who know about the lifestyle of the GSBs when they resided along the Saraswati river. These might be the only ones who know about the cuisines prepared during that time, about the language those GSBs spoke. Over time, majority of the GSBs have landed up speaking Konkani and its variants. A few of them are pure Marathi speaking GSBs. Infact, I am one such person, whos past two generations cannot speak Konkani, but we do understand key phrases. I am not sure what will it be for the coming generations.

The point I am trying to make is that the GSB community had to adopt to the lifestyle of the coastal areas of western India. They could not have survived and later on prospered if they stuck to themselves and their original lifestyle.

Now, if preserving of Indian values means asking the children to follow the Hindu/Jain/Sikh religion, then these should be done in the language that the children are used to. Look at Christianity. While the Bible has been originally written in Hebrew, all over the world, people read the Bible in which they are comfortable. In India, I have seen Bible discourses being held in Marathi, Konkani and Hindi. So, why can't the Gita, the Koran, and the Guru Granth Sahib like texts be made available in English, French, etc.? Why burden the children with learning another language, when there is little scope for formal training in that particular language?

All said and done, we would like to preserve the religion and its teachings. However, religion was never meant to be bound to a particular language. It was meant to be in a language that even the common man understands. We humans are failing to adopt to the changes. It is time, we get our acts right. You cannot live in Britain and crib about the loss of "Indian culture" and "values" in your children. They were born in Britain and for them to lead a smooth life, they have to adopt to the culture of Britain. Now, its upto the parents and the society in the overall sense to help religion adopt to the changing lifestyle.
Namaste London: Is this movie needed?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Kabul Express: a few good points from the movie

The other day I was watching Kabul Express. In the movie, when all the passengers alight near a truck filled with Pepsi cans (that was bombarded by the Americans),the Talibani (actually he's a Pakistani army soldier) tries to open the rear end of the truck to get a glimpse of what is inside. In the process, loads of Pepsi cans fall upon him and he's almost burried under a huge pile of Pepsi cans.

Irritated, this guy says,
"Saara jung isi ke liye, Coke aur Pepsi bechne ke liye"
"Yeh America s**** kuch bhi kar sakta hai"
"Arabon ka tel nikalo, aur Coke aur Pepsi us mein thoos do"
"Har cheez paise ke liye, har cheez paise ke liye"

"The war is just for enabling sale of Coke and Pepsi "(read: giving businesses to American enterprises)
"The Americans can do anything"
"Take oil from the Arabs and dump Coke and Pepsi in their country"
"Everything is just for the sake of money"

This definitely sums up the game of the Americans. A simple Talibani, who probably has no lessons or training in economics or politics beautifully sums up the imperialist designs of the Americans.

Kudos to the script-writers !!!

At another point, when the Pakistani soldier(PS) is friends with John and Arshad (J&A), they start discussing about Hindi movies and PS tells J&A that he is a big fan of Indian movies and that the Talibans were fools to ban such nice stuff. He than argues

PS: Hum to kab se kehta hai, Madhuri Dikshit do, Kashmir lo
J: Woh to America chali gayi, shaadi karke
PS: Ghoom fir ke, hum log ka sub kuch achha hota hai, wahin chala jaata hai

PS: Since long we have been saying, Give us Madhuri Dikshit and Kashmir is yours
J: But she's gone to America after her wedding
PS: In the end, all our good people end up there

Wow, another powerful one-liner that sums up everything, India's brain-drain, the loss of big brains to the USA, etc.

In the end, even if Kabul Express wasn't a blockbuster, these two scenes and dialogues make it a must watch movie.

Kabul Express: a few good points from the movieSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend