Saturday, March 31, 2012

March'ing to the band [90/365]

Ah, finally! We managed to scrap through another month of taxes, budgets, heartburn and last minute scramble to invest. In all, this was a colorful month.

Dirty Word of the Month: Sticks and Stones.

We got Sachin to achieve his personal goal and give a shit to the game that made him what he is. He still got the stick.
The wall stepped down and the world's largest democracy tight roped through another budget. Albeit a good one. She got the stones.
The cops and lawyers across Bangalore exchanged some sticks and stones themselves.
People getting convicted, others getting acquitted. Some spending most of their wealth and some hoarding.
Some holding on to the principals they believe in and others shedding theirs with the clothes as easily.
Some more politicians caught watching porn and then others so clueless that they might as well have been dead.

A year ago,
Japan got the sticks and stones for putting her citizens at risk. Today, the untenable citizens and the government have managed to rebuild their nation like a Phoenix. 
India on the other hand, can't read.
A year ago, we had callous rapes that appalled the nation. And so will we have one in a year's time from today.
Looks like we haven't changed much in one year after all.

Friday, March 30, 2012

By the side [89/365]

more Abled than most of us
I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be "happy." I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
- Leo C. Rosten

I am not known to be charitable.
Correction: I fail to melt when I see a person begging, just by virtue of a handicap.
A common sight at an Indian traffic, you'd be surprised that many of them would have much more in the bank than you'd believe. Heck they are richer than most of us combined. But of course, I've told you all this before.

Today, commuting to work, I saw a person working away at a pedestrian footpath near a very busy intersection. No, he wasn't begging. He wasn't looking for compassion. He was earning his bread though.
Severely crippled, he was painting. I paused by the side, watched him. Curiously. And so did a lot of other people. Many was bewildered. Some thought he was just trying to seek attention. Surely he was. But he didn't want your money for free. Buy one of his sketches. And those sketches weren't childish amateurish scribbles and doodles, but colorful abstracts with powerful brush strokes. I was amazed and I am pretty sure a lot of passers by were too.
Some did buy his paintings. But I didn't. I procrastinated. I erred. I assumed that he is going to be there the next time I pass by and figured I could buy it then.

I did look for the 'anonymous painter' the next day, but he was gone. No sign of him. I saw him for exactly two days. I wondered what happened. I theorized that the merchants and the cops patrolling the busy CBD didn't like him. He was bad for their image. What will the phirens think? Nothing worse than seeing a crippled man trying to make an honest living. Forget the dilapidated roads, uneven footpaths, overflowing sewers and prostitutes plying their trade under the nose hairs of the cops in the CBD.
I asked one of the merchants and he confirmed my fears. The cops did come and haul him off. He probably has been shunted away from our sanitized eyes into poverty.
But this is not new.

A couple of years ago, there used to be a lady. She was truly homeless. She lived on a footpath about 3 km away from my home. As I came to see her everyday, I began to buy lunch for her. Everyday. She might have been at least 70. She definitely had better days in her past since she had a toe ring. Her worldly possessions were a battered and torn suitcase, some clothes, two mattresses, an umbrella and two stray dogs. I'd see her sitting at exactly the same spot through the day, and when the rains came, the three of them would get under the umbrella. She'd gradually recognize me and smile and fold her hands in thanks when I'd give her the packet of food. This arrangement went on for a few weeks. I remember praying for her and hoping that she sees better days ahead. I was helpless. I wanted to do something. I wanted to bring her home. But wasn't sure how I could take care of her. I was a struggling bachelor then.
Two days before Christmas, with a packet of food for her, I came to the spot where she was for the last 20 years. But she was gone. Her pets were there. They were 'searching' for her. I asked around. They told me that a group of cops hauled her off a few hours ago. I wondered where.
I hope it was to a cozy place, because her belongings were left behind. It was removed a day or two later. And the footpath sanitized.
I did ask the people around. Some long time residents told me that she used to be a wealthy lady who was thrown out of her house and her wealth by her ruthless son. With no where and no one to go to, she stayed on the footpath outside her former home.

Four years on, I still think of her every time I pass the spot.
I hope she is doing better wherever she is.

We err when we procrastinate. I wish I'd bought the painting of that crippled painter when I still had a chance. I wish I'd brought that lady home when I still could.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jackpot! [88/365]

'Work like you've won the lottery and don't need the money'

But what happens when you DO win the lottery and you are working at a dead end job that has not taken you anywhere for the past 15 years? Call it a day and invest and live off the rich interests? Or invest in the company you are working for? Or go hiding because you are sure someone is playing an epic prank?

Well, option 3 if you are the holder of a $105 million Mega Millions lottery ticket that an Haitian immigrant living in Baltimore. Especially so, if that winning ticket was purchased out of the money that a lot of your friends/colleagues put in and have no plans of splitting it. (Money shot here)
Personally I've never tested my luck with gambling but I know a lot of people who buy the lottery waiting for that one big jackpot. And some who have hit the jackpot too.
Apart from the proverbial law of probability, winning money that you haven't worked hard for is such a huge lure.

Recently a regional language channel premiered a quiz game show where the participants are given Rs 1 Crore (Approx $ 209,292) right at the start of the show and the contestants would need to answer questions correctly to keep them. If 'Deal or No Deal' was a big hit, this show is set to beat that. Ofcourse, the Indian version of the 'Who wants to be a millionaire', immortalized by Bachhan Sr and Slumdog Millionaire will always remain the fan favorites.

It appears like there is the immense amount of money that just wants to come to you.
Personally, I'd like to earn every rupee that I have so that I know I've worked for them and deserved it.
Many people might think I am being idealistic but I think I am realistic. Every time I've had money that I didn't earn for (and deserve) I've noticed that it goes out of your hands just as easily. And I don't even feel good about it.
But the inspiration to make more money is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ghosts of politicians past [87/365]

Political assassins are an interesting bunch of killers.
While society abhors the different, there are a few that  romanticizes the bad boys.

Balwant Singh Rajoana, former cop, recent celebrity and assassin of former Chief Minister of the northern Indian state of Punjab.
More than 15 years after he killed the politician, he has suddenly become the most favorite bad boy of sardar-land. Heck, he even got an award or two!
When the special court sentenced him to death, sikh organizations around the state rallied and demanded that the President pardon him and save him from the gallows.
And in what resembled a blinking match with courage the cowardly dog, the radicals won. The government stayed the execution, at-least for now. (Read the 'to die for' story here)

His reason for killing another human being apart, this case has a lot of significance in telling us how a country that started out secular has now shriveled into 'something' that is ruled by a motley bunch of unintelligent people with absolutely no will of their own.
Human rights activists and opponents of the capital punishment will forever harp on how we need to forgive and forget the bad sheep amongst us. But the next guy that slams into one of their SUVs will bite the dust.

Something that Balwant said struck me. He mentioned how he was filled with contempt at some of the people campaigning for his clemency and observed that most of them probably don't really care about him anyway.
He spoke correct.
They don't care.
Infact, most of us don't.

Most of the people campaigning for him are probably doing it with a hidden agenda. To measure the bargaining power that Sikhs as a community possess in a democracy like ours.
And for now, it looks like we yield as much clout as Ms Banerjee does.
The battle has been won, but the war is far from over.
Recommended Read:
WSJ Blog

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Agent Vinod [86/365]

So finally after all that pre-release hoopla, infamous brawls and all, Agent Vinod releases.
Ever since legends like Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig played the the suave and sophisticated Bond, we have been obsessed. 
I've seen the grapevine frothing at the mouth when one of our desi bimbos get an audition for the bond girl. Really?
Well, if you can't have it, make it yourself. And like the famous line- 'We can make it at home, for nothing.'
Enter Bollywood.

The only blue blooded actor in the industry wants to outdo the king of the Bollys.
So what if SRK's grand show of pyrotechnics fizzled. Saifeena wanted to set the record right.

The story of Agent Vinod smacks of 'life and shift' but none of the pizazz and style that it's originals have.
Though we see patches of brilliance, this movie fails to raise and falls flat. The story (if there was any) takes us into the life and struggles of a super spy who is hunting down a mercenary in possession of a nuclear device which is set to go off in New Delhi. That's right. Our crime riddled, power hungry, rapist infested national capital is the one place that an ISI Colonel is trying to destroy. If you ask me, the people and politicians in the capital are already doing a pretty good job of destroying themselves. But then if Hollywood has their Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, Bollywood has ... well, Delhi, Mumbai and the beautiful locales of Europe.

The movie notches up slightly better than the (other) most famous dud of our times - Ra.ONE. Saif plays his character with as much ease as he can pull off and but the Director has obviously squandered the wonderful powerhouse of talents that he had in this movie. Like a pearl necklace to a pig, Saifeena with their combined wattage and chemistry could not life the spirits of this movie.

Dialogues are so dry that by the end of the movie, you'd be hard pressed to quote a dialogue that knocked the socks off your feet. The stunts and the dramatic fight sequences are so 90's. You'd imagine that all that money could have got you better technical effects. Nay.

Overall, this is one movie that you can give a miss. See it if you are hard (and I mean, Really hard) core fan of the hottest non married, somewhat steady power couple of Bollywood in action. The performances are forgetful.
Infact I would be surprised if there would be a sequel to this. But knowing how incorrigible Bollywood really is, I think the producers and Saifeena will probably write this movie off as a bad investment and never learn it's lesson.
And once you've seen this movie, you'll agree.

My Rating: 4

What does the ratings mean?
0-4  : Not worth your presence in the same zip code as the TV/Theatre.
5-7  : Err... the movie is pretty, but it's definitely missing something. A storyline, that is.
8-10: 'Drop-the-dishes, stop-the-sex, jaw-dropping, that-is-incredible' 2 hours of movie experience

Monday, March 26, 2012

A spade's call [85/365]

Bebo, as Kareena Kapoor is fondly called, will do her raunchiest and boldest 'intimate' scene in mainstream cinema ever, for one of the most anticipated Bollywood movie this year - Heroine.
In Bollywood, as in Hollywood, as movies approach their premiere the grapevine will churn out juicy gossip for the drooling journalists and paparazzi. So it's business as usual for Bollywood.

While none of these heroines or 'movie stars' can claim to be naive or innocent, what is surprising is how naive we are. A spat and a disagreement is great news. More so if such an incident can boost the excitement of that movie.
Bollywood is the carrot for most Indian and Western women who have more beauty than brains. They win a few beauty contests, do a few photo-shoots and then a movie, a reality show or an ad.
So what if the debut is not exactly their claim to fame. Any fame is good news.

Barring a few, most actresses are incredibly superficial. I find their declarations to never do an item number or nudity and to do movies only if the script makes sense extremely hypocritical. Give them a few flops and you'll hear them talking about that 'very essential' nude scene/item number in the next movie. But what if you are still the reigning queen, with newer starlets offering to shed their clothes for less or no reason, the pressure to pleasure and titillate increases within actresses at the top.

While many remain addicted to the constant gaze of the limelight, some will fortunately find the fuller things in life.
Some will settle down with a husband and kids and some will find fulfillment in alternate careers.
But most of them will do just about anything to stay in the news, for that 15 minutes of fame. To be the flavor of the day, the month, and the quarter.

After all, the next new starlet is just around the corner, and you'll be last year's news.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

'Don't worry' [84/365]

Although I am in my element as a writer, I do enjoy the occasional outdoor sport.

Among the few activities that I enjoy, cycling is definitely my favorite.
I remember my first bike was a BMX and the wonderful freedom it gave me. To a bunch of intrepid six year olds, cycling to another block was always exciting. We felt like explorers!

After three stints with the Tour of Nilgiris and couple of minor rides over the past couple of years, I had the most amazing cycle rides the past weekend.

Two biking buddies and I decided it was time we put our bodies through a grueling climb.
Our destination: Kolli Malai in Namakkal. 250 kms away from Bangalore.
So what's special about Kolli Malai?
Besides the rumor that the hills are famous for black magic practitioners, it has about 70 hair-pin bends, with an average gradient of 8% and this means you'll be scaling about 1400 meters above sea-level, all in just 20 kms.

Cycling all the way there was out of the question so we decided we would drive down to Namakkal and ride the next day. Taking advantage of the extra day off on the 23rd, we packed our cycles into specially designed car-racks.

Getting away from the depressing weather in Bangalore was some relief. The highways are a dream to drive on, but the sooner you start the better you'd be when you reach. We took about 5 hours to reach, squeezing in a quick breakfast and a power lunch. Namakkal is a small town stuck in time, surrounded by villages that are famous for poultry and tapioca,
there is something very rustic about this place.
But the ride was going to be anything but a walk in the park. We were sufficiently 'warned' that Kolli Malai, as it is known locally, is worth every bit of the stamina you can muster. 'Ooty is a plateau', our kind host declared.
The statistics had already given me nightmares and now this.
'Gee thanks! I could've gone on without having to hear that' I thought to myself.

Find more Bike Ride in Namagiripettai

The weather was so good that we just had to sleep outside. Starting early was crucial since we had to travel quite a bit to reach the base of the hill. A bunch of dudes cycling through villages in spandex and 'geared cycles' can be quite the crowd puller. We had curious kids and grown-ups running and pointing to us when we passed.
Infact, we became such instant celebrities that the village folks remembered us when we rode back 12 hours later.

Reaching the 'check-post' at the foot of the hills about 2 hours after we started, we made good time. We agreed to regroup every 10 hair pin bends uphill. This is way easier than we ever thought. 30 minutes after what I assumed was the base, we reached the second hairpin bend. WTF! We had 68 more to go and my knees were groaning under all the effort.
"Dont worry", my pedaled partners told me. They insisted I change strategy and aim more realistically. Frequent but short breaks every couple of bends is what I figured would help me. When cycling, I've found that numbers have a strange effect on me. I am easily overwhelmed by the vast distance and steep inclines ahead of me. Forgetting to remember the total distance and not looking at the climb on the other hand soothes me. It worked. I took plenty of breaks, kept myself well hydrated, learned the fine art of asking for water from curious passer-by's, drank my own sweat to recover all that salts and reached the summit seven hours after we started from home. While I am not sure if we can claim to be the first cyclists who scaled the Kolli, I
can say pedaling up is only half the excitement. The adventure was just beginning.
As I reached the summit, I realized my compatriots on pedal, were not at the rendezvous point. Perhaps they just left to explore.

Asking locals if they had seen two flashy bikers in foreign bikes is difficult when you don't know the local language and they don't know what the heck you are talking. After plenty of gesturing, many of the locals confirmed that they had seen the spandex duo come and go back down.
I wondered how we could cross paths but still not run into each other, since there was only one way up and down the hill. And if this was not exasperating, our phones were out of charge and I didn't have any money with me. Great!

I decided to ride down and try and trace my way back to the house we were staying. Again, easier planned than executed. Summit to base, I took about 45 minutes with a five minute break to cool the over heated brake pads.
Still no sign of them. I wasn't sure how much of the route back I remembered but decided to keep riding back.
Soon, it became apparent that I didn't have clue of the name of the village we stayed in, nor the name of the host and I was positively lost.
However, through this ordeal I never panicked. Restless, maybe. But I rested my faith in Jesus, and devised a plan B - I figured I'd stop and charge my cellphone so that I can try and reach my partners in case they were accessible. And if nothing works, I'd catch a taxi back home to Bangalore. This is when I met one of most selfless stranger ever.
Passing through a village, I decided to ask for help with a local truck driver who was sitting outside his home. He reeked of cheap booze which put me on guard immediately. I found it difficult to to trust him every time he'd reassure me.
He helped me charge my phone, bought me a soft drink even when I told him that I don't have any money to repay him and reassured me that I will be alright. 'Don't Worry' He'd repeat. Somehow I still thought this person didn't know the gravity of how lost I was, but decided to be patient with him. As if by sheer luck, my biking partners passed us just as I was about to try their numbers for the 16th time. I called out to them but when they didn't hear me, all the villagers started calling out to them in unison. The relief!
I was lost but I've got my way back. Apparently, my partners were looking for me along the way too.

I learned some valuable lessons that day.
Besides the obvious logistics lessons, I also learned that we are quick to judge people in a lower strata of society than us. That villager that day was exceptionally kind and generous. Unlike conniving city dwellers, he was not bothered about the 'cost' of caring for a stranger in trouble. He was after all not the first person I approached for help that day, but certainly the only person who was willing to help. In every unforeseen way possible.  
As I think back, I can see how God guided me and how I stopped at just the right spot to be able see my partners when they cycled past. Anywhere else and I would've missed them that night.

What started out as a cycle ride to test the limits of physical endurance became a wonderful experience that I'll cherish for a very long time.

This post is an Official entry for Mahindra XUV's Incredible Stories  hosted by IndiBlogger.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Flu [83/365]

So it's time for the Indian Premier League (IPL) again.
Into it's fifth edition, this is cricket packaged in tetra packs ready for instant gratification.
It's easy to see how IPL has become a conglomerate in itself. There is serious money involved.

Started in 2008, by Lalit Modi after a spat with the all-mighty BCCI, today it is hard to imagine what money hungry cricketers and corporations with deep pockets and money to burn would have done with IPL.

Starting from the 4th April, India and her cricket crazy lunatics will live, breathe and procreate nothing but cricket for the next two months.

Is the IPL with its motley bunch of cheerleaders, multi-million dollar deals and players across the borders really helping the game? No one really remembers the ICL anymore since IPL was never about the game anyway.

Is all this cricket good for our over paid, under-performing cricketers? Doubtful.
While MSD will reiterate, as in all the previous years, that the IPL is all about the fun and fatigue is not a question here, I would wait to see the number of fit players catching up injuries and the unfit players who stayed away from the tournaments so far hurrying back to play the IPL. Maybe, we should tell Dhoni to give us newer and more innovative statements instead of playing the same card every year.

But I really don't have anything against cricketers harvesting the rich field while the sun still shines. After all, not all of them will refuse to retire from Cricket the way god is. Which brings me to an interesting point.
Playing an honest game of cricket for the glory of the country was never his objective. He was just trying to heap up the accolades all along. ahuh! How I hate it when I am right.

With the kind of manic cricket that Indians play, I'd be surprised if we have any of the current crop of demi-gods remain as fit as they need to be. All those dives and plunges will ultimately take its toll. With the level of competitiveness that we play our game (pun intended) our cricketers really need to hurry. That way, the IPL does make a lot of sense.

But call me old fashioned, I still believe the IPL makes bad business sense. Considering how each of the player makes about $3 mil each year and the reality of how each of the corporates have not even broken even, it could be only a matter of when and not if the model will tank. But then again, some of the bigger corporates in the game are really not in the game to break even or even make a profit, but only to launder their money.

The IPL is nothing but a heady concoction of obscene amounts of money.
But all of this will be forgotten and rehashed in about 12 months because India is about to have her most exquisite orgasm.

Friday, March 23, 2012

From beyond the grave [82/365]

Two days ago, a Pune court sentenced to death two drivers who raped and murdered a BPO staffer many years ago.
While I sympathize with loss of any human life, the system erred too.

Six years ago, one of my friend's colleague boarded a cab to go to work.
That was the last time she was seen alive.
Her cab driver drove her to an isolated village, raped her and killed her. Her belongings were stolen and it took a full three days before the driver was nabbed.
This crime created ripples in the BPO and ITES industry. (The news here)
Wide-sweeping changes were introduced.
Female employees would be accompanied by escorts when they traveled at night.
The Drivers can no longer call the female employees themselves but the transport help desk of the company, who would conference the employee with the driver.
Employees, on their part, where cautioned to not get 'too' friendly with the drivers, who are mostly illiterate and migrate from villages to cities in search of jobs.
Companies spent many lakhs in revamping the transport department, streamlining and plugging loopholes.
In the meanwhile, the driver responsible for this was only recently sentenced to death.

There is no easy way to describe a crime so gruesome, but there are a lot of loose ends.
How do I know? Well, I worked in the same company with the same people who worked and traveled with her. The same people who were warned by the company to be silent about the crime.
The driver had a previous grudge against the lady since she had complained against him. He lost his job shortly after this. This had sparked vengeance in his mind. Whether the complaint was genuine or not will never be proven. But this is true- Most employees, mainly women are very mean towards drivers. They expect them to be their chauffeurs, at their beck and call. Many won't step out of their house unless the driver is at their doorstep. Most will not hesitate to sent out a complaint.

Companies have always treated their women with kid gloves. Many of them are petrified of possible sexual harassment from frivolous women. Proving innocence becomes the onus of the companies.
At the expense of making sure complaints raised by women are dealt with promptly, they rush to grab the calf when the bull gives birth. The driver may have broken a traffic rule or two, may have been rude or silent at the employee, but this certainly didn't have to lead to a termination.
The company erred on their part by not being sensitive towards the driver. He was after all an employee with all the aspirations that the lady would have had too.

But the crime has sparked debate on how a lone driver who weighed less than the victim could drag her out, rape her and slit her throat. Although he has denied the role of any accomplices, I doubt it. When it took two men to do the same deed on a lady in Pune, I wonder how a lone driver could manage to carry it off in Bangalore. Interestingly, the husband of the victim had taken up an insurance on his wife only a few months before the murder. And he stood to get a million rupees (Rs 1,813,693/- to be exact) in the event of an unfortunate or unnatural death. If the bells have not started ringing yet, here's more. He mourned the loss of his wife and love of his life, got the cheque for a million rupees and then moved to another city to marry again to start his life afresh with a pot-load of cash. The needle of suspicion also points to the husband since he didn't seem too inclined to fight for the truth.
The law erred on their part when they didn't dig deep enough at the right time.

Companies periodically sent out reminders of their transport policy which indicate that employees are not supposed to build a rapport or unnecessary conversation. They are cautioned against 'pissing' the drivers off or asking the driver to change the radio station of their choice. Some companies even portray them as people who would not know how to behave themselves with women and can be tempted easily.
The system erred, when companies started treating drivers like third rate citizens.

I've traveled with all kinds of drivers. Some rude, some impatient, some indifferent, some ignorant. I've also traveled with drivers who are graduates, owners of businesses and married men who have been doing their job for more than a decade. A common feeling is how a single driver has soiled their reputation and trade. But most of them have been good people, with aspirations just the same as mine. One driver even wanted to learn many languages and do a bachelors degree through IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University).
It's easy for us to be irate at them when they pick us up a hour early or even if they don't. I know people who direct all their pent up rage and frustration towards drivers.
We erred too. By creating a bias in society, we've set ourselves up.

RIP. Let's hope we don't suffer more Prathiba's and Jyothikumari's.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Litany of Shame [81/365]

In Christian hymns, there is a section in every hymn where a chorus is repeated.
The headlines today was a chorus of public shame.

Barely two months after a couple of BJP politicians were caught indulging in some forbidden pleasures, it looks like some in its party didn't get the memo to stop titillating themselves while in session. Legislators in the Gujarati Assembly were caught ogling at some eye candy on their iPads. (Read the enchanting story here)
No lessons learned there, obviously.

The CAG has estimated that the national exchequer lost about 10.7 lakh crore by not following standard and fair procedures while auctioning coal blocks between 2004 and 2009. So this officially becomes the largest scandal in Independent India. That's right, kids. 2G is no ji. (Path breaking news here)
No lessons learned there, either.

The government flip flops on gay rights. Again.
Cant teach them a lesson.

The chief minister of the southern Indian state of Karnataka delivers a populist budget.
Cigarettes and liquor prices have gone up. Diesel has become cheaper. Sports got the kick in the butt. And the city will become world class in one year (*yawn). Taxes have gone up on cabs and taxis and property is now cheaper. In short, DVS has waved his magic wand and spread his largesse to every one he could think of. With an eye on the elections, this is just what the people expected their elected representative would do.
And oh yes, our ministers get new iPads too. So this means they can now itouch their iporn too.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This has gotta change [80/365]

Religion is the crutch of weak people.

World over, more men have used religion to rule and subdue women.
The headlines today was an eye opener to how another man has used the tool of the triple talaq to his advantage.
Shahtaj Khanum, former deputy mayor of Bangalore and married woman, narrated how her husband gave her the triple talaq through an newspaper advertisement almost a year ago. (Read the exciting story unfold here)

Apparently, the estranged husband divorced her after she lost the last elections. How convenient.
That the chap decided to divorce his wife through the newspaper when the registered mail came back undelivered was at best unimaginative, at worst a sign of utter weakness.
Now c'mon, we've heard infamous tales of young lovers breaking up over an SMS and companies firing their CEO over a phone call, but this? Now, this has got to change.

The last time I wrote about talaq, quite a few readers who were hurt at the facts I stated insisted I rewrite them to make it appear less caustic than it was. I refused. 

It is easy to sympathize with the victim, a lady, in this case. If she was a victim of much abuse, then what made her wait so long before she decided to come public?
Throughout the article, we hear a lot of posturing. File the goddamn suit, lady. Stop threatening.
Why did the guy not have the balls to say the triple talaq in the presence of his wife, like he was legally supposed to do. She is not a fugitive!

And if you look carefully, there is a lot of money and a child involved here. Talaq be damned, any divorce is bad news for the child. While the facts are obviously against the estranged husband, the root of the evil is much deeper.
The lady here is not a saint either.
According to her statement, she allowed the husband to misuse her political clout to amass wealth and admits feeling useless to her husband since she lost in the elections. See any red flags here?
If she is as honest and strong willed as she proclaims herself to be, she would've nailed his ass for graft and not traded her self esteem for a term in office.

Which makes me think. What are they fighting for now? 
Wealth? Possible. 
Custody of their daughter? Does not look like it. The husband didn't appear too excited about the idea. 
Integrity? By washing their dirty laundry in public, they can kiss any last bits of integrity goodbye.
Fame? Maybe. She does reiterate her desire to make this a monumental judgement ala Shah Bano.

But what has got to change is how unscrupulous men, and bitter women, use divorce laws as a way of getting at eachother. No more.

This post is an Official entry for Stayfree's Time To Change hosted by IndiBlogger.
Promote this article here if the eradication of such evil means as much to you as it does to me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Behind Poverty lines [79/365]

Roti, Kappada aur Makaan (Food, Clothing and Shelter)
Man's three basic and fundamental rights.
Secure these for your citizens and everything else will fall in place.

Today, a report headlined proclaimed how 5 crore people have moved beyond the poverty line.
Last year, the commission became the stock of much ridicule when it declared how a person cannot be below the poverty line if they earned Rs32 (About half a dollar) or more. Apparently, the department is made up of people who are living proof that evolution can go in reverse.
The new report puts the poverty line at Rs 22.43 for rural areas and Rs28.65 for those fortunate to live in cities. (The encouraging news here)

Now, I don't have anything against the poor becoming richer by a few rupees. Heck! I would be the first to pop the bubbly if the yawning gap between the have's and the have-not's are bridged.
But I smell a rat here.
As Indians, we have lived long enough under the unsightly shadow of being called a 'developing nation'.
So, a headline like this makes an euphoric read. The World Bank and all the donors of our poor, hungry and fly-infested children who will die if we don't contribute generously will be happy.
But the fact is far from the truth. Beyond the headline, it is clear to see how this report is a perfect example of unimaginative people who are about as smart as a bait.

Sample this:
Despite the fact that the commission has reduced the minimum wages required to be classified as under poverty, the number of poor have increased in Bihar, UP, Chattisgarh, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya. Interestingly, so has naxalites and maoists in these regions. Not good news at all.

But who can live on Rs32 today? Maybe in the 18th Century where an an Anna paise took you far.
By releasing such a report, the committee has become a farce and a slap on the face of all those families struggling to live on Rs 1000 ($18) a month.

Monday, March 19, 2012

birds and bees [78/365]

Our pet Australian finches are a naughty pair.
They have been mating prolifically for the past couple of months. Not entirely unexpected since they are known to be very active breeders. But as wild as birds are supposed to be, they are very discreet about when and how they do their act.

Human beings on the other hand are not known for the discreetness. We are conceived, born and then grow up to be promiscuous teenagers and sex-starved adults.
Studying in a school abroad 15 years ago, we had a sex ed in our 10th grade. I remember how we all giggled when our teacher taught us about ovaries and the testes. If all our amazement made Ms Juliet uncomfortable inside, she didn't show. She was detailed enough to answer all our curious questions while not scarring nubile minds. Those where the times when we didn't have nor were allowed access to the Internet.

So, it comes as a shock when youngsters and adults of today ask questions like the ones below:

1 I am 24 years old. I enjoy a good sex life with my girlfriend and I am happy with the size and hardness of my erection. I have heard that after a certain age, the hymen of the penis breaks, but in my case it has not happened as yet. I’m worried that it will it create problems in the future. Please help.
Sexpert's Answer: The male organ does not have a hymen, so it can’t be broken. The connection of the foreskin to the penis certainly remains intact.

2 I am 21 years old. For the past couple of years, I have been suffering from nightfall. It keeps happening at least three to four times in a week. Will this affect my future sex life? I masturbate once a week. Please suggest a technique or a medicine by which it will stop.
Why stop it? It is an indication that your testes are producing sperms very well. You can increase masturbation and the night fall will stop.

3 I underwent an abortion 13 months ago. The doctor prescribed a few pills for the procedure. I was one-and-a-half months pregnant then. I am going to get married within the next six months. Will my future husband know that I had to abort a kid? Is there any test or medical check-up that can reveal the matter? 
It will not but his suspicion of you not being a virgin can arise.

At what point of reading these questions, were you appalled at the lack of knowledge.
Maybe, these could be ghost written questions, written just for the purpose of keeping the readers interested. After all, who can deny the entertainment that these columns provide.

For all those who oppose teaching sex ed in schools and colleges, I wish they read the many many questions that come on forums like this. In an age where we are constantly connected, with knowledge and titillation at our fingertips, I wonder how long we can pretend that all is well with our education system.

Recommended Read:
Agonizing Aunties

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Second rate Citizens and loyal Soldiers [77/365]

'Back to the Barracks'
History has been repeated and Didi did get the head of Dinesh Trivedi on a platter.
And I have been proven right and wrong.
Right because I've always believed that Indian politicians are puppets at the hands of their masters/mistresses.
Wrong because I thought Mr Turban puppet and his Handler would keep their foot down and not in their mouths for a change. (Read how I predicted here)

Isn't it curious that she is going to replace him with another crony who will be her puppet number two. Let's hope this is a lesson for the replacement to not cross paths with Didi.
On his way out, Dinesh did manage to justify his flip flop as what a 'loyal soldier' would do. He rightly expressed his worry about 'passenger safety'. (Read the shameless story here)

Rail passenger safety has never been a priority for the government. Infact baring multi billion dollar defense deals, safety and security has never been a priority for the Indian government. And if Dinesh believes his colleagues, compatriots and fellow soldiers are suddenly going to change this just because he said so, then Trivedi is either an incredibly immature politician or equally naive.

But sacrifice apart, I think Dinesh did make a smart move. Knowing how the UPA-2 is not going to win any elections this time, staying with a ship that is about to sink is foolish. But bailing out what could appear as being faithful to your master will earn him brownie points that he will need so that he can return to rule when a change of guard happens in about a year from now.

In the meanwhile, and by the time many read this, a rollback would have already happened. The Union will get disgruntled because an increase will not come and corners will be cut.
Passengers can go to hell. Literally and otherwise.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Show me the money [76/365]

Indians are a funny bunch of cheap people.

Until a few hours before the 2012 Union budget was announced, every broker and MBA graduate worth his share price predicted that Pranab Mukherjee, the Union Finance Minister, would cave in to the temptation to deliver a populist budget especially since his party is not really going to be winning any elections any time soon. We all thought he might give us tax free salaries, no customs duties on our Merc and Beemers and that double door refrigerators and air-conditioners.

Fast forward 24 hours and we are all ranting against how Pranabda, as he is fondly called, screwed us. Now, we are definitely not going to vote you back.

But looking at the reports and reading the fine print, I was relieved. The Finance Minister does have a spine. Against all instinct to pack his budget with sops for all, he tightened the reins of an economy that was bleeding badly.
This budget was something we needed a few years ago, but better sooner than later and here's why I think the 2012 Union budget is perhaps the best budget in a very long time.
  • The tax brackets for salaried individuals has been changed slightly, the effects will be best felt by freshers starting off at the lowest ranks. I remember how I had to pay tax when I earned 10k pm a decade ago. That left me with very little to save for a rainy day. With the cost of living spiralling the way it is now, every little penny saved is a penny earned. Good stuff.
  • While direct taxes have been lowered, he has increased the indirect taxes on good and services. Which is a fantastic thing. While it is very easy to evade direct taxes like IT and PT, indirect taxes will help mop up much of the excess money that flows around while also covering more people. Case in point: The Govt of India has only about 1.8 crore tax payers in a population of billion plus.
  • With a white paper on black money, Pranabda has, in fine swipe of his calculator, created an economic measure to check the flow of black money abroad. Even assets and property owned abroad will be covered under tax (even if you are just a signatory). Nice move.
  • With customs duties and sales taxes increasing on luxury goods and services, I think he has done a masterstroke, especially since people who can afford a Merc can certainly afford to pay a lakh or more extra. With the sheer volume of illegal money that was taken abroad by people who didn't know what do with all the extra cash lying around , something had to be done.
All said and done, I wonder what all the fuss is about. Especially after we complain about the pathetic state of infrastructure, business and economy today, what we need is urgent attention and supervision. More so at a time when fiscal wisdom or the lack of it has been the downfall of entire continents.
While this is definitely not as painful as in the US or in Greece or Italy, this is definitely what we need so that we don't end up with either of them.

Overall, Pranabda has executed a extremely gutsy masterstroke in his last outing as the Union Finance Minister. Bravo!

Recommended Read:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Finally! [75/365]

The god of Cricket delivered.

But instead of being truly happy, what I felt instead was relief. Relieved that we can now let Sachin be Sachin and not worry ourselves or him with urgency of cracking any more records for our gratification. And I know a lot of people who felt the same too.

While sportspeople have always been serenaded and unceremoniously dumped when they have not given us our dollar's worth, what Sachin went through could have been nightmarish. Something similar to what a couple, or more importantly the wife, would go through when they haven't borne a child yet, even after a year of marriage. The sheer volume of questions and the curious glances at her pelvic region and yours mentally theorizing that there could be a problem in bed or with the 'equipments'.

But unlike when and if the couple has a child, Sachin's 100th ton will always be a much less memorable one than if he had scored the same ton in Australia or if his current ton would have won India the match. Against a mediocre team and in a match where even his historic contribution failed to wing the team over, Sachin can now hang up his boots ala The Wall in relative satisfaction.

Personally, I think he can now hold his head high and walk away into the sunset despite his admission that he is not god but only Sachin, I have a feeling he'd rather wanted to end on a high note than be forever known as a 'choke' and a flash in the pan. As anything, a record like this is more for his own gratification than for the country.

And the time is just right now. With a team urgently in need of youngsters for the next generation and the World Cup a good 3 years away, Sachin needs to make way. Besides we cannot keep winning all the World Cups for Sachin, can we?

Keeping the goose that is way past her golden egg laying days just so that BCCI can fund it's retirement plans is a wasted effort.

Must Read:
Mukul Kesavan's take on Sachin. Rightly said

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From the Cradle to the Grave [74/365]

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) was the scene of one of the most gripping stories of pain, tragedy, malice, human trafficking, prostitution and human compassion played out in recent decades.

On 18th January, 2012, baby Falak (literally 'sky') was brought in with severe injuries to her skull, broken arms, cheeks branded with a iron and human bite marks all over her body. That the injuries were inconsistent with the explanation that the 15 year old who claimed to be her mother, who herself was a victim of trafficking and abuse, cannot dull the trauma that the two year old baby Falak would've gone through.

In the weeks since she was admitted, she has survived five major surgeries and many near fatal moments. She was even the most favored orphan available for adoption across India and abroad.
But on the 15th of March, just when things appeared to be looking up, she suffered a massive cardiac arrest and passed away. In her sleep.

Following massive media wrath and public outrage, ten people have been arrested and in the months and years to come, we will slowly but surely get to see how such atrocity could've have happened on a human being so young. However this is also a sign of a larger malignant tumor in the Indian society. In a country where female infanticide is still prevalent, this was bound to happen.

Our parents hate girl children. The high cost of raising a girl, getting her married off and the prospect that this entails a massive dowry makes most Indian couple choose to 'nip the plant at the bud' itself. Boys are better. They will study harder, get better jobs and bring in lots of dowry. The odds are stacked against the ordinary girl even before the ninth month.

While some can find comfort that baby Falak has finally left a cruel world for a better one, I wonder if the perpetrators of this crime will ever pay enough.

Rest in Peace, dear Falak.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Creative Visualization - la Troisième Partie [73/365]

Poetic License. The fine line that divides the truly exquisite from the despicably crass.
While some commercials in the past have pushed the envelope, many have have stretched imagination beyond fantasy.

One of the smoothest commercials on tv and my personal favorite is the extremely slick Axis Bank advt.
I would rate this advt as one of the more creative among all the advts the bank has had over the past and has a good flow about it. Has a certain panache and a vibe about it.
My Rating: 9

Vodafone has always been very creative with their advts. While they hit the right chords with the ZooZoo, and the absolutely adorable pug, the advts on TV now are threading a thin line. Vodafone, in a series of advts show how a two young teenagers get to meet each other, going through to a phase where they cant get enough of each other.
While some of these advts have rankled the child welfare activists. The supporters, on the other hand think the advts are really cute and adorable.
Now, I think the first advt where they meet are a stretch of imagination but really cute. The second one, where the girl cycles past the boy's home to grab his attention, is edgy. We know the cute young kids are falling in love with each other but the third advt where the pug barks at a man who could not even hurt a fly just so that the two can enjoy a private moment with eachother is positively disturbing. Talk about pushing the envelope here. The ad agency has crossed the threshold with such a risque advt.
My Rating: 5

Another advt that is bordering on being disturbing is that of Aditya Birla's Idea cellular service's latest grouse for using it's 3G service. But really?! However gruesome the crime and thoughtless the perpetrator, are we supposed to inflict mob justice? For some reason I find Idea's idea of trial by media a sheer mockery of the judicial system. I'm surprised no one has signed a petition to ban it yet.
My Rating: 5

One of the most creative Idea! advts ever. Looks like it was just a flash in the pan.

And while we are talking about banning advertisements, it is about time we pull the mask off the Vendanta's 'Creating Happiness'.
One of those instances where huge corporations based offshore go about plundering the natural resources of a country, make an advt extolling its virtues and philanthropy. Bravo, Well done! Now, sign the petition here.
My Rating: 2

Happy Watching, everybody!

Recommended Read:
Part Numero Uno

What the hell do the Ratings mean:
0-4  : Not worth your presence in the same zip code as the TV
5-6  : Err... the advt is pretty, but I hate the concept/product
7-10: 'Drop-the-dishes, stop-the-sex, jaw-dropping, that-is-incredible' 15 seconds of TV

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The end of an Era [72/365]

Brittanica. The byword when it came to encyclopedias. Atleast in my time. Before Dorling Kindersley and Wikipedia took over.
I've never owned one, simply because I could not afford the entire set, but when I was still deciding on a good thing to gift my nephew and neice, the first thing I thought of buying was the Brittanica. They loved books after all.

Today, Brittanica announced that they will stop printing any more copies of their flagship 32 volume editions after 244 years. (Read the story here)
But the real question is how relevant is the Brittanica in this day when you get your knowledge, fact and counter-opinion from Wikipedia. For free. My school was wealthy enough to have 2 sets of the Brittanica and the dull and deary covers of the book meant that not many of the 7th graders or the 8th graders really 'read' it. DK was far more colorful and exciting.
My Dad gifted me my first DK and I've since bought many versions of the illustrated encyclopedias since.

While the company has promised to continue and strengthen their online editions, this could be little solace. While I won't go to think Brittanica is going to shut their online shop any time soon, I think this was a step in the right direction.
With the sheer amount of facts and wisdom on each of the volume, Brittanica need not worry about a Wikipedia, simply because of the content and the sources of the content are as different as chalk and cheese.

This move is more towards adapting to changing economies and can make the encyclopedia more accessible to people like me who could not afford the $1400 (approx Rs 65000) volume.

More power to wisdom!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Noori [71/365]

Cute, isn't she?
After Dolly, we now have Noori.
By the time you've read this, Noori is a couple of hours older and wondering 'Who the hell are my parents?'

Kashmir, Pakistani obsession and overall wonderful place to see, is in the news again.
And thankfully, it is not because of any of the crime that happens there nor is it because the Pakistani army thought they'll test our defenses again, but because some of the finest scientists in India have cloned (created) the first Cashmere goat in the world. (More on Noori here)

This is both great news and heartburn.
Great news because this means our mad scientists can finally create Cashmere goats like they are preparing PBJ in their labs. And why not? The soft undercoat of the rare goats are used to make shawls that are amongst the most priciest and most exquisite in the planet. Some of the shawls retail at $200 (Approx Rs 12,000) upwards. They are so pricey that even the fake ones are expensive. Cloning them will mean that now we can finally keep up with the demand, which has been outstripping supply for several years now.
Heartburn, because now the Pakistanis will want Kashmir even more than ever. Regardless of the fact that they have pretty much screwed whatever resources and land they already have, they will still want the candy behind the glass window.

I wonder what Noori will have to say about this?
Worse still, imagine something going wrong in the cloning process and we get cotton instead of Cashmere.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Land of the rising Son [70/365]

Akhilesh Yadav, son of Indian Political stalwart Mulayam Singh Yadav and seasoned politician himself recently made Indian political history when he was sworn in as the youngest Chief Minister of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Armed with a Masters degree in environmental engineering from the University of Sydney, he is part of a new breed of sons and daughters following the footsteps of their political parents.

Winning the recently concluded elections by an overwhelming majority, the 38 year old politician and believer in Socialism has promised to revamp the state and his party and rid it of it's corrupt visage.
Unemployment (allowance), corruption, free laptops and tablets for students.
So as you can see, this manifesto is not any different from what any other politician has promised until now.

Asked how he plans on delivering on his promise, he replied he is bound to stay true to his manifesto and his constituents. Truly, the 'party is over, now bill is due'.
The promise however ran out too soon for comfort when Ministers with criminal cases against them were sworn in and the rest, as they say is a grim remainder of things to follow. He showed the door to bureaucrats faithful to Ms Mayawati while inducting many party favorites and old timers. (Read the grim turn of events here)
While politicians making hollow promises in a desperate attempt to win are never new or unheard of, what is surprising is how the Indian voters could still believe them.

Looking at how this is just the beginning of a process that would culminate in giving us new rulers in the next 10 months, this is just a trailer, the picture is yet to start.
Recommended Read:
The Akhilesh Shake

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Burning the bridges [69/365]

There is a very popular phrase in Malayalam which roughly translates like this:
'You can't force a centipede to stay put on a mat'. The phrase means to describe how a person simply cannot appreciate something good because he/she is using to crawling.

Mamata Banerjee, fits the description of a centipede that simply cannot appreciate the good fortune that she's had since the past couple of years.
As the Union Railway Minister, she took over one of the only government enterprise that was making huge profits, and turned its fortunes around to a situation where the government needs to hike fares.
What is it with Ms MB? I've seen politicians who have given up positions to take on higher position at the national level. But in a move that completely defied my logic, she gave up her plum role as the Railway Minister for the Union government to become the Chief Minister of an impoverished state. Duh!
And all this while she was still a Railway Minister, which she transitioned to a puppet of her choice. Smart move, lady.

Now, the Prime Minister would've sighed a breath of relief thinking he's got her out of his turban for a while. However Ms MB had other plans. She stonewalled every single diplomatic decision that he and his handler, Ms Sonia G took.
The latest of which is the 2012 Railway budget that Dinesh Trivedi presented.
The grouse?
It seems that Sir didn't stoop to conquer Didi's, as she is popularly known, heart before presenting it.
He rightly asked that fares be increased. In most cases the increase is hardly anything.
Didi is fuming. She wants his head on a platter ala Herodias. Mr Turban puppet and Handler puts foot down.

Didi is threatening to pull out from a delicate coalition which Mr Turban puppet knows could be detrimental to his government. My two cents- Mr Turban puppet should tell Didi to get the fu$k out and he should go to the polls. Chances are that Didi will never see the insides of the Parliament for a couple of years if she pulls out. And she knows this.
In a game of who will blink first which Didi has been playing for a few years now, we wait for the next set.

In the meanwhile, Mr Turban puppet has made his choice and approved the 2012 Railway budget and insisted that her puppet stays. Score!
Didi: 3
Mr Turban puppet: 1 (Advantage)

Recommended Read:
Wall Street Journal

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Wall [68/365]

Today, The Wall retired from Tests and domestic cricket.

As is customary, cricket crazy Indians and lunatics rushed to convince him to stay and when that failed, bid Rahul Dravid farewell.
Good Riddance, many would've thought.

Being a cricket neutral person myself, I am neither disheartened nor excited.
Having seen him play for the 15 years that I've been in India, I can say I liked the guy. I've never seen him burst in unruly emotions and I've always thought of him as one of those cricketers who can be called gentlemen playing a game that was gentlemanly. A dying breed of sportsmen who always measured his words before he spoke, he is like that good team player who works with you for many years, never complaining, never playing to the gallery, always well mannered, well intentioned and a good performer too. And when that person puts his papers down, you have that massive rush of emotions surging within you. You want to hug him, beg him not to leave but wish him the best and plead that he keeps in touch. Within you, you know that you'll miss him like crazy and that the team will never be the same without him. You may never have spoken much while he was still there but you suddenly feel a kindred spirit.

That's what I felt.
The lunatics would have cursed him when he didn't score a run, get a wicket or field that ball. They would have branded him a traitor and called him a Son of a B*&%#@ for not winning the game, but today, they were all hugging him and telling him how they are going to miss him.

Even though I am not a buff, I can still say that what he did was right. Maybe a little delayed even.
Hockey, our national game, isn't much to write home about. Cricket is destined to go that way if the seniors and the powers that be don't cultivate a breed of young players that will play better cricket and lesser commercials.
With the state of Indian cricket the way it is today, we risk another threat from Ms PP

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