More drivel

When you start looking, you find gems everywhere:

Internationally, this event will further aggravate Indian-Pakistani relations, making it harder for the incoming Obama Administration to effect a rapprochement between the two countries, necessary for progress in Afghanistan, where the two subcontinental states are engaged in a proxy struggle that goes on behind the immediate conflict between the United States and al-Qaeda.

Yes, there it is for you in plain and simple words: internationally, this matters, because without it, United States will have problem fighting Al-Qaeda. Thanks guys. Keep the insightful analysis coming.

It’s no surprise that islamic terrorism thrives in the world. They can keep blastic the hell out of different places, based on changing dynamics of International power games.


Homosexuality: a meta (or non) normative take

This post started as a comment to Sakshi’s post for the ongoing blogathon (which I heard about, thanks to Sakshi) on the subject of homosexuality. It’s a well written post, in the sense that it expressed the right sentiments — people’s sexual inclination should be none of anyone’s business. And in that sense, society needs to accept, if not respect, the choices and move on. Yes choices.

However, after making a claim about homosexuality being a challenge to the normative, rather than being abnormal, Sakshi makes a stronger appeal:

Normative needs to include all forms of sexualities.

This got me thinking. [It’s been a while since I’m writing a real non-fiction post, so bear with me if I’m not coherent]

Continue reading

The poor little IITians!

Indian television media es-special today seems to be the proposed fee hike by the IITs. For the uninitiated (are there any?), the IITs have proposed a fee hike from 25k per annum to 50k per annum. And there is a widespread concern (the same channels would like us to believe) of what will happen to poor but brilliant students.

Have they heard of the Kota System? The factory charges 50K for JEE coaching (correct me if I’m wrong), and is responsible for about a quarter of selections to the premier engineering institutes of the country (again, correct me if I’m wrong). That’s just “one” institute. Now I’d be curious to know how many of those who clear IIT JEE have not opted for any expensive classes. How many do not come from previleged social classes (upper-middle class and above).

Without those figures, the debate is useless. But who’ll tell that to this great Indian Tele-media circus?

Hell, the mess bill of a typical IIT student runs up to about 12-18K per year (that was 7 years back, I’m assuming it would be 1.5x more now), out of which 5-6K is canteen – that’s Colas, Milk Shakes, Burgers, and the likes. Add to that cell phones, eating outs, booze, cigarettes, bikes, multiplex tickets, branded clothes, shoes and so on… Do the math. And you’ll know we’re subsidizing the well to do (I’m not even counting the future potential). Yes, a few poor/lower-middle-class guys do manage to enter there, I’m sure, but that’s no longer the typical IITians, and it would be much easier dealing with them as economically backward students, with scholarships or soft-loans. They do not justify a blanket subsidy to the rest 70-80% (and I’m being conservative, in my guesstimate). Again, I’d be loved to be proved wrong.

A Whole Lot of Love

It’s in such times that I curse myself for still sticking with my good old bare-basic mobile phone which doesn’t even have a camera.

As I was driving through the Goodluck Chowk (as it is fondly known because of the lovely old Irani hotel – Goodluck Cafe, although I’m sure it has some big name like Sambhaji Maharaj Chowk or something like that) I noticed a bunch of policemen standing all over. Must be 20 or so. The first thing that crossed my mind, given the recent events, was that maybe some MNS supporters pelted stones or something like that, to celebrate the recent victory. But the policemen looked pretty relaxed. Then I remembered the famous Archies shop. Oh, it was safe and sound, don’t worry.

Amazing site that was, though: a line of policeman outside the love-merchants. I visualized the Police singing “whole lot of love”, while some goons (sorry self-chosen cultural police) singing “we will we will rock you”. Love rocks.

Let the marathi manoos choose!

How does that sound, Mr. Junior Thackeray?

But wait, the marathi manoos already has chosen! What else explains him going to a rajsthani/marwari shop to buy his groceries, or choosing a bhaiyaa for his laundry work, or work for an institution that’s started by non Maharashtrians?

I live in a locality that’s predominantly marathi speaking, in a city that was never known for being cosmopolitan. In fact, not long ago, the central area of Pune, the so called peths (no I don’t live there, thank God!), were so dominated by Marathi people (and a particular sub-caste of a particular caste), that it was the heaven the “Maharashtra for Marathi people” could never have bargained for. Err, it was, wasn’t it? I mean, sure. If you wanted to buy a frigging ball-pen at 1PM, you’d have to walk miles. Where at 8:30AM a hotel owner might have told you, the tea is over, and if you were five minutes late, the lunch mess would proudly tell you that there is no more food.

Anyways, today morning I climbed down to buy some stuff, at 8AM, and every single shop that was open belonged to a non-Marathi owner – a bhaiyaa here, a rajasthani there, except for a dry-cleaners shop. There used to be one small shop that sold bakery products and stationary, that belonged to a ghati. It’s been sold off to a marwari now. It used to open at 9:30 on good days.

So, if Marathi people (who’re still a majority in area where I live – a very strong majority) want to buy from Marathi shops only, surely those Marathi shops wouldn’t have closed down. Surely they’d have had more business. Surely Marathi people would have said: hey, I don’t mind waiting till 10 to buy a bread from apna guy, rather than buying from this marwari/bhaiyya who’s taking over our Maharashtra.

No! Marathi manoos has chosen, and chosen wisely. That’s why Shiv Sena, Raj’s original party, has stopped making noises about such things (err, well almost — I mean sure Uddhav has to make noises to show his followers that Raj is not the only one who cares about Marathi people, but that’s about it). They know there are no votes there anymore.

I hope this madness subsides soon. Mumbai was never made by Maharashtrians (alone by any stretch). In fact the single greatest contribution to building of Mumbai by my fellow ghaatis has been their openness to people outside, their almost nonchalant tolerance. Financial hubs cannot be created where divisive politics rules. And financial/business hubs cannot surely be sustained in such environments. In a single stroke Raj is undoing the real marathi contribution to Mumbai. One election, and he’ll learn his lesson. Sadly, before that, everyone has to pay for his education.

The missing link

Three sides of the same coin:

The Monkey Business

PS: Thanks Atra, for the vector program tip. I know the product is no better than the previous ones, even worse, but that’s okay. Newer tools take a little time. I see your point. This should work in the long run.

If this isn’t match fixing, what is?

A friend wrote a blog on the infamous Sydney (de)test, and a line caught my attention:

 “[ICC] should also start an inquiry regarding match fixing for this match”

At this moment we’re all angry. Conventional wisdom tells that we’re not objective when we’re angry, and in general, only things that are thought out “with a cool head” are worth a serious discussion. But the fact remains that when there is a rage, there can be a real good reason.

Going back to the statement, what exactly is a match-fixing? It’s when a person who’s part of a contest abandons “fair” play to “fix” the results of the match in one direction. It’s argued that in general it’s hard to prove match-fixing, but what happened at SCG was nothing short of a well-directed script, where not the players but the officials who’re supposed to make sure that a fair play occurs, have indulged in unfair play.

Make no mistake about it, match-fixing is not just “throwing” away matches. It’s about affecting the outcome in an unfair way. Umpires are human. Humans err. But since when did humans started erring selectively? And mind you, this is NOT an isolated instance. Last tour, at the same venue, the same umpire denied plumb LBW decisions after another to deny India a possible series win. So if errors are supposed to even out in the long term, Bucnor should be statistically making errors that help India. The man has such a horrible record against just one team in the world that statistics would by now make sure that the bias is shifted towards the center. Alas, that requires an assumption: that Bucknor’s errors are innocent.

Lets go back a day. On fourth day, Kumble was on hat-trick. Walked in Andrew Symonds, the biggest beneficiary of umpiring generosity in modern times. Kumble bowled an excellent googly which he failed to read. He was hit on the pads, right in front of the stumps. The ball, as hawkeye predicted (yes, hawkeye predicts, not “shows”, and it can go wrong) would have gone over the stumps (middle to be precise). Kumble appealed. Bucknor declined. Fine, excellent, competent umpiring, right? Hold on, the next moment, Bucknor confronted the Indian captain and said a few words with a hard face. Only Kumble knows what was said, but even an idiot can see it was a reprimand of sorts. Fine, umpires don’t like excessive appealing. And every umpire has a different line of what is excessive.

Day 5, Symonds bowls a ball that Dhoni offers no shot to (this was before he was given out for a similar non-shot). Dhoni is quite forward, the ball is turning squarely, and it’s just impossible to predict for either hawkeye or the umpire where it will go. Bucknor rules not out. Symonds appeals and appeals, and goes and gives Bucknor a harsh look. Bucknor, like a Pomeranian being growled at by a bull-dog, looks away.

Excessive appealing? Warning? This man has, time and again, reprimanded the Indian team for excessive appealing. And what was happening all day long yesterday? I can understand split second decisions going wrong one way 12 times in a row as a however statistically improbable probability, yet I cannot understand a team getting stick and the other getting a look away treatment, consistently by the same man. I, for one, cannot say that that’s a fair play.

And if umpire is indulging in unfair play, it is match-fixing. Because, he has the maximum power – more than any other person on the team, however match-winning – to turn the outcome of the game in favor of one result or the other.

So, I ask again, if this is not match-fixing, what is?

If we want a semblance of fairness about the series, this match has to be “struck off”  from the records. Pointing and Clarke have to be charged with disgracing the spirit of the game by claiming un-clear catches when the last word is fielders. With power comes responsibility, and as fielders trusted with claiming or disowning catches, if they’re not sure, they must say so. And the benefit of doubt MUST go to the batsman. If excessive appealing could hand over suspension to the players, then surely cheating must. Bucknor must be removed from umpiring. He’s the biggest disgrace to the game. Symonds, Pointing must be fined match fee for intimidating the umpires. The third umpire should be fined for giving a blatantly wrong decision, because he, unlike the umpires on the field, is NOT making decisions in a split second. He has no business making blatant errors. They cannot be excused as human (unless we have a very low opinion of the word “human”).

Of course nothing of the sort will happen. Bucknor will go out of the elite panel at most, or just be moved away from India matches. Benson might get a little stick too. The third-umpire will not even be reprimanded. And rest assured, NO Australian player will be reported/reprimanded, at all. And BCCI will make enough show to make sure that the opinion at home seems “good enough”, and stop right there. Sigh, the match-fixing is much much bigger than just this match.

Photographic Meme’ry

Yosso marked me for interesting meme. What’s more, he has started the meme, so this is the first time I’m one of the first links in the meme :). Now with such a history behind it, it’s impossible not to honor it. After all, I’m responsible for a whole 20% of the meme’s subtree.

I’m not a photographer. It looks like I’m the only non-photographer in the first set of tagged people. Parikrama, my favorite photo-blogger, has already put up his entry, and now I’m feeling the pressure — like a novice flirting in the hangout of the stalwarts.

In 2007, I didn’t click too many photographs if you discount the “people” photos. My camera is in bad shape needing servicing (after a monsoon trek where it got thoroughly soaked), and I have hardly traveled this year. So as I went over possible candidates, I realized once again that I don’t have a photographic vision! Finally, I picked up one from my recent trip – Amba Ghats and Guhagar.

Khadi Bridge (Rai-Bhatgaon) This photograph (Click on the image for larger picture) was taken as we were traveling from Pawankhind resort in Amba Ghats to Guhagar, a coastal town of Maharashtra in Ratnagiri district (Inshallah, I’ll write a travelogue soon) . The standard route went through Chiplun, but we decided to take a detour. Samir, a colleague and friend who had taken out his car, knew the area a bit, as his ancestors are from that part (actually, my ancestors are from Ratnagiri, too, but our ancestral place has been long abandoned, and I’ve never ever been there — and I intend to change that soon) . The geography of the area is very interesting. A creek (khaDI in local language) that starts near Jaigad extends deep inland. In fact what we see in the photograph is not a river, but the creek itself. For a long time, the only way to cross the creek was some ferry service or the other (or take a long road around it). Recently though this bridge was built, and a couple more, making the travel much smoother.

In fact that’s the story of India. Since the famous Golden Quadrilateral project started, the focus might be on the national highways, but the more and more I travel the interiors, I realize that the roads are so much better now. In fact S was telling me that the tyre companies in India have seen significant dip in business due to decreased demand in heavy vehicle tyres. The improved road conditions have meant a longer “cycles” of replacement.

To me this bridge is symbol of a few things that have been happening right in India — involving the government, that is. The flip side, of course, is that these quite little towns of yore are now crowded in the holiday seasons. But this bridge also hints at that. The surroundings are pristine, still the civilization has left its mark over the landscape, changing it forever. In that sense, it is a bridge across forever.

Now the most important part: passing on the meme.

When it comes to photography, Atul cannot be spared. Nor Pradz. So that was easy. Two down, three to go. I’ll pick up two bloggers I admire a lot for their consistency and volume and content: arZan and punds. Incidentally, both of them have a great photographic vision too (thus I’ve left the tag tree’s quality uncompromised — except for myself, but then blame yosso for it). And with all these males dominating, it’s time for a dame: and who better than El Enigma, lady with an eye and mind of her own? I’m sure being nice people, they’ll all carry on the good work :).

Blank Noise of repressed silence

I write this stunned not because this was unexpected — for we all know this happens around us, but that it happens at this scale comes as a shock to me. Every story on the blank noise project is shocking and yet completely unexpected once you get past the shock.

I remember first time I was travelling with my wife on a train, second class, and when the night came, she was suddenly uncomfortable. She said she can never sleep on the train comfortably. “What if someone does something”, she said, or something to that effect. I laughed it off. On this train filled with passangers? I almost faught with her saying that Indian trains are very safe (at least in Maharashtra). But then Hemangi Gupta’s Train to Chennai told me what my wife knew all along. That these things happen. What the Blank Noise Project told me is that those stories are rarely told, even to close brothers, to boyfriends, to fathers, or even mothers and sisters. That the victims have to live with an absolutely unearned guilt is the worst part of this disgusting affair.

In Disclosure, Michael Douglas’s character is told by his lady lawyer that “sexual harrasment is not about sex, it’s about power”, or something to that effect. Maybe that explains why these stories are left untold — the feeling of powerlessness against the apathy and even antipathy towards a crime that, going by the testimonials, is far more common than I’d have anytime imagined, even in so called “women friendly” citie like Mumbai. And that is why this blogathon is such an important event in the Indian blogosphere. Newspaper stories shield the victims behind false names and newsmen’s objective narratives. When victims talk, a very subjective narrative can sometimes go long way in impressing upon the fense-sitters and casual offenders the full impact of what they’re doing. It’s a step in the right direction.

A few posts, including one by Rajesh J. Advani, that I thought are must reads. Not that others weren’t.

Unfortunately this is not fiction by Rajesh J Advani
Train to Chennai by Mangs
Romeo and Eve On Blank Noise by charukesi
Streets, stories, strategies by Annie

How the hell did I miss this?

The IIPM saga has everything that could interest me: dubious claims, mainstream media’s silence on issue that could potentially affect thousands of Indians, blog-mutiny, corporate interests, a martyr … And still somehow I missed it.

To cut the long story short: IIPM (The Indian Institute of Planning Management) advertised in major Indian dailies claiming many things many of which were questioned by the teen magazine JAM. Then an Indian blogger Gaurav Sabnis posted a link to the article on his blog and repeated some of the things in this blog.

Things started getting ugly by this time when Gaurav got a legal notice allegedly from IIPM. A blog-mutiny of sort started and Gaurav and Rashmi Bansal (JAM’s editor) started getting lot of abusive messages on their blogs/mail. Meanwhile IIPM started pressuring Gaurav’s employers (IBM) threatening that “their students will burn laptops that they bought in bulk from IBM, in front of the IBM office” (from Gaurav’s blog). Gaurav meanwhile chose to resign sparing his employer the dilemma.

Desi-pundit has a nice blog that gives lot of updates, some promising. All in all it’s a clear-cut case of blog-journalism at least offering a fight and the mainstream media doing what they do best — behaving like the Ostriches that they are (the only IIPM search hit I find on TOI, is this: (last 30 days!) IIPM going global to set up centres!). DNA at least took notice and so did NDTV.

I think this is an ideal opportunity for Indian bloggers to take a stand (and it’s commendable the way they have rose up the the occasion!). IIPM has all the rights to go to courts, but if they want to use pressurizing tactics, it’s media’s responsibility to report it, to cover it. Since the mainstream media is taking the IIPM’s side covertly by not speaking on the issue at all (surely one can’t expect them to do it, for they are the one’s printing those ads that started it all, and earning revenue through them — so no point in expecting them, the tabloids that have sold themselves years back, to act against their own commercial interests) it’s responsibility of the fringe media to make so much hue and cry over it that it all at least looks fishy, and people ask questions.

No one knows how blogs will affect the society in general. This is just one of the many wars that will decide. Can cynicism wait for a while?