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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Why an Indian win in the cricket world cup 2011, would prevent China taking over the ICC in 2027

This is a rapidly typed-out, tongue-in-cheek, meant to be taken lightly, collection of thoughts on the up coming cricket world cup in India. (I am not using the ICC or sponsor’s name share, as they don’t pay me to advertise their name on my blog! For the record I actually don’t know if it is the Pepsi, Sahara, or LG world cup, and I don’t give a damn)

1. Here is my pick for what should be India’s A team, under most conditions:
Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Raina, Dhoni, Pathan, Bhajji, Zaheer, Nehra, Munaf. This team may or may not win, but this plus the bench we have selected is the best possible combination India can play.
Yeah I know there have been sensible & melodramatic noises on Piyush Chawla’s selection, lack of reserve wicket keeper, no place for Sreesanth originally, noises on bias in Ashwin’s selection, some people calling for Dravid’s recall etc. To me, these are marginal calls that could have gone either way, and would not impact the final result. I strongly believe that if the A team above, can’t win you a world cup, Sreesanth / Piyush / Ashwin / Dravid / Saha / Kapil Dev at 50 plus age, cannot. While no cricket team selection is ever controversy or debate free, I have seen far worse to care about this one (Deep Das Gupta, Sameer Dighe, MSK Prasad, Sujith Somadunder, Shiv Sunder Das, David Johnson, Noel David, Dinesh Mongia etc)

2. By the next world cup, I hope we watch footages of Dhoni’s boys lift the cup, so that:

A. Sachin finally gets what he so well deserves, more than any other cricketer playing in the tournament. Also, I am pretty sure that if we don’t win, he is going to play on and on, till one fine day he is playing with his son in the 2023 world cup.
B. People finally stop calling Dhoni just a lucky captain. I am not a Dhoni fan per se, and neither do I believe he is always right, and I do think it’s about time he fired as a batsman. But it is annoying to hear the “Yeah he is just a lucky dude” line. Well if he was just lucky, he would win the bloody toss more often
C. Much as I can admire Kapil and his devils, whose 1983 victory changed the cricket world, it is getting a tad boring to watch the nostalgic Kris Srikanth (MS office spell check cannot tell you how many Ks are there in his name!) / Sandip Patil interviews every 4 years some time around February! Especially Srikanth claiming he just hammered the living day lights out of Marshall and co (well he didn’t actually say that, but he is capable of saying that. But he did actually claim to drop one of the KKKs in his name, if India wins the WC). Just as I believe every Indian cricket supporter should know the story of Kapil’s 175 at Turnbridge wells in 1983, the next generation deserves its heroic success stories from 2011. Okay, I am asking for too much now, just win the cup at least now, will ya?

3. If at all we don’t make it, I am wishing its the Wakka Wakka time for South Africa, because:

A. It is boring to watch Aussies win all WCs.  Also, it is going to be quite difficult for Ricky Ponting to shove Sharad Pawar out of the post world cup presentation dias, compared to the act a few years back.  Sharad Pawar has been taking rugby tackling lessons from Andrew Symonds.
B. Anything to do with how Sri Lankans play cricket is boring and annoying
C. A Pakistan win would be the dream of bookies and crooks involved in the game. Not that other countries are not rampant with bookies, but Pakistan takes the cake for the most creative ways for cricket corruption
D. We will miss the preachy English press and ex-cricketers advice the world on the supremacy of test cricket. If they win an ODI WC, we would have to put up with stories of how Neil Fairbrother was the greatest ODI cricketer ever. Or I have to hear Michael Atherton speak about how his masterful innings of 12 from 60 balls in the 1992 world cup, laid the foundation for the resurgence of ODI cricket in England. Or some such BS.
E. It’s a shame to watch supremely skilled South Africans choke non stop at the final hurdle for 20 years. (If I am South African, I would be hoping badly that they either win, or get hammered in the group stage playing risky and aggressive cricket, instead of them having to die wondering in the knock outs; However if I were to cherry pick 1 team for India to meet in the knock outs, it would have to be South Africa)
F. I don’t see any other marginal contenders, or any underdog stories like 1983. But if you an a kid from Ireland or Afghanistan, please feel to dream on!

4. I hope one day the 13th century feudal lords that run BCCI, provide spectators on the ground with facilities that they deserve for the money, time and energy they bring. I don’t see it happening now, but I hope we can do a half-decent organizing job. The Common wealth games mess, and the Eden Gardens fiasco point otherwise, but I am hoping with my fingers crossed, for a miracle on this! If they screw up again, I would propose that Sharad Pawar, N Srinivasan, Shasank Manohar, and co, should be deported to the wildest section of the Eden Gardens crowd, during a match where it is announced that Saurav Ganguly is making a comeback to international cricket, only to be replayed by Shahrukh Khan at the 11th hour. A punishment option for the less violent readers would be that they be sent as contenders to a dance talent search show, where the judges Sreesanth and Harbhajan slap for participants every hopeless dance move.

5. Some how I miss the WC buzz. May be because I live abroad, or maybe somewhere along the line I grew up with less time for cricket and even less time for the match fixing rampant LOI tournaments, or may be I lost all faith in India winning any tournament final as soon as Ponting and Martyn started annihilating us in 2003. I wish I can conjure up all the cricket watching excitement and craze I had from the 92 to 2003 world cups. This world cup has been designed to be a bore by organizers who haven’t learnt lessons from the last one. Let’s hope the cricketing action on the field brings back cynical and bored fans like me!

6. If you are a teenager, or young kid following the world cup with crazy devotion, here is all I can say: Enjoy and absorb every minute of the WC, whatever the match results. A world cup at home, and when you are young and passionate about the game, is a once in a life time event. 1996 world cup was not the best ever, and India lost out in a shameful manner, but it’s probably the world cup I followed the most and is so strongly entrenched in my mind. And if god forbid, India crashes out, remember it’s not the end of the world! But if we do win, you would have memorable I was there stories to tell your kids one day. My dad still gets dreamy eyed about how he bought a T. V just before the 1983 world cup, and how everyone switched of the T.V for good at the lunch break when it looked like we were all set to loose. Only to hear the radio commentaries tell a different story a few hours later…:)

7. That said, ODI is definitely too boring for my liking, and I do hope it is the last world cup in a format where the matches as well as the tournaments itself are getting long, boring, and tedious. Bring on the test championships and the plethora of international and club T20s I say! An awesome world cup, where the best team wins an exciting final, would be a great way for ODI cricket to ride into the oblivion. So in a nutshell I am hoping ODI cricket can go, and that it can go with a bang, and if possible Sachin / Dhoni and co provide the bang. Vijay Mallya can take care of the post world cup victory fizz 🙂

P.S:
1. Just as there would always be a King Viv Richards for batting, and 100 other pretenders, to me the king of cricket satire is Andy Zaltzman. I do not ever hope to do cricket satire regularly, and I do not claim to be remotely as funny. But this guy’s articles crack me up, and serve as a massive inspiration for this blog post!
2. The blog title, is what is known in cricketing terms, as a googly
3. Harbhajan Singh took offence to P.S 2, and asked me to correct it from googly to doosra

Blogging year 2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2010. That’s about 9 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 15 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 38 posts. There were 165 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 161mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 1st with 201 views. The most popular post that day was Lessons for “V d Tweeple” & “We the people” on forging India ahead .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, indiblogger.in, en.blog.wordpress.com, and expat-blog.com.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Lessons for “V d Tweeple” & “We the people” on forging India ahead November 2010
15 comments

2

A few words about me November 2009
15 comments

3

A good year spent in the land of cheese and chocolates! May 2010
47 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

4

Why is Rahul Dravid so underrated by the Indian media & public? November 2009
15 comments

5

Saurkundi pass trek – A travelogue. November 2009
2 comments

Lessons for “V d Tweeple” & “We the people” on forging India ahead

“Kuch Kar Guzarne ko khoon chala, koon chala” (The blood stirred to do something), is an immensely inspirational song from the Hindi film “Rang De Basanti”. Over the last few weeks, my blood has boiled, rather than stir, at an immense sense of shame over being a mute spectator to India’s cancerous growth of corruption. Corruption across public institutions and political parties in India is no news, its something we have lived with throughout our history. But the last few months have seen scandals of shocking magnitude been exposed with wide-reaching ramifications. Throughout our history, we have relied on a combination of multiple bodies to make sure that the corruption is kept relatively at check, exposed when out of control, and the guilty are brought to justice even if it is late in the day. These include, but are not limited to: the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI), the judiciary, the Comptroller Audit general (CAG), the Lok Ayukta, and principally the mainstream media (MSM) whom we relied on to give us a relatively accurate picture of what is going on. One by one, the integrity of these bodies itself, has been questioned, but today we face a very dark day when the integrity of the MSM is under immense scrutiny, and thus leaving the average Indians gaping at a cloudy prism of information, without knowing what to believe, and what not to believe. It all started with the leak of tapped conversations between Niira Radia, an influential corporate lobbyist, in the public domain, a few months back, and later by Open & Outlook magazines in mid November, 2010. These magazines exposed her conversations with politician, her corporate clients, and significantly, respected Indian journalists who mould public opinion, and throw a light into the intense behind the scenes activity and lobbying to place the right man in the lucrative telecom ministry of India in 2009, to tap financial benefit from having their man. That man itself, is Mr. A. Raja, who had to quit his post as telecom minister in November 2010, when it was established that the auction of 2G Telecom spectrum to operators, has been rigged by him, and has cost India at least 39 Billion USD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._Raja). He is from the DMK party, which is a Tamil regional party, which is an ally of the ruling congress party.

It is indeed a tragic irony, that India which has been a strong driver of the “Information age” that we live in, is in danger of being blinded and misled by the MSM, and collectively failed to deal with the truth on time, in what is known as the “Radia tapes” controversy. The controversy itself would not have been known to a majority of Indians, if the social media / twitterati / netizens did not find the courage, drive and intelligence to fight the organized mass media blackout, that was orchestrated to protect a few influential journalists from public scrutiny.

Today, there are many un answered and worrying questions that I attempt to structure and address them in one essay This would be a detailed, candid, deeply introspective, yet solution seeking blog. I would touch upon multiple aspects of the functioning of our media, corporate, political system and civil society, but cannot claim insider knowledge on many topics, and hence would leave you with probably more questions than answers.

First up, since this is going to be a very political and controversial subject, I need to add a disclaimer here. I write this, and all my blogs as a private citizen, and a common Indian. I do not represent any company, group, party, ideology or internet activism group on my blogs. There are multiple vested stakeholders and average citizens engaging in shrill discussions online with the mass media, and I do not support or oppose any particular view point. Rather, I believe each person is more than capable of speaking for himself, as I am doing now. For a further understanding of my identity to those who do know me, kindly read the section “About me” before you proceed further.

The big questions in our minds:

1. What are undisputed the facts of the matter, as established news publications, and as acknowledged by the public figures involved? What exactly are the accusations? Has any financial undoing been established, directly or indirectly? If, not why are some of us making such a big deal out of it?

2. Who are the broad constituents of MSM; those are relevant to this discussion? Is the state of affairs in regional / vernacular / not so big media houses, the same as MSM, better, or worse? How has the MSM reaction, coverage, and analysis evolved over the course of last few weeks? Are we saying that the entire MSM is rotten, or are there still very respectable voices we listen to? Now that the MSM has finally discussed the journalists’ names on print and T.V, is it necessary to air these tapes to the general public?

3. What are hashtags like #barkhagate and who created these terms? Are they by any means affiliated to any religious, political group, or informal entity such as #internethindus? If not, why is this categorization by the MSM dangerous to the civil society?

4. Why is internet community so shrill in seeking the sacking of specific journalists, and are they behaving like a “lynch mob”? What is the historical context towards the immense hostility shown by thousands of netizens towards the MSM? Why is one particular journalist, Barkha Dutt the face of the debate, when so many more people are involved? Don’t we know that everywhere in the world, journalists are bound to be ideologically biased, and seeking to further interests of corporate that have stake in their media houses? Are we netizens naive, or is there a reason in asking for a utopian level of ethics from our MSM?

5. What lays beyond the tapes, in terms of corporate – political – public institution corrupt practices? Isn’t the corruption and nexus cutting across the political parties Is a smoke screen being created by some to divert public attention to the Radia tapes, and ignore the massive government scandals?

6. Is the 4th estate completely compromised, or is there hope for it to emerge stronger? How can the MSM co-exist with the ever growing clout of the informal internet based social media activists (5th estate) , and is it possible to look at this as mutually beneficial and healthy relationship? What is the tremendous positive opportunity that this historic moment in our country presenting to the average citizen as well as the mainstream media? Should, and how should the so called or informal internet based social media co-exist with the organized media? In the age of wiki leaks, is it possible for traditional and informal media to live in isolation?

What are undisputed the facts of the matter, as established news publications, and as acknowledged by the public figures involved? What exactly are the accusations? Has any financial undoing been established, directly or indirectly? If, not why are some of us making such a big deal out of it?

Here, is a brief summary of what started off as a small story of leaked Radia tapes a few months back, and what spiraled into a fire known as #Barkhagate. The wikipedia page on the Radia tapes controversy captures the summary quite accurately “The Radia tapes controversy relates to the telephonic conversations between Nira Radia, a professional lobbyist and an acquaintance of the (then) Indian telecom minister A. Raja, with senior journalists, politicians, and corporate houses, taped by the Indian Income Tax Department in 2008-09. The tapes led to accusations of misconduct by many of these people. Nira Radia runs a public relations firm named Vaishnavi Communications, whose clients include Ratan Tata’s Tata Group and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries”.

The people whom Radia interacted with in the course of her work, and whose voices have featured on the tapes available in the public domain so far, read like a “Who is who” of Indian public life:

Politicians: Raja, former Telecommunication and IT Minister; Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha MP; N.K. Singh, Rajya Sabha MP

Journalists: Barkha Dutt, Group editor, English news, NDTV; M.K. Venu, senior business journalist ; Prabhu Chawla, editor of India Today magazine; Rajdeep Sardesai; Shankar Aiyar, then with India Today Group; Vir Sanghvi, HT advisory editorial director

Industry Heads: Ratan Tata, Tata Group; Tarun Das, former CII head; (Mention of) Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries; Manoj Modi, Reliance Industries

Others: Ranjan Bhattacharya (foster son-in-law of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee); Suhel Seth, management guru and columnist

It has to be said here, that from what has been leaked to the public domain of the 5,000 odd conversations that are available with the IT department, most conversations are not of journalistic, public value. These are everyday conversations X or Y could have. Some of the conversations show a strong degree of lobbying, while in some it is very mild innuendo, and cannot be taken as any gesture of wrong doing.

These tapes were first published in the Open Magazine, and then the Outlook magazine, in Mid November: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/some-telephone-conversations

http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268069

Outlook and the Wall Street Journal are the few publications of repute that have covered these conversations, view points, in great detail, and have sections of their online portals dedicated to this topic. There is a treasure trove of information on these sites, that I request you to read, and there is no way I can repeat them here. I salute the editors of these publications along with my social media friends, for contributing facts and views to this debate.

None of the people named in the tapes, originally disputed the conversations were authentic, or the voice was not theirs. As the public outrage grew, some of the journalists maintained that though the voices were indeed theirs, selective parts of the conversations were strong together to present a not so faithful account.

Here are examples of some of the late clarifications, after intense to very valuable critical view points for more than a week, a sufficient time to prepare a strong defense:

http://www.ndtv.com/page/?type=barkha-statement

http://www.virsanghvi.com/CounterPoint-ArticleDetail.aspx?ID=582

http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268162

The Congress party initially claimed these tapes cannot be verified, in a shocking statement of denial, and hasn’t followed that up with a more updated version of the truth, the last time I checked. The BJP made mild noises in the parliament on the tapes, but the fact that it hasn’t made as much noise as you would expect from the leading opposition parties, is probably a function of its house not being in order on corruption scandals and the anxiety that the other tapes, may feature potentially embarrassing conversations for its parties. More worryingly, it may not want to antagonize its already poor relations with the MSM. The BJP did however make a demand that the JPC probe into the 2G scam should feature the Radia tapes. We may probably never know the truth on why the BJP is so quiet on this and failing tactically and morally as an opposition.

Ratan Tata, has moved the courts to block the tapes from being accessible to the public, and gave an interview to Shekhar Gupta of Indian expressing discussing how potentially this was a ploy to divert attention from the bigger 2G scam: http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/walk-the-talk-with-ratan-tata/178312by

NONE of the conversations I have heard so far prove any direct financial mal practice or a quid pro quo, material wise. But most of the conversations reveal a broad agenda of Ms Radia to ensure that her clients benefited by having the right ministers in the right places, by having the journalists echo her clients’ view point in their columns or stories, and by using the journalists as go-betweeners or conduits between her corporate interests and the political party in power, the congress.

The broad issues that the critics of the journalists and MSM have pointed out, can be summarized as follows:

A. The journalists, have long been suspected of a strong left-liberal, pro congress bias, which by itself is perfectly fine, but something they have denied all along. These conversations indicate how close the journalists are to the ruling congress. Or at least, how close they claim to be.

B. As a journalist who was privy to an in depth understanding of how corporate were trying to lobby for ministries, favoring terms, this should have been the biggest journalistic story of their lives. Yet, none of them have published these stories, or hinted to the general public of the behind the scenes affairs. Thus even if they did absolutely nothing wrong, they failed massively in their duties as journalists of repute.

C. They promised acts that went way beyond their bounds as journalists. Thus, they misused the power of access that their employer gave them, for their personal agenda.

D. Once the tapes were leaked, by refusing to discuss them in their news channels, by refusing to air them on their channels or publish the transcripts on their papers, and by denying the critical public a credible explanation, until absolutely forced to by the social media activism, they have made what was a fleeting suspicion of wrongdoing, look like an attempt to bury the truth. There is absolutely no way to explain this attempted full black out, which is presently an attempt to massage the discussion in their favor

Who are the broad constituents of MSM relevant to this discussion? Is the state of affairs in regional / vernacular / not so big media houses, the same as MSM, better, or worse? How has the MSM reaction, coverage, and analysis evolved over the course of last few weeks? Are we saying that the entire MSM is rotten, or are there still very respectable voices we listen to? Now that the MSM has finally discussed the journalists’ names on print and T.V, is it necessary to air these tapes to the general public?

For the sake of discussion, I would refer to the large English newspapers, T.V channels, and their regional affiliates as the MSM. It is not possible for me to discuss the role of every regional news channel or newspaper, and hence the discussion would focus purely on the response, reactions of the MSM.

At the same time, I have to convey my inference from the few public debates I have heard on this debate, which the mess in regional and small news channels / papers is far worse, and there is a worrying lack of strong media guidelines being created, let alone enforced. The mess in Indian media, was captured wonderfully in the movie that satirized Indian media “Peepli Live”, and is India’s official entry to this years Oscars as the foreign film.

Outlook was one of the few credible MSM groups that ran the story with detailed follow-ups. Subsequently the only coverage it received (in rough chronological order) was from Washington post, Wall Street Journal, Deccan Herald, Express Buzz, The Hindu, Times Now, and CNN-IBN.

This is not to say that all of the Indian media is dumb and un ethical. Across the political spectrum of viewpoints, we still have active journalists like P. Sainath of the Hindu just to take an example, who remain loyal to their profession’s soul and write about topics we tend to ignore in a lucid, intelligent way. But, to the vast majority of the public, the NDTVs, CNN IBNS, Times Nows, Indian Expresses, Times of India, and Hindustan Times represent the English MSM

Last Friday, CNN-IBN had a panel show conducted by Karan Thapar, that was the first time that any news channel I follow, referred to Barkha, Vir, Venu, and Chawla’s names on air.

Sagarika Ghose of IBN, acknowledged the social media pressure that made her news channel take this up more seriously that it initially did on twitter, when she tweeted “OK twitterati please can you stop bombarding me with barkhagate. YES it’s a wake up call, YES we are all looking inward, YES we will all act!”

So, if by the time you read this blog, you have already heard a debate on this topic in public, and wonder why the hell I am making such a noise, please remember that if not for people like us, you wouldn’t have heard this story. I personally tweeted for weeks till my fingers ached, heard stories of people who tweeted and blogged taking leaves form work, and one impressive story of someone who was injured and immobile, and decided this was the most productive and useful thing he could do!

Some of the twitter conversations war filled with hate and rage, and some of the conversations revealed the simple minds of many Indians, but I stood along side all these people in pushing the media to the brink. The voices were shrill and perhaps the battle cries lost a lot of objectivity, but this had to be done, to ensure the media opens up and speaks about their holy cow. I have no sense of pride or shame about my actions. I felt I did what I had to do.

What are hashtags like #barkhagate and who created these terms?  Are they by any means affiliated to any religious, political group, or informal entity such as #internethindus? If not, why is this categorization by the MSM dangerous to the civil society?

#Barkhagate was the first hashtag created on Twitter to open up a social media debate on this topic. A Facebook group, and a blog with the same name was created, that went viral with thousands of people signing up, posting links / discussion, commenting on the same. I cannot say exactly who created #barkhagate (though I have a guess, but don’t want to reveal the person’s name as the MSM has in the past went after normal people to strike fear in the public). But as one of the thousands of people who tweeted day in and day out on the #barkhagate tag, I can only say we are all in it together.

Many of the people who were very critical of Barkha Dutt for multiple reasons (some I would elaborate on in the next section), felt that this was a catchy tag, and it spread rapidly. I am not for or against using that tag, and the strong suggestion that Barkha Dutt was the single person involved in a scandal.

Last week, after the #barkhagte tag trended on top for over a week, the twitter algorithm removed it from the top trending topics. Of the few active tweeters at that particular time there was a debate on whether to continue tagging #barkhagate, or create a replacement. I was of the opinion that a replacement tag would be a good idea and suggested #mediamafia for the following reasons: 1. It removes the suggestion of individual slander, and helps us remember that a larger section of the media is involved in the controversy either by featuring on the tapes, or by colluding with those on the tapes in the black out, 2. From a historical understanding of how I perceive the Indian media, I have no doubts that at times it behaves like a mafia, and is selective on the right to free speech, 3. In case of a proactive move by Barkha Dutt / NDTV to remove the tags associated with her name from Twitter, a generic tag name would not suffer, and the public debate would continue.

Since I floated the idea, the tag has been trending in top 5 for almost another week now, making the discussion of Radia tapes with multiple pseudonyms, the biggest story of the Indian Twitterati. And yet, this was blacked out by the MSM that runs 1 hour stories on 2 minute celebrity tweets, for far too long.

On all of these topics, the greatest positive for me was the coming together of a diverse set of Indians, who shared no common religious, political, ethnic, linguistic common ground. All of us were united in the media scrutiny, but as in a true democratic medium like twitter, deeply divided on our ideologies. I am emphasizing on this, as I was pained to discover the counter strategy by the MSM, and vested interests to paint all of us as a lynch mob of bigoted, right wing Hindus, funded by the Sangh Parivar. That is about the stupidest, most idiotic, and the most irresponsible statement I have ever heard on this subject.

The same applies to the thousands of Christians, Muslim, brothers and sisters who participated in these debates with me. Using divisive tools such as religion has been the way the British colonialists, and political parties have exploited us all along. Now the MSM has joined this deeply polarized, brazen escape route to deflect valid criticism. In the cloud of politically / ideologically / religiously motivated and abusive tweets by some, many of our sensible moderate voices, and highly relevant questions to the media, were almost lost.

Whatever action you may or may not take on the Radia Tapes, I request the MSM not to characterize everyone who questions you as a vested interest or a fringe elements / nuisance in the society. By doing so, you are not achieving any credibility for yourself in the long run, you are deepening the polarization in our society that many of us fight so hard to reduce, and you also reduce any potential chances of mutual trust between the average Indian and your fraternity. I cannot speak for all netizens, as the internet is a true democracy in action in terms of its sensible and ugly voices mingling together. I cannot speak for all, but anyone who searches these hashtags would know that amongst the many right wing Hindus (or #internerthindus as Sagarika Ghose of IBN categorized them) un-necesarily critisicising Barkha’s pro Kashmiri Muslim bias in this debate, there were so many thousands sensible voices of Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike asking very profound intelligent questions to the media

Why is internet community so shrill in seeking the sacking of specific journalists, and are they behaving like a “lynch mob”? What is the historical context towards the immense hostility shown by thousands of netizens towards the MSM?  Why is one particular journalist, Barkha Dutt the face of the debate, when so many more people are involved? Don’t we know that everywhere in the world, journalists are bound to be ideologically biased, and seeking to further interests of corporate that have stake in their media houses? Are we netizens naive, or is there a reason in asking for a utopian level of ethics from our MSM?

Most Indians hate or love Barkha Dutt, and there are very few people I know who were neutral to her. I had a lot of respect for her during the Kargil war coverage, where she made her name and earned her celebrity status. But I do remember thinking, as a naive college kid, if it is a security risk having live T.V coverage when the war was actually happening. I didn’t think much about it at that time, but subsequently understand that her war coverage has been critically analyzed by many public figures including those in the armed forces. I am not taking ay sides here, but would leave her Kargil war coverage as one of the many inflection points when people started getting really upset with her.

Subsequently her championing of many causes such as empathy to Kashmiri separatism, celebrity murder cases such as Jessica Lal (while not spending much air time on not so famous people who were murdered or raped brutally), the Tsunami coverage, and the coverage of the Godhra riots in 2002, left most people polarized. To some, she represented a journalist who told the human suffering angle in every story and that endeared them. To others, who had strong views on these subjects, they saw her as shrill, loud, and in constant belief that her view point was the only opinion that mattered (I personally think her viewpoint on quite a many things are valid, but that doesn’t matter when you don’t let the panel or audience talk when they disagree with you)

But to most, the most shocking incident came during the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Hers was not the only coverage that was shameful, but her T.V channel cannot deny that by revealing sensitive information, and live coverage of a counter terror strategy, they could have POTENTIALLY, UNWITTINGLY helped the terrorists in their mission.

While I was shell shocked, the biggest blow was to come later. A blogger called Chaitanya Kunte wrote a very critical blog after the Mumbai attacks against the T.V coverage of NDTV / Barkha Dutt. Mr. Kunte is a common man like you and me, and was obviously shell shocked and that reflected in the choice of his words, and some bias in his arguments. He is no journalist, and wrote a piece that most bloggers would consider good enough to publish. NDTV acted in a brazen manner, swooped down on him, forced him to remove the blog and issue an apology instead. Kindly Google his name, and check if you can see the original blog. Chances are you won’t, but nevertheless every Indian ought to know his name.

He is the face of the common man, who dares to question a bid media house, and a celebrity journalist, and got punished in the end. This was the symbol of the MSM’s bullying ugly face, and any one who challenges me why we use names like media mafia, would be urged to study this example. A mafia don would have been proud of such an attack on an individual who chooses to question his intelligence or authority. In my mind, he is the icon of our fight for a media soul searching drive.

Barkha has constantly questioned why people have attacked her more than anyone else. Well if she read this blog, she would know, but perhaps so sue me as well? I don’t know and I don’t care if she does. Its about time we stopped making heroes of these average journalists who sensationalize everything for TRPs, violate un-written yet well understood journalistic code of conduct, lose the plot from being a person who covers the story to being the story, wear their political biases so blatantly on their sleeves without ever acknowledging them and mislead the public, bully anyone who dares question them, and most importantly, do not have an ability to “JUST SAY SORRY”.

To me she is has fallen as a public figure, political commentator, and TV celebrity anchor even if no quid pro quo can be established in this episode. It’s for NDTV to decide what to do with her, and they can take the moral high ground, or believe that people can always “watch another channel if they don’t like her”, or that people will forget this fuss in a few months time. Trust me, we will stop watching your news channel, but not forget this episode for a long time to come!

As for Vir Sanghvi, you just need to listen to the tapes, and match it with everything you have read or heard from him. The tapes reveal the extent to which Vir is politically close to power centers, and the extent to which he can distort the truth so as to present his friend’s viewpoints. There is enough evidence to suggest that one his popular counterpoint columns., matches very closely what Radia dictated him to write. It is difficult for me to write any more on his actions without losing my cool, so would stop here. But, please do listen to the tapes featuring him.

As far as media ethics itself is concerned, none of us are living in a fairy tale land where all news is true. We do acknowledge that media houses are run by cooperates, and media interacts on a daily basis with the good and bad people, and there is no utopian world.

But here is why, in spite of working in a corporate myself and acknowledging the pressure the media houses may face, I still seek a soul searching amongst the fraternity:

A. The Indian media, probably has the most preachy, “holier than thou”, and wise tone when attacking political, or advising the public, or jumping to conclusions about political / public leaders in a jiffy. The choice I am asking you to make is to tone down the preachiness, or be subject to the debate yourself. You can’t have the cake and eat it too!

B. Most Americans or Europeans are smart enough to understand the political and corporate connection between each media house. Most Indians do not understand these subtleties. Most Republican voters would watch Fox News, and Democratic left-liberals would watch MSNBC, and it’s accepted as part of the game. Apart from Pioneer, and Outlook, none of the media houses I know of accept their political ideology and are categorical about it. In, short you can quote honestly that you are pro congress before you play 200 propaganda stories of Rahul Gandhi in a poor man’s house, or taking a train, or you maintain you are neutral and keep the news un biased. You are well within your right to be pro party, as long as you can explain your stance in a well informed and intelligent manner. I am not a left winger, but I admire Vinod Mehta of Outlook for always being categorical about his ideological bias. If you for example, love Rahul Gandhi so much or hate Narendra Modi , you owe the country a credible explanation in terms of books, documentary shows, etc that describe why. Today I may not vote for Rahul, but if I watch a T.V show that presents a critical study of his achievements, I may be inclined to. (I am just kidding, I know he has done nothing worthwhile so far, but still if he is the media darling., I’d like to know why)

C. You cannot have different rules for different people. In your TRP wars you play tapes of sex scandals involving god men, exposes of corrupt politicians, hate speeches, and seditious speeches again and again, but you have collectively blacked out airing the Radia Tapes. You can collectively brainstorm on how to be more responsible as a MSM in airing sensitive tapes, or you can say we will air all tapes immediately without verification. You need to have one consistent rule book in your game

What lays beyond the tapes, in terms of corporate – political – public institution corrupt practices? Isn’t the corruption and nexus cutting across the political parties? Is a smoke screen being created by some to divert public attention to the Radia tapes, and ignore the massive government scandals?

Most tweeters, bloggers would probably just seek Barkha or Vir’s resignation, and forget the rest of the people involved. That doesn’t apply to people like me, for in spite of whatever strong views I may have on these journalists, I know that they are very small fish in a large ocean of sharks and killer whales.

Every public institution in the country is under the scanner, and as Ratan Tata mentioned, it is quite possible that the tapes were leaked by vested interests in power to deflect the attention from the corruption scandals. I have tremendous respect for Ratan Tata to understand that he was seeking a level playing field in the political decisions of the telecom spectrum allocation, but by not allowing the common man to hear all the tapes and make up their minds, he is not helping us clear the air. Rather, the air has started becoming murkier.

There is long way to go before, India can achieve social an economic development that is good enough for it to be classified as a developed nation, leave alone superpower status. As discussed in my previous blogs on challenges facing India, having an ethical, intelligent, modern, and pro active media that gets its house in order is the critical first step in our long and painful journey to progress.

The media is the prism through which we view the society, nation, and the world, and today the prism is extremely distorted. Fixing the prism may not fix all the problems, and neither would breaking it altogether. But we need to collaborate in ensuring the media comes out of this dark episode in a healthier shape.

Is the 4th estate completely compromised, or is there hope for it to emerge stronger? How can the MSM co-exist with the ever growing clout of the informal internet based social media activists (5th estate) , and is it possible to look at this as mutually beneficial and healthy relationship? What is the tremendous positive opportunity that this historic moment in our country presenting to the average citizen as well as the mainstream media? Should, and how should the so called or informal internet based social media co-exist with the organized media? In the age of wiki leaks, is it possible for traditional and informal media to live in isolation?

Ayushmedh, a friend of mine, wrote a blog a while back wondering of the traditional MSM as we know would and shouuld be replaced by a 5th estate of informal netizens discussing news: http://jindagi-ek-pathshala.blogspot.com/2009/03/fifth-estate.html

He is not the first one with the idea, and neither would he be the last. We live in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Wiki leaks, Google, Blogs, YouTube etc, where it is possible to make news reach people in no time. It’s called “going viral” and more often than not it happens to bad news or ugly sensationalistic trash. But every now and then, such as the Mumbai Terror attacks, the IPL scandal, and now the Radia Tapes controversy, the 5th estate has shown its tremendous positive value to the society

But I live in no illusions of self grandeur, dreaming that I would run an internet based news agency one day that makes NDTV feel like an extinct dinosaur. I know that when the dust settles on this all of us would get back to our busy careers and personal live.  On the contrary, I strongly believe its time for both sides to acknowledge how they can compliment each other and make sure that in the Information era, credible, intelligent, ethical, and quick dissemination of information prevails.

Here are some rough thoughts, on how this should pan out in the long run:

A. Educate everyone you know to use traditional and social media pro actively. When a simpleton drinking tea and reading news in rural Tamilnadu, develops the intelligence to verify what he read in his Dina Thanthi news paper, by checking it on the latest internet connection he got at his home, you have forced the traditional media to improve its standards

B. The internet empowered generation can serve as a powerful conscience keeper, by constantly forcing the media to develop better standards and accuracy

C. The social media guys who do not get to interact with the news makers, can benefit from hearing what journalists who have that power access, say on social media forums

D. The fact that we literally FORCED CNN-IBN to have a panel discussion on this topic, is a positive sign for me that while the MSM can be very selective in its hearing, it is not fully deaf. Every intelligent person with international exposure, or curiosity to look beyond traditional media, that I know of, would vouch for you that the quality of shows, documentaries, panel discussions, and topics on channels like BBC, Discovery, National Geographic / History channel, even Al Jazeera, is far better than most Indian channels. I would personally blog about topics I would love to see discussed on Indian T.V, and when this sort of feedback is slowly but surely addressed, you have a winning formula

E. Public figures, especially politicians should be aware that if they were living in the west, they cannot get away from being silent on so many topics of national interest. I would love to see a panel show debate on topics like the NREGA, the Gujarat / Bihar development story (are these true, or are these illusions?), check back on previous corruption scams, India’s defense strategy, India’s approach to counter Maoism threat and ensure development in the tribal areas. Imagine if you could get Arundhati Roy and Chidambaram to spar at each other on the Maoism topic. Too many of our leaders and ministers get away from not airing publicly what their approach to any topic is, and I think that’s because they do not have any approach at all in the first place. The modern 4th / 5th estate can help us separate the wheat from the chaff and tell us who the credible leaders are across party lines. In fact one of the tweets, I shared, ran something like this” I dream 4 D day, when I can watch a pre election T.V debate b/w Mayawati, Sonia, Modi, Nitish moderated by Karan Thapar”

F. How many books have you read by our MSM celebrities? How many of them are capable of writing one on the topics they love to shout loudly about? How many of them have the ability to present a policy paper on engaging with China? How many people can tell you what REALLY happened during J.P Narayan’s socialistic movement, without living in the 1970s themselves? The answer is quite a few, but none that you and I may have heard of. There are like I said, many credible journalists, and perhaps it is time the MSM brought them to the fore, and the average social media geek read them first before jumping into a lets bomb China first discussion on Twitter

Like I mentioned earlier, this blog would perhaps have more questions than answers. But the very fact that many common men like me have these questions, and would eventually find an answer, leaves me with hope. In fact, I can state without doubt this rather dark blot in our history as a free speaking democracy, has actually given us a tremendous opportunity; It has given us a historic chance to blend the voice of the different India, and evolve a society that can discuss freely, critically yet non abusively about topics we had no clue about earlier; It has also given us the opportunity to wake up the middle class from its long slumber of indifference to the society, and placed in their hands, a chance to make up for days when we slept; It has given a chance for Hindus and Muslims to walk side by side in asking for more from its public figures; It ha s given a chance for the credible journalists to emerge even stronger in public view, while the tainted ones can either acknowledge their mistakes and improve, or live in denial and fade away; It has given a chance for the day when a villager in U.P or Rajasthan, would vote for a particular party or leader based on a well informed decision, and not because party X paid channel Y to make a hero out of leader Z.

This is not a dream, but a statement of hope. I pledge to make this hope come true for my future generation, would you care to join me?

Cheers!

Vasu

What are India’s biggest challenges in our quest to become a vibrant, rich, progressive, and powerful nation?

There have been multiple inspirations to study in detail, where India stands in the world, and which direction it should head in. At some level you could say, it is an enduring fascination throughout my life. Self –assessment, benchmarking with peers, and identification of improvement areas is something I am obsessed with doing for myself. I extend that to other things I am passionate about, from the silly to the critical. As a natural extension to my relentless quest for personal and social improvement and change for the better, India’s growth and challenges is a perennial topic of interest to me

In fact, even on this blog, I have made multiple straw man lists, of issues that we face, and must improve on, individually, and collectively as a society. But like indicated in my previous blog, I have decided to structure, consolidate, and synthesize in a far more detailed way, and hence this attempt.

But perhaps the biggest inspiration, as well as catalyst to structure these thoughts, was Ramachandra Guha, an author whom I tremendously admire, though not always accepting his views (For that matter, I very rarely agree with anyone without a hard debate, so I guess for most parts, Guha convinces me as well as any one can). In addition to having reading most of his columns, and his book “India after Gandhi”, I stumbled upon his lecture in Canada, here on

YouTube:

The topic is “10 reasons why India cannot, and must not become a superpower”
If you are left-wing, or anyone looking for an excuse to bash India, here is a clarification: This is not India bashing, but a pragmatic analysis of India’s significant challenges, some well-known, and some not so well-known
If you are ultra patriotic / jingoistic / right-wing, here is another clarification: The authors of this blog, as well as Guha, are declared patriots, and love our country. But sometimes, it makes sense to be realistic in assessment of our flaws, so we can truly succeed. I love India tremendously, but like Guha, I am not blind to our gaping weaknesses.

So, I urge anyone reading this blog without vested interests, and anyone who is understanding India well, to spend good time listening to, and studying this speech. It’s an hour well spent, and would definitely lead you a bit more cognizant of understanding India.

Here is the list of 10 topics, which Guha broadly categorizes as significant challenges India faces:
1. Left wing extremism / Maoism violence in tribal belt
2. Right wing religious fundamentalism, that is presently under control, but may raise its head any time
3. Dynastic politics
4. Failure / corruption of public institutions
5. Growing gap between the rich and the poor
6. Degradation of natural / environment / resources
7. Media apathy
8. Political fragmentation and the consequent incoherence in policy
9. Un reconciled borderlands
10. Unstable neighborhoods

But why does he say “India should not” aspire to be a super power. I leave it to his articulation of the same, and it’s a brilliant analogy. It’s not something I agree 100% with, because as an individual, I am full of audacity, hope, and optimism. But I do, agree to a large extent that in the minds people in the world, “super power” has multiple negative connotations. I am personally of the view, that the world should NOT HAVE any super powers at all, rather a broad mix of strong countries with common values that manage the world and I would definitely like to see Indian in that club.

I broadly agree with Guha’s list, though my attempt is to structure it differently, and add a few points of my own. For example, I think we have all found it easy to use phrases like “India & Bharat”, or Rahul Gandhi’s naive, lame attempt of “There are two Indias,…”. It is too simplistic to use left-wing extremism / Maoism in tribal areas, and classify it as a rich India / vs. poor India debate. We are an extremely fragmented and diverse country, and that’s the beauty of the Indian experiment, which to me is still a dream. Hence, my list and future blogs would refer to the multitudes of India’s that live within one geographical mass that is the Indian sub-continent.

Before I go into my list, I would urge you to read about me, in order to make a valid comment. In most societies, it is possible to dissociate the identity of the author from his / her view, because my understanding of India and experience with social media and blogging suggests that it is better to have an upfront disclaimer of who I am

Here is how I would classify, India’s biggest challenges from becoming a superpower. Kindly note: 1. The list is not in any specific order of importance, 2. For each of the topics in the list, I would like to dedicate my time to develop my understanding significantly, so as to assess what potential solutions are the most pragmatic. As and when I have the level of knowledge of the topic I am confident about, I would dedicate a detailed blog to that and link it here, and 3. I have not included multiple challenges, where I have felt that the society, and polity is well aware and has made progress on addressing them:

1. The mess with our main stream media, and the far-reaching consequences :

Let me state this in categorical terms here: India’s main stream media is collectively un ethical, too light on substance, does not have the ability to look at itself critically and improve, is full of shallow journalists who sensationalize news in their attempt to become celebrities, panders easily to those with power and money and is far short of world standards when it comes to credibility and substance. All this and more I would be covering in very great detail, in my next blog, and this topic has risen to #1 in my priority list, based on the ongoing revelations of the 2G Telecom scam, Radia tapes leak, and the issue referred to as “Barkhagate”. The mess goes far beyond 1 or 2 people under great scrutiny now, yet there is a need to be empathetic to our mainstream media on the unique challenges their profession faces in India. As a society, we need to take this problem fare more seriously than we do, as we are completely unaware of how it affects decisions in life , that range from the trivial to the strategic: Be it investing in the market, or deciding which food to eat, or which party / leader to elect, our media has collectively clouded our judgment, and this has to be rectified soon.

2. Socio political challenges, mapped with our ethnic identities:

a. Why are we such suckers for a monarchy / dictatorship?
Our very deeply ingrained respect for authority, stemming from our idol worship / Bhakti culture, has had many positive effects in shaping modern India, but is it good in the long run? In present context, we have become a country of hero-worship, making and destroying celebrity heroes out of undeserving people. To me, we are perennially a few weeks away from becoming a fully functional dictatorship, which Indira Gandhi came very close to achieving, and which Guha only mildly refers to as Dynastic politics. While the Gandhi family, lives in a perennial dream of ruling the country forever as kings & queens, the last few decades have seen the cancerous spread of hero-worship to other political parties, corporate, god men / swamis, and even media personalities

b. Sustainability of our “confused democracy”:
For any political analyst, India is a rich country to study with its diverse range of political ideologies and parties. Yet, I am of the strong opinion that each of the political spectrums in our country has a sham of a party representing it
Left-liberal / Centrist: I am clubbing the Congress, the multiple Communist / Socialistic parties in this. Collectively they are a massive failure on the ground in the last 60 years, yet have the right media, muscle, and money power to portray otherwise. Nehruvian policies of international neutrality, socialism, were valid at that time, and while some in the Congress have moved on (driven by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is the best congress leader post Nehru), the left is still stuck in the 19th century. The biggest areas of Maoist / Naxalite problems are regions dominated by left-wing politics for 6 decades; Congress has won votes in the name of the poor, without doing any up liftment for the poor masses; and the Congress likes to play a good cop / bad cop game with us: If any populist scheme / governance mechanism is implemented successful it is due to the benevolence of the Gandhi family, if there is any failure, it is indirectly passed onto the Prime Minister, and the royal family is protected at any cost. The Congress also practices a Centrism of no – action: we will wait, wait, and wait forever and not take a stance lest it may affect our votes from a particular group, and finally we will make a small wound into a cancerous growth.
Right-wing: BJP is a party which has some ideological view points I agree with (national security, uniform civil law, a certain amount of pride and patriotism for the country, free market based economy, and meritocracy). And the last time I voted, I voted for Vajpayee, who was right-of center, and able to control the far right voices in the Sangh Parivar. Like it or not, the RSS is a non constitutional authority just like the Gandhi dynasty when not holding power, or Russians / Chinese dictating Communist in India (Ironically I have always light-heartedly maintained to my RSS friends, that if you split from BJP and have your extreme right-wing party, I would not mind that compared to sitting in Nagpur and bullying the BJP leadership in Delhi). BJP’s biggest emerging leader is Modi, and post Godhra he has constantly referred only to Gujarat’s development and infrastructure in his speeches. Has he shed the hard-line Hindutva agenda, or is this an illusion? If Modi never raises the communal issues, and Muslims vote Modi and BJP in Gujarat, Bihar, why does the media keep raising it – who is right, and who is wrong, or is there a grey area? What are the ideological views and governance experiences of the others in the BJP? There are many un answered questions to me, and the sooner these are addressed, and the sooner the internal leadership tussle in the right wingers is settled one way or another, the better it is for India., The next few years in Indian politics are absolutely crucial to our democracy, as we wait and watch if the right BJP would turn up. An extreme right-wing / tea party kind of party would be extremely divisive and polarizing, while a right of center, pro development party would be strongly welcomed to most in the public, yet under constant scrutiny of the media that is by and large strongly biased to the left liberals. If the right BJP does emerge, will they engage pro actively with the masses, minorities, and media to remove their present political untouchables / pariah status?

The parties that focus on specific ethnic / caste / linguistics identity, at best serve a short-term purpose of achieving social parity, but in the long run, unless they can reach out beyond their specific identity, they would not do any good for India. Without an exception, ALL political parties in India have a confused understanding of secularism, and purely use the word for getting votes.

Thus, a few parties that represent each valid aspect of the spectrum, is important for any democracy to thrive. Whether in power, or in the opposition, the BJP and Congress have a lot of internal cleansing to do, and do it quickly while the country loses its patience with its major parties.

The other key to making our present confused democracy into a thriving democracy, rather than a banana republic, lies with the citizens. Why is the urban middle class that is so quick to blog, tweet, and gossip about national politics, reluctant to take part actively in public protests, democratic, movements, or vote? When was the last time you discussed any political issue when hanging out with friends, and did not get a gentle suggestion to change the topic? How many more “Rang De Basanti” or “Swades”, do you need to watch before you stop criticizing the system, and did your bit to improve any one small part of the system?

3. Lack of concrete state, and efforts to reduce the polarization in our cultural / religious / ethnic identities
Here, I seek to rebut the simplistic, “two India’s” theory. Actually, we are a motley crew of extreme diversity. While “Unity in diversity” is a fantastic theme, it is a glorified dream, which we have somehow remarkably managed to sustain for 6 decades. The sharp differences go beyond Rich Vs. Poor: Marathis Vs Non Marathis in Mumbai, Tamil Vs. Hindi in Chennai, Economically progressive Southern & Western states vs. poor BIMARU states, Aryan Vs. Dravidian in the south, upper caste vs. lower caste vs. dalits vs tribals, the India that builds 50 storey buildings in Mumbai Vs. the India that is shockingly exploited in Chattisgarh, Kashmiri Pandits Vs. Kashmiri separatists, conservative and ultra religious vs. liberal and agnostic, urban vs. rural, patricidal men vs. increasingly empowered women, urban women who run companies vs. rural women married at 5 and serve as slaves to their families, and most critically Hindu Vs Muslim across India.

At any given points of time, there are massive separatist discussions and activism that happens, and we shy away from engaging with those on the other side of the fence. There are some issues we are aware of, and have solved in the past, but many of us live in total bliss, un aware that it could all fall apart quite quickly. While I am proud of this diversity, of late I am surprised that in this information age, our differences are becoming highly polarized, rather than blurring out and co-existing peacefully.

There are no easy answers, or short-term solutions, and I am yet to hear 1 Indian leader that can articulate a vision to bridge the multiple Indias. But at the personal level, a lot of us can open out and reach out to those people who have Indian passports, but look, talk, eat, and behave very differently from us. Since this is a complicated theme, I would need a dedicated blog that focuses on specific topics

4. Development & economy
Here are the broad problems that I see with the long-term sustainability of our economic progress:
A. Highly service and export oriented, without having enough focus on investing in bleeding edge technology
B. If the big global economies weren’t in recession, and the time right for exports, would Indian have seen such growth in the last few years? I am no economist, so i would take an expert who would challenge me, but if the answer is no, what happens to us when the other countries pick up steam
C. What is the next big economic idea to come out of India, that has not been adopted elsewhere already?
D. Is the “Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” being exploited by the rich to become richer, or used judiciously to foster inclusive growth?
E. Whether you buy a cell phone, pizza, or SUV, is the service quality or sales skills anywhere on par with international standards? (On a lighter but related note, my dad bought a Volkswagen recently in India, and was shocked at the service. He felt a roadside hawker selling Bhel Puri, would have done a better customer relations job, and that if not for the big brand and the actual car being good, none of these people would be in business!)
F. What are our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of progress: To many people, it is the number of Indians that feature in Forbes lists, and that’s total BS. Do we pro actively measure ourselves on measures that range from rural development, success of our schemes such as NREGA, infant mortality rates, health and hygiene numbers, number of graduates in India, etc? A lot of people could find this bit a little harshly critical, because in reality there are millions of intelligent people in the country that work at the grass-roots, but I still state it here, because when you sit in your 3 room central Mumbai house, and open your news paper, or switch on your T.V, or invite your business partner for lunch, I bet these topics don’t feature.
G. How many average Indians understand basics of money management, cash flow, investment & returns?

5. Our volatile neighborhood
On this topic, I am 100% in sync with Guha, so there is no need to repeat. Except to add that, in spite of having the misfortune of having Pakistan as our neighbors, we have to pro actively engage with our neighbors, while at the same time strengthening our security and military capabilities. If India shines spectacularly, while the rest of the sub continent is in shambles, it is not a recipe for long-term good.

Cheers!
Vasu

The winter writing season begins…

A big hello to regular readers and those who stumbled on this blog by chance!
Many thanks to all of you who have read, commented, and shared your views on my blog all these days. And some old faithful who checked in from time to time, noticed I haven’t written anything at all for a long time, and dropped a kind note to check if I am doing fine. I have had a challenging, yet fruitful year and doing rather fine!

Here is why I haven’t written as often as before, and why I woke up from the slumber to start blogging again now:

To start with, it was a very demanding and significant phase of my career and life in Switzerland, and I was fully occupied on excelling at that! Also, I had this strange feeling mid 2010, that in 6 months or so I am going to hit 30. That’s right, I am hanging on to my last days as a 20 something, and I was mentally making too much of a fuss of this 20s to 30s jump. I did an informal audit on the targets I set myself when I moved from 19 to 20, and figured out I did pretty well, but there were some very important personal things to finish. There was very mind space for serious writing

Perhaps the more important reason was the success of my last blog entry on my life in Switzerland. So, many of you had written such appreciative comments, that it got me thinking very hard about my communication style. I figured out that I have the ability to look at every topic / subject in great detail, and in many layers, but I was capable of making a mess while trying to explain that. And I also have this strong desire somewhere to be understood in the correct way, even if you don’t agree with what I say.

So, for most of this year, I have conducted an experimentation on all forms of communication. Instead of rushing out to talk, write, or blog, I have held back my thoughts but making a note some where. I have listened more, and studying each an every topic I have a view on in greater depth. So, I have enforced this discipline of silent observation for a long time and its been quite rewarding.
I’ve also used mechanisms such as Face book / Twitter to vent out my instant 2 minute solution to all world problems, and far more aware of the responses than before. It has been a very interesting experiment, and perhaps this is why the concept of “Mouna Vrath” or a vow of silence has been so popular in India. Well, I haven’t been totally silent, but listening much more than speaking has made me see the world in a very different way. You should all try it some day!

Having done all that, and earning myself a mini vacation during the winter, I would get back to active blogging shortly. The fact that I have scribbled random things on paper, or bookmarked interesting links on the net, leaves me with a wealth of material to write about. So many wonderful changes have happened in my life, and while I do not go into details of my personal life on my blogs as a rule, it does influence my way of thinking as a person.

Here are the things outside of my personal life, which I have thought actively about this year. This is just a brief synopsis of what I am going to write about:

God & Religion: I read and watched a fair bit of Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking this year, and have been fascincated at the tremendous progress science has made in explaining our world’s mysteries. Yet there is a feeling that the more you discover, the more there is to discover! At the same time I ahve experienced a fascinating phase of personal life, bordering on magical. Thus, after close to 3 decades of wondering now and then, if there is a god up there, or if he / she made the rules of the world as we know it, and studying all the far right and far left view points, I have one simple, profound conclusion that has mad eme feel very light and relieved: it doesn’t matter, at all, one damn bit. It could sound like a bizarre theory to some, it could sound like a simplistic definition of agnosticism to some, but I have to write in detail about why it doesn’t matter.

“Multi culturalism” is dead, says Angela Merkel, and that simple statement violates everything I have believed in all my life. In spite of all the tensions & challenges the world faces as globalization and movement of people grows at a rapid face, the only way forward for the human race is multi culturalism, movement of people across the world, and blurring of all the artificial borders we have erected around us. Most large countries have failed to adapt to a multi cultural population, but the failure to carry out the idea correctly should not lead to killing the idea in the first place. I have always believed, and live every day of my life with the view that the entire world is my home, and I am capable of building a bond with any damn person, anywhere, irrespective of color, faith, sex, age, or even language. It is not so easy for every one to reach where I have in life, but once you are there and see the truth, you’d like to stay in this beautiful place where I am.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” Charles Dickens. These wonderful words of Dickens’s are so relevant today. I have no doubt, that we live in one of the most exciting times in human history, and we have a golden chance to correct many wrongs.

Can / should / Would India be a super power, or the leading nation in the world?. My one line answer is no, at least for the next few decades, but I need to lay it out with more specifics. I don’t think any form of super power is good for the world, i have no doubts India would make tremendous progress on multiple fronts, and I also think the dynamics of the world as we have historically known it would be tremendously altered in the next few years. But how should India handle its massive problems, and what place should it have in the world. My views, though not unique, are not quite mainstream, and it’s a collection of thoughts on my mind all my life.

An underlying theme to all the topics above is that of balance. The word is far more relevant today in our age of instant communication, than ever before. If somebody says something that’s blasphemous to my faith, I shoot him down immediately, or write some blog attacking the person. If somebody has a problem with the way the government handles a situation, you get a mike and call for a revolution, and attract a few thousand people on the streets and the T.V cameras. You don’t like a mosque being built somewhere, and over night you spread a story of how Obama is a Muslim, and does not have his heart in the right place.
We live in the information age, where there is one simple truth: A good view spreads fast, but a ridiculous and dangerous view travels faster. Everybody starts to think and communicate in extremes, knowing that your online views are quite different from what you would say in real person. In many ways, the internet age has highlighted to us, the extremist side in each and every one of us. And this leads me to lay out the need for being balanced, well researched, and sensible in our view-point.

As a way of cheering myself from the weight of all these topics I have taken up, I would also write some light-hearted notes about what I look forward to in my 30s. Laughing about it is probably the only way I’ll escape this feeling of growing old!

So, that’s broadly the agenda, so to say.
Cheers!
Vasu

The singing sensation, The ultimate bathroom singing list & The band…

The singing sensation…

Sometime in the very hectic last two weeks, I did something I haven’t done for ages…sing out aloud!

Music is a big part of my life, like it is for any normal person and for a brief phase of my life, singing away to glory was a potential career option. I sang at every opportunity in school, trained myself in music and did all that jazz (pun intended!). That was before the damned disease that plagues teenage boys struck and my voice cracked and crashed my life. After that phase I could never cross a certain high-pitched note to my satisfaction. And yes, I am self-critical and obsessive, and like to do something in an excellent way or not do it at all.

For completely different reasons, that was when my dream of being a cricketer was also done and dusted with, so I had to figure out what to do in life 🙂

Thankfully, I did okay in my career so livelihood was taken care of. But I have never sung with others around after that. I mean, if I am with a few good friends who can tolerate me, I do break into a song, but it is otherwise restricted to the bathroom (looking at the mirror proudly after that!), or with my headphone on when am alone at home. And yeah there are times when I can’t hit a high note (like when I want to sing Hey Ajnabi from Dil Se, for example), and I curse myself for that.

But this time around, my friend Silja and her sister were keen on doing Karaoke with some funky system they have at home. She has this pretty cool contraption, which plays the lyrics as you sing along so you don’t make a fool of yourself with the words. And that is very important for me, because I have always had an ear for notes and tones, but not lyrics.

Filtering through the few English songs she had that I knew, I realized how out of sync I am with most artists, songs, and bands. And so I kept saying “Next song please”, for every song I could have done a karaoke for, till they got impatient.

I finally saw the words PINK FLOYD and I sprung to life. Bloody hell, I could sing most Floyd songs that have some vocals in them! (Or so I thought!)

And so for the next few hours I broke into a wonderful musical journey till it was so late, that the peace loving swiss neighbors would have called the police! I can tell you I haven’t had so much fun in ages, and at some stage it didn’t matter if I mixed the words, even with a neat display on the screen. We all had a huge laugh riot about it….

I’ll leave you with a bunch of songs in Hindi, Thamizh, and English, that have come out in the recent years, which I find most suitable for humming along. This is not my favorite songs per se, just songs on my mind from recent memory.There is something about them that is haunting and makes me sing along, and you would enjoy it even if you can’t understand the language…music is without any barriers!

My ultimate bathroom singing list:

1. Tum ho toh, Rock on:

2. Pehli baar mohabat ki hai, Kaminey:

3. Aaogi jab tum saajna, Jab we met:

4. Kangal Irandal, Subramaniapuram:

5.  Strawberry swing, Coldplay:  

6. Fix you, Coldplay:

7. City of blinding lights, U2:

The band…

A bunch of my expat friends have decided to start a band. I was hanging out with Mark, James and Daniela (James’s wife) at Cargo Bar (where else?) the other day. James said he wants to start a band, but he knows s**t about music. Mark nodded in agreement and then they decided they have enough in common to start a band. (Actually those gentlemen know a bloody lot; James has the most mind-blowing music collection I have ever seen in anybody’s house, and Mark can name more than half the tracks. I was the only one who was speaking the truth when I said, I know s**t about music).

Daniela was immediately appointed the manager of the band, and I felt so out-of-place as I had no role in the band. As the evening wore on, and the basic rules of the band were laid out, I decided I have to have a role in the band. No, it is not that of lead singer, and I am very thankful I avoided that temptation.

I am going to be the official recorder of the band’s story. After 20 years when they become famous I am going to make a hell of money publishing my diaries. And after 30 years when they split up, I am going to write about why they split up and make even more. As an excellent blogger/  writer (!), and an eye-witness to the historic night by the Rhine when the band was formed, I have earned my job.

I’ll keep you guys updated on how the band progresses, starting with when we decide to have a name 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: If you liked this post, you may also reading: https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2009/11/15/friends-jazz-rain-bombay/

Nature’s fury unleashed…all we can do is pray!

If you are in Europe, you cannot miss following the new of the Volcano eruption in Iceland and its impact on air travel due to the massive smoke generated.

Really sad to see thousands of passengers stranded at airports due to a complete freeze of flights, and billions lost in revenues to airlines that are perennially in red.  

Thankfully there is no major impact on life, but it again serves as a timely reminder to us that we are utterly powerless in the face of nature’s fury. Sometimes men can be so full of themselves, but at times like this you realize how completely powerless you are when faced with a force such as this!

Here is wishing all those stranded and affected, a speedy return to home, and a sense of normalcy!

 Do check out the images and videos of the volcanic eruption, there is a sense of raw force in it that is unmistakable:

Cheers!

Vasu

Playing around with words, images & themes…

(Note: This was first written on April 15, 2010 based on that day’s blog template. I intend to keep updating this post as and when I make changes to my template, to trace the journey of my blog design!)

As people who visit this part of the virtual world would have noticed, this blog has seen a fair bit of tinkering over the last few days.

I would say my attempt at developing a good blog site, is going more or less according to a loose plan I had in mind last year, and here are some points beyond what I covered in an earlier post:

  1. Read a lot of blogs to get a sense of discussions in the blogosphere and develop my point of view. My first experiences of the blogosphere led me to believe that the most popular blogs are run by any combination of cute / hot girls, people who ultra aggressively promoted their blogs, people who wrote about topics designed to get greatest hits, people who poured their heart out with poems of love or wrote extensively about every guy / girl they met. (I read some very popular blogs by some girls that described their multitude of emotions with so many men, that I lost track, and wondered how they kept track so well as to record it!). Since I could did not fit into, or did not want to fit into, any of the above, I was fairly skeptical about blogging, but thankfully probing further revealed that there are some extremely impressive bloggers whom I could seek to emulate
  2. Get the content in – a good bunch of entries on a variety of topics. This is the most critical phase for an old-fashioned, “content is king” guy like me. This would probably explain why some of my posts are so long…it’s my obsession to look at a topic from all different angles and in-depth (which I don’t want to change), plus my writing style in general (which is evolving & improving constantly).
  3. Look at forums where I can promote my blog and read more blogs, and
  4. Play around with the layout, themes, widgets and tools to make it more interactive, attractive and for lack of a better word, jazzy

The next steps are to keep building on what I did well above and at some later stage think of having my custom website / domain. (I’ll stick to the free to use wordpress.com version without any ads for now).

It is step 4 above that’s been on my mind in the last few days, and I would say that’s the most challenging task for me. That’s primarily because I am not too artistically inclined. (I used to use terrible colors and fonts in my early days of work, before consulting helped me settle down to making professional content, but it’s never been jazzy or stylish). It’s also because I am a bit technologically challenged. Trust me, I took a long time understanding how to use widgets, create a web feed and all that. I used some type kit fonts on this blog and still don’t know if they are active or not 🙂

 So playing with a custom style sheet (CSS), or experimenting with a web template is a scary thought for me! At the same time I was really impressed with the templates used by a fellow blogger, Shruti. Check her blog template and the story behind that at: http://songofsacredeastwind.blogspot.com/2010/04/my-aeshu.html

And I do have a sense of imagery and a liking for photography. My Flickr page is lousy, but I have taken some pretty decent pictures over the years in so many places, that helped me appreciate the power of visuals.

So, I have tried to get a few images on my header, that blend well with the blog title (Journeys across a pathless land), and the nature of topics. Some random  keywords I had in my mind while looking through my pictures and that of others on FlickR were Journey / Travel, Climb, Rough terrain, Adventure, Beauty, Lonely  man / animal / vehicle, Nature, Unchartered or remote places, Fun, Learning, Movement, Mountains, Color / vividness

The previous picture I used, was taken by me during my trek in the Himalayas, and the full picture is below:

Himalayan sheep

I liked it for many reasons including the sheer effort I spent that tiring afternoon stalking this massive flock of sheep to get some pictures in.

The picture I have put up now, is titled “Shepherd in Morey Plains”, and attributed to Koshyk, who has been kind enough to authorize me to use it. It turns out that he his also a blogger and runs a very interesting blog! Do, pay him a visit at: http://scretlover.blogspot.com/

The full picture is reproduced here:

Shepherd in Morey Plains

It can also be found in his photo stream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/2260639712/

It captures a shepherd and his sheep in the barren landscape of Ladakh. Ladakh has always been a dream destination, and if I make it there one day, I’ll probably end up dedicating a full day for pictures (to be shamelessly publicized on FlickR, Facebook and on my blog!)

I see myself experimenting a fair bit with a variety of images, colors, themes, and possibly some art (If I have the right friends for the job!). It also gives me the chance to use so many wonderful things others have done to their blogs / photo sites on the internet and leave a dedication each time. I know how nice it feels when someone visits your site and appreciates any words / images / videos that you have created!

So, please do leave any tips on how I can JAZZ UP my blog, and please give a feedback on the image I have used now. (I’ll also try to create a poll for that some time)

I pride myself in being well-connected with so many people who have special talent each, but I don’t have a single friend who can claim to be good at art! So till I can take that master piece of a picture myself, I will be hounding Suman, who is an awesome photographer, to take some pictures with my blog in mind. His photo stream is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vrsuman/

If he does take that perfect picture for my blog, the advantage is that I won’t have to pay him. After all, what are friends for?  🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

Update 1: April 19, 2010

New picture titled “Insuperable barrier of Nature – Lonely truck in the Himalaya”.

 

Many thanks to alles-schlumpf for allowing me to use a brilliant picture she took at Leh, Ladakh, in 2006. Danke 🙂

Update 2: May 6, 2010

I have adopted a newly launched theme called Bueno, which gives me new features such as Custom background, Featured posts. The picture that seems to look best on this background, is something I took during my Himalayan trek in 2007. It was the end of a long day of uphill climb, and some time in the afternoon I saw very interesting jagged rock formations, juxtaposed against the vast sky above. It was just me, the earth, the sky, and nothing in between.  It was a very spell binding, almost primal feeling.

So, till the next update, this would be my theme background:

Touching the skies!

 Update 3: February 2011

I set up this theme called Coraline. The custom picture I have used for the header, is that of a Tram approaching the picturesque Schützenhaus stop in Basel:

Tram 8 at Basel, Schuetzenhaus

From Chennai to Chelsea, Anaivarukkum iniya puthaandu vazhthukkal!

“I wish Chennai a very Happy Tamil New Year” M.S  Dhoni signed off, after Chennai Superkings (CSK) thrashed Kolkata Knight Riders at Chepauk, in the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.

It brought a rare smile on my face on what has been a day of lousy, but not to unexpected news alerts, on the ugly affairs behind the scenes of IPL. For those who are bothered in reading further, I would recommend an excellent blog and discussion on this topic, which I’ve been tracking all day: http://prempanicker.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/actions-reactions/

It made smile because CSK jumped from 7th place to 2nd place, in a league so tightly contested that there are enough voices guessing that all this is all fixed to ensure a successful IPL 2010. While I am not jumping the bandwagon with the conspiracy theorists, given the people involved in running the show & our cricket history, I won’t be too surprised. And Chennai’s 7 to 2, and may be back to 7 in a few days show, just makes you wonder and indulge the conspiracy theorists for a while.

 That was a curiously funny smile 🙂

It made me smile, because CSK is one of the teams I support, and though ultimately I don’t really care who wins, sometimes native loyalties can break all cynicism and indifference you may have for a sports tournament. To me, the real buffet as a cricket lover is India touring South Africa this year, and Australia next year; that what would be the last time I get to see pillars of the Indian game like Sachin and Dravid, before they fade away into the sunset. It’s probably our best chance ever for those two missing series victories to justify our #1 test team tag.

The IPL is a good evening snack to have before the sumptuous buffet later this year, but a CSK win brings out a chuckling smile nevertheless 🙂

For the record, my loyalties for the IPL are divided between Chennai (where I was born and grew up), Bangalore (lived most of my adult life, and is a second home), and Delhi (I’ll back any team Sehwag plays for in any format)

It made me smile, for one of the few positives amongst the hordes of stupidity that the IPL brings. That Dhoni, a man from Jharkand, is seen as their own by the Chennai fans is beyond doubt. He was obliviously playing to the gallery, and expects the Chennai crowd to be even more vociferous in support in the coming matches. I am hoping the IPL does not divide us even more, and make us add to our four walls of religion, community, language and social strata. The bonding that happens between a Dhoni and Tamils; a Yusuf Pathan and Rajasthanis; a Bhajji with Mumbaikars (how did Raj Thackeray allow him to play in the first place?); and a Sachin Tendulkar with all Indians is a special feeling that only sports can provide. Witness the Argentine Messi playing at Barca, for sheer magic!

That was a genuine smile 🙂

It also made me smile, as officially I do not think it is the Tamil New Year in the first place! There was an utterly unwanted, and stupid political move thrust upon by the DMK government a few years back to make January 14 the Tamil New Year, changing the traditional date of April 14. All their petty agendas aside, the people still celebrate April 14 as the New Year, and January 14 as Pongal. I do not know what the official stance is now and I do not care. Even Wikipedia is inconclusive.

 Just as Madras will always be Madras to me, (and so it goes for Bombay, Calcutta etc), April 14 is always the New Year, and it usually means good food. And oh yeah, I would celebrate January 1 and any other new years that are there as well; the more festivals there are the merrier, I say!

That Dhoni was oblivious to the controversy, and wished folks of his temporary adopted home well, and in the process give a middle finger to divisive politicians who have no other work, brought out the biggest smile of the day for me  🙂

So here I am wishing any person reading this now, “Iniya puthaandu vazhthukkal”, or a happy new year in Tamil. We have a short life, so any occasion to celebrate and be festive is precious, and meant to be lapped up.

 I’ll leave you with a song from one of the few Tamil films I loved in the recent past, called Subhramaniapuram. This  is a period film set in early 80s, and this song is a modern fusion of traditional Tamil folk sounds. Sort of represents the good, silly, and funny things about our culture in an interesting way. The dances and village road shows (Thiruvizha) are truly representative of life in the Tamil hinterland.

Have a ball everybody 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu 

Footnote: If you are inclined to comment, please wish me a happy new year in your language, in addition to whatever you had to say. That would be nice and interesting 🙂

Update on April 25: Thanks for those who voted on the poll earlier. For the record, Chennai won the IPL in a classic final beating Mumbai Indians. In spite of all the controversies around, the game was the winner, and Dhoni is on track to become Tamilnadu’s chief minister in the future, given our love for embracing an outsider who shines in our territory 🙂

Looking back at a thousand hits, and looking beyond the numbers….

This blog is reaching a small milestone of a thousand visitors today. Nothing great in the blogosphere, but just a mini landmark for me to acknowledge and smile about! It’s also time for me to look at more stats that WordPress lets you analyze, and reflect on the blogging experience so far!

To start with, some stats trivia for those who like stats for the heck of it:

The most read blogs have been:

  1. The home page – fair enough, you all want to know a little bit about the stranger who wrote the blog; but a whopping 417 people have visited my home page, and I dunno how many of them actually read any blog post!
  2. A few sentences I wrote regarding Ramachandra Guha’s book “India after Gandhi”. Damn this Guha man, much as I admire him, he is stealing my thunder. 70 people visited that page, must have gone to Outlook magazine from there, and onto reading more about Guha from there on. Who the hell is Vasu now? 😦
  3. My post on Rahul Dravid. That was original content, and I still find that funny. Yeah Jammy, you have given me so much cricket viewing pleasure all these years, and now more people have visited my blog because of you, than they would have otherwise. 65 hits out of a thousand tell me that cricket still sells big time amongst Indians. I could write a few hundred posts on the game I love the most, but thankfully, that’s not my intent! 

People from the following countries have been most frequent on the blogs: Switzerland, India, U.S, U.K, and Canada. More or less expected, but someday I want to expand to countries where I have never been, or don’t know anybody. I want to hear from people from Mongolia, or Uruguay, or Kazakhstan, or Madagascar, and reinforce my belief that our planet is a global village, and that people can connect and bond beyond barriers! 

Now this is the incredibly funny part. Here are the most interesting key words or search terms that have been used most visit my blog:

  1. Rahul Dravid shirtless (Also searched: Rahul Dravid ex girlfriend, hmmm…in some way  it makes me feel good that it’s not only the Indian men who are desperate!)
  2. Indian sheep (Also searched:  funny sheep, British sheep)
  3. Found the message before I finished typed
  4. Free typing program
  5. Mallu sex in net cafe & Kama stories in telugu (when did I ever become a porn writer / up loader? damn you people, find this stuff else where on the net!)
  6. One world one tribe (who are you, my psychic connection buddy?)
  7. Kraft locked down pcs (Hmmm I should get money from Kraft now!)
  8. Why don’t IT departments give employees money? (I wish I had the answer to that mate!)
  9. Manali bars (There is so much more to this incredible small town apart from bars)

 Now move over stats & silly jokes, it’s time for introspection. 

I have been writing this without any specific agenda or target. The key motivations were, and remain:

  1. Sharing my opinion on any current social topic, or an older one that I find significant. I also try and balance popular topics, with stuff people do not normally discuss much about. The big factor here is my transition to an avid reader of newspapers & watcher of T.V news to a fully online person. I shun most traditional media now, and the internet gives me incredible abilities to filter through biased opinions and get to the truth in most things.
  2. Getting stuff off my chest, that I do not have friends I can talk to about immediately
  3. Write something on a topic I am curious to learn more about, and use the incredible powers of Google, WordPress, and websites such as Swiss Expat blogger, Indiblogger, and Youth Ki awaaz to read more articles, and blogs on the same. It’s been a very rewarding exercise!
  4. Write something useful to share whatever good experiences I have had.  I wrote something about Yoga that a few people found very helpful and they signed up for yoga programs. A few lazy bum friends of mine signed up for YHAI treks based on my travelogue. I can’t claim to transform the world, but a few people benefitting from what I wrote makes me feel good. Really good!
  5. To try and have a creative pursuit / pet project that keeps me going beyond the four corners of my office cubicle, apartment. It’s been nice to constantly think of something to write, write a few drafts, delete them, write it up better, publish them, and follow what people say!
  6. To write about my culture and my country and spread the word about how cool we are; to challenge what we accept as cool, but is not quite so; and to share my experiences on the good things I have picked up where my travels take me! i believe every person who interacts with a foreigner or lives abroad, is an ambassador for his country and has to do his bit to break down artificial barriers we have created amongst ourselves!
  7. Now this is something I am yet to do justice to, but is a motivation nevertheless. To get out of my writing comfort zone and try things I haven’t before: Fiction, poetry,etc. Also, challenge myself to write crisper, write funnier (incredibly tough to do. I always thought i was a funny guy when I talk, but to translate that to words on a blog has been very challenging!)

But having done most of what motivated me in the first place, I know I can do much more! To do that, I would love to hear from people who have subscribed (Started off with family and dear friends, spread to some good Samaritans I have never met!), and other regular readers. I want to hear which blogs you liked, which you didn’t, which topics you want to read about, which articles made you think or had an impact (if any), and if you area non blogger, whether reading my blogs have made you feel like writing yours some day!

So, this is my biggest push so far to make my blog very interactive and conversational, rather than the way it is now with me saying things you never read, or ignored, or you had an opinion but never said it.

I need all the encouragement from friends, family, fellow bloggers or curious strangers! Even a one liner or a smiley as a comment on any of my posts, would be appreciated 🙂

Here is a big thank you to those who have been here, let alone read & commented.

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: If you liked this post, you may enjoy reading: https://vasusworld.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/playing-around-with-words-images-themes%e2%80%a6/

Russian Mathematician May Not Accept Million-Dollar Prize – ABC News

Incredible story…geniuses mostly have a mind of their own, but this guy is in a league of his own!

Read:

Russian Mathematician May Not Accept Million-Dollar Prize – ABC News.

Cheers!

Vasu

NEWS today: Nukes, Epidemics, War, Shit

There is something that has bothered me for a while about some of the leading T.V. news channels of the world. And, I guess it’s not getting any better

I am talking about the time, energy, intensity, and viewership that is dedicated to news that is primarily negative. I include the following in a broad “negative” category: War, Terrorism, Fundamentalism, Violence, Death, Scandals, Natural disasters, Epidemics, Recession etc

Granted our world has changed drastically for the worse over last 10 -15 years due to many events natural or otherwise, primarily 9/11, but I nevertheless believe there is scope for more positivity.

Fox news (which watched in U.S, and do not follow now), & C.N.N (which made a name in the 80s gulf war and has since made more money out of war and human suffering than most other channels) are the biggest culprits. Even BBC, which I have always had tremendous respect for, seems to have a lot of “negative vibes in the air”. The Indian media is a joke that deserves separate discussion and I would leave that out for now.

Considering U.S has been perennially in a war like situation across the world for ages, I would have thought most Americans would have given up tracking the “wars on terror” in minute detail. But, a few months in Texas convinced me otherwise. An unforgettable experience to me was  how people were constantly tuned in to war news, even at the gym in our community. I mean, I would prefer some music , sports or nothing at all I am working out, and while each one has its preferences, the fact that all of the locals wanted to watch the war news, at all times did surprise me! I don’t see the wars on terrors ever ending in our life time, and if that’s all the news you follow for your life, how depressing is that?

War in Afghanistan, detailed analysis on WMDs and biological weapons that never existed, war in Iraq, Iran and Korea’s nuke plans, terror alerts and terror level watches, Guantanamo Bay, Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic fundamentalism: These pretty much cover 95% of all the news I have seen in most western channels. The other 5% is for discussing how many times Tiger Woods said sorry in his speech to the media. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but you get the point

When the recession was in full swing, there were huge debates on why the recession happened. Everybody became an expert in hindsight, but nobody could tell the Wall Street banks to be careful a few years back. And now that we are slowly heading out of a recession, there is very little time dedicated to discussing positive steps to recover economy. I mean relatively speaking. It surprises me that most people in the west would rather watch news on what Iran or Iraq is up to, and the latest position of a Taliban leader hunted by U.S, rather than discuss more actively on how to keep the economy sustainable and growing strong.

I do stumble upon some good programs once in a while that may be hard hitting or pleasant, but have an inherently positive message. Typically, I find them in BBC, but the BBC also has too many programs dedicated to Islamic terror. Most of these programs appear self righteous in nature. One story was on how young U.K Muslims become hardliners. Point taken, but what about the hard line, far right British party?

While the fact the news channels themselves make money out of any “negative” news is an accepted reality, what surprises me is why people would spend their time to watch them. Thinking day in and day out that the world is becoming sick and murderous is not going to make our lives any better.

As a little kid, news papers, T.V. news and magazines were my window to understanding the world. I would run to the library to the Encyclopedia to understand new terms, places, people I read / heard about, to know more. And I had a good balance of “negative” and “positive” things to read up. For every article I read about the Gulf war, and Babri Masjid, I read one for Globalization, Economic liberalization, scientific progress etc. To a little kid growing up today, the internet has replaced the encyclopedia, and all the things he / she could learn about the world, is centered around terror, wars on terror, fundamentalism, and disaster.

The world is actually a far better place than what the news men tell us!

Pitch battles ahead…

So, India managed to beat South Africa in a terrific nail biter to draw the series and retain their tag as the # 1 test cricket team in the world. If Morne Morkel survived a few more balls that wouldn’t have happened and SA would have been #1 instead. That is to take nothing away from India, but just to highlight how thinly separated the top 3 teams are.

There are broadly two kinds of people in the cricket world now, as far as this topic goes:

  • The over the top desis, fuelled by an even more over the top media, who believe that our cricketers are the best ever to have descended on the planet, and we are the undisputable kings of the cricket world.
  • The media in the “white” cricketing countries that still hasn’t come to terms with the new pecking order, and a lot of Indians grown up to believing that any cricketing observation is true only when Geoffrey Boycott or Tony Greig thinks so.

The reality, as always, is somewhere in the middle. India are truly the #1 team in the world today, but not by much, and if they don’t maintain / improve further, not for too long.

So here are some points to consider to the two different camps:

To the “we are the best” and our cricketers are gods brigade:

  • Away record: We still haven’t beaten Australia in Australia, or South Africa in South Africa. Not yet!
  • Batting: We rely heavily on the top 4 batsmen, specifically on Sehwag performing a super human feat to win matches in a few hours for us. On bad days like we have had in Nagpur / Sydney / Ahmedabad / Cape Town, we have been thoroughly exposed.
  • Key personnel: Dravid is 37, Sachin 36, Laxman 35. In the next 2-3 years all of them would bow out some time or the other. What we have seen so far of Yuvraj, Vijay, Badri, in tests, and Kohli, Raina, Rohit in ODIs does not seem to suggest they can fill in those massive boots in terms of batting class, temperament, stature, grit, and slip catching.
  • Bowling: Frontline bowlers: Our bowling is highly reliant on Zaheer Khan. Ishant is on a learning curve, Sreesanth is inconsistent, Bhajji blows hot (when he is about to dropped or when the batsmen have piled on a huge score, or the pace men have softened the top order), and blows cold (all other occasions). He is our number one spinner because no spinner in the country is bowling any better.
  •  Bowling: Back-up bowlers. Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie Gilliespie, are some names that had served as back-up men and change bowlers for years before they became the strike bowlers in their respective all conquering teams. Think R.P Singh, Munaf Patel, Dhaval Kulkarni, Irfan Pathan, and compare them to the class above. No further arguments

To those who loathe India’s new growth across all walks of life, can’t accept a new cricketing world order anymore, and to those Indians who still have a colonial hangover:

  • England:  The sun has actually set on your empire. Actually long time back, please wake up! You are not a good enough cricket team for me to include you in this discussion, and that’s because all your sporting performances since my birth have been average, spun as “extra ordinary” by your media. I mean Michael Atherton averages 30 something in test cricket, and he played over a 100 test matches as you couldn’t find any one better, and is a so called legendary player / cricket expert now. Its about time somebody in your media noted that:  A. India is officially the #1 cricket team in the world B. England are 4/5 or thereabouts. C.  Andy Murray has 0 grand slams D. England haven’t won a football world cup for 50 years, or  reached the semis in the last 20 years
  • Australia:  Australia is doing pretty well considering how terrible you could have become after losing a golden generation. But you lost the Ashes, lost to South Africa at home, and got thrashed by India in India. And, I still maintain that without Steve Bucknor & the luck associated with winning teams, India should have won 2 series against you, some other teams would have won more matches in Australia, and Shane “Umpire charmer” Warne would have ended up with 100 less test wickets. Johnson, Bollinger, Siddle, Hiffenhaus, Hauritz, are all decent blokes, but not quite Warne and McGrath.
  • South Africa:  No, I will not use that C word, but you know what I mean. You can’t win any 100m sprint if you run the first 95 faster than anyone and stop at the 96th meter. Even today, you needed to bat out 8 more balls against India, but you failed at the very last gasp. I know it hurts, but unless you can overcome that, and unless you can find a spinner who actually spins the ball, you would never be the #1 team
  • To all my desi friends who are still not convinced:Exhibit  A: Vikram Rathore, Deep Das Gupta, Rajesh Chauhan, Venkatapathy Raju, Salil Ankola, W.V Raman, Abey Kuruvilla, Venkatesh Prasad, etc etc. Exhibit B: The present Indian cricket team. Grow up guys, we are actually the best we have ever had, and as of today, the best in the world!

 So, where all this does leaves us? 

 I’ll use the game of Monopoly as an analogy. You start with may be a half-dozen players, and after a few rounds of buying and selling, the weak players are out. You have 3 players left now (India, Australia, and South Africa; in the sequence of whom I rate as the present 1, 2, 3) and India is marginally ahead. The next few rounds will determine who wins and losses, and while India has a slight advantage, it can’t rest on its laurels, and anything’s possible from here! 

Let the pitch battles commence!

Yes we can!

Much has been written and said about Obama winning this year’s Nobel peace prize.  I would say it was an absurd decision, but we have seen funnier things happen in life!

This cartoon somebody sent to me by e-mail captures it better than any detailed political analysis would do.

Enjoy 🙂

Cheers!

Vasu

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