Monday, October 8, 2007

World Save Myanmar

The events in Myanmar in the past few weeks have greatly disturbed me. And it has only partly to do with the brutal junta and its violent crackdown against peaceful monks. It also has to do with the indifference shown by my own “people” towards the incident.

For the uninitiated, here’s the gist of the situation (wikipedia is likely to have more details). Myanmar, (formerly called Burma, and the eastern neighbour of India), has been ruled by the military generals, also called the “junta”, with more or less an iron fist for the last 45 years. In 1988, there had been a popular uprising against the junta, which apparently been silenced by using force – 3 thousand plus people had been cold-bloodedly shot and killed. At that time I was too young to remember any of this, or of the global outcry that ensued.

Sometime during the early 90’s, the famous political leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party NLD had won landslide elections in the country. However, the junta disregarded the results, charged Suu Kyi with various “crimes” and she has been under house arrest ever since.

Coming back to present - Last month, the junta effected a five-fold hike in fuel prices, which sparked small pro-democracy protests initially. 2 weeks back, monks in huge numbers lent their support to this largely peaceful protest. This is supposedly the largest protest of its kind in the past 20 years (since the bloodbath of 1988), with the strength reaching almost one hundred thousand at its peak. Myanmar is a principally Buddhist country and the monks’ support is a huge moral support for the pro-democracy public.

However, once again Tan Shwe (the leader of the military regime) and his soldiers have responded to the protests with force. Add to this, the blatant human rights abuse and curbs on freedom (of movement and of media). The junta has attempted to hide the atrocities from the world by trying to block international calls, cut internet lines etc (kill foreign journalists – as happened with a Japanese photographer who was shot dead from point blank range). This time, although the number of deaths has been less, it wont be long before the situation disintegrates to the 1988-like one. Unless there is global pressure on the junta. Which brings us to the “indifference shown by my own people” comment.

From what little I know about the whole issue, I have come up with this list of countries/organizations who are in a position to intervene; and stop the horrific human rights abuses taking place in Myanmar.

  • India:

India is one of the major trade “partners” of Myanmar. We Indians also have interests in the resource-rich Myanmar in terms of minerals, oil and power. Some Indian companies have (quite profitable?) operations in Myanmar. Is that why we are looking the other way when peace-loving monks are being shot at and monasteries are being ransacked? The statements given by the Indian Government regarding this issue have been ridiculous. It took almost 2 weeks and tremendous international pressure on India, for us to finally “demand” the release of Aung San Suu Kyi!

The world is looking at India to bring some semblance of sense to the junta, because India is in a unique position to wield influence on the Burmese junta. But, we do nothing about it. Reason? That’s not clear. But it is our moral responsibility as the largest democracy in the world to speak up against the atrocities of the Myanmar military generals.

  • China:

China is another one of Myanmar’s “giant neighbours”. Again, China is in a position to influence the junta. Although China has reacted strongly to the shooting of the monks, and has called for peaceful resolution of the issue, they have stopped short of employing any effective measure at all. In fact, China is exercising its veto power at the UN to prevent the UN from “interfering” against the brutal crackdown.

China has interests in Myanmar for minerals and power – both central to China’s growing status as an industrialized nation. Furthermore, China supplies the arms to the military generals! Would this have anything to do with China’s soft approach on the junta?

Finally don’t forget that China itself is wary of democratic uprising within their own country, not to mention the already sensitive issues of Taiwan and Tibet.

  • Japan:

Japan is the largest provider of aid to the impoverished Myanmar. So Japan can take action if the violence continues. However, they have to be careful in what aid they withdraw. They don’t want to further aggravate the poverty of the public. Any decision with respect to withdrawal of economic aid has to be designed to hit the military generals and not the public.

  • US, UN and the West:

US and the West are again providers of aid to Myanmar. In typical un-thoughtful style, the Bush government has imposed economic sanctions against Myanmar. I doubt they have even considered the repercussions of this act of theirs. The economic sanctions will hit the general public of Myanmar the hardest; while the junta continues with its human rights abuse campaign.

The so-called developed countries have to look at other ways of controlling the Myanmar junta. They have to come up with something that handicaps the ruling generals and not the poor people of Myanmar. This brings us full circle, back to India and China. These are the only countries which are capable of stifling the junta. Until they do something about it, the bloodshed will only continue, and military dictatorship will reign in Myanmar.

The next question is what really is the “solution”? It would be stupid to expect that the junta will bow to pressure and install democracy in Myanmar right under their noses. It has been demonstrated time and again that the junta is ruthless and cold-blooded. They will not hesitate to massacre their own people if it comes to that. So all this talk of “discussions” or “talks” between the junta and the NLD seems to be too hollow.

But that brings up the other option, which although is an “option that should be the absolute last resort”, is the only option left – and that is the international community using force against the junta.

Are we headed towards another Iraq or Vietnam? Who knows? I hope so and I hope not! I hope that democracy finds its way into Myanmar sooner or later. And I hope that the manner in which this is achieved is not a repeat of Vietnam.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Things holding India back from being a developed nation - 2

Before I continue with my next post, I must apologize for making you wait for such a long time. The problem is that my computer has conked off and I am yet to get replacement for the parts which have gone bad.

Today, I continue my effort to explain my take on why India has not yet crossed the line, though it is standing on it for years.

My next grievance is - Poverty and Illiteracy.

Yes, both are mammoth problems. But I feel they are interlinked. If illiteracy is eliminated, I feel poverty will be eliminated automatically. Even after 60 years of independence, there are more than a third of uneducated people in India. This is a shame - given the amount of (supposed) interest every government shows to this sector. Crores of rupees are allocated every year for education - both primary and higher. However, this money is not always translated to results on the ground. We still have schools functioning under trees, without benches and tables, without toilets and with only one teacher for the entire school

Given these facts, it is not surprising that the drop out rate is very high. Parents who see that such schools don’t add any value to their living, often put their children to work. What is going wrong? Why are we not able to convince parents that education is the only panacea for eliminating poverty? The government, which is in the best possible position to help, is least interested. It's ministries are busy passing the buck - you ask the education minister and he tells that there is a lack of funds; you ask the finance minister and he tells that he is ready to release more funds only when he is satisfied that the money already given is put to good use and so on. Ultimately, the grand schemes announced just remain on paper with no one taking the onus of taking it forward. The best these politicians can do is divide us among the lines we don’t want them to (read - reservations based on castes in education) for their votes.

With this being the reality, expecting our children to compete on the global scene in this globalised world is just out of question. This is the primary reason why we often keep hearing that there is a demand-supply gap for skilled workers in all professions. Unless we achieve significant levels of literacy, it will be impossible for us to become a developed nation. All the gains we have made so far, say in science, IT or telecom domains will dwindle and go to our competitors if we don’t have a steady supply of talented professionals.

I feel that we citizens can make a huge difference in this particular aspect. There are hundreds of schools which are in need of teachers, infrastructure, books etc. It would be great if we can help these schools, and it doesn’t take much - some amount of time and maybe a small amount of money. We must know that every drop counts.

The next one in my list is Poverty - arguably the biggest pain for most of the people in this country. Even after 60 years of independence, it is a shame that more than a third of our population is living below the poverty line. Lakhs of people don’t have enough food, clothing and absolutely nothing to make a living. Their lives are filled with miseries; lack of education and large families have made them so. Often they suffer from some or the other disease and with little medical help, their life expectancy is low. True, India's life expectancy as a whole has increased - but when we break it down, we see that for BPL (Below Poverty Line) people, there is hardly any change.

Here again, the government has done a pathetic job. Most of the schemes it announces remain on paper. No one knows the whereabouts of the crores of rupees allocated to these schemes. Best example was the recent Vidharba episode. The PM himself visited the area after a spate of farmer suicides and announced a 2000+ crore package. He later toured it again only to find that there was absolutely no change in their lives!! As a result, the suicides continue. There is no one to help these poor farmers.

The people who suffers the most from poverty are the children. The parents, who cannot support themselves, let alone their children, often use their kids for some additional income. Hence, for the child, education is a distant dream.

I am hard pressed for a solution in this aspect - the investment needed is enormous. The change has to be sweeping and radical. Only the government with its massive reach and money can make the difference.

God knows when the people ruling us will wake up! Right now, they remember the poor only when there is some election round the corner - And even during these times, they don’t contribute anything concrete. They lure them by giving money (which they don’t know how to manage) and liquor (which ruins them even more). So, until these politicians do something concrete, you will find many people like me who keep cribbing :)

However, I have a request to make - recently, I met a person (in fact, he is a software engineer) who is doing a lot of social work and is running an initiative called Youth for Seva. Please visit their web site - I leave it to you, as to how you can contribute.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My birthday 6th august

My birthday 6th August
Yes, at last, today is 6th august 2007. For some, this might be a black letter day because it was on this day 62 years ago that the disastrous Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb blasts took place.
But for me, it is a red-letter day, because it is my birthday. Don’t mind me if I get a little retrospective .I thought I was old enough to pen down my thoughts. I am officially 18 years old now. How I wish I could just be born and relive the happy moments in life!!! Since that is impossible I have to stick with being an adult now.
Since I am an adult now, I have a lot of privileges. I can find my name on the voters list and help India get a better administration. Wow! That’s too much too much for a kid like me.! I can get my drivers license and help my country by becoming a good rider and by avoiding accidents.
I can find myself in places like discothecs, which any next-door teenage girl like me would love to go.
I can even get married or elope! Which is awful because I hate even the m of marriage.
I might have grown older but I have become wise too. I am not cherubic like I was before. I have learnt to start appreciating even the un- noticeable things in life. I have become more sensitive when it comes to certain personal issues like friends, family etc.
I have been in the good books of most of my teachers (I have got into deep trouble with some) and many of my friends. I have got myself in the bad books with some of my friends in the past. It is a pretty dramatic story, that which cannot be revealed.
But I have never regretted that incident. Infact I have learnt from it. I have realized that I cannot expect all my friends to be of the same mentality I am.
Then after, a few years later, I have made new friends and understood them better. I have also not remained the same anymore . I have improved on my behavior, made new friends and many acquaintances also. I have learnt from my mistakes and I am very much ready to make new ones.
This birthday is special, not just because of the gifts and phone calls from my well wishers. It is because I have a lot of memories, which I have lived and cherished unlike other birthdays.
This year I have gone through a lot of personal problems. Lost hope, lost self-confidence. But as I learnt to battle them one by one, things seemed to be a lot better. When I look back, I see that it was not the worst problem I have faced after all!!!
In spite of my difficulties, I have done pretty well in my board exams. I managed to score 96%, a centum in maths, which felt like a cherry on top of a pie. I received a lot of appreciation from my family and friends for achieving this feat.
Guess what,“sphurti is a child prodigy” well, how does that sound? No, I am just saying that. One need’nt have to be a child prodigy to prove that they are intelligent. I am proud of myself, as I have been academically very good in my entire life. I have won many school awards for my academic excellence. I have won a scholarship of national level general knowledge competition. I am good in sports too. Besides that, I love to dance. I have received a lot of appreciation for the stage show I had performed once amongst many other competitors.
I have never done any pretentious act of valor. My family has never told me that they are proud of me. But, somewhere in my heart, I feel that they are already proud of me and of what I have achieved so far!!!
I guess we all grow up pretty soon eh!? Now, I can never go back to being born again and reliving the happiest moments of my life so far.
I can never go back to being a kid again. Ah!!! How much I miss those days!
Nevertheless, life goes on and we have to learn to live with it. We have to accept everything that comes in our way as we don’t know what we are destined to become.
Always show unconventional love and passion towards what you are doing. Don’t ever get intimidated by others success. I encourage myself to become envious of others because it helps me improve myself by acquiring the qualities, which I lack. By doing this it helps me become a better person.
I have a lot of responsibilities. High hopes are pinned on my back. It becomes my responsibility to live up to their expectations.
I have learnt that no matter where life takes me, I shall always be strong. I hope to become someone someday and be more useful than what I am now.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Things holding India back from being a developed nation

In a series of posts, I intend to present my take on why India is unable to take the next big step and announce its entry into the world's elitest nations; Why are we in a situation which is very alike to "So near, yet So far"; Your comments, criticism, encouragement are most welcome!!

1. Corruption - Corruption is, by far the biggest ill that our country faces. From a college peon to a minister, only money makes them sing. Taking bribe has become a part of a government official's duty. There are instances where bribe was taken and deadly criminals were let off; Crores of rupees worth of items are illegally siphoned off after paying bribes; Drugs which are intended to be given freely to the poor are being sold in open markets; The food grains which are intended to be rationed among the BPL people is being sold in open markets; And not paying bribes resulted in gross neglect and inaction in hospitals which have taken poor peoples' lives.

These and hundreds of other instances show that corruption is our biggest enemy.

My heart bleeds. It asks, Why is corruption such a big menace? Cant something be done about it? Isnt there someone who can put in some basic moral values into these people?

The answer is a flat NO. Noone has the courage to do it. The mafia behind them is so strong that no person who has the power to punish is ready to take the risk. This was evident when Justice Venkatachala was the Lok Ayuktha of Karnataka. He caught hundreds of corrupt officers red handed. Unfortunately not even 1% of them were punished. The government was clearly unwilling to play ball and invite the ire of govt officials who form an important vote bank. Justice Venkatachala was promised suo moto powers to prosecute by 3 CM's. But the promise remained on paper. They knew they had made a mistake by placing a man who wanted to bring a change at the top. This was evident when they didnt want to give him a second term.

Most of us must have realised by now that we can take the next big step towards being a developed nation only when this ill called corruption is nipped from the root. My eyes are eager to see someone come in - one who is not afraid to do the right things; One who doesnt care to lose his position by doing the right thing; One who takes stern action against those who hold this country at ransom and are preventing it from becoming a true superpower.

(This series will continue; Please stay tuned for my following posts)

I have applied for the TOI's lead India campaign. I urge my readers to apply also. We should want to be this someone. For long, we have waited to witness change. Now that it is not happening, we must take the lead. The future is in our hands.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Absolute Reality - Is there any such thing?

Most of the children have imaginary characters for their friends. They play with them, enjoy with them and even talk to them. If you ask them anything about those characters, they will reply in a way, which will convince any body that those characters actually exist or they are “real”. But for us those characters are just figments of the children’s imagination. They are not “real”. Just because we cannot see hear or even sense those characters how can we deny their existence? We experience thoughts, dreams, emotions and feelings. Are these not real?

We may feel that anything we perceive using our five senses is real. So we believe and understand that all the objects that we can touch, see, feel, hear, taste are real. Well, in that case think of those myriad stars twinkling in the night sky. What we are seeing could be what was the state of the stars many years ago because as everyone knows light takes several years to reach us from the distant stars. It could be possible that some of the stars do not exist any more. We believe that they exist because we see them twinkling. The assumption here is that “Time” is absolute that is one is simultaneously able to see the stars as they are now and as they are seen from the Earth. Does that mean reality is something beyond our fives senses of perception? Probably. Any thing “real” can or should probably be defined relative to the space in which we live.

Consider the example of a seed that has grown into a tree. From our knowledge of science we know that this tree has grown from a seed. But just try to view the tree in the absolute sense. We do not call it a seed anymore. The “reality” of the tree being a seed was the past. The “reality” now is that the seed is a tree. What was “real” in the past is not “real” any more as we cannot perceive the “seed” using our five sense organs. Here the assumption is that space is absolute i.e. it is the same space where the seed was planted and now the tree is standing. This implies that “Time” needs to be incorporated in our understanding of reality.

Consider this. I understand that if I am shown the color red, it is red because I have been taught that the color is red and now I understand and believe that the color shown to me is red. But if some one is taught that the color red is green, that person will understand and believe that the color is green and not red. Here what is “real” depends on what we have defined the terms “red” and “green” to mean. Humans have written a language and created words and associated meanings with it and have laid down a universal understanding that a specific reality is associated with each word that represents anything that is tangible. So reality includes those things, which we have been taught to believe and understand as representative of a specific thing.

If you noticed, whatever we defined to be “real” was relative to some element – either time or space or a person’s understanding of what is real. If “real” is defined relative to something how can it remain “real”? We associate “truth” with “reality”. When we think of “truth” we think of it in the absolute sense. If reality is relative, then so is truth.. We have based all our knowledge of science, scientific discoveries and inventions on assumptions- assumptions some of which we believe are true and others we just intuitively know are true (the ones we call axioms). So if this fundamental understanding of truth changes can we then say that our knowledge of science if fallacious? Is it right to base our understanding of anything based on truth which by its very innate nature is relative because of its dependency on factors like time, space, beliefs? This brings me to my question – Is there something which we can call “the absolute truth” or “the absolute reality”?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Fading Identity

Recently, our team shifted to a new building far away from home and finally i am beginning to feel the pinch. Today morning when i reached our new campus(hate associating the word "office" with myself), i was reminded of the many things that i wanted to do by the time i finished college. I wanted to be an entrepreneur with the "youngest achiever" award, giving loads of interviews on the TV. But unfortunately none has been accomplished or even started...

OK, fine i am applying to b-schools and all that. So what? I am still far away from what i wanted to do. B-school is definitely not my destination. In high school i was so overwhelmed by people such as Alexander and Cleopatra that i wanted to actually rule the world someday so that my name gets etched in the history of the world and not lost once i perish. Over the due course of time that fantasy matured into the want to be an entrepreneur and own a building as huge as our new campus.

After high school i got carried away by the usual competition stuff and here i am sitting in my cube debugging code. Which competition you say? Well, the usual marks saga. I am not sure how can competition land a person into something that she doesn't want. But sadly that's the truth and that will be, till our system and values change.

This is not the future that i dreamt of nor would many "dream" of in childhood. Then why am i not going ahead and ditching my job and starting off with my dream? Probably i am not the risk taker kind. Am i the only person who is doing what she DOES NOT want to do or are there other people too?

Hats off to people like Bill Gates who had guts to ditch the "competition" saga and realize their dreams. As far as people like us, i don't even know why do we keep reading things about these achievers. I don't see us (atleast me) putting it into practice. Oh OK... Our system has taught us how to do theory not practicals right? Then how can we realize it in reality.

I don't think its too late. Probably we all still have time to live our dreams. But how many of us actually know what we want? Probably a flashback to our childhood days will help.

I just hope you and I realize what we actually want and go ahead with that, instead of sucuumbing to the situation. Else we will end up spending 15 hours a day doing something that we never dreamt of or do not actually enjoy doing, till we are 60 and then retire and wonder what happened the whole time in our lives.
A girl losing identity in her cube

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Safety Last in Motown!

Its sad, but “safety last” seems to be the attitude of all players in the Indian automotive industry – be it manufacturers, consumers, Govt., transport companies – everyone. Seems too harsh, doesn’t it? Lets analyze why this conclusion was reached in the first place.

Automobile Manufacturers:

Road conditions in the country have improved tremendously in the past few years, more so the inter-city highway infrastructure. This has resulted in increasingly large number of people preferring their own cars for long distance transport. This improvement has also bred high-speed driving patterns. Obviously, this calls for higher safety expectations from the cars. But, have these expectations been met? Not really.

The bare minimum safety features one can expect when one thinks of high speed highway driving are – airbags and ABS. And what are the cars offering these features? Since small cars form the overwhelming majority of all cars sold in India, we’l take a look at small cars first.

  • Chevrolet Spark offers ABS as an option; on the top-end variant only. Airbags are not offered, even as an option.
  • Suzuki Zen Estilo offers ABS and driver-side airbag only as an option; on top-end variant only.
  • Fiat Palio Stile doesn’t offer either ABS or airbags, even as an option! (Either that, or their website design is so poor that I wasn’t able to locate these features).
  • Maruti WagonR offers ABS and airbag as option, on top-end variant only.

You’d notice that the real volume-sellers – Maruti 800, Hyundai Santro, Maruti Alto, Tata Indica do not even feature in this list. Reason- these cars offer neither airbags, nor ABS; even as option! I wonder whether these cars would even be road-legal in many of the developed countries. And I shudder to think about the upcoming Tata’s OLRC (One Lakh Rupees car), or similar ultra low-price cars being developed by other manufacturers (Kinetic??)

Now lets step up the ladder – and analyze the “premium hatch” segment.

  • Chevrolet U-VA offers ABS only on top-end variant. I could not find any reference to airbags on their site.
  • Maruti Swift offers dual front airbags and ABS as standard on top-end Zxi variant; and ABS as option on the middle Vxi variant.
  • Hyundai Getz has ABS on the to-end variant.

The above list is indicative. The point I’m trying to make is that the automobile manufacturers are trying to play a game here – if safety is what you want, go out and buy our top-end variants. What if I want a “basic” car, but with safety features? After all, since I don’t smoke, what use is a cigarette lighter and ash tray for me? What if I don’t care about body-colored door-handles and leather-wrapped gear-knob? Answer is – there is no such “basic-but-safe” car out there in the market.

And oh! If you thought that only small cars are the target of this safety-discrimination, think again. The same pattern of offering essential safety features on top-end variants is carried over all the way to the Chevy Aveos and Maruti SX4’s and Ford Fiesta’s etc.

I think it is high time manufacturers started offering ABS and Airbags as option across all variants. This is all the more relevant as the roads improve by the day, speeds increase, and more and more people start traveling by road.

General Public:

Its not only manufacturers who disregard safety. We "aam janta" care hardly 2 cents about it. How often have you seen well-educated people speaking on the mobile phone while driving a 2-wheeler? Its almost arrogance personified! “I don’t care about safety and rules. I have a cell phone and I shall use it while driving” kind of attitude only magnifies the safety problem on our roads.

Coming to the topic of rash driving – of course it is “subjective”. Still, just look around when you are driving. Chances are you’l see not only the “brat” cabbies driving as if there's no tomorrow; but the well-dressed, educated professional as well.

Transport companies:

People who regularly travel by the long-distance luxury bus services would identify with this. We have all kinds of luxury buses flooding the market. Volvos, sleeper coaches, semi-sleepers and what not. How many of these have proper safety features?

To quote an example, I regularly undertake overnight journeys by VRL, a private bus service provider in Karnataka. These buses are popular for their comfort. However, I have noticed time and again, that even though seat-belts exist, the seats are laid out in such a way that it is not possible to engage the seat-belts! One can imagine the effect of even sudden braking when one is asleep. This problem is even more pronounced in case of sleeper coaches. The upper berth in the sleeper coach buses are an example of how things should not be.

In spite of being so unsafe, these buses are immensely popular with the passengers. This shows how much the general public cares about safety! Or is it the case that transport companies dont give a damn about the passengers' concerns? Whatever be the case, it needs to be set right.


If the manufacturers are not forthcoming in offering safety features on basic cars, then the Government should mandate it. Of course, the ideal case would be that it should be made compulsory for ALL cars to feature ABS and airbags. However, this is not a practical solution. But, surely, the government can make it compulsory for all manufacturers to offer these safety features at least as an option on all variants?

The same goes for buses as well. The government should regulate safety features on all long distance buses.

Regarding rash driving and using cell phones while driving; well there are a whole bunch of laws regarding these. Only if all laws as they are on paper, were implemented!


Its still not too late. Either the manufacturers, transport companies and general public should act voluntarily, or the government should take matters in its hands. It only takes resolve on part of the authorities to brush aside resentment from lobbies.

Its delightful news that consumerism is becoming a way of life in India. Lets also inject an element of responsibility into the whole business! Looking forward to an India where safety gets its due credit. JAI BHARAT.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Pirates Of Caribbean: At World's End

I feel sad for Jack Sparrow. Not because the third part of Pirates of the Caribbean is dull, uninteresting and confusing. I feel sad because, Johnny Depp is wasted in the movie. If only he had more screen time, things would have been drastically different.

Frankly, I was looking forward to the 3rd edition of the Pirates (At World's End) with a lot of curiosity and eagerness. After an awesome 2nd part (Dead Man's Chest), who wouldn't?

Unfortunately, At World's End does not live up to the expectation. Yes, it is breaking all records in terms of collection. But the movie in itself is totally confusing from the word go. A new character is added every ten minutes and this contributes a lot to the chaos.

The movie starts from where the 2nd part ended. The party (Gibbs, William, his love Swann, Calypso and the crew) goes in search of Jack (who has been killed and imprisoned by Davy Jones, the captain of the Dutchmen) in the leadership of captain Barbosa. For this, they seek the help of another Pirate Lord (I don't remember his name).

After rescuing Jack, it is time to face both the enemies. The East India Trading Company with Beckett as its commander and Davy Jones. Now, Beckett is in possession of Davy Jones' heart and he holds the latter at ransom.

The movie interspersed with some utterly unrelated sequences of the ship wreck code. The 9 pirate lords meet to discuss what the next course of action is. In a bizzare turn of events, Elizabeth Swann is elected as the 'King' of the pirates and she decides that they must fight the East India Company.

Captain Barbosa in the meantime frees Calypso, she disappears after that. The war is one of the few saving graces in the movie. It is really a rib tickler and also the action sequences are quite breathtaking. One of the few moments where Depp shows what he is capable of. You would, however, be reminded of some bollywood movie when William and Elizabeth exchange marriage vows even when they are wielding the sword.

At the end, Jack manages to get Davy Jones' heart. Jones, unafraid, stabs William. Jack in turn makes William pierce Jones' heart. Jones dies and William becomes the next captain of the flying Dutchmen. Swann gives him company. Jack sets off on a new voyage in search of the most desirable thing.

Camera work and Depp are the only attractions, though Depp gets a little fraction of the 2 hour long screen time. The sequences where he talks to himself; asks Gibbs to throw his hat upon winning the war, only asking to get it back are just amazing.

The trilogy has finally come to an end. Sad that it doesn't get a fitting tribute.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Holiday with Mr. Bean

Watching the antics of Mr. Bean is always fun & as soon as I heard that a new iteration of the series, i.e. Mr. Bean's Holiday, is ready for release, I was looking forward to it. Finally, i got a chance to watch the movie & I can say it was a laugh-riot, alright.

The movie is about the Mr. Bean’s (Rowan Atkinson) journey from London to Cannes as part of his holiday. As can be expected when Bean is around, anything which can go wrong, goes wrong as he gets lost and into trouble many times over, with just his Sony Camcoder for company.

The movie has its typical Mr. Bean moments, which only Rowan Atkinson can perform. His expressions are simply amazing (& at times, disgusting) What seems to have been done, though, is that, with few comedy sequences in mind, the rest of the plot of the movie, seems to have been written. That is probably the reason why the story takes so many turns. The movie is a little slow-moving at times.

The music collection is apt & suits the mood of the movie. Cinematography is a lot modern when compared with the Bean of 1997. I, however, felt that the Camcoder inlays in the movie was a bit too long, especially early on, although, it plays a pivotal role in taking the story forward.

The support actors are par for the course. The boy, Max Baldry has done a very good job. William Dafoe doesn’t have too much of screen time. But, the movie belongs completely to Rowan Atkinson. His uninhibited portrayal of the absent-minded, fun-loving & idiotic Mr. Bean is what we have loved him for.

In short, it is a movie which will make you laugh, at times, clutching your stomach. Your experience is likely to be similar to watching a couple of episodes of Mr. Bean on TV, but, who cares, its still Mr. Bean. Kids will have an even better time watching this movie. I give it a more-than-decent 7.5/10.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pursuing HappYness

The Pursuit of Happyness' is an inspirational story of a struggling salesman bringing up his son in suburban San Fransisco in the mid 80s. This movie is based on the actual life story of a rags to riches entrepreneur and stock broker Chris Gardner as he struggles through abject poverty and destitution on his way to break into the stock brokerage business as an intern.

The movie follows the life of Christoper Gardner (played by Will Smith) who sells little-needed medical bone density scanners for a living. Supporting his child (played by his biological son Jaden Smith) after his wife's departure, he is forced to relocate to a smaller house, loose his car and even spend time in jail for not paying parking tickets. His life takes a turn when he gets a break in to the world of finance and investments as an intern. He reluctantly takes up this non-paying, no job guarantee offer though the odds of getting a job after internship was next to nil. Between toiling hard to make a mark in his internship and trying to sell the left over bone density scanners over the weekends, he also needs to stand in a queue for rehabilitation everyday!! They become homeless, living in hotels, homeless shelters, and even a cruddy subway bathroom! But Chris holds on to his ultimate dream of being happy and giving him and his son the life they truly deserve.

Will Smith plays the role of his lifetime. His comic timing is very evident in the lighter moments, but his sincerity to the role is best brought out playing a man with no options, no family, no help and little hope. Special praise must be reserved for his son who plays his part to the tee. He has portrayed the innocence and sweetness of the tender age, while being able to hold his own in the more serious of circumstances. The father and son share an awesome chemistry which is very apparent right from the first scene.

Every scene and emotion portrayed on screen is heart warming and touching making this movie a truly worthwhile experience. What touched me most was the way Chris never gave up fighting even when faced with the most dire of circumstances. This movie stands as a testimonial to the cliché, success and more importantly happiness follows those who pursue it. In Chris's own words we experience happiness in eye blinks. The rest of the time we are chasing after it.

I rate this movie a must see for the sheer tenacity of emotions and thought process the movie puts the audience into.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Wise and Otherwise" by Sudha Murthy - Book Review

I just finished reading "Wise and Otherwise" by Sudha Murthy. And I must say I am mighty impressed and moved by the book. This book is a collection of 51 short stories, every one of them being a gem. Whats more, majority of the "stories" are in fact real life experiences of Sudha Murthy.

The first and foremost aspect of the book which I fell in love with is its simplicity. The incidents are narrated by the author in simple words, without any attempt at glamour or extravagance. The language is simple - you dont need a dictionary to understand it. The opinions put forth are direct. Its almost as if the author does not want to attract attention; this is the most attractive feature of the book.

No "story" is more than 5 or 6 pages long. However, each and every story is a lesson in life! Thats not to say that every story paints a rosy picture of life. Sudha Murthy gives some instances which clearly portray the vagaries of life. Some of these incidents are so moving, you are forced to reflect on how unfair life really is. For example, the author recollects the encounter with a gharwali, who was initiated into the "profession" at an age of 12, by her younger brother whom she adored, that too on Rakhi day! Similarly, there is the example of a man who branded his aged father as "homeless" so that he would be admitted into an old-aged home.

The moral of the stories varies from humility to humanity to equality to social issues. Another feature of these stories is that they are all realistic. The masses would relate to these stories. Its not about the "rich and famous", but about everyday people. The "heroes" in the stories are for the most part, simple "persons next door". For instance, the author shares her experience of how one of her friends learnt to have a positive outlook towards life, after being inspired by a beggar dancing in the rain! Likewise, Sudha Murthy describes how a woman did not forget to express gratitude to the author even on her death-bed.

Finally, another highlight of the book is the experience factor. The way the stories are written, you can clearly see the feelings, the emotions and the experiences that has gone into each of the anecdotes. It is obvious that the author has travelled far and wide - from the extremely poor villages in Orissa to the flashy environs abroad. The tiny tidbits that the author gathers in each of these encounters aggregate to form enormous experience. It is this personal insight and experience that injects life into every single story.

Now for the verdict - There's no two ways about it. Irrespective of one's demographic classification, this book is definitely worth a read. I conclude by rating "Wise and Otherwise" as a must-read; and hope to take a leaf out of it myself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

WC - The Game of Unity & Love

Come the 13th of March, 2007, everyone’s attention will turn towards the tiny countries in Central America, collectively called, the West Indies, to follow the progress of the biggest & most-awaited event in any cricket enthusiasts’s schedule – the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Although the opening ceremony will be held on the 11th of march at Jamaica, the matches do not start off until West Indies play Pakistan on the 13th. Both of these teams belong to the Group D; Zimbabwe & Ireland being the other two teams. West Indies are having a decent build-up to the WC, hampered a little bit by their 3-1 series loss to India. But, they do play well in WI, with the backing by their jovial crowd. Brian Lara, playing in what-should-be-his last WC would want to make this 1 a memorable 1. His leadership skills has improved a lot in this captaincy stint.

Pakistan, on the other hand, are an unpredictable outfit, being wounded by their 4-1 away loss to South Africa. But, as we have seen time & again, on their day, they are capable of beating the best. Pakistanis would be looking up to their old warhorses – Inzamam & the tremendous Mohd. Yousuf to fire consistently. Absence of Shoiab Akthar & Mohd. Asif will definately be felt in the bowling department.

Moving over to the Group A, there is a mouth-watering clash between the current No.1 & No.2 ODI teams in the world, namely, South Africa & Australia respectively. Although, Australia have been outclassed in their previous 5 encounters, it wouldn’t be wise to rule them out of WC contention, especially with the return of their Captain Consistent – Ricky Ponting & the wicketkeeper-batsman, Adam Gilchrist. They, however, are bound to miss the services of the in-form but injured, Brett Lee, who has been gradually developing into a deadly fast-bowler.

South Africa is a team which has been performing consistently in the past few months, easily beating India & Pakistan in the home series. Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis & Shaun Pollock are their proven players. They will also rely on the services of Makaya Ntini & Mark Boucher to come-up with a clinical performance.

Group C includes two teams which must have gained immense amount of confidence after recently beating the World Champions Australia, ie. New Zealand & England. New Zealanders have a nice team, packed with all-rounders, because of which they bat deep. But, they might have a little problem in the middle order, which lacks experience. Their greatest strength is their fielding & their team-work…many players chip in with runs & wickets in most games.

England played wonderfully well to win both the finals of the Commonwealth Series against Australia, but, their form in the matches before that isnt very encouraging. Apart from those two gritty games, they have been struggling in Australia. Andrew Flintoff & Kevin Peterson alongwith Paul Collingwood, are bound to be their players to watch.

Group B is where our primary interest lies, with sub-continent teams like Sri Lanka & India battling it out here. Sri Lanka might have looked a bit out of sorts in their last ODI series against neighbours India in India, but, their team will be boosted by the return of the tremendous bowling war-horses, Muttiah Murlitharan & Chaminda Vaas. Batting line up appears strong, but, they will require players like Sanath Jayasuriya, Sangakkara & Jayawardane to fire consistently.

Indian team, after its terrible outing in SA, has managed to recover its confidence, beating both WI & SL at home. Their main concern will be the batting. Although, most batsmen were among runs in the past two home ODI series, but, its while playing away that they manage to falter. Captain Dravid has made a courageous, but, right move by picking Sehwag in the team; because, he is the kind of batsman who can murder any kind of bowling attack, if he stays in the wicket for a while. In the 3 practise matches & agaisnt minnows, if he gets close to a hundred, then, that’s what will get him going. Sourav Ganguly, who has looked very good since his comeback, should hold the top order together. In my opinion, Sachin Tendulkar should still be opening; but, in order to fill in the lacuna in the middle order, he has had to drop down the order. He should have a good WC campaign, if India are to do well in this WC.

Bowling prospects are in the hands of Zaheer Khan & Agarkar, with new comers like Sreesanth & Munaf Patel fully raring to go. If Irfan Pathan gets back to his earlier wicket-taking ways, it is going to help the team a lot, as India will get a decent all-rounder as well.

Among the minnows, if any upsets can be expected, it should come from Bangladesh or Kenya. Zimbabwe have had very few matches in the last couple of years & most of the seniors are also gone. Canada, Holland & Scotland would be aiming at improving on their past performances & giving more of a fight to the test playing nations, all the while hoping for an upset. Ireland and Bermuda will be be feeling ecstatic, just being part of the major cricketing event.

All said and done, the league matches might not draw in too many audiences, save for the 1 or 2 matches in most groups between the test playing nations. The party really gets started on March 27th, when the Super 8 matches begin. It’ll make for some good TV viewing!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Reacting a Tad Too Late

There is a Kannada saying which roughly translates to "He started digging a well after the fire broke out" (pardon the messy translation). Well, thats exactly what applies to every untoward incident that happens in India.

Two days after the Samjhauta Express blasts, the Delhi-Lahore bus departed "amidst heightened security", as one newspaper put it. Oh great! So by doing this, the events will be reversed and the 65 (and counting) people who perished in the blasts will be brought back to life! And you see, these criminals are seriously running out of ideas. Thats why they are sure to plant bombs in the Delhi-Lahore bus barely days after they pulled off the Samjhauta Express blasts. Right?

Excuse the sarcasm, but the administration must be made up of a bunch of jokers. I am not saying that there shouldn't have been heavy security for the Delhi-Lahore bus. I am just saying that there should have been similar rigor for the Samjhauta Express as well. I just cannot imagine how the security could have been so lax that passengers were able to excuse themselves from the security routine of the train by paying 50 rupees!

But this incident is just an example. Such inaction on part of the authorities has become the norm. What is worse is the pretence of concern and "action" after such incidents take place. From mobs/riots to boat capsizes which kill scores of children to wedding hall blazes to train accidents - the story is always the same. A very avoidable tragedy occurs (often because of official apathy/administrative inefficiency in the first place), then there is the finger-pointing between various agencies, committees set up to "probe the incident and submit a report". The sleepy authorities, given a rude awakening from their year-long siesta, are desperate to save face. All of a sudden, they become very concerned about the people, the public, the country.

The big question is .. why not be a little more cautious in the first place so that the tragedy would have been averted? Had these authorities excercised that oh-so-little extra caution right from the beginning, they would not have had to struggle to save face today. By the way, if you are thinking why I am repeatedly referring to officials "saving face" and not about the officials' concern or country and the people.. well the answer is "What people?" "What country?"

The most shameful aspect of such incidents is the way politicians utilize these unfortunate incidents for political (read vote bank) gains. I have written before about this here. There were reports in the newspaper about how, after the Samjhauta Express blasts, the relatives of the injured had a tough time reaching out to their near and dear ones at the hospital. Reason: There was a constant flow of (competing) politicians at the hospital. Politicians must give a thought to the struggle that hapless relatives will go through if they visit the hopsitals. But, hey, since when did politicians start thinking about people?

I do not know what scale of tragedy is required to really wake up the authorities. I hope they adopt the policy of "Be Prepared" sooner than later and save those thousands of innocent lives. And this policy should not be restricted to the authorities alone. We "aam janta" have as much a role to play in this as the administration. Simple practices like a little more honesty, a little more patience and a lot more principle in life; can do a lot to bring down such extremely undesirable incidents. We can do with a lot less of these, especially now that we are on the right path of nation-building.

Looking forward to an India where more value is placed on the human life! JAI BHARAT.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Professionalism in politics is the need of the hour

Politics has always been dominated by the babhus who have a ad hock way of reacting to the circumstances. Most of them seldom think about the big picture, concerning themselves in petty vote bank politics. Politics is as much science as it is an art. It involves as much careful planning and analysis as taking quick and dirty decisions to resolve issues.

Politicians in India have always been judged by the aam junta during the elections, and those who fool the public gets away with poor performance. instead, politics should be treated like just another job, where an official review should be conducted once or twice in a year and the minister (and his office) should be commended or criticized based on his performance. This will bring a layer of credibility.

Transparency of operation is a very key issue towards making politics a clean profession. Any citizen should have the right to question the workings of a bureaucratic system without too many hassles. In this regard, the RTI (Right to Information Act) passed in 15 June 2005 is a step in the right direction. Any person may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or instrumentality of State) which is expected to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. Though this act is good in principle, there are many grey areas that need to be addressed before this act starts serving the intended purpose.

The ruling government should come up with a set of action points that are planned to be achieved in their tenure at the office, similar to the common minimum program (CMP) proposed by the ruling UPA government.

Also important is the role played by bodies like Lokayukta in probing the corrupt officials and bringing them under the purview of law. But, for this to be effective one needs a dynamic leader like former Lokayukta head Mr. Justice N. Venkatachala who was instrumental in busting scams to the tune of 270 crores in Karnataka, leading from the front.

The role of media in this endeavour cannot be undermined. Their role is not just in exposing the scams and criticizing the political policies, but also to applaud constructive and pragmatic decisions taken by the politicians, without leaning towards any political ideology or principles.

Politics is a game where the rules are set by the players themselves! Unlike a corporation, most of the times, there will not be a quantifiable and achievable goal set. Hence it becomes imperative to define a professional framework, to get people to not only believe in, but also to actively participate in the political system.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Defining Moment: Tata acquires Corus.

India has finally arrived on the global scene. And this was signified in a big way. Last week, Tata Steel acquired Corus- a British company, almost thrice as big as itself- in a bidding war with Brazil's CSN. The money that the Tatas will pay for the deal is a mind boggling $11.5 bil, making it by far the biggest acquisition by an Indian company ever.

What is note worthy here is the confidence and gumption which the Tatas and all the bankers backing them showed in the bidding war. Though many feel that the price paid is much more than what Corus deserved, the Tatas feel that their bet will pay off in the long run.

This acquisition, one of the many feathers in Tata group chairman Ratan Tata's cap, makes Tata Steel the 5th largest steel company in the world and 2nd largest in Europe. A remarkable achievement for a company which made an extremely humble beginning more than 100 years ago.

We must however not forget that the Indian attack on global companies started some time back itself. Just to name a few big ones-- Suzlon acquired Hansen Transmissions to become a global player in wind energy; Pharma major Ranbaxy took over Terapia; ONGC picked up several oil fields abroad. These are just to mention a few. Many more took place and many are in the pipeline.

We Indians can now proudly declare that our business lives up to the best in the world. Everyone believes that the best is still yet to come- what with the economy booming, more and more investors are coming forward to fund our companies. Add to this, the confidence of our business leaders is at an all time high and they are now more eager to leap forward than ever before.

World, beware - Here we come!!

The curse of being a Software Engineer

Last weekend, there was an occasion at a relative's place which I had to attend. I say, I 'had to' cos I normally avoid get togethers and not without reason. I believe they are just a platform for people to waste time gossiping about others. However, due to parental pressure, I had to attend this one.

As soon as I set foot at my relative's place, one of my mother's cousins smiled at me. Instantly, I knew that trouble was round the corner. She rushed towards me with a few people behind her. Then she started introducing me to the people around her.

Now, I don't have any problem with people introducing me; Just with the way it is done. They mention my name and immediately start off saying that I am a software engineer in such and such a company (which would naturally mean that I am an extraordinarily intelligent guy!) and the person who introduces me also drops a hint or two regarding my salary!!

I have also observed a common pattern in the people who are asked to undergo the misery of knowing me. If the person is middle aged, he sees me as a villain. He thinks that I am one of those criminals who installs computers at every possible place and hence cause job cuts for people like him!! Alternately, if the person is in his teens, he sees some Nobel prize winner in me and starts dreaming about himself in my position!!

In the days when I had just started working, all this made me proud. It made me feel really important. But as days passed by, this attitude of my relatives started irritating me to no end. Nowadays, whenever someone introduces me, I yearn to hear my father's name, or to know how the person is related to me. But alas, people are more worried about the future of IT companies! Interestingly, people talk of marrying off their daughter to me just on the basis of I working in a software company. To my misery though, the girls don't even give me a second look. Your daughter wants much more, my dear prospective father-in-law!!

Nowadays, I have observed one more interesting feature, given that there is at least 1 software engineer per family. People are now aware of the names of a few software companies. And they compare us depending on the company for which we work!

This is precisely the reason why given a chance I would skip any gathering, specially of my relatives. God knows when these people will understand that software engineers are also normal people who work for a living; In fact, we would work much more than most of the others and accomplish much less. I can take a bet that given a chance, most of the software engineers would opt for an alternate career. And, the so called big pay (which is not so big, after all)- well, it is the only take away for doing such continuous mindless work and inviting so many health problems due to our couch potato life style...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Instinct

Space, the final frontier... These are the voyages of a starship enterprise… These are the words that were an intricate part of most of our childhood days, when each of us wanted to be a Mr. Kirk or even a Mr.Spock! "Beam me up Scotty!!!" used to be our favorite catch phrase.
While you are caught up in a nostalgia uncalled for, let me ask you a question, do those words still make any sense? Or do you dismiss them as just being a childhood delusion? Don't worry. These were the exact questions that I was asking myself yesterday and do you know the answer for these that my sub-conscious gave me? "YES" and yours will too.
All these thoughts wafted me to the world of "black holes", the key for time travel. Scientists have come up with a hypothesis according to which if you are suspended in a world with a lower number of clock ticks per second you will travel to the past. Considering our earlier perception of time travel, as induced by H.G.Wells you may presume that you would be actually revisiting those moments of your life that you have actually experienced earlier. This leads to the million-dollar puzzle. Here it is for the novices: If a great grandson of H.G.Wells visits his ancestor, does it mean that the visit goaded him to actually conceive and write "The Time Machine"? or is it his writing that goaded the scientists to invent it?
Either way, the proposal of an infinite parallel world has reduced the probability of that event. The infinite parallel world theory says that, there is an infinite number of parallel worlds that are ticking their clocks simultaneously and if we slow down ours, we may land up in any of those worlds, and not necessarily the one that we came from. Yes, it does mean that at the very place you are sitting and reading this article, certain other things may be simultaneously happening too, but are not visible to you due to your myriad status. Nevertheless, many of us would have experienced it.Sometimes you feel that someone just called you. But there may be no one around. A group of scientist(I dont remember which university) had conducted an experiment on a billiards board to explain this phenomenon.
When a player targetted one of the balls and gave a strike the ball started rolling in a particular direction. But then as it rolled it slowly started altering it straight path. Critics said that according to the laws of physics this is perfectly normal. But then when they started applying the current laws and started calculating the angle of deviation of the ball, the deviation taken by the ball and the calculated value did not tally. Surprisingly, several billiards players(and players of other games) have faced this kind of a situation. When critics do not get their way the only plausible explanation is "the Paranormal" factor.
Para-scientists say that, when the ball started rolling it collided with another one in the parallel world and hence the deviation.
All these may be the foundation of "The instinct", a quality not found in many other species. Events happening in your world are often influenced by those happening in the parallel worlds and hence may rekindle your "instincts" that often harbinger many of the twists in your life.
So, it may not be entirely wrong to start trusting your instincts as they may be messages from the parallel world:-)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Woman's Cry !!

A married woman set ablaze by her husband and in-laws…. A woman raped, harassed and killed….
A woman stripped and paraded naked in front of villagers….
A baby girl killed at birth….
Husband beats up his wife to death….

Does this sound familiar? Or are these just myths borne out of my vivid imagination?

I am not a feminist or an Atheist, but why am I sometimes forced to question the existence of god? Why am I forced to feel misery, pain and empathy for my fellow women? This is one of the ironies of life.

Women have been subjects of undue oppression, be it in the pre-historic times like the Mahabharatha or the Ramayana where Draupadi and Sita were made the victims of man’s insatiable greed to now when we hear horrendous stories of women being subject to misery every other day.

It is not just the Indian or the Afgan Society that has not yet woken up to women, the Western Culture is not a free society for women either, no one, not even stringent laws or a broadminded society can prevent a woman being harassed mentally and physically abused.

Female Infanticide has been an omen that has been rampant for long, particularly in the third world countries like India and China. It is by far one of the most brutal and arguably the most appalling of anti-female bias that pervades our societies. Mothers killing their new born daughters on the pretext that she is a liability to the family is no uncommon scenario. The statistics of such death is equally shocking. When demographic statistics were first collected in the nineteenth century, it was discovered that in "some villages, no girl babies were found at all; in a total of thirty others, there were 343 boys to 54 girls….! In Bombay, the number of girls alive in 1834 was 603’.

Dowry deaths and killing of women according to an article in Time magazine, have increased 15-fold since the mid-1980s from 400 a year to around 5,800 a year by the middle of the 1990s. Killing women or domestic torture for dowry and the like is by far the most questionable of all evils. My only question that comes out of this is…. Are women mere objects of Trade between the Father and Husband or are they assured of an identity of their own?

Rape and molestation of women is one more of the evils that plaques our society today.
Not one woman can be confidant of herself even in today’s free and broadminded society. Using force on a woman is not an act of showing a man’s prowess but dastardly behavior of an absolute loser who cannot call himself a man!!!

Irrespective of being educated, good looking, having a strong position in society, women are being subject to all forms of violence within the four walls of her home, she is reduced to a victim status not very different from women not so well provided for as her. Why do women tolerate the intolerable? Why is it that baring a couple of them, none have the voice to raise against the society, the system and the world that takes women as lesser beings. The reasons are far too many and complex. But even if this has an answer, the reasons why men hit and abuse their wives is something for which there can never be a reasonable explanation or a generalized answer.

If a woman wants to raise her voice ……what are her options? Will the law come to her aid? Before 1983, there was no specific law dealing with domestic violence. Women were expected to produce witnesses to prove that they were the victims of abuse. Between 1983 and 1986, several amendments were made to the Indian Penal Code such as the introduction of Section 304B where the death of a woman from unnatural causes within seven years of marriage had to be investigated as a dowry-related death. What is funny is does the woman have to die before she gets JUSTICE???

There might be arguments that ‘Todays Woman’ has all her rights and is getting her due recognition. But one cannot deny or ignore the fact that this is but a pure myth.

A woman’s innate physical weakness has become her biggest enemy. Her spirit, her compassionate heart, the love that she is capable of giving and her clear soul is no bargain for the brutal strength men are endowed with. Men of integrity and men who are secure of themselves will only be able to understand the beauty in the soul of a woman. A woman is made not to be the slave but the companion of a man. She resides not at the feet but the heart of a man. She is a mother, a daughter, a wife and a sister, and she deserves her due respect.

There is a change that is required to be made, and that is in the mindset.
Will that be possible?!?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Capital Punishment – Crime against crime

Is Capital Punishment fair or not? This has been one of the highly debated topics right from its early days and it always comes to the limelight when one is subjected to it. Wikipedia defines Capital Punishment (also known as Death Penalty) as the execution of a convicted criminal by the state as punishment for crimes known as capital crimes or capital offences. In India too, capital punishment is being practiced, the latest being the hanging of Dhananjoy Chatterjee on August 14th, 2004 for raping and killing a 14 year old girl in 1990.

But is it justifiable to take the other person's life? Are we bestowed with the right to kill someone, no matter how evil his deeds maybe? Can we play God? European countries, Australia and Canada have abolished this act long back, while Russia and countries in northern Africa haven’t practiced it in the last 10 years.

One of the reasons given by the retentionist countries is that capital punishment serves as an example or warning to others for inhuman acts committed by the convicted criminal. But does it really decrease the crime rates. In contrast, the crime rates have increased. Take the example of Dhananjoy. He being hanged after serving 11 years in jail is but a shame to the entire judiciary system. If Saddam’s recent hangings are any indication, it has actually created a rift between the Shia’s and Sunni’s in Iraq. Also, the person being hanged gets hailed as an anti-hero. Instead, life imprisonment would have kept him under wraps and away from the media glare.

One of the main fears of capital punishment is the scare of an innocent getting convicted. A mistake here would mean the life of the wrongly accused. Add to it, the public outcry that would erupt when such a news goes to the press.

Secondly, right to life is one of the basic human rights enjoyed by everyone, and the state cannot strip anyone, of that right. This is more a question of the philosophy and ethics than anything else.

Perpetrators of CP would argue that, a psychopath is best dead, than otherwise. They would however agree with the fact that the death penalty should be reserved for exceptional cases; only when keeping a criminal in custody would do more harm than good. Also, acts of recidivism (committing similar crimes over and over again as in the case of serial killers), terror or barbaric acts of violence deserve this kind of punishment.

Though judiciary believes prison as a place for rehabilitation and reform, the truth couldn’t be farther. One of the reasons for supporting death penalty is that, in the unlikely event when a convict escapes from the prison he is once again free to commit more crime. Instead of nipping the problem in its bud, the state is in effect giving the convict a chance to commit the same again.

I rest my case here saying that, there is no one conclusion is such a situation where you have equal factions supporting either.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On The Highway to Economy

About half a decade ago, the road transport sector in India witnessed some pretty dramatic changes. It was marked by the materialization of some of the ambitious road-building projects being undertaken by Central Government. The number of designated “National Highways” in the country close to tripled - almost overnight. Big money was being pumped into the roads under myriad schemes. It was touted as the harbinger of economic revolution.

Now that substantial chunks of the road-building projects have been completed and are operational (more than 95% of Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) is completed - more details regarding the schemes, budgets, completion status and the like can be found at the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) website and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) website), its time to analyze if, and to what extent, these have helped the economy.

Fuel Savings

A majority of the newly constructed 4/6 laned roads are tolled. While the toll amount is not uniform across the country (the Ahmedabad-Vadodara expressway levies Rs.63/- for about 85 kms; whereas Tumkur-Nelmangla stretch of NH4 costs Rs. 21 for 35-km stretch), it would be safe to assume an approximate of close to Re.1/- per km, as the average for a car. I have heard many people complain that this is too steep, saying there is no way one can save enough fuel to compensate for the toll. Some even argue that since cars usually drive at high speeds (often 100+ kph) on the 4/6 lane stretches, it might actually result in more fuel consumption. True. So where’s the "fuel savings"?

The real fuel savings for the country lie in the transportation sector. Enter - the ubiquitous Indian lorry. Prior to the advent of divided highways, there used to be lot of fuel wastage because of slow-moving heavy vehicles, for example, in the event of one fully loaded truck overtaking another (not to mention it was a painfully slow event).

Especially on the gradients.We have all witnessed quite often, the scene of one mammoth lorry trailing another in low gear; both vehicles groaning under the strain and spewing out tonnes of exhaust. Now, with the widening of roads and construction of dividers, lorries consume considerably less fuel per consignment run. Some websites like this one and this one point out the enormous fuel savings that the NHDP projects are expected to bring about.

Time Savings

This is quite evident. Almost anyone who has travelled on these highways during the pre- and post- NHDP era will vouch for the stupendous time gain factor of these highways. Again, this applies not only to cars and passenger transport, but to goods too. Trucks which used to cover only about 300 kms per day now do close to 500 kms!


That the newly constructed highways offer greater safety has been debated. The argument against this safety aspect is that people drive much faster (3-digit speeds are common these days).

However, the additional safety that the newly constructed highways cannot be undermined. Most head-on highway accidents are related to overtaking. With divided highways, such accidents are minimized. Moreover, the NHDP highways are being built to certain standards, like better road geometry etc. These factors definitely make road travel safer than ever before.

Cash Flow and Economy

These various factors contribute a long way in boosting the economy, especially in the countryside. In addition to the financial savings resulting from less fuel consumption, there are numerous other aspects of economic growth attributable to the roads improvement projects, few of which are listed below.

  • Goods are transported quicker than before.
  • "Wastage" of goods is minimized (especially food products and milk products).
  • Wayside businesses along the highways - This is interesting because it is opposite to the conventional economical model for roads. Conventionally, roads were aligned to pass through towns for the purpose of enhancing business. But, the NHDP envisages smooth, uninterrupted flow of traffic. Hence, most of the towns are bye-passed. However, highwayside businesses (like restaurants, lodges, fuel stations, garages) flourish in the new model. (CNN IBN recently aired this feature on the flourishing business along the Golden Quadrilateral)
  • Massive employment during the construction phase.
  • The increase in travel comfort has been a boon to the tourism industry.

How much is too much?

Since the Highway projects have been such a huge success, it is very easy to get carried away. There are 2 highways between Mumbai and Pune - the traditional NH4 and the Mumbai-Pune expressway. In Karnataka, the Bangalore-Mysore state highway was recently 4-laned, and work has begun on Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC). Delhi-Chandigarh and Bangalore-Chennai expressways are also on the cards.

The authorities got to be careful here. There's no point in having 2 separate highways between two cities. After all, the interests of farmers have to be protected too. Where will all the land come from? What about the environmental implications? If the traffic in these corridors is so high, then why were these stretches not built at 6/8 lanes in the first place? The GQ has not yet been completed, and there's already talk of widening it to 6/8 lanes by 2012. So will the public have to re-live the misery that it went through during the initial construction?

Only if the answers to above question are satisfactory, should the respective Governments go ahead with the proposed implementations. Its great news that we as a nation have finally woken up to the advantages of a sound infrastructure backbone. Now it is our duty to ensure that rural economy is not adversely affected by this; and it is definitely our responsibility to see to it that this road-building spree does not eat up our farmlands and our forests.

Looking forward to an economically booming India. JAI BHARATH.